Counsels of some Elders and Confessors

The vision of pious Pachomius to Theodor about the truth of the Church and the aberration of the heresies

When I chose the monachal life I was in a state of unrest. I was called either by the disciples of Meletius of Lycopolis or by those of Marcion to join them and accept their teaching.

I found that there were more other heresies and each one of them sustained that it held the truth. I prayed to God with tears in my eyes to show me where the truth

was found, being in a state of absolute confusion.

While I was praying I went into ecstasy and I saw the whole creation below the sky as if it were night and I heard from many places voices that were saying: `Here is the truth.` And I saw many following each voice and being led into the darkness one by one. Only in the Eastern side of the world was seen a torch on the heights that was shining like a star. From there I heard a voice which said to me: `Do not let yourself be deluded by those who draw the men in the dark, but follow this light because here lies the truth.` And immediately it was heard another voice which said: `This torch you see shining like a star will shine for you one day brighter than the sun. It is the annunciation of the Gospel of Christ, preached in His Holy Church where you were baptized. Christ is the One Who calls, in the person of Athanasios the bishop of the Church of Alexandria. The other voices from the dark are those of the heresies, each one of them having as master a demon who calls and deludes many men. Thus seeing many running towards the bright torch, I gave glory to God.

After ignoring those who wanted to delude me, I stayed with the man of God Pachomius who followed the saints until an angel of God appeared to me and said: `

`Warm up those who come to you with the fire lit for you by God` And under his guidance I founded with the help of God these monasteries. Know that Athanasios bishop of the Church of Alexandria is enlightened by the Holy Spirit.

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Saint Pachomius said to the monks of the monastery that the Holy Spirit announced him about Athanasios, the bishop, the following: `I raised him as a pillar and a torch of the Church.` Many troubles and slanders from people await him because of his righteous faith in Christ, but he will defeat all temptations and receiving in the end power from Him, will preach the truth of the Gospel in the Churches.`

 (From the book `Life in the first communal monastery”, Armos Publishing, Athens1991)

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Saint Ioannikios the Great (sec. al IX-lea), to the emperor Teophilos the Icomach: That one who does not show the due honor to the icons of Jesus Christ, the Mother of God and the Saints will not be received in the Kingdom of God, even if he lived a pure life. As those who dishonor and disregard your images are not your friends and they will be severely punished, those who hold in derision the icons of Jesus Christ instead of reigning with Him will be thrown in the eternal fire.

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Saint Peter (IXth century) when he felt that he was close to death, advised his disciples the following:

`Run tirelessly in the arena of spiritual life if you want to receive the reward. Annihilate your passions. Do not use earthly things and do not get attached to them but remain far away of them, sheltering yourselves under the wings of divine hope. Hate the pleasures of life and become enemies of gorging. Only in this way you will be able to delight yourselves of spiritual joys, the only true ones and you will taste the unspeakable and amazing sweetness of the beauty of Jesus. Be steady as rocks in the true faith and avoid any connection with the heretics. If there will be persecutions against you, receive them gladly, since Jesus said: `Blessed are the persecuted ones…` Farewell, my dear sons, be strong in God to whom I entrust you.`

***

Saint Metodius suffered for the faith. A messenger of the emperor came from time to time to ask him if he accepted to throw the icons, for being released from the cave where he was. The saint answered to him:

`I am ready to endure death a thousand times rather than denying my faith about the Corss and the icon  of my Saviour and Lord.`

He remained for eight years in that dark prison. The emperor Michael when being close to death released all the prisoners from jails and allowed saint Metodius to see freedom. He was only skin and bones.

With a pale face, broken chin, without teeth and bald head, he looked like a skeleton. But his soul was not discouraged, his strength remained unaltered and the apostolic flame shone within him more brightly than ever.

He used immediately the freedom and the power of speech given by God for preaching the steadiness of the Orthodox Faith. He went either to hermits and monks  or to state clerks, in the houses of patricians and proconsuls, supporting some of them, converting others on the path of duty, reviving souls and exalting crowds.

After he dedicated himself to preaching in the city with all his might, he crossed Propontida and went to the episcopate from Kios and on the mountain from its neighbourhood he founded the monastery Elegmon.

He led his zealous community for a few years and prepared striving monks for the fights to come when emperor Theophilus began in his 4th year of rule the bloodiest persecution.

Saint Metodius blamed him that he was one of the greatest enemies of true faith and a stubborn fighter against the holy icons.

Teophilus called him at Constantinople and invited him to the palace: When will you stop troubling the Church and the kingdom with your admonishments about such an insignificant problem like that of the icons? Aren’t you that one who went to Rome to persuade the pope to involve in this dispute and didn’t you bring him dogmatic books where is found the new Creed?`

If the problem of the icons is unsignificant and it doesn’t deserve to be discussed, said the saint, why you ruler of the Roman empire don’t you destroy the pictures with your image as you destroy those with the image of Christ ? Why don’t you accept to be dishonored and debased as you dishonor and debase Jesus Christ? I see that on the contrary the pictures with your image increase and you are pleased to see that they are honored everywhere.

Teophilus did not tolerate this opposition, because Metodius had strong reasons. He ordered to be given to him six hundred rod blows on the naked shoulders and chest of this saint confessor of faith.

Saint Metodius, bathed in his own blood, seemed as deaad. His body by the emperor’s order was thrown through a hole in the cellars of the palace.

During night, some brave Christians succeeded to take him out of there. Taking care of him brought him back to life and they in time they healed him completely. But they paid a great price for their courageous deed. When Teophilus heard that the saint was alive he confiscated the houses and fortunes of those who had saved him.

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Emperor Theodosius was once attracted by the Arians to their heresy and he supported them. But Amphilochius, bishop of Rome schemed against him in the following way. Theodosius named his son Arcadius as Caesar, as emperor.

Thus the servants honored both of them father and son as emperors. Once Amphilochius presenting himself to the two emperors greeted only Theodosius according to his rank.

The emperor got angry and admonished Amphilochius saying: `Don’t you know that my son is emperor too?`

Then the bishop turned towards Arcadius, blessed him and was about to leave.

Theodosius full of anger, addressing to Amphilochius, asked him if that was the appropriate greeting due to be given to an emperor. Then turning towards the emperor he said:

`Emperor, did you anger because I did not show the due respect to your son? Think how angry must be God with you for supporting in your kingdom those who blaspheme His Son and do not consider Him equal in importance with the Father?`