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The Monastery of Theodosius

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The Hiding Place of the Magi

Location - Ubeidiya

Map Coordinates - 31.721116, 35.282708


Did the Magi hide in a cave here?

The Monastery of Theodosius

From the Gospel of Matthew (2:12) we learn that on the night that the Magi (also called Wise men) came to worship the Christ Child, they were warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, but to return to their home country by another route. Fleeing eastward during the night, they traveled about seven miles until daybreak, at which time they rested in the cover and safety of a remote cave until the next nightfall. This legend was passed down from generation to generation, and that cave, known today as the Cave of the Magi, is currently in the compound of the Monastery of Theodosius, which is east of Bethlehem.

Who was Saint Theodosius?

Saint Theodosius

In the year 423 AD Theodosius was born in Cappadocia, which is today in modern Turkey. His parents, Proheresius and Eulogia, were both very devout Christians, and they raised Theodosius in the piety of their faith. But when he was 28 years old Theodosius felt the desire to imitate Abraham by leaving his home and parents, and setting out for Jerusalem, to seek a life of prayer and solitude. When he arrived there he visited all of the holy places, after which he ultimately decided to begin a solitary life.

During that time there lived in Jerusalem a wealthy woman named Ikelia, and she built the church that today we call the Kathisma, which was the first church to be dedicated to Mary Theotokis (that means Mary, the God-bearer). Ikelia asked Theodosius to reside in that church, and he agreed. But this was dissatisfying to him, since there were so many pilgrims and admirers who distracted him, and deprived him of his solitude.

Eventually Theodosius left the Kathisma, and was divinely directed to seek refuge in a place he had heard about - the Cave of the Magi. He apparently decided that because the Magi hid in this cave, so would he.

A view inside the cave of the Magi. The bones of 40 martyrs were discovered in this cave.

In this cave Theodosius prayed at all times, even suspending himself by a rope attached to the ceiling, standing all night long, that it might prop him up so that he wouldn’t fall asleep. He never satisfied his hunger, but he ate only enough so that he would not become ill from fasting. He ate only vegetables, but never bread.

Another view inside the cave of the Magi. There were human remains discovered in this area as well.

In the year 476 AD Theodosius formed a small community of monks in this community that grew rapidly, and this monastery became very well known for its work with the sick, the elderly and the mentally impaired. Theodosius died at the age of 105, and his grave now lies inside the cave where he lived.

A brief history of the Monastery.

The monastery reached its golden age between the fifth and seventh centuries, where it contained four churches, each one holding services in several languages, with at least 700 nuns and monks living inside the monastery, and over a thousand living outside of it.

Inside the church at the Monastery of Theodosius.

The Monastery of Theodosius

This monastery, and virtually all others like it, was destroyed by the invading Persians in the year 614 AD, and over 5000 monks and nuns were slaughtered. As a result of this, life at the monastery ended until the Crusader period in the 11th century, at which time religious life was once again reestablished there with about a dozen monks.

The present compound was built by the Greek Orthodox Church between 1914 and 1952, and it incorporates the remains of the earlier church and the Cave of the Magi. It also has a collection of skulls from the Persian massacre of 614, each with a cross painted in the middle of its forehead.

The two places in the monastery that are frequently visited are the church, which is richly adorned in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, and the Cave of the Magi.

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