Bessarion was born and educated in Egypt. He dedicated himself to the spiritual life at an early age and "did not stain his spiritual garment in which he was clothed at baptism." He visited St. Gerasimus by the Jordan and learned from St. Isidore of Pelusium. He subdued his body through extreme fasting and vigils but he concealed his life of mortification from men as much as possible. At one time, he stood for forty days at prayer, neither eating nor sleeping. He wore one garment both in summer and winter. He possessed the great gift of miracle-working. He did not have a permanent dwelling place but lived in the mountains and forests until a ripe old age. He healed the sick and worked many other miracles for the benefit of the people and to the glory of God. He died peacefully in the year 466 A.D.
Hilarion was the abbot of the Dalmatus monastery in Constantinople. He was a disciple of Gregory of Decapolis and an imitator of the life of Hilarion the Great whose name he took. Hilarion was powerful in prayer, persevering and courageous in suffering. He suffered much for the sake of icons at the time of the evil iconoclastic emperors, Leo the Armenian and others. Later, the Emperor Leo was slain by his own soldiers in the same church and on the same spot where he first ridiculed holy icons and from which he removed the first icon. St. Hilarion was then released from prison but only for a short time. Again, he was tortured and detained in prison until the reign of the right-believing Empress Theodora. Hilarion was clairvoyant and a discerner. He saw the angels of God as they were taking the soul of St. Theodore the Studite to heaven. Pleasing God, he fell asleep and entered the Kingdom of God in the year 845 A.D. in his seventieth year.
As pure and virginal nuns, Archelais, Thecla and Susanna lived a life of asceticism in an unknown monastery near Rome. When the persecution of Christians began under the evil Emperor Diocletian, they fled to Campania and settled near the town of Nola. They could not conceal their holy lives from the people and the people began to come to them from the surrounding settlements seeking advice, instruction and assistance for various difficulties and infirmities. They were finally captured by the pagans and brought to trial. They openly and freely confessed their faith in Christ. When Leontius, the judge, asked St. Archelais about the Faith of Christ she replied: "By the power of Christ I trample on the power of the devil, I teach the people with understanding that they may know the One True God and by the Name of the Lord, my Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God, through me, His handmaid, is given restoration of health to all who are sick." All three virgins were flogged, had boiling pitch poured over them, were exhausted by hunger in prison and finally beheaded. When they were led to the scaffold, an angel appeared to them whom some of the executioners saw and were so frightened that they could not raise their swords against the holy virgins. However, the holy virgins encouraged the executioners to carry out their duty. And thus as lambs, they were slain in the year 293 A.D. and entered the Kingdom of Christ that they may rest and receive delight in gazing upon the face of God in eternity.
Bessarion holy, without roof and bread,
From childhood to the grave, his chastity preserved:
Bodily purity and purity of mind,
Therefore, with power and wisdom, was he overly-filled,
Divine wisdom and power divine,
Joyful in the spirit, without profound sorrow,
Without profound sorrow and without darkened thoughts
A pure and discerning mind as a crystal luminous.
When Divine Love in his heart, he rekindled,
He, many and glorious miracles performed:
Over the water walked as on dry land,
And a terrible whip was he, to every darkened spirit,
He stopped the sun and delayed evening,
And what he said by mouth, everything became a deed.
In him, the power of God worked
For he, to God in everything, was obedient.
Miraculous saint, help even us
By your prayers, before the throne of God!
Malicious joy is a sordid garment which our spirit sometimes dons with great satisfaction. The very moment that you rejoice in the sinful fall of your brother you have also fallen to the joy of the devil who, with one hook, snared two fish. Brotherhood, according to the flesh, is a great bond but brotherhood, according to the spirit, is even greater. When you are grieved by the sin of a brother according to the flesh, why then would not the sin of a brother according to the spirit grieve you? When you conceal the sin of a brother according to the flesh why do you, with malevolent joy proclaim the sin of your brother according to the spirit? Who are your brothers according to the spirit? All Christians - all those who communicate with you from the one and the same Chalice, the one and the same life. O, how great were the saints in their brotherly love! O, how far away from them was malevolent joy! The following is said about St. Bessarion: on one occasion all the monks were gathered in church for prayer. The abbot approached a monk who had committed a sin and ordered him to leave the church. The monk started to leave and Bessarion followed him saying: "And I, also, am the same kind of sinner!"
To contemplate the miraculous resurrection of Jarius' daughter: "While He was saying these things to them, an official came forward, knelt down before Him, and said, 'My daughter has just died. But come, lay Your hand on her, and she will live.' Jesus rose and followed him, and so did His disciples. A woman suffering hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind Him and touched the tassel on His cloak. She said to herself, 'If only I can touch His cloak, I shall be cured.' Jesus turned around and saw her, and said, 'Courage, daughter! Your faith has saved you.' And from that hour the woman was cured. When Jesus arrived at the official's house and saw the flute players and the crowd who were making a commotion, He said, 'Go away! The girl is not dead but sleeping.' And they ridiculed Him. When the crowd was put out, He came and took her by the hand, and the little girl arose. And news of this spread throughout all that land" (St. Matthew 9:18-26):
About guarding of the heart
"With closest custody, guard your heart, for in it are the sources of life" (Proverbs 4:23).
In the heart is the will, in the heart is love, in the heart is understanding, in the heart is the face of the All-holy and Divine Trinity. The heart is the home of the Father, the altar of the Son and the workshop of the Holy Spirit. God wants the heart: "My Son, give me your heart" (Proverbs: 23:26). Let the mountains be overturned, let the seas dry up, let your friends abandon you, let your wealth fail you, let your body be consumed by worms, let the world pour upon you all the ridicule which it has but be not afraid; only guard your heart, guard and affix it to the Lord and give it to the Lord. From the heart comes life; from where does life in the heart come if the breath of the Lord and Source of Life, God, does not dwell in it?
"A good man out of the good treasure of the heart brings forth good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things" (St. Matthew 12:35). These are the words of the Lord Who fills the treasury of your heart with His riches. What is that "good man?" That is the good treasure of the heart. What is that "evil man?" That is the evil treasure of the heart. "For out of the heart [of an evil man] proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies" (St. Matthew 15:19) and from the good heart proceeds "love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance" (Galatians 5:22-23). Do you see how great a warehouse is the heart of man? Do you see what all can fit in the heart of man? O brother, God the Holy Spirit Himself, when it pleases Him, can fit in the heart of man. Not only can He, but He will. He only waits for you to prepare your heart for Him. To convert it into a temple, for God the Holy Spirit only dwells in a temple. Just as a serpent protects its head so you, also son, guard your heart. Above everything that is guarded, son, guard your heart! For in the heart enters life and from it proceeds life, life which is from the Living God.
O Life-giving Lord, help us to guard our heart for You, for You the Lord!
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.