(Chapter XXVII (continued), Life of Eugenia, Book 1d
(Also Euphrasia further down this page)
"I promise you," she said, "that our art is much stronger than that. Our master has a Father but no mother, and a mother who knew not a father. For the Father begot him without help from any woman, and a mother brought him to birth who knew not a man. He has a virgin for his spouse, who daily bears him many sons, yes, countless sons does she bear, and daily he gives his flesh to their flesh. She enjoys his embraces unceasingly, their love for each other is everlasting, and exists in such integrity that their union becomes the source of all virginity, all charity and all integrity."
Nicetius found all this quite baffling, and to save the Emperor from having to listen to all that if she were called before him, he ordered Eugenia to be taken to the temple of Diana, where a soldier threatened her with a spear.
"Get your life back, Eugenia," he said. "Return to your own inheritance and sacrifice to the goddess Diana."
Eugenia spread out her hands to heaven and prayed.
"O God, you know all the secrets of my heart. In your love you have preserved my virginity unsullied, for you have found me worthy of being given your son, my Lord Jesus Christ, as my spouse. You have made your holy Spirit to reign in my heart. Be present with me now as I confess your holy name and let all those who worship this idol and glory in its images be put to shame."
As she was praying an earthquake occurred, and the foundations of the temple shook and the idol was overthrown. Nothing remained standing except the altar in front of the temple doors where Eugenia was standing. This all happened in the district of Lycaonia, in the presence of all those who had followed Eugenia in her trials. A vast crowd of Roman people collected amid a tumult of discordant shouts. Some protested her innocence, others branded her as a magician. The prefect was told what was happening and he made it known to the Emperor. The Emperor ordered her to be thrown into the Tiber weighed down with stones, but the stones became untied, and the blessed Eugenia floated over the surface of the water, so that it was obvious to all Christians that he who walked with Peter in the sea without sinking was with her to prevent her being drowned.
They fished her out of the river and threw her into the furnace that heated the Severian baths, but the furnace immediately went out, its heat turned to cold, and all its burning fuel crumbled to nothing. Chaos broke out such as had never been seen before. They threw her into a dark dungeon and ordered that she be given no food for the next ten days nor allowed any light. But such great splendour was daily there with her that when she eventually emerged she radiated light. For the Saviour had appeared to her there, bringing her bread as white as snow and of the most exquisite tasting sweetness.
"Eugenia," he had said to her, "take this bread from my hands. I am your Saviour whom you have loved with all your heart and mind, and do still love. I will receive you into heaven on the same day in which I came down to earth."
Having said this he departed, and on Christmas day a gladiator was sent to kill her in prison, and her body was taken up by Christian relatives of hers and taken to the family estates not far from the city on the Latin Way, where the bodies of many saints were buried.
As Claudia her mother was grieving at her tomb, keeping vigil in the dead of night, Eugenia appeared to her clad in a garment of cloth of gold, accompanied by a host of virgins.
"Be glad and rejoice," said Eugenia, "for Christ has led me to share in the joyfulness of the saints, and has numbered my father amongst the patriarchs. And behold, this Sunday he will receive you into the everlasting joys. Encourage your sons, my brothers, to keep the sign of the cross, that they too may come to share glory with us."
And as she spoke she was enfolded in a light so brilliant that human eye could not bear it, as the Angels came down singing a hymn to God in voices of a beauty beyond description, except that it was the name of Jesus Christ and his holy Spirit that resounded through their praises. Glory and honour to the Father, and to the Son, and to the holy Spirit, now and always and unto the ages of ages, Amen.
Life No 18
The Life of St Euphrasia, Virgin [Celebrated in the Roman martyrology on March 13]
by an anonymous author
At the time of the most godly emperor Theodosius, [Theodosius I, Emperor in Constantinople 379-395] there was a certain senator in the royal city called Antigonus. He was of the imperial family and a member of his closest circle, a man wise in deeds as well as in words, who governed the province of Lycia [A province of Asia Minor between Caria and Pamphylia] conscientiously according to Roman Law. He was a compassionate man, sensitive to the needs of others. The Emperor loved him not only as a relative and a senator but as a godly Christian who was always able to offer good advice. He was extremely wealthy; the royal city had no one else like him in respect of wisdom, good deeds and riches. He took a wife called Euphraxia, [Rosweyde notes that other sources all refer to this woman as Euphrasia, Book I of the Vitae being unique in calling her Euphraxia except in the heading to this Life] of his own nation and from the same imperial family, who feared the Lord deeply and spent much time in church offering her prayers and tears to God. She helped many to take part in the work of God by means of her many gifts to churches and monasteries. The emperor and Augusta his wife dearly loved her not only because she was of their family, but also for her upright morals, her honesty and her deep piety. They had one daughter who was also called Euphraxia, after her mother.
After their daughter was born, Antigonus said to Euphraxia one day:
"You know, Euphraxia, my love, ["sister" seems hardly adequate to translate soror here] that this life is nothing, that the vanity of riches and this temporal existence is nothing. A human lifespan of eighty years is consummated in ruin, whereas riches laid up in heaven last for infinite ages of ages to them who fear God. We deprive ourselves of those riches if we are fettered by the standards of the world and held in thrall to the deceits of temporal riches, or if we pass our days in idleness, acquiring nothing useful to our souls."
"What are you suggesting we should do, my husband?" asked Euphraxia.
"God has given us one daughter, which should be quite enough for us. We don't need to conform any further to this unfortunate and miserable age."
Euphraxia sprang to her feet and raised her hands to heaven.
"Blessed be God," she said to her husband Antigonus with a sigh. "He has given you the grace to fear him, and lead you into a knowledge of his truth. To tell you the truth I have often prayed to God to illumine your heart and enlighten your mind on this very matter, though I did not presume to broach the subject myself. Shall I tell you who is the prime mover in this?"
"Tell me anything you like, my love."
"The Apostle bore witness many long ages since, you know, and said, 'We have but a short time. It remains that those who have wives should live as those who have them not' (1 Corinthians 7.29). All the desires of the world are doomed to perish. What use is our money and abundant possessions? None of it will go down with us into the grave. Let's make haste to act on your good advice and give much to the poor, so that the plan you have proposed will not be unfruitful."
Hearing this, Antigonus glorified God.
Having entered into this higher way of life and given a great deal to the poor, Antigonus lived only for one more year after renouncing his wife. He had died after conducting his life in this godly way for a whole year, and so was buried in peace. The Emperor and Augusta both mourned for him, not just because he was descended from the same family line, but because he had been upright and devout. They were very solicitous for Euphraxia's welfare, not just because of family ties, but also because she was now in the same position as a young unmarried woman. Two years and three months only had she lived with a husband, one year of which they had abstained from each other and lived as brother and sister.
So once Antigonus was buried, Euphraxia received great support from them, to the extent that she felt able to take her daughter and hand her over into the care of the Emperor and Augusta. She fell at their feet, crying and weeping.
"I commend this orphan into your hands and the hands of God," she said. "Be mindful of Antigonus who belonged to you, and take this child and care for her, and stand in the place of both father and mother for her."
Many of those who heard this shed many tears. Even the royal couple wept.
A little while later, when mourning for Antigonus had subsided a little, the Emperor persuaded Euphraxia that her daughter should be betrothed to a certain rich senator. The betrothal was arranged in expectation of her arriving at full age, for at present she was only five years old. After some further time had passed, this senator began to entertain a desire to be united with Antigonus' widow. He begged for the support of various matrons, who persuaded Augusta that the senator should be allowed to exchange marriage vows with Euphraxia, without seeking permission from the Emperor. Euphraxia wept bitterly when told about this plan and complained to the women responsible.
"Woe to you in the life to come!" she cried. "In foisting this plan upon me, you are contriving to hinder the path of a woman who is striving to live for God alone. Leave me alone. In any case you have ensured that I no longer have any desire to be part of your circle."
They were left in some confusion, and told Augusta what had happened. The Emperor got to hear about it as well, and was furious with Augusta.
"Really, Augusta," he cried, "You have done something which is completely and utterly out of order! Is this your kind of Christianity, Augusta? Is this the way you fulfil your promise to God to govern in a godly manner? Is this the way you honour the memory of Antigonus whom we valued so greatly? You have done something completely at odds with the way we should be governing. Here is this woman who is still technically an infant, although she had lived with a husband for a year. By agreement they stopped sleeping with each other for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, and now you want to compel her to return to the way of the world? Have you no fear of God, to perpetrate this wickedness? How am I going to persuade people that I did not authorise this? What you have done is bizarre! Indecent! You have flouted my imperial authority, and sullied the memory of my dearest and greatly loved Antigonus!"
Augusta was covered in confusion at this rebuke, and was struck dumb and as still as a stone for nearly two hours. Euphraxia, Antigonus' widow, had become the occasion of an enormous dissension between the Emperor and Augusta, and at that thought Euphraxia was very upset, and with downcast eyes she felt she might just as well be dead. She decided to leave the city entirely.
"We have large estates in Egypt," she said to her daughter, weeping bitterly, "so let's go there and visit your father's property. Everything I have is yours, my daughter."
So Euphraxia and her daughter left the imperial city, without telling the Emperor, and went to Egypt. They intended to stay there, and visited all their estates in quick succession, before going into the interior of the Thebaid, taking with them slaves and stewards to look after their luggage. They stayed in several monasteries both of men and of women, where they offered many prayers and gave considerable gifts of money.
In one place there was a monastery of women which had a hundred and thirty architria. [Rosweyde conjectures this word probably means 'small cells', presumably small buildings with three domes] It was said that many notable virtues could be observed there. Nobody drank wine in that monastery, they ate no apples or grapes or figs or other fruits which the region brought forth in abundance. One of those women who had renounced the world denied herself the use of oil in her diet, and fasted daily from vespers to vespers. There were some who ate only every two days, some every three. None of them ever washed their feet. They poured scorn upon the very mention of a bath, judging it to be a word which was almost obscene, to which they ought to shut their ears. There was one of them who took her meagre allowance of sleep on the ground, with a covering of goatskin only one cubit wide and three long. Their outer garments were of goatskin right down to the tips of their toes. Each of them did as much manual labour as possible. If anyone fell ill there was no provision for medicine or ointments, but they accepted their illnesses as the greatest of blessings from the Lord, and bore their weakness in expectation of the medicine of the Sunday Eucharist. None of them wandered outside the gates. There was a mature woman in charge of the gate, who was responsible for all communications inwards and outwards. She was one who dispensed a great deal of sound common sense.
Euphraxia greatly valued the wisdom of these holy women, the fruit of their marvellous lives, and often went to the monastery where she offered incense and candles. One day she had a request to make of the abbess and her deputies.
"I hope you won't be too angry if I offer you a little gift of twenty or thirty pounds of gold, that you might pray for this little friend of yours and her father Antigonus."
"My dear good lady," replied the abbess, "Your servants have no need of any gifts and no longing for money. For we have left all, and scorned the things of this world in order to enjoy the blessings of eternity. We desire to possess nothing that we may not lose the kingdom of heaven. But I don't want to disappoint you, or send you away empty-handed, so just take a little lamp oil and incense to the oratory, and that will be ample reward for us."
Euphraxia did so, and begged all the sisters to pray for Antigonus and his daughter Euphraxia.
One day the abbess put the child Euphraxia to the test.
"Now then, Miss Euphraxia," she said, "how do you like our monastery and all the sisters?"
"Oh, I like you very much, ma'am," she replied.
"Well, if you like us so much, why not wear the habit as we do," said the abbess jokingly.
"If my mother has no objections," said the little girl, "I would be quite happy to stay here for ever."
"Whom do you love best, then, out of us and the man you are betrothed to?"
"I don't know him, or he me. I know you, and I love you. Tell me, whom do you love, me or him?
"We love you, and we love our Christ."
"And I truly love you and your Christ."
Euphraxia the mother listened to all this and her tears flowed without restraint. The abbess was very moved by what the little girl said, to think that such a small girl should come out with such things. For she was only seven years old, when this conversation was taking place.
"Come, daughter," said the mother with a sigh and a bitter tear, "Time to go home. It's evening already."
"I want to stay here with my lady abbess."
"No dear," said the abbess, "you can't stay here. Off you go home. No one can stay here unless they have given themselves completely to Christ."
"Where is Christ?"
The abbess pointed out an image of the Lord. Euphraxia ran up to it and kissed it, turned round and said:
"I truly vow myself to Christ and will not go home with my mother."
"My daughter," said the abbess, "it is not for you to stay here, you can't stay here."
"Where you are," she replied, "there shall I be."
It was already evening, but however much both mother and abbess urged her to go home nothing would persuade her to leave. Day after day both mother and abbess talked to her, but they were unable to make her change her mind and could not drive her out of the monastery.
"My daughter," the abbess said at last, "if you want to stay here you must be able to read, and learn the Psalter, and fast until vespers like all the other sisters."
"I can learn to fast and do everything, if only I can stay here."
"Well, my lady," the abbess said at last to the girl's mother, "Let the girl stay here. I perceive the grace of God alight in her, and I recognise that her father's virtue, and your honesty, and the prayers of both of you have given her a vision of eternal life."
Euphraxia arose and took her daughter over to the image of the Lord, raising her hands to heaven with a loud cry and many tears.
"Lord Jesus Christ," she cried, "take this little girl who longs for you and has offered herself to you," and turning to her daughter, "Euphraxia, my daughter, may God who has laid the foundations of the everlasting mountains confirm you in his fear."
She handed her over to the abbess, and beating her breast and weeping, left the monastery. The whole congregation wept with her in sympathy.
A few days later the abbess took Euphraxia into the oratory, prayed over her, and clothed her in the monastic habit.
"O eternal King," she prayed as she stretched out her hands to heaven, "you have begun a good work in her; bring it peacefully to perfection, we pray. Grant that this little girl may ever walk according to your name, and be found faithful in your sight."
Euphraxia's mother also prayed, and said to her daughter:
"Is it your will, my daughter, to be clothed in this habit?"
"It is, mother. For I have learned from the abbess and from the sisters that this habit is the bridal dress which the Lord Jesus Christ gives to those who love him."
"May he to whom you are betrothing yourself, " said her mother, "make you worthy of his marriage bed."
With these words and prayers for her daughter, she said farewell to the abbess and the sisters, embraced her daughter, and left to resume her usual custom of moving about, supplying the needs of the poor.
After a few days the abbess asked the girl's mother to come and see her privately.
"I have something to tell you," she said, "but don't be alarmed."
"Tell me, whatever it is."
"I saw in a dream Antigonus your husband standing in great glory, begging the Lord Jesus Christ that you might depart from your body and be with him from then on, and enjoy the glory which he enjoyed."
Like the religious woman she was, she went home not in the least perturbed but glad and joyful. She prayed that indeed she might be allowed to depart this life and be with Christ. She went to see her daughter.
"My daughter," she said, "my lady abbess has told me that Christ is calling me and the day of my departure is at hand. Everything belonging to your father and me I give into your hands. Distribute it wisely, that you may gain a heavenly inheritance."
"Woe is me," cried her daughter, "I am now a pilgrim and orphan!"
"My daughter, you have Christ for your father and your husband, so don't say you are a pilgrim and an orphan. And you have your lady abbess in place of a mother. So look to it that you carry out everything you have promised. Fear God, honour all your sisters, serve them with all humility. Never entertain in your heart any thoughts that you are of the imperial family and therefore they ought to be your slaves. Be poor on earth that you may be rich in heaven. See now, everything is yours. Give lands and money to the monastery on your father's behalf and mine, that we may find mercy in the sight of God and escape the punishment eternal."
Three days later she died, and they buried her in the monastery's cemetery.
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