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The Paradise Of The Holy Fathers Volumes 1 and 2 by Saint Athanasius Of Alexandria

NOW the holy and chaste woman Olympias, whilst journeying in the footsteps of this woman Melania, was emulating her in the excellence of her divine life and labours, and she was seized with a fervent desire of travelling in the path which leadeth to heaven, and in every respect she made herself cling close to the Divine Books. This woman was in the flesh the daughter of Count Seleucus, but, if we say what is true, in the spirit she was the daughter of God. Now she was the daughter of the son of Ablavius, a man who had held consular rank in Constantinople, and she was for a few days the daughter-in-law of Nebridius, the sub-prefect of Constantinople, but in truth she was not the wife of the man, for they say concerning her that she died in purity and in her virginity, and that she only lived according to the Divine Word in chastity, wherein was mingled true humility, and that she made herself a friend of and ministered unto all those who were needy. Now her abundant riches sufficed for this work, and it is impossible to reckon up that which she used to distribute to every one with a sincere intent; for there is not a city, or a district, or a desert place, or an island, or a shore which did not enjoy the gifts of this glorious woman. And she gave gifts also to the churches for their maintenance, and to the houses wherein strangers were received, and also to the prisons and, moreover, to those who were in exile, and, so to speak, on the whole world this blessed woman scattered heralms broadcast. And she leaped upon and ascended the uppermost part of the lofty mountain of humility, wherein nothing whatsoever was to be seen of the acts and deeds of vainglory or of deceitful action (or appearance), but the life of simplicity, and the common garb, and the emaciated body, and the submissive mind, and the understanding which is without arrogance, and the lowly heart, and the watching of vigil, and the spirit which is without anxious care, and the love which hath no limit, and friendship without end and the holding in contempt the operation of the feelings, and the restraint from everything [harmful], and the mind which is simple towards God, and the hope which never faileth, and the lovingkindness which is unspeakable, and the thoughtful care of all poor folk.

Now this woman suffered many temptations through the agency of that evil devil, who loveth hateful things and who hath never had experience of things which are good, and she endured great contendings for the sake of the name of Christ. And she gave herself unto tears which were without measure both by day and by night, and she submitted herself unto all sorts and conditions of the children of men for the sake of God, and she bowed down reverently before the holy Bishops, and she paid homage to the elders, and she entreated in an honourable manner the clergy, as well as the orders of monks who dwelt in the monastic houses, and she received with welcome the virgins, and she visited the widows, and she reared the orphans, and she strengthened [those who were in a state of] old age, and she had care for the sick and she mourned with the sinners, and she led the erring into the right path, and she tended every one, and she converted many women among those who did not believe, and prepared them for life. She left behind her to the world a beautiful remembrance, and she changed the slavery into freedom of all the members of her household, who were about a myriad in number, and she shewed unto them honour in the same degree as to her noble family; and if, as is right, we must tell the truth, she made them to become of more account than herself.

It was impossible for any man to see apparel worse than hers on anyone, for the garments of this brave woman were not as good as those of the people who cover themselves with the oldest rags; and the food which she offered to her body was of such an inferior class that on account of its poorness it was rejected even by her servants. By this woman who was clothed in Christ, no blame was ever found in anyone, not even in her neighbours, all through her life—which was not a life—by reason of the repentance and in the vehement tears wherewith she burned; one may perchance see a fountain which, owing to the violence of the heat, hath dried up, but no man ever saw the eyes of this woman, which were fixed upon Christ, lacking tears. But of what use is it for us to tell and to devote myselfso strenuously to narrate [things] concerning her? For the contendings of this woman, who was perfect in excellence, were so exceedingly numerous that they were more in number than those which were declared concerning her, and men would only imagine concerning me that I was narrating from hearsay great things which were not true about this woman Olympias, who became a vessel of honour of the Divine Spirit, and who was above [all] passions. Nevertheless I was a spectator of her excellence and of her angelic acts and deeds, and I was, as it were, a member of her household, and her kinsman in the Spirit, and she made, by my counsel, [gifts] unto many from her possessions. And this woman who never thought about the things which were in the flesh, suffered many vain calumnies for the sake of the truth, and those who were living in Divine fear in Constantinople rightly deemed that she should be numbered with the confessors, because even unto the death she persisted in striving for righteousness’ sake, and in [performing her works] she received perfection, and she waited hopefully for the never-withering crown, which was full of all blessings in the everlasting mansions on high, with all the saints who were like unto her, and she sought after the reward of her good deeds with freedom (or boldness) of speech.








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