A fourth-century anchorite. According to the short series of apothegms attributed to Bessarion in the alphabetical collection of the APOPHTHEGMATA PATRUM, the saint (festal date, 25 Misra) was a contemporary of JOHN OF LYCOPOLIS. He lived, therefore, for at least part of his life, in the second half of the fourth century, at SCETIS.
He had a disciple called Doulas, who depicted his master as a powerful thaumaturgist who cured the possessed, walked on the water, made seawater drinkable, and could even stop the sun in its course. But Bessarion was also a great ascetic, capable of going forty days without rest and praying in an upright position for weeks at a time. He was, above all, eager for humility and judged himself the most guilty of sinners.
The last apothegm of the series presents Bessarion as one of God’s perpetual wanderers, settling nowhere, but according to the best witnesses, it really refers to another anchorite, one named Serapion. It is also to the latter that should be attributed the famous anecdote of the little gospel that the anchorite always carried with him and with which he finally parted for the benefit of the poor. Bessarion is mentioned in the Alexandrian SYNAXARION.
- Cotelier, J. B., ed. Apophthegmata Patrum. In PG 65, pp. 137-44. Paris, 1864.
- Grébaut, S. Synaxaire éthiopien. In PO 9, pp. 392-95. Paris, 1907ff.