On Monasticism and the Fruit of Repentance

From “The Life and Passion of the Holy Monastic Martyr Eudocia” (Mar. 1.)

The Great Collection of The Lives of the Saints

Then Eudocia asked blessed Germanus, “Father, why do you monks dwell in the wilderness and deprive yourselves of the pleasures of human companionship? Do you find it more enjoyable there?”

“No, daughter, nothing of the sort,” said Germanus. “…Our goal is to escape sin throughout our days and cleanse ourselves of past transgressions by means of the harsh desert life, thereby opening the way to the blessedness beyond. All our efforts are devoted to keeping our bodies unsullied by evil deeds and our minds untainted by wicked thoughts: to avoiding rancor, guile, hypocrisy, grumbling, swearing, jealousy, and anger. This way, we become like the angels, as Christ Himself assures us in the Gospel. However rich a person may be, however tirelessly he may accumulate money, he comes no closer to the Heavenly Kingdom, for wealth is like a corpse in a grave, powerless to help anyone. If we long for pardon of trespasses, let us tread the way of the Lord’s commandments until the day we die. Let us walk in righteousness and truth and rend our hearts from sympathy for sin, just as we rend a garment; let us cry unceasingly to God. Thus we shall be purged of the stench of sin, concerning which David says, My bruises are become noisome and corrupt in the face of my folly. David also teaches us to chant in prayer the Lord’s words, saying, How sweet to my palate are Thy sayings! More sweet than honey to my mouth. The Lord’s words are more delightful than the costliest food or wine and fortify the soul more than any meal can strengthen the body. It is written: Wine maketh glad the heart of man, and bread strengtheneth man’s heart. Wine and bread symbolize the commandments of our Lord Jesus Christ, which truly nourish the human soul.

If a man diligently exercises himself in the commandments, they gladden and strengthen him, purify him from defilement, and justify him before the Lord.
Therefore, lay aside your splendid robes and clothe yourself in humble attire. Turn the powers of your soul to repentance and virtue, and water the earth with tears, that you may reap a harvest of joy in heaven. Weep until you extinguish the furnace of sin, and the Lord will vouchsafe you consolation, permitting you to enter into the felicity of the righteous. Lament your transgressions, which the devil sweetened for you, and an angel will draw near and intercede for your salvation. Let tears run from your eyes, and you will dry up the stinking bog of depravity, in which you were long mired. You were held fast by the author of evil; henceforth, enjoy the bounties of paradise. Bring to despair him who deceived you by means of pleasure and burdened you with the yoke of sin. Always work eagerly to please Cod. A bee collects nectar to make honey, and you should multiply your righteous deeds in order to acquire virtue. Thus you will become a daughter of the unwaning light.”

These words sank deep into Eudocia’s heart, which was predisposed to accept them by what Germanus had said earlier. Moved to contrition for her sins, Eudocia threw herself at the elder’s feet, crying, “O man of Cod, finish well what you have begun. Present me untainted before the Lord. I do not wish to be a laughingstock to those who would lead me astray, but to reach the end of the course and attain the felicity you attest. Do not withdraw hand and brush from the panel until you have completed depicting Christ in me.”

Abide in the fear of the Lord, daughter, and remain in your room,” Germanus advised. “Weep and pray constantly until God cleanses all your sins and grants you perfect assurance of His mercy. Our Lord Jesus Christ is compassionate and will not tarry in sending His grace to comfort you.” Upon this, the blessed Germanus prayed for her, traced the sign of the Cross over her, and locked her in a room, promising to remain in Heliopolis for a week.

Eudocia spent seven days praying and fasting; then the blessed Germanus released her from confinement. Seeing that she was pale and thin, wore a humble expression, and looked quite different than before, the elder took her hand and bade her sit. He sat beside her and inquired, “Daughter, what were you thinking about for the seven days? What was revealed to you? Did you see anything unusual?”

“I will explain everything, Reverend Father,” she answered. “I prayed the whole week long, as you instructed me.

Last night, while weeping for my sins and praying, I lay prostrate with arms outstretched so that my body formed a cross. Suddenly a light more brilliant than sunbeams shone upon me.
 When I rose, there stood before me an awesome, radiant youth, whose garments were whiter than snow. He took me by the right hand, lifted me through the air, set me upon a cloud, and escorted me to heaven. At its entrance I beheld an even more wondrous, overpowering light and an innumerable multitude of men clothed in white. They were laughing with one another and were indescribably joyous.
Seeing me approach, they greeted me as a sister. The men surrounded me and were leading me to ward that incomparable light when a horrible specter appeared, black as soot or charcoal or pitch.
The dreadful being stared menacingly at me, gnashed its teeth, and savagely attempted to snatch me out of the hands of my guides. Are you letting her enter the Kingdom of heaven!’ it screeched. ‘Why then do I waste time on earth, leading people into temptation? This harlot has corrupted the whole world, fornicating with countless men. For some time I have devoted all my cunning and power to ensuring her success. So many wealthy noblemen enjoyed and enriched her that she has as much gold and silver as the imperial treasury. She is my emblem of victory, the undefeatable weapon with which I smite those who have fallen away from God and into my nets. Are you so enraged with me, O chief commander of God’s hosts, that you intend to cast me down and let me be trampled by her? Has the vicious revenge you daily exact on me failed to quench your wrath? Why must you abduct the slave I purchased at such a high price? Is nothing of mine safe from theft? I fear you will snatch away all the evildoers remaining in my grasp and present them to God, saying that they are worthy of the Kingdom of heaven. Vain are my labors, vain is my fretting! Why are you so merciless? Calm yourself, loosen my bonds, and you will see how, in a twinkling of an eye I blot out the human race from the earth. I was hurled down from heaven on account of a single act of disobedience; you wish to lead into the celestial kingdom the worst sinners, who mock God and have brazenly incited His anger for many years. Why not simply assemble at once all the sordid scoundrels in the world and present them to God? I should cease squandering effort and immediately withdraw to the murky abyss where everlasting torments await me.’

“My escorts glared at the raving imp and smiled lovingly at me. Then a voice sounded from the light, saying, ‘It has pleased God to show compassion on the children of men, so that repentant sinners may find a place in the bosom of Abraham.’ The voice commanded my guide, ‘Michael, fulfiller of My covenant, return this woman to her dwelling below. I will be with her as she contests for Me.’

“The angel took me back to my room, saying, ‘Peace be with you, handmaiden of God Eudocia. Take courage and be strong. The Lord’s grace will protect you wherever you go.’

“Reassured by this, I asked,’Who are you, my lord? Vouchsafe me a word about faith in the true God and explain how I may attain life everlasting.’

“‘I am a prince of God’s angels,’ he replied, ‘and am charged with caring for penitent sinners and leading them to the blessed life that never ends. There is great joy in heaven in the presence of the angels over one sinner that flees the darkness of iniquity and arrives at the pure light of repentance. As the Father of all, God desires the salvation of the human soul, which He fashioned in the beginning according to His own likeness with His immaculate hands. His servants the angels rejoice when they see a man’s soul adorned with righteousness and worshipping the eternal Father.

If a soul forsakes the gloom of sin, turns to the living God, and cleaves without reservation to the Father of all children of the light, the angels greet it as a sister. So saying, he traced a cross over me. I made a prostration before him, and he departed for heaven.”

At this the blessed Germanus said to Eudocia, “Henceforth, daughter, never doubt that the true God in heaven awaits repentant sinners and leads them to the everlasting light wherein He reigns, surrounded by royal servitors, the holy angels. You beheld the angels in celestial light, as well as the majestic, unending glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. You learned how quick is God to show compassion and forgive sins, how quick to bestow His grace on those who desire to be reconciled with Him. You saw the splendid palace in which He dwells and understood how dim, how weak is the visible light of this world when compared to the divine effulgence. Now tell me what else you learned.”

Determined to serve the one God and King of glory with her whole heart, the blessed Eudocia declared, I saw the glittering gates of heaven and confess that only the celestial King can save sinners!

“Prepare yourself, daughter, to labor fervently for God,” Germanus urged. “Make certain that your fruits of repentance outweigh the sins of your past life. Offer the immortal and eternal God an acceptable sacrifice; that is, tears and sighs. Do not desist from lamentation until you have been purged of every stain and presented to Christ as a spotless bride. Be done with pride and the soul-destroying, unbridled lusts of youth, that Christ the Lord may remit your debt of sin. Slip loose of the heavy harness of slavery to iniquity, laid upon you by the devil, and put on the blessed and easy yoke of life-bestowing repentance. So doing, you will be freed from sin and become a friend of the holy angels and all the righteous. Be strong in the true faith, keep yourself chaste, and do not violate your conscience. Tell the devil to his face, ‘I have nothing more to do with you, or you with me. I have found my true Master and submitted to Him forever. I have torn off the rags of vile, gloomy ruinous carnal love and put on the new, radiant, incorruptible vesture of righteousness. I have been touched by the grace. of God, which has initiated me into eternal salvation. Nothing ties me to the earth: neither yearning for riches, nor love of worldly pleasures, which I have learned are fleeting and valueless. I strive to attain heavenly blessings alone. Be satisfied with what is your own, devil. Begone, you alien, deceptive spirit: robber, and slave of eternal darkness!'” Emboldened, Eudocia inquired, “Reverend Father, what would you have me do next?”

“You must be marked with the emblem of faith, Holy Baptism, which will preserve you from harm until the end of your life,” replied the holy monk. ”As for me, I must return to my monastery, but will be back, if the Lord permits.” “Do not abandon me, my lord!” Eudocia pleaded. “Do not leave before I am perfectly converted to God and receive the fullness of grace, lest the ancient deceiver, seeing me forsaken and helpless, entice me back to harlotry.”

The blessed Germanus assured her, “Your sacred hope and the fervent desire for a better life which God Himself granted you will preserve you from the nets of the foe. Abide a little longer in humble prayer, confessing your sins and preparing for Baptism. I will return soon and trust that you will be leading a godly life, assisted by the Holy Spirit.” With this, the blessed elder committed her to the Lord’s care and departed. For several days the blessed Eudocia continued to fast, subsisting on bread, oil, and water. She wept and prayed day and night. Then she went to the Bishop of the town, who baptized her in the name of the holy and consubstantial Trinity. A few more days passed, and she sent a petition to the Bishop, in which she enumerated all her possessions and requested that he accept them on behalf of Christ. The Bishop summoned the blessed Eudocia and asked, “Did you, daughter, write this to me, a sinner?”

“I did, Your Grace,” she responded, “and now I repeat my request that the steward of the Church accept my gift and divide it among paupers, orphans, widows, and other needy persons however you think best. I have come to understand that my wealth is tainted, because I acquired it by sinful means.”

The Bishop (whose name was Theodotus) perceived Eudocia’s pure faith in God and love for Him. Foreseeing with his inner eyes her future way of life, he said, “Pray for me, sister in the Lord. You have been deemed worthy to be called a bride of Christ, since you have learned to hate carnal lust and to love chastity. Having renounced fornication, you strive for virginal purity; having renounced the vain world, you wish to sell all that you have and buy the heavenly pearl; having lived a short time in sin, you have attained by repentance life eternal and celestial; having death before your eyes, you have won immortality; having led many to perdition, you shall regenerate many in Christ. You have divested yourself of the rags of gloomy darkness and been clothed in the garb of the light of faith. You are indeed worthy to be called Christ’s bride. Your name, Eudocia, means ‘good pleasure,’ and the Lord is well-pleased with you, because you have renounced commerce with men enslaved to the passions, and preferred the love of angelic chairs. Again I beg you, handmaiden and friend of God: pray for me and remember me in the Heavenly Kingdom.” The Bishop wept as he said this and much else in a similar vein.

The Great Collection of The Lives of the Saints
lives-of-saints-books

This offering of the famous Russian collection of Lives of the Saints by Saint Demetrius of Rostov (1651-1709) marks the first time any of these national collections have been published in their entirety in the English language.