Saint Alexander, Bishop of Comana (died c. 251)
Commemorated on August 12
Saint Nikolai Velimirovič
As a simple charcoal-burner, Alexander lived in the town of Comana near Neo-Caesarea. When the bishop of Comana died, St. Gregory the miracle-worker and Bishop of Neo-Caesarea (November 17) was then called to preside at a council to elect a new bishop. Both clergy and laymen alike were present at the council. However, the electors were unable to agree on one person. At the time of evaluating a candidate, they all primarily paid attention to the points of his externals: external dignity and behavior. St. Gregory then said that they need not look so much at the external characteristics as much as at the spirit and spiritual capabilities. Then some jesters mocking cried out: then we should elect Alexander the charcoal-burner as our bishop! General laughter then ensued. St. Gregory asked: “Who is this Alexander?” And, thinking that his name was not mentioned at this council without God’s Providence, Gregory ordered that Alexander be brought before the council. As a charcoal-burner, he was completely soiled and in rags. His appearance again evoked laughter in the council. Gregory then took Alexander aside and made him take an oath to speak the truth concerning himself. Alexander said that he was a Greek philosopher and that he enjoyed great honor and position but that he rejected all, humbled himself and made himself to be a “fool for the sake of Christ” from the time when he had read and understood Holy Scripture. Gregory ordered Alexander bathed and clothed in new attire and, with him, entered the council and before all began to examine Alexander in Holy Scripture. All were amazed at Alexander’s wisdom and words of grace and could hardly recognize in this wise man, the former quiet charcoal-burner. Alexander was unanimously elected bishop. By his sanctity, wisdom and goodness, he gained the love of his flock. Alexander died a martyr’s death for Christ during the reign of Diocletian.
Learn to respect and to love the lowly and simple people. Such as these are the most on earth: such as these are the most in the Kingdom of Heaven. In them, there is no pride, i.e., the basic madness from which the souls of the rich and the powerful of this world suffer. They carry out their duty in this world perfectly and yet it appears to them amusing when someone praises them for it, while the self-seeking men of this world seek praise for all their work and often, it is imperfectly completed. St. Alexander was an eminent philosopher and he left everything, hid himself from exalted society, the praise of the world and mingled with the lowliest and the simplest of men, as a charcoal-burner among charcoal-burners. Instead of former praises and honors, he endured with rejoicing that children ran after him and laughed at him because of his sootiness and raggedness. However, Alexander was not the only one who liked to live with the lowly and simple. Many kings and princes, learning of the sweetness of Christ’s Faith, removed the crowns from their heads and fled from aristocratic vanity to be among the simple people. Did not He alone, the King of Kings, the Lord our Christ appear among shepherds and fishermen? St. Zeno counsels: “Do not choose a glorious place for living and do not associate with a man of a prominent name.”
The Prologue from Ohrid: Lives of Saints by Saint Nikolai Velimirovič for Old Calendar date August 12, and New Calendar date August 25.
— Come, O true light!
— Come, O eternal life!
— Come, O unsetting light!
— Come, O rising of those who lie down!
— Come, O resurrection of the dead!
— Come, O eternal joy!
— Come, O royal robe and truly imperial right hand!
— Come, O my breath and life!
— Come, O consolation of my humble soul!
— Come, O my joy, my glory, and my endless delight!
— I thank you that you have become one spirit with me, without confusion, without mutation, without transformation, you the God of all; and that you have become everything for me, inexpressible and perfectly gratuitous nourishment, which ever flows to the lips of my soul and gushes out into the fountain of my heart, dazzling garment which burns the demons, purification which bathes me with these imperishable and holy tears, that your presence brings to those whom you visit….
– Saint Symeon, the New Theologian (949-1022 CE)