That Those Who Abase Themselves Will Be Honored by God
I just read a story in the Prologue of Ochrid, which is told in further detail in the Evergetinos vol.2,p.4-7, and I can't stop thinking about it. O, that one could have eyes to see and value what God values, and not what men hold in honor!
"As a simple charcoal-burner, Alexander lived in the town of Comana near Neo-Caesarea. When the bishop of Comana died, St. Gregory the miracle-worker and Bishop of Neo-Caesarea (November 17 in the Prologue) was then called to preside at a council to elect a new bishop. Both clergy and laymen alike were present at the council. However, the electors were unable to agree on one person. At the time of evaluating a candidate, they all primarily paid attention to the points of his externals: external dignity and behavior.
St. Gregory then said that they need not look so much at the external characteristics as much as at the spirit and spiritual capabilities. Then some jesters mocking cried out: then we should elect Alexander the charcoal-burner as our bishop! General laughter then ensued. St. Gregory asked: "Who is this Alexander?" And, thinking that his name was not mentioned at this council without God's Providence, Gregory ordered that Alexander be brought before the council", from The Prologue of Ochrid reading for August 12
The Evergetinos continues, "Thereupon, one of those present, laughing with derision, brought in their midst Alexander, who was wearing sorry-looking rags that did not even cover his whole body; his appearance gave evidence of his profession. His hands and his face, as well as the reminder of his body, ...were covered with grime. The sight of one such as Alexander, standing among them, gave all the others and occasion to laugh. Through the clairvoyant eyes of St. Gregory, however, what was happening created surprise and amazement in his soul.
This man, so poor and so unkempt in body, was self-composed and seemed to be rejoicing at all that which to his ignorant detractors was laughable. And it was so...he was a philosopher..., he concealed himself behind the most humble of occupations...even though he was in the flower of his youth,...he trained his body in virtue at his workplace, and the beauty of his youth he covered in soot from the coal.
St Gregory, having called Alexander out of the assembly of leaders (gave instructions to the servants to wash him)...Returning they had Alexander with the, having bathed and cleaned the soot from him, and he was wearing the Saint's (St Gregory's) vesture.(on his orders).
While all present turned their eyes toward Alexander and were astonished by what they saw, the Teacher said to them: 'There is nothing unusual about being misled by one's eyes,...it was certainly clear to the enemy of piety, the devil, that the nomination process would be rendered ineffective by a lack of knowledge, so that there might not be made manifest therein a person to abrogate his tyranny.
Having said this, the saint dedicated Alexander to God through the priesthood, sealing him, in keeping with the manner dictated by the holy canons, with Divine Grace."
"SAINT ALEXANDER, BISHOP OF COMANA
Men look upon clothes and the face,
But God looks at the soul and the heart.
Glorious Alexander, a charcoal-burner, was,
With the charcoal-burner, the body is blackened
And from soot, which water cleanses,
In the sinner, the heart is darkened
Which only the fire of faith can cleanse
The fire of faith and the cry of repentance.
It is easier to cleanse the skin of a charcoal-burner
Than the blackened heart of a sinner.
Alexander, with humility, covered
In a cave concealed, as a hidden flame
For laughter, to the gullible world, he was.
The world did not see; Gregory saw,
With an acute spirit, the charcoal-burner discerned
And in him, found a saint,
In the dark cave, a beautiful flame,
Beneath the mask of insanity, great wisdom,
Beneath the dirty soot, a pure heart,
A royal soul in decayed rags.
That the light be hidden, the Lord does not permit,
At the appropriate time, the light proclaims,
For the benefit and salvation of men.
All is wonderful, what God judges."