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St. Susanna in Palestine


Commemorated on December 15

Susanna grew up in Palestine as the daughter of Arthemius, a rich pagan priest, and Martha, a Hebrew woman. After their deaths, she was baptized as a Christian, freed her slaves, gave her property to the poor, and decided to live as an ascetic. She cropped her hair, put on men’s clothing, took the name of John, and presented herself to a men’s monastery in Jerusalem. The monks assumed she was a eunuch and accepted her.

Still disguised, Susanna eventually became Superior of the monastic community. After twenty years in the monastery, a visiting nun fell in love with her and tried to win her affections. When this failed, the nun accused Susanna of seducing her. The local bishop, Kleopas of Eleutheropolis, was called in with two deaconesses. Susanna revealed her gender to the deaconesses, and her name was cleared. The bishop was impressed with Susanna and brought her back to his cathedral. He ordained her a deaconess and appointed her abbess of a convent. She served as spiritual elder for many years, served the poor, extended hospitality, and prayed for the healing of many.

During the persecution of Julian the Apostate, Susanna was arrested and tortured for refusing to offer sacrifices to the pagan gods. When her torturers realized that they could not break her faith, they threw her into prison, where she died from her wounds and lack of food in the year 362.

By permission of