The Fearsome and Beneficial Vision
of Kosmas the Monk
(To Be Read on October 5th)
I mourn as I see the strange things of hell,
While I rejoice as I see the resting place.
In the thirteenth year of the reign of Romanos Lekapenos, in the year 932, there was a man in Constantinople who was the chamberlain among the servants who stood by the royal bed-chamber of Alexander, who ruled shortly prior to Romanos, and was the son of Basil the Macedonian, the brother of Leo the Wise. This man of God abandoned the world and the things of the world, because he loved the monastic conduct. He was renamed Kosmas through the angelic schema, and later made Abbot of the revered monastery which is near the Sagarios River. After some years had passed, this divine Kosmas fell into a terrible and heavy illness, and he remained in this state for a long time. After five months had passed, the Saint recovered somewhat from his illness, and slightly getting up from his bed, he sat, being held up on both sides by his brothers that aided him. He then immediately went out of himself, and remained in this ecstasy from the third hour of the day until the ninth. His eyes remained open, looking up to the ceiling of his house. His mouth whispered certain words, all of which were inarticulate and incomprehensible. Coming back to himself for a short time, he said to those present: "Give me the two pieces of bread which I received a short time ago from the honorable Elder." Saying this, he placed his hands on his bosom, seeking to find what he asked for. Some of those present, considering that the Elder fell into a divine ecstasy, begged him to reveal to them the big mystery, saying, "Speak to us, O Father." He spoke without refusing them, for the great benefit which we would receive from it. "Do tell us where you were for so many hours? To what vision was your mind raised? With whom did you converse, as you moved your lips?" Seeing them in much lamentation and begging, the Saint said: "Stop, my children, stop. When the Lord wills and I come to myself, then I will surely fulfill your request." In the morning therefore, since the whole brotherhood gathered in the cell of the Saint, the honorable Elder began to narrate his vision, and said the following to them.
"Fathers and brethren, to understand everything I saw, and narrate every detail, this is above all understanding and human language. I will narrate only that which I remember. As I sat there on my bed, being held up by two brothers, it appeared to me that I saw to my left side a multitude of midgets with black faces. Some were more black than others. Others had distorted eyes that were rolled back, while others were black as lead, and others were bloodshot that appeared murderous and wild. Some others had black lips that were swollen and puffed up, while others only had one lip swollen, and some had an upper swollen lip while for others it was the lower one.
These midgets therefore who came near to my bed, were eager to take me from your conversation. First, I saw all of you standing around me. I made it appear, that I was not very afraid of them, nor was I recoiled by their onrush. After this, I do not know how, I was found to be alone without all of you, and immediately I was dominated by them. They took me with great boldness. Some dragged me forward while bound. While others pushed me back. Some pressed against me hard. Anyway, I was brought to a great deep cliff, whose width was more than a stones throw, and its depth reached tartarus. At this fearsome cliff they lowered me with great force. On one side of that fearsome cliff, there was a road so narrow, that only one foot print could fit on it.
On this narrow and thin road, they pulled me by force. I tried to always lean on the right side, afraid that I would slip and fall down into that wide and immeasurable depth. In that abyss it appeared that a river passed through, which made a great noise by its running waters. Since we passed that narrow road with much fear and trembling, we found a large door which was slightly open. A large man gigantic in his body sat there, black in his appearance, fearsome in his face. His eyes were turned around backwards, very large and bloodshot, from which much fire emerged. Out of his nose came smoke. His tongue was hanging out of his mouth the length of a forearm. His right hand was completely cold and frozen, while his left was as thick as a column, naked and very long.* With this hand the fearsome one was catching sinners, and was casting them within the immeasurable abyss, and those who were cast forth, would all scream 'woe!' and 'alas!'
As I approached that black and terrifying giant, he immediately yelled out with a great voice towards those who were pulling me: 'He is my friend.' With these words, he spread out his hand, asking to lay hold of me. I held back out of fear, was terrified and contracted into myself. Two men were then sent who had white hair with an aura of holiness, whom I had thought to be the Apostle Andrew and the Evangelist John, based on the idea I had about these Saints from their icons. When that most ugly giant saw them, he became afraid and hid. Those two took me with favor, and we passed through an inner door. We emerged from that door onto level ground, which was of the most beautiful lands. As we went passed these, near the end of the level ground, we came to a lush green valley that was most-cheerful, the beauty of which, in all of its grace, is impossible to articulate into words. In that valley sat a graceful and honorable elder, having around him a multitude of children, equal in number to the sand of the sea.
Then I banished the fear from my heart, and with a quiet voice I asked the two who brought me there, who that elder could be that appeared, and who the multitude were around him. 'It is Abraham,' they told me, 'and in the bosom are those who hear Abraham.' I therefore moved away from them, and went to venerate and reverently kiss him. After this we continued to go forward, and having passed that valley, we arrived at a very large olive groove. There were as many trees there as there are stars in heaven. At each tree there was a tent, and inside each tent was a bed, and on each bed was a person.** In those sacred tents I recognized many who had once lived, who had lived in the royal palaces. Others were among those who resided in Constantinople. While others of these were among those of our own monastery. All those whom I had seen and recognized had not yet died.
As I was thinking about asking the two elders about the large and wondrous olive tree, they answered my question and told me: "Why are you thinking and questioning about that large and most beautiful olive tree? and who they are that are over there? They are those whom you have heard the Fathers and Scripture speak about, 'You have produced many mansions around you Savior, distributed among all by their worthiness, according to the measure of their virtue.' After the olive groove, there was a city, whose beauty and variety, as well as its harmonious and systematized walls, is not possible to be described to you. Along the entire wall there were twelve rows [of walls] that encircled it like a belt. They were not of one color, but were many and varied. This is because all of these belts are from the twelve precious stones.*** Each belt was combined with a stone, and consisted of a separate circle.
What can be said of the proportion of the slabs of that city? and of its entire suitableness? The doors of the wall of that city were decorated with gold and silver. Inside the doors there was a golden walkway. Along the walkway were golden houses, golden seats, golden tables. The entire city was full of an indescribable light. It was entirely filled with a fragrance. It was entirely filled with various graces. Going around there and seeing things, we did not see people, nor any four-legged beast, nor bird, nor any other animal or thing that moves about on the earth or in the air. At the edge of the city, there were built wondrous royal buildings. At the entrance door there was a wondrous bridal chamber, which was so large that its dimensions were about a stone's throw. From one edge of the chamber to the other edge, there was laid out a table made of Roman marble. It was so high off the ground that a person could sit at it and lean against it as well. The entire table was full of banqueting guests.
The entire house was filled with a most pure light, it was fragrant and had every form of grace. At the end of the chamber was a small edifice, built in the form of a shell. Near it was a beautiful and most-cheerful window, which looked out towards the table. Through this window entered two young eunuchs in the form of light, whose faces were alike in their lumination, and full of every form of brightness.**** They said to the two elders next to me: 'Let him also sit at the table.' With these words, they also pointed with their fingers towards the seat which the two elders brought me to sit at. They had gone to sit at another area, while the young eunuchs entered into the inner section of that bright house, which was near the window, and they stayed there for a long time.
Then I beheld with curiosity that table, and recognized many who I was friends with in this present life. Not only laypeople of the world who dwelled in the royal palaces, but also monks of our monastery. When much time had passed, the two eunuchs again came from the window, and said to the two elders with me: 'Bring him back, for many of his spiritual children are very sad and mourning. The King has inclined towards their sighs, and wants him to remain in the monastic life. Therefore take him along another path, and instead of him receive the Monk Athanasios, who is from the Monastery of Traianos.' Immediately the two elders took me, and we departed that chamber and city quickly by another way. On that path there were seven lakes full of various hells and punishments. One lake was full of darkness, and another was full of fire. Another lake was full of an odorous fog and mist, another of worms, and another of other tortures and punishments. All those lakes were full of a countless multitude of people. They all with pity and moaning, wept and bewailed.
After passing those lakes, we went forward a bit, and we again came across that elder who was Abraham, who I immediately venerated and kissed. He gave me a golden cup, full of wine more sweet than this honey. He also gave me three pieces of dried bread, of which I took one and dipped it in the wine, and it appears that I ate it and drank all the wine. The other pieces I put in my bosom, which is why I asked for them from you yesterday. Shortly after we went to the place where the giant was to be found, whose face was as black as night. When he saw me, he greatly gnawed his teeth, and with anger and bitterness said to me: 'Now you have escaped from me. From now on, however, I will not cease to create scandals and wickedness against you and against your monastery.'
This is what I know and remember, and behold I have revealed it to you, fathers and brothers. How I came to myself again, I know not."
With Venerable Kosmas having spoken and narrated these things, a brother was sent to the Monastery of Traianos, and there he found that Monk Athanasios had died, whose dead body was being carried out of his cell on a bed.***** When the brother who was sent inquired of the time that Athanasios died, he learned that it was yesterday at the ninth hour of the day, which was the time Venerable Kosmas beheld the aforementioned vision, and had come to himself.
And thus it all happened. A short time later, the two monasteries became one monastery, that of the divine Kosmas and of Traianos, for the two were near to each other in the neighborhood. Until today both are governed by one Abbot. Venerable Kosmas lived another thirty years after the above-mentioned vision, and was abbot of the two mentioned monasteries, bringing much progress and increase to them, as much in the God-pleasingness and virtuous conduct of the monks, as well as in the administration and providing of the needs of the brothers, to the glory of our philanthropic God. Amen.
* According to St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite, "This riddle is explained as follows. The devil is always cold and immovable towards that which is on the right, namely that which is good and moves within the good. While towards the left, namely wicked things, which moves within wickedness, he works fervently and easily moves."
** Those future good things, which neither eye has seen nor ear heard, are likened and made to appear as earthly good things, to make them comprehensible to our limited understanding.
*** The twelve precious stones were as follows: jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, sardius, chrysolite, beryl, topaz, chrysoprasus, jacinth and amethyst. These stones were also seen by the John in the Sacred Apocalypse chapter 21, where they were foundations of the heavenly city of Jerusalem.
**** It appears they were Angels, perhaps two Archangels: namely Michael and Gabriel.
***** Venerable Athanasios is commemorated on June 3rd.
Translated by John Sanidopoulos from the Synaxaristes.