The Vision of St. Carpos

 
St. Dionysius the Areopagite ca. 1st cent.    
 
I was in Crete once and I enjoyed the hospitality of Carpos (2 Tim. 4:13), a holy man. If there was ever a man with a mind so purified as to be receptive to the sight of God it was he. He never began the holy sacraments of the mysteries without having a propitious vision first appear to him in the preliminary sacred prayers. He described how he had been grieved once by the infidelities of someone. The reason for this sadness was that this man had turned someone toward godlessness and away form the Church, and had done so amidst the joyful days marking his baptism. Carpos was supposed to pray generously for both of them and he called upon the saving help of God to return one of the men and to overcome the other man with goodness. For the rest of his life there could be no faltering in the exhortation directed to them to return to the knowledge of God. Everything doubtful or obscure would have to be clarified for them until genuine justice would compel them to have the good sense to give up their stupid audacity.
     
 But instead of all this he somehow felt within himself something he had not experienced previously (I do not know how), a great hostility and bitterness. In this bad frame of mind he went to bed and to sleep, for it was evening. In the middle of the night, at the hour when he usually woke to sing the praises of God, he got up. He had little rest from a series of brief, interrupted, and disturbed bouts of sleep. He stood for prayer, but in no seemly manner. He was angry. He said that it was not just for impious men, men who had turned from the straight paths of the Lord, to be allowed to live. Having said this he prayed God to hurl His pitiless thunderbolt and to finish at once the lives of those two. As he described it, himself, the place where he was seemed to be shaken completely and then split into two halves in the middle from the roof down. A shining flame appeared coming down to him from heaven, for the place now seemed to be in open air. The sky itself seemed to be unfolding and in the vault of heaven Jesus appeared amid and endless throng of angels in human form. Carpos looked up and was amazed by what he saw. As he told me himself, he glanced down and the ground seemed to open into a yawning, shadowy chasm. The two men whom he had cursed were at the edge. They were trembling and pitiful; bit by bit they were starting to fall in because of their slippery perch. From the bottom of the pit came serpents which wound themselves around the feet of the two men. They began to flay them as they pulled and dragged them. They tore and lashed at them with their teeth and their tails and in fact did everything to make them tumble into the pit. In among the serpents there were men. They grabbed the two unfortunates, shoving them, pushing them, beating them until they were on the point of collapse, unwillingly and yet willingly as they were gradually ravaged by evil at the same time persuaded by its charms.
     
Carpos told me that from where he saw it below the spectacle delighted him. He forgot the sight to be seen above in the sky. He was impatient, hostile because the evil pair had not yet fallen in. He tried repeatedly to help the serpents in their efforts but was powerless, and became angry and he cursed. Finally he looked up and saw again the same spectacle as earlier. But at this time Jesus had risen from His heavenly throne. Moved by compassion He came down to the unfaithful two. He reached a rescuing hand out to them. The angels helped Him. He held on to the two men, one on either side of Him.
 
Then Jesus said to Carpos:
So your hand is raised up and I now am the One you must hit. Here I am, ready once again to suffer for the salvation of man and I would very gladly endure it if in this way I could keep men from sin. Look to yourself. Maybe you should be living with the serpents in the pit rather than with God and with the good angels who are friends of man.
 
These things, which I heard myself, I believe to be true. (The Letters, Letter Eight: To the Monk Demophilus. Concerning one’s proper work, and kindness.)
 

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