November 17, 2017

The Beneficial Tale of Saint Zacharias the Cobbler and John

Sts. Zacharias and John of Constantinople (Feast Day - November 17)


Zacharias together with John,
Bear the mind of Cherubim with their vigils.

There was a man who was reputable and notable in the things of the world, whose name was John, who turned away from all of life's pleasures, and occupied himself in the monastic and humble life. And devoting himself to the things of God, he was eager to please only God. Abiding always in prayers and supplications, he zealously progressed in greater virtue set before him. Besides all his other virtues, an essential work was for him to go keep vigil all night in the churches of the Lord. For this reason one night he went to Constantinople to the great church of the Word of God, Hagia Sophia. Finding the doors closed, he sat on a bench nearby, since he was tired. While sitting there, he recited with a quiet voice his services.

And behold he saw a bright light, which came from outside. Looking at it more carefully, he made out a revered man following that light. This vision made him rejoice, and observing more closely, he wanted to find out who this man was. Arriving at the closed doors of the Church of Hagia Sophia, he bent his knees toward the threshold of the doors, and there he prayed for a good amount of time. Then lifting his hands high up, and making the sign of the Cross over the doors, - O the miracle! - immediately the doors opened for him, and this wondrous man entered together with the light. Having entered, he again bent his knees to the ground, where above him was painted the icon of the most-holy Theotokos, and as he got up, the doors opened there as well. And arriving at the silver and beautiful doors of the church in the narthex, he prayed there for a good while. Then he opened those also with the sign of the Cross, and thus entered the church completely luminous.

Entering the church, he lifted his hands high, expiating to God. When his prayer ended, he turned back once again, and went to the narthex of the church. By divine power the doors closed, and he went outside. The holy man John stood there, and carefully saw where that divine man was going, since he had left the church. Because he walked straight, John did not neglect to follow him, to find out where this all-precious pearl of God hid. The man slightly turned from the straight path, and went down the hill at the stairs of the Holy Martyr Julian. Approaching there a very small house, he knocked on the door with his hand, and with a quiet voice he said the name of the woman inside, "Maria," and he entered. Then the light that was illuminating him on the road was lifted from him. Thus between the two it became dark night.

The wife of that divine man lit the lamp and brought it to her husband. He however did not go to bed, so as not to give rest to his body, but he began to work. He was a shoemaker and sewed leather. Then the ever-memorable John who followed behind him, without shame went to that house. And falling at his feet, he shed tears on them and begged him: "Do not hide on my behalf, but tell me who you are, and what is your exalted conduct, by which you are able to do such extraordinary miracles, which I have seen with my eyes?" The humble-minded man said: "Forgive me, old man in the Lord. I am a sinful man, and I have no good work within me. Who am I individually? And how did I learn exalted conduct, as you say, at a time when I am poor and work an insignificant job? You are in delusion O man, in delusion, and you probably saw a ghost instead of the truth."

Then the old man shed tear upon tear, and did not cease to make him swear by oath before God, in order to reveal to him his greatest virtue. "If it was not divine Providence," he said, "to reveal to me your conduct, then I the least of all would certainly not have been made worthy to behold such a mystery." The wondrous man became sorrowful for the sake of the oaths, so he got up, and at first made a prostration before the old man, and began to say the following:

"Know well, my brother, that I have acquired no virtue on this earth, except that I am beaten and wounded by my sins. And I prefer the well-being of my flesh. With this, by the goodness of my God, I accept in my mind the fear of hell, and, as you see, since I have taken a wife, I have not corrupted the purity of my flesh. Instead both of us keep our virginity by agreement and hide it by saying we are barren. And until now with the help of God, surely the purity of our souls and bodies have been kept, through our longing and love for our Maker. I want to set forth also something else on behalf of the security of the oath. My entire wealth is not more than a trimision [a small gold coin]. With this I buy leather, and I work my craft of making shoes. And whatever wages I make from this, I divide in two equal portions. The first portion most importantly I dedicate to Christ, giving it to our poor brothers in Christ, and the other I set aside for our needs. In this way I always conduct myself, daily bringing to mind the fearsome Judge, Who is to come. And I bring to mind the examination which will be done to me by the demonic toll collectors."

John heard this narration and was struck by the pure and blessed life of the renowned Zacharias (this was his name) and he very much praised him. Then he bid farewell to the wondrous man, and left the house joyous and glad. And John went to the house where he was staying and thanked God for the wondrous great things he saw. Meanwhile the blessed Zacharias, who was truly without pride, wanting to depart from the deceit of human glory, left his home and departed, and became completely unknown to all.