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September 29, 2017

The Monk Who Searched for the True Faith

By St. John Moschos

(The Spiritual Meadow, Chapt. 26)

The Life of brother Theophanes and his Marvellous Vision, and of Communicating with Heretics

There was an old man of great merit in God’s eyes called Kyriakos, who belonged to the Lavra of Calamon near the River Jordan. A pilgrim brother called Theophanes from the region of Dora came to him for counsel about his thoughts of fornication. The old man encouraged and instructed him with advice about modesty and chastity, which greatly edified the brother.

“Truly, Father,” he said, “if it weren’t that in my part of the country I am in communion with the Nestorians I would love to stay with you.”

When the old man heard the name of Nestorius, he was so overcome with fear that this brother would be damned that he fell down and prayed, and begged him to abandon this most evil and pernicious heresy and return to the holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

“There is no hope of being saved unless we truly feel and believe that Holy Mary is the birthgiver of God,” he said, “and this is true.”

“That’s all very well, Father,” said the brother, “but all the heretics say the same, that unless we are in communion with them we cannot be saved. Unfortunately I don’t know what to do. So pray to God for me that I may be quite certain which is the true faith.”

The old man was delighted to hear what the brother was saying.

“Come and sit in my cave,” he said, “and put your whole trust in God that he will reveal to you of His mercy what is the true faith.”

He left the brother in his own cave and went out by the Dead Sea, praying to God for the brother. About the ninth hour of the next day the brother saw someone of truly awesome appearance standing next to him.

“Come, and see the truth,” he said, and led him to a dark and stinking place throwing up flames of fire, and in the flames he saw Nestorius, Eutyches, Apollinarius, Dioscurus, Severus, Arius, Origen and others like them.

“This is the place prepared for the heretics, blasphemers, and those who follow their teachings,” he said to the brother. “So then, if you like the look of this place persist in your teachings, but if you would prefer to avoid this punishment, return to the holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, as the old man told you. For I tell you, even if a person practices all the virtues there are, unless he believes rightly he will be crucified in this place.”

At these words the brother came to himself. He went back to the old man and told him all that he had seen, and returned to the communion of the holy Catholic Church. He stayed with the old man, and after four years with him he rested in peace.