James the Ascetic
January 28 is the Commemoration of James the Ascetic
“Our venerable father James the Ascetic (also known as Jacob the Ascetic or the Righteous – feastday January 28), a 4th century saint, left all worldly things to settle for fifteen years in a cave near a village called Porphyrianos. There he led an ascetic’s life.
Once there was a prostitute who, moved by lecherous men, came to see the saint. She jumped on him shamelessly and was inciting him to sin. But the saint reminded her of the future punishment of eternal fire, making her repent and come to Christ.
Another time, a nobleman who had a daughter possessed by demons offered her to the saint for healing. The saint prayed and immediately freed her from the demon. The girl’s father, though, was afraid that the demon would disturb her again, and so he left her and her young brother in the cave of the saint. Unfortunately, the saint was defeated by desire and slept with the maiden. He then became afraid that his abhorrent sin would be revealed, so he killed the woman and her brother and threw their dead bodies in the nearby river. Thus, he despaired completely of his salvation and made haste to return to the world. But on his way he met a pious monk. The saint obeyed this monk’s advice: he shut himself in a grave where he suffered every kind of hardship and torment.
Some time later, when the land suffered from drought and lack of rain, God ordered the bishop of the city that unless James who was shut in the grave prayed, the dry spell would not end. Then the bishop together with all the people went to the saint, begged and finally convinced him to pray for them. As soon as he prayed there came a heavy rain. From this sign the saint received good hope about his salvation. In this way he commended his soul into the hands of God.”
“Saint James had such love for Christ, and so little regard for the things of this world, that he liquidated his entire estate and gave the proceeds to the poor without spending any of the money on himself. Later, he fell into a demonic temptation and became very proud. He would say, “Who knows better than I do, concerning my own salvation?” Following his own self will and personal preferences, he lived in solitude and undertook difficult struggles without first seeking the advice of wise and experienced ascetics.
Once a demon appeared to him in the guise of an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). He told James that Christ was very pleased by his labors, and would come that night to reward him. “Clean your cell,” he said, “and make ready by lighting the lamps and burning incense.”
The foolish James, in his delusion, accepted all of this without question. When the Antichrist came at midnight, James opened his door and fell down in worship before him. The devil struck him on the head, then vanished.
James awoke at dawn and went to visit a certain Elder to tell him what had happened. Before James could speak a single word, the Elder said, “You must leave this place, for you have been deceived by Satan.”
James was heartbroken and wept bitter tears. The Elder also advised him to go to a cenobitic monastery, which he did. There he fulfilled his obedience in the trapeza with great humility. Then for seven years he sat in his cell working at some handicraft, and fulfilling his Rule of prayer.
St James acquired the gift of discernment, learned the straight and narrow path of God, and became a great wonderworker. He completed the course of his life in peace.”
“Saint James the Faster lived a life of asceticism near the Phoenician city of Porphyrion in the sixth century. For fifteen years, he lived in a cave devoting himself to monastic deeds, and he received the gift of wonderworking from the Lord. Under his influence many of the local inhabitants were converted to the Christian Faith.
News of the ascetic spread everywhere, and so went to another place so that he would not fall into temptation. He found a new cave, and lived there for thirty years. The devil set terrible snares for the ascetic. James healed a young girl from demonic possession, but then fell into sin with her. In order to conceal his sin, he killed the girl and threw her into a river.
Distraught over this sin, he repented for what he had done. For a long time he hid himself away in the wilderness, bereft of shelter and peace, tormented by the pricks of conscience, and he was on the point of forsaking the monastic life and returning to the world. But the immeasurable mercy of God, against which the sins of this world cannot prevail, and which desires salvation for all mankind, would not permit the ruin of this monk who had toiled so many years for the Lord.
The Lord thwarted the devil’s intent to destroy the ascetic, and returned him through repentance to the path of salvation. Wandering about the wilderness, James saw a monastery, and entering it, he confessed his sin before the igumen and the brethren. The igumen urged him to remain with them, fearing that he would ultimately fall into despair. But James went off and again he wandered the wilderness for a long time.
Finally the All-Beneficent Providence of God brought him to a certain desert-dweller filled with grace and wisdom. Lifting the burden from him, the desert-dweller suggested that James remain with him. But James would not remain with the Elder, though encouraged and given hope by him, and he secluded himself in a cave and there for ten years offered repentance to God, weeping and wailing, and asking forgiveness for the sin he committed. The Lord heard the prayers of the penitent monk and granted him His mercy. James reacquired his gift of wonderworking. He remained in the cave until the time of his death. He was also buried there.
HYMN OF PRAISE
SAINT JAMES THE FASTER
Who from the greater height falls, is injured more,
To the heights whoever is lifted, let him cautiously shield himself.
The holy apostle writes: “Whoever thinks that he is standing secure
should take care not to fall,” (I Corinthians 10:12) let him fear God.
James the Faster, according to the height of his soul, a giant was he,
But, he, from the heights slipped, and the devil toppled him;
One sin, to the other hastens, adultery rushes to murder,
James the Faster, himself, punishes, and God comforted him.
All virtues, one sin, is able to erode;
One hole in the granary, all the wheat pours out.
A house filled with fragrances, one handful of filth
Empties it of redolence and fills it with stench.
One-hundred victories nor one-hundred celebrations do not help
When in the final battle, the head is lost.
The spiritual life is a struggle against the hordes of the devil,
In this battle, from the beginning the proud are defeated.
Whoever invokes the Name of God with profound humility
That one, in battle, will be protected by God’s mercy.
Apolytikion in the Plagal of the Fourth Tone
With the rivers of your tears, you have made the barren desert fertile. Through sighs of sorrow from deep within you, your labors have borne fruit a hundred-fold. By your miracles you have become a light, shining upon the world. O James, our Holy Father, pray to Christ our God, to save our souls.
Through the prayers of our Holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us! Amen!”