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Chapter XXIII.—Of the holy monk Aphraates.

On the north of the river Orontes lies the palace. On the South a vast two storied portico is built on the city wall with lofty towers on either side. Between the palace and the river lies a public way open to passengers from the town, through the gate in this quarter, and leading to the country in the suburbs. The godly Aphraates was once passing along this thoroughfare on his way to the soldiers’ training ground, in order to perform the duty of serving his flock. The emperor happened to be looking down from a gallery in the palace, and saw him going by wearing a cloak of undressed goat’s skin,770770    The word Sisura was used for a common upper garment, but according to the grammarian Tzetzes (Schol. Ad. Lyc. 634) its accurate meaning is the one given in the text. and walking rapidly, though of advanced age. On its being remarked that this was Aphraates to whom all the town was then attached, the emperor cried out “Where are you going? Tell us.” Readily and cleverly he answered “To pray for your empire.” “You had better stop at home” said the emperor “and pray alone like a monk.” “Yes,” said the divine man, “so I was bound to do and so I always did till now, as long as the Saviour’s sheep were at peace; but now that they are grievously disturbed and in great peril of being caught by beasts, I needs must leave no means untried to save the nurslings. For tell me, sir, had I been a girl sitting in my chamber, and looking after the house, and had seen a flash of flame fall and my father’s house on fire, what ought I to do? Tell me; sit within and never mind the house being on fire, and wait for the flame to approach? or bid my bower good bye and run up and down and get water and try to quench the flame? Of course you will say the latter, for so a quick and spirited girl would do. And that is what I am doing now, sir. You have set fire to our Father’s house and we are running about in the endeavour to put it out.” So said Aphraates, and the emperor threatened him and said no more. One of the grooms of the imperial bedchamber, who threatened the godly man somewhat more violently, met with the following fate. He was entrusted with the charge of the bath, and immediately after this conversation he came down to get it ready for the emperor. On entering he lost his wits, stepped into the boiling water before it was mixed with the cold, and so met his end. The emperor sat waiting for him to announce that the bath was ready for him to enter, and after a considerable time had gone by he sent other officers to report the cause of the delay. After they had gone in and looked all about the room they discovered the chamberlain 128slain by the heat, and lying dead in the boiling water. On this becoming known to the emperor they perceived the force of the prayers of Aphraates. Nevertheless they did not depart from the impious doctrines but hardened their heart like Pharaoh, and the infatuated emperor, though made aware of the miracle of the holy man, persisted in his mad rage against piety.


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