March 1, 2016

When St. John Cassian Visited Elder Gelasios

By Archimandrite Porphyrios,
Abbot of the Holy Monastery of the Honorable Forerunner in Beroea

February may be short and have a leap day, but when it does have 29 days, it also has a Saint. When it is not a leap year, the commemorations of the 29th, if you are a lover of the saints, are transferred to the 28th. On either day, we celebrate Saint Cassian the Roman.

I once had the blessing to serve a very old elder monk, who was in the navy when he was younger, and from him I learned a very beautiful story, almost like a fairytale, concerning this Saint.

Saint Cassian, otherwise known as John Cassian, was a disciple of Saint John Chrysostom and he brought eastern monasticism to the West. He wrote treatises about the monastic life, becoming a luminary of the Church.

Elder Gelasios had a love for the so-called "disdained" saints. These are the second or third saints listed for the day, whose memory is usually overshadowed, or it is "read at Compline, or in the Cells."

This is how he viewed Saint Cassian. This is why, instead of celebrating his own patron saint on December 23rd, he would treat others, as is the custom on name days, on either the 28th or 29th of February in memory of the "disdained" saint, Saint Cassian.

He was the Administrator of the Holy Administration of Mount Athos, and on Christmas he would go around to all the Monasteries. This is why he was unable to celebrate the feast of Saint Gelasios, one of the Ten Martyrs of Crete. If, however, he remained as Administrator or Representative the following year, he comfortably treated others on the feast of Saint Cassian.

As the years passed the pains in his elderly legs forced him to invoke all his friends the saints. On one Holy and Great Thursday he beheld Saint James the Brother of the Lord serving the Divine Liturgy. Saint Anastasia the Roman, whom he called the Gregoriatissa (the Speedy), revealed her visitation with such a fragrance in his cell and in those adjacent to it. Saint Bessarion of the Great Gate also went. But the pains in his legs seemed to want another saint.

Thus, one morning, he said to me, through the tears that now flowed constantly from his puny eyes: "First bring me some crushed lime, and then I will tell you."

Good luck leaving him in silence after that. The grandfather must have seen something again. Who would have thought? We did not have to insist much. We brought him the lime: "So Cassian came and told me to anoint his feet with lime."

"And how was your friend, elder?"

"He was western, with garments unlike ours. He told me he was Cassian, 'whom you called and here I am'."

Then he began again, after numerous times, to tell us how he honored this "disdained" Saint. As he anointed the feet with the lime, for some time he would feel relief.

He had called upon all the saints, and he had called upon Saint Cassian, to whom he gave his biggest complaint: "You also forgot me, Cassian?" Having said this, the Saint ran to him to console his pain, and somehow repay him for the treats he offered at Protaton.

All day I was trying to finish this text, but I accomplished it now that the day has passed. Although it is late, I remembered this wondrous event having to do with the last Saint of February.

Have a good month, now that March has begun.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.