The Life of Saint Andrew the Fool for Christ
During the reign of the great Emperor Leo the Wise, there lived in Constantinople a man named Theognostus who purchased numerous slaves, among whom was a very young boy, Andrew by name, a Slav. Since Andrew was exceedingly handsome and of good character, his master loved him more than any of his other slaves. He made him his private servant and had him instructed in the holy writings. Andrew soon came to know the Scriptures, and he began to frequent churches where he read sacred books and prayed to God.
One night, as Andrew was standing at prayer, the cunning devil, envious of his good works, appeared and began to beat loudly upon the door of the youth's room. Andrew became frightened, ceased to pray, quickly laid down upon his bed, and covered himself with his fleece. When Satan saw this, he rejoiced and said to another demon, "This youth, who until the present has lived heedlessly, now wishes to take up arms against us!"
Having said this, Satan vanished. Overcome by fear, the blessed one fell fast asleep, and in his sleep he saw himself, as it were, in an arena. On one side stood a great multitude of demons and on the other numerous holy men clad in white raiment. The two groups of men were enemies and were preparing to do battle. The demons, who were countless in number, had as their commander a great black giant, and they haughtily challenged those robed in white garments to send forth from their midst a warrior to contest with their leader. The men clothed in white vesture, however, made no reply as the dark ones boasted of their power. The blessed Andrew waited to see who would advance to meet the dread foe, and then he caught sight of a most fair Youth descending from on high, carrying three crowns in His hands. The first was adorned with pure gold and precious stones; the second with a radiant pearl of great price; and the third, the largest of the three, was woven of unwithering red and white flowers of every sort from God's paradise. Such was the beauty of those crowns that the mind of man cannot imagine them, neither can the tongue describe them.
When Andrew saw this, he began to consider how he might acquire at least one of the three crowns. He approached the Youth who had appeared, and said, "For the sake of Christ, tell me whether You are willing to sell these crowns. Although I am not able to buy them myself, if You wait a little for me, I shall go and speak with my master, and he will give You as much gold for them as You wish."
The Youth, whose face was joyous, said to him, "Believe Me, beloved, even if you were to offer Me all the gold in the entire world, I would not sell either to you or your supposed master or anyone else a single flower from these crowns, for they come not from this vain world but from the heavenly treasures of Christ. Those who prevail over the evil demons are crowned with them, and so, if you wish to acquire not just one but all three crowns, do battle with that swarthy demon. When you conquer him, I will give you all the crowns you see."
Hearing this, Andrew took courage and said to the Youth, "I shall do what You have said, but I beg You to tell me first of the demon's wiles."
The Youth said to him, "Are you ignorant of his artifices? The demon seems to be fearsome and menacing, but in truth he is powerless. Therefore, do not fear his great stature and menacing glance: he is weak and easily crushed, like rotten reed."
The resplendent Youth filled Andrew with courage by these words, and then proceeded to teach him how to combat the demon. He said, "When the demon lays hold of you and begins to contend with you, do not be afraid, but cause his feet to stumble, and you will behold God's assistance."
Immediately, the blessed one went forth to do battle, and he cried with a great voice to the demon, "Come out and contend with me!" Fearsome and threatening, the demon drew near. He seized Andrew and cast him about for a long time, and the other demons began to applaud. Meanwhile, the men clad in white raiment grew pale, fearing that the black one would throw Andrew to the ground. However, just as Andrew was almost overcome, he succeeded in tripping up the demon. The blackamoor was hurtled down like a great tree, and in falling, he struck his forehead upon a stone. The demon cried out, "Woe, woe is me!" and those robed in white rejoiced greatly. They lifted up Andrew high in their arms and began to kiss him, exulting in Andrew's victory over the demon.
Then the black warriors were all put to flight in great shame, and the fair Youth gave Andrew the crowns. He kissed Andrew and said, "Go in peace; henceforth you will be our friend and brother. Take up the good struggle, suffer nakedness, and embrace foolishness for My sake, and you will partake of many good things in the day of My kingdom."
After the blessed one had heard the splendid Youth say this, he awoke from sleep. He was greatly amazed by his vision, and from that hour he became a fool for Christ's sake.
When he awoke the following night, Andrew prayed and then went to the well where he removed his garments. He took a knife, and like a madman, cut his clothes in pieces. Early the next morning, the cook came to the well. He saw Andrew raving like a madman and went and told their master of this. Their lord was sorrowed on account of Andrew, and he went to him, and he saw him standing there, as it were out of his mind and speaking senselessly. Thinking that Andrew was possessed, he had him bound with iron chains and ordered that he be taken to the Church of Saint Anastasia. During the day, Andrew pretended to be insane, but by night he prayed without ceasing to God and to Saint Anastasia. But in his heart he wondered whether his undertaking was pleasing to God or not and wished to learn the truth of the matter.
As Andrew was considering this, five women and a single radiant elder suddenly appeared to him, walking along and healing the infirm. When they came to Andrew, the elder said to the eldest of the women, "My lady Anastasia! Do you not wish to heal him also?"
She answered him, "Good teacher, he has been healed by Him Who said unto him, 'Embrace foolishness for My sake, and you will partake of many good things in the day of My kingdom.' He has no further need of healing."
Having said these things, they went into the church and did not come out again, though Andrew awaited them until the semantron was struck for Matins. And so the blessed Andrew perceived that his struggle was pleasing to God, and he rejoiced in spirit and redoubled his labours, praying by night and feigning madness by day.
Once, as the blessed one offered up prayer and supplications (as was his custom) in the secret chamber of his heart to God and to the holy martyr Anastasia, the devil, together with numerous demons, appeared to him openly. Some of the demons held axes, others knives, yet others clubs, staves, and spears with which they planned to slay the blessed one. The Demon who had fought with Andrew appeared in the form he had previously assumed and roared at him from afar. Then he drew near to the saint and sought to cut him to pieces with the axe he held in his hand. After him all the other demons fell upon the saint, but Andrew, weeping, lifted up his hands and cried to the Lord, saying, "Deliver not unto beasts the soul which confesseth Thee!" Then he cried out again, "Holy Apostle John the Theologian, help me!"
Immediately, thunder resounded, a great multitude of men appeared, and an elder of comely appearance, whose face was brighter than the sun, approached the saint. A great number of servants accompanied him, and the elder commanded those with him, saying, "Shut the gates so that not one of these may escape!"
At once the doors were closed, and all the demons were seized, and Andrew heard one of the demons say secretly to his fellow, "Cursed be the hour when we were deceived, for John is merciless and will torture us cruelly!"
Saint John commanded the men clad in white who had come with him to remove the iron fetters from Andrew's neck. Then he stood outside the gates and said, "Lead the demons to me, one at a time." They brought the first demon and stretched him out upon the ground, and the Apostle took the chains, folded them thrice, and lashed him a hundred times. Like a man the demon cried out, "Have mercy on me!"
After this they stretched out another demon and thrashed him, in the same way, and then they laid an equal number of stripes on a third one. The blows to which God subjected the demons were true blows, and they were hurt thereby. When all the demons had been lashed thus, John said to them, "Go and show Satan your father your stripes: see whether this pleases him!"
When the men clad in white raiment had departed and the demons had vanished, the honourable elder approached God's servant. He placed the chains upon Andrew's neck and said to him, "Do you see how I have hastened to your aid? I have great concern for you, for God has entrusted you to my care... Therefore, have patience: soon you will be freed and will be permitted to go wherever you wish, to whatever place is pleasing in your eyes."
"My lord, who are you?" asked Andrew.
The elder replied, "I am he who leaned on the Lord's bosom."
Having said this, the Apostle shone like lightning and disappeared from before Andrew's eyes, and the blessed Andrew glorified God for having sent His beloved disciple to his aid.
After the appearance of Saint John the Theologian, his conversation with him, and the chastisement of the demons, the blessed Andrew lay down to sleep, wrapped again in irons, and was overcome by ecstasy and saw himself in a royal palace. He beheld seated upon a throne in great glory, a King who summoned him unto Himself. The King asked the blessed one, "Do you desire to labour for Me with your whole soul?"
Andrew replied, "I do, Lord."
The King gave him some wormwood to eat, which was very bitter, and said to him, "The sorrowful path of those who labour for Me in this world is like this wormwood."
After this, the King gave Andrew something whiter than snow and sweeter than manna, which the blessed one ate. This food caused Andrew to rejoice, and he forgot the bitterness of what he had eaten before. And the King said to him, "Such is the food I give them who labour for Me and endure bravely till the end. Therefore, finish manfully what you have begun, for having suffered a little here, you will live forever in the age to come."
When Andrew awoke from sleep, he considered how the bitter wormwood he had first eaten represented patience in the present world while the food he tasted after eating the wormwood signified life eternal.
After this, Andrew's master kept him for four months and then set him free. The saint began to wander through the streets, feigning madness, being destitute, afflicted, tormented, one of those of whom the world was not worthy.' Some mocked him as a fool; others drove him off, despising him like a stinking dog; others thought him to be possessed. Young boys taunted and beat the blessed one, but he endured all these things, praying for those who offended him. Whenever some merciful lover of the poor gave him alms, he would take them and then give them to other paupers. However, he distributed them in such a way that no one would imagine that he was bestowing alms: he would feign anger at those he wished to benefit, threatening to beat them, and like a madman cast into their faces the coins he held in his hands, leaving them on the ground to be gathered up. At times he would eat no bread for three days; sometimes he remained hungry for an entire week, and if he found no one to give him a crust of bread, he remained without food for another week. He wore as clothing a worthless shirt which scarcely covered the nakedness of his body. He emulated in all things Saint Symeon the Fool for Christ's sake;' thus, by day he ran about the streets like a lunatic while at night he laboured in prayer. He lived in a populous city among a multitude of people, but he had nowhere to lay his head. The poor chased him away from their hovels, and the wealthy would not permit him to enter their courtyards. When compelled to sleep and to give a little rest to his long-suffering body, he sought out the heaps of rubbish where dogs lay, but even they would not accept God's servant into their midst. Some bit him and chased him away; others themselves went away, fleeing from him. Never did he sleep beneath a roof, but whether in cold or heat, like Lazarus he wallowed always in dirt and filth, trampled underfoot by men and beasts. Thus did the voluntary martyr, the fool Andrew, suffer, laughing at the entire world and saying, ‘The foolishness of God is wiser than men.' The grace of God came to dwell in him, and he received the gift of clairvoyance, by which he knew the thoughts of men.
Once, the daughter of a certain noble who lived in Constantinople reposed. She had passed her life in the purity of virginity, and as she lay dying, she besought her father to bury her outside the city in the cemetery for paupers which was in their vineyard. When she died, she was taken to that place and committed to the earth according to Christian custom. Now at that time there was a robber of graves, who disinterred corpses to strip them of their garments. This man stood along the way, looking to see where the maiden would be buried. Having marked the place of her tomb, he determined to return by night, to open it, and to remove her clothing.
It happened that Saint Andrew also passed by that place as he performed his usual labours of foolishness for Christ's sake. When he laid eyes upon the grave robber, he perceived in spirit the man's wicked intention. Wishing to dissuade him from executing his purpose (for he knew the punishment which awaited the man), Andrew sternly glared at him and said to him angrily, "Thus says the Spirit Who judges those who strip the dead in their tombs of their clothing: 'You shall not behold the sun again; you shall never again see the day, neither the countenance of a man. The gates of your house shall be shut, never to open; daytime shall grow dark for you, never to be light again."
The robber of graves did not understood the meaning of what the saint had said, and so he turned away, giving it no consideration. Again the saint glared at him and said, "Are you departing? Commit no robbery, for if you do, by the power of Jesus you shall never again see the sun."
Then the robber understood what was said to him, and he marvelled at how Andrew knew his thoughts. Turning to the saint, he said, "You are afflicted by a demon, and prompted by the demon, you speak of things hidden and secret. Nevertheless, I shall go wherever I wish. We shall see whether your words come to pass."
The saint continued along his way, playing the fool. When night fell, the thief rolled away the stone and entered the tomb. First he took the maiden's outer garment and all her ornaments, for they were of great value. When he had removed all these things, he turned to leave, but the thought came to him, "Her undergarment is of very good quality; take it as well." He then stripped the maiden of her undergarment, leaving her body naked, and again began to leave. But by the command of God the dead girl raised her right hand and struck him upon the face, and immediately his eyes were blinded. The wretch was stricken with fear and began to tremble so that his jaw and teeth rattled, and also his knees and all his bones.
Then the dead maiden opened her mouth and said to him, "O you wretched outcast, stranger to the fear of God! Have you not considered that you also are a man? You should have been put to shame by a virgin's nakedness! You should have contented yourself with what you first took and left at least the undergarment to cover my body. But you had no compassion for me: you were exceedingly cruel to me, hoping to make me a laughingstock before all the holy virgins at the second coming of the Lord. Now then, I will ensure that you will never again steal from anyone and that you shall know that Jesus Christ lives and is God and that after death follows judgment, reward, and punishment!"
When the maiden had said this, she arose, took her undergarment, and clothed herself with it. Then she put on all her ornaments and her outer garment, lay down, and said, Thou, O Lord, alone hast made me to dwell in hope;' and she reposed in peace. As for that outcast, he scarcely succeeded in escaping the tomb and climbing the wall of the vineyard. He groped with his hands along the wall until he found his way to the road and finally arrived at the gates of the city. To those who asked what the cause of his blindness was, he did not speak the truth, but later he confessed to a certain friend of his all that had happened. After suffering this punishment he was compelled to beg alms to gain his livelihood, and from time to time he would say to himself, "O greed, you are cursed, for on account of you, blindness has come upon me!" Moreover, he remembered Saint Andrew and marvelled at how all that the blessed one had foreseen and foretold concerning him had come to pass and how the saint's prophecy had been fulfilled.
On another occasion, as Andrew was wandering through the city, he saw from afar a dead man being carried by. That man had been very rich, and he was accompanied by a great multitude of people bearing numerous candles and censers. The clergy were chanting the usual funeral hymns, and the weeping of his many relatives and acquaintances could be heard. The saint stopped and continued to look upon the procession, for with his clairvoyant eyes he could see what was befalling the dead man. He fell into a stupor for a long time and saw a multitude of demons walking before the bier carrying candles and crying aloud, "Woe unto him, woe unto him!” Some of the demons held sacks in their hands, and they strewed ashes upon the people walking near the dead man. Others danced about and laughed shamelessly like brazen harlots. Others barked like dogs, while yet others grunted as though they were pigs, for that dead man was a cause of gladness and rejoicing to them. Certain of the demons surrounding the corpse sprinkled it with foul-smelling water, and others flew through the air around the coffin, and great was the stench which came forth from the carcass of that sinner. Still others followed the coffin, clapping their hands, making a great noise with their feet, and mocking the chanters, saying, "O you contemptible Christians! May God not permit any of you to see light! For it is over a dog that you sing, 'Give rest with the saints to his soul,' and you call him who was guilty of every evil a servant of God."
When he looked again, Andrew saw that one of the princes of the demons, whose eyes were aflame, held in his hands pitch and sulphur, and he drew near the bier of that wretch to set his body afire. After the man was buried, Saint Andrew beheld an angel in the guise of a fair youth, walking along, stricken with grief and shedding bitter tears. As he passed Saint Andrew, the thought came to the blessed one that the young man was a friend of the dead man and that it was for this reason that he lamented. Therefore, he approached the weeping youth and said to him, "In the name of the God of heaven and earth, tell me why you are weeping, for I have never seen anyone mourn a dead man as bitterly as you."
The angel said to him, "I lament because I was the guardian of the dead man whom you see carried to the grave. The devil has taken him away, and so I sorrow and grieve."
The saint said to him, "Now I know who you are! I beseech you, O holy angel: tell me what were the sins the man committed that enabled the devil to seize him."
Answered the angel, "Since you wish to learn of this, O Andrew, God's chosen, I shall not keep silence but shall tell you. For I behold the beauty of your holy soul, which shines like pure gold, and the sight of you has comforted me a little in my grief. This man was held in great honour by the Emperor, but he was most iniquitous, and his life was very wicked. He was a prodigal, a fornicator, and a sodomite of the worst sort. He was a cheat; he was merciless; he was a lover of silver, a liar, and a misanthrope; he was full of rancour, vengeful, and an oath-breaker. His miserable servants he tortured with hunger, stripes, and nakedness, leaving them without shoes and clothing through the winter. Many were the wretches whom he slew and buried in his pastures; and such was the sordid lust, hateful to God, with which he burned, that he defiled three hundred souls with base and disgusting sins of fornication. But the time of harvest overtook him, and death found him unrepentant, with unspeakable sins upon his soul, which the demons carried away. You have seen how the evil spirits mocked him as they took away his vile body. For this reason, O holy soul, I now grieve and lament and am greatly afflicted, since he who was entrusted to me has now become the laughingstock of the demons."
When God's angel had said this, the saint replied, "I pray you, friend, cease your lamentation, for this man worked much evil and died without repentance. Let him reap the fruit of his works. But prosper in your God henceforth, even unto eternity, servitor of the almighty Lord of Sabaoth, O you who are like unto fire and full of every virtue!"
After Andrew had said this, the angel departed from him and became invisible. Those who passed by as Saint Andrew conversed with the angel saw only the blessed one standing alone and speaking, for they were unworthy to behold the angel. They said one to another, "Behold, this simpleton amuses himself by foolishly talking with a wall!" Then they shoved him and drove him away, saying, "What manner of imbecile are you? It would seem you are not worthy to converse with men and so you speak to a wall." But the saint departed in silence and hid himself in a place apart where he wept bitterly over the perdition of the wretch he had seen carried to the grave.
Once, Saint Andrew was walking among the people in the market near the column erected by the holy Emperor Constantine. A certain woman named Barbara, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, was struck with awe as she beheld the blessed Andrew moving through the crowd, for he shone like a pillar of fire. At the same time, certain mindless men were pushing him, and others were beating him; nearby stood many others who were looking upon him and said, "This man is a fool and has lost his mind. May even our enemies not suffer such a fate!"
Moreover, the demons followed Andrew and said, "May God not permit another like this one to walk the earth, for no one has so withered our hearts as he, since he has ceased to serve his master and has become a fool and mocks the whole world."
That woman saw how the blackamoors wrote down the names of those who struck the saint and heard how they said to one another, "It pleases us to see them pommel this fool, for on account of their having beaten an innocent servant of God, they will be condemned at the hour of their demise and deprived of salvation."
The blessed one also heard this, and by the power of the Spirit of God, he fell upon the demons with awesome might. The scrolls upon which they had written he tore up, and he said angrily to them, "I forbid you to write down the offenses of those who beat me, for I make entreaty to my Master that He count not as sin the blows they lay upon me. Out of ignorance they do this, and on account of their ignorance, they shall receive forgiveness."
When the saint had said this, the gates of heaven immediately opened, and a multitude of beautiful swallows descended upon him. In their midst was a large dove, as white as snow, which held in its beak a golden olive leaf. With a human voice it said to Andrew, "Take this leaf, which the Almighty, Who is Himself merciful, has sent from paradise to you who are compassionate and full of pity for your fellow men, as a token of the grace entrusted to you. He glorifies you and shall magnify His mercy toward you since you forgive and show mercy to those who beat you and you pray that they not be charged with sin on account of this."
After the dove had said this, it lighted upon the head of the saint. The pious woman who saw all these things was amazed; and afterward, when she had come to herself, she said, "How many luminaries has God upon earth, of whom no one knows!" Often she wished to tell others what she had seen, but the power of God restrained her. Some time thereafter, Saint Andrew encountered her in a certain place and said to her, "Guard my secret, Barbara, and tell no one what you have seen, until I go to the place of the wondrous tabernacle, even to the house of God."'
She answered him, "O honourable luminary and saint of God! Even if I desired to tell someone of this, I cannot, for the invisible power of God prevents me."
Once as Saint Andrew was wandering through the city he met a certain nobleman who was passing by. Perceiving the manner of life he led, the blessed one spat upon him and said, "O you wicked fornicator! You pretend you go to church, and say, 'I am going to Matins,' but in truth you go to Satan, to work your vile deeds and to mock the Church. O iniquitous one! You arise in the middle of the night only to arouse God to wrath. Lo, the time has come when you shall be rewarded for your deeds! Do you imagine that you will hide yourself from the dread and all-seeing eye of God, which searches out every secret?"
Hearing this, the noble spurred his steed and departed so that he would not be further put to shame. A few days later, he was stricken with a grievous illness, and his flesh began to wither. His servants took him from church to church, from one physician to another, but he received no profit, and a short time thereafter the wretch departed unto eternal torment. That night, the saint beheld an angel of the Lord who appeared from the west and stood near the nobleman's courtyard. He was like a flame of fire and held a great and fiery shield. When he drew near the sick man, a voice was, heard from above which said, "Beat this blasphemer, this vile sodomite, and as you thrash him, say, 'Do you still wish to sin and to defile others? Will you continue to pretend that you are going to Matins when your intention is to work devilish iniquity?"
Then the angel began to flog the man and to say that which he had been commanded. After this the angel became invisible, but his voice could still be heard, as also the sound of the thrashing. Such were the torments in which the man gave up his spirit.
Once, as Saint Andrew went to the marketplace, he met a monk whose life was praised by all as virtuous. Indeed, he did struggle well, as a monk should; nevertheless, he was wholly subject to the love of money. Many who lived in the city confessed their sins to him, and they gave him much gold, that he might in turn distribute it to the poor for the salvation of their souls, but he, stricken with the insatiable passion of greed, gave nothing to anyone. He put everything into a sack and rejoiced to see the money increase. As the blessed Andrew walked by on the road on which that wretched monk had his dwelling, he beheld with his clairvoyant eyes a fearsome serpent twisting itself around the monk's neck. The blessed one drew near to the monk, that he might look more closely at that serpent, but the monk, supposing him to be a pauper who wished to beg alms, said to him, "May God have mercy on you, brother, but I have nothing to give you."
The blessed one went away a short distance; and he saw in the air around the serpent these words written in dark letters: "The root of all iniquity is the serpent of avarice." Then he looked back and saw two youths contending one with the other. One was a black demon, whose eyes were black, while the other was white and shone with heavenly light, for he was an angel of God. The black one said, "That monk is mine, for he does my will. He is unmerciful and a lover of wealth; he has no portion with God and serves me like an idolater."
To this the brilliant angel replied, "No, he is mine, for he fasts and prays and is meek and humble." The youths could come to no agreement and continued their dispute. Then a voice came down from heaven to the radiant angel, which said, "Have nothing to do with that monk. Forsake him, for he labours for mammon and not for God."
Immediately, the angel of the Lord departed from the monk, and the dark spirit established his dominion over him. The blessed Andrew was amazed to see how the demonic adversary had prevailed thus over the shining angel.
Later, Saint Andrew encountered that monk on the street. He took him by the right hand and said, "Servant of God, do not be angry, but hearken unto me, your slave. I beg you, heed my humble words, for on your account I am cast into great sorrow, which I can bear no longer. Once you were God's friend, but now you are become the friend and servant of the devil. You had wings like a seraph: why did you give yourself over to Satan, who has cut them off to the very root? Your face shone like lightning: why have you permitted yourself to be blackened? Woe is me! You saw as though with many eyes but are now blinded by the serpent; you were like unto the sun, but a dark and evil night has descended upon you. Why, brother, have you caused your soul to perish? Why have you become a friend of the demon of avarice? How are you become his abode? Why do you accumulate gold? Will you be buried with it? After your death another shall inherit it. Do you truly desire that greed cause you to perish? While others hunger and thirst and perish of cold, you rejoice to behold your gold multiply! Is this the path of repentance? Is such the rule of monasticism, which ordains the renunciation of life's vanities? Is this how you have forsaken the world and all that is in the world? Is this how you have crucified yourself to the world and to every vain thing? Have you not heard the Lord, Who says, Acquire neither gold, nor silver, nor two coats?' How is it that you have forgotten these commandments? Either today or else tomorrow our life shall end, and whose shall those things be, which you have provided?' Do you not know that the angel of the Lord who guards you has departed from you, weeping, and has gone far away while the devil stands near you? The serpent of avarice has entwined itself about your neck, but you do not care. Truly, I say to you, that as I passed by you, I beheld the Lord God forsake you. I pray you, hearken unto me: give that which you have to the poor; to widows and orphans, to paupers and strangers who have nowhere to lay their heads, and hasten to become a friend of God once more. If, by Christ Jesus the King, you do not do what I say, you shall perish cruelly and immediately see the devil."
Then the saint added, "Do you see him?"
The monk's inward eyes were opened, and he beheld the devil, who was black as a Demon and resembled a beast, jaws agape. He stood afar off, and because of Andrew's presence, dared not draw near. And the monk said to the saint, "I see him, servant of God! Tell me, I pray, what I must do to save my soul."
The servant of God said to him again, "Know that if you will not heed me, I shall loose the devil upon you. He will torment you, and all will know of your shame; not only the citizens of this city but all the inhabitants of the four corners of the earth as well. Take care, then, to do as I say."
When the monk heard this, he was greatly afraid and swore to do all that the blessed one commanded. And immediately, the saint saw a mighty spirit come from the east, like a flash of lightning, and it struck the serpent, wrapped about the monk's neck and consumed its power. The serpent could not bear the blow and was transformed into a raven, and it vanished from that place. Moreover, the black Demon perished, and the angel of God once more received authority to watch over the monk. As the blessed one parted from the monk, he enjoined him, saying, "See that you say nothing concerning me, and for my part, I shall begin to remember you in my prayers day and night, that the Lord Jesus Christ direct your path aright."
And so the monk went and distributed to the poor all the gold which he had, and after this he was glorified yet more by God and man alike. Many continued to bring gold to him, that he might give it to the poor, but he instructed them to distribute it with their own hands, saying, "Of what profit to me are the thorns of another's sorrows?"
As he lived thus in a manner befitting a monk, the servant of God Andrew appeared to him with a joyful countenance and showed him a radiant fruit tree standing in a field, which bore sweet blossoms. The blessed one said, "Give God thanks, my lord, that He has snatched you from the teeth of the serpent and has made your soul like a blossoming tree. Strive, then, to transform the blossoms into sweet fruit. For indeed, the beautiful tree which you see symbolizes your own soul."
The monk came to himself and redoubled his spiritual struggles, and he remained ever grateful to God and to His servant Andrew, who had set him upon the path to salvation.
Saint Andrew was beloved of God and pleased the Lord so much that he was once caught up to the third heaven like Saint Paul.' There he heard unspeakable words and beheld that which cannot be seen, as he himself told his faithful friend Nicephorus before his repose.
Once, during a cruel winter, Constantinople was seized by a bitter cold for two weeks. Every house was covered with snow, and a north wind blew which caused lofty buildings to sway and to tumble down. Trees were shattered by the winds of the tempest, and all the starving birds fell dead to the ground. At that time all the poor and the paupers suffered greatly and were hard pressed: they wept, groaned, and trembled from the frost, and perished from hunger, want, and cold. The blessed Andrew, having neither shelter nor clothing, also suffered much from the cold. When he drew near the other paupers, wishing to rest beneath a roof, if but for a little while, they drove him away with sticks like a dog, crying out and saying to him, “Go away, go away, you dog!”
Thus, it was that the blessed one had nowhere to escape the calamity, and in despair of his life he said to himself, “Blessed be the Lord God! If I perish of cold, it is for the sake of His love that I die, but God has power to enable me to bear the frost. He then went to a certain place where a dog was lying, and he lay down beside the dog, hoping to be warmed by him. But when the dog saw him, he arose and fled, and Andrew said to himself, “O you wretch, what a sinner you are! Not only men but even dogs disdain you!” And so he lay down again, and his body turned blue; and he trembled so from the bitter cold and the wind that he thought he was dying and was about to take his last breath. Lifting up the eyes of his heart to God, he prayed Him to receive his soul in peace, and then suddenly he felt himself somehow warmed. He opened his eyes and beheld an exceedingly handsome youth, whose countenance shone like the sun. In his hand the youth held a branch which blossomed with various flowers, and he looked upon Andrew and asked, “Andrew, where are you?”
Andrew replied, “Now I am in darkness and in the shadow of death.”
The youth struck Andrew lightly upon the face with the branch which he held in his hand, and said, “Let your body come to life again.”
Saint Andrew straightaway smelled the flower’s fragrance, which entered his heart and warmed and quickened his whole body. Then he heard a voice saying, “Bring him here, that he might rest for a time, and then allow him to return.”
When these words were said, Andrew immediately fell into a sweet sleep, and he beheld ineffable and divine revelations, which he related at length to the previously mentioned Nicephorus.
“I know not how it came to pass,” he said, “that even as one sleeps sweetly and arises in the morning, so by the command of God I continually beheld a delightful vision for the period of two weeks. I saw myself in a beautiful and most marvellous garden. My spirit was amazed, and I thought, ‘What does this signify? I know that I live in Constantinople, but I do not understand how I came to be in this place. I know not whether I am in the body or out of the body: God alone knows.’
“I saw that I was clad in a most radiant garment, woven, as it were, of lightning. Upon my head was a garland, braided of many flowers, and I was girded with a royal belt, the beauty of which caused me to rejoice exceedingly. My mind and heart marvelled at the unearthly beauty of God’s paradise, and my soul was very happy as I walked through it. There were numerous groves of lofty trees there, the tops of which swayed back and forth and the sight of which filled me with joy. Certain of the trees were perpetually in bloom; others were adorned with golden leaves; yet others bore fruit of unspeakable beauty and excellence. Those trees cannot be compared to any of the trees of this earth, for they were planted not by man’s hand but by God’s. There were numberless birds in that garden: some had wings of gold, others were white as snow, while others were of various colours. They sat upon the branches of the trees of paradise and sang most wonderfully so that I was beside myself on account of the sweetness of their song. My heart was greatly delighted, and I supposed that the sound of their singing could be heard even in the heights of heaven.
“As I walked amid those fair groves, which were planted in rows opposite one another, my heart was full of joy, and I beheld a mighty river which ran through the groves and watered them. There was a vineyard on the far side of the river, the vines in which were adorned with golden leaves and grapes. A gentle and fragrant breeze blew from each of the four directions, which caused the trees to sway and make a wondrous sound with their leaves.
“After this, fear fell upon me, and it seemed to me that I was standing at the peak of the firmament of heaven. Before me walked a youth clothed in purple, whose countenance was like unto the sun, whim I took to be him who struck me upon the face with the blossoming branch. As I followed him, I suddenly caught sight of a great and beautiful cross that resembled a rainbow, around which stood chanters, whose visage was like fire, and they chanted a sweet hymn, glorifying the Lord Who was crucified upon the Cross. The youth who went before me approached the cross and kissed it and indicated that I should also kiss it. I fell before the Holy Cross with fear and great joy, and kissed it fervently, and as I kissed it, I was filled with an ineffable spiritual sweetness; and I could smell a fragrance stronger than that of paradise. When I had passed the cross, I looked down and saw beneath me what seemed to be the depths of the sea. I thought I was walking through the air and became afraid, and I cried out to my guide, ‘Sir, I am afraid that I shall fall into the abyss!’
“But he turned to me, and said, ‘Do not fear, for me must ascend higher’; and he stretched out his hand to me.
When I took his hand, we were found to be above the second firmament. I saw there wondrous men, their abodes, and their joyous festivity, which cannot be described by the tongue of man. After this, we entered a marvellous flame, which did not burn us but rather illumined us. Again I became afraid, and once more my guide gave me his hand and said, ‘We must ascend yet higher.’
“As soon as he said this, we found ourselves above the third heaven where I saw and heard a multitude of the hosts of heaven, chanting and glorifying God. We drew near a veil which shone like lightning, before which stood fearsome, immense youths, who were like a flame of fire and whose countenances shone brighter than the sun. In their hands they held fiery weapons. As I gazed with fear upon this innumerable multitude of heavenly hosts, the young man who was my guide said, ‘When the curtain is opened, you will behold the Master Christ: bow down before the throne of His glory.’
“Hearing this, I rejoiced and trembled and was overcome by fear and unutterable gladness. I stood there and looked until the veil was removed, and when the curtain was opened by a flaming hand, I saw my Lord, as did once Isaiah the prophet, sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and seraphim round about. He was clad in a robe of purple, and His eyes looked upon me, full of love. When I saw Him, I fell down before Him and worshipped the most glorious and fearful throne of His majesty. Such was the joy that laid hold of me at the sight of His countenance that I am unable to tell of it. Even now, as I remember that vision, I am filled with celestial sweetness. Trembling, I lay before my Master, marvelling at how it was that in His mercy He had vouchsafed me, a sinful and impure man, to appear before Him and to behold His divine beauty. As I, in my unworthiness, pondered on this, I was filled with compunction; and as I gazed upon the magnificence of my Master, I repeated to myself the words of the prophet Isaiah, O wretch that I am! For being a man of unclean lips, with mine eyes I have seen my Lord.
“And I heard my most merciful Creator say to me three divine words with His most sweet and pure lips, which so delighted my heart and inflamed it with love, that like wax I melted with spiritual warmth, in fulfilment of the words of David, My heart is become like wax melting in the midst of my bowels. Then all the hosts of heaven chanted an exceedingly wondrous and ineffable hymn, after which (I known not how) I again found myself walking through paradise. And I considered how I had not seen the most pure Lady, the Theotokos; and lo, I beheld a man, radiant as a cloud, who held a cross and said, ‘Do you wish to see the Queen, who is more luminous than the heavenly hosts? She is not here but has departed unto the much-suffering world to succour man and to console the suffering. I would show you the holy place where she dwells, but there is not time now. You must presently return to the place from which you came as the Master commands.’
“When he said this to me, I felt as though I had fallen into a sweet sleep. Then I awoke and found myself in the place where I was before, lying in the corner, and I marvelled at the place where I had been during the vision and at that which I had been deemed worthy to behold. My heart was filled with unspeakable joy, and I thanked my Master that He had been pleased to bestow such grace upon me.”
Saint Andrew told his friend Nicephorus of this vision before his repose and enjoined him with an oath to tell no one of it until he had been loosed from the bonds of the body. Nicephorus entreated the saint fervently to reveal to him at least one of the three words which the Lord said to him, but the blessed one would not agree to this. Thus Saint Andrew was caught up like Saint Paul to the heavens where he beheld that which the corruptible eye has not seen and heard that which the mortal ear has not heard, and he took delight in the good things of heaven which were revealed unto him, which the heart of man cannot imagine.
Since the saint did not see our most pure Lady the Theotokos during this revelation of the mysteries of heaven, he was granted to behold her on earth, in the Church of the Blachernae where she had come to succour men. The blessed one saw her praying to her Son and God, standing in the air, together with the prophets, the apostles, and the angelic choirs, covering the people with her precious omophorion. He said to his disciple Epiphanius, "Do you see the Queen and Sovereign Lady of all as she prays?"
Epiphanius replied, "I see her, holy father, and am afraid!"
Such was the wondrous life of Saint Andrew, who worked numerous miracles and bore much reviling and many blows, as it is related in the book written by Nicephorus, in which the account of his life is to be found. He prophesied the future and turned many sinners to repentance, and he was finally translated to the dwellings which are eternal, to which he had once been caught up. Now he abides in them forever, rejoicing with the angels, and in gladness he stands before God, to Whom be glory unto the ages.
Written by Nicephorus, presbyter of the Church of Holy Wisdom in Constantinople. The present shortened account is derived from The Prologue as well.
From The Great Collection of The Lives of the Saints, Volume II: October, Chrysostom Press.