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March 4, 2019

On Giving Without Discrimination: The Example of St. John the Merciful

John the Merciful, second half of the 15th century, Warsaw  National Museum

By Leontios

Life of St. John the Almsgiver

Whilst this same crowd of people (refugees from Syria) was still in the city (Alexandria), one of the strangers, noticing John (the Merciful's) remarkable sympathy, determined to try the blessed man; so he put on old clothes and approached him as he was on his way to visit the sick in the hospitals -- for he did this two or three times a week -- and said to him: "Have mercy upon me for I am a prisoner of war."

John said to his purse-bearer: "Give him six nomismata." After the man had received these he went off, changed his clothes, met John again in another street, and falling at his feet said: "Have pity upon me for I am in want." The Patriarch again said to his purse-bearer: "Give him six nomismata."

As he went away the purse-bearer whispered in the patriarch's ear: "By your prayers, master, this same man has had alms from you twice over!" But the Patriarch pretended not to understand. Soon the man came again for the third time to ask for money and the attendant, carrying the gold, nudged the Patriarch to let him know that it was the same man; whereupon the truly merciful and beloved man of God said: "Give him twelve nomismata, for perchance it is my Christ and He is making trial of me."