August 30, 2017

When Elder Bessarion of Dionysiou Saw Saint John the Baptist in a Vision

The late Monk Lazarus Dionysiatis (+ 1974) is well-known for his book Dionysian Narrations in which he records the valuable memories of those Dionysian Fathers of Dionysiou Monastery at Mount Athos.

One of these narrations concerns Elder Bessarion of Dionysiou Monastery. Fr. Bessarion was from Halkida of Evia. He reposed in the Lord in 1952, at the age of 76. Before his repose he was the Oikonomos of the Metochion of Dionysiou Monastery in Sykia of Halkidiki, known as Kalamitsi. When he sensed his death approaching, after bidding farewell to his acquaintances and friends, he told them very simply that he was "going to the Monastery to die"!

As soon as he landed on the dock of Dionysiou Monastery, from all his heart and soul he thanked the Honorable Forerunner for allowing him to be made worthy of returning to the monastery of his repentance and repay all of his debts to the Lord. Two days later, after bidding farewell to all the brothers and asking their forgiveness, he reposed. This thrice-blessed monk had much fervent humility and faith treasured in his heart.

One day, years before his repose, Elder Lazarus Dionysiatis found the opportunity to ask him of a vision Elder Bessarion had of the Honorable Forerunner:

"I heard, Elder Bessarion, that our Monastery appointed you Oikonomos of her Metochion in Meriana of Halkidiki, and that you saw the Honorable Forerunner, with whom you even conversed. If you remember and if you will, tell me also about this event, as it took place, so I can write it down for the younger ones to learn. How did you see the Honorable Forerunner alive and speak with him?"

Slightly smiling, Elder Bessarion began to speak with his usual simplicity:

"That which you speak of took place two years ago (1928); listen since you want to know about it. You worked at the mill, and know that many times many people would gather at the mill. So one day two villagers came to the bazaars and one bought the mare of the other.

The one who purchased it, went to the church to venerate (Fr. Bessarion was then serving at the Athonite Metochion of Dionysiou Monastery in Sykia of Halkidiki). He also left before the icon of the Honorable Forerunner some money and he told me to light a candle. I lit the candle, and seeing there was plenty of money, I didn't take it, but left it in front of the icon. At night I went to light the lamps and I saw the money was missing. You cannot know how much grief came over me. Temptation hardened me also, and just as we are speaking, I went before the icon of the Saint and said:

'Holy Forerunner, are you not here? Why did you allow the money in front of your icon to be taken? Ugh, I'm not lighting your lamp.'

Therefore, Elder Lazarus, I only lit the lamp of the Panagia and left. However, within me my heart was slightly beating. I went to the mill, then up to the house, ate a little bread, but I was confused. I remembered that the light of the Saint was extinguished, but the kotsonouris [the devil] would not leave me alone, he hardened me very much. I said to myself: 'Let's see what happens. I'm not lighting the lamp tonight.'

So I fell asleep, my brother, with the confusion I had, but I persisted in my opinion. It happened to be a full moon, the moon was like the sun and its light entered my cell through the window.

As I was sleeping by myself, because I didn't have another resident at the time, at around midnight I felt a nudge. I woke up and saw a giant in front of me with disheveled hair. From my fear I began to tremble, and as soon as I was able to speak I said:

'How did you come here?'

In his response to me, he said in a serious tone:

'Do not ask how I came, but tell me why you don't light my lamp?'

And immediately with much fear, a trembling voice, and with tears in my eyes, I said:

'Forgive me, Saint. I did wrong.'

I then gave him three prostrations while crying at his feet begging him to forgive me."

As Elder Bessarion was telling me this, out of reverence he began to cry in front of me. When this passed, he continued:

"I then heard, my brother, the Honorable Forerunner, with a sweet and calm voice say to me:

'My child Bessarion, it is as if I'm not here. And if I am not here, then who has been guarding you all these years in this wilderness from robbers and other evil things?'

(Again, Elder Bessarion began to weep due to his emotion and reverence for the Honorable Forerunner.)

'My Saint, I beg you to forgive me. I will not do it again.'

'Go and light the lamp at my icon, and preach to the others that the icons are miraculous, because many here have begun to say that icons are not miraculous.'

He said these things to me and disappeared. At that moment I went to the church and - O the wonder! - I saw all the money in the same place, as they were, in front of the icon of the Saint. Who knows what pushed the thief to bring that same night the money to the icon."

Elder Lazarus Dionysiatis (+ 1974)

Finally I asked him:

"What clothes was the Honorable Forerunner wearing?"

"Here, he was just as you see him in the icon with the sheep. But such a tall person I have never seen in my life. What can I say to you! A huge man, a giant."

"I believe you, because Christ says in the Gospel, 'I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist.' The Lord said this first because of the multitude of his virtues and his great holiness. But it also applied to his physique, for the words of the Lord include both."

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.