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A History Of The Church In Nine Books by Sozomen

IT was about this period that Ammon the Egyptian embraced philosophy. It is said that he was compelled to marry by his family, but that his wife never knew him carnally; for, on the day of their marriage, when they were alone, and when he as the bridegroom was leading her as the bride to his bed, he said to her, “Oh woman! our marriage has indeed taken place, but it is not consummated;” and then he shewed her from the Holy Scriptures that it is good to remain a virgin, and entreated that they might live apart. She was convinced by his arguments concerning virginity, but was much distressed by the thought of being separated from him; he therefore, though occupying a separate bed, lived with her for eighteen years, during which time he did not neglect the monastic exercises. At the end of this period, the woman, whose emulation had been strongly excited by his virtues, became convinced that it was not just that such a man should, on her account, live in the domestic sphere; and she considered that it was necessary that each should, for the sake of philosophy, live apart from the other. The husband therefore took his departure, after having thanked God for the counsel of his wife, and said to her, “Do thou retain this house, and I will make another for myself.” He retired to a desert place, south of the Mareotic Lake, between Scitis and the mountain called Nitria; and here, during two and twenty years, he devoted himself to philosophy, and visited his wife twice every year. This divine man founded monasteries in the regions where he dwelt, and gathered round him many disciples of note, whom we shall have occasion to mention hereafter. Many extraordinary events happened to him, which have been diligently recorded by the Egyptian monks, for they sought to hand down, in unbroken tradition, the record of the virtues of the ancient ascetics. I have here related a few of such facts as have come to my knowledge.

Ammon and his disciple Theodore had once occasion to take a long journey, and on the road found it requisite to cross a watercourse called Lycus. Ammon ordered Theodore to pass over backwards, lest they should witness each other’s nudity, and as he was likewise ashamed to see himself naked, he was suddenly, and by a divine impulse, seized and carried over, and landed on the opposite bank. When Theodore had crossed the water, he perceived that the clothes and feet of the elder were not wet, and enquired the reason; not receiving a reply, he expostulated strongly on the subject, and at length Ammon, after stipulating that it should not be mentioned during his lifetime, confessed the fact.

Here follows another miracle of the same nature. Some wicked people having brought to him their son, who had been bitten by a mad dog, and was nigh unto death, in order that he might heal him, he said to them: “Your son does not require my interposition, restore to your masters the ox which you have stolen, and he will be healed.” And the result was even as had been predicted, for the ox was restored and the malady of the child removed. It is said that, when Ammon died, Antony saw his spirit ascending into heaven, and surrounded by heavenly beings, singing hymns; Antony regarded this wonderful spectacle with intense amazement, and on being questioned by his companions as to the cause of his evident astonishment, he did not conceal the matter from them. A short time after, certain persons came from Scitis, bringing the intelligence of Ammon’s death; and the hour in which they stated this event to have taken place was precisely that which had been indicated by Antony. Thus, as is testified by all good men, each of these holy persons was blessed in a special manner: the one, by being released from this life; the other, by being accounted worthy of witnessing so miraculous a spectacle as that which God shewed him; for Antony and Ammon lived at a distance of many days’ journey from each other, and the above incident is corroborated by those who were personally acquainted with them both.

I am convinced that it was likewise during this reign that Eutychius embraced philosophy. He fixed his residence in Bithynia, near Olympus. He belonged to the sect of the Novatians, and was a partaker of divine grace; he healed diseases and wrought miracles, and the fame of his virtuous life induced Constantine to seek his intimacy and friendship. It so happened that, about this period, a certain person, who was suspected of plotting against the emperor, was apprehended near Olympus, and imprisoned. Eutychius was besought to intercede on his behalf with the emperor, and, in the meantime, to direct that the prisoner’s chains might be loosened, lest he should perish beneath their weight. It is related that Eutychius accordingly sent to the officers who held the man in custody, desiring them to loosen the chains; and that, on their refusal, he went himself to the prison, when the doors, though fastened, opened of their own accord, and the bonds of the prisoner fell off. Eutychius afterwards repaired to the emperor, who was then residing at Byzantium, and easily obtained a pardon, for Constantine esteemed him too highly to refuse his requests.

I have now given in few words the history of the most illustrious professors of the monastic philosophy. If any one desires further or more exact information, he will find it in the numerous works on the subject which have been issued.








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