Iconography and Hand painted icons

The grace of the Holy Spirit in spite of man’s fall into sin, nevertheless shines in our hearts with the divine light. Saint Seraphim of Sarov

Saint Seraphim of Sarov

Σεραφείμ Σάρωφ_St. Seraphim of Sarov_ Преподобный Серафим Саровский_324541“And if we were never to sin after our baptism, we should remain for ever saints of God, holy, blameless, and free from all impurity of body and spirit. But the trouble is that we increase in stature, but do not increase in grace and in the knowledge of God as our Lord Jesus Christ increased; but on the contrary, we gradually become more and more depraved and lose the grace of the All-Holy Spirit of God and become sinful in various degrees, and very sinful people. But if a man is stirred by the wisdom of God, which seeks our salvation and embraces everything, and if he is resolved for its sake to devote the early hours of the day to God and to watch in order to find His eternal salvation, then, in obedience to its voice, he must hasten to offer true repentance for all his sins and must practice the virtues which are opposite to the sins committed. Then through the virtues practiced for Christ’s sake, he will acquire the Holy Spirit Who acts within us and establishes in us the Kingdom of God. The word of God does not say in vain: The Kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21), and it suffers violence, and the violent take it by force (Matt. 11:12). That means that people who, in spite of the bonds of sin which fetter them and (by their violence and by inciting them to new sins) prevent them from coming to Him, our Savior, with perfect repentance for reckoning with Him. They force themselves to break their bonds, despising all the strength of the fetters of sin—such people at last actually appear before the face of God made whiter than snow by His grace. Come, says the Lord: Though your sins be as purple, I will make you white as snow (Is. 1:18).

“Such people were once seen by the holy Seer John the Divine clothed in white robes (that is, in robes of justification) and with palms in their hands (as a sign of victory), and they were singing to God a wonderful song: Alleluia. And no one could imitate the beauty of their song. Of them an Angel of God said: These are they who have come out of the great tribulation and have washed their robes, and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 7:9-14). They were washed with their sufferings and made white in the communion of the immaculate and life-giving Mysteries of the Body and Blood of the most pure and spotless Lamb—Christ—Who was slain before all ages by His own will for the salvation of the world, and Who is continually being slain and divided until now, but is never exhausted (in the Sacrament of Communion). Through the Holy Mysteries we are granted our eternal and unfailing salvation as a viaticum to eternal life, as an acceptable answer at His dread judgment and a precious substitute beyond our comprehension for that fruit of the tree of life of which the enemy of mankind, Lucifer, who fell from heaven, would have liked to deprive the human race. Though the enemy and devil seduced Eve, and Adam fell with her, yet the Lord not only granted them a Redeemer in the fruit of the seed of the woman Who trampled down death by death, but also granted us all in the woman, the Ever-Virgin Mary Mother of God, who crushes the head of the serpent in herself and in all the human race, a constant mediatress with her Son and our God, and an invincible and persistent intercessor even for the most desperate sinners. That is why the Mother of God is called the “Plague of Demons,” for it is not possible for a devil to destroy a man so long as man himself has recourse to the help of the Mother of God.

How great is God’s compassion on our misery, that is to say, our inattention to His care for us, when God says: Behold, I stand at the door and knock (Rev. 3:20), meaning by “door” the course of our life which has not yet been closed by death! Oh, how I wish, your Godliness, that in this life you may always be in the Spirit of God! ‘In whatsoever I find you, in that will I judge you,’ says the Lord.

Woe betide us if He finds us overcharged with the cares and sorrows of this life! For who will be able to bear His anger, who will bear the wrath of His countenance? That is why it has been said: Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation (Mk. 14:38), that is, lest you be deprived of the Spirit of God, for watching and prayer brings us His grace.

And whoever lives and believes in Me will never die (John 11:26). He who has the grace of the Holy Spirit in reward for right faith in Christ, even if on account of human frailty his soul were to die for some sin or other, yet he will not die for ever, but he will be raised by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ Who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29), and freely gives grace upon grace. Of this grace, which was manifested to the whole world and to our human race by the God-man, it is said in the Gospel: In Him was life, and the life was the light of men (John 1:4); and further: And the light shines in the darkness; and the darkness has never swallowed it (John 1:5). This means that the grace of the Holy Spirit which is granted at baptism in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, in spite of man’s fall into sin, in spite of the darkness surrounding our soul, nevertheless shines in our hearts with the divine light (which has existed from time immemorial) of the inestimable merits of Christ. In the event of a sinner’s impenitence this light of Christ cries to the Father: ‘Abba, Father! Be not angry with this impenitence to the end (of his life).’ Then, at the sinners conversion to the way of repentance, it effaces completely all trace of past sin and clothes the former sinner once more in a robe of incorruption spun from the grace of the Holy Spirit. The acquisition of this is the aim of the Christian life, which I have been explaining to your Godliness.

St. Seraphim’s Transfiguration in the Holy Spirit.
Conversation with MotovilovΆγιος Σεραφείμ Σάρωφ_St. Seraphim of Sarov_ Преподобный Серафим Саровский_Sf.-Serafim-de-Sarov_117012_galery2

Ikos 5
We wish emulate you, Saint Seraphim, as we abide in the will of God for our lives, because His will is holier than anything to which we ourselves could have aspired. May we vanquish all ambition and conceit, so that our words and deeds are acceptable to God and beneficial to one another. In this manner, Father Seraphim, we are released and we pour forth our praises to you:
Rejoice, total contentment in the will of God.
Rejoice, complete obedience to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Rejoice, generous counsel to pilgrims in want.
Rejoice, holy laborer for the hungry and thirsty.
Rejoice, proven wisdom of the ages.
Rejoice, worthy guardian of everlasting truth.
Rejoice, unmercenary helper of the afflicted.
Rejoice, dedicated intercessor for the troubled.
Rejoice, insightful father who blesses his spiritual children.
Rejoice, paternal director who prospers everyone in need.
Rejoice, hardworking priest who gathers up the remnants.
Rejoice, sacred caregiver who attends to these cruel times.
Rejoice, Saint Seraphim, spiritual father of all the faithful.


“Though your sins be like scarlet, they may be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). St. Nikolai Velimirovich

St. Nikolai Velimirovich: Homily
About how God whitens the repentant sinners

“Though your sins be like scarlet, they may be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

Ιησούς Χριστός_Jesus-Christ_Господне Иисус-Христос-Byzantine Orthodox Icon_mini72O, the boundless mercy of God! In His greatest wrath upon the faithless and ungrateful people, upon the people “laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters” (Isaiah 1:4), as “princes [rulers] of Sodom” (Isaiah 1:10) and upon the people who have become as the “people of Gomorrah” (Isaiah 1:10) – in such wrath, the Lord does not abandon mercy but rather calls them to repentance. Just as after terrible lightnings, a gentle rain falls. Such is the Lord long-suffering [patient] and full of mercy and “neither will He keep His anger forever” [Psalm 102:9 (103:9)]. Only if sinners cease to commit evil and learn to do good and turn to God with humility and repentance they will become “white as snow.” The Lord is mighty and willing. No one, except Him, is able to cleanse the sinful soul of man from sin and, by cleansing, to whiten it. No matter how often linen is washed in water with ashes and soap, no matter how often it is washed and rewashed, it cannot receive whiteness until it is spread under the light of the sun. Thus, our soul cannot become white, no matter how often we cleanse it by our own effort and labor even with the help of all legal means of the law until we, at last, bring it beneath the feet of God, spread out and opened wide so that the light of God illumines it and whitens it. The Lord condones and even commends all of our labor and effort, i.e., He wants us to bathe our soul in tears, by repentance to constrain it by the pangs of the conscience to press it, to clothe it with good deeds and in the end of ends, He calls us to Him: “Come now,” says the Lord, “and let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). That is, I will look at you and I will see if there is Me in you and you will look upon Me as in a mirror and you will see what kind of person you are.

O Lord, slow to anger, have mercy on us before the last wrath of that Dreadful Day.
To You be glory and thanks always. Amen.

St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Homily for August 5 in The Prologue of Ohrid Volume II


ODE IX: Second Canon; Irmos: In a manner surpassing nature

Refrain: Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me.
Cleansed by fasting on mount Horeb, Elijah saw God, let us also cleanse our hearts with fasting, and we shall see Christ.
(First Week of Lent: Clean Monday Matins)

First Week of the Holy and Great Lent: Clean Monday, Sixth Hour
Troparion of the prophecy, (Tone V):

O Lord, all things fear and tremble * at the presence of Thy power! * We fall down before Thee, O Immortal one, * and we pray to Thee, * “O Holy one by the intercessions of Thy saints, * * save Thou our souls.”

Prokeimenon of the prophecy, (Tone IV):
Prokeimenon: The Lord knows the way of the righteous, * but the way of the ungodly shall perish.
Verse: Blessed is the man who hath not walked in the counsel of the wicked, nor stood in the way of sinners!

The reading is from the Prophecy of Isaiah 1:1-20

The Lord said: I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider. Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward. Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment. Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers. And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city. Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah. Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

Prokeimenon, (Tone VII):
Prokeimenon: Serve ye the Lord with fear * and rejoice in him with trembling.
Verse: Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain?

Forgiveness, St Nikolaj (Velimirović), Bishop of Ochrid

Παναγία Πλατυτερα_Panagia Platytera_ Богоматерь Знамение0_180ec4_b5291e7c_orig

St Ambrose of Optina: “No better rule of prayer than that given us by the Publican — ‘Lord have mercy on me a sinner.‘”

Hymn of Praise
St Nikolaj (Velimirović), Bishop of Ochrid and Zhicha

That God forgives us, let us forgive men,
As temporary guests, we are on this earth.
Prolonged fasting and prayer, in vain is
Without forgiveness and without true mercy.
God is the true Physician; sins are leprosy,
Whoever God cleanses, God also glorifies.
God rewards with mercy, every mercy of men,
That one perishes without mercy, who returns sin with sin,
With pus from pus – infected wounds, pus is not cleansed,
Neither is darkness from the dungeon dispelled by darkness,
But pure balm heals the wound of pus,
And the darkness of the dungeon, a light disperses.
To the seriously wounded, mercy is like a balm,
As a torch, in her [mercy] everyone rejoices.
This the ignorant says: I have no need of mercy!
But, when he is overcome by misery, he cries out for mercy!
Men bathe upon the mercy of God,
That mercy of God awakes us to life!
That God forgives us, let us forgive men,
As temporary guests, we are all on this earth.

The Prologue from Ohrid: Lives of Saints by Saint Nikolai Velimirovič

The gateway to divine repentance has been opened: let us enter eagerly, purified in our bodies and observing abstinence from food and passions, as obedient servants of Christ who has called the world into the heavenly Kingdom. Let us offer to the King of all a tenth part of the whole year, that we may look with love upon His Resurrection.

Sessional hymn, Matins, Cheesefare Monday

May the Lord grant us a Blessed Great and Holy Lent
and celebrate His Glorious Resurrection!

Lord, Bless my enemies. Poem LXXV (75) St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Δαβίδ Προφήτης_David King prophet_ Давид Пророк-ΔΑΥΙΔ  ΜΕ ΑΡΠΑ

Prayers by the Lake
Saint Nikolai Velimirovich, Bishop of Ochrid
Poem LXXV (75)

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.1

Enemies have driven me into Your embrace more than friends have. Friends have bound me to earth, enemies have loosed me from earth and have demolished all my aspirations in the world.

Enemies have made me a stranger in worldly realms and an extraneous inhabitant of the world. Just as a hunted animal finds safer shelter than an unhunted animal, so have I, persecuted by enemies, found the safest sanctuary, having ensconced myself beneath Your tabernacle, where neither friends nor enemies can slay my soul. Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

They, rather than I, have confessed my sins before the world.

They have flagellated me, whenever I have hesitated to flagellate myself.

They have tormented me, whenever I have tried to flee torments.

They have scolded me, whenever I have flattered myself. They have spat upon me, whenever I have filled myself with arrogance.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Whenever I have made myself wise, they have called me foolish.

Whenever I have made myself mighty, they have mocked me as though I were a dwarf.

Whenever I have wanted to lead people, they have shoved me into the background.

Whenever I have rushed to enrich myself, they have prevented me with an iron hand.

Whenever I thought that I would sleep peacefully, they have wakened me from sleep.

Whenever I have tried to build a home for a long and tranquil life, they have demolished it and driven me out.

Truly, enemies have cut me loose from the world and have stretched out my hands to the hem of Your garment.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

Bless them and multiply them; multiply them and make them even more bitterly against me —

so that my fleeing to You may have no return; so that all hope in men may be scattered like cobwebs; so that absolute serenity may begin to reign in my soul;

so that my heart may become the grave of my two evils twins: arrogance and anger;

so that I might amass all my treasure in heaven;2

ah, so that I may for once be freed from self-deception, which has entangled me in the dreadful web of illusory life.

Enemies have taught me to know — what hardly anyone knows — that a person has no enemies in the world except himself.

One hates his enemies only when he fails to realize that they are not enemies, but cruel friends.

It is truly difficult for me to say who has done me more good and who has done me more evil in the world: friends or enemies.

Therefore bless, O Lord, both my friends and my enemies.

A slave curses enemies, for he does not understand. But a son blesses them, for he understands.

For a son knows that his enemies cannot touch his life. Therefore he freely steps among them and prays to God for them.

Bless my enemies, O Lord. Even I bless them and do not curse them.

1. Cf. Matt. 5:43-48.
2. Matt. 6:19-21.
Prayers by the Lake, LXXV (75), by St. Nikolai Velimirovic
Written at Lake Ohrid 1921-1922.
.. Like the Old Testament Psalmist, our holy Vladika poured out his soul in his works and in prayer. This is especially evident in his “Prayers by the Lake,” “The Spiritual Lyre,” and “Prayerful Songs.” From his poetic inspiration and fervor arose prayers on the level of the Psalms, like the most beautiful flowers of paradise. Vladika Nikolai’s spirit of prayer was so powerful that it often threw him to his knees. He was often seen weeping. He was inflamed by divine eros.* His thirst for God was unquenchable; it could be satisfied only with complete union with God.

Άγιος Ιωάννης ο Θεολόγος, Κανέο Οχρίδα--Church of St. John at Kaneo Lake Ohrid- Церковь Святого Иоанна Канео (Охрид)-20140729-P7294754

A view of Lake Ochrid (Ohrid), where St. Nikolai composed these prayers.
The 13th century monastery is dedicated to St. John the Theologian at Kaneo, Ohrid

Prayer keeps the world alive and when prayer fails, the world will perish. St. Silouan


The Point of a Monk

They wandered about in sheepkins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented – of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth” (Heb. 11:38-39).

The idea that the life of a monk is useless is not uncommon amongst Christians of today… St. Silouan the Athonite says, “There are people who say that monks ought to be of some use to the world, and not eat bread they have not toiled for, but we have to understand the nature of a monk’s service and the way in which he has to help the world. A monk is someone who prays for the whole world, who weeps for the whole world; and in this lies his main work.”

To object that monks are nothing more than smelly hermits that hide from the world in caves is to completely miss the point of monasticism. Jesus Himself often went to the mountains and solitary places to pray, seeking to be alone with the Father. Is He too to be accused of not living the Gospel? May it never be!

St. John Maximovitch, a wonderworker of our times, speaks: “Holiness is not simply righteousness, for which the righteous merit the enjoyment of blessedness in the Kingdom of God, but rather such a height of righteousness that men are filled with the grace of God to the extent that it flows from them upon those who associate with them. Great is their blessedness; it proceeds from personal experience of the Glory of God. Being filled also with love for men, which proceeds from love of God, they are responsive to men’s needs, and upon their supplication they appear also as intercessors and defenders for them before God.” St. Neilos the Ascetic adds, “Let us avoid staying in towns and villages; it is better for their inhabitants to come to us. Let us seek the wilderness and so draw after us the people who now shun us.”

Άγιος Σεραφείμ Σάρωφ_St. Seraphim of Sarov_ Преподобный Серафим Саровский_IconPM-SeraphimS-2We see this in the lives of so many of the saints – from St. Anthony the Great to St. Seraphim of Sarov, who drew others to themselves because of the grace and holiness that overflowed from them. They lived in the wilds of the forests, in the empty wastes of the desert, in the depths of the earth and still the holy saints of the Church drew the inhabitants of the world to themselves.

What does the Savior say on this? “Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.

The words of Christ Himself speak against the objections to the monastic life. For what is the monastic life other than the life of constant adoration, contemplation and prayer towards God? And what fault can be found in such a life? It is the prayers of the monks that causes the world to continue to turn; it is their humility which makes up for the lack of our own. As St. Silouan says, “Prayer keeps the world alive and when prayer fails, the world will perish.”

Troparion; (Tone IV):

O God of our Fathers * who ever dealest with us according to Thy tender compassion, * withdraw not Thy mercy from us, * but by the intercessions of our Fathers ** direct our lives in peace.

Glory …, (Tone VI):

O Holy Fathers, * the fame of your virtuous deeds hath gone forth throughout all the earth, * and in heaven ye have received the reward of your labors. * Having destroyed the host of demons * ye now dwell with the ranks of angels, * whose lives ye strove to emulate without reproach. * Since ye have boldness before the Lord, * pray on our behalf, * that peace may be granted to our souls.

Epistle to the Galatians (5:22-6:2)

 Brethren: the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another. Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

The unknown anchorite of Solovki
(From the “Northern Thebaid”)

By the intercessions of all Thine Ascetic Saints Fathers and Mothers,
O Christ our God, have mercy on us. Amen

Two BROTHERS who vowed never to be separated from each other

Ερημίτης_Hermit_отшельник- еремит_askites_b_gerontiko (1)

Chapter XCVII
The life and death of two BROTHERS who vowed never to be separated from each other

Abba John the anchorite said: I have heard Abba Stephen the Moabite say that when he was in the community of St. Theodosius, two brothers were there who had sworn an oath to each other that they would never be separated from each other, either in life or in death.

While they were in the community and a source of edification for all, one of the brothers was attacked by a yearning for fornication. Unable to withstand this attack, he said to his brother, “Release me, brother, for I am driven towards fornication and I want to go back to the world.”

The other brother began to beg and entreat him, saying, “Oh, brother, do not destroy all you have endured.” He replied, “Either come with me so that I can do the deed, or release me to go my own way.”

The brother did not want to release him, so he went into the city with him. The afflicted brother went into the house of fornication while the other brother stood outside. Taking up dust from the ground, he threw it on his own head, reproaching himself.

When the brother who had gone into the brothel came out again, have done the deed, the other brother said to him, “My brother, what have you gained by this sin, and what have you not lost by it? Let us go back to our place.” The other replied, “I cannot go back again into the wilderness. You go. I am staying in the world.”

When the first had done all he could and still failed to persuade the other to follow him into the desert, he too remained in the world with his brother. They both worked as laborers to support themselves. It was about this time that Abba Abraham built his own monastery, the one known as “The Monastery of the Byzantines” at Olivet, west of Jerusalem. The two brothers came there and worked as laborers, for which they received wages.

The one who had fallen prey to fornication would take both their wages and go off to the city each week where he would squander their earnings in riotous living. The other brother would fast all day long, performing his work in profound silence, not speaking to anybody. When the workmen noticed that he neither ate nor spoke each day but was always deep in thought, they told the saintly Abraham about him and his way of life.

Then the great Abraham summoned the workman to his cell and asked him, “Where are you from, brother, and what kind of work do you do?” The brother confessed all to him, “It is because of my brother that I put up with all this, in the hope that God will look upon my affliction and save my brother.” When the godly Abraham heard this, he said to the brother, “The Lord has granted you the soul of your brother too.”

Abba Abraham dismissed the brother who left his cell, and behold! there was his brother, crying, “My brother, take me into the desert so I can be saved.” He immediately took him and went to a cave near to the holy Jordan.

After a little while, the sinful brother, having made great spiritual progress in the things that are God’s, departed this life. The other brother, faithful to the oath, remained in the cave, and eventually he too died there.

Chapter XCVIII
More about the remaining brother.

After the death of his brother, an old man from the monastery of Calamon came to see him.
“Tell me, brother,” he said, “In all the time of your solitary life and your spiritual exercises what did you get out of it?”
“Go away and come back in ten days, ” he replied, “and I will tell you.”
So the old man went away and came back in ten days only to find that the brother had passed to the Lord. But he also found a potsherd on which was scratched ‘Forgive me, father, but when I was saying the prayers and the psalms I never let my mind dwell on earthly things’.

St. John Moschos, Lemonarion (The Spiritual Meadow) 97-98

A merciful man is the savior of his own soul. The spiritual meadow


“Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Matthew 25:40

As a grain of sand cannot counterbalance a great quantity of gold, so in comparison God’s use of justice cannot counterbalance His mercy.
A merciful man is the physician of his own soul.
Saint Isaac of Syria

The life of MOSCHUS, a merchant of Tyre

We visited abbot Eustachius, superior of the cenobium of abba Saba, who repeated to us the story which Moschus, a merchant, had told him when he was at Tyre:

When I was in business, I once went off to the baths at the end of the day and on the way encountered a woman standing in the gloom. I spoke to her and she consented to come with me. Much to the joy of the devil, I did not go and bathe but went straight home to a meal, which I entreated her to share with me. However, she would not taste a thing. When at last we got up and went to the bedroom, and I made as if to embrace her, she tearfully cried out with a loud voice.

“Alas, what a wretch I am!” she cried.

I asked her in some agitation why she was crying.

“My husband is a speculator”, she said, crying even more bitterly, “and all his property and the property of others was lost in a shipwreck. For that, he has been imprisoned and I have got nothing, not even enough to take him a bit of bread. So because of my extreme poverty I decided to sell my body, just so I could find a bit of bread to take to him. For all we had has been lost.”

“How much does he owe?” I asked her.

“Five pounds of gold,” she said.

So I gave her the gold and said:

“See, by the grace of God I have not touched you. Settle the debt with this gold, redeem your husband, and pray for me.”

Some time later a false accusation was laid against me to the Emperor that I had mismanaged his business affairs. So he gave an order that all my assets were to be confiscated, and that I was to be stripped and dragged through Constantinople to the prison. I had been there quite some time, with only one tunic to wear apart from my underwear (? camisia), when I was told that the Emperor had decided to put me to death. I wept in despair for my life. Crying and sobbing, sleep at length overcame me, and I saw that woman whose husband had been in prison.

“”What is wrong, Sir Moschus?” she said. “Why are you imprisoned?”

“I am the victim of a false accusation, and I think the Emperor has decided to put me to death.”

“Would you like me to speak to the Emperor for you, to ask for your freedom?”

“Surely he doesn’t know you?”

“Ah, but he does.”

When I awoke I was not quite sure what it meant. But she appeared to me a second and a third time, saying:

“Don’t be afraid. Tomorrow I will see you are set free.”

At daybreak, on the order of the Emperor I was taken into the palace. As I went in, he looked at me in my dirty and ragged tunic and said:

“I have decided to have mercy on you. Go, and amend your ways.”

And I saw that same woman standing at the Emperor’s right hand.

“Be strong and fear not,” she said.

And the Emperor ordered everything to be given back to me, adding some more goods besides, and restored me to my previous state, in the same position as I had before.

That same night the woman appeared to me again.

“You know who I am?” she said. “I am that same woman on whom you had pity, and for the love of God did not touch my body. See, I have freed you from danger. See the mercy of God, that through me on whom you had mercy, mercy has been shown to you, as if to say, ‘In that you have done this to me I have magnified my mercy upon you.'”

John Moschus, The spiritual meadow