Page images
PDF
EPUB

Theodoret,1 bishop of Cyrus: though they have omitted a circumstance in particular, the memory of which I found to be still retained by the inhabitants of the holy desert, and which I learnt from them as follows. When Simeon, that angel upon earth, that citizen in the flesh of the heavenly Jerusalem, had devised this strange and hitherto unknown walk, the inhabitants of the holy desert send a person to him, charged with an injunction to render a reason of this singular habitude, namely, why, abandoning the beaten path which the saints had trodden, he is pursuing another altogether unknown to mankind; and, further, that he should come down and travel the road of the elect fathers. They, at the same time, gave orders, that, if he should manifest a perfect readiness to come down, liberty should be given him to follow out the course he had chosen, inasmuch as his compliance would be sufficient proof that under God's guidance he persevered in this his endurance: but that he should be dragged down by force, in case he should manifest repugnance, or be swayed by self-will, and refuse to be guided implicitly by the injunction. When the person, thus deputed, came and announced the command of the fathers, and Simeon, in pursuance of the injunction, immediately put one foot forward, then he declared him free to fulfil his own course, saying, "Be stout, and play the man: the post which thou hast chosen is from God." This circumstance, which is omitted by those who have written about him, I have thus thought worthy of record. In so great a measure had the power of divine grace taken possession of him, that, when Theodosius had issued a mandate, that the synagogues of which they had been previously deprived by the Christians, should be restored to the Jews of Antioch, he wrote to the emperor with so much freedom and vehement rebuke, as standing in awe of none but his own immediate Sovereign, that Theodosius re-called his commands, and in every respect favoured the Christians, even superseding the prefect who had suggested the measure. He further proceeded to prefer a request to this effect, to the holy and aërial martyr,2 that

In his history termed Philotheus, which is devoted to an account of celebrated monastics.

? These seem to be the words of the emperor Theodosius, taken out of the letter he wrote to the blessed Simeon. The emperor therefore had prefixed this title to his letter, τω παναγία και αερίω μάρτυρι,

(EVAGRIUS.)

" To

T

6 For

he would entreat and pray for him, and impart a share of his own peculiar benediction. Simeon prolonged his endurance of this mode of life through fifty-six years, nine of which he spent in the first monastery, where he was instructed in divine knowledge, and forty-seven in the Mandra, as it is termed; namely, ten in a certain nook; on shorter columns, seven ; and thirty upon one of forty cubits. After his departure, his holy body was conveyed to Antioch, during the episcopate of Martyrius, and the reign of the emperor Leo, when Ardabyrius was in command of the forces of the East, on which occasion the troops, with a concourse of their followers and others, proceeded to the Mandra, and escorted the venerable body of the blessed Simeon, lest the inhabitants of the neighbouring cities should muster and carry it off. In this manner it was conveyed to Antioch, and attended during its progress by extraordinary prodigies. The emperor also demanded possession of the body; and the people of Antioch addressed to him a petition in deprecation of his purpose, in these terms: asmuch as our city is without walls, for we have been visited in wrath by their fall, we brought hither the sacred body to be our wall and bulwark.” Moved by these considerations, the emperor yielded to their prayer, and left them in possession of the venerable body. It has been preserved nearly entire to my time: and, in company with many priests, I enjoyed the sight of his sacred head, in the episcopate of the famous Gregory, when Philippicus had requested that precious relics of saints might be sent to him for the protection of the Eastern armies. And, strange as is the circumstance, the hair of his head had not perished, but is in the same state of preservation as when he was alive and sojourning with mankind. The skin of his forehead, too, was wrinkled and indurated, but is nevertheless preserved, as well as the greater part of his teeth, except such as had been violently removed by the hands of faithful men, affording by their outward form an indication of the personal appearance and years of the man of God. Beside the head lies the iron collar, to which, as the companion of its endurance, the famous body has imthe most holy and aërial martyr;" where he terms him martyr, on account of those great severities with which he afflicted his own body; and he styles him aërial, because he stood on high in the air on a pillar. i See note on the following chapter.

parted a share of its own divinely-bestowed honours; for not even in death has Simeon been deserted by the loving iron. In this manner would I have detailed every particular, thereby benefiting both myself and my readers, had not Theodoret, as I said

before, already performed the task more fully.

CHAP. XIV.-DESCRIPTION OF THE APPEARANCE OF A STAR

NEAR THE COLUMN OF SIMEON.

LET me, however, add a record of another circumstance which I witnessed. I was desirous of visiting the precinct of this saint, distant nearly thirty stadia from Theopolis, and situated near the very summit of the mountain.

The people of the country give it the title of Mandra,' a name bequeathed to the spot, as I suppose, by the holy Simeon, in respect of the discipline which he there had practised. The ascent of the mountain is as much as twenty stadia. The temple is constructed in the form of a cross, adorned with colonnades on the four sides. Opposite the colonnades are arranged ? handsome columns of polished stone, sustaining a roof of considerable elevation ; while the centre 3 is occupied by an un

2

· It would seem to be a more probable conjecture, that this name was given to that place after Simeon's death, when many monks flocked thither, and had built a monastery there. Mandra signifies a monastery; and the word is a metaphor taken from hovels in which sheep or goats are fed, which were called Mandræ. Hence the abbots of monasteries were termed Archi-mandritæ, as may be seen in the Chalcedon council, and in the Novels of the Emperors, passim.

2 hapaterá xatai, not "joined on to,” but “ranged opposite.” Evagrius makes use of the same word in book iv. chap. 31, where he describes the church of St. Sophia.

3 Evagrius does not say, as Christophorson understood him to mean, that there was an open court towards the middle of the church, but in the midst of these porticos; for courts were usually encompassed with porticos. Christophorson was deceived by what Evagrius has said a little before, namely, that the church was surrounded with porticos on four sides, and hence he thought that the church was in the midst of them; but he is mistaken, for the atrium or court was in the midst of those four porticos, and was the first thing which those who went in saw, after they had passed the porch or entry. After the atrium was the church, contiguous to one of the porticos. That this was the figure of this church, is sufficiently clear from the context; for Evagrius says, that women were forbidden to go into that church ; but notwithstanding that they saw the miracle of the star, from the gate which was in the porch. The atrium I saw,

roofed court of the most excellent workmanship, where stands the pillar, of forty cubits, on which the incarnate angel upon earth spent his heavenly life. Adjoining the roof of the colonnades is a balustrade, termed by some persons windows, forming a fence towards both the before-mentioned court and the colonnades. At the balustrade, on the left of the pillar,

in
company

with all the people who were there assembled, while the rustics were performing dances round it, a very large and brilliant star, shooting along the whole balustrade, not merely once, twice, or thrice, but repeatedly; vanishing, moreover, frequently, and again suddenly appearing: and this occurs only at the commemorations of the saint. There are also persons who affirm-and there is no reason to doubt the prodigy, considering the credibility of the vouchers, and the other circumstances which I actually witnessed -- that they have seen a resemblance of the saint's face flitting about here and there, with a long beard, and wearing a tiara,' as was his habit. Free ingress is allowed to men, who repeatedly compass the pillar with their beasts of burden : but the most scrupulous precaution is taken, for what reason I am unable to say, that no woman should enter the sacred building ; but they obtain a view of the prodigy from the threshold without, since one of the doors is opposite to the star's rays.

CHAP. XV.-ISIDORE OF PELUSIUM AND SYNESIUS OF CYRENE.

In the same reign Isidore was also conspicuous : “wide whose renown,” according to the language of poetry; having become universally celebrated by deed and word. To such a degree did he waste his flesh by severe discipline, and feed his soul by elevating doctrine, as to pursue upon earth the life of angels, and be ever a living monument of monastic life and contemplation of God. Besides his numerous other writings, well stored with various profit, there are some addressed to the renowned Cyril; from which it appears that he flourished

herefore occurred immediately after the porch, and the church was not in the midst; for otherwise the walls of the church itself would have hindered them from seeing the star. Vales.

A round ornament, worn by princes and priests on their heads. It was formerly the dress of the Persian women.

? He alludes to the Homeric expression, Oŭ aléos súpú.

contemporary with the divine bishop. And now, while endeavouring to give every attraction to my work, let me also bring upon the scene Synesius of Cyrene, whose memory will add an embellishment to my narrative. This Synesius, while possessed of every other kind of learning, carried the study of philosophy, in particular, to its highest pitch ; so as to gain the admiration even of those Christians whose decision upon things which fall under their observation is not guided by favouring or adverse prejudice. They, accordingly, persuade him to resolve on partaking of the saving regeneration, and to take upon himself the yoke of the priesthood, while as yet he did not admit the doctrine of the resurrection, nor was inclined to hold that tenet; anticipating, with well-aimed conjecture, that this belief would be added to his other excellencies, since Divine grace is never content to leave its work

2

· That is, “ to be admitted to baptism.” As far as may be collected from these and the following words, Evagrius seems to have thought that Synesius was baptized and promoted to the episcopal dignity at one and the same time. And yet, that this is false, Petavius proves by many arguments, in his Notes upon Synesius, pp. 2, 3. Evagrius, however, is followed in the main by Photius in his Bibliotheca, and by Nicephorus, book xiv. chap. 55, although the latter says not that Synesius had been baptized and ordained at one and the same time, but that when Theophilus had prevailed with him to receive Christian baptism, afterwards he endeavoured to persuade him to enter upon the episcopal function.

? It has been thought, that when Synesius was elected bishop by the inhabitants of Ptolemais, he wholly disbelieved the resurrection of the body. But that this is not true, Synesius himself shows in his 105th epistle, which he wrote to his brother Euoptius, who was then at Alexandria. In that letter he gives reasons why he could not undertake the bishopric offered to him. One of which is, The resurrection of bodies. His sentiment concerning which point he declares in these words : tñv καθωμιλημένην ανάστασιν ιέρον τι και απόρρητον ήγημαι, και πολλού δέω ταϊς του πλήθους υπολήψεσιν ομολογήσαι, “That much-spoken-of resurrection I account a sacred and mystical thing, and am far from assenting to the opinions of the vulgar.” Synesius therefore did not wholly deny the resurrection of the dead, but expounded it agreeably to Origen and the Platonic school. Baronius (at the year of Christ 410) thinks that whatever is said by Synesius in this epistle, is not spoken seriously, but feignedly and dissemblingly, that he might decline the burden of a bishopric. But Petavius has deservedly found fault with this opinion of Baronius; for he says, that it is much more likely that Synesius, when he wrote thus to his brother, spoke agreeably to what he then thought, but that having been afterwards instructed by Theophilus and other prelates, before he was made a bishop, he embraced a true opinion concerning the resurrection. Vales.

« PreviousContinue »