Thursday, November 19, 2009

Venerable Barlaam

Commemorated on November 19

The Monks Barlaam the Wilderness-Dweller, Joasaph the son of the Emperor of India, and his Father Abenner:

The emperor Abenner ruled in India, which had once received the Christian Faith through the evangelization of the holy Apostle Thomas. He was an idol-worshipper and fierce persecutor of Christians. For a long time he did not have any children. Finally, a son was born to the emperor, and named Joasaph. At the birth of this son the wisest of the emperor's astrologers predicted that the emperor's son would accept the Christian Faith which was persecuted by his father. The emperor, in an effort to prevent the prediction from being fulfilled, commanded that a separate palace be built for his son. He also arranged matters so that his son should never hear a single word about Christ and His teachings.

When he was a young man, Joasaph asked his father's permission to go out the palace, and he saw such things as suffering, sickness, old age and death. This led him to ponder the vanity and absurdity of life, and to engage in some serious thinking.

At that time a wise hermit, St Barlaam, lived in a remote wilderness. Through divine revelation he learned about the youth agonizing in search of truth. Forsaking his wilderness, St Barlaam went to India disguised as a merchant. After he arrived in the city where Joasaph's palace was, he said that he had brought with him a precious stone, endowed with wondrous powers to heal sickness. Brought before Joasaph, he began to teach him the Christian Faith in the form of parables, and then from the Holy Gospel and the Epistles. From the instructions of St Barlaam the youth reasoned that the precious stone is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and he believed in Him and desired to accept holy Baptism. Having made the Sign of the Cross over the youth, St Barlaam told him to fast and pray, and he went off into the wilderness.

The emperor, learning that his son had become a Christian, fell into rage and grief. On the advice of one of his counsellors, the emperor arranged for a religious debate between the Christians and the pagans, at which the magician Nakhor appeared in the guise of Barlaam. In the debate Nakhor was supposed to acknowledge himself beaten and thereby turn the imperial youth away from Christianity.

St Joasaph learned about the deception in a dream, and he threatened Nakhor with a fiercesome execution if he were beaten in the debate. Nakhor not only defeated the pagans, but he himself came to believe in Christ, and he repented and accepted holy Baptism and went off into the wilderness.

The emperor also tried to turn his son away from Christianity by other methods, but the youth conquered all the temptations. Then on the advice of his counsellors, Abenner bestowed on his son half the realm. When St Joasaph became emperor, he restored Christianity in his lands, rebuilt the churches, and finally, converted his own father Abenner to Christianity.

The emperor Abenner died soon after Baptism, and St Joasaph abdicated his throne and went off into the wilderness in search of his teacher, Elder Barlaam. For two years he wandered about through the wilderness, suffering dangers and temptations, until he found the cave of St Barlaam, laboring in silence. The Elder and the youth began to struggle together.

When St Barlaam's death approached, he served the Divine Liturgy, partook of the Holy Mysteries and communed St Joasaph, then he departed to the Lord. He lived in the wilderness for seventy of his one hundred years. After he buried the Elder, St Joasaph remained in the cave and continued his ascetic efforts. He dwelt in the wilderness for thirty-five years, and fell asleep in the Lord at the age of sixty.

Barachias, St Joasaph's successor as emperor, with the help of a certain hermit, found the incorrupt and fragrant relics of both ascetics in the cave, and he brought them back to his fatherland and buried them in a church built by the holy Emperor Joasaph.


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