Obadiah was born in the village of Betharam in the region of Shechem. He lived at the court of King Ahab, but when the king turned away from true worship and bowed down to idols, Obadiah did not follow the king, but continued to serve the one, true God. When the evil Queen Jezebel, in her hatred of Elias, raised a persecution against all the prophets of God, Obadiah gathered a hundred of them, hid them in two caves, and fed them to the end of the persecution (I Kings 18:4). A contemporary of the great Prophet Elias, Obadiah revered him greatly and served him in all things, as his follower and disciple. He lived nine hundred years before Christ and entered peacefully into rest.
Barlaam was born in Antioch. Because of his faith in Christ the Lord, the impious judge tortured him harshly. Finally, the judge decided to mock him by forcing him to offer sacrifice to the idols. For this he took him to the pagan temple and set a burning coal on his palm and incense on the coal. The judge thought that the pain would cause the martyr to shake the coal and incense off his hand before the idols, and thus involuntarily cense them. However, the soldier of Christ heroically held the burning coal on his palm with no thought of casting it before the idols, until his fingers were burned through and fell off and his palm was completely burnt. St. Basil the Great said: "He had a right hand more powerful than fire: although the coal burned his hand, his hand still held the fire as if it were ash." Chrysostom writes: "The angels looked from the heights. The archangels beheld-the scene was majestic, in truth transcending human nature. Behold, who would not wish to see a man who made such an ascetic endeavor, yet did not feel that which is characteristic of men to feel; a man who was himself both the altar of oblation and the sacrifice and the priest?" When his hand burned off, elder Barlaam's whole body fell to the ground dead and his soul went to the eternal rest of our Lord the Savior. This glorious, heroic elder suffered in the year 304.
Barlaam and Ioasaph were Indian ascetics. Ioasaph was son and heir to King Abenner. By God's providence, elder Barlaam visited him, taught him the Christian Faith and baptized him. After that, the elder withdrew to a mountain to live a life of asceticism, but Ioasaph remained to struggle with many temptations in the world, and by God's grace, to overcome them. Ioasaph finally succeeded in bringing his father to Christ. After he was baptized, King Abenner lived four years in deep repentance-for he had committed grave sins in persecuting Christians-and then ended his earthly existence and went to the better life. The young Ioasaph turned over the rule of the kingdom to his friend Barachias, and entered the wilderness to live a life of asceticism for the sake of Christ. His one desire on earth was to see his spiritual father, elder Barlaam, once again. The merciful God fulfilled his desire, and one day Ioasaph stood before Barlaam's cave and cried out: "Bless me, father!" Elder Barlaam labored in asceticism in the wilderness for seventy years and lived one hundred years in all. St. Ioasaph himself left his kingdom at the age of twenty-five, and went into the wilderness where he lived for thirty-five years. They both had great love for the Lord Jesus, brought many to the true Faith and entered into the eternal joy of their Lord.
Heliodorus was from the town of Maggido in Pamphylia and suffered for the Christian Faith in the time of Emperor Aurelian. During his harsh tortures, he heard a voice from heaven: "Be not afraid, I am with thee!" Thrown into a glowing-hot brazen ox, he fervently prayed to God and God saved him. All at once, the glowing ox cooled, and Heliodorus emerged alive. The judge cried out to him that he had performed some magic. To this, the martyr replied: "My magic is Christ!" He was beheaded and went to the Lord.
When Ioasaph witnessed illness, old age and death,
He was sincerely ashamed of this life.
"Behold, even I can be ill like that,
And old age can make me stooped like this,
And death may come when I least expect it!
In the suffering of others I bitterly suffer.
Is there anyone living who knows the secret of the mystery
And can reveal a better life?"
Then, from the dense mountain, Barlaam descended,
And spoke truth to the young heir.
And the elder told him of the One God-
Of the Father Who reigns with the Spirit and the Son-
Of the creation of the world, and Paradise, most beautiful;
Of the first Adam, in the effulgence of Paradise;
Of cursed sin that brought us death;
Of Christ Who bore the heavy Cross for us;
Of life eternal, better than this;
Of the infinite glory of the Kingdom of Christ.
When Ioasaph had heard the all-wise Barlaam,
A bright day dawned for him, and the darkness of night passed away.
A tale of the Elder Barlaam to Ioasaph: A man was fleeing from a terrifying unicorn. Fleeing thus, he fell into a pit, but grabbed hold of a tree. Just when he thought that he was out of danger, he looked down below the tree and saw two mice, one black and one white, gnawing alternately but continuously at the roots of the tree, so as to gnaw through and bring the tree crashing down. Looking down even further, he saw a huge, terrifying serpent which, with its jaws wide open, was waiting to devour the man when the tree would fall down. He then saw four smaller poisonous snakes around his feet. Looking upward, the man saw a little bit of honey on a branch, and forgetting all the danger that surrounded him, extended his hand to reach that little bit of sweetness in the tree. The interpretation is this: The unicorn represents death, which from Adam to now pursues every man to kill him; the pit filled with all sorts of dangers is this world; the tree is the path of our life; the white and black mice are days and nights, that continue one after the other to shorten our life; the huge and horrible snake is hell; the four poisonous snakes are the four elements from which the body of man is composed; the little bit of honey on the branch of the tree is the little sweetness that this life offers to man. Oh, if only men would not be captivated by that inconsequential sweetness, forgetting the terrible dangers that surround them and draw them down to eternal ruin!
Contemplate the wondrous creation of the world (Genesis 1):
on glorifying God because of Christ the Lord
Unto Him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen (Ephesians 3:21).
Glory be to God! Glory be to God in the Church! Glory be to Him because of Christ Jesus! Glory be to Him throughout all generations! Glory be to Him unto ages of ages! No one befits being glorified as does God, nor does anyone glorify God as does the Church of God. Christ is the revealer of God: hence, all the glory given to God must go through Christ the Lord. The Church will endure beyond all races and generations to the end of time; the Church is the most pure body of Christ, filled with might, wisdom and miracle-working; and hence the glory of God is proclaimed from the Church: from the holy place to the Holy One, from purity to the Pure One. Glorification from the Church is most pleasing to God also, because there are many souls and voices in the Church, but they are all of one accord and of one voice. Therefore, let no one separate himself from the common glorification of God, and let no one even think that his own glorification of God in isolation and separation is better than the glorification of God in the unity and fullness of all the faithful. It is not true that one member is lost in the multitude, that his voice is not heard before God. Does not the hand do its work only when it is inseparably bound to the body? And so it is with each member of the body, just as it is with each of the faithful. When he prays in and with the Church (and even if he is in the desert he can pray in and with the Church), not separating himself from the Church, he is better heard and seen by God. His soul finds a much repeated echo in the souls of the other faithful, and so he is greatly distinguished and recognized in his prayer within the unity of the body of the Church rather than outside of it.
O Lord Jesus, only from Thee, in Thee, and through Thee can we glorify God. To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.