On the Indestructible Omophorion

St. John Moschos ca. 550-619

One of the fathers told us that the blessed Ephraim, Patriarch of Antioch, had a great deal of zeal and fervor for the Orthodox faith. One day he learned that a stylite in one of the regions around Hierapolis was one of Severus’ excommunicate Acephalites. He went to this stylite with the intention of talking him round. When he got there the godly Ephraim began to urge and entreat the stylite to take refuge in the Apostolic Throne [of Antioch] and to enter into communion with the Catholic and Apostolic Church. In answer the stylite said to him: ‘It will never be the case that I will communicate with the Synod’. The godly Ephraim rejoined: ‘Well then, what have I got to do to convince you that, by the grace of Christ Jesus our Lord, the holy Church has been set free of every trace of heretical teaching’? The stylite said: ‘Let us light a fire, my lord Patriarch, and let you and me go into it. If one of us comes out unharmed, he is the Orthodox and he is the one we ought to follow’. He said this to terrify the Patriarch; but the godly Ephraim said to the stylite: ‘You ought to have obeyed me as a father, my child, and to have asked nothing of us. Since you have asked something which is beyond my meager ability, I have put my trust in the mercies of the Son of God that, for the sake of your soul’s salvation, I will do what you suggest.’ Then the godly Ephraim said to those who stood by: ‘Blessed be the Lord! Bring some wood here’. When the wood arrived, the Patriarch lit it before the column and he said to the stylite: ‘Come down and we will both walk into the fire to carry out your test’. The stylite was amazed at the Patriarch’s trust in God and he did not want to come down. The Patriarch said to him: ‘ Was it not you who suggested we do this? How is it you no longer want to go through with it?’ Then the Patriarch took off the omophorion he was wearing and, coming close to the fire, prayed in these words: ‘Lord Jesus Christ our God, who for our sakes condescended truly to be made flesh of our Lady the holy Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary, show us the truth’. When the prayer was finished, he threw his omophorion into the fire. The fire burned for three hours. Then, when the wood was all burnt up, he retrieved the omophorion from the fire — still in one piece. It was undamaged and unmarked and there was no sign to be found on it of having been in the fire. When he saw what had happened, the stylite received instruction, rejected Severus and his heresy with an oath, and entered the holy church. He received Communion at the hands of the blessed Ephraim, glorifying God. (The Spiritual Meadow, 36)