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ANXIETIES AND TROUBLES, FRIENDS AND FOES
Insomnes longo veniunt examine Curæ.
Claud., In Ruf. i. 38.
Chrysostom’s first care after his enthronisation was to arrange his household, and then to master the manifold duties—diocesan, social, and patriarchal—of his high station.
His faithful servants had come from Antioch, and had brought with them the simple furniture of his paternal home. Old Phlegon was installed as porter at the Patriarcheion; and when he was vexed with the throngs of visitors and the incessant summonses which brought him out of his porter’s cell, he sighed for Singon Street as much as his master. Social duties lay on Chrysostom with a heavier weight than the work of his archiepiscopate. Nectarius had given frequent and superb entertainments, not only to the bishops who visited Constantinople from every quarter of the world and to the leading clergy, but also to the prætorian præfects, the great senators, and all the high Court officials. The Emperor himself had sometimes been his guest. It would have been profoundly distasteful to Chrysostom to undertake anything of the kind. Valuing all the intercourse of private life which might be used for high and noble ends, he shrank from the pleasures and unprofitable frivolities of society as from a dreary and barren Sahara. He was impatient of ‘the quotidian ague of frigid impertinences.’ This was soon discovered by the worldly, the dissipated, and the idle, the illustrious dandies, and the fine ladies. The very aspect of the Archbishop’s Palace became so severely simple that it kept them off.151
‘Philip,’ said Chrysostom, ‘I cannot bear the sight of all these curtains and tapestries and gorgeous superfluities. The bishops tell me that there is no harm in them; that hospitality is a duty; that I have a position to keep up, and so forth. It may be so. I blame neither Nectarius nor anyone else; but as for me, these things always seem to reproach my hermit notions with the thought of the carpenter’s shop at Nazareth, and of Him Who had not where to lay His head. Surely St. Peter or St. John had a position to keep up, yet did not need these outward splendours to help them? You must get rid of them all for me.’
‘But, your Beatitude——’ said Philip.
‘Nay, nay, my boy. If I must bear those tinsel titles from others, never call me by any other address than “Bishop” in public, and in private (as I told you) use the old, dear name of “father,” as at Antioch.’
‘Well, my father, my best happiness is to save you trouble in every way.’
‘And you do, dear Philip. Often, when I have a happy, quiet hour in my study or in the garden, with St. Matthew, or the Acts of the Apostles, or the works of Basil and Gregory on my table, I know that you are doing all kinds of necessary business for me, and sheltering me from needless worries in matters in which I am helpless. And I know that you do it all kindly, courteously, and with perfect tact.’
That was quite true. Philip was Chrysostom’s controller of the household, master of the ceremonies, and factotum. He meddled, of course, with no ecclesiastical business, except in arranging mere outward details. All that was done by Serapion, the Archdeacon. Serapion’s position near Chrysostom was a misfortune to him. He was a true man, but was blunt and brusque; the mass of the clergy hated him because of his plain forthrightness and impatience of all shams. But Philip managed the servants, arranged all domestic matters, saw importunate beggars, deftly dealt with various genera of lunatics who came to the Patriarch with peculiar hobbies, inspirations, and discoveries about the Apocalypse; answered all merely business letters; kept an eye on tradesmen; fended his master 152 from fussy intrusiveness; sifted the visitors who might or might not see the Patriarch; acted as an invaluable screen between the Archbishop and the irrelevancies, nonentities, and little nothings which would otherwise have wasted his time and worried his temper. And all this he did with consummate fidelity and grace. He might have abused his really important position in a thousand ways. Many tried to flatter, and even to bribe him, and to induce him to pull the wires for them and their interests as though he had been a Palace official. But though he was always bright, good-natured, and exquisitely courteous, he had rejected the overtures of party intriguers and slanderers with such contempt and indignation that it speedily became known that he was useless except for all honourable and disinterested ends, and had no sympathy with ‘prejudices, private interests, or partial affections.’
‘What am I to do with the grandeurs, father?’ he asked.
‘Sell them, and give the money to the poor.’
‘As to selling them, I can manage that, if you wish it. I have made a friend named Michael in the Chalkoprateia, who is the soul of honesty and holiness, and he can get that done for us easily. But on what principle will you give them to the poor?’
‘There are thousands of the poor in Constantinople, Philip. At every door of Dives there lie a multitude of starving Lazaruses, who watch the banquets and purple and fine linen. They even throng the church-doors.’
‘Yes, but the difficulty is to know the real Lazarus from all the sham ones. The impostures of the beggars are, as you know, sickening and endless. Some of them actually blind and maim their own children to make money by them. They terrify weak women by menaces or by adjurations, and are mixed up in many villainies.’
‘You are right, Philip. One must not encourage the wretched and wicked trade of mendicity, which makes not a few nominal beggars rich. We must never give without some inquiry.’
‘Even that does not always insure certainty,’ said Philip. ‘You know young Eutyches—that beautiful half-Gothic lad, left an orphan—the youth who looks as 153 if he wore a nimbus when the sun shines through his light hair! Don’t you know him yet? Well, he is being trained for a reader, and the deacons sometimes send him on messages. The other day a woman had come to them in paroxysms of distress, saying that her husband was dead, leaving her with five young children, and that she had no money to bury him. They sent Eutyches to inquire. He heard some shuffling before he was admitted, but the woman told him that all her children were out, and pointed to the figure of her dead husband, who was laid out on a long bier, under a covering. When Eutyches returned to the deacon—the house was at a distance, near the Forum of Constantine—he found that he had forgotten his tablets. Coming back for them, and entering suddenly, he surprised the corpse in the act of reading his tablets and eating a large dish of sausages.’
Chrysostom laughed, and then sighed.
‘I do not mean to lavish the money, as our saintly friend Olympias does. I mean to give it to found one or two greatly needed hospitals for lepers and others, as the Lady Fabiola has done in Rome, and as Basil did at Cæsarea. I shall want large funds. You must sell for me not only the magnificent furniture, but all those fine, pompous robes.’
‘What! the pontifical vestments?’
‘Yes. I cannot be pageanted about the cathedral as if I were some gaudy idol. Paul had but his one sea-stained cloak, for which he wrote to Troas; John had his garment of camel’s hair.’
‘But the High Priest had his golden robes and ardent Urim.’
‘We have no High Priest but Christ, Philip, nor are we Jews. Moreover, the High Priest only wore his robes for half an hour on one day in the whole year; ordinarily he dressed in simple white linen.’
‘You will offend the clergy.’
‘I would not willingly offend them. But these sacerdotal pomps are a thing of yesterday; they represent no needs, and real needs are clamorously urgent. The great Basil wore one old threadbare dress; Ambrose sold even his church plate to redeem captives; and I am 154 told that my brilliant and saintly brother, Augustine, who three years ago was made Bishop of Hippo against his will, when a gorgeous cope is given him, declines to wear it, and sells it for the common good.’
‘They shall be sold,’ said Philip. ‘But, father, may I say something more, or are you too busy?’
‘You never waste my time, Philip.’
‘Well then, father, if I am to help you, I have really more to do than I can manage. May I have a fellow-secretary—or even two?’
‘Certainly you may, Philip. I have noticed lately that you seemed overworked.’
‘Thanks, father. Then give me Eutyches for one assistant. He is as good as he is beautiful; I never knew a whiter soul. And for the other——’ Philip paused and blushed.
‘Who is it?’
‘Father, it is the son of Michael, whom I mentioned. His name is David. He is seventeen, writes swiftly and exquisitely, is very clever, knows Latin and Hebrew, as well as Greek. He would make you a first-rate secretary and attendant.’
‘What! he knows Hebrew? Is he a Jew?’
‘No,’ said Philip, ‘a baptised Christian, and a real one, as his ancestors have been for nearly four centuries; but of Jewish race, and that,’ he added in an awestruck tone, ’the highest, the very, very highest.’
‘You interest me,’ said Chrysostom.
‘Father, you know that the Jews keep their genealogies most sacredly. Bishop Synesius says he is descended from Hercules. Well, my David is descended from King David; and more than that.’
‘More than that?’
‘Yes. You know that there was a family in Palestine called the Desposyni, because they were the earthly relatives of St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin.’
‘I know it,’ said Chrysostom. ‘The Emperor Domitian, in jealousy, sent for them to Rome in a.d. 94, as though they were claimants for a kingdom. They told him that they were of the family of Nazareth, and had for years cultivated the little farm which they had inherited. And 155 when he saw that their hands were hard and horny with labour, he dismissed them with contempt, as though they were insignificant peasants.’
‘The descendants of the family still exist. Father, Michael and David, though out of deepest reverence they never speak of it, are of the family of the Desposyni.’
Chrysostom was awestruck. ‘But how did you discover the secret, Philip?’
‘I was in the Chalkoprateia when I saw people rushing away from a dog which was snapping and foaming, and was evidently mad. A little crying, half-naked child of five was in its path, and was in terrible danger. I rushed after the dog, and luckily seized it by the back of the neck. At the same moment I saw Michael spring out of his bronzesmith’s shop, and catch up the child in his arms. The great fountain is close by, and some good angel inspired me to hold the dog under water till it was drowned. I was frightened, and suppose I looked pale; and as I passed Michael’s shop David stepped out and invited me to come in. There they gave me some delicious libbân and pure wine. On the wall I saw a little simple painting of the youthful Christ, copied, Michael told me, from one in the catacomb of St. Callistus at Rome. It could only have been fancy, but David looked to me exactly like that picture—so happy, so pure. Michael seemed greatly pleased with my seizing the mad dog, and in talking he told me about his descent. He said I might tell you, but no one else. Then David and I took the little child to the deacon’s, who restored him to his home.’
‘You must ask Michael to bring David, and come to see me.’
‘I will. But, dear father, I would not conceal anything from you.’ Philip seemed embarrassed, and a still deeper blush mounted on his cheek. ’David has a very beautiful young sister. I saw her that day, and have seen her since.’
‘Philip, has Love lit his torch in your heart? I have ever hoped that you would some day be one of my presbyters.’
‘No, father, that can never be. I feel no vocation for 156 that sacred work; and, to tell the honest truth, what I have seen of most of the clergy here does not make me wish to join them. When I hear their worldly plans and slanderous speeches—when (pardon my frankness, father!) I contrast their immense pretensions with their very scanty virtues—it almost seems to me as if a man like the Chamberlain Amantius or the tradesman Michael were far nearer than they are to the Kingdom of Heaven. Father, have I your sanction, if I can win Miriam’s love?’
‘Philip,’ said Chrysostom, ’your happiness is dearer to me than my own; but ah!——’
He thought of the day when Philip must inevitably leave him, and he was too old to make new friends. But he would have been the last to let selfish feelings stand in the way of the happiness of a youth, or of anyone whom he loved.
‘I am sorry you cannot seek the priesthood, Philip,’ he said; ‘but God bless you! The callings of men are different, and many (I know) serve Him unspeakably better in the world than some do in the priesthood.’
So Eutyches and David were duly installed with Philip as secretaries and acolytes. There was ample work for them to do, and it was not often that all three could be in the anteroom at one time, for there were constant messages to be taken, and visits paid, and details arranged. But they were happy of temperament and they were young and pure of heart, and in their presence and ready faithfulness Chrysostom found some of the scanty happiness of his troubled life.
The room in which they sat communicated with Chrysostom’s study, and was curtained off from the large outer hall called Thomaites. If the Archbishop was engaged, visitors of importance often sat to wait in the room of the three youths, or on divans beyond the curtain.
In the hall itself often sat Serapion, the Archdeacon, who saw the clergy, heard their petitions or complaints, and gave them any advice or assistance which did not necessitate the intervention or sanction of the Archbishop.
Philip soon became well acquainted with such true friends of Chrysostom as had no private interests to serve, and were attracted rather than repelled by his unworldly 157 simplicity. Among these was a group of noble and saintly ladies. The society ladies of Constantinople—the Marsas, Castricias, and Epigraphias—at first thought ‘the dear Archbishop’ on the whole piquant, and declared that they should like him; but soon found his sincerity alarming, and began to bewail their lost Nectarius, who never rebuked them, but was always ready to exchange courtly compliments. He, in his rare sermons, distressed no conscience, but steered triumphantly through the shallow waves of platitude. But there were some ladies who, themselves earnest and sincere, were drawn as with a powerful magnet by the unmistakable earnestness and sincerity of Chrysostom. Foremost among these was the beautiful, noble, and wealthy Olympias. Daughter of a count of the Empire, who left her the heiress of an immense fortune, she had been wedded in early youth to the young and handsome Nebridius, who, after two years, left her a childless widow. A widow she determined to remain, and to devote her life to good. She even braved the wrath of Theodosius by refusing to marry one of his kinsmen. Gregory of Nazianzus, while he was Patriarch, had loved her as a daughter, calling her ‘his own Olympias’. Gregory of Nyssa had dedicated to her his Commentary on the Song of Songs, written at her request. Her good deeds and austerities were known to the whole Church, and her palace was the constant home of bishops, who rarely left her without immense grants in aid of their dioceses. Her gifts were so lavish and so freely bestowed that ecclesiastics of the baser sort preyed on her credulity. Among these was Theophilus, who on one occasion prostrated himself before her in a burst of crocodile gratitude and kissed her knees, which so shocked her humility that she flung herself with tears at his feet. Nectarius had made her a deaconess, and, being entirely ignorant himself, frequently consulted her. She was now at the head of a little college of younger deaconesses. She became the almoner of Chrysostom, and helped him in his great missionary and other designs, both at home and abroad. It was his painful duty to warn her against the exploitations of Theophilus and other episcopal vultures. He told her that she was responsible to God for the use of her vast 158 wealth, which should be not merely lavish, but also wise and well considered. Part of the many sources of fury against Chrysostom in the bad heart of Theophilus and other bishops was due to the fact that he had dried up a fountain of beneficence which was wasting itself in barren sands.
Another devoted Church-worker was the virgin Nicarete. She was so humble that, in spite of a host of good deeds, she would never become a deaconess or accept the headship of the Consecrated Virgins, which the Patriarch pressed upon her. Her little foible was the belief that she was herself more skilled in healing than any professional physician. She went about with her little box of drugs and simples, which she pressed upon all with affectionate and confiding solicitude.
‘No, Lady Nicarete, no pills for me to-day, thank you,’ said Philip, as he laughingly ushered her into Chrysostom’s room; ‘I am in riotous health, which I do not wish to be disturbed.’
‘Foolish boy!’ said Nicarete, smiling. ‘But now, does not your young friend Eutyches want a little medicine? He looks pale.’
‘Pale!’ said Philip, ‘why there is a whole Daphne of roses on his cheeks! And, Nicarete, I really must interdict you from pressing any of the contents of your medicine-box on the Archbishop. He is not in riotous health, but his digestion is in a sufficient state of conflagration already, and he is so good-natured that he will destroy himself by taking all you give him.’
‘You naughty lad!’ said Nicarete; ‘how shall I punish your sauciness? Eutyches is much more polite.’
‘That is because he takes your prescriptions like an angel; but if you look in his drawer, you will find them all there, untouched.’
‘Don’t you mind what he says, Lady Nicarete,’ said Eutyches; ‘he laughs at us all.’
Far different from Nicarete was the deaconess Salvina. She, too, was of the noblest rank—a daughter of the unhappy rebel, Gildo, Count of Africa, and the widow of the nephew of the Empress Flaccilla, who had been educated with Arcadius and Honorius. She had two children, 159 and, young as she was, determined to remain a widow. She devoted herself to good works, and became the patroness of the Churches of the East, and of all the clergy who visited the Court of Arcadius. Such was her fame that even St. Jerome had from his cell at Bethlehem written her one of his anti-matrimonial letters, of which the tone would have been resented in our days as supremely distasteful. Her life was absorbed in the education of her son and daughter, the due management of her wealth, and the service of God in all holy works.
And like her in ardent allegiance to Chrysostom was Pentadia, widow of the great Consul and Master of the Forces, Timasius. Eutropius—it was one of his basest crimes—had foully done the brave soldier to death by the agency of the ungrateful sausage-seller, Bargus, whom Timasius had befriended. The general and his son both disappeared—the victims, probably, of secret murder—in the oasis of Libya. Eutropius had marked out Pentadia also for destruction; but she fled to sanctuary, which, in spite of the efforts of the all-powerful Minister, the Archbishop would not allow to be violated. When it was safe for her to leave the asylum she became a recluse, rarely leaving her home except to go to the church, but helping in all sacred and charitable organization.
These were Chrysostom’s friends, and, among the great men of the Court, officials of high character like Amantius and Aurelian. And the mass of the poorer population of Constantinople soon learnt to be devoted to him. They saw in him a sincere and holy man, who, whatever might be his faults, had not a single ignoble or personal aim, and whose one object it was to support the weak and to fight against oppression, robbery, and wrong. But among the clergy very few are mentioned among his friends. The quiet, indeed, and the good and the faithful, grappled him to their souls with hooks of steel; but those who usually arrogated to themselves the title of ‘the Church,’ and all their organs of public opinion, were fiercely antagonistic to him. They hesitated at no calumny, sneers, or falsehood, and as they were the noisy, the pushing, and the intriguing, they claimed to be the sole representatives of clerical public opinion. To them nothing that Chrysostom 160 could do was tolerable, and nothing that he could say was right.
It happened one day that two of the bishops, who from the first had set themselves most determinedly against the Patriarch, though as yet in secret, were seated in the great hall, which happened to be empty, except that the Archdeacon Serapion was sitting at a table there with papers before him. They lounged on the divan by the curtain, which was not drawn back, for Olympias was with Chrysostom, consulting about his new hospital. They were Cyrinus of Chalcedon and Antiochus of Ptolemais; and they began to indulge in the gossip about the Patriarch which was already current in all clerical circles. Serapion, an Egyptian by birth, was a hot-headed and yet a taciturn man. They did not know his unwavering loyalty, and assumed that he would be a sharer in the ordinary ecclesiastical opinion about his chief. At first the bishops conversed in low tones, and although they did not exclude Serapion from their discussion, they did not often address him. These bishops condemned what they were pleased to call the squalid niggardliness of the Patriarcheion under the present régime. They severely denounced Chrysostom’s intention of selling for the poor the splendid marbles which Nectarius had collected to decorate the Church of the Resurrection. They more than hinted at private peculation. To much of this conversation Serapion paid no attention, though he sometimes made a contemptuous nod of dissent when they appealed to him. But as the bishops lit up the smouldering fumes of each other’s malice they began to talk in louder and more excited tones.
‘He utterly neglects the duties of hospitality,’ said Cyrinus, ‘but they say that by himself he indulges in Cyclopean orgies.’
‘Yes,’ said Antiochus, ‘and it is very unseemly that he should be often closeted with ladies. Olympias is always with him. She is with him now. You really should call his attention to some of these things, Archdeacon.’
These last remarks completely upset Serapion’s usual disdainful indifference to what people said. He usually followed the rule, ‘Get the thing done, and let them howl.’ 161 He often compared the tittle-tattle of society to the whirring of idle grasshoppers in the fields or the monotonous croak of frogs in a malarious marsh.
He rose from his seat in towering indignation, and, standing in front of the astonished prelates, he cried:
‘How can you talk in that way? Are you neither afraid nor ashamed to let your tongues rage like fires, and worlds of iniquity set aflame of hell, and thus to run riot in defaming and defacing your spiritual head, who is a saint of God, which you are not? Cyclopean orgies! You spend more over one of your meals, Cyrinus, than the Patriarch does in six months. And you, Antiochus, is it not an infamy too black even for you to hint your foul insinuations not only against Chrysostom, but also against a saint like Olympias? Fie on you! You are not worthy to be bishops, you are not worthy even to be exorcists of the lowest rank, since you have not yet cast the evil spirits out of your own hearts.’
Had a thunderbolt fallen before the two bishops they could hardly have been more amazed than by this outburst. They were bishops, they lived amid the incense of flatteries and lordlinesses, and to be addressed thus—and by a mere deacon!
‘You forget yourself,’ said Antiochus, ‘and you forget who we are.’
‘I forget not,’ answered Serapion hotly. ‘I honour bishops who are bishops indeed. I honour not you; I honour not backbiters and slanderers.’
‘You shall smart for this—you and your master too,’ said Cyrinus.
‘I know that there are scorpions, and that they can sting. But if God be with the right, what has John to fear from you? He shall tread upon the adder and the dragon. Go, false bishops, and abase yourselves in the dust, if haply the wicked thoughts of your hearts may be forgiven!’
‘My cousin, the Patriarch of Alexandria, shall hear of this,’ said Cyrinus.
‘Let him!’ said Serapion. ‘I neither respect nor honour him. Go home to your neglected sees, you hireling shepherds. You have come here for your ambition and your 162 greed, to air your rhetoric and fill your purses. I know you, and fear you not.’
The storm was over. The bishops, without waiting any longer to see the Patriarch, swept out of the hall in fierce anger. Serapion’s wrath was honest, but he had gone too far in giving place to it. What he had said was true, but it was dangerous and unwise; and when he went to speak to Philip in the anteroom, still throbbing with suppressed passion, he told him what had occurred, and admitted that he had done wrong to put no curb upon his denunciation.
‘You certainly did not spare them, Archdeacon,’ said Philip. ‘Really, if I had heard such lies and such insinuations I should have found it hard not to seize them both by the neck and fling them out.’
‘Ah!’ said Serapion, ‘you are young, Philip; but I am older, and should have put more control upon my feelings.’
‘But into what a nest of hornets we have come!’ said Philip. ’“Cyclopean orgies” indeed!’ and then the ludicrousness of the accusation struck him, and as he thought of the crude apples and thin wine which too often constituted Chrysostom’s sole meal, he laughed till the room rang again.
Not long after this Chrysostom asked Acacius, Bishop of Berœa, to dine with him. He had quite forgotten what Eutropius told him at the imperial banquet of the Bishop’s foible for good living, and he had given no special order for the meal. Acacius, who had been accustomed to sup with Nectarius, was mute with surprise. Such a scant meal! and not a single dainty! and no Thasian, nor even Chian wine! He waited for at least some dainty which should prove that Chrysostom had done honour to his episcopal dignity. Chrysostom, entirely unconscious of his feelings, was talking to him, not about dinners, but about hospitals, and missions to the Persians, and St. Paul’s visit to Berœa. Acacius got more and more sullen, and determined to go back and dine at home. So completely had he lost his equanimity that he exclaimed loudly as he passed through the hall, ’I’ll cook a dish for him!’
Philip, who heard the remark, could hardly help laughing, for he was quick to see the ludicrous side of things.163
‘Tantæne animis cœlestibus iræ?’ he said, turning to David, with whom he had been reading Virgil.
‘Yes,’ said David, smiling, ‘but another Latin poet says:
‘Yet I am sorry, too,’ said Philip. ‘Here is one enemy more, and the Archbishop has enough already. We lived so simply at Antioch that I humbly confess my deficiencies as regards the kitchen department. What can one do, Eutyches? An epicure like you ought to be able to advise.’
The others laughed too, as Eutyches was the most abstemious of the three; but he said:
‘I will tell you, Philip. You must speak to Olympias. You are no good; you let him starve himself, and other people, even me.’
Philip shook his fist at him.
‘I let you off,’ he said, ‘only because of your good suggestion. Olympias will know all about it.’
‘And he?’—the youths often spoke of the Archbishop among themselves as ‘he’—’he must ask Acacius again, and give him a Salian banquet.’
‘Too late!’ said Philip, sighing. ‘The good Bishop will never again expose himself to so frightful a risk. When those red herrings came in, you should have seen his face!’
They consulted Olympias, and from that time she looked after Chrysostom’s kitchen: saw that he had proper food, and that he did not starve himself; and that he kept a table for guests which, though in comparison with that of his predecessor it was only ‘as moonlight unto sunlight, and as water unto wine,’ yet was not so wholly inartistic as that which had so deeply stirred the wrath of the old Bishop of Berœa.
But when Olympias mused over the story she was hardly surprised at the remark she read in St. Isidore of Pelusium, that there were very few bishops who inspired any respect for their holiness; or at what Chrysostom himself had said in one of his homilies, that he feared more bishops would be lost than saved.
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