Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Dead Girl Who Seized a Grave-Robber and Would Not Let Him Go

By St. John Moschos

The Spiritual Meadow
Ch. 78

The Astonishing Miracle of a Dead Girl, Who Seized a Grave-Robber and 
Would Not Let Him Go Until He Had Promised to Become a Monk

When we visited Abba John, the abbot of the Monastery of the Giants, he told us a similar story from the time when he had been at Theopolis:

It is not so long ago that I had a visit from a certain young man.

"Help me, for the love of God," he said, with many tears and convulsive sighs. "I need to repent."

I could see that he was deeply troubled and perplexed.

"Tell me the reason why you are so filled with compunction," I said. "Don't hold anything back, for God is surely able to help you."

"Abba," he said, "I am truly a great sinner."

"Believe me," I said, "Just as there are a great many different kinds of wounds, so there are many different kinds of medicine. If you wish to be cured, tell me truly what you have done, so that I can give you a penance which is suitable. For there is one sort of cure for fornication, another for murder, another for avarice, another for lying, another for anger. No need to go through the rest of the vices for you, but there are various remedies for all the vices of the soul just as there are various remedies for all the bodily ailments."

But he could do nothing but groan even more and strike his breast with tears and convulsive sighs. Such was his distress and sorrow that his heart failed him and he was quite unable to say a single word. I tried to concentrate his mind on his desperate grief and his unbearable sins, unable as he was to describe his disaster, or what had happened to him or what he had done.

"Listen to me, my son," I said, "Put a little order into your thoughts and describe to me what you have done. Then perhaps our Lord may be able to offer you some help. For of his ineffable mercy and boundless compassion he has suffered all things for our salvation. He was a friend of publicans and welcomed the harlot who came to him. He accepted the robber, and was called the friend of sinners. He will gather you into his hands also, my son, as you turn to him in repentance. 'For he desires not the death of a sinner, but rather that he turn from his wickedness and live.'" (Ezekiel 33:11)

Then he made an effort to control his tears and sighs a little.

"I am full of iniquity, father," he said "unworthy of both heaven and earth. Two days ago I heard that a young girl belonging to one of the richest families of this city had died, and was being buried with many costly garments in a tomb outside the city. From force of a most wicked habit I went by night to the tomb, went in and set about robbing her. I took everything she wore off her, not even sparing her loincloth, which I also removed, leaving her naked as the day she was born. I had begun to leave the tomb when she suddenly sat up in front of me, stretched out her left hand and seized my right and said 'You most wicked man, aren't you ashamed to have stripped me bare? Have you no fear of God and the reward of everlasting damnation? Ought you not at the very least to have had respect for the dead? And if you are a Christian, do you think it would have been right for me to stand naked before Christ? Have you no respect for the female sex? Was it not this sex which gave you birth? Have you not violated your own mother in what you have done to me? You wretched man, what shall you plead before the awesome judgment seat of Christ when faced with this crime you have perpetrated on me. While I was alive no stranger ever so much as saw my face, but now that I am dead and buried you have stripped me and seen my naked body. O, to what depths of human misery have you descended! How will you be able to hold out your hands to receive the holy and precious body of our Lord Jesus Christ? What will be in your heart?'

I was totally overcome by panic and horror as I witnessed and heard all this.

'Let me go,' I finally managed to say with fear and trembling, 'and I won't ever do this again.'

'Certainly not,' she said. 'You came in here of your own free will, but you shall not go out again just as you please. This place will be a tomb for both of us, and don't think that you will die quickly. You will suffer here for many days before you painfully deliver up your wicked soul.'

I wept and begged her to let me go for the sake of Almighty God, promising and swearing an oath that I would never do such a wicked and shameful thing ever again. And at last after my floods of tears and sighs she gave me her reply.

'If you wish to live and be freed from my grasp you must promise me that if I let you go you must not only refrain from such wicked and profane deeds in the future, but resolve immediately to renounce the world and become a monk, and serve Christ in repentance for the evil you have done.'

I swore.

'In the name of God who will receive my soul,' I said, 'I will not merely do what you say, but after leaving here I will never go back home but go with all speed to a monastery.'

'Put my clothes back on,' the girl then said, 'and leave me in the same state as you found me.'

I did so. She stretched herself out, and lay there, dead."

With this tale from the young man fresh in my ears I comforted and encouraged him, urging him to repentance and continence. I tonsured him, gave him the monastic habit and enclosed him in a mountain cave, where I left him giving heartfelt thanks to God and struggling manfully for the salvation of his soul.