JEROME
 
The Life of Paul
the First Hermit

 

 The Meeting of Paul and Antony


Latin text from: Hieronymus, Vita Pauli, bezorgd, vertaald en toegelicht door Vincent Hunink, Uitgeverij P., Leuven 2002;


 

 

 

 

THE LIFE of PAUL by Saint Jerome

SANCTI HIERONYMI VITA PAULI

 

 

 

 

written in the year 374 or 375 during Jerome’s stay in the desert of Syria,

 

1. It has been a subject of wide-spread and frequent discussion what monk was the first to give a signal example of the hermit life. For some going back too far have found a beginning in those holy men Elijah and John, of whom the former seems to have been more than a monk and the latter to have begun to prophesy before his birth. Others, and their opinion is that commonly received, maintain that Antony was the originator of this mode of life, which view is partly true. Partly I say, for the fact is not so much that he preceded the rest as that they all derived from him the necessary stimulus. But it is asserted even at the present day by Amathas and Macarius, two of Antony’s disciples, the former of whom laid his master in the grave, that a certain Paul of Thebes was the leader in the movement, though not the first to bear the name, and this opinion has my approval also. Some as they think fit circulate stories such as this—that he was a man living in an underground cave with flowing hair down to his feet, and invent many incredible tales which it would be useless to detail. Nor does the opinion of men who lie without any sense of shame seem worthy of refutation. So then inasmuch as both Greek and Roman writers have handed down careful accounts of Antony, I have determined to write a short history of Paul’s early and latter days, more because the thing has been passed over than from confidence in my own ability. What his middle life was like, and what snares of Satan he experienced, no man, it is thought, has yet discovered.

(1) Inter multos saepe dubitatum est, a quo potissimum Monachorum eremus habitari coepta sit. Quidam enim altius repetentes a beato Elia et Ioanne principia sumpserunt. Quorum et Elias plus nobis uidetur fuisse quam monachus et Ioannes ante prophetare coepisse quam natus sit. Alii autem, in quam opinionem omne uulgus consentit, adserunt Antonium huius propositi caput, quod ex parte uerum est. Non enim tam ipse ante omnes fuit, quam ab eo omnium incitata sunt studia.  Amatas uero et Macarius, discipuli Antonii, e quibus superior magistri corpus sepeliuit, etiam nunc adfirmant Paulum quemdam Thebaeum principem rei istius fuisse, non nominis, quam opinionem nos quoque probamus.  Nonnulli et haec et alia prout uoluntas tulit iactitant: subterraneo specu crinitum calcaneo tenus hominem, et multa quae persequi otiosum est incredibilia fingentes. Quorum quia impudens mendacium fuit, ne refellenda quidem sententia uidetur.  Igitur quia de Antonio tam Graeco quam Romano stilo diligenter memoriae traditum est, pauca de Pauli principio et fine scribere disposui, magis quia res omissa erat quam fretus ingenio. Quomodo autem in media aetate uixerit aut quas Satanae pertulerit insidias, nulli hominum compertum habetur.

 

 

 

 

2. During the persecutions of Decius and Valerian, [a.d. 249–260] when Cornelius at Rome and Cyprian at Carthage shed their blood in blessed martyrdom, many churches in Egypt and the Thebaid were laid waste by the fury of the storm. At that time the Christians would often pray that they might be smitten with the sword for the name of Christ. But the desire of the crafty foe was to slay the soul, not the body; and this he did by searching diligently for slow but deadly tortures. In the words of Cyprian himself who suffered at his hands: they who wished to die were not suffered to be slain. We give two illustrations, both as specially noteworthy and to make the cruelty of the enemy better known.

(2) Sub Decio et Valeriano persecutoribus, quo tempore Cornelius Romae Cyprianus Carthagine felici cruore damnati sunt, multas apud Aegyptum et Thebaidem Ecclesias tempestas saeua populata est. Voti tunc Christianis erat pro eo nomine gladio percuti. Verum hostis callidus tarda ad mortem supplicia conquirens animas cupiebat iugulare, non corpora. Et ut ipse qui ab ipso passus est Cyprianus ait: 'Volentibus mori non permittebatur occidi.'  Cuius ut crudelitas notior fiat, duo memoriae causa exempla subiecimus.

 

 

 

 

3. A martyr, steadfast in faith, who stood fast as a conqueror amidst the racks and burning plates, was ordered by him to be smeared with honey and to be made to lie under a blazing sun with his hands tied behind his back, so that he who had already surmounted the heat of the frying-pan might be vanquished by the stings of flies. Another who was in the bloom of youth was taken by his command to some delightful pleasure gardens, and there amid white lilies and blushing roses, close by a gently murmuring stream, while overhead the soft whisper of the wind played among the leaves of the trees, was laid upon a deep luxurious feather-bed, bound with fetters of sweet garlands to prevent his escape. When all had withdrawn from him a harlot of great beauty drew near and began with voluptuous embrace to throw her arms around his neck, and, wicked even to relate! to handle his person, so that when once the lusts of the flesh were roused, she might accomplish her licentious purpose. What to do, and whither to turn, the soldier of Christ knew not. Unconquered by tortures he was being overcome by pleasure. At last with an inspiration from heaven he bit off the end of his tongue and spat it in her face as she kissed him. Thus the sensations of lust were subdued by the intense pain which followed.

(3) Perseuerantem in fide martyrem et inter eculeum laminasque uictorem, iussit melle perungi et sub ardentissimo sole religatis post tergum manibus reponi, scilicet ut muscarum aculeis cederet qui ignitas sartagines ante superasset.  Alium iuuenali aetate florentem in amoenissimos hortulos praecepit adduci ibique inter candentia lilia et rubentes rosas, cum leni iuxta murmure serperet riuus et molli sibilo arborum folia uentus stringeret, super structum plumis lectulum supinari, et ne se inde posset excutere, blandis sertorum nexibus inretitum relinqui. Quo cum recedentibus cunctis meretrix speciosa uenisset, coepit delicatis stringere colla complexibus et, quod dictu quoque scelus est, manibus adtrectare uirilia, ut corpore in libidinem concitato se uictrix impudica superiaceret. Quid ageret miles Christi, quo se uerteret? Quem tormenta non uicerant superabat uoluptas. Tandem coelitus inspiratus praecisam mordicus linguam in osculantis se faciem exspuit. Ac sic libidinis sensum succedens doloris magnitudo calcauit.

 

 

 

 

4. While such enormities were being perpetrated in the lower part of the Thebaid, Paul and his newly married sister were bereaved of both their parents, he being about sixteen years of age. He was heir to a rich inheritance, highly skilled in both Greek and Egyptian learning, gifted with a gentle disposition and a deep love for God. Amid the thunders of persecution he retired to a house at a considerable distance and in a more secluded spot. But to what crimes does not the “accursed thirst for gold” impel the human heart? His brother-in-law conceived the thought of betraying the youth whom he was bound to conceal. Neither a wife’s tears which so often prevail, nor the ties of blood, nor the all-seeing eye of God above him could turn the traitor from his wickedness. “He came, he was urgent, he acted with cruelty while seeming only to press the claims of affection.”

(4) Per idem ergo tempus quo talia gerebantur apud inferiorem Thebaidem, cum sorore iam uiro tradita morte amborum parentum in haereditate locupleti Paulus relictus est, annorum circiter sexdecim, litteris tam Graecis quam Aegyptiacis adprime eruditus, mansueti animi, Deum ualde amans. Et cum persecutionis detonaret procella, in uilla remotiore secretior erat.  Verum quid pectora humana non cogis 'Auri sacra fames'? Sororis maritus coepit prodere uelle quem celare debuerat. Non illum uxoris lacrimae, non communio sanguinis, non exspectans cuncta ex alto Deus ab scelere reuocauerunt. Aderat, instabat, crudelitate quasi pietate utebatur.

5. The young man had the tact to understand this, and, conforming his will to the necessity, fled to the mountain wilds to wait for the end of the persecution. He began with easy stages, and repeated halts, to advance into the desert. At length he found a rocky mountain, at the foot of which, closed by a stone, was a cave of no great size. He removed the stone (so eager are men to learn what is hidden), made eager search, and saw within a large hall, open to the sky, but shaded by the wide-spread branches of an ancient palm. The tree, however, did not conceal a fountain of transparent clearness, the waters whereof no sooner gushed forth than the stream was swallowed up in a small opening of the same ground which gave it birth. There were besides in the mountain, which was full of cavities, many habitable places, in which were seen, now rough with rust, anvils and hammers for stamping money. The place, Egyptian writers relate, was a secret mint at the time of Antony’s union with Cleopatra.

(5) Quod ubi prudentissimus adulescens intellexit, ad montium deserta confugiens, dum persecutionis finem praestolaretur necessitatem in uoluntatem uertit, ac paulatim procedens rursusque subsistens atque hoc idem saepius faciens tandem repperit saxeum montem, ad cuius radices haud grandis spelunca lapide claudebatur.  Quo remoto (ut est cupiditas hominum auidius occulta cognoscere) animaduertit intus grande uestibulum, quod aperto desuper coelo patulis diffusa ramis uetus palma contexerat, fontem lucidissimum ostendens; cuius riuum tantummodo foras statim eadem quae genuerat terra sorbebat. Erant praeterea per exesum montem haud pauca habitacula, in quibus scabrae iam incudes et mallei, quibus pecunia signatur, uisebantur. Hunc locum Aegyptiorum litterae ferunt furtiuam monetae officinam fuisse, ea tempestate qua Cleopatrae iunctus Antonius est.

6. Accordingly, regarding his abode as a gift from God, he fell in love with it, and there in prayer and solitude spent all the rest of his life. The palm afforded him food and clothing. And, that no one may deem this impossible, I call to witness Jesus and His holy angels that I have seen and still see in that part of the desert which lies between Syria and the Saracens’ country, monks of whom one was shut up for thirty years and lived on barley bread and muddy water, while another in an old cistern (called in the country dialect of Syria Gubba) kept himself alive on five dried figs a day. What I relate then is so strange that it will appear incredible to those who do not believe the words that “all things are possible to him that believeth.”

(6) Igitur adamato quasi a Deo sibi offerretur habitaculo, omnem ibidem in orationibus et solitudine duxit aetatem. Cibum et uestimentum palma praebebat.  Quod ne cui impossibile uideatur, Iesum testor et sanctos angelos eius, in ea parte eremi quae iuxta Syriam Saracenis iungitur et uidisse me monachos et uidere, e quibus unus triginta iam per annos clausus hordeaceo pane et lutulenta aqua uiuit. Alter in cisterna ueteri (quam gentili sermone Syri 'gubbam' uocant) quinque caricis per singulos dies sustentatur. Haec incredibilia uidebuntur eis, qui non crediderint omnia possibilia esse credentibus.

7. But to return to the point at which I digressed. The blessed Paul had already lived on earth the life of heaven for a hundred and thirteen years, and Antony at the age of ninety was dwelling in another place of solitude (as he himself was wont to declare), when the thought occurred to the latter, that no monk more perfect than himself had settled in the desert. However, in the stillness of the night it was revealed to him that there was farther in the desert a much better man than he, and that he ought to go and visit him. So then at break of day the venerable old man, supporting and guiding his weak limbs with a staff, started to go: but what direction to choose he knew not. Scorching noontide came, with a broiling sun overhead, but still he did not suffer himself to be turned from the journey he had begun. Said he, “I believe in my God: some time or other He will shew me the fellow-servant whom He promised me.” He said no more. All at once he beholds a creature of mingled shape, half horse half man, called by the poets Hippocentaur. At the sight of this he arms himself by making on his forehead the sign of salvation, and then exclaims, “Holloa! Where in these parts is a servant of God living?” The monster after gnashing out some kind of outlandish utterance, in words broken rather than spoken through his bristling lips, at length finds a friendly mode of communication, and extending his right hand points out the way desired. Then with swift flight he crosses the spreading plain and vanishes from the sight of his wondering companion. But whether the devil took this shape to terrify him, or whether it be that the desert which is known to abound in monstrous animals engenders that kind of creature also, we cannot decide.

(7) Sed ut ad id redeam unde digressus sum, cum iam centesimo tertio decimo aetatis suae anno beatus Paulus coelestem uitam ageret in terris et nonagenarius in alia solitudine Antonius moraretur, ut ipse adserere solebat, haec in mentem eius cogitatio incidit, nullum ultra se monacharum in eremo consedisse. Atque illi per noctem quiescenti reuelatum est esse alium interius multo se meliorem ad quem uisendum properare deberet. Illico erumpente luce uenerabilis senex infirmos artus baculo regente sustentans coepit ire uelle quo nesciebat.  Et iam media dies coquente desuper sole feruebat, nec tamen a coepto itinere deducebatur dicens: 'Credo Deo meo, quod olim seruum suum, quem mihi promisit, ostendet.'  Nec plura his, conspicatur hominem equo mixtum, cui opinio poetarum Hippocentauro uocabulum indidit. Quo uiso salutaris impressione signi armat frontem et 'heus tu,' inquit, 'quanam in parte Dei seruus hic habitat?'  At ille barbarum nescio quid infrendens et frangens potius uerba quam proloquens, inter horrentia ora satis blandum quaesiuit adloquium. Et cum dexterae manus protensione cupitum indicat iter, ac sic patentes campos uolucri transmittens fuga ex oculis mirantis euanuit. Verum hoc utrum diabolus ad terrendum eum simulauerit, an (ut solet) eremus monstruosorum ferax animalium istam quoque gignat bestiam, incertum habemus.

8. Antony was amazed, and thinking over what he had seen went on his way. Before long in a small rocky valley shut in on all sides he sees a mannikin with hooked snout, horned forehead, and extremities like goats’ feet. When he saw this, Antony like a good soldier seized the shield of faith and the helmet of hope: the creature none the less began to offer to him the fruit of the palm-trees to support him on his journey and as it were pledges of peace. Antony perceiving this stopped and asked who he was. The answer he received from him was this: “I am a mortal being and one of those inhabitants of the desert whom the Gentiles deluded by various forms of error worship under the names of Fauns, Satyrs, and Incubi. I am sent to represent my tribe. We pray you in our behalf to entreat the favour of your Lord and ours, who, we have learnt, came once to save the world, and ‘whose sound has gone forth into all the earth.’” As he uttered such words as these, the aged traveller’s cheeks streamed with tears, the marks of his deep feeling, which he shed in the fulness of his joy. He rejoiced over the Glory of Christ and the destruction of Satan, and marvelling all the while that he could understand the Satyr’s language, and striking the ground with his staff, he said, “Woe to thee, Alexandria, who instead of God worshippest monsters! Woe to thee, harlot city, into which have flowed together the demons of the whole world! What will you say now? Beasts speak of Christ, and you instead of God worship monsters.” He had not finished speaking when, as if on wings, the wild creature fled away. Let no one scruple to believe this incident; its truth is supported by what took place when Constantine was on the throne, a matter of which the whole world was witness. For a man of that kind was brought alive to Alexandria and shewn as a wonderful sight to the people. Afterwards his lifeless body, to prevent its decay through the summer heat, was preserved in salt and brought to Antioch that the Emperor might see it.

(8) Stupens itaque Antonius et de eo quod uiderat secum uoluens ulterius progrediebatur. Nec mora, inter saxosam conuallem haud grandem homunculum uidet aduncis naribus, fronte cornibus asperata, cuius extrema pars corporis in caprarum pedes desinebat. Et hoc adtonitus expectaculo scutum fidei et loricam spei bonus praeliator arripuit. Nihilominus memoratum animal palmarum fructus ad uiaticum, quasi pacis obsides, offerebat. Quo cognito gradum pressit Antonius, et quisnam esset interrogans hoc ab eo responsum accepit:  'Mortalis ego sum et unus ex accolis eremi, quos uario delusa errore gentilitas Faunos Satyrosque et Incubos colit. Legatione fungor gregis mei. Precamur ut pro nobis communem Dominum depreceris; salutem mundi olim uenisse cognouimus, et "in uniuersam terram exiit sonus eius."'  Talia eo loquente longaeuus uiator ubertim faciem lacrimis rigabat, quas magnitudo laetitiae indices cordis effuderat. Gaudebat quippe de Christi gloria, de interitu Satanae, simulque admirans, quod eius posset intellegere sermonem et baculo humum percutiens aiebat: 'Vae tibi, Alexandria, quae pro Deo portenta ueneraris. Vae tibi, ciuitas meretrix, in qua totius orbis daemonia confluxere. Quid nunc dictura es? Bestiae Christum loquuntur, et tu pro Deo portenta ueneraris!'  Necdum uerba compleuerat et quasi pennigero uolatu petulcum animal aufugit.  Hoc ne cui ad incredulitatem scrupulum moueat, sub rege Constantio, uniuerso mundo teste, defenditur. Nam Alexandriam istiusmodi homo uiuus perductus magnum populo spectaculum praebuit, et postea cadauer exanime, ne calore aestatis dissiparetur, sale infusum et Antiochiam, ut ab Imperatore uideretur, adlatum est.

9. To pursue my proposed story. Antony traversed the region on which he had entered, seeing only the traces of wild beasts, and the wide waste of the desert. What to do, whither to wend his way, he knew not. Another day had now passed. One thing alone was left him, his confident belief that he could not be forsaken by Christ. The darkness of the second night he wore away in prayer. While it was still twilight, he saw not far away a she-wolf gasping with parching thirst and creeping to the foot of the mountain. He followed it with his eyes; and after the beast had disappeared in a cave he drew near and began to look within. His curiosity profited nothing: the darkness hindered vision. But, as the Scripture saith, perfect love casteth out fear. With halting step and bated breath he entered, carefully feeling his way; he advanced little by little and repeatedly listened for the sound. At length through the fearful midnight darkness a light appeared in the distance. In his eager haste he struck his foot against a stone and roused the echoes; whereupon the blessed Paul closed the open door and made it fast with a bar. Then Antony sank to the ground at the entrance and until the sixth hour or later craved admission, saying, “Who I am, whence, and why I have come, you know. I know I am not worthy to look upon you: yet unless I see you I will not go away. You welcome beasts: why not a man? I asked and I have found: I knock that it may be opened to me. But if I do not succeed, I will die here on your threshold. You will surely bury me when I am dead.”
  “Such was his constant cry: unmoved he stood.
  To whom the hero thus brief answer made”
       [Virg. Ćn. ii, 650, and vi, 672.]

“Prayers like these do not mean threats; there is no trickery in tears. Are you surprised at my not welcoming you when you have come here to die?” Thus with smiles Paul gave him access, and, the door being opened, they threw themselves into each other’s arms, greeted one another by name, and joined in thanksgiving to God.

(9) Sed ut propositum persequar, Antonius coepta regione pergebat, ferarum tantum uestigia intuens et eremi latam uastitatem. Quid ageret, quo uerteret gradum?  Iam altera effluxerat dies. Restabat unum, ut deseri se a Christo non posse confideret. Pernox secundas in oratione exegit tenebras, et dubia adhuc luce haud procul intuetur lupam sitis ardoribus anhelantem ad radicem montis inrepere. Quam secutus oculis et iuxta speluncam, cum fera abiisset, accedens, coepit introspicere, nihil curiositate proficiente, tenebris arcentibus uisum. Verum ut Scriptura ait, 'perfecta dilectio foras mittit timorem.' Suspenso gradu et anhelitu temperato callidus explorator ingressus est, ac paulatim progrediens saepiusque subsistens sonum aure captabat. Tandem per caecae noctis horrorem procul lumen intuitus, dum auidius properat, offensum pede lapidem in strepitum concitauit; post cuius sonitum beatus Paulus ostium quod patebat occludens sera obfirmauit.  Tunc uero Antonius pro foribus corruens, usque ad sextam et eo amplius horam aditum precabatur dicens: 'Qui sim, unde, cur uenerim, nosti. Scio me non mereri conspectum tuum; tamen nisi uidero, non recedam. Qui bestias suscipis, hominem cur repellis? Quaesiui et inueni, pulso ut aperiatur. Quod si non impetro, hic, hic moriar ante postes tuos. Certe sepelies uel cadauer.'  Talia perstabat memorans, fixusque manebat.  Ad quem responsum paucis ita reddidit heros:  'Nemo sic petit ut minetur, nemo cum lacrimis calumniam facit. Et miraris si non recipiam, cum moriturus adueneris?'  Sic adridens patefecit ingressum. Quo aperto dum in mutuos miscentur amplexus, propriis se salutauere nominibus; gratiae Domino in commune referuntur.

10. After the sacred kiss Paul sat down and thus began to address Antony. “Behold the man whom you have sought with so much toil, his limbs decayed with age, his gray hairs unkempt. You see before you a man who ere long will be dust. But love endures all things. Tell me therefore, I pray you, how fares the human race? Are new homes springing up in the ancient cities? What government directs the world? Are there still some remaining for the demons to carry away by their delusions?” Thus conversing they noticed with wonder a raven which had settled on the bough of a tree, and was then flying gently down till it came and laid a whole loaf of bread before them. They were astonished, and when it had gone, “See,” said Paul, “the Lord truly loving, truly merciful, has sent us a meal. For the last sixty years I have always received half a loaf: but at your coming Christ has doubled his soldier’s rations.”

(10) Et post sanctum osculum residens Paulus cum Antonio ita exorsus est: 'En quem tanto labore quaesisti, putribus senectute membris operit inculta canities. En uides hominem, puluerem mox futurum. Verum quia caritas omnia sustinet, narra mihi, quaeso, ut se habeat humanum genus. An in antiquis urbibus noua tecta consurgant; quo mundus regatur imperio; an supersint aliqui, qui daemonum errore rapiantur.'  Inter has sermocinationes suspiciunt alitem coruum in ramo arboris consedisse, qui inde leniter subuolans integrum panem ante mirantium ora deposuit. Post cuius abscessum: 'Eia,' inquit Paulus, 'Dominus nobis prandium misit, uere pius, uere misericors. Sexaginta iam anni sunt quod dimidii semper panis fragmen accipio, uerum ad aduentum tuum militibus suis Christus duplicauit annonam.'

11. Accordingly, having returned thanks to the Lord, they sat down together on the brink of the glassy spring. At this point a dispute arose as to who should break the bread, and nearly the whole day until eventide was spent in the discussion. Paul urged in support of his view the rites of hospitality, Antony pleaded age. At length it was arranged that each should seize the loaf on the side nearest to himself, pull towards him, and keep for his own the part left in his hands. Then on hands and knees they drank a little water from the spring, and offering to God the sacrifice of praise passed the night in vigil. At the return of day the blessed Paul thus spoke to Antony: “I knew long since, brother, that you were dwelling in those parts: long ago God promised you to me for a fellow-servant; but the time of my falling asleep now draws nigh; I have always longed to be dissolved and to be with Christ; my course is finished, and there remains for me a crown of righteousness. Therefore you have been sent by the Lord to lay my poor body in the ground, yea to return earth to earth.”

(11) Igitur in Deum gratiarum actione celebrata super uitrei marginem fontis uterque consedit. Hic uero, quis frangeret panem, oborta contentio pene diem duxit in uesperam. Paulus more cogebat hospitii, Antonius iure refellebat aetatis. Tandem consilium fuit, ut adprehenso e regione pane, dum ad se quisque nititur, pars sua remaneret in manibus. Dehinc paululum aquae prono in fonte ore libarunt, et immolantes Deo sacrificium laudis noctem transegere uigiliis.  Cumque iam esset terrae redditus dies, beatus Paulus ad Antonium sic locutus est: 'Olim te, frater, in istis regionibus habitare sciebam, olim conseruum meum mihi promiserat Deus. Sed quia iam dormitionis meae tempus aduenit, et quod semper cupieram dissolui et esse cum Christo, peracto cursu superest mihi corona iustitiae; tu missus a Domino es, qui humo corpusculum tegas, immo terram terrae reddas.'

12. On hearing this Antony with tears and groans began to pray that he would not desert him, but would take him for a companion on that journey. His friend replied: “You ought not to seek your own, but another man’s good. It is expedient for you to lay aside the burden of the flesh and to follow the Lamb; but it is expedient for the rest of the brethren to be trained by your example. Wherefore be so good as to go and fetch the cloak Bishop Athanasius gave you, to wrap my poor body in.” The blessed Paul asked this favour not because he cared much whether his corpse when it decayed were clothed or naked (why should he indeed, when he had so long worn a garment of palm-leaves stitched together?); but that he might soften his friend’s regrets at his decease. Antony was astonished to find Paul had heard of Athanasius and his cloak; and, seeing as it were Christ Himself in him, he mentally worshipped God without venturing to add a single word; then silently weeping he once more kissed his eyes and hands, and set out on his return to the monastery which was afterwards seized by the Saracens. His steps lagged behind his will. Yet, exhausted as he was with fasting and broken by age, his courage proved victorious over his years.

(12) His Antonius auditis flens et gemens, ne se desereret atque ut comitem talis itineris acciperet, precabatur. Ac ille: 'Non debes,' inquit, 'quaerere quae tua sunt, sed quae aliena. Expedit quidem tibi sarcina carnis abiecta Agnum sequi. Sed et caeteris expedit fratribus, ut tuo adhuc instituantur exemplo. Quamobrem, perge, quaeso, nisi molestum est, et pallium quod tibi Athanasius episcopus dedit, ad obuoluendum corpusculum meum defer.'  Hoc autem beatus Paulus rogauit non quod magnopere curaret, utrum tectum putresceret cadauer an nudum (quippe qui tanti temporis spatio contextis palmarum foliis uestiebatur), sed ut a se recedenti moeror suae mortis leuaretur.  Stupefactus ergo Antonius, quod de Athanasio et pallio eius audierat, quasi Christum in Paulo uidens et in pectore eius Deum uenerans ultra respondere nihil ausus est, sed cum silentio lacrimans exosculatis eius oculis manibusque ad monasterium, quod postea a Saracenis occupatum est, regrediebatur. Neque uero gressus sequebantur animum, sed cum corpus inane ieiuniis seniles etiam anni frangerent, animo uincebat aetatem.

13. At last wearied and panting for breath he completed his journey and reached his little dwelling. Here he was met by two disciples who had begun to wait upon him in his advanced age. Said they, “Where have you stayed so long, father?” He replied, “Woe to me a sinner! I do not deserve the name of monk. I have seen Elias, I have seen John in the desert, and I have really seen Paul in Paradise.” He then closed his lips, beat upon his breast, and brought out the cloak from his cell. When his disciples asked him to explain the matter somewhat more fully he said, “There is a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.” [Eccl. iii. 7].

(13) Tandem defatigatus et anhelus ad habitaculum suum confecto itinere peruenit. Cui cum duo discipuli, qui ei iam longaeuo ministrare coeperant, occurrissent dicentes: 'Vbi tamdiu moratus es, pater?', respondit: 'Vae mihi peccatori, qui falsum monachi nomen fero. Vidi Eliam, uidi Ioannem in deserto, et uere in paradiso Paulum uidi.'  Ac sic ore compresso et manu uerberans pectus ex cella pallium protulit. Rogantibusque discipulis ut plenius quidnam rei esset exponeret ait: 'Tempus tacendi et tempus loquendi.'

14. He then went out, and without taking so much as a morsel of food returned the same way he came, longing for him alone, thirsting to see him, having eyes and thought for none but him. For he was afraid, and the event proved his anticipations correct, that in his absence his friend might yield up his spirit to Christ. And now another day had dawned and a three hours’ journey still remained, when he saw Paul in robes of snowy white ascending on high among the bands of angels, and the choirs of prophets and apostles. Immediately he fell on his face, and threw the coarse sand upon his head, weeping and wailing as he cried, “Why do you cast me from you, Paul? Why go without one farewell? Have you made yourself known so late only to depart so soon?”

(14) Tunc egressus foras et ne modicum quidem cibi sumens per uiam qua uenerat regrediebatur, illum sitiens, illum uidere desiderans, illum oculis ac mente complectens. Timebat enim, quod et euenit, ne se absente debitum Christo spiritum redderet.  Cumque iam dies inluxisset alia et trium horarum spatio iter remaneret, uidit inter angelorum cateruas, inter prophetarum et apostolorum choros, niueo Paulum candore fulgentem in sublime conscendere. Et statim in faciem suam procidens sabulum capiti superiaciebat, plorans atque eiulans: 'Cur me, Paule, dimittis? Cur abis insalutatus? Tam tarde notus tam cito recedis?'

15. The blessed Antony used afterwards to relate that he traversed the rest of the distance at such speed that he flew along like a bird; and not without reason: for on entering the cave he saw the lifeless body in a kneeling attitude, with head erect and hands uplifted. The first thing he did, supposing him to be alive, was to pray by his side. But when he did not hear the sighs which usually come from one in prayer, he fell to kisses and tears, and he then understood that even the dead body of the saint with duteous gestures was praying to God unto whom all things live.

(15) Referebat postea beatus Antonius tanta se uelocitate quod reliquum erat uiae cucurrisse, ut ad instar auis peruolaret. Nec immerito, nam introgressus speluncam uidet genibus complicatis, erecta ceruice, extensisque in altum manibus corpus exanime. Ac primo et ipse uiuere eum credens pariter orabat. Postquam uero nulla, ut solebat, suspiria precantis audiuit, in flebile osculum ruens intellexit quod etiam cadauer sancti Deum, cui omnia uiuunt, officio gestus precaretur.

16. Then having wrapped up the body and carried it forth, all the while chanting hymns and psalms according to the Christian tradition, Antony began to lament that he had no implement for digging the ground. So in a surging sea of thought and pondering many plans he said: “If I return to the monastery, there is a four days’ journey: if I stay here I shall do no good. I will die then, as is fitting, beside Thy warrior, O Christ, and will quickly breathe my last breath. While he turned these things over in his mind, behold, two lions from the recesses of the desert with manes flying on their necks came rushing along. At first he was horrified at the sight, but again turning his thoughts to God, he waited without alarm, as though they were doves that he saw. They came straight to the corpse of the blessed old man and there stopped, fawned upon it and lay down at its feet, roaring aloud as if to make it known that they were mourning in the only way possible to them. Then they began to paw the ground close by, and vie with one another in excavating the sand, until they dug out a place just large enough to hold a man. And immediately, as if demanding a reward for their work, pricking up their ears while they lowered their heads, they came to Antony and began to lick his hands and feet. He perceived that they were begging a blessing from him, and at once with an outburst of praise to Christ that even dumb animals felt His divinity, he said, “Lord, without whose command not a leaf drops from the tree, not a sparrow falls to the ground, grant them what thou knowest to be best.” Then he waved his hand and bade them depart. When they were gone he bent his aged shoulders beneath the burden of the saint’s body, laid it in the grave, covered it with the excavated soil, and raised over it the customary mound. Another day dawned, and then, that the affectionate heir might not be without something belonging to the intestate dead, he took for himself the tunic which after the manner of wicker-work the saint had woven out of palm-leaves. And so returning to the monastery he unfolded everything in order to his disciples, and on the feast-days of Easter and Pentecost he always wore Paul’s tunic.

(16) Igitur obuoluto et prolato foras corpore, psalmis quoque ex Christiana traditione cantatis, contristabatur Antonius quod sarculum, quo terram foderet, non habebat, fluctuans uario mentis aestu et secum multa reputans: 'Si ad monasterium reuertar, quatridui iter est; si hic maneam, nihil ultra proficiam. Moriar ergo, ut dignum est, et iuxta bellatorem tuum, Christe, ruens extremum halitum fundam.'  Talia eo animo uoluente ecce duo leones ex interioris eremi parte currentes uolantibus per colla iubis ferebantur. Quibus aspectis primo exhorruit. Rursusque ad Deum mentem referens, quasi columbas uideret, mansit intrepidus. Et illi quidem directo cursu ad cadauer beati senis substiterunt, adulantibusque caudis circa eius pedes accubuere, fremitu ingenti rugientes, prorsus ut intellegeres eos plangere quo modo poterant.  Deinde haud procul coeperunt humum pedibus scalpere, harenamque certatim egerentes unius hominis capacem locum effodere. Ac statim quasi mercedem pro opere postulaturi, cum motu aurium ceruice deiecta ad Antonium perrexerunt, manus eius pedesque lingentes, ut ille animaduertit benedictionem eos a se deprecari. Nec mora, et in laudationem Christi effusus, quod muta quoque animalia Deum esse sentirent, ait: 'Domine, sine cuius nutu nec folium arboris defluit nec unus passerum ad terram cadit, da illis sicut tu scis.'  Et manu annuens eis ut abirent imperauit. Cumque illi recessissent, sancti corporis onere seniles curuauit humeros, et deposito eo effossam desuper humum congregans tumulum ex more conposuit.  Postquam autem dies inluxerat alia, ne quid pius heres ex intestati bonis non possideret, tunicam sibi eius uindicauit, quam in sportarum modum de palmae foliis ipse sibi texuerat. Ac sic ad monasterium reuersus discipulis ex ordine cuncta replicauit; diebusque solemnibus Paschae uel Pentecostes semper Pauli tunica uestitus est.

17. I may be permitted at the end of this little treatise to ask those who do not know the extent of their possessions, who adorn their homes with marble, who string house to house and field to field, what did this old man in his nakedness ever lack? Your drinking vessels are of precious stones; he satisfied his thirst with the hollow of his hand. Your tunics are of wrought gold; he had not the raiment of the meanest of your slaves. But on the other hand, poor though he was, Paradise is open to him; you with all your gold will be received into Gehenna. He though naked yet kept the robe of Christ; you, clad in your silks, have lost the vesture of Christ. Paul lies covered with worthless dust, but will rise again to glory; over you are raised costly tombs, but both you and your wealth are doomed to the burning. Have a care, I pray you, at least have a care for the riches you love. Why are even the grave-clothes of your dead made of gold? Why does not your vaunting cease even amid mourning and tears? Cannot the carcases of rich men decay except in silk?

(17) Libet in fine opusculi interrogare eos, qui patrimonia sua ignorant, qui domos marmoribus uestiunt, qui uno lino uillarum insuunt pretia: huic seni nudo quid umquam defuit? Vos gemma bibitis, ille concauis manibus naturae satisfecit. Vos in tunicis aurum texitis, ille ne uilissimi quidem mancipii uestri indumentum habuit. Sed e contrario illi pauperculo paradisus patet, uos auratos gehenna suscipiet. Ille Christi uestem, nudus licet, seruauit; uos uestiti sericis indumentum Christi perdidistis. Paulus uilissimo puluere coopertus iacet resurrecturus in gloriam, uos operosa saxis sepulcra premunt cum uestris opibus arsuros.  Parcite, quaeso, uos, parcite saltem diuitiis quas amatis. Cur et mortuos uestros auratis obuoluitis uestibus? Cur ambitio inter luctus lacrimasque non cessat? An cadauera diuitum nisi in serico putrescere nesciunt?

18. I beseech you, reader, whoever you may be, to remember Jerome the sinner. He, if God would give him his choice, would much sooner take Paul’s tunic with his merits, than the purple of kings with their punishment.

(18) Obsecro, quicumque haec legis, ut Hieronymi peccatoris memineris; cui si Dominus optionem daret, multo magis eligeret tunicam Pauli cum meritis eius, quam regum purpuras cum regnis suis.

 

 


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