Chapter XXXIV (continued), Life of Euphrasia, Book 1dLife No 19
(Also Euphrosyna further down this page)
To the rest of the sisters she said:
"You have all witnessed the perfection of the life and conduct of Euphraxia. Imitate her that you may share with her where she is."
They all said Amen. She said farewell to them all, went into the oratory, and shut the door as she told them that no one else should come in until next morning.
Next morning when they went in they found her asleep in the Lord. They sang a hymn to the Lord and placed her in the same tomb as the blessed Euphraxia. And from that time on no one else was buried in that tomb.
Many signs and healings were done at this memorable tomb, and demons screamed as they were expelled, for Euphraxia was strong for us after her death and looked after us.
This is the true life of the blessed lady Euphraxia who earned admission to the company of heaven. Let us all, brothers as well as sisters, make haste to imitate her manner of life and seek after humility, obedience, labour, gentleness, long-suffering, that we may be worthy of the Angelic life and with great joy be at one with our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be honour and glory unto the ages of ages. Amen.
The Life of St Euphrosyna, Virgin [Celebrated in the Roman martyrology on January 1]
by an anonymous author
There was a man in Alexandria called Paphnutius who kept the commandments of God and was held in honour by all. He took a wife from a family of similar status to himself, who had many good points, except that she was sterile. This made him very unhappy, because he had no one to whom he could bequeath his possessions and who could manage his estates well after his death. Night and day he was very active in caring for the poor, and he spent a lot of time in church, fasting and praying to God to give him a son. His wife too was very sad at seeing how unhappy her husband was, and she too gave much money to the poor and to various oratories, and prayed that God would grant him his desire.
Paphnutius cast about trying to find some person beloved of God who might be able by his prayers to get him what he longed for. He visited a monastery where it was said that the father of the monastery had great influence with God. He gave them quite a large sum of money and regained much of his self-confidence from the abbot and the brothers.
After some time he confided in the abbot what it was that he longed for above everything else, and the abbot had compassion on him and prayed to God that he might be given a child. God heard their prayers and granted them a daughter, and Paphnutius was so impressed with the abbot's way of life, that he kept up a regular association with the monastery from then on. He also brought his wife to the monastery that she might be blessed by the abbot and brothers. Once the child was weaned and had attained the age of seven years, she was baptised and given the name Euphrosyna. She was a great joy to her parents, for she had been accepted by God, and was very beautiful.
When she was twelve years old her mother passed away from this world. It fell to her father to continue teaching her to read and write and learn about all the other things necessary for living in this world. The girl was diligent in her studies and her father was astonished at how gifted she was. The reputation of her intelligence and good sense spread throughout the city, as did the beauty of her countenance which reflected the beauty of her soul. Many parents sought after her as a bride for their sons, but a definite agreement could never be reached because her father just kept on saying, "Let the will of the Lord be done." But one of them richer and more important than the others pressed him so forcefully to promise his daughter in marriage that at last he agreed.
Much later, when she was eighteen, he took her with him to visit the monastery where he was so well known, and again gave a considerable sum of money to help with the monastery's needs.
"I have brought the fruit of your prayers with me," he said to the abbot, "that you might pray for her as I give her hand in marriage."
The abbot made arrangements for her to stay in the guesthouse, and had several conversations with her in which he encouraged her to be chaste and humble and patient in the fear of God. She stayed there for three days and joined in each day with the psalms. She saw something of the way of life and spiritual purpose of the monks, and was deeply moved.
"How blessed these men are, in this life living like Angels, and afterwards enjoying life without end."
And her heart began to yearn zealously after the fear of God.
After three days Paphnutius went to the abbot again.
"Come, father," he said, "so that your handmaid can give you thanks, and pray for her as we go back to the city."
When the abbot came the girl threw herself at his feet.
"Please pray for me, father, " she said, "that God may enlighten my soul."
The abbot stretched out his hands over her and blessed her.
"God, you know human beings before they come to be born. Grant your protection to this your handmaid, that she may merit your assistance and a portion in the kingdom of heaven."
They thanked the old man, and went back to the city, and whenever Paphnutius met one of the monks he would invite him back to his house to pray for his daughter.
The anniversary of the day the abbot founded the monastery occurred a little later and he sent one of the brothers to Paphnutius with an invitation for him to come to the solemn celebration. He knocked at the door and asked for Paphnutius, but the slave replied that he was out.
Euphrosyna heard what the slave said, came to the door herself and invited the brother inside and began to question him eagerly.
"Tell me, brother, how many brothers are there in the monastery?"
"Three hundred and fifty-two."
"Does the abbot accept anyone who comes wanting to join?"
"He receives them joyfully, mindful of what the Lord said, 'He that comes to me I will not cast out' (John 6.37)"
"Does everyone join in singing the psalms and fasting?"
"We sing the psalms in common, and each one fasts according to his ability, as he decides. Our practices are not rigidly imposed, but are freely chosen as spontaneous acts of will."
Euphrosyna thought for a moment about what the monk had said.
"I would like to leave here," she said at last, "and join this indescribable sort of life, but I am frightened of disobeying my father, who wants to hand me over to a husband, because it would suit his empty and fleeting business interests in this world."
"Sister, don't allow any man to stain your body and bring such beauty into defilement, but give yourself as a bride to Christ who can give you the kingdom of heaven and the company of Angels in exchange for every transitory delight. Leave without telling anyone, change your clothes into monastic garments and come to the monastery."
"I like that idea. But who will cut my hair off? I don't want any old layperson to do it, who would not see it as a religious act."
"Look, your father will be coming to the monastery to spend there or four days there. Get on of the monks to come to you and he will happily cooperate with you in anything you want to do."
As they were talking thus, Paphnutius came back home.
"How is it," he said when he had greeted the monk, "that you have come to visit our humble dwelling?"
"The abbot has sent me because it is the anniversary of the monastery, and he invites you to come and share in the blessings."
This pleased Paphnutius very much, and he went back to the monastery with him in his boat. By the time he had got there, Euphrosyna had called one of her most reliable slaves to her.
"Go the monastery of Theodosius," she said, "go into the church, and ask any monk you meet there to come and see me."
By the mercy of God the slave met a monk as he was coming out of the monastery carrying his goods for sale, and asked him to come and see Euphrosyna, which he did.
"Pray for me, father," she said as she greeted him.
He said a prayer of blessing and they sat down.
"Sir," said Euphrosyna, "I have a father who is a Christian and a servant of God, and is very wealthy. He had a wife who gave me birth, but she is now dead. My father finds it convenient in his business affairs to hand me over into the toils of this wicked world. I don't want to be stained in that way, but I am frightened of disobeying my father, and I don't know what to do. I spent a sleepless night asking God to have mercy on my soul, and when morning had come I had the idea of sending to the monastery for one of the brothers to come and bring me a word of salvation and tell me what I ought to do. Father, I know you are sent by God. I beg you, as you hope for a blessing on your own soul, teach me the path of God."
"What the Lord says," he replied, "is 'Whosoever will not renounce father and mother and brothers and children, yes, and his own life also, cannot be my disciple'. I can't tell you any more than that. However, if you think you have the bodily strength to go through with it, leave it all, flee from the worldly riches of your father, who will have no difficulty in finding people to bestow it on - poorhouses, hospitals, hospices, monasteries, widows, students, pilgrims, the sick, prisoners - let him deal with his property as he will and as it pleases him. But you, think only of how to save your own soul."
"I trust in God and I trust in your prayers, that it is my task to labour for the salvation of my soul, God being my helper."
"Intentions like that must not be flouted. But there is still time to change your mind."
"No, I have troubled you for the very purpose that you may help me to fulfil my desires. Say your prayer of blessing over me and cut my hair off."
The monk prayed, cut her hair off and clothed her with the monastic habit. [No indication of how he happened to have a spare habit with him! But perhaps we are meant to understand that he simply placed his own scapular over her shoulders
"May God who leads all his saints to freedom preserve you from all evil," he prayed.
And he left her and went on his way rejoicing.
Meanwhile Euphrosyna took thought about what she would do next.
"If I go to a monastery of women, my father will be able to find me and drag me off to my promised bridegroom. So I shall go to a monastery of men, where no one would suspect me to be."
She shed her female clothing and dressed in male attire. She put five hundred solidi in her pocket and late that night stole out of the house, and lay low till morning. By the providence of God her father went out early in the morning to spend some time in church. Euphrosyna presented herself at the monastery where her father was so well known, and sent a message to the abbot by means of the gatekeeper.
"I am a eunuch from the palace standing at the gate and wanting to speak with you."
The abbot went out, Euphrosyna prostrated herself, the abbot prayed and they sat down.
"What is it that has brought you here, my son?" asked the abbot.
"I am one of the palace eunuchs, and I have a great longing to be part of the monastic life. The city nowadays holds the monastic life in high regard. I have heard of how good your way of life is here, and I long to share it with you. I have many possessions, and if my master releases me I shall hand them over to you."
"You are very welcome, my son. The monastery is here. If that is what you want to do, come and live with us. What is your name, my son?"
"You are too young to live as a solitary. You need to have a teacher, so that you can learn the rule and customs of the monastery."
"Whatever you say, father, that I will do."
She put the five hundred solidi into the abbot's hand.
"Please accept these in the meantime," she said, "and if it proves that I am able to persevere in this life the rest will follow."
The abbot summoned a brother called Agapitus, a sober, [impassibilis. Perseverance in monastic discipline was expected to bring about a state where one was no longer subject to the passions. One had become passionless, impassible] holy man, and handed Smaragdus over into his care.
"From now on he will be your son and your disciple. Set your seal upon (consigna) him, that he may come to be even greater than his master."
Smaragdus knelt, Agapitus signed (consignavit) him with the cross and said a prayer, they all said "Amen", and Agapitus took him into his own cell.
Now when Smaragdus came into the church to join in the prayers, the beauty of his face proved to be such that many demons were encouraged to scatter evil thoughts among the brothers, so that they were indignant with the abbot for allowing such beauty into the monastery.
"Your face is disturbingly beautiful, my son," said the abbot to Smaragdus, "and the brothers are very weak, so I want you to remain alone in your cell, and sing the psalms there, and eat there, and not come out of it at all." And he instructed Agapitus to get a single cell ready for Smaragdus and leave him there. Agapitus did everything the father of the monastery told him and put Smaragdus in a solitary cell, where he gave himself night and day to prayers, and fasting, and vigils, serving God in simplicity of heart, so that Agapitus wondered, and told all the other brothers of his constancy. They all praised God that from their weakness had come such strength.
When her father, Paphnutius, came home he went to his daughter's room, and was worried at not finding her there. He enquired anxiously for the serving men and women what had happened to Euphrosyna.
We saw her last night," they said, "But when she did not appear this morning we thought that the father of her bridegroom must have some and taken her away."
He sent slaves to the bridegroom's house, but they did not find her there. The bridegroom and his father were very upset, and came back to see Paphnutius. They found him lying on the ground in a terribly distressed state.
"Someone must have abducted her and run off with her," they said to him.
He sent slaves on horseback throughout the whole of Alexandria, they boarded the ships in the harbour in their frantic search for her, they investigated the women's monasteries, the hermitages, the anchorites' caves, the houses of friends and neighbours. They did not find her and at last they began to mourn her as dead, father-in-law grieving for daughter-in-law, bridegroom for bride, father for daughter.
"Alas! Alas!" cried Paphnutius, "Alas, my beautiful daughter! Alas, the joy of my eyes! Who has invaded my territory? Who has stolen my treasure? Who has despoiled my vineyard? Who has put out the light of my life, dispossessed me of my hope, violated my daughter's beauty? What wolf has snatched my precious lamb? There is no place where such beauty as hers could go unremarked. Where is the sea across which her regal appearance could have been led away captive? She has been a model of generosity, a comforter in time of trouble, a solace for those in distress, a harbour for those hard pressed. O Earth, Earth! Never may you receive my bones until I discover my Euphrosyna's fate!"
Inspired by these words of Paphnutius, and many more like them, the voices of all who heard him were raised in mourning and weeping. The whole city lamented Euphrosyna.
Paphnutius could not reconcile himself to his loss, he could find no comfort anywhere, so he went to his friend the abbot and fell at his feet.
"I beg you not to cease from prayer, that the labour of your prayer may bring forth fruit, for something has happened to my daughter and I do not know what."
The venerable old man was very sorry to hear this, and he called all the brothers together.
"My brothers," he said, "I am going to ask you to be so kind as pray to God that he may mercifully show us what has happened to the daughter of our friend Paphnutius."
They prayed and fasted for a whole week, but were given no revelation about Euphrosyna, such as they were usually granted when they prayed to God for someone else. Euphrosyna herself, of course, was praying to God day and night that he would not bring her life out into the open. When the abbot realised that there was not going to be any revelation from God either to him or anyone else, he did his best to comfort Paphnutius.
"Don't rebel against the Lord's discipline, my son," he said. "Whom the Lord loves, he chastens" (Proverbs 3.11-12). Remember that not a sparrow falls to the ground without our Father (Matthew 10.29), how much more your daughter! Nothing happens without his permission. Surely, since he has revealed nothing to us about your daughter he has something better in store for you. I am sure that if she has wandered into evil paths, which God forbid, God would never ignore such great labours as the brothers have been doing. I have confidence in the Lord that he will in this life reveal her to you."
Paphnutius was comforted by his words, and prayed and gave thanks to God daily, while giving himself to good works and almsgiving.
From time to time he kept on visiting the monastery, commending himself to the prayers of the brothers. One day he fell at the abbot's feet, and opened his heart.
"Pray for me, father, for I cannot stop grieving for my daughter, but more and more from day to day the wound is reopened and grows bigger and my soul is troubled."
The abbot could see how troubled he was.
"Would you like to talk to a very spiritual brother of ours who used to belong to the palace of Theodosius?" - not realising that he was talking about Paphnutius' daughter.
"Yes, I would," said Paphnutius.
The abbot summoned Agapitus.
"Take Paphnutius with you to the cell of Smaragdus," he said.
And so without any warning Euphrosyna found that her father was in her cell with her. Seeing her father in such sorrow her tears began to fall, which Paphnutius put down to her feelings of sympathy. He did not recognise her, for the beauty of her face had wasted away by reason of her abstinence and vigils and tears. Besides, her face was half hidden by her cowl, so that he could not see her clearly. They prayed and sat down. She began to speak to him about the future kingdom of blessedness and eternal glory, to which one could attain by humility and chastity, by a holy way of life, by almsgiving and charity, by contempt of the world and by not loving children more than God who has made us all. And she drew on holy scripture to show that tribulation encourages patience, and patience acceptance (Romans 5.3-4). And she had great compassion on her father, seeing him in such great sorrow.
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