Missionary, martyr, and patron of St. Paul. A Christian in the city of Damascus, Saint Ananias was commanded by Christ in a vision to seek out Saul, the future Paul, who had staggered his way into the city following his dramatic encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus.
In his description of the Conversion of Saul, St. Luke discloses the existence of a Christian community in Damascus. It is the first community of Christians outside Palestine and, on the evidence of the Acts of the Apostles, it could even have been in existence before the community at Antioch. Only 5 or 6 years after the Ascension of our Lord, we find a Judaeo-Christian group in Damascus, organized around a charismatic leader called Ananias and identifying themselves by a number of different names: the Followers of the Way, the Disciples, those who invoke the Name of the Lord, the Saints, the Brothers…
Another detail revealed by the holy Hagiographer is the name of Ananias: outside Jerusalem and its surroundings, he is the first spiritual leader of a community to be mentioned by his personal name. Who was this character? The only thing we know about him is that he was a disciple who was merciful, of good repute, pious and fearful of the Lord, and perhaps even a recipient of visitations and visions from God. The lack in his biography has been filled up by legend. It is said that he was one of the 72 disciples, that he was a native of Damascus and that the Apostles recommended him to return there. It is also said that he preached the gospel in central Syria as well as in Damascus, and that because he was well versed in Latin he was present when St. Paul testified before the Proconsul Felix.
It is reported that he was arrested and condemned to death by the Roman Governor, Licianus Mucianus, and was stoned to death outside the city. Over his tomb a memorial was constructed, and later a monastery. The monastery was frequently mentioned by Arabic writers of the mediaeval period.
The great distinction of Ananias and his Christian community was the baptizing of St. Paul, the Apostle to the gentiles. After the conversion on the road to Damascus, which left Saul blind, Ananias cured him and baptized him. After seeing Paul start his missionary work, Ananias went to Eleutheropolis, where he was martyred for the faith. His house was converted into a Sanctuary and has always been a place of religious devotion.