Orthodox Byzantine Chants
Holy Mount Athos
In one of the many manuscripts from the Holy Mountain I found the following story:
In the Holy Church of Saint Mercurius there was once a priest who one evening drank too much wine and got drunk then he had a physical fall. The next day it was a great feast and the priest officiated the Holy Liturgy. When he finished his service an angel showed up and reproved him and told him sadly:
“You wretched man, what have you done today?”
“But who are you to reprove me?” the priest asked him.
“I am an angel, don’t you see?”
“Then remain where you are, stuck there”, the priest said.
“And you be cursed to see death only when I would forgive you”, the angel said.
What followed was that the angel lost his wings and he remained there, behind the Holy Table and the priest lived for three hundred fifty years.
The priest left that place and was wandering about. After three hundred fifty years it happened that the priest was attending the homily of the bishop from the diocese where he was and the subject of that homily was Saint Mercurios. Then the priest said to the bishop.
“I know these things very well since I have been there myself.”
Hearing this the bishop took the priest aside and he found out the reason why he lived so many years.
“Then the angel must be still there”, the bishop said. “That’s why you must go to that place and forgive one another.”
The priest had no possibility to go till that remote place. For this reason the kind bishop tried to find animals and everything necessary to go to that place where after three hundred fifty years must have been only ruins.
Asking the villagers and with the priest’s guidance they reached that place and they found the angel still standing behind the Holy Table exactly as he had been left by the priest.
“You wretched priest are you still living?” the angel asked him.
“I live because you damned me”, the priest said. “Let’s forgive each other.” “You forgive me first then I forgive you.”
“If I forgive you first you would immediately turn to dust so I won’t be able to be forgiven by you.” “You forgive me first then be sure that I forgive you too, I won’t let you stay cursed.”
And it happened indeed as the angel of God had said. The angel got back his wings and the priest turned to dust. Then the angel wished to the bishop to receive mercy from God for the good he had done to them both. Then the bishop said to the angel:
“How I wish you could sing a little to see how you glorify God there in heaven, you angels.”
“I would have liked this too but you won’t bear it and you’d die as soon as you’d hear me singing”, the angel said. “But for your sake I’ll sing after I’ll fly to the third heaven.”
All said and done. But after hearing the heavenly chant, the bishop fainted and stayed like that for many hours. After that he got up and went back to his city and wrote this story, which seems to be a simple tale, but it’s perfectly true.