September 18, 2017

Life and Miracles of our Holy Father Romylos of Ravanica

By Gregory of Constantinople

1. Nothing is as appropriate nor as worthy of the lovers of good things as to transmit through writing the achievements and struggles of saintly men who lived their life in a holy and God­-pleasing manner, and to narrate them so that posterity may be incited to follow and imitate them. For men, especially those of us who wish to remain according to the image of God, and have kept the eye of the soul sound, desire to be familiar with all praiseworthy and honorable things and desire to acquire them. It is good to see with the eyes of the soul the struggles of good men and champions of virtue, and from these struggles to draw profit. For when the laudable things become visible, they are shown to be worth seeking, and become desirable, and those who see them are moved to acquire them. And when the story of these things is transmitted from those who know to the ears of the audience, it brings no mean profit.

If the memory of wonderful stories were precise and were to remain firm, and if forgetfulness were not to obscure it, like a fog, then it would, I think, have been unnecessary to commit these things to writing, so as to benefit posterity and ease its way. But because time destroys, bringing old age and death to the body, and also destroys great deeds, since it obscures them and darkens the memory, let no one justly blame us for writing the God-­loving and virtuous life of the holy man, this true teacher of the love of God and the ardent lover of the heavenly life. And I hope that those who will look at this story will not disbelieve what I say, as it is customary for many to do because of envy, or because they are ignorant of better things. I set myself to this task not for his (the saint's) sake and glory-for what praise and glory does he need from us since he has been suitably and justly granted it by God?-but in order that through this, God the provider of good things might be glorified, and those who hear these things might imitate virtue and seek to do similar things, as though goaded.

It has been said that the narration about those who have been distinguished in virtue places an incentive of emulation into the souls of those who hear it, especially in these latest times when the godly life is disregarded. Furthermore, those who are nourished by the divine words know well that those who are now searching out God are worthy of more praise than those in past times. And this is clear from the words of the Lord which were said to the great Pachomius. For when the pious man and the greatest spiritual champion of all, that is, this holy man, wondered before God and inquired concerning t his spiritual seed and the condition of the monks thereafter and what shall be the things to come to future generations, and said, "Remember, O Lord, that you agreed my spiritual seed will not disappear until the end of time," he heard from the Lord in addition to other things this: "Take heart, because the root of your spiritual seed shall not vanish for eternity, and those future few who shall remain in those times, because of the great fog of indifference of the times, will be found to be greater than those living the good life now, since these now have you as a luminary before their eyes and conduct themselves virtuously, relying upon your light. But if the future ones, who happen to live in a dry place, of their own will and with no one guiding them toward the truth, turn away from the wickedness of deceit and acquire justice, truly I say unto you that they shall be found among those who now live the good and faultless life, and will enjoy the same salvation as they." I say this as a digression in order to show this holy man's love of God which will also be shown from his many other deeds and struggles for God, as the story proceeding in order will show most clearly. Let us begin.

2. According to custom we must make known the country which bore him and the earthly parents who gave birth to Romylos, among ascetics a wonderful and true servant of God. The famous city of Vidin bore him and both his parents were pious and God­-fearing. They could not boast of much wealth, but had enough so that their need for self­-sufficiency lacked nothing and so that they could distribute to the poor. And while his father was of Roman stock, his mother came from among the Bulgarians. From this blessed pair was born this good child, Raikos, who God knew would shine in virtue. For thus was the name by which, from the time of his baptism, he was called by his parents. And they raised him in accordance with the teaching and admonition of the Lord. With the passage of time, the grace of the Holy Spirit within him appeared along with his bodily growth in both the questions and answers he gave with persuasive and holy words in his conversations with men.

And because it was necessary that this good child should not lack an education in sacred letters, his parents gave him to a teacher for instruction. Obeying the teacher as is proper, he out­distanced all the other children with him, and in a very short time. But more than this, he admonished them to abstain from the usual children's games and foolish pursuits, since folly follows youth and folly leads to ruin: "You must therefore, dear friends, sit quietly in your rooms and with both sobriety and diligence be constantly busy with your lessons and study." And from this, there came to him unusual praise. For this old­-young boy Raikos was admired not only by his peers and classmates, but even by their teacher himself due to his premature understanding and piety, and even by many of the inhabitants of that city, who were always speaking of the child's sagacity and wisdom. But his parents who, as parents, were more interested in material things and who had no foreknowledge of the youth's love of God nor of how much divine love he had within his heart, were planning to marry him to a woman. They declared their decision to him by a word. But he didn't want to hear the word; in fact he didn't even want to hear the sound of their voices, since he was thinking of abandoning the tumult of the world and of joining the monastic life. For how could they persuade this lover of chastity, strengthened by grace, to abandon his love of God?

3. His parents, as was said, were planning, as parents do, to bend him even unwillingly to their own will. When this man, who desired with his entire soul the non­perishable and eternal things, heard of their plan, he secretly stole away from his country and came to Zagora. He entered the fortified town called Trinovon in this same province, and made his home in one of the monasteries there, the one called "of the Mother of God Hodegetria (Who Leads the Way). As is the custom, the superior of the monastery asked, "Where are you from, my son, and how is it you have come here?" And having explained the whole story about himself to the superior, he further said, "I have come here wishing to become a monk." The superior received him gladly, tonsured him and changed his name to Romanos. After listening attentively and understanding from a little conversation the future total obedience and piety of the youth, he at once allowed him to serve in the church. The youth served for some years well and as is proper, so that the superior was happy to see how the youth worked day by day for the propriety of the church. He was also pleased with his good morals and humility, for this saintly man was truly humble in appearance, in habits, and in way of life, above all others. And those who have seen him from the first will testify with me in this, that on sight alone sensible men could see the humility dwelling within his soul. His humility, as was said, had reached the highest point. As for his love of his neighbor, did he lack it? Or did he have it only in part? Indeed not. For who more than he has achieved it entirely and has been able to transmit it, both in earthly and in spiritual things? Who more than he provided abundantly the things necessary for the sustenance of the body, as if rejoicing more in giving than in receiving, while often living in straitened circumstances, deprived of the very essentials? As for the kind of man he was in terms of his admonition and advice to his fellow disciples and especially to novices, words are entirely unable to express it, for in his compassion he imitated God: It is not possible to speak of the extent of his contrition nor of his many tears, nor is it possible to compare him to anyone else on earth in this. In him was fulfilled the saying of the prophet: "Every night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears." And also: "My tears have been my t meat day and night." But let us return to the matter at hand.

4. While the superior rejoiced and was delighted with Romanos' obedience, zeal and propriety, in his mind Romanos pined away, desiring that he might again abandon the tumult of the world, and that he might live in a a deserted place far from men, like the turtle­dove which loves solitude. He had learned about Paroria where a monastery was being built by a great man before God, Gregory of Sinai, who brought souls to God each day by the music of his words and the example of his life. Romanos was engrossed in planning a departure and wished he had wings so that he could fly through the air and get there as quickly as possible. So great a yearning did word of that holy man inspire in him, as I have heard him relate.

From that time on then, while Zagora held his body, the wilderness of Paroria possessed his soul. Just as the thirstiest deer seeks the fountainhead he thirsted, and he asked God that he might go to Paroria. But the superior's piety and love did not permit him because he dearly loved this good Romanos. For a while he was also hindered because of this, since he did not want to cause his superior pain. Keeping his thoughts to himself, he grew impatient and distressed because a persistent concern breaks the heart. But since his desire to leave grew stronger, and as it could not be done otherwise, he seized the opportune moment and explained his plan of departure to the superior who after listening to it became very deeply grieved for he wished never to be separated from him for his whole life. But the superior, having considered to himself whether this might be according to the will of God, blessed Romanos and prayed for him, and after giving him many provisions he allowed him to leave.

Taking along another brother, a companion and fellow­ initiate named Ilarion, he reached the wilderness of Paroria in haste. Once they had arrived at the monastery of the said holy father, the Sinaite, they gave the great man the proper devotion. He asked them where they were from, "and for what purpose have you come to us?" They explained and made clear everything about themselves to the great man, and said that they had come to become his disciples.

5. The great man received them gladly, and knowing the capacity and intent of each of them through the divine grace within him, he assigned them the proper duties. While he prescribed the lighter services in the monastery to the weaker llarion, he assigned the heavier and more burdensome duties to the strong Romanos. At that time, this great father was building the above mentioned monastery. It was then possible to see Romanos, the servant of obedience, running around in all his duties, sometimes carrying timber from the mountain, sometimes stones, and sometimes water from the river below. There were even times when he mixed lime with water, and many times he helped in the kitchen and bakery. In a word, he was an able servant in all his duties. He was more capable than anyone else toward the infirm, so much so that one could almost say he gave the sick health along with service, and therefore he was beloved and sought after by all as a result of his humility and love. They named him Kaloromanos (Romanos the Good) instead of simply Romanos, exalting his piety and the peace he felt toward all. This man, brave in body and soul always hurried to all his duties with the proper disposition and affection for that great luminary the Sinaite, the head of the monastery, as the divine words say, especially as is written in the divine Climax: "As much as faith flourishes in the heart so much will the body be eager in its duties. And as is said by St. Mark the Ascetic "The Lord, he said, lies hidden in His commands; let him who wishes to find Him carry out His commands, and in carrying them out he will find Him in the midst of them." But let the story keep to the thread of the narrative at hand.

6. When the building of the monastery had been completed, the inhabitants of the monastery rested their bodies in their own cells as is proper, busying themselves with spiritual matters assigned to each by the superior. Seeing that Kaloromanos was still strong in body and more so in his soul, the superior, being wise in divine things and prudent, considered and gave him work appropriate to the purpose of his becoming a spiritual fighter and champion. But here we must see the kind of man this holy man was from the beginning of his monastic life. He was energetic and pleasing to God in all his labors.

There was a venerable old man there, weak in body but boiling with a wrathful spirit. Because of this temperament none of those there was able to either help him or give him rest. Knowing this, and knowing the good Romanos' ever-ready assistance towards the infirm, and that no one else could help the old man as well, the great shepherd ordered him to serve the infirm man. It was then possible to see the new Acacius accept nobly all the harsh words pronounced by that feeble old man, just as somewhere John of the Climax says in regard to him who truly subjects himself to another: "Drink sneering and scoffing every day as if it were living water."

Since the old man had a failing stomach apart from his other frailties and was able to accept gladly no other nourishment except fish, what did this good champion do? He learned well the art of fishing - by night he knit nets, by day he went fishing - and in this way he brought useful nourishment to the old man. During the other seasons of the year he fished easily and his skill served him well, but in winter he had a very difficult time, inasmuch as that area was excessively cold, and the water turned hard as stone by excessive freezing. The snow often did not melt until the month of April or even beyond. During that time, those pools of standing water which the inhabitants call "viroi," having become utterly frozen by the severe cold, as we have said, did not allow him to fish as was his habit. Therefore both of them were afflicted with pain: the old man because he was deprived of fish, and the good servant in turn for him. Seeing the sick man sorrowing thus, he suffered along with him, since he was a true servant before God. He, therefore, pondered with much anxiety what he should do in order to be able to fish. But behold! he discovered a way, for necessity breeds invention and leads the mind to many designs. But it is more probable that God gave him the knowledge to do this because he pleaded for it. What was it then? My mind grows dizzy and my hand grows numb and cannot write. My eyes, full of tears, are amazed at this athlete's endeavor, for he invented a method that had not been attempted by many or rather, by any others. Taking a shovel and a hammer he went down, and throwing the snow here and there with the shovel and crushing the ice with the hammer and shaking all over with cold, his teeth chattering, he went into the pool. He disturbed the water below with his feet and made the fish in it come up from the water unwillingly, and he at once caught them in a leather sack. He truly invented a strange and wonderful way of fishing. Was not the pool of this spiritual athlete like the pond of the Forty Martyrs? And indeed it was so. If anyone wonders that he did not die the bodily death that they died, we might reply this, that if he also had not placed death before his eyes, he would not have gone into the frozen water, and that is what is meant by laying down one's life for one's neighbor.

7. Once his master, that infirm old man, ordered him to go and catch fish. He had given him an order to spend a specific amount of time fishing, but the good fisherman, having success fishing, extended the appointed time. When Romanos returned, the old man did not receive him gladly, even though Romanos was carrying more fish than ever before, but knowing his patient endurance and the humble disposition of his spirit, heaped as much ridicule as possible upon him. Thus, while the old man took the fish inside the cell, he made the fisherman spend the night in the open air. During that night, a lot of snow came down from heaven since it was wintertime. It covered this spiritual athlete to such an extent that he could not be seen. So then in the morning they dug in the snow and found him half dead; and this, I think, is not lacking in comparison with his descent into the pool and the coldness of the ice as we mentioned above. Let us continue our discourse and discuss everything in order, that those ignorant of it may know more fully how from the beginning he greatly loved virtue in all its forms, especially that of subordination to holy men.

8. Because the infirm old man, his master as our story already explained, departed to the Lord rendering dust to dust, and before him the great luminary and universal father of those there, kyris Gregory of Sinai, also died, one could see this holy Kaloromanos weeping and mourning day and night, for he did not wish to carry on by himself without being subject to another. After seeking he found another master who was living in quietude far from the monastery, under whom was already placed the aforementioned kyris Ilarion, his fellow­ traveler from the beginning. He bent his neck to this master, as is the law, serving and obeying him with his entire soul just as he did for the one who had died. But the old man was not to be consoled in any way, for there was at the time a severe famine throughout the area, so that nothing else was to be found for sustenance in the old man's cell except for a little rye which they ate boiled in water instead of other food. Whether because of this need in their great distress, or rather because of the trials caused by the robbers whom the local people called Chosiarioi (who would place hot irons in the stomachs of the monks and demand from them the few necessary things they had; and taking these they would depart, leaving the servants and worshipers of God in need even of the very necessities of life), taking the old man, the two men, Kaloromanos of whom we are talking and the aforementioned kyris Ilarion, left Paroria returning again to Zagora. Here they made their habitation at one day's distance from Trinovon, and lived there in a place called Mogrin.

But this holy and Good Romanos - as he was called by everyone because of his virtuous mode of life and especially because of his humility and love - whether through providence and for his greater benefit, as the story will eventually show, or through the envy of the Devil, left the service of the old man and settled in a desolate place far away. But one should not bring such easy blame upon this holy man for his retreat, for the old man had kyris Ilarion for his service, which is why it was not an entirely painful event. After a short time, the old man, advanced in age, left this life and went to the Lord whom he desired deeply and longed for. "For I yearn," said St. Paul who spoke with Christ's grace, and those after him who agreed with him, "to depart and be with Christ."

9. After learning this, that good mourner shed tear after tear and lamented deeply. He was struck by the sting of regret-for a contrite and repentant heart, such as the heart of that holy man, if it happens by chance to stray from its intended purpose as I suppose, becomes inconsolable afterwards, considering that it had lost such a good thing. Therefore, as is proper he came most quickly to the old man's grave, and falling atop of it he filled the air with his wailing, mourning his weakness in deserting his master. And if kyris Ilarion had not, with exhorting words, persuaded him to rise from there, he probably would have suffered like that wild beast, the lion on the grave of the blessed Gerasimos. Then rising up at Ilarion's great exhortation, he at once fell at Ilarion's feet saying through his many tears, "Since I disobeyed the old man's command and left your cohabitation, from this day on I place myself under you in the name of the Lord as I was under him." Seeing that Romanos was greater than he himself in virtue, Ilarion put him off and did not comply. The truly humble Romanos insisted saying to him, "I shall not rise from the ground unless you receive me under your authority in the name of the Lord from today on." And beholding his strong petition together with he great humility Ilarion received him, and from then on one could see this great man among ascetics traveling the path of a novice and running around in all his duties.

Things being thus, they learned that the wilderness of Paroria was faring well since Emperor Alexander had severely threatened the robbers and plunderers, who used to make trials for the servants of God, that if they did not stop, they would be executed. Those holy servants, having heard carefully the good news, abandoned Zagora and headed back to Paroria, their beloved wilderness and retreat. Truly this was such a place which on sight alone could bring tears of compunction to God­-loving souls. For dwelling ­places, as it is written somewhere in the Scriptures, have been created to lead our mind to contemplation. At any rate, as we said, they went there quickly, and arriving near the monastery of the great Gregory, they built cells and settled down.

10. At that time I, piteous among solitaries, having come to that place from Constantinople and having heard of their virtuous life and conduct, bent my head in subjection to kyris Ilarion, to whom the holy man himself was subject as our story explained earlier. It is now the proper time to describe fully the great deeds performed in his path toward God, for the benefit of those who read them.

Since the all­-holy and Great Lent drew near, and as it was the custom for those of one heart to eat together Sunday evening, for they would then live apart and would be alone each to himself, this is what we then did. While we were eating with the old man, we received a command from him to spend the first week each in his own cell, privately and in solitude:" And on the coming Saturday of Saint Theodore we should meet together and eat a little cooked food for the sake of sustaining the body." All this was done as kyris Ilarion, our master, ordered. When we were sitting at the table eating, the old man was speaking to me ordering me about the things that had to be done. The good Romanos sat deep in thought, not accepting food gladly, but like someone retiring from himself, with his mind somewhere else. Leaving his seat at the table-for the gift of contrition did not permit him to be idle - he went to his own cell and began to give himself entirely to grieving. And we expected him, for we thought that he left to relieve his physical need.

Since a long time passed, contrary to expectation, I went searching him out as I was urged by the old man. I looked around here and there, but since I was unable to find him, I went to his cell as quickly as possible, and standing outside - by the Lord I speak the truth- I heard him wailing like a woman who is burying her only son. Therefor being afraid to knock, I returned to the old man filled with amazement. Questioning me he said, "Where is your brother?". I answered him, "Father, we eat food for the body, and he for the soul." Hearing this the old man quickly searched the meaning of my words and when I made clear what I had heard, the old man sat a little while deep in thought. "Go back," he said to me, "and summon him so that we may feast together and then we will rise from the table."

At the old man's order I went quickly to his cell, and listening outside - O Christ, what marvelous grace you give to those who fear you - I heard him wailing and crying more than before. I then knocked on the door and he who came out was entirely possessed by God: his face was bright although his cheeks were very wet. At other times this good griever had held the grace of tears, but only in part and at intervals, but now, because of his great pains and his unquestioning obedience, and also because of his week's fast, the grace of the all-holy Spirit visited him and handed him this gift richly, so that he not only lamented quietly but also cried aloud, as we have already said. But let us return to the matter at hand.

He then wiped his face with his napkin and we returned to the old man and sat down at the table. Both the old man and I had some of the food set before us and we recovered our strength a little, but Romanos in no way touched the food, for he was filled not with bread, he said, but with the gift and grace of tears. From that time on he asked the old man to allow him to build a cell one stadius away from us, close to the river, so that he might catch fish and bring them to the old man who had a weak stomach like that aforementioned old man who was now dead. That good griever went there and greatly enjoyed the solitude and seclusion as he had wished, adding trial upon trial and tear upon tear. How great a stream of tears did this most contrite of men pour out, alone and talking only to God, with no one annoying him? For if quietude brings contrition as the holy fathers teach us, this purifies a man and makes him sinless. Must one say how much spiritual food of tears and all kinds of spiritual grace this man earned? Our mind is puzzled and our tongue is unable to put the unexplainable into the narrative. But those men who have experienced and have struggled have known it by experience, even if we may not be able to explain it by words. And staying there and catching fish, was he eating any of them? Not at all. His own job was to catch fish and to bring them to the old man, his father in the Lord, for he was sick. He himself ate the usual food.

11. Things being this way with us, the governor of Scopelos informed us through a letter that, "the Hagarenes wish to come here to hunt wild beasts, so you must do one of two things: either come and live within the tower, or retire from the area. I recommend this because I am concerned about your comfort and well­-being." It is not possible to describe how filled with grief we were at hearing such abhorrent news. Tears ran from our eyes, for we were about to leave our beloved solitude.

Since we could not live with the monks within the tower because we had become used to the solitary life, as the initiates know, we left Paroria unwillingly and arrived in Zagora. Finding the cells in which we had lived earlier in Mogre, we settled in them, the old man kyris Ilarion and I in one place, kyris Romylos far away from us in another, having planned this, I think, so that he could attend to his labor of contrition undisturbed. For solitude with reflection and with a very divine purpose is the mother of contrition. This the holy man of whom we are speaking showed very clearly. Whenever I went to him being ordered by the old man for some reason or another, standing outside I would hear him weeping and wailing. But he again remembered Paroria, since he was a lover of solitude and one who had rid himself of the tumult of the world, and, after spending a little time with us, he abandoned Zagora and returned to Paroria as quickly as he could, without taking into any account the threat of the infidel. His love of solitude persuaded him to disregard the thought of bodily danger.

12. Arriving there, in the interior of the mountains, he built himself a hut, and there being deemed worthy of wearing the great habit, he changed his name to Romylos. He spent the next five years there, separated from all association with men except when through some need he approached the monastery of the Holy Sinaite. But who is able to describe the weeping and I wailing of this long period, and the struggles with demons and those terrors ! which he suffered from the demons, as he himself described to us? For the I blessed man said that without God's help no one, while still in the body, is able to wrestle with demons. "From my arrival in the interior of the mountain," he said, "the demons, suffering out of jealousy, created many visions and terrors to entice me to depart from there; sometimes displaying lights, sometimes lightning and thunder, sometimes great noises, and sometimes shouting all together. The ravines of the mountains echoed the roars so that I thought that the trees themselves were shouting. But I, he said, fought them off­ with the name of the Lord and regarded those terrors as if they were childish playthings."

Many times the descendants of Hagar came to the mountain range and surrounded the tower attacking the monks with arrows, having first robbed them of their beasts of burden. And so the terrified monks fled after setting the tower on fire. It was then that the good Romylos left the wilderness unwillingly and returned once again to Zagora where he built himself a hut in a deserted place. The common enemy of our salvation sowed envy into the hearts of the neighboring monks toward the holy man. Therefore, the saint, perceiving their envy, departed as quickly as possible from there and went to the Holy Mount Athos. Finding many holy men who were living the same life, especially those of his own race, he led them to the path of salvation. But since many monks came toward him, not only the anchorites, but cenobites too-for his words had grace since he had experience in the life of a monk from his youth, and he could attract toward the path of salvation those who had repented with faith-he became annoyed by the great persistence of the monks, because he wished to live in quietude and associate with God alone. Because of this he traveled from place to place, avoiding the tumult and shaking off human glory. Changing many places on the Holy Mountain, he came at last to the mountain that was near the sacred Lavra, which was called Melana. Here I, the unworthy Gregory having come from Zagora, found him building a cell for his dwelling place. There, bending my head, I submitted to him, since I had known him for a long time and he was dear to me in the Lord.

13. At the time there was a famine in the area and the dearth of necessities was unbearable and unendurable. So he sent some men here and there in the Holy Mountain to buy the necessary things for food. For the father did not yet have the assistance from the holy Lavra, which others call Adelphaton, because he had very recently come to that place and was not known to many people, not out of extreme inability, but out of his virtuous devotion. Those who were sent returned unsuccessfully without the necessities sought. Seeing this I was crushed and filled with shame. "Woe is me, O father, for I am miserable," I said, "for I have come to your holiness at a time when you are in need of necessities, and thereby increase your needs further." But objecting he said to me severely, "Alas! for your disbelief, O miserable one, for with my whole soul I have undoubted faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, that he will not leave us without provisions and in need of bodily things." Thus did this firm believer put my little faith to shame. And God acted according to the faith of his true servant. As he managed, with a simple disposition, as was usual for him, to distribute to everyone the things they needed, not bound by stinginess or a mean spirit as many are in times of trouble, so was his faith realized.

After two days he sent me to the monastery toward one of his acquaintances for a certain need of his. I left, and while I was sitting outside in the guestroom, waiting to see the man to whom he had sent me, a poor leper came to me and said, "I see that you have just now arrived, brother." When he learned our affairs better, having heard from me that I was staying with an old man in Melana, he said to me, "Might you have need of bread?" Seeing that he was poor and a leper, I said to him, "And where did you, such a poor and sick man find bread?" He said, "Have faith; I came here to beg fresh bread from someone since I have more dry bread than I need." Since I asked for some of this bread, he went and brought me a full sack which I took and swiftly went back up to the holy one. When he saw this, and asked and learned that I had received it from a poor leper, he raised his hands up toward heaven. "Glory to God," he proclaimed, "for You showed us Your mercy not through the powerful, but through the poor, so as to put our little faith to shame." And laying hold of this well-­timed opportunity, he chastised me as a father and put to shame my lack of faith and my stinginess.

14. For the holy man had great faith in God and opened his compassionate heart equally to all, not only to men, but to the birds, snakes and wild beasts. In addition to all his other works before God, he had particularly acquired this: If ever any of the monks on the Holy Mountain intended to build a cell for his own habitation and needed some help from us, as is usual, and if he came to us and asked Romylos to allow me to go and help him, then he would readily accept him, and say: "Yes, O holy father, I shall send him in the morning to help you." When the man had departed, he would order me, saying, "Through the night boil the best food you have because a certain father needs us to help him build a cell." And I would act according to his command. Early in the morning, then, we would get bread, wine and the boiled food, and whatever fruit there was, and we would go to the father who had asked us for help on the previous evening. And one could see this holy man helping into the night, as if he were a youth, along with the others who were there. And thus we would return to our cells weary.

15. Our story wishes to make known another work dear to God, so that He may be further glorified by His true servants, and that those who fear Him may become more eager to do good things. Once, the holy man came into our refectory so that we could eat bread together. For each of us ate and chanted alone and by himself except on certain days, as is the custom for those living in solitude. And an unknown monk came and began cutting wood near our cell. I came out and very severely said to him, "Who are you, brother, that dare to cut wood near our dwelling?" He, speaking as a stranger and in a gentle voice, said, "Forgive me, father, for I am a stranger, and did not know there was a cell here." And the holy man, hearing this, said to me, "Tell him to come in." When he had come, the holy man told me, "Give him something to eat." And I did this. Then he said to the stranger, "Where are you from, brother?" "I am from Trebizond, father," he said, "I have just arrived at the Holy Mountain." When he had learned from him, after close inquiry, everything about him, and that he was hardly able to find his daily bread, he said to me at once, "Gregory, divide what you have in your cell into two, and give half to this poor man." I replied to him, "We are many, father, and we clearly need more than he." He gave me a stern look and said, "Did I not say to you that if you have faith, then you will never lack the necessary things?" But let us go back to where we started from and proceed with our story in its proper order.

The cell being completed, we settled in it and returned again to our customary labors, since we had been thrown into confusion and disorder by the distraction of building. After we had rested for a little while as was explained, another clamor took us up, although this was a spiritual one, which brought much benefit to the soul. For one could see the monks of the Holy Mountain, like bees that run around dewy fields, absorbing both his holy words and his holy deeds. And as the magnet draws iron to itself, so did his words and his sweetest conversation attract men's souls. And thus there followed an unusual spiritual profit for those taught by him. For if anyone had some kind of suffering in regard to the soul, he would be cured at once upon having the pleasure of his conversation. For I saw some of those who had arrived who were downcast, dry, harsh, suffering this because of demons or men, and who, through his most sweet and welcome reproof, returned home entirely radiant in countenance and rejoicing in their souls. And indeed one ought to record a portion of his counseling in the present writing for the benefit of those who read it.

16. "My brothers and fathers," he said, "let us keep a pure conscience toward our neighbor, and let us preserve a heart pure from evil thoughts which tend to corrupt the miserable soul. But we cannot obtain this unless we have the soul's three parts according to nature. I speak of these three parts: Reason, Spirit and Appetite. For the all­-good God has put these things into the soul of man, just as if they were a fortress or citadel, so that man, using them according to nature and as it pleases God, may live his life peacefully and without passion, as our holy fathers instructed us through their wise and holy teaching and even more so through their deeds. The Theologian said to set your spirit only against the Serpent through which you fell. Direct all your desires toward God, not toward anything treacherous or perilous. Let reason preside over all, and do not let the better be drawn down by the worse. Rather, whenever we arm the Spirit against its perceptible enemies, that is, against demons or passions, as the holy man said, but also against all those things which go contrary to the salvation of the soul, then we act according to nature. In this way we are able to love God and our neighbor with our entire soul as the Holy Gospel teaches. When Reason moves contrary to nature, we grow angry with our brothers, giving precedence to an earthly desire within us, hedonism perhaps, or glory or greed. Hence, there arises anger, vindictiveness, envy of one's neighbor and, in the end the product of envy, murder. And when we preserve the Appetite according to nature and as it was given to us by God, we eagerly desire the eternally good things which no eye has ever seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of impassioned and bodily man conceived, and which God has prepared for those who love Him. And for these things we endure all bodily and spiritual suffering, undertaking with delight such virtuous acts as fasting, vigilance, poverty, purity of the body, and incessant prayer. To put it simply, day and night we practice everything which contributes to the salvation of the soul. When the Appetite moves contrary to nature and in a beastly fashion, we behave most irrationally, as the Scriptures say: "But man abideth not in honor: He is like the beasts that perish." And from this we desire earthly and ephemeral things, luxury and glory, gold and silver, and the impurity which comes from them, and because of these we grow angry with men, as it has been said, and going astray we are always vindictive. Since Reason, which is the rational part of the soul, was set over everything to preside over them as if it was the ruler, when it guards the gift: given to it by God according to His image and likeness, man lives his life always thinking good things. He chants and prays, he studies and reads, and his delight lies in the law of the Lord, day and night, thinking good things about every pious man. But if Reason should turn aside from the better things, need one speak of what irrationality fills man? Talkativeness, slander, abuse and all kinds of sinful acts will dominate man the insensibility of his reason, even if one, in his insensibility, believes that he is living sinlessly. He who has the said three parts of the soul according to nature possesses a safe and sound conscience which indicates good and evil to him, like a natural law given to man from the beginning. And it advises man to preserve good and to throw off evil. Because of this we will be (rewarded for our good deeds and) justly punished for the evil ones as rational and free men. Therefore, every demonic assault customarily attacks these three things. We are not blamed because of the attack; rather, we receive a reward from God for being virtuous if we, from the beginning, cast away the seeds sown by the devil. But if we, from the first assault, accept these hostile seeds, we will come to an alliance with the devil, and from there to a pact. From this we are led to evil acts, and therefore we shall be justly condemned, as has been foretold."

17. And he also said this to them: "Whenever you arrive at the cell of a friend and find the door open, do not enter at once, but first knock, staying outside, as is the custom, and go in when the host urges you to. Once you have entered and sat down, do not gaze here and there, examining the things in the cell, but, keeping your head and sight down, converse with your host. If you see a letter lying there, do not pick it up and read it, whether in your host's presence or in his absence, for that is crass and contrary to conscience. If you see a book lying there, do not at once open it, but first ask the owner of the book. And if he gives permission, then open it. If you were to choose the best way of action, you would not ask him for permission to open it, unless he himself suggested this to you. If a friend entrusts you with a bag of gold and silver for safekeeping, you should not be tempted to open it and examine (the contents, for this is crassness; and if it happens to be some other) container, do not put your hand inside and grope around for the things which lie within. For this is crass, as I said, and damaging to the soul, since we'll be led from this to theft. If you find a bag belonging to your neighbor, which is lying inside the monastery, or on the road, or perhaps in a deserted place, you should not keep it for your own purposes, but give it right away to its owner. If not, this will be reckoned as a theft on the day of your death."

18. My father once sent me to an old man to ask for a book of his and to bring it to him. After obtaining the book, I started climbing back to our cell. Since I grew tired walking uphill, I sat down for a little while and opened the book, and immediately found the chapter which the father wanted to read. After reading it I closed the book and brought it to him. He took it and opened it, perusing here and there in order to find that particular chapter, but he did not find it. I said to him, "Which chapter are you looking for in this book, father?" When I learned from him that it was the one that I had found and read on the road, I said to him, "If you want, I'll show it to you." He said to me, "Show me." And taking the book, I found the chapter he wanted to read and showed it to him. Looking sternly at me, he said, "How did you know that this chapter was in this book?" I, realizing my fault from the look on the holy man's face, threw myself down at his feet asking forgiveness and confessing to what had happened. He heaped much abuse upon me and said, "How dare you, O miserable one, to open my cupboard and chest, and examine the things lying within them? Go away from me, for I don't want such a pupil who follows his own mind and doesn't obey my counsel." Since I was grovelling at his feet, as I said, and repeatedly asked forgiveness, he forgave me, not without penance, but with much punishment. In this fashion he knew how to provide for those under his power and in various ways looked after the well­-being of his followers.

19. Not only his own disciples did he set right and correct spiritually, as much as he could, through his most wise thoughts and deeds, but also if it happened that a disciple of some other old man was dominated by contrariness and disobedience, or by some other passion, and was sent to him to be reformed, he said such words to him: "My beloved brother, you walk the apostolic path. Each one of us must show such reverence to his own father as the apostles showed toward our Lord God Jesus Christ, and we must deny entirely our own will, as the Lord taught us. He said, 'I am come down from heaven not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.' The apostles who were being taught by Him did not contradict Him, they did not quarrel, they did not follow their own personal counsel and thoughts, but complying with the precepts and judgment of their teacher, they justly heard Him say that 'Where I am, there shall also my servants be.' And their hopes were not deceived. Therefore I believe confidently that if each of us suffers wisely the extirpation of his own will, and endures with humility and self-abasement his own father's rebukes and chastisings, not contradicting, nor judging his father at all, he shall be crowned along with the holy apostles, rejoicing for all eternity in Christ."

20. I would like to relate yet another soul­-inspiring story. There was an old man who lived about one stadius below us who was ruled by a wrathful disposition, though he was spiritually militant and zealous. And no wonder: he had a disciple who was exceedingly obedient and eager in his duties and services to the old man, but who could not suffer the old man's harshness. Because of this he often wanted to flee from the old man. But every time the old man realized that the brother had these thoughts, he got hold of him and they went together to that holy man. Since this man had the God-given ability to bolster and advise those who were being tempted by the enemy who hates good, he would take each of them separately and admonish and advise them of the right things. To the old man he said, "O father and brother in the Lord, you ought not to set yourself so harshly and fiercely upon your brother, but be gentle and even-­tempered in your severity," and many such things. And while he listened, he promised to take the father's advice, but would be vanquished by his own nature and resume the usual severity. In like manner the holy man advised similar things to the young man, as a holy father and true worker of love. He said, "Do not dare leave the old man, lest you be tempted by a greater temptation. For those who renounce submission are led astray by the enemy. In any case, either you or the old man will die in a little while and you will lose the reward for your pains. If you should stay with the old man till the end, you will be crowned among the martyrs and form part of the choir of angels, exalting along with them in all eternity." And rejoicing upon hearing this, he left promising to stay with the old man. And this is what happened.

But then let the prudent and obedient listener know God's judgment. For this young brother was ordered by his father to go to the monastery three times a week (which is to say Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday), to help out with the baking, and then to take fresh bread and return to the old man. He departed, as is the custom, on the evening of Holy Wednesday to help out with the baking at dawn (matins) on Holy Thursday. He was ordered by his father, the aforementioned old man, to participate in the Divine Liturgy, to take Holy Communion and then to go to him bearing the customary bread. This happened as the old man ordered. When the Mass had concluded and the brother had taken Holy Communion, he went to the bakery to get the bread as is the custom. And while he was asking for the bread, he at once came down with the most raging fever and met his end at this hour. The fathers of the monastery gave him an honorable funeral and buried him soon. When the old man heard this, which was unexpected, it was as if he had been struck in his heart, and, shedding tear upon tear and lamentation upon lamentation, he did not stop doing this until death, saying like the master of the holy Acacius, "Forgive me for I have committed murder." These things did not, I believe, happen by chance or fortune, as one might say, but by some holier way according to God's mysterious judgment, which is beyond understanding, as proof of salvation for both. For the brother, having taken Holy Communion on that most venerable and terrible day, departed at once to the Lord, while the old man did not stop mourning until his death, so that even his grave sent forth a certain fragrance. To me the narration of these things is not untimely. It shows to those who listen how much benefit and results the words and instructions of this holy man had. Let the story return to him, and let us discuss everything concerning him in order, so that we may come to the end of the narration of this spiritual subject, setting forth this story, as was said earlier, for the glory of God and for the benefit of those who come by it.

21. Because a great number of monks were streaming towards him wishing to delight in his conversation, which stopped and hindered him from his customary spiritual service and his spiritual vision of God, he was grieved and distressed in his soul at the clamor and became filled with pain. Therefore he once said to me, "Go, brother, to the foot of the northern part of Mount Athos and look around well to find a level place in order that I may make my dwelling place there. Perhaps the solitude of the place will free me from the tumult of those who come. For men do not let me live peacefully as you see." Leaving then and examining the area well, I found a suitable place for building cells in which there was a spring full of very clear water. Arriving there as quickly as possible with some brothers who were experienced in such things, we soon completed the cell. Sitting within the cell, he conversed one to one with God, removed from crowded living and tumult for some time. Yet men again learned his place of habitation as the words of the master say "A city set on a hill cannot be hid." For the peak of virtue is a hill on which those who have ascended shine forth like a light. They came to him as before so that the words may be fulfilled with regard to him also: "The more one flees the glory of men, the more this glory finds him."

22. After a little while, the most Christian Ugljesa was killed, and all the monks on the Holy Mountain, especially the solitaries and those dwelling in deserted places, were filled with tumult and fear, and therefore many of the anchorites fled from the Mountain. In like manner the holy man, persuaded by them, abandoned the Holy Mountain and departed quickly to another place called Avlona by the inhabitants, which seemed very little known and obscure, just as this lover of solitude liked and wanted. But the righteous one failed to obtain his goal here also. For as much as he wanted to hide the light of his godly life under the bushel of modesty, so God set him upon the lamp-stand to be visible to all. For he said, "Let your light shine before men, that men may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven" One could then see many people, both monks and laymen, coming toward him, desiring to hear his words with pleasure. For they were as sheep not having a shepherd. Most of them were crass in every way, ignorant and generally savage, accustomed to brigandage and murder. Others failed in the orthodox and true faith and were dominated by other passions. The governors of this place were doing many injustices, killing innocent men, and surrendering their souls to the devil. The monks were seized by error and vindictiveness and countless other passions, and the priests ministered unworthily. To put it simply, all those there were subject to countless passions from ancient habit. He, by the sound of his words that were full of grace invited them all into the community of the true faith and safe return to the flock of Christ, so that all of them would say, "Glory to You, O God, Who sent Your star to us, who led us from darkness to light." The governors also honored him greatly and called him an equal to the apostles. And for this, I suppose, God led him to that place in order that he might correct many souls.

23. While things were thus with the holy man, the thought came to him again to retire from that place. But he did not want to follow his own mind unless another old man advised him, in order that he might be able to learn God's will. And learning that one of the Athonite old men, in whom he had trust and spiritual love, was in Constantinople, he sent one of his disciples to him and wrote him a letter containing the following: "O holy father, since my mind does not let me live here, but urges me to either return to the Holy Mountain or go elsewhere, between these two then, where do you bid me go? Show me, please, for I ask in faith." Receiving the letter and reading it, the old man explained to him: "Since you ask in faith, it seems to me it would be better for you to go to another place where God will lead you, and not to the Holy Mountain."

24. Taking this advice he left Avlona and went. into Serbia with his disciples to a place called Ravanica, where there is a monastery of our most holy Lady the Mother of God, near which he made his dwelling. Spending a little time there he left this life and went to the eternal resting place, committing his blessed soul into the hands of God. His grave sent forth a great fragrance. I, his piteous and unworthy disciple, have transmitted through my writing and according to my ability the beneficial and God­-loving works of his life, from the beginning of his retreat from this vain world until his departure from the Holy Mountain, for the spiritual benefit of those who come across them. As for what happened after his holy death, this was seen by men beloved by God and lovers of the truth who were nearby and saw it with their own eyes. God gave him the ability, as they themselves said, to chase demons away from men, to cast out serpents from men's bowels through vomiting, and to restore health to the lame and sight to the blind, and, to put it simply, to heal all sickness and suffering. He brought grace from God whom he pleased during his lifetime as much as he could. Thus the Lord glorifies those, who serve and glorify Him with all their soul.

25. O father of fathers, adornment of ascetics, trainer of solitaries and fairest nursling of the desert, summit of quietude and ardent worker of contrition, observer of the divine and author of wonders, endlessly intercede, as a most true servant and friend of God, for the peace and health of the pious emperors and the entire Christian people, and for this flock in which your precious remains lie, for those who dwell in it and all those who attend your holy coffin. Moreover, I beseech you to intercede for me your unworthy servant (and if in something I caused you sorrow as a man, disregard it and be forgiving, imitating the philanthropos and merciful God), and for those who served your greatness in body, so that we may, through your mediation and welcome entreaties, obtain the mercy and favor of Christ our God, to whom belongs all glory, honor and worship, along with His eternal Father and the all­-holy, good and life-giving Spirit, now and forever, for all eternity. Amen.

Source: Mark Bartusis, Khalifa Ben Nasser, and Angeliki E. Laiou, "Days and Deeds of a Hesychast Saint: A Translation of the Greek Life of Saint Romylos," Byzantine Studies/Etudes Byzantines, 9:1 (1982), 24-47.