Deir Ḥajla - GERASIMUS


(5) <After a visit to the holy city, Symeon and his friend John are on their way back home to Syria> … When they were riding down the descent to Jericho and had just passed this town John saw the monasteries scattered around the Jordan and said to Symeon, in Syriac: “Do You know who lives in those hostels in front of us?” “Who?” asked the other. “Angels of God”, answered John. Said Symeon as though in wonder: “Can we possibly see them?” and his companion answered: “Yes, we can, if we become like some of them”. The two friends were riding on horseback, for their parents were very well off. They dismounted at once, entrusted the horses to their servants and ordered them to go ahead, while they pretended to sit down to rest there. They happened to have stopped just above the road that branches off (from the high road) and leads to the holy Jordan.

(6) <The two friends decide to draw lots in order to choose their way: back home or to the monasteries; chance directs them to the road leading to the Jordan and St. Gerasimus’ monastery.>

(7) <The youths admonish each other not to give way to the temptations of the world.> … While they addressed these and other arguments each to the other, (Symeon and John) came upon the monastery called (monastery) of Abba Gerasimus. Indeed, they had prayed to God, asking also this grace: “O Lord God, in whatever monastery you want us to renounce the world, let us find the gate open (as a sign of your will)”. And so it happened. In this monastery there was a wonderful man, called Nikon (‘Winner’), a person who had acquired a way of life truly fitting his name. For Nikon could conquer all the hosts of the devil, he shone as a worker of miracles and portents and had been honoured by God with the grace of prophecy: so he had foreknowledge of the blessed youths’ arrival. For he said that, on the day of their arrival, he saw in his dreams a vision, ordering him: “Rise and open the door of the sheepfold, so that my sheep may enter”, and so he did. Thus, when Symeon and John arrived, they found the door open and the abbot sitting (on the threshold), waiting for them. Said John to Symeon: “A good omen, brother: behold, the door is open and the door-keeper sits (before it). When they approached, the hegumen said to them: “Welcome, sheep of Christ” …

(transl. Leah Di Segni)

Symeon and his friend John arrive at the monastery of Gerasimus, from a mid. 7th cent. life of a 6th cent. monk.