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Barlaam And Ioasaph by St. John Of Damascus

THUS did Barlaam and Ioasaph dwell together, rivals in the good rivalry, apart from all anxious care and all the turmoils of life, possessing their minds undisturbed and clear of all confusion. After their many labours after godliness, one day Barlaam called to him his spiritual son, whom he had begotten through the Gospel, and opened his mouth to discourse of spiritual things, saying, ‘Long ago, dearly beloved Ioasaph, was it destined that thou shouldest dwell in this wilderness; and, in answer to my prayer for thee, Christ promised me that I should see it before the ending of my life. I have seen my desire: I have seen thee severed from the world and the concerns of the world, united to Christ, thy mind never wavering, and come to the measure of the perfection of his fulness. Now therefore as the time of my departure is at the door, and seeing that my desire, that hath grown with my growth and aged with my years, to be for ever with Christ, is even now being fulfilled, thou must bury my body in the earth and restore dust to dust, but thyself abide for the time to come in this place, holding fast to thy spiritual life, and making remembrance of me, poor as I am. For I fear lest perchance the darksome army of fiends may stand in the way of my soul, by reason of the multitude of mine ignorances.

‘So do thou, my son, think no scorn of the laboriousness of thy religious life,’ neither dread the length of the time, nor the tricks of devils. But, strong in the grace of Christ, confidently laugh at the weakness of these thy foes; and, as for the hardness of thy toils, and the long duration of the time, be as one that daily expecteth his departure hence, and as if the same day were the beginning and the end of thy religious life. Thus, always forgetting the things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, according to the exhortation of the holy Apostle, who saith, “Let us not faint; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

‘Ponder thou over these things, beloved: quit thee like a man; yea, be strong; and, as a good soldier, do thy diligence to please him who hath called thee to be a soldier. And, even if the evil one stir in thee thoughts of neglecting duty, and thou art minded to slacken the string of thy purpose, fear not his devices, but remember the Lord’s command, which saith, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Wherefore, rejoice in the Lord alway; for he hath chosen and separated thee out of the world, and set thee, as it were before his countenance. The Master, who hath called thee with a holy calling, is alway near. Be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let thy requests be made known unto God. For he himself hath said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” So, by the hardness of thy life, and by scorn of its rigours, win such thoughts as these, and rejoice, remembering our Lord God, for he saith, “I remembered God and was glad.”

‘But when the adversary, seeking another fashion of war, proposeth high and arrogant thoughts, and suggesteth the glory of the kingdom of this world, which thou hast forsaken, and all its lures, hold out, as a shield before thee, the saving word that saith, “When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants, for we have done that which was our duty to do.’ ” And, indeed, which of us is able to repay the debt that we owe our Master, for that he, though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might become rich, and, being without suffering, yet suffered, that we might be delivered from suffering? What thanks hath the servant if he suffer like as his Master? But we fall far short of his sufferings. Meditate upon these things, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. And the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep thy heart and thoughts in Christ Jesus.’

When blessed Barlaam had so said, Ioasaph’s tears knew no measure, but, like water from the brimming fountain, bedewed him and the ground whereon he sat. He mourned over the parting, and earnestly implored that he might be his companion on his last journey, and might remain no longer in this world after Barlaam’s decease, saying, ‘Wherefore, father, seekest thou only thine own, and not thy neighbour’s welfare? How fulfillest thou perfect love in this, according to him that said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” in departing thyself to rest and life, and leaving me to tribulation and distress? And, before I have been well exercised in the conflicts of the religious life, before I have learned the wily attacks of the enemy, why expose me to fight single-handed against their marshalled host? And for what purpose but to see me overthrown by their mischievous machinations, and to see me die, alas! the true spiritual and eternal death? That is the fate which must befall inexperienced and cowardly monks. But, I beseech thee, pray the Lord to take me also together with thee from life. Yea, by the very hope that thou hast of receiving the reward of thy labour, pray that, after thy departure, I may not live one day more in the world, nor wander into the ocean depths of this desert.’

While Ioasaph spake thus in tears, the old man checked him gently and calmly, saying, ‘Son, we ought not to resist the judgements of God, which are beyond our reach. For though I have oftentimes prayed concerning this matter, and constrained the Master, that cannot be constrained, not to part us one from the other, yet have I been taught by his goodness that it is not expedient for thee now to lay aside the burden of the flesh: but thou must remain behind in the practice of virtue, until the crown, which thou art weaving, be more glorious. As yet, thou hast not striven enough after the recompense in store for thee, but must toil yet a little longer, that thou mayest joyfully enter into the joy of thy Lord. For myself, I am, as I reckon, well-nigh an hundred winters old, and have now spent seventy and five years in this desert place. But for thee, even if thy days be not so far lengthened as mine, yet must thou approach thereto, as the Lord ordereth, that thou mayest prove no unworthy match for them that have borne the burden, and heat of the day. Therefore, beloved, gladly accept the decrees of God. What God hath ordered, who, of men, can scatter? Endure, then, under the protection of his grace.

‘But be thou ever sober against thoughts other than these; and, like a right precious treasure, keep safely from robbers thy purity of heart, stepping up day by day to higher work and contemplation, that that may be fulfilled in thee, which the Saviour promised to his friends, when he said, “If any man love me, he will keep my word: and my father will love him, and we will come Unto him, and make our abode with him.” ’

With these words, and many others, full worthy of that sanctified soul and inspired tongue, did the old man comfort Ioasaph’s anguished soul. Then he sent him unto certain brethren, which abode a long way off, for to fetch the things fitting for the Holy Sacrifice. And Ioasaph girded up his loins, and with all speed fulfilled his errand: for he dreaded lest peradventure, in his absence, Barlaam might pay the debt of nature, and, yielding up the ghost to God, might inflict on him the loss of missing his departing words and utterances, his last orisons and blessings.

So when Ioasaph had manfully finished his long journey, and had brought the things required for the Holy Sacrifice, saintly Barlaam offered up to God the unbloody Sacrifice. When he had communicated himself, and also given to Ioasaph of the undefiled Mysteries of Christ, he rejoiced in the Spirit. And when they had taken together of their ordinary food, Barlaam again fed Ioasaph’s soul with edifying words, saying, ‘Well-beloved son, no longer in this world shall we share one common hearth and board; for now I go my last journey, even the way of my fathers. Needs must thou, therefore, prove thy loving affection for me by thy keeping of God’s commandments, and by thy continuance in this place even to the end, living as thou hast learned and been instructed, and alway remembering my poor and slothful soul. Rejoice, therefore, with great joy, and make merry with the gladness that is in Christ, because thou hast exchanged the earthly and corruptible for the eternal and incorruptible; and because there draweth nigh the reward of thy works, and thy rewarder is already at hand, who shall come to see the vineyard which thou hast dressed, and shall richly pay thee the wages of thine husbandry. “Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation,” as proclaimed by Paul the divine, “For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him in his eternal and everlasting kingdom, being illuminated with the light unapproachable, and guerdoned with the effulgence of the blessed and life-giving Trinity.” ’

Thus, until even-tide and all night long did Barlaam converse with Ioasaph, who wept tears that could not be stayed, and could not bear the parting. But just as day began to dawn, Barlaam ended his discourse, lifted up his hands and eyes to heaven, and offered his thanks to God, thus saying, ‘O Lord, my God, who art everywhere present, and fillest all things, I thank thee, for that thou hast looked upon my lowliness, and hast granted me to fulfil the course of this mine earthly pilgrimage in thy true Faith, and in the way of thy commandments. And now, thou lover of good, all-merciful Master, receive me into thine everlasting habitations; and remember not all the sins that I have committed against thee, in knowledge or in ignorance. Defend also this thy faithful servant, before whom thou hast granted to me, thine unprofitable servant, to stand. Deliver him from all vanity, and all despiteful treatment of the adversary, and set him clear of the many-meshed nets which the wicked one spreadeth abroad for to trip all them that would full fain be saved. Destroy, Almighty Lord, all the might of the deceiver from before the face of thy servant, and grant him authority to trample on the baneful head of the enemy of our souls. Send down from on high the grace of thy Holy Spirit; and strengthen him against the invisible hosts, that he may receive at thy hands the crown of victory, and that in him thy name may be glorified, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, for to thee belongeth glory and praise for ever and ever. Amen.’

Thus prayed he, and in fatherly wise embraced Ioasaph, and saluted him with an holy kiss. Then he sealed himself with the sign of the Cross, and gathered up his feet, and, with exceeding great joy, as at the home-coming of friends, departed on that blessed journey, to receive his reward yonder, an old man and full of days in the Spirit.








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