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Barlaam And Ioasaph by St. John Of Damascus

KING ABENNER was pricked to the heart by this inspired wisdom and with loud voice and fervent heart confessed Christ his Saviour, and forthwith forsook all superstitious error. He venerated the sign of the life-giving Cross in the sight of all and, in the hearing of all, proclaimed our Lord Jesus Christ to be God. By telling in full the tale of their former ungodliness, and of his own cruelty and blood thirstiness toward the Christians, he proved himself a great power for religion. So here was proved in fact, the saying of Paul; and where sin abounded, there did grace much more abound.

While then the learned Ioasaph was speaking of God, and of piety towards him, to the dukes and satraps and all the people there assembled, and was, as it were with a tongue of fire piping unto them a goodly ode, the grace of the Holy Spirit descended upon them, and moved them to give glory to God, so that all the multitude cried aloud with one voice, ‘Great is the God of the Christians, and there is none other God but our Lord Jesus Christ, who, together with the Father and Holy Ghost, is glorified.’

Waxen full of heavenly zeal, King Abenner made a sturdy assault on the idols, wrought of silver and gold, that were within his palace, and tore them down to the ground. Then he brake them into small pieces, and distributed them to the poor, thus making that which had been useless useful. Furthermore he and his son besieged the idols’ temples and altars and levelled them even to the ground, and in their stead, and to the honour of God, built holy courts. And not only in the city but throughout all the country also, thus did they in their zeal. And the evil spirits that dwelt in those altars were driven forth with shrieks, and cried out in terror at the invincible power of our God. And all the region round about, and the greater part of the neighbour nations, were led, as by the hand, to the true Faith. Then came the holy Bishop, of whom we have spoken, and King Abenner was instructed, and made perfect with Holy Baptism, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. And Ioasaph received him as he came up from the Holy Font, in this strange way appearing as the begetter of his own father, and proving the spiritual father to him that begat him in the flesh: for he was the son of his heavenly Father, and verily divine fruit of that divine Branch, which saith, ‘I am the vine, ye are the branches.’

Thus King Abenner, being born again of water and of the spirit, rejoiced with joy unspeakable, and with him all the city and the region round about received Holy Baptism, and they that were before darkness now became children of light. And every disease, and every assault of evil spirits was driven far from the believers, and all were sane and sound in body and in soul. And many other miracles were wrought for the confirmation of the Faith. Churches too were built, and the bishops, that had been hiding for fear, discovered themselves, and received again their own churches, whilst others were chosen from the priests and monks, to shepherd the flock of Christ. But King Abenner, having thus forsaken his former disgraceful life, and repented of his evil deeds, handed over to his son the rule of all his kingdom. He himself dwelt in solitude, continually casting dust on his head, and groaning for very heaviness, and watering his face with his tears, being alone, communing with him who is everywhere present and imploring him to forgive his sins. And he abased himself to such a depth of contrition and humility, that he refused to name the name of Christ with his own lips, and was scarce brought by his son’s admonitions to make so bold. Thus the king passed through the good change and entered the road that leadeth to virtue, so that his righteousness now surpassed his former sins of ignorance. For four years did he live thus in repentance and tears and virtuous acts, and then fell into the sickness whereof he died. But when the end drew nigh, he began to fear and to be dismayed, calling to remembrance the evil that he had wrought. But with comfortable words Ioasaph sought to ease the distress that had fallen on him, saying, ‘Why art thou so full of heaviness, O my father, and why art thou so disquieted within thee? Set thy hope on God, and give him thanks, who is the hope of all the ends of the earth, and of them that remain in the broad sea, who crieth by the mouth of his prophet, “Wash you, make you clean: put away from before mine eyes the wickedness of your souls; learn to do well”; and “Though your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white as snow; though they be red like crimson, I will make them as wool.” Fear not, therefore, O my father, neither be of doubtful mind: for the sins of them that turn to God prevail not against his infinite goodness. For these, however many, are subject to measure and number: but measure and number cannot limit his goodness. It is impossible then for that which is subject to measure to exceed the unmeasurable.’

With such comfortable words did Ioasaph cheer his soul, and bring him to a good courage. Then his father stretched out his hands, and gave him thanks and prayed for him, blessing the day whereon Ioasaph was born, and said ‘Dearest child, yet not child of me, but of mine heavenly Father, with what gratitude can I repay thee? With what words of blessings may I bless thee? What thanks shall I offer God for thee? I was lost, and was found through thee: I was dead in sin and am alive again: an enemy, and rebel against God, and am reconciled with him. What reward therefore shall I give thee for all these benefits? God is he that shall make the due recompense.’ Thus saying, he pressed many kisses on his beloved son; then, when he had prayed, and said, ‘Into thy hands, O God, thou lover of men, do I commit my spirit,’ he committed his soul unto the Lord.

Now, when Ioasaph had honoured with his tears his father that was dead, and had reverently cared for his body, he buried him in a sepulchre wherein devout men lay; not indeed clad in royal raiment, but robed in the garment of penitence. Standing on the sepulchre, and lifting up his hands to heaven, the tears streaming in floods from his eyes, he cried aloud unto God saying,

‘O God, I thank thee, King of glory, alone mighty and immortal, that thou hast not despised my petition, and hast not held thy peace at my tears, but hast been pleased to turn this thy servant, my father, from the way of wickedness, and to draw him to thyself, the Saviour of all, departing him from the deceitfulness of idolatry, and granting him to acknowledge thee, who art the very God and lover of souls. And now, O my Lord and God, whose ocean of goodness is uncharted, set him in that place where much grass is, in a place of refreshment, where shineth the light of thy countenance. Remember not his old offences; but, according to the multitude of thy mercies, blot out the hand-writing of his sins, and destroy the tablets of his debts, and set him at peace with thy Saints whom he slew with fire and sword. Charge them not to be bitter against him. For all things are possible with thee, the Lord of all, save only to withhold pity from them that turn not unto thee; this is impossible. For thy pity is poured out upon all men, and thou savest them that call upon thee, Lord Jesu Christ, because glory becometh thee for ever and ever. Amen.’

Such were the prayers and intercessions that he made unto God, by the space of seven full days, never leaving the grave, and never thinking of meat or drink, and taking no refreshment of sleep: but he watered the ground with his tears, and continued praying and moaning unceasingly. But, on the eighth day, he went back to his palace and distributed amongst the poor all his wealth and riches, so that not one person was left in want.

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