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The Monk Vitalios


Com­mem­o­rat­ed on April 22

      The Monk Vital­ios, a monk of the monastery of Saint Serid, arrived in Alexan­dria when the Patri­arch of Alexan­dria was Saint­ed John the Mer­ci­ful (609−620, Comm. 12 Novem­ber).
      The saint, already up in age (he was 60 years old), made bold to take upon him­self an extra­or­di­nary exploit: he wrote down for him­self in mem­o­ry all the har­lots of Alexan­dria and he began fer­vent­ly to pray for them. The monk toiled from morn­ing to evening and he earned each day 12 cop­per coins. In the evening the saint bought him­self a sin­gle bean, which he ate not ear­li­er than sun­set. The remain­ing mon­ey he would give to one of the har­lots, to whom he went at night and said: “I beseech thee, for this mon­ey pre­serve thy­self in puri­ty this night, and sin with no one”. Then the monk shut him­self in with the har­lot in her room, and while she slept, the elder spent the whole night at prayer, read­ing the psalms, and in the morn­ing he qui­et­ly left. And such he did each day, vis­it­ing by turns all the har­lots, and he took from them a promise, to keep secret the pur­pose of his vis­it. The peo­ple of Alexan­dria, not know­ing the truth, became indig­nant over the behav­iour of the monk, and they every which way reviled him, but he meek­ly endured all the mock­ery and he only asked that they not judge oth­ers.

      The holy prayers of the Monk Vital­ios saved many a fall­en woman. Some of them went off to a monastery, oth­ers got mar­ried, and yet oth­ers start­ed respectable work. But to tell the rea­son of straight­en­ing out their life and lift the abuse heaped upon the Monk Vital­ios they could not: they were bound by an oath, giv­en to the saint. And when of the woman began to break her oath to stand up in defense of the saint, she fell into a demon­ic fren­zy. After this, the Alexan­dria peo­ple had no doubt con­cern­ing the sin­ful­ness of the monk.
      Cer­tain of the cler­gy, scan­dalised by the behav­iour of the monk, made denun­ci­a­tion against him to the holy Patri­arch John the Mer­ci­ful. But the Patri­arch did not believe the inform­ers and he said: “Cease to judge, espe­cial­ly monks. For know ye not, what tran­spired at the First Nicea Coun­cil? Cer­tain of the bish­ops and the cler­gy brought writ­ten let­ters of denun­ci­a­tion against each oth­er to the emper­or of blessed mem­o­ry Con­stan­tine the Great. He com­mand­ed that a burn­ing can­dle be brought, and not even read­ing the writ­ings, he burned them and said: “If I per­chance with mine own eyes had seen a bish­op sin­ning, or a priest, or a monk, then I would have veiled such with his garb, so that no one might see his sin”. Thus the wise hier­ar­ch shamed the calum­ni­a­tors.
      The Monk Vital­ios con­tin­ued on with his dif­fi­cult exploit: appear­ing him­self before peo­ple under the guise of a sin­ner and a prodi­gal, he led the prodi­gal to repen­tance.
      One time, emerg­ing from an house of ill repute, the monk encoun­tered a young man going there – a prodi­gal fel­low, who with an insult struck him on the cheek and cried out, that the monk was a dis­grace to the Name of Christ. The monk answered him: “Believe me, that after me, hum­ble man that I be, thou also shalt receive such a blow on the cheek, that will have all Alexan­dria throng­ing to thine cry”.
      A cer­tain while after­wards the Monk Vital­ios set­tled into a small cell and in it at night he died. In that self­same hour a ter­ri­fy­ing demon appeared before the youth who had struck the saint, and the demon struck the youth on the cheek and cried out: “Here for thee is a knock from the Monk Vital­ios”. The youth went into a demon­ic mad­ness. In a fren­zy he thrashed about on the ground, tore the cloth­ing from him­self and howled so loud­ly, that a mul­ti­tude of peo­ple gath­ered.
      When the youth final­ly came to his sens­es after sev­er­al hours, he then rushed off to the cell of the monk, call­ing out: “Have mer­cy on me, O ser­vant of God, in that I have sinned against thee”. At the door of the cell he came ful­ly to his sens­es and he told those gath­ered there about his for­mer encounter with the Monk Vital­ios. Then the youth knocked on the door of the cell, but he received no answer. When they broke in the door, they then saw, that the monk was dead, on his knees before an icon. In his hand was a scroll with the words: “Men of Alexan­dria, judge not before­hand, til cometh the Lord, the Right­eous Judge”.
      At this moment there came up the demon-pos­sessed woman, pun­ished by the monk for want­i­ng to vio­late the secret of his exploit. Hav­ing touched the body of the saint, she was healed and told the peo­ple about every­thing that had hap­pened with her.
      When the women who had been saved by the Monk Vital­ios learned about his death, they gath­ered togeth­er and told every­one about the virtues and mer­cy of the saint.
      Saint John the Mer­ci­ful also rejoiced, in that he had not believed the calum­ni­a­tors, and that a right­eous man had not been con­demned. And then togeth­er with the throng of repen­tant women, con­vert­ed by the Monk Vital­ios, the holy Patri­arch solemn­ly con­veyed his remains through­out all the city and gave them rev­er­ent bur­ial. And from that time many of the Alexan­dria peo­ple made them­selves a promise to judge no one.

© 1996–2001 by trans­la­tor Fr. S. Janos.