St Dorotheos of Gaza

(Commemorated 13th August)


Today we see Gaza, in Palestine, as a dangerous place, full of strife and conflict. In the sixth century AD however, it was a place of prayer and asceticism. We still read about the monastic fathers of this area such as St Barsanuphius, St John the Prophet and St Isaias. These Saints, along with St Dorotheos, were to influence St John Climacus (author of The Ladder of Divine Ascent).

St Dorotheos lived from around the years 505 to 565. In his youth, he displayed a zeal for secular studies and philosophy. However this manner of life was not his true calling, and he eventually made his way to a monastery in Palestine, becoming a disciple of St John the Prophet. He writes in his Discourses: ‘When I entered the monastery I therefore said to myself, “If while studying superficial philosophy the practice of reading had generated within me such desire and zeal, and it had developed into a habit for me, then I should be even more zealous in the study of virtue.”’

After his spiritual father became ill, St Dorotheos turned to St Barsanuphius for spiritual counsel. But after St Barsanuphius became a recluse in the wake of St John’s death, St Dorotheos went out into the desert that he had longed for throughout his time in the monastery, seeking a life of prayer and devotion to God. Even in the remote desert, he attracted such a large following that he eventually established his own monastery. It was to these disciples that the sayings and instructions we read today in his Discourses were addressed.

St Dorotheos of Gaza followed in the ascetic tradition by valuing obedience to his spiritual fathers, Sts John the Prophet and Barsanuphius, and by making use of the Jesus Prayer. His disciple, St Dositheus (February 19), said of him: “Towards the brethren labouring with him he responded with modesty, with humility, and was gracious without arrogance or audacity.”

The writings of St Dorotheos are a treasury of spiritual wisdom and advice, revealing the majesty of his discernment, humility and obedience; highly recommended reading for all.


Source: Lychnos August/September 2018