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A Narrative on the Manifold Judgments of God By St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite

"A certain Abba of the monastics, with great boldness and tears, asked God that He reveal to him some of His judgments on men: judgments which they do not recognize, but mistake for extraordinary events. For a long time God did not show him anything (for men can never fully know and understand the mysteries of God), but the ascetic did not cease from that prayer day and night. One day, God, wishing to satisfy fully the monk's prayer, put into his heart the thought that he visit an ascetic elder who lived a many-days journey.

As the ascetic began his journey, God sent an angel in the form of a young monk, who met the elder and greeted him, "Bless Father." The elder answered, "May God give you forgiveness, child." And the angel said to the elder, "Where do you go, Abba?" The elder said, "I go to see such-and-such, an ascetic." The angel exclaimed, "I also go there; let us two go in company." They walked on together until a pious man took them into his home, and at dinner he brought a silver platter to the table. When next morning they were about to depart, the angel took the platter, tossed it into the air, and it disappeared. The elder was troubled at seeing this, but he said nothing. The second day they journeyed until they entered into another village, where a very pious Christian was friendly and hospitable to the travelers. He had an only son, whom he brought for the monks to pray over and bless. But when they were to continue their journey, the angel suddenly grasped the child by the neck and strangled him. Seeing this, the elder was shaken and astonished, but he remained silent. And walking on, the third day they rested in another place, but because they found no one to receive them, they stayed in a courtyard. The courtyard had a wall that was leaning over and about to fall. The angel loosened the stones by pounding, and tore it down; then he rebuilt it from the foundation.

At this the elder could bear it no longer and cried out: "I adjure you by the most high God, tell me the truth! What are these things you have done? These works are not human works." The angel asked, "What did I do?" The elder said, "Yesterday and the day before, those lovers of Christ received us and were hospitable to us; you took the silver platter of the one, tossed it into the air, and it disappeared; you strangled the son of the other; we come here, and they did not give us any consolation or hospitality, but you took hold and built and benefitted them."

Then the angel said to him: "Hearken, Abba, and I will reveal the truth of these matters. The first one who received us is a God-loving and righteous man, and he manages and governs his property according to God. But that silver platter was an inheritance from an iniquitous person, and so that he would not lose the wages of the righteous, God ordered that I destroy it, so his hospitality would be pure and without guile. And the other one who was hospitable to us is pious and a man of excellent virtues, and if his son had lived, he would have become an instrument of Satan, and done many things to bring to oblivion the works of his father. Because of this, God appointed that he die while he was still young, so that his soul and his father be saved."

"You have done well in all these things," the elder responded, "but what have you to say about here?" The angel answered, "Know, Abba, about this also. The householder of this courtyard is a wicked man and iniquitous. He would do wickedness to many, but he cannot because of his poverty. His grandfather, when he built this wall, hid much money in it. If I had allowed it to continue falling over, that malicious man whose domain it is would have torn it down in order to rebuild it. Thus he would find the treasure and use it for his wicked desires and the harm of men. God has a time when he will reveal it to a man who will use it for good works. These are some of the judgments of God which you sought to learn. Therefore, go to your cell and be not concerned about the things of the world, as to how and why they are done, because the judgments of God are a great abyss. As the prophet said, 'His ways are unsearchable and beyond understanding, and man cannot know all things with exactness.' Therefore, Abba, believe that God is just and does not work any iniquity, but that all that He permits to be done is righteously done." Having heard these things from the angel, the ascetic glorified God and returned to his cell, and no longer made inquiries into anything" (Published in Orthodox Life).

(Another example): At our recent clergy conference a speaker mentioned an interesting story from the Holy Fathers. He said there was once a monk who continually asked God to help him understand God's judgement. After 2 years an angel appeared to him and told him to go to a certain place and hide in the hollow of a tree and watch. He saw a rich man come along the road and stop to rest. When he got up to leave he forgot a bag of gold and left it lying there along the road. Then a second man came along, saw the bag of gold, rejoiced and left with it. Then a third man came along and sat down there to rest. The rich man then returned, looking for his gold. He confronts the third man and accuses him of stealing the gold. He beats him and kills him, and leaves. The angel returns and says to the monk: 'There you see God's judgement.' The monk is confused and says: 'What? I only say a man leave a bag, another came and stole it, and the first man returned and killed the third man.' The angel replied: 'This is God's righteous judgement. The rich man had just bought the property of the second man, and had cheated him, giving him only a fraction of what the property was worth. The man came along and found the gold which was exactly the amount that he should have received from the rich man. The rich man returns and kills a man who had sinned terribly and had asked God to permit him to suffer a horrible death to make up for his sin. God granted his wish. The rich man then repented after killing him and began to live a virtuous life. Here is God's righteous judgement.'

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