August 12

From the Prologue

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) 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. As a charcoal-burner, he was completely soiled and in rags. His appearance again evoked laughter in the council. Gregory then took Alexander aside and made him take an oath to speak the truth concerning himself. Alexander said that he was a Greek philosopher and that he enjoyed great honor and position but that he rejected all, humbled himself and made himself to be a "fool for the sake of Christ" from the time when he had read and understood Holy Scripture. Gregory ordered Alexander bathed and clothed in new attire and, with him, entered the council and before all began to examine Alexander in Holy Scripture. All were amazed at Alexander's wisdom and words of grace and could hardly recognize in this wise man, the former quiet charcoal-burner. Alexander was unanimously elected bishop. By his sanctity, wisdom and goodness, he gained the love of his flock. Alexander died a martyr's death for Christ during the reign of Diocletian.



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.

Redeeming the Time

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