Olympia the Deaconess
Saint Olympia, deaconess of Constantinople is commemorated by the Church July 25.
Olympia, was born 361 AD, into a wealthy family of high ranking. Her father was the senator Anicius Secundus and through her mother, Alexandra, she was the granddaughter of the noted eparch Eulalios (see St. Nicholas).
After the death of her parents, Olympia inherited great wealth. She distributed this to the poor and needy, the orphaned and the widowed. She was also very generous with her donations to the churches, monasteries, hospices and shelters for the homeless.
She was appointed as a deaconess by the Holy Patriarch Nectarius (381-397) and provided great assistance to the hierarchs of Constantinople, including Amphilochius, the Bishop of Iconium, Onesimus of Pontum, Gregory the Theologian, Peter of Sebaste, Ephiphanius of Cyprus. She was great friends with all of this holy great fathers of the church.
She was especially close to St John Chrysostom (November 13). He had high regard for Olympia and he showed her good will and spiritual love. When the hierarch was unjustly banished, Olympia and the other deaconesses (Pentadia, Proklia and Salbina) were deeply upset.
Her generosity also greatly benefited the Patriarch Theophilus of Alexandria (385-412). He, however, turned against her for her devotion to St. John Chrysostom and other monks whom he had him banished into the Egyptian desert. Olympia would provide food and shelter whenever they were in Constantinople so he began to campaign unjust accusations against her to cast doubt on her holy life.
Shortly before her death, Olympia gave instructions that she wanted her remains to be placed in a coffin and tossed into the sea, leaving her final resting place to divine providence.
Upon her repose, her memory was celebrated by many since she was very charitable due to her considerable wealth.
Olympia appeared in a dream to the Bishop of Nicomedia and commanded that her body be placed in a wooden coffin and cast into the sea. "Wherever the waves carry the coffin, there let my body be buried," said the saint.
As requested, the coffin was tossed into the sea and was brought by the waves to a place named Brokthoi (Vrocthee), a suburban shore near Constantinople. The inhabitants, informed of this by God, took the holy relics of Olympia and placed them in the monastery and church of the holy Apostle Thomas (see the Prologue from Ochrid, Bishop Nikolai Velimorovic).
Afterwards, somewhere between 616-620 AD, the church was burned during an invasion of the Persians, but the relics were preserved. Under the Patriarch Sergius (610-638), the relics were translated to the convent of 'the house of Olympia' in Constantinople, founded by Olympia.
Many miracles and healings were recorded by this monastry attributed to her relics.
Summary of Cricial relationships
- Her uncle the Prefect Procopios.
- Patriarch Gregory of Constantinople, 329 - 389 AD (aka St Gregory the Theologian).
- Her governess, Theodosia, the sister of St Amphilochios of Iconium
- Her husband, the sub-prefect Nevridios.
- Emperor Theodosios I, the Spaniard
- Patriarch of Constantinople, Nectarios
- Patriarch of Constantinople, St John Chrysostom
- Her niece Olympia – ordained to the diaconate with Olympia.
- Her handmaidens, Elisantha, Martyria and Palladia – three sisters ordained to diaconate with Olympia.
- The 50 expelled monks from Nitria during 385-412 AD
- St Amphilochios, St Epiphanios, St Peter of Sabaste and St Gregory of Nyssa.
The name 'Olympia'
Olympia is the feminine variant of the Ancient Greek Olympios. There exists a mountain in northern Greece called Olympus, which, according to Ancient Greek mythology was the home of the twelve gods. Olympia was also the name of a plain in the western Peloponnese in the ancient Elis, this also was considered a sacred site for the mythological gods of Ancient Greece.
According to the ancient mythology, these sites were a sanctuary for the god Zeus and the site of the ancient Olympic games.