Saint Alexander, Bishop of Comana, lived during the third century not far from Neocaesarea. He studied the Holy Scripture and knew many scientific disciplines. Taking upon himself the exploit of holy foolishness, the saint lived in poverty, selling coal in the city square. Many, seeing his face always black from the grime of the coal dust, sneered at him with contempt.
When the Bishop of Comana happened to die, then among the candidates put forth for election as new bishop -- one was a man illustrious, others were learned or eloquent, while yet others were rich. Then St Gregory Thaumaturgos, Bishop of Neocaesarea (November 17), having been invited for the ordination of their choice, pointed out, that a bishop ought to have not only outward worthiness and distinction, but foremost of all, a pure heart and holy life. These words caused some to laugh saying: "If outward appearance and nobility of origin be for naught, then even Alexander the collier might be made bishop".
St Gregory perceived that it was not without the Providence of God that this man came to be mentioned, and he asked that they call him. The appearance of the saint at the gathering evoked laughter. Having respectfully bowed to St Gregory, St Alexander stood there deeply absorbed in himself and ignoring the sneering: St Gregory put him to the test, and the collier was obliged to reveal that he was formerly a philosopher, and had studied Holy Scripture, but that for the sake of God he had assumed upon himself voluntary poverty and humility. St Gregory then took the collier to his own lodging, where he washed off the grime, and gave him clean clothes. Returning then to the assembled people, St Gregory in front of everyone began to put to him questions from Holy Scripture, to which St Alexander answered like a knowledgeable and wise pastor. Seeing this, all were astonished at his humility and with one accord they elected him their bishop.
St Gregory ordained him priest, and later bishop. After the imposition of hands the new bishop preached a sermon to the people, full of power and the grace of God. And everyone rejoiced that the Lord had sent them such a wise pastor. Under the emperor Diocletian (284-305) the saint bravely confessed Christ, and refused to worship idols. After tortures they threw him into a fire, and there he departed to God. According to other sources, St Alexander suffered instead under the emperor Decius (249-251).