Augustin Sokolovski

On September 12, the Orthodox Churches of the Julian calendar celebrate the memory of St. Christopher of Palestine. The saint was an ascetic in the monasteries of the Holy Land and in Sinai. According to the place of origin, his liturgical calendars also refer to him as Christopher the Roman.

The name Christopher literally means "bearer of Christ", Christ-bearing. Among Christians, this name was very beloved. There are several saints with this name in the calendars. Therefore, the monk should be distinguished from other saints with the same name, especially the martyr Christopher of Lycia (+251). The latter is depicted on icons with a dog's head, as well as carrying the Christ child. It is possible that it was the martyr Christopher who was the heavenly patron of the Palestinian father.

Information about the life of Christopher has been preserved in the work Spiritual Meadow by Blessed John Moschus (550-619). As is typical for Patericons, that is, stories about the deeds and sayings of the ascetics, the years of the saint's life have not been preserved. Judging by what John said, Christopher was his senior contemporary, that is, he lived in the middle of the sixth century.

According to the Patericon, Christopher was from Rome. He told no one about what preceded leaving for the monastery. Becoming a monk in the monastery of Theodosius the Great (424-529), he took on extraordinary feats.

During the day he sang the canons, and at night he went to the cave where the relics of Theodosius and other fathers of the monastery rested. Here on the steps every night he made one thousand eight hundred prostrations and spent the rest of the time in prayer. Thus, he spent ten years. “In fasting, great abstinence and feat,” as he thought about himself. Apparently, others also knew about his great asceticism.

Once, Christopher came to Jerusalem to worship the Holy Cross. At the entrance to the Temple, he saw a monk who was prevented by demons in the form of crows from entering the temple. Suddenly, it was revealed to Christopher how thoughts confused his brother and advised him to bow to the Cross another time. The saint took him by the hand and persuaded him to enter the church.

This brief account of Christopher in John explains to us why the Church, as the people of God, calls on the saint to help in the struggle with thoughts. In a spontaneous gesture of compassion, he showed concern for the spiritual life of his neighbor. That is why the Lord looked upon him.

One night, Christopher again came to the caves and found that the entire floor was filled with candles. Two men in white robes "prepared these candles." In indignant bewilderment, Christopher asked to be allowed to enter and not interfere with his prayer.

“Why did you set so many candles?” he said to them. Noticing that some of the candles were burning and others were not, he asked for the reason. "These are the candles of the fathers, those who wish light their own." When he learned that his candle had not even been lit yet, he realized that this was a vision that was intended for him alone. "If you want to be saved, you must increase your feat."

Angels are the bureaucrats of God. They are not creative. That is why they are not capable of irony. It is obvious that such an ambiguous denunciation of the insufficiency of achievement came to Christopher from God. The strengthening of a feat is giving it a different form, this is the acquisition of fulfillment by it inside. Unlike secular life, where "a talented person is talented in everything," the essence of spiritual life is in the consciousness of ever new omissions. "Pray and we will light your candle!" - said the angels. Omissions begin with thoughts. Prayer, by the power of grace, can stop the collapse into temptation. This is what we ask with the Holy Spirit asks in the Lord's Prayer.

“But what did I do even until the last hour,” Christopher said to himself, left the monastery and went to Sinai. So, just as he once took his brother by the hand and led him into the Temple, to worship the Cross and the Resurrection, the Lord Himself, through the vision of angels, brought Christopher out of a decade of conceit.

Only fifty years later the Lord returned him to the Palestinian monastery. This time he came not for exploits, but to rest with his fathers in in the cave in which he had prayed for a long time before, being young and strong. In Christian asceticism, bowing to the ground is an image of death. So, for the saint, who once worshiped in the cave of his future rest, he became a truly prophetic gesture.

Finally, like the postmodern novel, the story of Christopher is a story within a story. Abba Theodulus, an Orthodox ascetic, whom the author visited in Alexandria, talked about Saint John. “For he saw how busy I was with many things and did not care about prayer,” John explains. It was edification through the example of another. Unlike in a career in the service, in the spiritual life impeccability is of no use. The truth is that if the author of The Spiritual Meadow had not become a reason for reproach in the eyes of the elder, no one would ever have known about St. Christopher of Rome.