August 26, 2016

Saint Joasaph, King of the Indians

St. Joasaph the King of India (Feast Day - Gr. August 26; Slav. November 19)


Zeal for the kingdom of the King of all,
Inhabited the son of the earthly king.

According to tradition, in the time of Constantine the Great there lived in India a pagan king named Abenner, who had only one son, Joasaph. Abenner was a wise administrator and fearless warrior, loyal to the Indian code of honor, courage and the hatred of Christians.

When the Prince was born, astrologers and wise men were called to prophesy the Prince's destiny as king. All of them said the same: that he would be a wise and powerful king. But one dared to tell the truth: the Prince would become Christian and give up his throne. The King was furious. He ordered every Christian to be killed or banned from the kingdom, and he put the Prince in a private, guarded castle to shield him from any possible Christian influence.

For twenty years of his life -- his entire childhood and youth -- Joasaph was confined to the castle. During this time he was taught the skills of wisdom and warfare. The King visited his son often, and was pleased to find his boy qrowing into a fine, strong young man. Finally, convinced that the prophecy was false, Abenner agreed to let the Prince see his future kingdom. The impression Joasaph received seemed mixed. The world was indeed a very beautiful place, but the sins, sorrows and eventual death of man dimmed its beauty in Joasaph's eyes, and made him doubtful. No longer content with his luxuries in the palace, he strove to find a life that was soul-fulfilling, unlike what he felt succession to the throne would be.

At the same time, the holy monk Barlaam was told by God that he must bring the salvation of God's word to the Prince over 1,000 miles away. In time Elder Barlaam arrived and, disguised as a merchant with a "pearl of great price," was able to get into the castle. Barlaam explained the Orthodox Christian faith to the young Prince, in the form of parables, and then from the Holy Gospel and the Epistles. From the instructions of Barlaam the youth reasoned that the "pearl of great price" is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and he believed in Him and desired to accept holy Baptism. In the months that followed the entire household was converted, including King Abenner who eventually became a hermit.

Barlaam left, Abenner reposed and Joasaph became king. But he was not content there and missed his spiritual father. Finally he gave his kingdom to relatives and went away to the desert in search of his teacher Barlaam. For two years he wandered about through the wilderness, suffering dangers and temptations, until he found the cave of Barlaam, laboring in silence. The Elder and the youth began to struggle together.

When Barlaam’s death approached, he served the Divine Liturgy, partook of the Holy Mysteries and communed Joasaph, then he departed to the Lord. He lived in the wilderness for seventy of his one hundred years. After he buried the Elder, Joasaph remained in the cave and continued his ascetic efforts. He dwelt in the wilderness for thirty-five years, and fell asleep in the Lord at the age of sixty.

Barachias, Joasaph’s successor as king, with the help of a certain hermit, found the incorrupt and fragrant relics of both ascetics in the cave, and he brought them back to his fatherland and buried them in a church built by the holy king Joasaph.

A portion of the holy relic of Saint Joasaph is in the Athonite Monastery of Xeropotamou, among other places. Though Saint Joasaph is celebrated in the Greek Calendar on August 26th, Saints Joasaph, Barlaam and Abenner are celebrated together in the Slavic Calendar on November 19th. Tradition ascribes the authorship of the tale of Barlaam and Joasaph to Saint John of Damascus, but in actuality Saint Euthymios the Athonite, a Georgian monk, translated the Georgian epic Balavariani dating back to the 10th century, into Greek in the year 1028, basing the theology of the text on Saint John of Damascus. In the Latin Church Joasaph is known as Josaphat.

Read also: A Note Concerning Saints Barlaam and Joasaph

Apolytikion in the Third Tone
Introduced to divine faith, you received the light of the knowledge of God, Joasaph, the boast of the Venerables; you were made to shine through the words of Barlaam, arriving at the summit of the virtues. Therefore intercede, to the most-compassionate Trinity, that we may be granted the great mercy.

Another Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
You were taught to know God by your spiritual guide, O King Joasaph, then having been illumined by baptism, you converted your people to the Faith, and was the sponsor at your father's baptism. Having renounced your kingdom, you reached the desert, where you labored with a love for work. Pray to Christ our God, with your teacher Barlaam, that our souls be saved.

Kontakion In Plagal of the Fourth Tone
Knowing your good will from childhood, O Joasaph, knowing in your heart the one God, you were led from the earthly kingdom into the monastic life, and granted to follow the great Barlaam, having with him even now the all-bright fatherland Jerusalem on high, delighting in the beautifully good Holy Trinity. We pray to your royal beauty, remember us who honor you in faith.

The Venerable Barlaam and Joasaph

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

When Joasaph witnessed illness, old age and death,
He was sincerely ashamed of this life.
"Behold, even I can be ill like that,
And old age can make me stooped like this,
And death may come when I least expect it!
In the suffering of others I bitterly suffer.
Is there anyone living who knows the secret of the mystery
And can reveal a better life?''

Then, from the dense mountain, Barlaam descended,
And spoke truth to the young heir.
And the elder told him of the One God -
Of the Father Who reigns with the Spirit and the Son -
Of the creation of the world, and Paradise, most beautiful;
Of the first Adam, in the effulgence of Paradise;
Of cursed sin that brought us death;
Of Christ Who bore the heavy Cross for us;
Of life eternal, better than this;
Of the infinite glory of the Kingdom of Christ.

When Joasaph had heard the all-wise Barlaam,
A bright day dawned for him,
And the darkness of night passed away.