August 30, 2017

Saint Christopher the Roman (6th cent.)

St. Christopher the Roman (Feast Day - August 30)

By St. John Moschos

(The Spiritual Meadow, Ch. 105)

When we were in Alexandria we went to visit Abba Theodore, who was at Saint Sophia near the Lighthouse, who told us the following story:

"I first renounced the world when I was in the coenobium of our holy father Theodosios, in the desert near the Holy City of Christ our God. I met there a great old man called Christopher, who was a Roman, before whom one day I prostrated myself, saying:

'Do me a favor, father,' I said, 'and tell me how you spent your life from your youth up.'

After being asked again and again, the old man eventually realized that I was inquiring for the good of my own soul, and agreed to my requests.

'I was full of great zeal, my son,' he said, 'when I first renounced the world, and embraced the monastic life with great eagerness. During the day I took part in the regular times of psalmody, and at night went down into the cave where the holy Theodosios and the other holy fathers were accustomed to pray. I went down the eighteen steps into the cave one at a time, prostrating myself a hundred times on each one. When I got down there I stayed until they struck the wood, then went to the synaxis with the fathers. I did this work for eleven years without a break, with many fasts, continence, obedience and with nothing apart from the barest essentials.

Then one night as I was going down according to my usual custom, doing all my usual acts of reverence, I got to the floor of the cave and fell into an ecstasy, and saw the floor of the cave full of lamps, some of which were lit and some not. I saw two men wearing cloaks on top of white habits tending to the lamps.

Why have you put these lamps here,' I asked, 'preventing us from coming in to pray?'

'The lamps belong to the fathers,' they said.

'Then why are some lit and some not?' I asked.

'There are some who want their lamps lit and some who don't,' they said.

'Tell me, please,' I said, 'is my lamp lit or not?'

'Pray, and we will light it,' they said.

'I pray constantly,' I said. 'What more can I do?'

As I said this I came to my senses, and looking round, could see nobody.

'Christopher,' I said to myself, 'there is much greater labor for you to do yet.'

Next morning I left the monastery and traveled to Mount Sinai, taking nothing with me but the clothes I wore. I worked there for fifty years at the end of which a voice came to me:

'Christopher, Christopher, go back to your own coenobium where you strove so valiantly, and there you will be gathered to your fathers.'

And soon after he had told me all this his holy soul rested in peace."

Theodore also passed on to us the following story, which Abba Christopher had told him:

"One day I went in to the Holy City in order to venerate the Holy Cross. After I had done so and was going out I saw a brother in the doorway of the Chapel of the Holy Cross. I also saw two crows impudently flying around in front of his face, flapping their wings in his eyes and preventing him from going in. I knew at once that these were demons.

'Tell me, brother,' I said, 'Why are you standing in the middle of the doorway without going in?'

'Forgive me, Father,' he said, 'but it's my thoughts. One of them says: go in and adore the Honorable Cross; the other says: no, just go away make baskets, and come back to worship another day.'

Hearing this, I took him by the hand and led him in to the chapel, and immediately the crows flew off. I got him to adore the Holy Cross and the Holy Resurrection of Christ our God, and sent him away in peace.

The old man told me these things," said Theodore, "because he saw that I was burdened with a lot of tasks to perform and neglectful of my prayer."