Orthodox Byzantine Chants
Holy Mount Athos
„We called this shepherd who went to heaven, Mavrogheni, (Black Beard), because he had a black beard and lived away from the world with his wife and sheep. And he went down in the village only when he had to sell the cheese and buy what he needed”, Procopie began to say.
„One day, while he was in the village for his business, he went to the church to light a candle, cause he was a God fearing, kind hearted man. In the church, the priest was speaking to the villagers, telling them about the right path of God, that leads us straight to heaven if we don’t swerve to the right nor to the left. We must go straight ahead and be compassionate with every man when he is in need. This meaning we should have a kind heart and be merciful, cause that’s what God does himself, being merciful with everyone, helping them live and go forward. And He dearly loves the one He sees that does the same like Him and takes him to heaven, where is never ending life.
This is how the priest spoke and this is how it must be, in my opinion. Our Church tells no lies. And why would it tell?”.
We all listened to the humble man, who was speaking in his own idiom and repeteadly wiping his moustache – have no idea why – cause he didn’t show any difficulty in expressing himself genuinely and confessing his faith.
My friend, who had got elated, during a short break made by Procopie while telling the story, asked him:
„When he went back to his hut, he gladly told his wife this good news, adding that the next day he would go to meet God. And this is what he did.
The morrow he took some bread and cheese with him, bade farewell to his wife and started for heaven. He took the straight path and walked over plains, without swerving to the right or to the left, exactly how he was told by the priest.
In the evening he lied down under a tree and slept and the next day he continued his way to heaven.
He ate all the bread and cheese he took with him and continued to walk on the third and on the fourth day. He climbed a mountain, then descended from another. On the fifth day he starved and thought what he could do to find something to eat. While climbing a mountain that was ahead, he saw on the other side a monastery. He continued his journey, rather dragging his feet than walking and the monastery being in his way, he reached the gate and knocked. They opened for him and took him to the church, telling him to wait there until they brought him something to eat.
Remaining alone, he looked around at the holy icons and marvelled. They all seemed alive to him, only they didn’t speak. When he turned his gaze and saw Christ, naked and full of blood, crucified on the Holy Cross, he cried:
In that moment, a monk brought him some food, put it in the church porch and told him to eat”, continued Procopie. „But when he entered the church, the monk heard him talking with the Crucified One and that’s why he asked him:
Black Beard, suspecting the monk was one of those who crucified Him, did not say a word. After the monk left, he called the Crucified One:
So, the Crucified One descended, sat down beside the shepherd, ate and started to talk with him. The shepherd proposed to the Crucified One to accompany him on his way to God.
The Crucified One did not have the time to answer, cause He heard the monk coming back. So he hurriedly climbed back on the Cross and remained there with open arms. Getting in, the monk said to the shepherd:
At the beginning the shepherd was afraid, hesitated, but in the end he told the monk that he talked to the Crucified young man, being moved with compassion for Him and called Him down to eat together. Then he said to the monk:
He left him and ran to the abbot of that monastery and told him everything he saw and heard.
And the abbot came right away in the church with all the monks and they all made bows before the shepherd who had eaten with Christ the Crucified. Then asked him to say a good word for them to God, when he would meet Him.
The monks were stunned seeing Black Beard’s kindness and innocence. And after they gave him everything necessary, they accompanied him for a while on the straight path he was walking. Then they stopped and saw that the man was not walking on earth but over it, till he disappeared from their sight.
This kind man, in my opinion, reached heaven for sure, because he had compassion for all the wounded, just like God. I am not literate, to recount nicely, but I remember my grandfather, Haralambie, told us that everything you do in this life, you would be done the same in the other. And I believe it.
This is the story I’ve heard”.
From the book ~Heaven Loving People~ by P. M. Sotirhou, Astir Publishing House.