Saint Gabriel – the psychopompe
(Psychopompe (from the Greek word (psychopompos), literally meaning the “guide of souls”) are creatures, spirits, angels, or deities in many religions whose responsibility is to escort newly deceased souls to the afterlife. Their role is not to judge the deceased, but simply provide safe passage)
Long, long ago before we were in this world, a mother and father had a son who was the object of their love. They could never bear to be separated from their lovely son.
The years went by and the boy reached adulthood and his parents began to age. The parents decided to send their son to a foreign country for education and to learn about other cultures. The parents were wealthy. They wanted their son to become an apprentice of a businessman so that he could one day manage their wealth and sustain himself after marriage.
The parents made an agreement with traveling merchants, who agreed to educate their son while he traveled with their caravan. The merchants went from town to town and beyond to foreign countries selling their wares and purchasing new merchandise. It would be an ideal experience for the son to learn business dealings firsthand.
The merchants went far and wide with their new apprentice. The caravan arrived at a lonely, vast prairie where the merchants stopped for the night. The apprentice was given the duty to stay awake all night to guard the caravan while the others slept. The youth made rounds of the caravan and each time ventured farther away. He took the opportunity to familiarize himself with the prairie. There were many flowers and tall grasses. His continual walking made him thirsty. He looked for a source of pure water. At the foot of a hill that was covered with flowers, he found a spring. Fortunately, the night was lighted by the full moon. He bent over the spring and satisfied his thirst with the sweet water. When he stood up, he saw hoary vision of an old man standing near him. The youth was somewhat frightened by the sudden appearance of the old man. He questioned him.
“Old man, who are you? What are you doing here in this desolate place so late at night?”
“It is none of your business! You satisfied your thirst, so get on your way.”
The youth was intrigued by the old man. He pressed him to find out who he was. Seeing the youth’s determination to question him, the old man answered his queries.
“You want to know who am I? I am the Archangel Gabriel, the conductor of souls that die!”
Hearing that the old man was “the conductor of dead soul,” frightened the youth. He became pale.
Yet, the youth was frightened and curious at the same time. He hesitated leaving, then decided to continue questioning the old man.
“Old man, if you are really the conductor of dead souls, tell me please, how do you take the soul of a dying man?”
The old man replied, “Your question is a very grave and serious one. Since you ask sincerely, I cannot refuse an answer. You go to the nearest village. There is a deathly sick man whose soul I must take. Go and see him and you will witness how I take the soul of a dying man.”
With the answer to his question, the youth became determined to witness the imminent death of the sick man. The youth returned to guard the caravan. Early the next. morning,
The merchants decided to set up their wares in the next village. The youth did not tell them about his strange encounter with the old man. He was pleased that the merchants decided to stop in the next village.
That evening after the sale of wares, the youth ventured toward to house of the deathly sick man. As he neared the house, he could hear the soft crying of the women. He asked permission to enter the bedroom where the man was dying. When the youth entered the bedroom, he was shocked to see the angel of death holding the head of the dying man as if in a deadly struggle. Suddenly the sick man’s face became limp and he breathed his last. The Archangel Gabriel looked at the youth and said, “Are you satisfied?”
The youth was frightened by what he saw. He exited the bedroom and waited outside for St. Gabriel. Soon the hoary saint appeared and said, “My son, did you see how I extracted the soul of the dying man?”
“Yes, I witnessed it. However, I have another serious question to ask you. But please, do not refuse to answer me. Oh, good-hearted saint, please tell me the day and the hour of my death.”
“If I tell you, my dear boy, you will despair and regret you ever dared ask me such a question!”
The youth, however, pleaded that the saint tell him the eventful day of his death. Seeing the youth’s determination to know is hour of death, Saint Gabriel repeated again that such a revelation would cause the youth great mental pain and anguish. The young man continued to insist he wanted to know.
“So be it,” said Saint Gabriel. “I will take your soul on your wedding night when you and your bride retire.”
Hearing this news, the youth felt devastated.
After traveling for five years with the caravan of merchants, the youth learned well the art of business and finance. He became homesick for his parents. Determined to see them again, he left the caravan and ventured home.
His return caused great joy for his parents. They prayed out loud, “Glory to God, our only child is again with us safe and sound. He has matured into a educated young man. Now, our duty is to find him a suitable wife.”
When the young man heard his parents wish, he felt discouraged inwardly. He regretted returning home. But, he could not disappoint his parents who fervently wanted him to marry and have children to continue their family name for future generations.
He requested his parents to give him a few days to think about their wish for him. He wrestled with the thought in his mind and finally came to a conclusion that he could accept. He thought, “I am the son of wealthy parents. If I marry the daughter of wealthy parents like mine, after my death, she will most probably remarry. My parents will not have anyone to pass their wealth to when they die. However, if I marry the daughter of a poor family, after my death, such a girl will not dare get remarried for fear that she will
not inherit my parent’s wealth. Thus, the poor girl will inherit all the wealth of my parents and I will have done a noble, charitable act by marrying her.”
After a few days, the young man told his parents that he would comply with their wish for him to get married. He insisted on one condition. He would only consent to marry the daughter of a poor family.
The parents agreed to their son’s wish. They found several respectable intermediaries to ask families of their acquaintance if they had a marriageable daughter. The father made his own inquiries in a neighboring town. He was informed that there was a very modest family with seven daughters. The parents were honest and faithful Christians and their daughters were all obedient. He was introduced to the family. When the mother and daughters saw such a rich and prominent man enter their meager home, they hid behind a curtain and the father of the girls felt somewhat self-conscious about his poor appearance and was tongue-tied. The rich father excused himself and went to the town’s bazaar and purchased clothes for all the family members. He had the clothes delivered by the merchant with a note that he would return the next day.
When he knocked at the door of the poor family, he was greeted greated by the parents and the shy daughters. After some polite discussion, the rich father revealed his purpose of seeking a suitable marriageable girl for his son.
The poor mother was shocked. She said, “My dear lord, is it possible that such a wealthy and respectable man as you seeks to marry his son to a daughter of such a lowly family as ours. Do you really want to connect your noble family with ours? I sincerely think you should not entertain such an unconventional idea.”
The rich father gently persisted and finally the poor mother consented to let one of her daughters marry the rich man’s son.
The rich father returned home and arranged for carpenters and other home improvement professionals make significant improvements to the home of the poor family. He engaged an interior decorator to refurbish the entire house with amenities such as tapestries, rugs and new furniture. The poor family’s dwelling was soon trans formed into a small but opulent home.
The poor family was also given ample funds to maintain themselves and also participate in making the arrangements for their daughter’s dowry and marriage. The wedding day arrived and everyone was excited to witness the marriage of the rich young man to the daughter of the modest family. After the marriage, there was a procession of the two families and their relatives that accompanied the newly weds to their new home. The musicians played the flutes and zourna along with the davul and tambourines. The people danced with joy and the newly weds were showered with flower petals and rice as they rode horse drawn buggy.
Finally, the newly weds were in their new house and all the guests said goodbye and left except the young man’s parents. The new bride retired to her nuptial bedroom. But the young man looked sad and worried. His parents were perplexed by his sad demeanor. He fervently held his parent’s hands and kissed them gently thanking them for their years of sacrifice and love. They were somewhat taken aback by his emotion. Little did they understand that he was saying farewell to them for eternity.
The young man’s parents left thinking how their son was so moved to express such powerful words of love for them. At first they were shocked by what seemed to be a profound sadness on his part. Then they realized that their boy was expressing profound love and respect for them. They too were moved to tears by his words. The young man waited for a while on the steps of his house as his parents walked away.
When he turned to enter the house, there was the archangel Gabriel waiting for him in the living room house. Saint Gabriel and the young groom were alone.
Saint Gabriel was holding two lit candles with two ornate red roses. The saint spoke softly to the young man.
“Very well done, my son. You have acted wisely and generously by marrying the poor girl and helping her family out of poverty for the rest of their lives. I will spare you the horror of death on your nuptial night. I bless you to live a long life because your gracious example of sacrifice to help the poor and underprivileged will serve as an example to inspire the youth of your generation. I pray that other young men and women learn the merits of such noble behavior that you have voluntarily exemplified.”
Thus, the noble young man was spared death by his acts of charity for the poor and respect and love for his parents. May the reader also achieve the benediction of God and fruition of his or her most cherished desires.
The more a man is generous, the better his future will be
vorkan mart aradatzehr ullah, aynkan abakahn pari gullah
There was a poor Armenian priest with a young daughter. His wife had died during childbirth.The priest would go see the king everyday during his public audience. The priest would repeat a phrase he learned when he was a young boy.
“Dear King, may you live long, ‘the more a man is generous, the better his future will be.’”
The king would give him a silver coin for his good counsel. The priest
would use the silver coin to maintain his small church and feed his daughter.
One day, the king thought, “Why am I giving the priest a silver coin everyday for repeating the same sentence. Why does he say the same thing everyday? Is he mocking me as if I am not generous?”
When the priest came for the audience, the king asked, “Why do you repeat the same phrase every time you see me? Are you making fun of me?”
The priest said, “No Sire.”
“Today, I will give you nothing. When you explain why you repeat the same thing everyday, I will reward you. If not, I will punish you severely,” said the king.
The priest returned home in despair. The phrase he repeated everyday to the king was by habit. His father had taught him and he repeated it because it had a good message and encouraged people to be generous. He was not sure if such an explanation would satisfy the king.
His young daughter approached the priest. “Father, why are you looking so worried? Has something happened?”
“I am not sure you can help,” said the priest. “You are so young and innocent. The king will kill me unless I explain why I repeat the phrase
‘The more a man is generous, the better his future will be,’ everyday when I see him.”
The daughter asked the priest to send a note to the king asking him to visit the church and speak to his young daughter. She would explain why the priest repeated the same proverb every day to the king.
The next day the king came to see the young girl. She told him she could explain the meaning, but it was more important that he hear it from a saintly young hermit who lived in the same cave where Narekgatzi lived centuries before on the bank of Lake Van.
The king found the young hermit and asked him why the priest always repeated the same phrase. The saintly hermit began to shed tears. He advised the king to hear the meaning from a leper woman who lived in a cave near the Sourp Garabed monastery on the outskirts of Mush.
The king found the leper woman and asked her why the priest always repeated the same phrase to him.
She began to speak in a solemn tone. “Listen, great king, may you live long. In your former life, you were a very generous man who gave most of the profit from his business to to the poor and needy. You and you saintly wife, whose heart was pure, were satisfied to live a modest life so that you could do good to others. You had an only son who was always obedient to you. He was married to a woman who was greedy. Soon after you died, your wife also died and, by a quirk of fate you son died after a few years. The greedy wife of your son inherited the business and wealth. She was not interested in giving in charity. She used the wealth in a selfish and self-serving way.”
“Your wife is now the daughter of the priest. Your son is the hermit. And I am your son’s wife. Look what has happened to me for being greedy and unkind to the poor! I am suffering terribly because I did not use my hands to give to the poor. They are now shriveled and stumps of suffering. It was necessary that you hear this explanation from me.”
The king returned to his palace and became more determined than ever to share his good fortune and wealth with the needy and do good for all his kingdom’s subjects.