January 28, 2022

Venerable James the Ascetic

St. James the Ascetic (Feast Day - January 28)

Venerable James became a monk and practiced asceticism for fifteen years in a cave, near the town of Porphyreon.

During his spiritual struggle he subjected himself to all kinds of asceticism and hardship.

Once, a famous man had a demon-possessed daughter, whom he brought to the Saint to heal. Venerable James prayed and immediately the demon left and set the young woman free.

But her father, because he was afraid that the demon would bother his daughter again, left her in the cave with the Saint. He left her younger brother there also to accompany her.

The ascetic James, however, was defeated by desire and corrupted the young girl. And then, in order not to be publicized and humiliated, he killed both the young woman and her brother and threw their bodies into the nearby river.

After these horrible crimes he committed, he lost all hope for salvation and the uncontrollable desire was created for him to leave the ascetic life and return to the world.

On the way, however, he was met by a pious monk, whose persuasions were obeyed by the Saint, who decided to shut himself in a tomb and endure any hardship.

At that time there was a great drought in the land, and God wondrously notified the Bishop of the city that, unless Saint James, who resides in the tomb, prays, the drought will not end.

Immediately, then, the Bishop visited the Saint, together with all the people, and asked him to pray, for the wellsprings of heaven to open.

The Saint, at the request of the Bishop, prayed with extreme humility and deep faith in God. And God heard his prayer because, although he had committed grave sins, he had sincerely repented and sent the rain abundantly to the earth.

This miracle gave the Saint the hope but also the certainty that God forgave him. And with this hope and certainty he continued his painful ascetic life.

Thus the struggler reposed peacefully.

Lastly, it is worth noting the prayer that Venerable James said while he was in the tomb:

How can I presume to gaze upon Your holy icon, O Master, with my polluted eyes? How can I begin to confess my sins? With what heart and conscience can I approach? How will I move my impious tongue and soiled lips towards Your praise? For what sins shall I ask forgiveness first? How will I open my foul mouth to ask Your forgiveness for my wickedness? O Lord, lover of mankind, have pity upon me and bestow Your mercy upon me, unworthy as I am. Cast me not into perdition, though I am ungodly and iniquitous. I, the thrice-wretched, have committed fornication and murder, thereby defiling my soul in two-fold measure! I am not worthy to walk on Your earth! I dare not lift these profane and indecent eyes of mine to You in the heavens; but I take refuge in Your infinite compassion. Have mercy on me, though I am irreverent and undeserving. Have pity and compassion on me, who am filled with passions, and leave me not to the noetic dragon who will greedily devour me with his charming delights. But, with Your almighty hand, raise me up from this unclean and insatiable abyss!
Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.