Monday, April 27, 2015

Narration of the Miracle that Took Place in Carthage of Africa

Russian icon of the Judgement depicting the toll-houses.
This narration is included in the Synaxarion to be read by the faithful on April 28th.

Verses

Astonished lecherous one, in this way you see adultery,
Judged, and from this you became distanced.

During the reign of Emperor Heraclius (610-641), when the Exarch of Africa was the patrician Niketas, a strange miracle took place there. In Carthage there lived a man named Tounezi who was a soldier, and when the city fell under an epidemic, he departed with his spouse. They went to their home in the country, where they resided so as not to become ill. But the envious and murderous devil lured this man into sin and led him to commit adultery with the wife of his farmer, who cultivated the land. He then fell ill with a hernia and died.

Three hours after being buried, however, he began to shout from his grave, saying: "Take mercy on me, take mercy on me!" Having opened the grave, they found him alive, yet he was unable to speak. The Patriarch of Alexandria, Thalassios, strengthened him with words of comfort.

Three days passed when this man began to speak, and he narrated the following:

"The moment when my soul was coming out of my body, I saw demons, like Ethiopians, who stood next to me, and they had a gaze that caused terror and horror. Then I saw two Angels in the form of beautiful young people who approached me and with their presence my soul rejoiced.* The Angels took me with them, and ascended into heaven. Then the demons of the toll-houses in the air examined my every sin. Specifically, one demon examined my falsehood, another envy and another greed. To these sins that were examined by the demons, the Angels responded with my good deeds.

Once we arrived at the gate of heaven, devils of another toll-house met me who examined the sin of fornication and they revealed the adultery I had committed a few days prior. The demons of the toll-house of fornication defeated me and pulled me into the bowels of the earth, where the souls of the unrepentant are damned. And what happens there cannot be described with human language.

While I lamented for having reached this point, the two Angels appeared, to whom I cried out saying: 'Take pity on me and help me to repent.' They then took me and put me in my grave. There I found my body like mud and muck and did not want to enter it. But they told me it was not possible for me to repent any other way, unless I did so in my body, with which I committed my sin. Therefore I entered my body, and once my soul was again united with it, I began to yell."

These things this soldier narrated and, having lived without food or drink for forty days, while weeping and lamenting for his sins, he died.**

* According to St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite, these two Angels were perhaps the Holy Archangels Michael and Gabriel, who have appeared with similar features as this story narrates.

** This narration comes from the Questions and Answers (Q. 89) of St. Anastasios of Sinai. He further records that when the people heard this narration, the people were greatly benefited. And being filled with fear, they lamented of their own sins. They would see the man weeping and not eating, and they would beg him to eat, but he adamantly refused. He would furthermore go to the churches, and falling down to the ground, he would cry out with a loud voice and many tears, saying: "Woe, woe to those who sin and do not repent! Oh, what a fearful hell and exact judgement awaits them!" In this way this man spent his forty days, fasting, praying, weeping and preaching. Many people repented of their sins because of this man, and he reposed in the Lord after it was revealed to him twelve days beforehand the day he was to pass away. This narration is placed in the Synaxarion to be read on April 28th for the benefit of all.

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