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ST. FRUMENTIUS, APOSTLE OF ETHIOPIA, B. C.
See Rufinus, Hist1. 1, c. 19; Theodoret,1. 1, c. 22; St. Athan. Apol. 1, p. 696; Socrates.1. 1, c. 19, Sozomen.1. 2, c. 24, Hermant, Vie de S. Athanase, t. 2. p. 240; Tillemont, t. 7, p. 284, t. 8, p. 13; Montfau con, Vit. S. Athan. p. 15, t. 1; Op. S. Athan.; Job Ludolf, (who died at Frankfort, in 1704, and is famous for his travels and skill in the Ethiopian and other Oriental languages.) Hist. thiop.1. 3, c. 7, n 17, ed Comment. In eandem Hist. p. 280; Le Qulen, Or. Chr. t. 2, p. 643.
A CERTAIN philosopher named Metrodorus, out of curiosity and a desire of seeing the world, and improving his stock of knowledge, made several voyages, and travelled both into Persia, and into Farther India, which name the ancients gave to Ethiopia.* At his return he presented Constantine the Great, who had then lately made himself master of the East, with a quantity of diamonds and other precious stones and curiosities, assuring that prince his collection would have been much more valuable, had not Sapor, king of Persia, seized on the best part of his treasure. His success encouraged Meropius, a philosopher of Tyre, to undertake a like voyage upon the same motive. But God, who conducts all the steps of men, even when they least think of him, raised in him this design for an end of infinitely greater importance and value than all the diamonds which the philosopher could bring back. Meropius carried with him two of his nephews, Frumentius and Edesius, with whose education he was intrusted. In the course of their voyage homewards the vessel touched at a certain port to take in provisions and fresh water. The barbarians of that country, who were then at war with the Romans, stopped the ship, and put the whole crew and all the passengers to the sword, except the two children, who were studying their lessons under a tree at some distance. When they were found, their innocence, tender age, and beauty, pleaded strongly in their favor, and moved the barbarians to compassion; and they were carried to the king, who resided at Axuma, formerly one of the greatest cities in the East, now a poor village in Abyssinia, called Accum, filled with ruins of stately edifices, and sumptuous obelisks which seem to have been funeral monuments of the dead, though none of the inscriptions are now intelligible.1 The prince was charmed with the wit and sprightliness of the two boys, took special care of their education; and, not long after, made Edesius his cup-bearer, and Frumentius, who was the elder, his treasurer and secretary of state, intrusting him with all the public writings and accounts. They lived in great honor with this prince, who, on his death-bed, thanked them for their services, and, in recompense, gave them their liberty. After his demise, the queen, who was left regent for her eldest son, entreated them to remain at court, and assist her in the government of the state, wherein she found their fidelity abilities, and integrity her greatest support and comfort. Frumentius had the principal management of affairs, and desiring to promote the faith of Christ in that kingdom, engaged several Christian merchants, who traded there, to settle in the country, and procured them great privileges, and all the conveniences for their religious worship, and by his own fervor and example strongly recommended the true religion to the infidels. When the young king, whose name was Aizan, came to age, and took the reins of government into his own hands, the brothers resigned their posts, and though he invited them to stay, Edesius went back to Tyre, where he was afterwards ordained priest. But Frumentius having nothing so much at heart as the conversion of the whole nation, took the route of Alexandria, and entreated the holy archbishop, St. Athanasius, to send some pastor to that country, ripe for a conversion to the faith. St. Athanasius called a synod of bishops, and by their unanimous advice ordained Frumentius himself bishop of the Ethiopians, judging no one more proper than himself to finish the work which he had begun.* Frumentius, vested with this sacred character, went back to Axuma, and gained great numbers to the faith by his discourses and miracles; for seldom did any nation embrace Christianity with greater ardor, or defend it with greater courage. King Aizan and his brother Sazan, whom he had associated in the throne, received baptism, and, by their fervor, were a spur to their subjects in the practice of every virtue and religious duty. The Arian emperor Constantius conceived an implacable jealousy against St. Frumentius, because he was linked in faith and affection with St. Athanasius; and when he found that he was not even to be tempted, much less seduced by him, he wrote a haughty letter to the two converted kings, in which he commanded them with threats, to deliver up Frumentius into the hands of George, the barbarous invader of the see of Alexandria. This letter was communicated by them to St. Athanasius, who has inserted it in his apology to Constantius. Our holy bishop continued to feed and defend his flock till it pleased the Supreme Pastor to recompense his fidelity and labors. The Latins commemorate him on the 27th of October; the Greeks on the 30th of November. The Abyssinians honor him as the apostle of the country of the Axumites, which is the most considerable part of their empire.† They also place among the saints the two kings Aizan, whom they call Abreha and Sazan, whose name in their modern language is Atzbeha. St. Frumentius they call St. Fremonat.
In every age, from Christ down to this very time, some new nations have been added to the fold of Christ, as the annals of the church show; and the apostacy of those that have forsaken the path of truth, has been repaired by fresh acquisitions. This is the work of the Most High; the wonderful effect of all-powerful grace. It is owing to the divine blessing that the heavenly seed fructifies in the hearts of men, and it is God who raises up, and animates with his spirit zealous successors of the apostles, whom he vouchsafes to make his instruments in this great work. We are indebted to his gratuitous mercy for the inestimable benefit of this light of faith. If we correspond not faithfully, with fear and trembling, to so great a grace, our punishment will be so much the more dreadful.