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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.

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