II Corinthians 11:31 – 12:9
31 The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus the governor, under Aretas the king, was guarding the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desiring to arrest me; 33 but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and escaped from his hands.1 It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago–whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows–such a one was caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I know such a man–whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows– 4 how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. 5 Of such a one I will boast; yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities. 6 For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me. 7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
St. John Chrysostom in his Homily XXVI on II Corinthians XII said:
“This revelation was great indeed… Why is it then that he neither spoke plainly nor kept silence? To show by this also that he resorts to the thing unwillingly…to show that he who had refrained for so long a time would not not have spoken out unless the necessity for doing so had been great. But he would still have kept silence, had he not seen the brothers perishing…”
“Was it the mind that was caught up and the soul, while the body remained dead, or was the body caught up? It is impossible to tell. For if Paul, who was caught up and whom things unspeakable – so many and so great – had befallen, was in ignorance, much more are we. For indeed, that he was in Paradise he knew, and that he was in third heaven he was not ignorant, but the manner he did not clearly know …For this reason he also goes on to say, ‘Of such a one I will glory,’ not meaning that he who was caught up was some other person, but he so frames his language in the best manner he possibly could, so as to mention the fact, and at the same time to avoid speaking of himself openly…”
“But why was he caught up? In my thinking, so he might not seem to be inferior to the rest of the Apostles. For since they had accomplished Christ but Paul had not: He therefore caught him up into glory – ‘into Paradise’ …He also added, ‘For I will speak the truth, but I forbear lest any man should account me above what he sees me to be, or hears from me.’ Here you have acknowledged reason; for they even deemed them to be gods, on account of the greatness of their miracles…”
“By ‘the messenger of Satan,’ he means Alexander the coppersmith, the party of Hymenaeus and Philetus, all the adversaries of the Word, those who contended with and fought against him, those who cast him into a prison, those who beat him, and who led him away to death, for they did Satan’s business.”
(The above icon is found in the Chapel of St. Paul in Damascus…)