This is one of several translated
excerpts from Byzantine sources produced and mounted with
historical introduction and commentary by Paul Stephenson.
Nicholas the Monk, former soldier, a 'beneficial tale'
Edition: SynaxCP 341-344
A beneficial tale of Nicholas the monk, formerly of the soldiers. Our father Nicholas among the saints had become a soldier: and when Nikephoros the emperor marched out against the Bulgarians, he also went out with the army. And as it passed towards evening, he took his rest at an inn: and after dining at the inn and praying, he drifted to sleep. And around the second or third watch of the night, the daughter of the man who received him, afflicted by satanic lust, nudged the just man, tempting him toward shameful intercourse. The saint said to her: "Stop, weak woman, of satanic and impious lust and do not be willing to defile your virginity, and lead me, the wretch, into the snare of hell Prov. 9:18]." She withdrew a little, and coming back after a short time she disturbs the just man again. The saint sent her away a second time, having rebuked her exceedingly. After withdrawing again, being frenzied with lust, she returned to him. Then the saint says to her: "Wretched woman, completely full of shame and shamelessness, don’t you see that the demons are stirring you so that they may cast your soul into damnation and destroy your virginity and reduce you to ridicule and reproach in the eyes of your whole family? Don’t you see that I, the least, am compelled to go to Barbarian nations [cf. I Corinthians 15:6; Joshua 6:25-6: ‘the harlot and the house of her father’] and to war and to the shedding of blood, with God strengthening me, how then will I sully the flesh, going away to war?" Having proclaimed these things and other such things to her, he sent her away: and after rising and praying, he took to the road. And sleeping when night fell, he sees himself standing in a conspicuous place and near him a certain seated sovereign, who has his right foot placed over his left foot, says to him: "Do you see the armies of each side?" He replied: "Yes, Lord, I see that the Romans destroy the Bulgarians." And the apparition says to the just man: "Look towards us." And looking up, he sees him pressing his right foot against the ground and laying the left on top of the right. As that happened, the just man looking around again to the army sees the enemy cutting down the Romans mercilessly. And after the slaughter ends, the seated one says to the soldier: "Observe accurately the slaughter of the bodies and tell me what you see." And he looking around sees all the earth appearing to him full of dead bodies, and in the middle of it all a patch of green meadow the size of a single bed. And he says to him, "Lord, all the earth is full of Romans slain mercilessly except one patch." Then the fearful apparition said to the soldier, "And what do you think it is?" He replied: "I am an ignorant man, Lord, and I don’t know." And the fearful one said to him again: "The bare patch, which you see having a length of one bed, is yours and in it you were bound to have been slaughtered with your fellow soldiers and to be put down in it and to fill in the gap: when last night you shook off sensibly from you the three-braided snake who wrestled you thrice into shameful intercourse and intended to kill, know that you freed yourself from this slaughter and have gained exemption from the “bed” of the meadow and have saved your soul along with your body." And so a physical death will not rule over you if truly you would serve me." Being shaken, having seen these things, he was awoken and getting up he prayed. And turning around for one day, he went up a stretch of road into a mountain: and praying he beseeched God on behalf of the army. After the emperor entered into the passes of Bulgaria, the Bulgarians went up into the mountain, leaving behind a few in the garrison, some fifteen thousand in size more or less; and after slaughtering them, the Romans became foolish. For dispersing into the country carelessly, in a short time the whole battle line of the Romans would be brought to nothing in slaughter along with the emperor Nikephoros. Then the just man, reminded of the vision and giving thanks to God, turned around from that place weeping and mourning: and going away to a monastery, he took the holy habit, and serving God truly he became for a sufficient time a most distinguished and great father.
Copyright: B. Shilling and P. Stephenson, June 2009; January 2012