Silvanus of Tabennisi, Hermit (AC)
4th century. Saint Silvanus was an actor who abandoned the world to become a monk at Tabennisi under Saint Pachomius. For some time he led an undisciplined life, trying to entertain the other monks and often transgressing the rule of silence. Pachomius endeavored to reform him by remonstration, prayers, sighs, and tears, for his poor soul. It was a fruitless endeavor for a long time, but Pachomius persisted until one day he explained to the impenitent Silvanus the dreadful judgments which threaten those that mock God.
From that moment Silvanus began to lead a life of great edification to the rest of the brethren and began to bewail his past misdemeanors. When others entreated him to moderate the floods of his tears, "Ah," said he, "how can I help weeping, when I consider the wretchedness of my past life, and that by my sloth I have profaned what was most sacred? I have reason to fear lest the earth should open under my feet, and swallow me up, as it did Dathan and Abiron. Oh! suffer me to labor with ever-flowing fountains of tears, to expiate my innumerable sins. I ought, if I could, even to pour forth this wretched soul of mine in mourning; it would be all too little for my offenses."
His sentiments of contrition helped him so to progress in virtue that the holy abbot proposed him as a model of humility to the rest. After eight years in this penitential course, God had called Silvanus to himself. Saint Pachomius was assured by a revelation, that his soul was presented by angels a most agreeable sacrifice to Christ. The saint was favored with a spirit of prophecy, and with great grief foretold the decay of monastic fervor in his order in succeeding ages. He is especially honored among the Greeks (Benedictines, Husenbeth).
In art, Saint Silvanus is a hermit watering flowers. He is venerated by the Greeks (Roeder).
Rothschild Canticles (f. 3v): Silvanus watering the garden. C. 1300
Description: A bearded and hooded hermit carries a basket over his left arm as he covers his eyes with his left hand and waters the leafy foliage at his feet with a bowl of water.
Interpretation: The image illustrates the virtue of sobriety. Asked by his disciple to water the gardens, Silvanus does so with his eyes covered to avoid distractions.