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Excerpts from The Spiritual Meadow by St. John Moschos: Regarding the Monophysites

St. John Moschos, author of the Spiritual Meadow.

Chapter 26. The Life of Theophanes, His Wondrous Vision and Concerning Communion* with Heretics [1]

There was an elder residing at the Lavra of Calamôn on the holy Jordan whose name was Cyriacos. He was a great elder in the sight of God. A brother came to him, a stranger from the land of Dara, named Theophanes, to ask the elder about lewd thoughts. The elder began to encourage him by talking about self-control and purity. Having benefitted greatly, the brother said to the elder, "Abba, in my country I am in communion with the Nestorians, sir; which means I cannot stay with you, even though I would like to." When the elder heard the name of Nestorios he became very concerned about the destruction of the brother. He urged and besought him to separate himself from the noxious heresy and to go to the catholic, apostolic church. He said to him: “There is no other way of salvation than rightly to discern and believe that the holy Virgin Mary is in truth the Mother of God." The brother said to the elder: "But truly, abba, all the sects speak like that sir: that if you are not in communion with us, you are not being saved. I am a simple person and really do not know what to do. Pray to the Lord that by a deed he will show me which is the true faith." The elder was delighted to grant the brother this request. He said to him: "Stay in my cell and put your trust in God that his goodness will reveal the truth to you." He left the brother in the cave and went out to the Dead Sea, praying for him. About the ninth hour of the second day, the brother saw a person of awesome appearance standing before him and saying to him: "Come and see the truth." He took the brother and brought him to a dark and disagreeable place where there was fire—and showed him Nestorius, Theodore, Eutyches, Apollinarios, Evagrios and Didymus, Discoros and Severus, Arius and Origen and some others, there in that fire. The apparition said to the brother: "This place is prepared for heretics and for those who blaspheme against the holy Mother of God and for those who follow their teachings. If you find this place to your liking, then stay with the doctrine you now hold. If you have no wish to experience the pains of this chastisement, proceed to the holy catholic church in which the elder teaches. For I tell you that if a man practise every virtue and yet not glorify <God> correctly, to this place he will come." At this saying, the brother returned to his senses. When the elder came back, he told him everything that had happened, exactly as he saw it. Then he went and entered into communion with the holy catholic and apostolic church. He stayed with the elder at Calamôn and, having passed several years in his company, he fell asleep in peace.

Chapter 29. A Miracle of the Most Holy Eucharist [2]

About twenty miles from the city of Aegiaon in Cilicia there were two stylites located about six miles from each other. One of them was in communion with the holy catholic and apostolic church. The other, who had been the longer time on his column (which was near an estate called Cassiodora) adhered to the Severan sect. The heretical stylite disputed with the orthodox one in various ways, contriving and desiring to win him over to his own sect. And having disseminated many words, he seemed to have got the better of him. The orthodox stylite, as though by divine inspiration, intimated that he would like the heretic to send him a portion of his eucharist. The heretic was delighted, thinking that he had led the other astray and he sent the required portion immediately without the slightest delay. The orthodox took the portion which was sent to him by the heretic (the sacrament of the Severan sect that is) and cast it into a pot which he had brought to the boil before him—and it was dissolved by the boiling of the pot. Then he took the holy eucharist of the orthodox church and cast it into the pot. Immediately the pot was cooled. The holy communion remained safe and undampened. He still keeps it, for he showed it to us when we visited him.

Chapter 30. The Life of Isidore the Monk of Melitene and Another Miracle of the Most Holy Sacrament [3]

There is a market-town in Cyprus called Tadai which contains a monastery located near a place called Philoxenos. When we arrived there, we found in a monastery the monk called Isidore, a native of Melitene. We noticed that he was always in tears and groaning. Everybody tried to persuade him to desist a little from his lamentation, but he would not be comforted. He told the all: "I am as great a sinner as there has been from Adam to this day." We said to him: "But abba, in truth, sir, nobody is really sinless except one: God himself." He said: "Believe me, brethren, I have found no sin amongst men which I have not committed, whether I have learnt it from writing or by hearsay. If you think that I am accusing myself unjustly, hear of my sin so that you can pray for me. In the world," he said, "I had a wife and both she and I were of the Severan persuasion. One day when I came home I could not find my wife, but I heard that she had gone to a neighbour’s to take communion. Now he was a communicant of the holy catholic church, so I ran immediately to stop my wife. As I entered the neighbour’s house, I found my wife exactly at the point of receiving the holy portion and making her communion. I grabbed her by the throat and forced her to emit the holy portion. I seized it and threw it up and down and it fell in the mud. All at once I saw a flash of lightening take up the holy communion from the spot where it lay. And two days later, I saw a black-faced on wearing rags who said to me: “You and I are alike condemned to the same damnation”, and I said: “Who are you”? The black-faced one who had appeared to me replied: “I am he who struck the cheek of the Creator of all things, our Lord Jesus Christ, at the time of his passion”. "It is on this account" said the monk "that I cannot desist from weeping."

St. Ephraim, Patriarch of Antioch

Chapter 36. The Life of Ephraim, Patriarch of Antioch and How He Converted a Stylite Monk From the Impiety of the Severan Heresy [4]

One of the fathers told us that the blessed Ephraim, Patriarch of Antioch, had a great deal of zeal and fervour for the orthodox faith. One day he learned that a stylite in one of the regions around Hierapolis was one of Severus’ excommunicate Acephalites. He went to this stylite with the intention of talking him round. When he got there the godly Ephraim began to urge and entreat the stylite to take refuge in the apostolic throne and to enter into communion with the catholic and apostolic church. In answer the stylite said to him: "It will never be the case that I will communicate with the <orthodox> Synod." The godly Ephraim rejoined: "Well, then what have I got to do to convince you that, by the grace of Christ Jesus our Lord, the holy Church has been set free of every trace of heretical teaching?" The stylite said: "Let us light a fire, my lord, Patriarch, and let you and me go into it. If one of us comes out unharmed, he is the orthodox and he is the one we ought to follow." He said this to terrify the patriarch: but the godly Ephraim said to the stylite: "You ought to have obeyed me as a father, my child and to have asked nothing of us. Since you have asked something which is beyond my meagre ability, I have put my trust in the mercies of the Son of God that, for the sake of your soul’s salvation, I will do what you suggest." Then the godly Ephraim said to those who stood by: "Blessed be the Lord! Bring some wood here." When the wood arrived, the patriarch lit it before the column and he said to the stylite: "Come down and we will both walk into the fire to carry out your test." The stylite was amazed at the patriarch’s trust in God and he did not want to come down. The patriarch said to him: "Was it not you who suggested we do this? How is it you no longer want to go through with it?" Then the patriarch took off the omophorion he was wearing and, coming close to the fire, prayed these words: "Lord Jesus Christ our God, who for our sakes condescended truly to be made flesh of our Lady the holy Mother of God and ever-virgin Mary, show us the truth." When the prayer was finished, he threw his omophorion into the fire. The fire burned for three hours. Then, when the wood was all burnt up, he retrieved the omophorion from the fire—still in one piece. It was undamaged and unmarked and there was no sign to be found on it of having been in the fire. When he saw what had happened, the stylite received instruction, rejected Severus and his heresy with an oath, and entered the holy church. He received communion at the hands of the blessed Ephraim, glorifying God.

Chapter 46. The Wondrous Vision of Abba Cyriacos of the Lavra of Calamôn and Concerning Two Books of the Impious Nestorios [5]

We once paid a visit to Abba Cyriacos the priest at the Lavra of Calamôn on the Holy Jordan and he told us this story:

One day, in my sleep, I saw a woman of stately appearance clad in purple and after her <I saw> two reverend and honourable men standing outside my cell. It seemed to me that the woman was our Lady the Mother of God and that the men with her were Saint John the Divine and Saint John the Baptist. I went out of my cell and invited them to come in and offer a prayer in my cell, but she would not agree <to my request.> I persisted at some length, entreating her and saying: Oh let the simple not go away ashamed <Ps 73:21> and much else. When she realized that I was importunate with my invitation, she answered me coldly, saying: ‘How can you ask me to enter your cell when you have my enemy in there?’ With these words she went away. When I awoke, I began to worry and to wonder if I might have offended her in my thoughts, for there was nobody in the cell but me. I examined myself at some length and could find no fault which I might have committed against her. As it seemed that I was about to be overcome with remorse, I rose up and took up a scroll, intending to read it, thinking that perhaps reading would alleviate my distress. It was a book I had borrowed from Hesychios, priest of Jerusalem. I unwound it and found two writings of the irreligious Nestorios written at the end of it—and immediately I knew that he was the enemy of our Lady, the holy Mother of God. So I rose up and went off and gave the book back to him who had given it to me. I said to him: "Take your book back, brother, for I have not derived as much benefit from it as it has brought adversity upon me." When he asked me how it had caused me adversity, I told him what had happened. When he had heard about it all, he immediately cut the writings of Nestorios off from the scroll and threw the piece into the fire, saying “The enemy of our Lady, the holy Mother of God, shall not remain in my cell either."

Chapter 48. Another Miracle of the Holy Mother of God Which Cosmiana, Wife of Germanos, Was Compelled to Return to the True Faith from the Severan Heresy [6]

Anastasio, priest and treasurer at the holy <Church of the> Resurrection of Christ our God told us that Cosmiana, the wife of Germanos the Patrician, came one night, wishing to worship alone at the holy and life-giving sepulchre of our Lord Jesus Christ, the true God. When she approached the sanctuary, our Lady the holy Mother of God, together with other women, met her in visible form, and said to her: "As you are not one of us, you are not to come in here, for you are none of ours." The woman was in fact a member of the sect of Severus Acephalos. She begged hard for permission to enter but the holy Mother of God replied: "Believe me, woman, you shall not come in here until you are in communion with us." The woman realized that it was because she was a heretic that she was being refused entry; and that nor would she be allowed in until she join the holy catholic and apostolic Church of Christ our God. She sent for the deacon and when the holy chalice arrived, she partook of the holy body and blood of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ; and thus she was found worthy to worship unimpeded at the holy and life-giving sepulchre of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Chapter 49. The Wondrous Vision of the Duke of Palestine by Which He Was Compelled to Renounce the Aforementioned Heresy and to Enter Into Communion with the Church of Christ. [7]

Anastasios the Priest also told us that when Gêbêmer became the military governor of Palestine, his first act was to come and worship at the holy <Church of the> Resurrection of Christ who is God. As he was about to approach, he saw a ram charging at him intent on impaling him on its horns. So great was his fear that he stepped backwards towards the guardian of <the Chapel of> the Cross who was present, and also the lictors who stood by. They said to him: "What is the matter, your highness? Why do you not enter?" He said: "Why did you bring that ram?" They were taken aback by this but they peered into the holy sepulchre and saw nothing. So they spoke to him, urging him to enter and telling him that there was no such thing <as a ram> in there. A second time he made as though to enter and again he saw the ram charging at him and preventing him from entering. This happened several times, at least in his eyes. Those who were with him saw nothing and the guardian of <the Chapel of> the Cross said to him: "Believe me, your highness, there is something in your soul and it is because of this that you are prevented from worshipping at the holy and life-giving sepulchre of our Saviour. You would do well to confess before God for he is kindly disposed towards humility and it was to show mercy on you that he made you see this vision." Bursting into tears, the governor said: "I am responsible for many great sins against the Lord." He cast himself face down on the ground and remained weeping in that position for a long time, confessing to God. Then he got up and made as though to enter the sepulchre, but he could not <enter>. The apparition of the ram prevented him no less than before. The guardian of <the Chapel of> the Cross said to him: "There is still some other impediment." The governor replied: "Could it be that I am forbidden to enter because I am in communion with Severus, and not with the holy catholic and apostolic Church?" And he besought the guardian of <the Chapel of the> Cross that he might partake of the holy and life-giving mysteries of Christ our God. When the holy chalice arrived, he made his communion, and thus he entered and worshipped, no longer seeing anything <which deterred him>.

Chapter 79. A Tremendous and Stupendous Miracle of the Most Holy Sacrament Under Dionysios, Bishop of Seleucia [8]

When we came to Seleucia (which is not far from Antioch) we met Abba Theodore, bishop of that same city, Seleucia, and he told us this:

In the time of the blessed Dionsyios who was my predecessor as bishop of this city, an event like this took place. There was a businessman who was both devout and rich; but he was a heretic of the Severite persuasion. He had a manager, however, who was in communion with the holy catholic and apostolic Church. Following the local custom, the manager received communion on Maundy Thursday, placed it in a box inlaid with mosaic and locked it up in his safe. Now it happened that after Easter the manager was sent to Constantinople on business and he inadvertently left the holy species in his safe. But he gave the key of the safe to his master. One day the master opened the safe and found the mosaic box containing the holy species. This rather upset him, and he did not know what to do with them. He was unwilling to consume them, since they originated in the catholic Church, whilst he was of the sect of Severus. So he left them in the safe, thinking that the manager would return and consume them. When it came around <again> to the great day of Maundy Thursday and the manager had still not returned, the master wanted to burn them so that they would not remain <there> for a second year. When he opened the safe he saw that all the holy portions had sprouted shoots. He was overcome with much fear and wonder at this strange and unexpected sight. He and all his household took the holy particles and, with a cry of "Lord, have mercy," off they went at a run to the holy church <in search of> the saintly Bishop Dionysios. This great and fearful wonder which defied all reason was not seen merely by two or three persons or even by a few who could easily be counted. The whole church saw it: townsfolk and countrymen, natives and immigrants, all who travelled by land or by sea, men and women, old men and children, youths and elders, masters and slaves, rich and poor, rulers and their subjects, literate and illiterate, those dedicated to the clerical life and those who had espoused virginity and asceticism; widows and decently married people; those in and those under authority. Some cried out: "Lord have mercy" whilst others praised <God> in different ways. Yet all gave thanks to God for his extraordinary and unspeakable marvels. Many joined the holy catholic and apostolic Church on account of their faith in this miracle.

Chapter 106. Abba Theodore’s Story of the Syrian Monk, Severian [9]

This same Abba Theodoulos spoke to us again, saying:

There is a hostel here, near the lighthouse, between the Church of Saint Sophia and the Church of Saint Faustus, with a guest-master <in charge>. One day this man invited me to go up to the hostel to replace him for a few days. When I got there, I found a monk staying there as a guest, a Syrian by race. His only possessions were a hair shirt, a cloak and a few loaves of bread. He stood there, in a corner, all the time: night and day, uttering verses <of the psalms> and greeting nobody. When the holy day of the Lord came around I went to him and said: "Brother, will you not come to the Church of Saint Sophia, sir, to partake of the holy and venerable mysteries?" He said he would not, so I asked him why not. He replied that he was a partisan of Severus and was not in communion with the Church. When I heard that he was not in communion with the holy catholic and apostolic Church—and yet I had seen his excellent behavior and his blameless way of life, I went to my cell in tears. I closed the door and threw myself on my face before God. For three days I prayed to him with many tears, saying: "Oh Master, Christ our God, who of your ineffable and inestimable love for mankind did bend the heavens and come down <Ps 104:2> for our salvation and was incarnate of our Lady, the holy Mother of God, the ever-virgin Mary: reveal to me who are the right and proper believers; we, who are of the Church, or those who are followers of Severus." On the third day, a voice with no visible source came to me, saying: "Theodoulos, go and behold his faith." So the next day I went and sat down before <the Syrian>, expecting to see something, in view of what the voice had said. I remained sitting there for an hour, looking at him; and he stood there, uttering verses in Syriac. "And then, children—the Lord is my witness! I saw a dove, blackened with soot, hovering above his head. It looked as though it had been in a kitchen, for it was plucked and ugly. I realized that this blackened and disgusting dove which had appeared to me was his faith." His blessed soul told us this in all truth, with many sighs and tears.

Chapter 147. The Wondrous Correction of a Letter Written by the Blessed Roman Pontiff to Flavian [10]

Abba Menas, ruler of the same community, also told us that he heard this from the same Abba Elogios, Pope of Alexandria: When I went to Constantinople, [I was a guest in the house of] master Gregory the Archdeacon of Rome, a man of distinguished virtue. He told me of a written tradition preserved in the Roman church concerning the most blessed Leo, Pope of Rome. It tells how, when he had written to Flavian, the saintly patriarch of Constantinople, condemning those impious men, Eutyches and Nestorios, he laid the letter on the tomb of Peter, the Prince of the Apostles. He gave himself to prayer and fasting, lying on the ground, invoking the chief of the disciples in these words: "If I, a mere man, have done anything amiss, do you, to whom the church and the throne are entrusted by our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, set it to rights." Forty days later, the apostle appeared to him as he was praying and said: "I have read it and I have corrected it." The pope took the letter from Saint Peter’s tomb, unrolled it and found it corrected in the apostle’s hand.

Note: Brackets "<...> indicate words added by the translator which are either necessary to make the meaning clear or desirable to fill a real or suspected lacuna in the text.


[1]. John Moschos, The Spiritual Meadow, trans. John Wortley (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2008), 17-19. *The team has substituted the word "communion" for "intercourse" as originally present in the text.

[2]. Ibid., 20-21

[3]. Ibid., 21-22.

[4]. Ibid., 25-26.

[5]. Ibid., 37-38.

[6]. Ibid., 39.

[7]. Ibid., 39-40.

[8]. Ibid., 63-64.

[9]. Ibid., 85.

[10]. Ibid., 120.

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Jun 11, 2023

I truly love these stories of our awesome Church and the faith of our fathers. May God grant our weak generation just a dot of this faith!


May 24, 2023

Thank you

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