The Life of the Apostle and Evangelist Mark
by Severus, Bishop of Al-Ushmunain (fl. ca. AD 955 - 987)
Translated from the Arabic by B. Evetts
(from Patrologia Orientalis, first series)
This section to the larger work entitled The History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria (the first half being titled History of the Patriarchs of the Coptic Church of Alexandria in its English translation) was authored by Severus Ibn al-Muqaffaʿ, also known as Severus of Al-Ushmunain. He was bishop of Hermopolis Magna (Ashmunein), in Upper Egypt, around the end of the tenth century. The earlier portions of the text are derived mainly from Eusebius and Coptic tradition. But from the 6th century onwards, the biographies grow longer and often seem to derive from documents written by eyewitnesses of the events recorded. We will only feature this section concerning Mark because of its Apocryphal spirit and because it features a Biblical figure.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, the One God.
The first biography of the history of the holy Church. The history of Saint Mark, the Disciple and Evangelist, Archbishop of the great city of Alexandria, and first of its Bishops.
In the time of the dispensation of the merciful Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, when he appointed for himself disciples to follow him, there were two brothers living in a city of Pentapolis in the West, called Cyrene. The name of the elder of them was Aristobulus, and the name of the other was Barnabas; and they were cultivators of the soil, and sowed and reaped; for they had great possessions. And they understood the Law of Moses excellently well, and knew by heart many of the books of the Old Testament. But great troubles came upon them from the two tribes of the Berbers and Ethiopians, when they were robbed of all their wealth, in the time of Augustus Caesar, prince of the Romans. So on account of the loss of their property, and the trials which had befallen them, they fled from that province, in their anxiety to save their lives, and traveled to the land of the Jews.
Now Aristobulus had a son named John. And after they had taken up their abode in the province of Palestine, near the city of Jerusalem, the child John grew and increased in stature by the grace of the Holy Ghost. And these two brothers had a cousin, the wife of Simon Peter, who became the chief of the disciples of the Lord Christ; and the said John whom they had surnamed Mark, used to visit Peter, and learn the Christian doctrines from him out of the holy Scriptures.
And on a certain day, Aristobulus took his son Mark to the Jordan, and while they were walking there a lion and a lioness met them. And when Aristobulus saw them approaching him, and perceived the violence of their rage, he said to his son Mark: "My son, seest thou the fury of this lion who is coming to destroy us? Escape now, and save thyself, my son, and leave them to devour me, according to the will of God Almighty." But the disciple of Christ, the holy Mark, answered and said to his father: "Fear not, my father, Christ in whom I believe will deliver us from all danger."
And when the lions approached them, Mark, the disciple of the Lord Christ, shouted against them with a loud voice, and said: "The Lord Jesus Christ, son of the Living God, commands that you be rent asunder, and that your kind be cut off from these mountains, and that there be no more offspring to you here for ever."
Then the lion and the lioness burst asunder in the midst at that moment, and perished straightaway; and their young were destroyed. And when Aristobulus, the father of Mark, saw this great miracle which was manifested by his son, through the power of the invincible Lord Jesus Christ, he said to his son: "I am thy father who begat thee, Mark, my son; but today thou art my father, and my savior and deliverer. And now, my dear son, I and my brother pray thee to make us servants of the Lord Jesus Christ whom thou preachest." Then the father of holy Mark and his uncle began to learn the doctrines of Christ from that day.
And Mary, the mother of Mark, was the sister of Barnabas, the disciple of the apostles.
After this, the following event took place. There was in those regions, in a town called Azotus, a very large olive-tree, the size of which was greatly admired. And the people of that city were worshipers of the moon, and prayed to that olive-tree.
So when the holy Mark saw them pray, he said to them: "As for this olive-tree, which you worship as God, after eating its fruit and burning its branches for fuel, what can it do? Behold, by the word of God whom I worship, I will command this tree to fall to the ground, without being touched by any tool."
Then they said to him: "We know that thou workest the magic of the Galilean thy master, and whatever thou wilt thou doest. But we will call upon our god the moon, who raised up for us this olive tree that we might pray to it."
The holy Mark answered and said to them: "I will cast it down to the ground; and if your god shall raise it up, then I will serve him together with you".
And they were satisfied with these words. And they removed all men from the tree, saying: "See that there be no man concealed in it".
Then the holy Mark raised his face to heaven, and turned himself towards the East, and opened his mouth and prayed saying: "O my Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, hear thy servant, and command the moon, which is a second attendant on this world, and gives light by night, to let its voice be heard by thy decree and by thy authority, before these men who have no God, and to make known to them who created it, and who created all creation, and who is God, that they may serve him; although I know, O my Lord and God, that it has no voice nor power of speech, and that it is not customary for it to speak to anyone; so that its words might be heard at this hour through thy irresistible power, that these men who have no God may know that the moon is not a god, but a servant under thy authority, and that thou art its God. And command this tree, to which they pray, to fall to the ground, so that all may recognize thy dominion, and that there is no God but thou, with the good Father and the Holy Ghost, the giver of eternal life. Amen."
And at that hour, as soon as he had finished his prayer, a great darkness occurred, at midday, and the moon appeared to them shining in the sky. And they heard a voice from the moon, saying: "O men of little faith, I am not God, that you should worship me, but I am the servant of God and one of his creatures, and I am the minister of Christ my Lord, whom this Mark, his disciple, preaches; and it is he alone that we serve and to whom we minister". At the same moment the olive tree fell. And great fear came upon all who witnessed this miracle.
But as for the people who worshiped and served the tree, they were angry, and rent their garments, and seized the holy Mark and beat him, and gave him up to the unbelieving Jews, who cast him into prison. That night the holy Mark saw in his sleep the Lord Christ, saying to Peter: "I will bring forth all those that are in prison." So when he awoke from his sleep, he saw the doors of his prison open; and he and all those with him in prison went forth; for the guards of the prison were asleep like dead men. But the multitudes who witnessed what took place said: "There is no end to our work with these Galileans, for they do these deeds by Beelzebub, the chief of the devils."
And Mark was one of the Seventy Disciples. And he was one of the servants who poured out the water which Our Lord turned into wine, at the marriage of Cana in Galilee. And it was he who carried the jar of water into the house of Simon the Cyrenian, at the time of the sacramental Supper. And it was also he who entertained the disciples in his house, at the time of the Passion of the Lord Christ, and after his resurrection from the dead, where he entered to them while the doors were shut.
And after his Ascension into heaven, Mark went with Peter to Jerusalem, and they preached the word of God to the multitudes. And the Holy Ghost appeared to Peter, and commanded him to go to the cities and the villages which were in that country. So Peter, and Mark with him, went to the district of Bethany, and preached the word of God; and Peter remained there some days. And he saw in a dream the angel of God, who said to him: "In two places there is great dearth." So Peter said to the angel: "Which places meanest thou?" He said to him: "The city of Alexandria with the land of Egypt, and the land of Rome. It is not a dearth of bread and water, but a dearth arising from ignorance of the Word of God, which thou preachest." So when Peter awoke from his sleep, he told Mark what he had witnessed in his dream. And after that, Peter and Mark went to the region of Rome, and preached there the word of God.
And in the fifteenth year after the Ascension of Christ, the holy Peter sent Saint Mark, the father and evangelist, to the city of Alexandria, to announce the good tidings there, and to preach the word of God and the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom is due glory, honor and worship, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, the one God forever. Amen.
Martyrdom of the holy Mark, and his preaching in the city of Alexandria.
In the time of the dispensation of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, after his Ascension into heaven, all the countries were allotted among the apostles, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, that they might preach in them the words of the good tidings of the Lord Jesus Christ. And after a time it fell to the lot of Mark the evangelist to go to the province of Egypt, and the great city of Alexandria, by the command of the Holy Ghost, that he might cause the people to hear the words of the gospel of the Lord Christ, and confirm them therein; for they were in error and sunk in the service of idols, and in the worship of the creature instead of the Creator. And they had many temples to their contemptible gods, whom they ministered to in every place, and served with every iniquity and magical art, and to whom they offered sacrifices among themselves. For he was the first who preached in the province of Egypt, and Africa, and Pentapolis, and all those regions.
So when the holy Mark returned from Rome, he betook himself first to Pentapolis and preached in all its districts the word of God, and showed many miracles; for he healed the sick, and cleansed the lepers, and cast out devils by the grace of God which descended upon him. And many believed in the Lord Christ through him, and broke their idols which they used to worship, and all the trees which the devils used to haunt, and from which they addressed the people. And he baptized them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, the One God.
And so the Holy Ghost appeared to him, and said to him: "Rise and go to the city of Alexandria, to sow there the good seed which is the word of God." So the disciple of Christ arose and set out, being strengthened by the Holy Ghost, like a combatant in war; and he saluted the brethren, and took leave of them and said to them: "The Lord Jesus Christ will make my road easy, that I may go to Alexandria and preach his holy gospel there." Then he prayed and said: "O Lord strengthen the brethren who have known thy holy name that I may return to them rejoicing in them." Then the brethren bade him farewell.
So Mark journeyed to the city of Alexandria; and when he entered in at the gate, the strap of his shoe broke. And when he saw this, he thought: "Now I know that the Lord has made my way easy." Then he turned, and saw a cobbler there, and went to him and gave him the shoe that he might mend it. And when the cobbler received it, and took the awl to work upon it, the awl pierced his hand. So he said: "Heis ho Theos"; the interpretation of which is, "God is One". And when the holy Mark heard him mention the name of God, he rejoiced greatly, and turned his face to the East and said: "O my Lord Jesus, it is thou that makest my road easy in every place."
Then he spat on the ground and took from it clay, and put it on the place where the awl had pierced the cobbler's hand, saying: "In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, the One living and eternal God, may the hand of this man be healed at this moment, that thy holy name may be glorified." Then his hand at once became whole.
The holy Mark said to him: "If thou knowest that God is one, why dost thou serve these many gods?" The cobbler answered him: "We mention God with our mouths, but that is all; for we know not who he is."
And the cobbler remained astonished at the power of God which descended upon the holy Mark, and said to him: "I pray thee, O man of God, to come to the dwelling of thy servant, to rest and eat bread, for I find to-day thou hast conferred a benefit upon me." Then the holy Mark replied with joy: "May the Lord give thee the bread of life in heaven!" And he went with him to his house. And when he entered his dwelling, he said, "May the blessing of God be in this house!" and he uttered a prayer.
After they had eaten, the cobbler said to him: "O my father, I beg thee to make known to me who thou art that hast worked this great miracle." Then the saint answered him: "I serve Jesus Christ, the Son of the ever living God." The cobbler exclaimed: "I would that I could see him." The holy Mark said to him: "I will cause thee to behold him."
Then he began to teach him the gospel of good tidings, and the doctrine of the glory and power and dominion which belong to God from the beginning, and exhorted him with many exhortations and instructions, of which his history bears witness, and ended by saying to him: "The Lord Christ in the last times became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and came into the world, and saved us from our sins." And he explained to him what the prophets prophesied of him, passage by passage.
Then the cobbler said to him: "I have never heard at all of these books which thou speakest of; but the books of the Greek philosophers are what men teach their children here, and so do the Egyptians."
So the holy Mark said to him: "The wisdom of the philosophers of this world is vanity before God." Then when the cobbler had heard wisdom and the words of the Scriptures from the holy Mark, together with the great miracle which he had seen him work upon his hand, his heart inclined towards him, and he believed in the Lord, and was baptized, he and all the people of his house, and all his neighbors. And his name was Annianus.
And when those that believed in the Lord were multiplied, and the people of the city heard that a man who was a Jew and a Galilean had entered the city, wishing to overthrow the worship of the idols, their gods, and had persuaded many to abstain from serving them, they sought him everywhere; and they appointed men to watch for him. So when the holy Mark knew that they were conspiring together, he ordained Annianus bishop of Alexandria, and also ordained three priests and seven deacons, and appointed these eleven to serve and to comfort the faithful brethren. But he himself departed from among them, and went to Pentapolis, and remained there two years, preaching and appointing bishops and priests and deacons in all their districts.
Then he returned to Alexandria, and found that the brethren had been strengthened in the faith, and had multiplied by the grace of God, and had found means to build a church in a place called the Cattle-pasture, near the sea, beside a rock from which stone is hewn. So the holy Mark greatly rejoiced at this; and he fell upon his knees, and blessed God for confirming the servants of the faith, whom he had himself instructed in the doctrines of the Lord Christ, and because they had turned away from the service of idols.
But when those unbelievers learned that the holy Mark had returned to Alexandria, they were filled with fury on account of the works which the believers in Christ wrought, such as healing the sick, and driving out devils, and loosing the tongues of the dumb, and opening the ears of the deaf, and cleansing the lepers; and they sought for the holy Mark with great fury, but found him not; and they gnashed against him with their teeth in their temples and places of their idols, in wrath, saying: "Do you not see the wickedness of this sorcerer?"
And on the first day of the week, the day of the Easter festival of the Lord Christ, which fell that year on the 29th of Barmudah, when the festival of the idolatrous unbelievers also took place, they sought him with zeal, and found him in the sanctuary. So they rushed forward and seized him, and fastened a rope round his throat, and dragged him along the ground, saying: "Drag the serpent through the cattle-shed!" But the saint, while they dragged him, kept praising God and saying: "Thanks be to thee, O Lord, because Thou hast made me worthy to suffer for thy holy name." And his flesh was lacerated, and clove to the stones of the streets; and his blood ran over the ground.
So when evening came, they took him to the prison, that they might take counsel how they should put him to death. And at midnight, the doors of the prison being shut, and the guards asleep at the doors, behold there was a great earthquake and a mighty tumult. And the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and entered to the saint, and said to him: "O Mark, servant of God, behold thy name is written in the book of life; and thou art numbered among the assembly of the saints, and thy soul shall sing praises with the angels in the heavens; and thy body shall not perish nor cease to exist upon earth."
And when he awoke from his sleep he raised his eyes to heaven, and said: "I thank thee, O my Lord Jesus Christ, and pray thee to receive me to thyself, that I may be happy in thy goodness." And when he had finished these words, he slept again; and the Lord Christ appeared to him in the form in which the disciples knew him and said to him: "Hail Mark, the evangelist and chosen one!" So the saint said to him: "I thank thee, O my Saviour Jesus Christ, because thou hast made me worthy to suffer for thy holy name." And the Lord and Saviour gave him his salutation, and disappeared from him.
And when he awoke, and morning had come, the multitude assembled, and brought the saint out of the prison, and put a rope again round his neck, and said: "Drag the serpent through the cattle-shed!" And they drew the saint along the ground, while he gave thanks to the Lord Christ, and glorified him, saying: "I render my spirit into thy hands, O my God!" After saying these words, the saint gave up the ghost.
Then the ministers of the unclean idols collected much wood in a place called Angelion, that they might burn the body of the saint there. But by the command of God there was a thick mist and a strong wind, so that the earth trembled; and much rain fell, and many of the people died of fear and terror; and they said: "Verily, Serapis, the idol, has come to seek the man who has been killed this day."
Then the faithful brethren assembled, and took the body of the holy Saint Mark from the ashes; and nothing in it had been changed. And they carried it to the church in which they used to celebrate the Liturgy; and they enshrouded it, and prayed over it according to the established rites. And they dug a place for him, and buried his body there; that they might preserve his memory at all times with joy and supplication, and benediction, on account of the grace which the Lord Christ gave them by his means in the city of Alexandria. And they placed him in the eastern part of the church, on the day on which his martyrdom was accomplished, he being the first of the Galileans to be martyred for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in Alexandria, namely the last day of Barmudah according to the reckoning of the Egyptians, which is equivalent to the 8th day before the kalends of May among the months of the Romans, and the 24th of Nisan among the months of the Hebrews.
And we also, the sons of the orthodox, offer glory and sanctification and praise to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to whom is due laud and honor and worship, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, the Giver of Life and Consubstantial One, now and forever.
HERE BEGINNETH THE LIFE OF MARY OF EGYPT
Excerpt from the Golden Legend
Mary the Egyptian, which was called a sinner, led and lived the most straight life and sharp that might be, forty-seven years in desert. In that time was a good, holy and religious monk named Zosimus, and went through the desert which lieth beyond the river Jordan and much desired to find some holy fathers. And, when he came far and deep in the desert, he found a creature which was all black over all her body, of the great heat and burning of the sun, which went in that desert, and that was this Mary the Egyptian aforesaid.
But as soon as she saw Zosimus come, she fled, and Zosimus after. And she tarried and said, “Abbot Zosimus, wherefore followest thou me? Have pity and mercy on me, for I dare not turn my face toward thee, because I am a woman and also naked, but cast thy mantle upon me, by which I may then, without shame, look and speak with thee.”
And when Zosimus heard himself named he was greatly marveled, and he cast to her his mantle, and humbly prayed her that she would give to him her blessing; and she answered, “It appertaineth to thee fair father to give the benediction, and nothing to me, for thou hast the dignity of priesthood.”
When he heard that she knew his name and his office, he had yet more marvel, and of that she asked so meekly his blessing. After, she said, “Blessed be God the Saviour of our souls.”
Then she lift up her hands unto heaven in making her prayer, and Zosimus saw that in praying to God her body was lift up from the earth well nigh a foot and a half, and began to think that it had been some evil spirit. Then Zosimus conjured her by the virtue of God that she should tell to him her estate and her condition, and she answered, “Fair father, spare me thereof, for if I should recount mine estate ye should flee away from me like as from a venomous serpent, and thy holy ears should be made foul of my words, and the air should be full and foul of corruption.”
And when she saw that Zosimus would not be satisfied so, then she said: “Fair father, I was born in Egypt, and when I was in the age of twelve years I went into Alexandria, and there I gave my body openly to sin by the space of seventeen years, and abandoned it to lechery and refused no man. After, it happened that men of that country went for to adore and worship the holy cross in Jerusalem, and I prayed to one of the mariners that he would suffer me to pass with the other people the sea, and when he me demanded payment for my passage, I answered: ‘Fair sirs, I have nothing to pay you with, but I abandon my body to do withal your pleasure for my passage,’ and they took me by that condition.
“And when I was come into Jerusalem unto the entry of the church for to worship the holy cross with the others, I was suddenly and invisibly put aback many times, in such wise that I might not enter into the church. And then I returned and thought in myself that this came to me for the great sins that I had committed in time past, and began to smite my breast and weep tenderly and sigh grievously. And I beheld there the image of our Lady, and I fell down and prayed her all weeping that she would beseech and get me pardon of my sins of her sweet Son, and would suffer me to enter into the church for to worship the holy cross, promising to forsake the world, and from then forth on to live chaste.
“When I had thus prayed, and to our blessed Lady thus faithfully promised, I went again to the doors of the church, and without any impediment I entered into the church. And when I had devoutly worshiped and adored the holy cross, a man gave to me three pence, of which I bought three loaves of bread. And after, I heard a voice: ‘If thou wilt pass and go over river Jordan thou shalt be safe.’
“And then I passed Jordan, and came into this desert, where I never saw man by the space of seventeen years. These three loaves, that I bare with me, became hard, by the drought of the time, as a stone, of which I took my sustenance, and sufficed to me seventeen years, and after, I ate herbs. My clothes be rotten long since, and these seventeen first years I was much tempted by the burning of the sun much extremely, and many delectations that I have had in meat and drink, the good wines, and doing the desires of my body, all these came in my thought. Then I bewailed them on the earth, and prayed for help to our blessed Lady in whom I had set all my affiance, and I wept much tenderly.
“And I saw coming about me a great light, by the which I was all recomforted, and lost all the thoughts which oft and grievously tempted me. And since, I have been delivered of all temptations and am nourished of spiritual meat of the word of our Lord. And thus have I been all my life as I have told to thee, and I pray thee by the incarnation of Jesu Christ that thou pray for me, sinful creature.”
Then the old father Zosimus fell down unto ground, and thanked our Lord God that had thus saved his servant. And she said: “I pray thee, fair father, that thou wilt come again on the next Shere Thursday, and bring with thee the body of our Lord for to give the Eucharist to me, for since I entered into this desert I was never houseled ne received the holy sacrament, and then I shall come to river Jordan against thee.”
Zozimus went to his abbey, and, after the year passed, on Shere Thursday he came again in to the place like as the holy woman had prayed him. And when he was come to river Jordan he saw on that other side the holy woman, which made the sign of the cross upon the water and went on it, and came over to him.
When Zosimus saw this miracle, he fell down to the feet of the holy woman for to do to her honor and reverence, but she forbade and defended him and said: “Thus oughtest thou not to do, for thou art a priest, and bearest the holy sacrament.”
The which she received in right great devotion, and said in weeping, “Lord God please it to thee to receive me in peace, for mine eyes have seen my Saviour.”
How well that she had always wept and shed tears so abundantly that it seemed that she had lost her sight. And after, she said to Zosimus: “I pray thee that at the end of this year thou wilt come hither again to me and pray for me, sinful creature,” and after, she made the sign of the cross upon the river and passed over the water with dry feet as she to fore came.
And Zosimus went again to his abbey, but he repented much that he had not demanded the name of the woman. And after the year passed he came again to the desert, like as he had promised to this holy woman, and he found her dead, and the body ordinately laid as it should be buried. Zosimus began then tenderly to weep, and durst not approach nor touch the body, but said to himself: “I would gladly bury this holy body if I knew that I should not displease her.”
And when he was in this thought he saw lying by her head a letter, that said in this manner: “Zosimus, bury right here the body of the poor Mary and render to the earth his right, and pray to God for me, at whose commandment the second day after I received him, he called me from this world.”
Then Zosimus was much glad that he knew the name of the saint, but he was greatly dismayed how he might bury the body, for he had nothing for to delve the earth with. And he saw the earth dolven, and a sepulcher made by a lion that came thither. And then Zosimus buried her, and the lion departed debonairly.
And Zosimus returned to his abbey and recounted to his brethren the conversation of this holy woman Mary. And Zosimus lived an hundred years in holy life, and gave laud to God of all his gifts, and his goodness that he receiveth sinners to mercy, which with good heart turn to him, and promiseth to them the joy of heaven.
Then let us pray to this holy Mary the Egyptian that we may be here so penitent that we may come thither.
HERE FOLLOWETH THE NATIVITY OF ST. JOHN BAPTIST
From the Golden Legend
St. John Baptist is named in many manners. He was named a prophet; friend of the spouse; lantern; an angel voice; Elias; baptist of the Saviour; messenger of the judge; and foregoer of the King. By prophet is signified prerogative of knowledge; in the friend of the spouse, noblesse of love; in the lantern burning, noblesse of holiness; in an angel, prerogative of virginity; in voice, nobleness of meekness; in Elias, noblesse of burning love; in baptist, prerogative of marvelous honor; in messenger, prerogative of preaching; and in foregoing, prerogative of preparation or making ready. All these virtuous things were in him.
The nativity of St. John Baptist was ancient, and showed by the Archangel Gabriel in this manner. It is said in the History Scholastic that David the king, willing to increase and make more the service of God, instituted twenty-four bishops or high priests, of whom one was overest and greatest, and was named prince of the priests, and he ordained that each priest should serve a week. Abias was one, and had the eighth week, of whose kindred Zacharias was descended, father of St. John Baptist. This Zacharias had to wife one of the daughters of the kindred of Aaron, whose name was Elizabeth, daughter of Esmeria, which was sister of St. Anne, mother of our Lady. Then this Elizabeth and our Lady were cousins, daughters of two sisters.
The Annunciation to Zacharias
These two, Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth, were just to fore our Lord, living in all the justifications, and holding all the commandments of the law without murmur nor complaint, praising and thanking our Lord God.They had no children, for the holy woman was barren. They had great desire to have a son that might be bishop of the law by succession of lineage after Zacharias, and hereof had they in their youth prayed much to our Lord, but when it pleased not unto our Lord, they took it a worth and thanked God of all. They served the more devoutly our Lord God, for they had no charge but only to serve and attend unto him. Many there be that withdraw them from the service and love of our Lord for the love of their children. They were both old, he and his wife Elizabeth.
It happened, at a solemnity that the Jews had after August, that the bishop did holy sacrifice in doing the office that appertained to him and to his week; he went for to incense, and entered into the temple, and the people abode without, making their prayers and awaiting the coming again to them of the holy bishop. Thus, as he was alone, and incensed the altar, the angel Gabriel appeared to him standing on the right side of the altar, and when the holy bishop saw him he was astonished and had great dread.
The angel said to him: Be nothing afeard, Zacharias, thy prayers be heard and thou hast found grace to fore of whom our Lord. Elizabeth thy wife shall conceive and bear a son, whom thou shalt call John, of whom thou shalt have great gladness, and much people shall make great feast and joy of his nativity, for he shall be great, and of great merit to fore our Lord. He shall not drink wine nor cider, nor thing whereof he might be drunken, and in his mother's womb he shall be sanctified and fulfilled with the Holy Ghost. He shall convert many of the sons of Israel, that is to say, of the Jews, to our Lord, and shall go to fore him in the spirit and virtue of Elias the prophet for to convert father and sons, old and miscreants, to the sense of righteousness and to the service of God.
When the angel had thus said to Zacharias, he answered: How may I believe and know that this is truth that thou sayest? I am now all old and ancient, and my wife old and barren.
The angel answered and said: I am Gabriel, the angel and servant to fore God, which in his name am sent to speak to thee and to show to thee these things aforesaid, and because thou hast not believed me thou shalt lose thy speech, and shalt not speak till the day that this which I have said shall be accomplished, each thing in his time.
The people were abiding and awaiting when Zacharias the bishop should come out, and marveled where he tarried so long. He came out of the temple, but he might not speak, but the holy man made to them signs by which they thought well that he had seen some vision of our Lord, but more knew they not. He abode in the temple all that week, and after, went home to his house. His wife conceived and waxed great, and when she perceived it she was shamefaced and kept her in her house well five months.
The Annunciation to Mary
In the sixth month the same angel Gabriel was sent from our Lord unto the blessed Virgin Mary, newly espoused to Joseph, which showed the conception of Jesus Christ, son of God our Lord, and the angel told to her that she should conceive of the Holy Ghost without knowledge of man. “For our Lord may do all that it pleaseth him, like as it appeareth,” said he, “of Elizabeth thy cousin, the which, she being old of age, and barren by nature of her body, hath conceived by the pleasure of our Lord, and hath now borne about six months.”
Mary Visits Elizabeth
When our Lady heard that St. Elizabeth her cousin was great, she went to visit and accompany her in the mountains where she dwelt, right far, hard, and evil way. When she came thither she saluted her much courteously. Our Lady was then great with the blessed Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, whom she had conceived when she said to the angel: Behold the handmaid of the Lord; and then she was filled with the deity and humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Then, when the salutation issued out of the body of our Lady, the greeting entered into the ears of the body of St. Elizabeth, and into her child that she had within her, which child was anoint of the blessed Holy Ghost, and, by the presence of our Lord, sanctified in the womb of his mother and replenished with grace, whereof he jumped for joy in his mother's womb, in making to our Lord reverence such as he might make not of himself, but by the grace that he had received of the Holy Ghost.
Of which by the merits and grace done to the blessed child, St. Elizabeth was replenished, and anon prophesied in saying and crying with a high voice: Thou art blessed among and above all women, and blessed be the fruit of thy womb. From whence cometh to me such grace, so great that the mother of my Lord cometh to visit me? I know well that thou hast conceived the Son of God, for as soon as thy salutation entered into mine ears, the child that is in my belly made joy and feast, and removed. Thou art well blessed and happy that thou hast given faith and believed the words of the angel which he said to thee, for all things shall be performed that he hath said to thee.
Of all these things St. Elizabeth knew nothing when our Lady came, nor yet our Lady had nothing said to her, but the Holy Ghost, by the merits of her holy child that she bare, replenished her and made her to prophesy. Then answered our Lady and made the holy psalm saying: “My soul doth magnify the Lord”, and all the remnant. Our Lady abode with St. Elizabeth three months or thereabouts till she was delivered and laid abed, and it is said that she did the office and service to receive St. John Baptist when he was born.
The Birth of John
When then he was born, and the neighbors and cousins and friends knew the grace that our Lord had done to these holy folk, noble of lineage, rich of goods and of great dignity, to whom in the end of their age he had given an heir male against double or treble nature, they made great joy and feast with them. When the eighth day came, and the child should be circumcised, they called him after his father's name, Zacharias. The mother said that he should named John. and not Zacharias. And they went unto the father and said that there was none in that kindred that so was called. And then the father demanded pen and ink, and wrote: “John is his name,” and all they marveled. Anon after, by the merit of St. John, his father's mouth was opened, and had again his speech, and spake, glorifying our Lord God.
And these tidings of this holy child thus born, were anon spread all about the country, and each man said in his heart, and without forth one to another: What suppose ye shall be of this child? He shall be great and a man of our Lord, for he is already now with him, and the hand, the work, and the virtue of our Lord is with him.
The father, holy Zacharias, replenished with the Holy Ghost, said and prophesied, and made then the holy psalm: Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which psalm is always sung in the end of matins.
John Goes to the Desert
It is said that holy Zacharias dwelled upon the mountains two miles nigh to Jerusalem, and there St. John Baptist was born, and after that St. John was circumcised, he was nourished as a child of a noble and rich man and son of great dignity, but when he had understanding and strength of body, God our Lord and the heart performed the work. He issued out of his father's house, and left riches, honors, dignities, noblesse, and all the world, and went into desert on the River Jordan. Some say he went in the age of fifteen years accomplished, and others say he departed at twelve years of age for to serve our Lord without hindrance, by which he kept silence, and refrain his life and his soul from idle words.
This holy St. John, dwelling in desert, ware an hair made of the hair of camels. Some say that he ware the skin of a camel, in which he had made an hole to put his head in and girded it with a girdle of wool, or of leather, cut out of an hide or a beast's skin. He ate locusts, not such as we have here that we call honey suckles; some say that it is meat of some beasts that abound in the desert of Judea where he baptized; with wild honey he ate it. That it was flesh, the legend of St. Austin doth us to understand, which saith that St. Austin ate flesh by the example of Elias the prophet, which ate the flesh that a crow brought to him, and so St. John ate locusts, some say that there be roots so called. There served he our Lord solitarily upon the river Jordan till that he was about twenty-nine years old. The angel of our Lord came to him and said that he should show the coming of our Lord and preach penance, for to purge them that were baptized, in accustoming the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ. This angel said to St. John Baptist that, Jesus Christ, Saviour of the world, should come to him for to be baptized, and it should be he on whom the Holy Ghost should descend in semblance of a dove.
St. John drew him towards Bethany, upon the river or desert, not far from Jerusalem; there preached he, and taught and baptized them that would amend their life, and said to them that the Saviour and health of the world was nigh. Then came to him many, and he said to some religious men of evil life: Ye children of serpents, who hath given to you counsel to eschew the ire of our Lord? If ye will be baptized in sign of penance, do ye the works of penitence. Leave the evil, humble you, do the work of mercy. Do you expect that, because ye be circumcised and be the children of Abraham, that ye shall be saved? Our Lord shall make of these stones if it please him the child of Abraham which with Abraham shall be saved.
St. John preached about a year to fore that our Lord came to him for to be baptized. When the Pharisees heard say that he baptized, they sent to know what he was, and they asked if he were Christ the great prophet that was promised in their law, and he said: Nay.
They demanded him if he were Elias, and come from Paradise terrestrial, he said: Nay.
They demanded him if he was a prophet, he said: Nay.
They demanded him whereof he meddled then to baptize, since he was neither Christ, nor Elias, nor prophet. Say to us, said they, who that thou art, that we may answer to them that have sent us hither. He answered: I am he of whom Isaiah prophesied: I am the voice of the crier in desert: Address ye and make ready the ways to God, and make ye right the paths of our Lord. They said to him: Wherefore baptizest thou then? I baptize and wash the body with water in sign of penance, but among you is he that ye know not, which was to fore me, and came after me, of whom I am not worthy to loose the latchet of his shoe. He shall give you baptism in the virtue of the Holy Ghost, in water and fire of penance.
John Baptizes Jesus
When St. John along the river Jordan had preached and baptized about a year, our Lord came unto him and would be baptized of him. St. John, inspired by the Holy Ghost, knew him, and did to him reverence as to his God, his Maker, and Lord. He was so espired that human nature which was pure in him might not sustain so great knowledge, and he said right humbly: Sir, thou comest to me, which art pure and clean, to be baptized and washed of me that am foul and wasted, which ought to be baptized of thee and washed, how dare I lay on thee my hands?
Our Lord said to him: Do this that I say now, for thus behoveth it to fulfill all justice and to humble and give ensample of baptism to all people. And then in humility and patience he baptized our Lord, and washed him where he had never filth, and all by holy mystery; on whom the Holy Ghost descended visibly in likeness of a dove, and the voice of the Father was heard saying: Here is my well-beloved son in whom I am well pleased.
Then our Lord was thirty years old from his nativity and thirteen days beginning of the thirty first year. On that same day our Lord changed water into wine in Cana of Galilee. And this sufficeth for the nativity of St. John Baptist, and the residue of his life and of his death shall be said at the feast of his decollation, by the grace of God, who bringeth us to his bliss. Amen.
THE FALLING ASLEEP OF MARY
Discourse of Theodosius
A discourse which our thrice blessed father Abba Theodosius, the archbishop of Alexandria and the confessor who bore Christ, delivered. Now he delivered it concerning the assumption of the Lady of us all, the holy God-bearer Mary, on the sixteenth of the month Mesoure; beginning from the incarnation of Christ unto the death of this holy Virgin and her holy assumption. And be delivered this discourse in the last year wherein he was about to die; in the peace of God, Amen.
I. He accomplished every work of mankind, sin only excepted. He went on to the cross: He suffered pain in the flesh for our sakes: He tasted death on our behalf. But He is painless and deathless as God for ever. He rose from the dead. He went in unto His disciples, the doors being shut, and gave them His peace. And at the end of forty days came His holy assumption. He took His disciples up into the mount of Olives. He lifted up His eyes to heaven, and blessed them, and gave them oneness of heart and His holy laws. Then said He to Peter, Peter, My bishop, dost thou not remember that I once called thee Simon Bar-Jona? which is, I made thee son of the Dove, which is My blessed mother. Now continue with her, until she die and bless you. Then again He said to John, John, My beloved, remember that I love thee. Therefore have I sanctified thee, and I have taken from thee the poison of the serpent. Now continue with My mother, as thou dost continue with Me, until she die, and thou obtain her blessing. Remember that I gave her to thee, as I was hanging on the cross, that thou shouldest be to her a son in My stead. Now when He had said these things, He ascended to the heavens in glory; and a cloud received Him from their eyes. And they returned unto Jerusalem, giving thanks for all those things that He spake to them.
II. Now Mary the holy Virgin was dwelling in a separate place in Jerusalem, having many virgins in subjection to her, teaching them the purity and the fear of the Lord. We also, the apostles Peter and John, were continuing with her, fulfilling her command and her evangelic laws, whilst she was pilot to us all, like a wise captain. And it came to pass on a day, even the twentieth of Tobi, that we went in unto her again according to custom, being blessed by her. We saw her amazed; and we said to her, What aileth thee to-day, O thou mother of Life, seeing that thy face is thus sad? She answered and said to us, It happened tome this night that when I had ceased making my little office, I slumbered for a little while; and I saw a beautiful youth about thirty years of age, ten thousand times brighter than the sun. I saw you also standing at his right hand, with garments in your hands, stretching them out to me. The young man answered and said to me, O thou woman, doest thou know Me who I am? When I perceived that it was my Son, I said to Him, My Lord, art Thou Jesus my Son and the Son of God in truth? He said to me, I am. I answered and said to Him, My Lord, what is the appointment of these garments, which are in the hands of Thy disciples, stretching them out to me? He said to me, This is the appointment of thy shroud, when thou goest from the body. When He had said these things to me, He hid Himself from me.
Therefore I fear, O my sons, because of those paths, for they are very narrow. I heard Him many times teaching the sons of men, telling them to repent, saying, There is a river of fire set in the path, tossing its waves exceedingly, and its waves are higher than any mountain. All flesh must needs cross over it, whether righteous or sinners. Can I, my sons, be delivered from this? What then shall I say concerning the separation of the soul from the body? O that hour full of fear and trembling! They say that two powers come after the soul, one of light, another of darkness, unseemly and full of shuddering and trembling. If it be a righteous soul, they bring it forth enticingly, being mild and gentle towards it, because they see its Maker peaceful towards it. If indeed it be a sinner, the powers of light withdraw themselves, and the powers of darkness draw nigh to it in anger, slaying them and hastily cleaving asunder and scourging them, grinding their teeth and sending forth flames of fire from their mouths into its face, knowing that its deeds are unseemly, and that God is not at peace with it. Woe to me, my sons! Who can assure me, that God is at peace with me, that I may be able to be delivered from this hour? They tell me also that there is a gloomy darkness in the path; and there are therein merciIess avengers, their faces being very diverse, whom God hath set to teach the lawless in the way; even as it is written, Shall I be saved from such as these? There is also in that place the worm that does not die, which eats the lawless more than any cancer. O my beloved sons, would that I might be delivered from this also! They inform me also, O my sons, that there is an unquenchable fire, whose flame cannot be cooled by the waters of the sea, or by the rivers, or by the fountains, or by the rains. But they say that three tear drops extinguish its flame. Blessed is the soul that has wept over its sins, whilst it is yet in the world, or ever it reaches this fire. Woe to me! I have not yet told of the ruler of darkness, who always does what in him lies to drag down every one under his feet, save those who shall fly above him on wings of light, which are their good deeds. Who can comfort me over the sentence, which cameth forth from the mouth of the righteous Judge, Take this soul, and give to it according to all its works. All these things, my sons, are fearful to me on every side. But the will of the Lord be done upon me.
And as we heard these things, we lifted up our voice and wept in sorrow, saying, Lord, we have not yet forgotten the former sorrow, even Thy life-giving sorrows. And shall the second also happen unto us? Woe to us, if this bereavement happen unto us!
III. Now whilst these things were so, behold there was a knocking at the door of the place wherein we were dwelling. And when we had opened, behold there came in many virgins from the mount of Olives, having choice censers and lamps. And when they were come in, they worshiped the holy Virgin Mary. She asked them, saying, What then is this great trouble which ye cause me to-day, O my beloved daughters? They answered, saying, It happened to us, our Lady, in the middle of this night, that when we had ceased making our little office, we heard a voice, saying, I say unto you, the virgins of the mount of Olives arise, go to Jerusalem unto Mary, the mother of the Life, for she is going forth from the body to-morrow. Therefore we could not be disobedient to the divine command; and behold we assembled hither.
And Mary, the holy Virgin, when she heard these things, gave thanks to God. Again she said to us, Withdraw yourselves for a little while, my sons, that I may give thanks to the Lord, whom my soul loveth. And she opened her mouth, and spake this prayer, saying, I thank Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, the first Word that came forth from the mouth of the Father, and came and dwelt in my womb the space of nine months. I praise Thee, the treasure-house of all good things, to whom I gave suck, even Thee who givest food to all flesh. I praise Thee, the Inheritor and unseen, who bearest the universe by the word of Thy power, and whom I bare in my hands. I praise Thee, the Life of the patriarchs, that dwelt with Abraham, strengthened Isaac, and enlarged Israel. I praise Thee, the prophecy of the prophets. Thou didst come and fulfill them. I praise Thee, the calling of the judges, and their salvation in the battle. I praise thee, the crown of the righteous kings, who bringest forth their judgment aright. I praise Thee, the song of the angels, and the hymn of the archangels. I praise Thee, the trumpet of the Cherubim, and the speech of the Seraphim. I praise Thee, the patience of the martyrs, and the glory of their crown. I praise Thee, the espousals of the virgins, and the light of their lamps. I praise Thee, the proclamation of the apostles, and the preaching of their sweet savor. I praise Thee, at once my Lord and my Son. I beg and beseech Thy goodness, be to me a helper and forsake me not. Bring my soul out of this prison, that I may give thanks unto Thy name. Let the fire be still: let Thy mercy prevent me: let the darkness depart: let Thy light appear. Let the enemy who wisheth to reckon with me shut his mouth. Let those who wish the peace of Thy mother appear. Let the worm that doth not die fail quickly: let Thy living mercy comfort my soul. Yea, Lord, at once my God and my Son, look down upon me in this hour, fearful and full of trembling. Come unto me, Thou whom my soul loveth. Let Thy Holy Ghost guide me aright. Let me worship before Thee with boldness, that I may give thanks to Thee, O Lord my God, with a psaltery of Thy truth. For the glory is due to Thee and Thy good Father and the Holy Ghost unto the ages of the ages. Amen.
IV. Now when she had finished this prayer, we also said the Amen. Behold there were thunderings and lightnings, and all the place was moved to its foundations. And there appeared in our midst the Lord Jesus, riding on a chariot of light, Moses being before Him and all the rest of the prophets, David the king and the righteous kings. And all the place became bright as fire, When we could not bear the fear, we fell down in the midst, and became as a dead man. But He, our Lord Jesus, called with His gentle voice, Hail, My virgin mother: hail, My holy apostles: hail, ye virgins assembled hither. And forthwith the fear left us, and we fell down and worshiped Him. And He said to His mother, I have heard thy supplication; and thy prayer has come in before Me unto My throne of My glory, at the right hand of My Father and of the Holy Ghost. Now, O My virgin mother, arise, let; us go hence. Wherefore wouldest thou dwell in the house of the sinners, when the tents of righteousness are prepared before thee? What reason hast thou, O My mother, for dwelling in those things which are to be dissolved after but a little while, when the eternal are awaiting thee? O My beautiful mother, arise, let us go hence. Wherefore shall I leave thee in the earthly Jerusalem, which killeth the prophets, and stoneth them that are sent unto her; whilst the heavenly Jerusalem longeth for us, the city of My Father and of the Holy Ghost? For thou art too good for it. Now, O My beloved mother, arise, let us go hence. My Father who liveth and the Holy Ghost who proceedeth from the Life, wait for thy coming unto Them; for thou didst carry Their unity, even My godhead by nature, which dwelt in thee. Now, O My beloved mother, arise, let us go hence, from the house of weeping into the city of gladness, from the land of the dead into the land of the living. Forthwith, O My beloved mother, arise, let us go hence.
V. Now as He was saying these things, we could not bear the grief which was about to come upon us; and we cried out, and wept bitterly, saying, O our Lord, if Thou wilt take her away from our midst, and we become desolate; receive us to Thyself before her, that we may not see our own destruction. And the virgins also were weeping and groaning. But she turned her face to us, and said to us, My sons, wherefore do you weep and grieve my spirit? Is it not written that all flesh must needs taste death? I also must needs return to the earth, as all the inhabitants of earth. But be of good cheer, He is with you always, and He will not leave you desolate; even as He said. Again she said to the virgins, My good daughters, keep the covenants that ye have made with your true Bridegroom Christ. And pour oil into your lamps: and when He ariseth to go forth, ye shall be found watching, and shall go in unto the marriage feast with Him. Then she said to our Saviour, O my beloved Son, I beseech Thee, be to all of them a comforter after my translation; for their heart is broken over the evils which their eyes saw, which the Jews did to Thee. Our eyes saw Thee, when Thy body was bathed with blood, at once by the piercing of the nails and the spear wound. We saw Thee also given gall to drink instead of water, and a crown of thorns put upon Thy head, and wounded by a spear for the salvation of us all. Unless Thou hadst risen and given them joy, surely they all had died. But I am with them for consolation until this day through Thy goodness.
Our Lord and our God answered and said to His mother, O my beautiful mother, when Adam transgressed My commandment, I passed upon him a sentence, saying, Adam, thou art earth and thou shalt return unto the earth again. For also I, the Life of all men, tasted death in the flesh which I took from thee, in the flesh of Adam, thy forefather. Yet since My godhead was one with it, therefore I raised it from the dead. I did not wish to suffer thee to taste death, but to translate thee up to the heavens as Enoch and Elias. But these also, even they must needs taste death at last. And if this happens to thee, wicked men will think concerning thee, that thou art a power which came down from heaven; and that this dispensation took place in appearance. I know the heart of all men, and understand their thoughts.
When our Saviour had said these things, He turned His face to us, even to me Peter and to John; and said to us, Be of good cheer, My friends and apostles. I will not suffer her to be long away from you, but she shall appear to you quickly. There are two hundred and six days from her death unto her holy assumption. I will bring her unto you arrayed in this body again, even as this body also, as ye see her now, whilst she is with you, And I will translate her up to the heavens to be with My Father and the Holy Ghost, that she may continue praying for you all. Now when He had said these things, again He said to us, Arise, go into the holy place; and ye shall find on the altar heavenly garments and perfumes of the heavens, which My good Father and the Holy Ghost. have sent Me for the honor of the body of My beloved mother. And when we had gone in, we brought them out to Him; and He said to us, Spread them on this bed. And when we had spread them, He said to His mother, Haste thee, O thou queen of all women, enter these; and rest thee from the grief and the trouble and the groaning. Enter thou into the joy and eternal gladness.
And she arose, and spread forth her hands, and said this prayer, Adonai, Eloi, Sabaoth, Messias, Rabba, Emmanuel receive me, my Son, in this very hour. Let the royal doors of Thy holy courts be opened before me, that I may enter in by them, and worship before Thee, my Master. For it is to Thee that the glory is due, and to Thy good Father and the Holy Ghost, giver of life and of one essence with Thee, for ever. Amen.
VI, Now when she had said these things, she lay down on the garments, and she turned her face to our Saviour, and straightway she commended her spirit into His hands. He said to me, even to me Peter and to John, Make haste, shroud the body of My mother before I go away from you. And we arose, and prepared her well for burial, even as He commended. And He, the Lord stretched out His hand eastwards, and brought us three flourishing branches of palm, and perfumes from the Paradise of delight. Again He turned His face, and brought three branches of olive from an olive tree, from which the dove brought to Noah, that he might know that the Lord had mercy on the world. When we had placed them on her holy body, He said to me, Peter, My bishop, bear her head on thy shoulder; for thou art the head of the Church after Me. John also, let him hear her feet on his shoulder; for I have sanctified him from the time that he was in the womb. Let the men go before, and the women go behind, as is fitting. Go in order and in calmness without weeping and crying out; for behold the powers of the heavens sing hymns before you. For also ye know the anger of the chief priests and the malice of all the murderous nation of the Jews against Me and My mother. But their counsel shall not stand. I will make them blind, that they may know the glory of My godhead, and glorify Me and My good Father and the Holy Ghost. Take up therefore the body of My holy mother. Place it moreover in the stone coffin. Shut it, and abide by it in prayers until the time appointed for her assumption. In two hundred and six days I will come with her blessed soul, and I will take her to the heavens in glory to be with My good Father and the Holy Ghost.
Now when He had said these things, Ha gave us his peace and went up to the heavens in glory, and gave her as a gift to His Father and the Holy Ghost, saying. O My good Father, receive from Me the soul of My blessed mother, who received Thine only begotten Son in the world. Receive from Me Thy holy temple, which was a dwelling place of Thy Holy Ghost, even the unity of the Godhead. Receive from Me, O My good Father, the bush which received the fire of the godhead and was not burnt. I offer the, O My Father, a royal gift to-day, even the soul of My virgin mother. I bring in unto Thee to-day, O My good Father, her who is better than the ark of old; for Thou didst save the whole world by My being in her, Thy coessential Son. To-day is a day of joy to Me, O My Father, the Almighty; for My mother cometh to Thee, arrayed and adorned with good deeds. The angels rejoice with Me to-day, O My good Father, as they see Me rejoicing with My virgin mother, who cometh to them arrayed in heavenly garments. The archangels sing Our praise to-day, O My good Father, singing the befitting song, Glory to God in the highest, and peace at the coming unto us of the mother of our Lord. The Cherubim and the Serephim give their doxology of praise for this joy to-day, saying, Holy, holy, holy art Thou, Lord, Sabaoth: holy is Thy temple, Thy cherubic throne. Who shall see Me to-day rejoicing, O My good Father, and not rejoice with Me? For this is at once My temple and My throne,
Now when the good Son had said these things unto the good Father, straightway the soul of the Virgin also heard the gentled voice of the Holy Trinity, saying, Come unto Us, thou that art blessed of Us, inherit with Us the joy eternal, unspeakable. Then it also, even the soul of the Virgin, worshiped the Holy Trinity, saying, Better is a day in Thy courts than thousands. I had rather dwell in Thy courts, my Master. And again, Thy Holy Ghost hath brought me to this holy mountain. Therefore I will go in unto Thy holy place, and will worship at Thy temple, O Thou whom my soul loveth. When she had said these things, she was in joy unspeakable, in the place whence grief has fled away, being in the glory of the Trinity.
VII. And we also, the apostles, bare her holy body; and we went forth with it, with those who were assembled unto us, in order and calmness, taking it to the field or Jehoshaphat. We came to an assembly of the Jews, assembled one with another. When they saw us going quietly and silently, they spake one with another, saying, What is this corpse, or who are these that bear it? For they go in such calmness. This is a new custom, which is not in Israel. And one of them, being a Galilean and knowing the apostles well, answered: the Holy Ghost came down upon him, and he said to them, This corpse that is borne, this is the body of Mary, the daughter of Joakim and Anna, who bare Messias, which is Christ. He it was who healed your sick, and gave light to your eyes, and raised your dead. We believe that as He raised your dead, He will raise His mother also, and will take her to the heavens with Him. And the Jews when they heard, said in confusion, What shall we do? Behold the error is among us still, as we see it in this fellow who speaks with us now. But let us make haste, and kindle a fire, and burn her body. Else, if we let this be buried in our borders, there will appear from it signs and wonders, and many will be assembled to it and believe on Him: and they will be numbered unto the Romans, and they will have dominion over our cities, and will humble our nation. Now when they had hastily said these things, they kindled a fire and torches, and went out behind them, to burn the holy body of the blessed Virgin. But the apostles, when they saw that which was come to pass, a fear of man took hold of them; and they put down the bier, and fled.
And the lawless Jews, when they approached the bier, a mist and a darkness came upon them; they became blind, and there was no one to lead them by the hand. The fire also which they prepared, to burn the body of the holy Virgin in it, smote many of them: even as the Holy Ghost said by the mouth of David the prophet in the eighty-first Psalm, They knew not, neither did they understand; they go in darkness. There come upon them coals of fire on the earth. Then they cried out, saying, woe to us, O our Master Christ; for we have sinned against heaven, and before Thee. Forgive us, for we are children of Abraham. If Thou givest us the light of our eyes, we will know the glory of Thy godhead, and we will believe on Thee and on Thy virgin mother; for she is our sister. Now when they said these things, Christ was moved with compassion for them, and set them free from their blindness and their error. Many of them were numbered unto us, and glorified the Holy Trinity. And we returned to Jerusalem, glorifying God for His good favours. And we went many times to the place wherein we left the bier, accomplishing songs and praises befitting God, until the day of her glorious assumption.
VII. And it came to pass when the two hundred and six days were fulfilled, we all arose and went to the holy remains, on the evening of the fifteenth of Mesoure, which is on the morning of the sixteenth. We spent the whole night watching and continuing steadfastly in prayer. Now at the tenth hour of the night we heard thunderings and voices of shouting--a choir of angels coming down upon the tomb. Then also David the singer was striking his harp, saying, Arise, O Lord, unto Thy rest; Thou and the ark of Thy holy place. Straightway the whole place burned with fire. And the Lord appeared on the chariots of Cherubim, the soul of the Virgin seated in His bosom, wrapped in His divine robe. And we fell down through fear, and became as dead men. He raised us, and took away from us fear. And He said to us, Hail, My brethren and members and the virgins who are with you: arise and see the glory of mother.
Again He called over the coffin, saying, Arise from thy sleep, O thou holy body, which was to Me a temple: wear thy soul, which was to Me a true tent. Arise, O thou body, that dies according to its nature: wear thy deathless soul that thou mayest be altogether deathless, and that I may take thee to the land of the living. Arise, O thou body, which dissolves and becomes corrupt according to nature: wear thine incorruptible soul. Be altogether incorruptible and indissoluble unto the ages of the ages. Arise. Why, sleepest thou yet in the earth? Array thyself with thy seal, and come to the heavens with Me, unto My good Father and the Holy Ghost; for They long for thee. Arise, O thou holy body, from which I built Me My flesh in a manner incomprehensible: wear thy soul which was to Me a dwelling place. Arise, O thou that art free: wear the freedom of all the world, through which I have redeemed all that I have made. Arise, O thou holy body: be joined to the blessed soul. Receive from Me Thy resurrection before the whole creation. The inhabitants of heaven will be amazed, when they see thee arrayed with thy soul, even with immortality. They will say one to another, Who is this that hath received his resurrection before the whole creation, arrayed and adorned thus? Peradventure this is the house of the Lord, this is the gate of heaven. O Let us sing praise to our God herein, for the Lord loveth it more than all the dwelling of Jacob; which is the choir of the saints. My Father Who liveth and the Holy Ghost will embrace thee and salute thee; for thou wast a dwelling place of Their unity by nature. The four living creatures with the six wings, full of eyes on all sides, which are chariots and thrones of the Trinity, will be amazed in that hour, as they see thee arrayed and adorned in the glory of My godhead. They will say, Whence is this body from the earth, wearing this soul before the time of the judgment; resting beneath this tent, this that is fearful and full of shuddering? We know not. As for ourselves we know that we are made by the Lord spirit and flame of fire. Behold we cover our faces with our wings for the glory of His godhead: we cannot look at all at the glory of His godhead. Behold this is a body from the earth, and it abides by Him that none can abide by, and approaches Him that none can approach unto. It is bright: and is adorned and is arrayed in the glory of the Trinity. Now arise and be joined to thy former unity, for I wait for thee, O thou that wast made a temple of Mine.
IX. When the Lord had said these things over the coffin of stone, straightway it opened: for it was shut even as the ark of Noah aforetime, which no one could open save God, who shut it aforetime. Forthwith the body of the honorable Virgin arose, and embraced its own soul, even as two brothers who are come from a strange country, and they were united one with another. Forthwith the singer David came into the midst in that hour, and struck his harp, saying, Mercy and truth are come forth to meet one another; righteousness and peace have saluted one another. Now when these things had come to pass, He went up to the heavens, blessing us and those who shall walk after His law, saying, Peace be unto you, My friends and members. Peace be unto the sepulcher, which was a dwelling place of the body of My mother. And I will set My blessing and My grace and My power there for ever; if they abide in the right faith, and glorify Me in an indivisible unity. Peace be unto those who shall accomplish always the memorial of My mother in mercy and judgment. She also, at once our Lady and our succorer, blessed us: and we saw them no more. But the voice of the powers that sang hymns before them was sounding in our ears, saying, Alleluia. Bring to the Lord glory and honor; bring to the Lord honor to His holy name. Alleluia. Bring to the Lord the sons of God, and sing glory in His holy temple. Alleluia. Then we understood that to-day there were brought unto the King virgins, even the soul and the body which were united. He said, Behind her there shall be brought in unto Him all her neighbors also, which are her holy deeds. And so we returned to Jerusalem, glorifying and thanking the Lord.
X. Behold these things we have said thus far, manifesting to you the gifts full of grace of this Holy Virgin, who is our glorying unto all the race of men. Now it befits us also, even all that have known her grace, to bring in unto her on this day fruits worthy of repentance, each according to his power.