SYNAXARION – HAGIOLOGY
Saint Joasaph, Saint Barlaam
& Saint Abenner of India (+4th century)
August 28 & November 19
In the time of Constantine the Great (4th century) there lived in India a pagan king named Abenner, who had only one son, Joasaph (yo-sahf). Abenner was a wise administrator and fearless warrior, loyal to the Indian code of honor, courage and the hatred of Christians.
When the Prince was born, astrologers and wise men were called to prophesy the Prince’s destiny as king. All of them said the same: that he would be a wise and powerful king. But one dared to tell the truth: the Prince would become Christian and give up his throne. The King was furious. He ordered every Christian to be killed or banned from the kingdom, and he put the Prince in a private, guarded castle to shield him from any possible Christian influence.
For twenty years of his life–his entire childhood and youth–Joasaph was confined to the castle. During this time he was taught the skills of wisdom and warfare. The King visited his son often, and was pleased to find his boy qrowing into a fine, strong young man. Finally, convinced that the prophecy was false, Abenncr agreed to let the Prince see his future kingdom. The impression Joasaph received seemed mixed. The world was indeed a very beautiful place, but the sins, sorrows and eventual death of man dimmed its beauty in Joasaph’s eyes, and made him doubtful. No longer content with his luxuries in the palace, he strove to find a life that was soul-fulfilling, unlike what he felt succession to the throne would be.
At the same time, the holy monk Barlaam was told by God that he must bring the salvation of God’s word to the Prince over 1,000 miles away. In time Barlaam arrived and, disguised as a merchant with a “pearl of great price,” was able to get into the castle. Barlaam explained the Orthodox Christian faith to the young Prince, who in turn was immediately devoted and demanded to be baptized. In the months that followed the entire household was converted, including King Abenner who eventually became a hermit and a Saint of the Orthodox Christian Church.
Barlaam left, and Joasaph became king. But he was not content there and missed his spiritual father. Finally he gave his kingdom to relatives and went away to a desert monastery, doing many great things in his time.
(Compiled and illustrated by Martinian Prince, age 14: original Life in the writings of St. John Damascene)