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A History Of The Church In Six Books by Evagrius

FROM this city Eudocia proceeds on two occasions to Jerusalem; but on account of what circumstances, or with what object in the first instance, must be gathered through those writers who have treated the subject, although they do not appear to me to give true accounts. At all events, when visiting the holy city of Christ, she did many things for the honour of our Saviour God, even so far as to erect holy monasteries, and what are termed lauræ. In these places the mode of life is different, but the discipline of each terminates in the same devout object. For those who live together in companies are still not under the influence of any of those things which weigh down to the earth, since they possess no gold: but why should I say gold? when no article of even dress or food is the sole property of any one among them, but the gown or vest which one is now wearing, another presently puts on, so that the clothing of all appears to belong to one, and that of one to all. A common table also is set before them, not delicately furnished with meats or any other dainties, but supplied with fare of herbs and pulse, and that only in sufficient quantity to sustain life. They maintain common supplications to God throughout the day and night, to such a degree distressing themselves, so galling themselves by their severe service, as to seem, in a manner, tombless corpses. They also frequently practice superadditions, as they are called, namely, by maintaining their fastings for two or three days; and some on the fifth day, or even later, scarcely allow themselves a portion of necessary food. On the other hand, there is a class who pursue a contrary course, and individually seclude themselves in chambers of so limited a height and width, that they can neither stand upright nor lie down at ease, confining their existence to “dens and caves of the earth,” as says the apostle. Some, too, take up their dwelling with the wild beasts, and in untracked recesses of the ground; and thus offer their supplications to God. Another mode has also been devised, one which reaches to the utmost extent of resolution and endurance: for transporting themselves to a scorched wilderness, and covering only those parts which nature requires to be concealed, both men and women leave the rest of their persons exposed both to excessive frosts and scorching blasts, regardless alike of heat and cold. They, moreover, cast off the ordinary food of mankind, and feed upon the produce of the ground, whence they are termed Grazers; allowing themselves no more than is barely sufficient to sustain life. In consequence, they at length became assimilated to wild beasts, with their outward form altogether disfigured, and their mind in a state no longer fitted for intercourse with their species, whom they even shun when they see them; and, on being pursued, contrive to escape, favoured either by their swiftness of foot, or by places difficult of access. I will mention still another class, which had almost escaped recollection, though it bears away the preeminence from all others. Its numbers are very small; but still there are persons, who, when by virtue they have attained to a condition exempt from passion, return to the world. In the midst of the stir, by plainly intimating that they are indifferent to those who view them with amazement, they thus trample under foot vain-glory, the last garment, according to the wise Plato, which it is the nature of the soul to cast off. By similar means they study the art of apathy in eating, practising it even, if need be, with the petty retailers of victuals. They also constantly frequent the public baths, mostly mingling and bathing with women, since they have attained to such an ascendancy over their passions, as to possess dominion over nature, and neither by sight, touch, or even embracing of the female, to relapse into their natural condition; it being their desire to be men among men, and women among women, and to participate in both sexes. In short, by a life thus all excellent and divine, virtue exercises a sovereignty in opposition to nature, establishing her own laws, so as not to allow them to partake to satiety in any necessary. Indeed, their own rule enjoins them to hunger and thirst, and to clothe the body only so far as necessity requires: and their mode of life is balanced by opposite scales, so accurately poised, that they are unconscious of any tendency to motion, though arising from strongly antagonist forces; for opposing principles are, in their case, mingled to such a degree, by the power of divine grace combining and again severing things that are incongruous, that life and death dwell together in them, things opposed to each other in nature and in circumstances: for where passion enters, they must be dead and entombed; where prayer to God is required, they must display vigour of body and energy of spirit, though the flower of life be past. Thus with them are the two modes of life combined, so as to be constantly living with a total renunciation of the flesh, and at the same time mingling with the living; both applying remedies to their bodies, and presenting to God the cries of suppliants, and in all other respects fully maintaining a practice in accordance with their former mode of life, except as regards restriction in intercourse and place: on the contrary, they listen to all, and associate with all. They also practise a long and continuous series of kneelings and risings, their earnestness alone serving to reinvigorate their years and self-inflicted weakness; being, as it were, fleshless athletes, bloodless wrestlers, esteeming fasting as a varied and luxurious feast, and the utmost abstinence from food a completely furnished table. On the other hand, whenever a stranger visits them, even at early dawn, they welcome him with generous entertainment, devising another form of fasting in eating against their will. Hence the marvel, how far the pittance on which they subsist falls short of a sufficient allowance of food; foes of their own desires and of nature, but devoted to the wills of those around them, in order that fleshly enjoyment may be constantly expelled, and the soul, diligently selecting and maintaining whatever is most seemly and pleasing to God, may alone bear sway: happy in their mode of existence here, happier in their departure hence, on which they are ever intent, impatient to behold Him whom they desire.








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