Olympias, also known as Olympias the Younger, differentiates her fromher late paternal aunt, who was once engaged to Roman Emperor Constans.She was of noble birth, born into an illustrious family with Greekancestry.
Her father was Seleucus, a wealthy Greek Rhetoric, and her mother was anAntiochian Greek noblewoman named Alexandra.
Olympias was born around 361. She was said to have been born and bredeither in Constantinople or Antioch. She was heiress to a large fortune.
Sadly, Olympias was orphaned and taken into custody by her paternalChristian uncle Procopius. Her nanny was Theodosia, a good Christian.Together they raised Olympias into an intelligent, God-fearing youngwoman.
Young and Rich
In 384 or 385, about 18 years, she married Nebridus, a Prefect ofConstantinople. Their union was short-lived and with no child. Nebridusdied two years after their marriage, leaving Olympias a Young, RichWidow.
Young, attractive, and wealthier, many suitors sought to marry her soonafter losing her husband. But, Olympias had decided to live the rest ofher life as a consecrated widow. Emperor Theodosius had recommended hiscousin Elpidius as a suitable match for Olympias, an offer she turneddown.
Irritated at her refusal to wed, his cousin, emperor Theodosius,confiscated her fortune and placed it in the trust of the Urban PrefectAdministration till she was 30. Notwithstanding the loss of her wealth,Olympias devoted her life to charity and the service of God.
Passion at the Service of God
Olympias continued to be a generous giver, too helpful even. She gaveout everything she had to charity and supporting the church. Working inthe church and for God was all she lived for.
In 391, following her appeal and boldness of speech, emperor Theodosiusrestored Olympias to the administration of her fortune. She promptly putthe money to use, building hospitals, orphanages, donating to charityand the church, caring for the sick, and sheltering monks running awayfrom persecution in Egypt.
In 398, Olympias built a convent where she and other young women retiredto live a monastic life. The community grew in number, and Olympiasbecame a sort of abbess in the community.
At 30, she was consecrated as a Deaconess by Nectarius, bishop ofConstantinople. Later, when John Chrysostom (St.) became the bishop ofConstantinople, he became a spiritual guide for Olympias and hercommunity of sisters.
Fellowship with St. John Chrysostom
Olympias found in John Chrysostom a friend, confident and spiritualguide. A fiery preacher, John is reputed to shun dinner parties butwould accept food prepared by Olympias.
It was John who guided Olympias on how properly to use her enormousfortune for charity. Owing to her large heart, many people tried takingadvantage of her, knowing how quickly she gave for a good course.
Olympias and John Chrysostom have in common, ascetic lifestyle anddevotion to caring for the poor. Olympias was friends with many notableholy people, including; Gregory of Nazianzen and Gregory of Nyssa.
Following a fallout with Empress Eudoxia, John Chrysostom was banishedin 404. The Empress had assumed John’s denunciation of extravagance inthe feminine dressing was aimed at her.
Standing Firm with the Truth
While in exile, Olympias still stood with John helping in any way shecould. She refused to associate with the newly appointed successor,maintaining the unlawfulness of the action against John.
John had always preached against abuse of power by religious andpolitical leaders, which earned him some foes, notably Theophilus,Patriarch of Alexandra, and the Empress.
Standing with John and being a loyal disciple of his soon drewpersecution to Olympias. She was slandered, persecuted for refusing toaccept Arsacius and his successor Atticus who had usurped John’sposition.
Atticus, the new bishop, disbanded her community and stopped hercharities. Olympias was forced into exile at Nicomedia. She left behindeverything she had and the city she had known all her life.
While in exile, John sent letters to comfort her in the persecutionagainst her. She fell sick while still in removal in Nicomedia.
On 25 July 408, she passed on just about a year after John Chrysostom’sdeath.
5 Interesting Facts About St. Olympias
- Do you know that st Olympias is one of the 140 colonnade saints at
st? Peter’s square, basilica Rome. Her statue was erected
- Her coffin was thrown into the sea following the instructions she
had left behind before her death. She wished her final resting
place would be decided by God. The coffin was carried by waves to
Brokthoi, a suburban shore near Constantinople.
- Are you willing to stand up for justice, and what is correct at your
discomfort? St. Olympias stood with the truth even at the
detriment of her life and comfort.
- Not many know that 17 of those correspondences she received from
John Chrysostom while in exile are still intact.
- James 2 vs. 26’ faith without work is dead’. St Olympias,
through her works, lived her faith. An exemplary life of preaching
the faith and doing it.
Prayer to St. Olympias
Although there is no official prayer to st. Olympias, but from the RomanMissal, a prayer for Common of Holy women could be adopted.
God, the exaltation of the lowly, who willed that blessed Olympiasshould excel in the beauty of her charity and patience, grant, throughher merits and intercession, that, carrying our cross each day, we mayconstantly persevere in love for you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ,your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,one God, forever and ever.Amen.
(from The Roman Missal: Common of Holy Men and Women, For a HolyWoman)