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NPNF2-01. Eusebius Pamphilius: Church History, Life of Constantine, Oration in Praise of Constantine
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Chapter XLIV.—Dionysius’ Account of Serapion.

1. To this same Fabius, who seemed to lean somewhat toward this schism,21352135    See above, chap. 39, note 7. Dionysius of Alexandria also wrote an epistle.21362136    This epistle, as we may gather from the description of its contents in the next sentence, is without doubt the same from which Eusebius has quoted at such length in chaps. 41 and 42. Upon the date and purpose of it, see chap. 41, note 1. We possess only the fragments quoted by Eusebius in these three chapters. He writes in this many other things concerning repentance, and relates the conflicts of those who had lately suffered martyrdom at Alexandria. After the other account he mentions a certain wonderful fact, which deserves a place in this work. It is as follows:

2. “I will give thee this one example which occurred among us. There was with us a certain Serapion,21372137    Of this Serapion we know only what is told us in this chapter. an aged believer who had lived for a long time blamelessly, but had fallen in the trial. He besought often, but no one gave heed to him, because he had sacrificed. But he became sick, and for three successive days continued speechless and senseless.

3. Having recovered somewhat on the fourth day he sent for his daughter’s son, and said, How long do you detain me, my child? I beseech you, make haste, and absolve me speedily. Call one of the presbyters to me. And when he had said this, he became again speechless. And the boy ran to the presbyter. But it was night and he was sick, and therefore unable to come.

4. But as I had commanded that persons at the point of death, if they requested it, and especially if they had asked for it previously, should receive remission, that they might depart with a good hope, he gave the boy a small portion of the eucharist, telling him to soak21382138    ἀποβρέξαι. This is translated by Crusè and by Salmond (in the Ante-Nicene Fathers, VI. p. 101) “soak (or steep) in water”; but the liquid is not specified in the text, and it has consequently been thought by others that the bread was dipped in the wine, as was commonly done in the celebration of the eucharist in the Eastern Church (see Bingham’s Ant. Bk. XV.). But it must be noticed that the bread was soaked not by the presbyter but by the boy, and that too after his return home, where there can have been no consecrated wine for eucharistic use, and there is no hint that wine was given him for the purpose by the presbyter. It therefore seems probable that the bread was soaked simply in water, and that the soaking was only in order that the old man, in his enfeebled state, might be able to receive the element in a liquid instead of in a solid form. it and let the drops fall into the old man’s mouth.21392139    κατὰ τοῦ στόματος ἐπιστ€ξαι

5. The boy returned with it, and as he drew near, before he entered, Serapion again arousing, said, ‘Thou art come, my child, and the presbyter could not come; but do quickly what he directed, and let me depart.’ Then the boy soaked it and dropped it into his mouth. And when he had swallowed a little, immediately he gave up the ghost.

6. Is it not evident that he was preserved and his life continued till he was absolved, and, his sin having been blotted out, he could be acknowledged21402140    ὁμολογηθῆναι. The meaning is apparently “acknowledged or confessed by Christ,” and Valesius is doubtless correct in remarking that Dionysius was alluding to the words of Matt. x. 32. for the many good deeds which he had done?”

Dionysius relates these things.


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