Some Christians think that for a person to be saved, one must either join a monastery or study the Divine law top to bottom. It is, perhaps, true that it is easier to be saved in a monastery than in the world. It is also true that studying the Holy Scripture is a necessity for a Christian. But circumstances may allow neither one nor the other. And yet, examples show that some illiterate people living in the world sometimes found favour before God and became particularly close to Him.
There was once a dry season in Cyprus, and the country bishop began to earnestly ask the Lord to send rain to the earth. His prayer was heard, and a voice from above told him that on the following day, after Matins, he should go out to the city gate and ask the first person that he sees entering it, to pray for rain. The voice said that it would rain after that prayer.
The bishop fulfilled that command. He went out and stood at the city gate with his clergy. An old man carrying a burden of firewood was the first to walk through the gate. The bishop held him down. The elder laid down his burden and received a blessing from the bishop. The bishop, in his turn, also bowed to him and said: “Abba, I beg you, pray that the Lord would send rain to the earth.” The elder began to try to excuse himself on the ground of his unworthiness, but the bishop did not cease to ask him yet more earnestly to pray.
Finally, the elder, not daring to oppose the will of the bishop, knelt down and began to pray. Soon, to everyone’s amazement, first drops of rain really did fall on the ground. After that, the bishop said to the elder, “Father, do an act of love and for the sake of common good tell us your life story, so that we may begin following your example.”
The elder answered, “Forgive me, my lord. I am a sinner and I do not know a single good deed behind me that I could be comforted by. I spent my days in vanity! My life passes in a daily routine where I go out of town and, having collected the burden of firewood, I sell it. With the proceeds I buy bread for my daily sustenance; and then I go to the church, where I spend the night. In the morning I go back to my usual work. If sometimes the weather prevents me from collecting firewood for a day or two, I endure hunger glorifying God. After that, when it clears, I go back to work. “
Having heard these words, the bishop and those who were with him glorified God, Who had given such patience and humility to the elder and said to him, “Truly you have fulfilled the words of Scripture “I am a stranger on earth.” Then the bishop brought the elder to his house where he nourished and rested him until his death.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds