„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:
- And what happend afterwards? How did he go to heaven?
„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:
- Alas, poor young man, they hurt him, bastards! And they are still keeping him crucified!
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:
- Were you talking to someone, brother?
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:
- Hey, young man, can you get down from there and come to share together the food that it was brought? Shall I come and help you get down?
- No, I can do it on my own. Here I come!
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.
- Do you want to take you with me? God is kind and will have mercy on you and will put you in heaven too. That’s why I’m going to Him. What do you say? Are you coming with me?
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:
- Don’t tell me you were not talking to anyone. I’ve heard you with my own ears. Say, who were you talking to?
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:
- Do not persecute me, holy father, cause I want to go to heaven. The priest from our village told us to go on the straight path and have a merciful heart. Do you get that? That’s why I felt sorry for that young man and called Him to take a piece of bread. Did I do anything wrong?
- No, no! You did right! You should always have compassion for the ones in need, answered the monk, amazed when hearing what he was told by the shepherd.
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.
- If I see God, I will tell Him about you. But why are you keeping that young man crucified? Take Him down to eat and get dressed, cause he is naked and hurt. And if you don’t want that, I will take Him with me.
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.