Angels in the Spiritual Meadow
Originally posted Sun, 27 Nov 1994, to the Vatican2 maillist
by Dirk Van Damme/Uni Fribourg
The following is one of the most beautiful angel stories I know. It has been written by Ioannes
Moschos (John the Calf) in a work called "Leimon" (The meadow). What is more appropriate for a "calf"
to be happy in than a "meadow" ? The latin translation calls it "Pratum spirituale" (the spiritual meadow).
Johannes wrote this series of monk stories, in the tradition of the Paterika, Palladios, and others at the
beginning of the 7th century, probably in Rome. The author was a good friend of Sophronios, patriarch of
Jerusalem, and,like him. a sworn enemy of the so called "monophysites". The following is chapter 199 of
the Leimon. The text is in Patrologia Graeca 87,3, column 3088. The (attempt of) translation is mine.
Hopefully you enjoy this story as much as I did when I read it the first time. It is a wonderful piece of
"popular theology", which is "wise" in a narrative way.
"Someone among the fathers told that one of the elderly ones (geronton: possibly "monks"), who was pure
and saint, when he "did the proskomide" (i.e. celebrated Mass) saw angels staying at his right and at his
left. He had taken over the "proskomide" from the heretics, and since he was ignorant about divine
doctrines, he said the words of the offering in simplicity and innocence (akakia), not knowing that he was
By providence, some brother, an expert in divine doctrines visited him. It came to pass that the old man
made the offering in his presence.
The brother said to him (he was a deacon): The words you said for the proscomide, Father, are not of the
orthodox faith, but of the bad doctrine (kakodoxou).
The old one, since he saw angels during the offering, did not pay attention to what was said, but disdained
it. The deacon insisted saying "You are in error, good old one, the Church does not accept this".
The old man, seeing that he was accused and blamed in that way by the deacon, saw the angels as usual
and asked them: "Since that deacon talks to me in such a way, what is it that he says ?"
The angels said: "Listen to him: he says the truth".
The old one said to them: "And why did not you tell me that ?"
They said to him: "Because God disposed thus, that humans should be corrected by humans".
And since then he corrected himself and thanked God and the brother."
This text is part of the Internet Medieval
Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to
medieval and Byzantine history.
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Paul Halsall Mar 1996