Ptōchos

1201_agios_filaretos
Philaret the Merciful

Ὁ δὲ βασιλεὺς παρεῖχεν τοῦ ἁγίου γέροντος χρήματα πολλά, καὶ οἱ μεγιστᾶνες αὐτοῦ, γνόντες τὴν ἐλεημοσύνην αὐτοῦ. ὁ δὲ γέρων ἐρόγευε ταῦτα τοῖς πτωχοῖς ἀδιαλήπτως. οὕτως δὲ ἦν τὸ ἔθος τοῦ γέροντος· ἕνα ποτε νόμισμα ἢ ἀργύριον ἢ νουμὶν οὐκ ἐδύνατο διδόναι πτωχῷ, ἀλλ’ ἐγέμιζε βαλάντιον χρυσίου, καὶ ἄλλο ἀργυρίου καὶ ἕτερον νουμίων, καὶ ἐβάσταζεν αὐτὰ ὁ πρωτοβεστιάριος αὐτοῦ Λύκαστος πιστὸς πάνυ ἐν τῷ κόλπῳ αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἠκολούθει αὐτῷ. ἦσαν δὲ τὸ βαλάντια τῇ ἰδέᾳ ὅμοια καὶ ἰσάριθμα, καὶ ὅτε ἐζήτησεν πτωχός, ἐζήτει τὸ βαλάντιον, τὸ δὲ ποῖον οὐκ ὠνόμαζεν, εἰ μὴ ἐπίστευεν ἐν τῷ θεῷ ὅτι “οἷον κελεύει ὁ θεός, ἐκεῖνό μοι ἔχει ἀπανδοῦναι· αὐτὸς γὰρ γινώσκει πάντων τὰ ἐγκάρδια καὶ ἑκάστου τὴν πενίαν, καὶ καθ’ ὃ ἄν τις χρείαν ἔχει, οὕτως καὶ παρεῖχεν αὐτῷ, ἐξ ἑαυτοῦ ἐπιστάμενος ὁ γέρων ὅτι πολλοὶ καὶ πλούσιοι πτωχεύοντες τοῖς μὲν ἐσθῆτα περιβέβληνται διὰ τὴν ἀρχαίαν εὐγένειαν, τοῖς δὲ βρωμάτων μὴ ἔχοντας ἀπολαῦσαι, ἐνδεεῖς ἑτέρων γίνονται. εἰσὶ δὲ καὶ φαινόμενοι πτωχοὶ ἔχοντες χρήματα ἐν τοῖς ἰδίοις οἴκοις, τὸ δὲ τῆς ἀρχαίας πενίας ἔθος μὴ ἐπιλανθανόμενοι, περιβεβλημένοι ῥάκη ἀπὸ κοπρίας συνηγμένα, προσαίτεις γίνονται συλλέγοντες χρήματα ὅπερ καὶ πλεονεξία τοῦτο ὀνομάζεται καὶ εἰδωλολατρεία· πᾶν γὰρ τὸ περισσὸν τῆς χρείας πλεονεξία καὶ εἰδωλολατρεία λέγεται. οὐκ εἰς πάντας ἀνθρώπους, ἀλλ’ ἕκαστος κατὰ τὸ ἴδιον μέτρον ὃ ἔλαβεν παρὰ τοῦ θεοῦ, τοῦτο καὶ ἀπαιτηθήσεται.” ταῦτα κατὰ νοῦν ἔχων ὁ ἅγιος γέρων ἐν τῇ κρίσει τοῦ θεοῦ ἔβαλε τὴν χεῖρα αὐτοῦ ἐν τῷ βαλαντίῳ κἄν τε τοῦ χρυσίου, κἄν τε τοῦ ἀργυρίου κἄν τε τοῦ χαλκοῦ, οἷον ὁ θεὸς ἐκέλευε, τοῦτο καὶ ἐκράτει· ἔλεγεν δὲ καὶ αὐτὸς μεθ’ ὅρκου  ὅτι· “πολλάκις εἶδον ἄνθρωπον φοροῦντα ἱμάτια καλὰ καὶ ἐχάλασα τὴν χεῖρά μου ἐν τῷ βαλαντίῳ ὡς βουλόμενος κρατῆσαι ἓν καὶ δοῦναι αὐτῷ, ὅτι πάντως κατὰ τὴν στολὴν αὐτοῦ οὔκ ἐστι πτωχός, καὶ μὴ θέλοντός μου ἡπλώθη ἡ χείρ μου καὶ ἀνήνεγκα πολλὰ καὶ ἔδωκα αὐτῷ. ὁμοίως δὲ εἶδον ἕτερον φοροῦντα ῥάκη παλαιὰ καὶ ἥπλωσα τὴν χεῖρά μου δοῦναι αὐτῷ πολλά, καὶ ἀνήνεγκα ὀλίγα.”
(Niketas, Bios Philaretou tou Eleēmonos 6)

The emperor provided the holy old man with much money and so did the great men, since they knew his mercifulness. And the old man constantly distributed it among the poor. He used to do like this: he could never give one gold or silver or copper coin to a beggar but filled one purse with gold, another with silver and a third with copper coins, and his wholly faithful protovestiarios Lykastos carried them in the fold of his garment and followed him. The purses had the same form and contained the same number of coins. When a beggar asked for alms, he asked for the purse but did not mention which one since, believing in God, he was convinced that “the one God wants me to have, he will give me, for He knows the heartfelt wishes of all men and the need of everybody, and He grants according to everyone’s needs, for, old man that I am, I know from my own experience that many rich men who have become impoverished on the one hand remain properly dressed because of their original nobility, on the other are unable to provide themselves with food and therefore become dependent on others. There are also the seeming poor who have money at home but fail to forget the custom of their old poverty and therefore dress themselves in rags gathered from a rubbish heap and become beggars collecting money, which is called covetousness and idolatry, for everything that goes beyond one’s needs is called covetousness and idolatry. This does not refer to all men, but each one will be asked to return what he has received from God according to his own measure.” With this in mind the holy old man, trusting in the judgment of God, put his hand in the purse and picked up what God decided, no matter whether it was of gold or silver or copper. He himself said with an oath, “Often when I saw a man in beautiful garments I let down my hand into the purse intending to take one coin and give him, thinking that, judging from his dress, he was surely not a beggar, and against my will my hand opened and I picked up many and gave him. In the same way, seeing another in old rags, I opened my hand to give him many coins but came up with only a few.” (tr. Lennart Rydén)

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