Narcissus of Jerusalem

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Narcissus of Jerusalem was the Bishop of Jerusalem during the late second century. Eusebius lists him as the thirtieth bishop of Jerusalem. He became bishop very late in his life.


Bp. Narcissus was of Greek origin. Tradition holds that he was born in the year 99. In 185, he became bishop of Jerusalem, then known as Aelia Capitolina, when he was eighty years old. He was known for his holiness, but there are hints that many people found him harsh and rigid in his efforts to keep church discipline.

While details of his life are sketchy, Eusebius related a number of his miracles. The miracle for which he is most remembered concerns the event on a Pascha eve when the deacons found they did to have enough lamp oil. Directing the deacons to bring him some water from the neighboring well, Bp. Narcissus prayed over the water, then directed them to pour it into the lamps. The deacons were astounded as the lamps filled with water, now oil, burned brightly.

Around Pascha in 195, he and Theophilus, bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, presided at a council of Palestinian bishops, held at Caesarea. The council decreed that Pascha be kept always on a Sunday, and not with the Jewish Passover.

Bp. Narcissus was not immune to the malice of the wicked. He was confronted with charges by sinners with heinous acts that Eusebius did not specify. They confirmed their charges by taking oaths of calamities on themselves if they lied. Notwithstanding their oaths, the charges could not be substantiated and, sometime later, the sinners suffered calamities themselves.

These events led Bp. Narcissus to seek the solitude that had long been his wish. His disappearance from Jerusalem was so sudden and convincing that many people assumed he had actually died. He spent several years in his undiscovered retreat while three bishops, Dius, Germanion, and Gordius, consecutively filled in as the pastor of his flock. Then, Bp. Narcissus reappeared as from the dead and was welcomed by the whole body of the faithful who asked that he resume his episcopal duties. This he did, but owing to his extreme age and the weight of the duties thrusted upon him, a younger bishop, Alexander of Jerusalem, was brought in to assist him.

Narcissus continued to serve his flock as well as other churches outside his jurisdiction. He led them by his constant, fervent prayer, and earnest exhortations for unity and peace. Narcissus died in 211/212 while in prayer on his knees at the age of a hundred and seventeen.

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Narcissus of Jerusalem
Preceded by:
Bishop of Jerusalem
Succeeded by:
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