Saturday, October 3, 2009

Saint Hesychios the Chorebite and the Remembrance of Death


According to St. John Climacus, one of the essential steps in the transformation of our fallen nature and the acquisition of the virtues is "meleti thanatou", or the remembrance of death. In fact, Step 6 of his Ladder of Divine Ascent is dedicated to this very practice. On October 3rd the Church guides us to read this specific chapter from beginning to end, because at the end is the tale of the Blessed Hesychius the Horebite whom we celebrate today. St. John thought his tale to be the perfect seal on this beneficial chapter dedicated to the remembrance of death, and below I offer the ending portion of this chapter to see why:

Some inquire and wonder: “Why, when the remembrance of death is so beneficial to us, has God hidden from us the knowledge of the hour of death?” – not knowing that in this way God wonderfully accomplishes our salvation. For no one who foreknew his death would at once proceed to baptism or the monastic life; but everyone would spend all his days in iniquities, and only on the day of his death, would he approach baptism and repentance. From long habit, he would become confirmed in vice, and would remain utterly incorrigible.

And I cannot be silent about the story of Hesychios the Chorebite. He passed his life in complete negligence, without paying the least attention to his soul. Then he became extremely ill, and for an hour he expired. And when he came to himself, he begged us all to leave him immediately. And he built up the door of his cell, and he stayed in it for twelve years without ever uttering a word to anyone, and without eating anything but bread and water. And, always remaining motionless, he was so rapt in spirit at what he had seen in his ecstasy, that he never changed this manner of life but was always as if out of his mind, and silently shed hot tears. But when he was about to die, we broke open the door and went in, and after many questions, this alone was all we heard from him: “Forgive me! No one who has acquired the remembrance of death will ever be able to sin.” We were amazed to see that one who had before been so negligent was so suddenly transfigured by this blessed change and transformation. We reverently buried him in the cemetery near the fort, and after some days we looked for his holy relics, but did not find them. So by Hesychios’s true and praiseworthy repentance, the Lord showed us that He accepts those who desire to amend, even after long negligence.



From St. John Climacus, “The Ladder of Divine Ascent,” (Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1978), p. 70.

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