Examples of Love from The Lausiac History
Abba Paphnutios and the righteousness of the flutist.
The ascetic Paphnutios, having chosen the life of a hermit in one of the sketes at El Faiyada (in southern Egypt), prayed to God to show him what type of person he resembled. An Angel appeared and declared: “You resemble a flutist who lives in town.” Father Paphnutios hurried to this flutist and commenced questioning him as to his lifestyle and accomplishments. The flutist truthfully stated that he was a sinner who led an unclean life that lacked sobriety, and that only recently he gave up committing robberies to become a flutist. Paphnutios began to interrogate him as to whether he had performed any good deeds. The flutist answered that he was not aware of any meritorious actions, although once, when he was still a robber, he saved a young maiden from being defiled by a gang, and led her to safety. “Another time, he continued, I met a beautiful woman that was wandering in the wilderness. She ran away from a judgment against her husband, who owed 300 gold pieces to a public authority and was unable to repay it. During the following two years, he was incarcerated and beaten repeatedly, while their 3 sons were sold into slavery. She too was beaten a number of times and was forced to flee into the wastelands, wandering without any food. I felt pity for this woman, brought her to my cave, fed her and gave her the 300 gold pieces. Afterwards, I accompanied her to town. She was then able to repay the debt and secure the freedom of her husband and sons.”
Paphnutios said to the flutist: “Most probably you would have heard of me and my ascetic life. Nevertheless, I do not have such good deeds to my credit as you have. And God has revealed you to me, that you are no lower than I am in good deeds. That is why you shouldn’t leave your soul neglected and to circumstantial dictates.”
Hearing such favorable words, the flutist instantly left his flutes and followed Paphnutios into the wilderness. Consequently, he devoted he remaining days of his life in reestablishing the harmony in his soul, which became more precious than any worldly melody.
Holy Ephraem the Syrian
As a deacon of a church in Edessa (at that time part of Syria and now a province in contemporary Iraq), Ephraem lead a solitary and holy life, which earned him God’s gifts of clairvoyance and wisdom. For many years he enlightened and instructed the people who came to him; however, towards the end of his life he was forced to leave his isolation for the following reason:
When a great famine overtook the city of Edessa, holy Ephraem took pity on the people who were dying of starvation and confronted the wealthy citizens with the following: “Why don’t you have any compassion for the perishing people by allowing your wealth to putrefy to the condemnation of your souls?” They, having invented a plausible excuse, replied: “We are all very busy trading and have no one to entrust with the distribution of bread to the hungry.” Ephraem then asked them: “What do you think of me and who do you regard me as?” “We regard you as a man of God,” they all replied in unison. Indeed, they genuinely maintained a great respect for him. “If you think that of me, charge me with the care of the hungry,” said Christ’s servant. The vain and wealthy merchants responded: “Oh, if only you would honor us.” Ephraem, God’s chosen one, answered: “Well, from now on I place myself as your carer of the poor.”
Taking some silver from them, he secured a house with different sections and installed up to 300 beds. Thus, righteous Ephraem began to care for the suffering. He attended to the sick, fed the hungry, and buried the dead. Simply put, all who came to him hungry and in need found a haven and received provisions that were supplied to him by the wealthy.
After a year, when the land returned to its crop-bearing fertility and the needy were able to return to their homes, this celebrated father returned to his cell and died a month later, inheriting the joyful land of the meek. Blessed Ephraem left behind him many wonderful works, in which a reader will be able to discover amazing pearls of spiritual wisdom and poetic inspiration.
The Merciful Visarion
In a Palestinian monastery close to the river Jordan, there lived a poor and merciful monk, an elder by the name of Visarion. Arriving at one of the settlements, he noticed a dead and completely naked beggar lying in the market place. Visarion was wearing a long shirt and a short cloak only. He always carried the Gospel with him and always tried to follow its commandments diligently. Consequently, on seeing the corpse, he instantly took off his cloak and covered it. Walking further, he met a naked beggar. Stopping, Visarion started to contemplate: “Why am I who have renounced the world dressed in warm clothing while my brother is freezing and could die. If my clothes were torn in half it would be of no use to anyone. Is it possible that I will suffer harm if I perform something more than what the Gospel directs?” And so the ascetic summoned the beggar to him under the shelter of a courtyard, clothed him with his shirt and then sat down on his knees, covering himself with his hands, with the Word of God under his armpit.
In the meantime, the keeper of law and order was passing nearby and, spotting Abba Visarion, inquired: “Who disrobed you?” Pointing to the Gospel, the Abba replied: “This is what disrobed me.” The official immediately took off his outer clothing and, handing it to the Saint, said: “This is for you, perfect warrior of Christ.” The Saint accepted the clothing and secretly distanced himself away from the town so as to avoid praises from people who had found out about his good deed. Having fulfilled the Gospel’s directive and not having in his soul any covetousness, he sold his Bible at the same marketplace and distributed the proceeds to the needy. In this manner, he displayed total submission to God’s word, which says: “Go sell what you have and give it to the poor” (Matt. 19:21). And there were many more good deeds performed by this great Abba.
Examples of Love from The Spiritual Meadow
The Monk Leo
During the reign of the true-believing Emperor and Caesar Tiberius (II, 578-582), in a Libyan oasis there lived a monk Leo from Cappadocia (in Asia Minor, now being eastern Turkey). Great was he in God’s eyes, and we heard wondrous things about him. Having met him and knowing him better, we received a great benefit from him – especially from his humility, unselfishness, silence, and love for everyone.
He told them: “Believe me, children, I will rule!” “What are you saying, Abba? – they replied. – There has not been a single king from Cappadocia. It is useless to nurture such thoughts.” “No, children, I shall rule,” he confirmed, and none could convince him otherwise.
When the barbarians invaded and destroyed that country, they also arrived at the oasis. Many monks were killed and many more taken prisoner. Among those taken from the monastery were Abba John (a former reader at the great church of Constantinople), Abba Evstafius the Roman, and Abba Theodoros. All three were in feeble condition. In prison, Abba John said to the barbarians: “Take me into town. At my request, the bishop will pay you twenty-four numismata (gold coins of great value) for me.” One of the barbarians took him into town where Abba John went to see the bishop.
Abba Leo and other fathers who were not taken prisoner were in town. Coming into the presence of the bishop, Abba John began to plead with him to pay his ransom. The bishop had only eight numismata, which were offered to the barbarian. However, he wouldn’t accept it. “Either you give me all twenty-four or the monk.” Despite Abba John’s grief and tears, they were forced to give him up. After three days, Abba Leo took the eight numismata and went to the barbarians in the wilderness and addressed them: “Take me and the eight numismata and release the three monks. They are weak and are unable to work. You will still have to kill them. Whereas I am strong and can serve you.” The barbarians agreed to his proposition and released the three monks. Arriving at some place with the barbarians, Abba Leo labored for them, and when he became exhausted, was beheaded. In this way Abba Leo acted according to the words of the Holy Scripture: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13) It was only then that the meaning of his words was understood: “I shall rule.” Indeed, he had achieved imperial eminence, having laid down his life for his friends.
Compassion delivers one from punishment
Once Xeno (Byzantine emperor, 474-491) insulted a woman in the presence of her daughter. After this, the woman would often visit the church of the Holy Mother of God and tearfully pray to her: “Holy Virgin! Punish the emperor for the denigration that he subjected me to.” She asked for this over a long period of time – and suddenly, the Holy Mother of God appeared to her saying: “Believe me woman, I would have punished him a long time ago, but the hand of the Lord is holding me back.” The woman then understood that her request was denied because emperor Xeno was a compassionate man and greatly helped the needy.
Saint Apollinaris (Sidonius).
Saint Pope Apollinaris, Archbishop of Alexandria (551-565), was a very merciful and compassionate man. In the same city, there lived a youth whose eminent parents left him great wealth (in the form of ships and gold). The youth did not manage his inherited assets very well, and over a few years, lost everything. Just as he had surpassed many with his wealth before, now he surpassed many with his poverty.
Having learned of the youth’s misfortune, the Blessed Apollinaris wanted to render him some small assistance, though not for the sake of his own vain glory. And so he devised a wonderful means. He ordered the church treasurer to create fictitious paperwork in the name of Macarius, the youth’s father, as though the latter had loaned some 50 pounds of gold to the church of Alexandria. In order to age the documents so that they appeared to have been written some time ago, they buried them in wheat for a few days.
Afterwards, Apollinaris directed the treasurer to give the documents to the youth and to ask him to pay a minor sum for them so that the young man wouldn’t become suspicious of their authenticity. The treasurer went to see the youth and told him that during his sorting of church documents, he found his father’s letter that had been buried for ten years among the paperwork. Therefore, for the payment of some three coins, he would hand him the documents.
Having received the documents, the youth went to see the holy Pope of Alexandria. Apollinaris (St. Sidonius) pretended to be confused and disbelieving because the documents were not presented earlier. Although the young man explained everything, the Pope continued to look as though he was skeptical of the documents’ authenticity. A week went by. Finally, the Pope, appearing to have given in to the youth’s pleas, resolved to pay him, provided he did not seek any interest on the sum. The youth gladly agreed and the Pope handed him the 50 pounds of gold. This is how merciful and sensitive was Bishop Apollinaris.
God helped the youth to restore his commercial activities so that after a while he not only recovered what he lost but surpassed his parent’s wealth. In conjunction, this incident proved spiritually beneficial to the youth. Eventually, he somehow discovered the truth about the Pope’s magnanimous help and through this was induced also to become sensitive and merciful towards others.
God is concerned about the merciful.
A faithful Christian residing in Istanbul (formerly Constantinople) told the following regarding himself: My father helped the poor a lot. Once, showing me his money, he asked “Tell me, what would you like: to be left this money as your provider or the Lord as your trustee?” I replied that I would prefer Christ, as everything earthly passes. Today we are here, and tomorrow – where? My father then began to give all his money away, so that after his death, he scarcely left me anything. Being poor, I lived a very modest life, placing all my faith in God, into Whose hands my father entrusted me.
In the same area, there lived a prominent, wealthy man whose wife was a God-fearing and Christ-loving woman. They had only one daughter and were trying to find a husband for her. Incidentally, they were not worried whether he was wealthy or not, provided he was modest and God-fearing. They wanted her future husband to love her and, through his faith in God, warm her with his love. Consequently, the man suggested to his pious wife that she go to church and fervently pray for a kind groom to be sent to their daughter. The first person that enters the church, said he to his wife, will be the chosen one, sent to our daughter by God.
She did exactly that, and, as it happened, after she finished her prayer, I was the first person to enter. Upon seeing me, she started to ask me who I was and where was I from. I explained to her whose son I was and where I lived. She was aware of my father’s benevolence toward the poor. Then she asked me whether I was married. I replied that I was single and related to her my conversation with my father concerning my inheritance. Giving thanks to God, she exclaimed: Well, your Trustee, Whom you chose yourself, is sending you a wife and wealth, to utilize both in a God-fearing manner. And so, having married, I lead a fortunate life and am endeavoring not to forget the poor or the needy.
A scribe of Patriarch Alexander of Antioch who stole some money from him fell into the hands of brigands. Upon hearing this, the wonderful Alexander secured his freedom by paying a ransom, and when the thief came to him, he was greeted so kindly and affectionately that some of the townspeople exclaimed: “There is nothing more beneficial than to offend Patriarch Alexander!”
Russian Poems on Love
Believing in the great power of love . . .
With holiness believing in her conquering cross,
In her radiantly saving light,
The world, mired in filth and blood . . .
Believing in the great power of love . . .
S. Ya. Nadson (1862 – 1887).
Teach me, Oh God, to love Thee
With all my mind, with all my thoughts,
So that Thou would be held sacred in my soul
And in all my life with each heart beat.
Teach Thou me to fulfill
Only Thy merciful will,
Teach me never to grumble
Over my fate of much toil.
All, who have come to atone
By Thine All-Pure Blood,
With unselfish deep love
Does the heart blush with love?
Oh, do not extinguish love’s fire!
Is not your life vivifying because of it
As by sun light there is the brightness of day?
Love immeasurably, without being called to
With the fullness of the strength of the soul,
Even if all thy love were returned
No one would be able to requite his debt.
Let them say: Like everything in creation
Your love will die with you –
Not believing in wrongful teaching:
The flesh collapses, the blood gets cold,
Our world extinguishes in a term of moments,
The darknesses of worlds extinguish,
That is no flame but rather something ignited by the Creator
Which shall abide in the eternity of the ages.
Dimitry J. Hicks Hloboschin – Translator 5/II/2000