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March 22, 2020

The Poison and the Cross: A Tale from the Life of Saint John the Theologian

By St. Prochoros, Disciple of the Apostle John

(Acts of John the Apostle)

There was at that time a certain Christian who had fallen into destitution, and he had nothing with which to pay back his creditors. In great distress he thought to kill himself and asked a certain sorcerer, a Jew, to give him some deadly poison. That enemy of Christians and friend of demons carried out the request and gave him a fatal potion.

Taking the potion, the Christian returned to his home, but long he considered and was afraid, not knowing what to do. Finally, making the sign of the Cross over the cup, he drank it and felt not the least harm therefrom, for the sign of the Cross had taken all the poison from the cup. He marveled much that he remained healthy and felt no ill effects.

But again, not able to escape his creditors, he went to the Jew and asked him to give him some stronger poison. Astounded that the man was still alive, the sorcerer gave him a stronger potion. Taking the poison, the man again went to his home. After long debating whether to drink, he made the sign of the Cross over the cup as before and drank thereof; but again he suffered not at all.

Once more he went to the Jew and appeared to him healthy. He mocked the sorcerer, saying that he was incompetent in his wizardry. The Jew, startled, asked him what he had done, how he had drunk the potion. He replied: “Nothing else but to make the sign of the Cross over the cup.” The Jew perceived that the sign of the holy Cross had prevented the man’s death; and desiring to know the truth, he gave some of the poison to a dog; and immediately the dog fell dead.

Seeing this, the Jew went with the Christian to the apostle [John] and described what had happened with them. Saint John taught the Jew to believe in Christ and baptized him; and the poor Christian he commanded to bring an armful of hay, which he turned into gold by the sign of the Cross and prayer, that he could then pay his debts, and with the remainder maintain his home.