Lives of the Saints
in Antinoupolis of Egypt during the reign of Emperor Valerius Diocletian (284-305),
when Marcian was governor (290). The young Vasilissa was wed to a man from
Antinoupolis named Julian. They agreed, however, to live together wisely and in
virginity. Eventually, they gave their goods to the poor and Vasilissa was tonsured
a nun in a convent. Julian then also decided to become a monk in a monastery
where, later, he was elevated to the abbacy over twelve thousand monks.
In 303, a great persecution broke out. Diocletian issued an edict at Nicomedia on
the 23rd of February decreeing the demolition of churches and the burning of
Christian books. The many unholy incidents that followed as a result of this led to
further edicts. The next two edicts were directed solely against the clergy. The
punishment meted out for resistance was imprisonment, torture and, in some
cases, death. By the year 304, a fourth edict extended these grim penalties upon
the laity as well. The persecution was to adorn the Church in the purple robe of
martyrdom.  
Our holy mother Vasilissa, during this perilous time, was made abbess over one
thousand nuns. As a true and caring spiritual mother she besought God that none
of her spiritual daughters might suffer torture or humiliation by Diocletian’s men.
In the event that it was God’s will that she or any of the nuns suffer this cross,
she prayed that none might recant the Faith. The tender-loving Lord hearkened to
the prayer of the holy virgin and lo, the wonder! During the next six months, one
by one, every nun in the convent fell asleep in the Lord, leaving Abbess Vasilissa
alone. Before her own blessed repose, Vasilissa was vouchsafed a vision of her
synodia (monastic community) in the life beyond the grave. She beheld all her
nuns enveloped in radiant light, rejoicing as angels of the Lord. When they
addressed Vasilissa, they begged their spiritual mother to unite with them
speedily. Vasilissa, having endured severe persecutions, reposed in peace.

[1]  The life of St. Vasilissa is from "The Lives of the Spiritual Mothers," (Buena
Vista, California: Holy Apostles Convent, 1991), pp. 55-56
St Vasilissa of Egypt