Book X (continued)
The life of a PRESBYTER of the village of Mardandos
About ten miles from the town of Aegina in Cilicia there is a village called Mardandos, in which there is a church dedicated to St John Baptist. An old presbyter presided here, a man of great virtues and worthiness before God. One day the villagers came to the bishop with a complaint about the old man.
"Take this old man away from us, for he troubles us greatly," they said.
"What is he doing to you?" asked the bishop.
"He comes on Sundays to celebrate Mass sometimes at the third hour, sometimes at the ninth, whichever seems to suit him. And he does not stick strictly to the solemn order prescribed for the sacred oblation."
The bishop acted on this information to call the presbyter to an interview.
"Why are you, a man in authority, acting like this? You surely can't be ignorant of the statutes of holy Church?"
"Well of course you are quite right in what you say in order to get at the truth. But truly, I never know what I am going to do. On Sundays, after the night office, I sit down near the holy altar, and for as long as I cannot discern the Holy Spirit overshadowing the altar I do not begin the sacred celebration of the Mass. But when I am aware that the Holy Spirit has come, then I carry out my sacred duties."
The bishop was overcome with admiration for the old man's integrity. He summoned the villagers, explained everything to their satisfaction, and set their minds at rest.
Abba Julius the Stylite, by way of a greeting to this same old man, sent him a piece of cloth rolled up with three coals of fire inside it. The old man got the message and sent the abba in return the same piece of rolled up cloth full of water.
A miraculous deed of abba JULIANUS THE STYLITE
Abba Cyriacus, the disciple of the aforesaid Julianus the Stylite told us the following story;
My father and brother and I heard of the fame of abba Julianus and left our own region in order to visit him. Now I was suffering from an unhealthy condition which nobody had been able to cure, but when I came to him the old man prayed and cured me on the spot. We all renounced the world and stayed with him, and the old man put my father in charge of the grain supply. One day my father went to abba Julius and said that there wasn't any grain left.
"Go and gather whatever you can find, brother, and grind it for today," said the old man from the top of his column, "and God will take care of our tomorrow."
This command really upset him (for he knew that he had not given out any food at all), so he just went back to his cell. But an urgent message was sent to him from the old man, telling him to come to him at once and he did so but with a very bad grace.
"Brother Conon," said the old man, "go and prepare food for the brothers, using whatever you shall find."
In spite of his anger he took the keys of the grain store and went off thinking he would be able to serve up nothing but the dust of the earth. But when he unbarred the door and tried to open it, he was unable to do so because the storehouse was completely full of grain. Terrified by what he saw, he prostrated himself before the old man, seeking pardon.
A miracle of the most holy EUCHARIST
About thirty miles from the city of Aegina in Cilicia there were two stylites about six miles away from each other. One of them belonged to the holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. The other, even though he had been on his column for much longer, followed the wicked teachings of Severian, and in various heretical ways was in the habit of denouncing his Catholic colleague. However, inspired by God, the Catholic asked that a particle of the other's Communion might be sent to him. Overcome with joy, he thought that he had converted the Catholic, and sent it immediately, without hesitation. The Catholic took this particle sent to him by the heretical follower of Severian and put it into a pot of boiling water, where it very soon disintegrated. Then he took the holy Communion of the Catholic church and threw it in. The boiling pot became cool immediately, and the holy Communion remained whole and unblemished. He carefully kept it, and showed it to us when we visited him.
The Life of ISODORE a monk of Melitinensis, and another miracle of the most holy EUCHARIST
Dade is the trading centre of Cyprus. There is a monastery there called Philoxene. When we visited it we met a monk from Melitinensis called Isodore. We noticed that he was weeping and groaning unceasingly. People kept on asking him to quieten down a little and moderate his weeping, but he would not.
"I am a greater sinner," he said, "than anyone else since the beginning of time"
"Surely no one is without sin," we said to him, "but God alone."
"Truly, brothers," he replied, "I have never found any sinner like me in the whole human race, no greater sin than mine. And if you really want to know that I am telling the truth, listen to what my sin was, and please pray for me.
"I was a married man when I lived in the world, and we both held to the teachings of Severian. I came home one day to find that my wife was not there, and I was told that she had gone to a woman neighbour who was of the Catholic faith and religion in order to receive Communion. I ran quickly to try and stop her, but when I got to the house I found that she had already communicated. I was mad with rage, and seized her by the throat and made her vomit up the sacred Communion. I picked up the holy particle and threw it away into a dungheap. Shortly afterwards I noticed that that holy Communion had taken on a brilliantly shining appearance. After two days, without a word of a lie, I saw a sort of a half-clothed Ethiopian man (virum quasi Aethiopem semicinctiis vestitum) who said to me: 'You and I are both condemned to an identical punishment.'
"'Who are you, then,' I asked
"'I am the one who struck the face of him who made us all, the Lord Jesus Christ, during his passion.'
"And this is why I am incapable of moderating my weeping."
The conversion and life of MARY the prostitute
Two old men were travelling from Aega to Tharsus when they stopped for refreshment at a small cottage (stabulum, which also carries the meaning of 'brothel'). In the providence of God they found there three young men who had with them a prostitute. The old men settled themselves down apart and one of them got out his holy Gospel and began to read [aloud]. And, would you believe it, the prostitute left the young men when she saw the old man reading, and came and sat down next to him.
"You've got a cheek, you wretch," said the old man, waving her away, "to dare to come and sit by us."
"Don't, I beg you, father," she said, "don't look down on me, or drive me away. I know I am full of every kind of sin, but the Lord and Saviour of all, Christ our God, did not reject the prostitute who came to him."
"Yes, but that prostitute did not remain a prostitute," the old man said.
"I put my trust in the Son of the living God," she said, "that from this day onwards I won't keep on with this sinful way of life either."
She left the three young men and everything that she had, and followed those two old men. They took her to a monastery near the city of Aega. I saw her when she was an old woman of great wisdom, and learned all these things from her own mouth. Her name was Mary.
The conversion and life of BABYLAS the mime, and also his concubines COMETA & NICOSA
There was a certain mime in Cilician Tarsus called Babylas and with him were two concubines, one called Cometa, the other Nicosa. They lived in a very self-indulgent style, doing whatever the demons might put into their minds. One day, however, by divine providence they went into a church and heard the gospel being read, where it says: Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 3.2). Conscience-stricken, he wept with horror, crying out against his miserable self for the sins he had done. He ran out of the church and called to his two companions
"You know how self-indulgently I have lived with you," he said. "I have not been fonder of either of you more than the other, so everything I have belongs to both of you. Take all I have and divide it equally between you, for as of now I renounce the world to be a monk."
With one accord they both burst into tears.
"We have shared with you this life of pleasure to the endangering of our souls," they said. "Now that you are going to do this thing pleasing to God, are you going to send us away and do it all by yourself? No, certainly not. We shall share with you in the good things as well."
And so the mime enclosed himself in one of the towers of the city [derelict, perhaps?] and the two women sold everything, gave to the poor, took the habit of religion, and secured for themselves a little cell hear the tower, where they too were enclosed. I met this man myself, and was greatly edified by him. He is exceptionally gentle, humble and merciful. Let those who read profit from what I have written.
The life of the holy bishop THEODOTUS
One of the Fathers told us about a bishop called Theodotus in the holy city, a man of great kind-heartedness. One feast day he sent dinner invitations to some of his clerics. There was one of them who did not want to go and ignored the invitation. The bishop said nothing. But next time he went to him in person and begged him to come and share the common table.
There is another story about this same bishop Theodotus to show how gentle and humble he was. Once when going on a journey with one of his clerics, he was being carried in a litter, whereas the cleric was riding a horse.
"Let's change over," said the patriarch to the cleric. "You get into the litter and I will ride the horse."
The cleric would not hear of it, declaring it would be shameful to put himself above the bishop and ride in a litter while the bishop had to ride the horse. But the holy and humble Theodotus would not give up until he had persuaded the cleric that there could be no possible harm in it, and eventually persuaded him to agree.
The life of the godly ALEXANDER, patriarch of Jerusalem
There was another patriarch called Alexander in that same city who was very devout and kind of heart. One of his notaries stole some gold and fled in fear to the Thebaid in Egypt, where he fell into the hands of brigands while wandering about, and was led captive to a very distant part of Egypt. When Alexander found out about this he paid eighty-five numismas to ransom him from captivity, and continued to treat him kindly and lovingly once he had returned. One of the citizens of that city promptly remarked that there was nothing more profitable than to sin against Alexander.
The life of ELIAS, archbishop of Jerusalem, and of FLAVIAN, patriarch of Antioch
Abba Polychronius said that the holy Elias, archbishop of Jerusalem, drank no wine, just as if he were a monk. And even when he had been made Patriarch he kept to the same rule.
The story is told of this same archbishop Elias and also of Flavian the archbishop of Antioch that the Emperor Anastasius [430-518] drove them both into exile because (they adhered to the doctrines) of the Council of Chalcedon [451. Anastasius was a Monophysite.] Elias was sent to Haila [in Egypt] and Flavian to Petra [near the Red Sea]. On one particular day both of them had the same presentiment.
"Today Anastasius is dead," they each said to themselves. "Let us both go too, and be judged along with him." And after two days they both departed to the Lord.
The life of EPHRAEM patriarch of Antioch and how he converted a Stylite monk from the wicked Severian heresy.
One of the fathers told us about Ephraem the holy patriarch of Antioch, who was extremely zealous and fervent for the faith. When he heard about that Stylite near Hierapolis who was a Severian heretic he went to see him to try and turn him away from that wickedness. The godly Ephraem began to argue with him and beg him to accept the apostolic see and return to communion with the holy apostolic Church.
"I will not have anything at all to do with the Synod," the Stylite replied.
"What would it take to convince you, in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that holy Church is free from all stain of heretical wickedness?" the holy Ephraem asked.
"Let's light a fire", said the Stylite, in order to frighten the patriarch, "and walk into it together, and let the one unharmed by the flames be the orthodox one, and the one who should be followed."
"It would be more fitting, my son," said the holy Ephraem, "for you to comply with your father, without making any further demands. Indeed, what you have asked is beyond the powers of my unfortunate person. Nevertheless I will do it, trusting in the Son of God, the author of your salvation. Bring me some wood," he added to those standing by, and when the wood had been brought he lit it in front of the column.
"Come down now," said the patriarch," and let us go into it together, as you demanded." But he refused, stunned by the patriarch's determination.
"Wasn't it you who made this stipulation?" asked the patriarch. "Why are you now not willing to do it?" And he took off the patriarchal stole he was wearing, and drew near to the flames.
"O Lord Jesus Christ our God," he prayed. "who alone was worthy of being made flesh, and was born of our holy Lady Mary, ever virgin, Birthgiver of God, let your truth be made known to us." And he threw the stole into the middle of flames. The fire kept on burning for three hours, the wood had all been consumed, and the stole was retrieved from the fire unharmed, showing no signs of ever having been in the fire.
In the face of what had happened the Stylite no longer had any doubts about the truth. He anathematised Severian and his heresy, returned to the holy Catholic Church, received communion from the hands of the holy Ephraem, and gave God the glory.
The life of a BISHOP, who left his cathedral and came to the holy city, where he served God in disguise in the building trade
One of the fathers told us about a certain bishop who left his bishopric and went to the holy city, where he dressed as a workman and served God in the building trade. Now there was at that time a compassionate man given to good works called Ephremius, an Eastern overseer, who was engaged in repairing the public buildings which had been damaged by an earthquake. One day Ephremius had a vision in which he saw a bishop lying asleep, with a column of fire stretching from his head right up to the heavens. This happened not once, not twice, but many times over, and Ephremius was stupefied, for the vision was amazing, even terrifying. He wondered what it all might mean, not recognising him as that hired labourer with untidy hair and dirty clothes, looking like the lowest of the low, slaving away with no relaxation, worn out with toil and of a totally repulsive appearance. However, Ephremius summoned this workman and asked him who he was, trying to worm his name out of him and the country he came from.
"I am just one of the poor of this city," he replied. "I have no independent income, so I do what work I can and God feeds me as a result of my labours."
"Believe me," said Ephremius, divinely inspired, "I will not let you go until you have told me the whole truth about yourself."
"Promise me something then," he said, realising that he was cornered, with nowhere to hide. "Say nothing to anyone about me for as long as I remain alive, and I will tell you everything, except my name." And the overseer swore not to reveal anything for as long as the man was alive.
"I am a bishop," he then said, "and I have left my bishopric to come here. Nobody knows where I am. But I chastise my body with hard work and earn a bit of bread for myself. But as for you, give as much alms as you can. One of these days God will promote you to the apostolic see of this city, so that you may feed this people whom Christ our God has saved with his own blood. Give yourself to almsgiving, as I have said. Stand firm and contend for the true faith, for sacrifices such as these are pleasing to God," (and as he had prophesied so it came to pass.)
The godly Ephremius glorified God as he listened.
"How many hidden servants of God there are, known only to himself", he said.
The death of ANASTASIUS, the godless emperor.
One of the faithful told us about the Emperor Anastasius, who exiled to Gaitan in Pontus the patriarchs of Constantinople Euphemius and Macedonius, because they accepted the [teachings of] the holy synod of Chalcedon. This emperor saw in a dream a magnificent person dressed in a white garment standing in front of him, reading from what was written in a book that he was carrying. He pulled out five pages with the emperor's name written on them.
"Behold, because of your perfidy I destroy fourteen", he said. [Literal translation - I don't know what it means!] And he tore them up.
And after two days, during a great storm of thunder and lightning, petrified with fear, he gave up his spirit in great agony. This was because of what he had wickedly done to the holy Church of Christ our God by exiling its pastors.
The life of a monk belonging to the monastery of abbot SEVERIANUS, and how a country girl wisely repulsed him, and prevented him from sinning with her.
After I had arrived at Antioch I heard one of the presbyters of that church telling this story -
Patriarch Anastasius told us about a monk of Abbot Severianus' monastery, who was sent on an errand to the region of Elutheropoleos, where he broke his journey and stayed for a while at the home of one of the faithful whose wife was dead but who had an only daughter. The devil, who is forever attacking human beings, put evil thoughts into that brother's mind, and his attack took the form of making the brother seek for an opportunity to assault the daughter. The devil not only tempted him but provided him with the opportunity, for the girl's father left on a journey to Ascalon on some necessary business, whereupon the brother, knowing that that there was no one in the house but himself and the girl, tried to take her by force.
"Calm down," she said, when she realised that he was all excited and rushing headlong into an evil deed. "There is all day and tomorrow before my father will be back. But just listen first to what I have to say. God knows I will do whatever you want."
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