Wednesday, June 27, 2012

June 27 - Sampson of Constantinople, Physician, Healer, Hospitable

Sampson's parents were wealthy Christians in Rome after the Edict of Milan. It was the fifth century when Sampson was born and when he received his education.Like many children of wealthy and influential parents in Rome, Sampson received a broad and diverse education in the natural sciences, humanities, and other secular disciplines. At home he was educated and brought up in the faith of his parents and the martyrs who had passed from this world with courage and perseverance. The discipline that Sampson most loved was that of medicine and though it was not as sophisticated as what we might call medicine today it was still a challenging and rewarding field of study for any who dared to pursue it. In his study Sampson found that he had a talent for medicine and a passion to help and heal people. Just as he was starting to ply his new trade his parents died and their many possessions and servants were left to him. Sensing God's call Sampson decided to give away his new found wealth and release his parents' servants from their service. He entered willingly into a kind of poverty that was profound and entirely unexpected. Furthermore, his decision was largely unexplainable for the people who knew Sampson and his medical gifts--they must have wondered if he had lost his mind to give away so much to take upon himself the yoke of poverty.

Having been freed from the hooks of the world that bound him to a perpetual race to consume and produce, he set out from Rome for the East. As he traveled, he offered healing and comfort to the sick and dying he met along the way. God provided for his needs both from among those he healed and from other Christian congregations along his path. While he journeyed, though, he began to feel God calling him to a specific location. When he had set out he simply felt God's will leading him eastward but as he drew close to Constantinople he felt an irresistible pull toward the confines of that great city and its teeming masses of sick and homeless. He continued healing and taking care of the sick and homeless in Constantinople for some time until he obtained a home through the charity of others. Once given a home he turned it into a shelter for those without homes or places to live. Each wanderer and sick person was welcome in the home of Sampson as he endeavored to treat each person that came to his home as he would treat Jesus himself. Eventually, the church in Constantinople ordained Sampson--the itinerant worker of healing and wonders--as a priest of the Church.

Shortly thereafter, the emperor Justinian the Great himself had a dream. Justinian was very sick and could find no relief from his illness. In Justinian's dream he was directed by God to find the man they were calling Sampson the Hospitable. Justinian was assured that if Sampson would simply lay his hand upon the infected area of Justinian then he would be healed from it. Justinian went out the next day looking for Sampson among the medical community but could not find him in any of the places he expected to find physicians.Eventually, he overheard a homeless man talking of healing and Justinian was able to determine he was speaking of Sampson. He was perplexed that a great physician would heal without charge but asked the man where he could find Sampson. When he found him he was healed nearly immediately and without charge. Justinian offered him a fortune in compensation but Sampson refused it--he worked for free and by the will of God. Instead, Sampson asked Justinian to build a hospice for the poor, the sick, and the dying in Constantinople. Justinian did it gladly and Sampson became its first resident healer and caretaker. Every day its doors were open to those who needed healing and treatment but had no money to offer in payment. Money was not the motivation in Sampson's hospice but, rather, it was the will of God for humans to care for humans and in doing so, to find redemption through love.Sampson died peacefully years later but his hospice would continue to operate for over 600 more years.

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