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The Paradise Of The Holy Fathers Volumes 1 and 2 by Saint Athanasius Of Alexandria

NOW therefore it is necessary for us to remember also the chosen and mighty women unto whom God also gave an equal measure of strength of will as unto men, so that they might have no cause for being feeble in the performance of the labour of ascetic excellence. I have seen large numbers of widows who were exceedingly glorious and excellent in the performance of ascetic virtues, and among the chaste virgins whom I saw in Alexandria there was one whom I estimated to be seventy years old, and all the clergy testified concerning her that when a young woman, about twenty years old, she possessed exceeding beauty, and she was more looked at than many women, and because of her beauty she fled lest she should become the cause of stumbling unto men. Once when the Arians were plotting against the blessed Athanasius, the Archbishop of Alexandria, and were acting craftily in respect of him that they might do him harm through the prefect Eusebius, and through the wicked men who were his partisans in the days of the Emperor Constantine the Less (i.e., Constantius), and were spreading abroad infamous reports about him, and were accusing him of many things which were unseemly for Christians to do, Athanasius fled that he might not be condemned in their wicked and corrupt hall of judgement, and he told no man, neither kinsmen, nor friends, nor ecclesiastics, nor any other men [where he was going]. And as soon as certain men from among the magistrates had entered into the episcopal palace suddenly, and begun to search for him and to enquire for him, he rose up at midnight, and took his tunic, and fled to this virgin who, being greatly astonished and struck with wonder at the matter, was moved exceedingly. And the blessed Athanasius said unto her, “Because I am sought for by the Arians, who are making unseemly accusations against me, and because I do not want to spread about an unseemly opinion of myself, and I wish not to prepare a great punishment for those who would be condemned for my sake, and be made guilty for me, I determined to betake myself to flight, and God gave me a revelation this night, saying, ‘There is no other person with whom thou canst find deliverance except this virgin.’ ” Now therefore because of her exceedingly great joy she removed from herself and set aside all thoughts [of shame], and she became wholly [the servant] of our Lord, and she hid that holy man for the whole period of thirty years, that is to say, until the death of Constantine. She used to wash his feet, and she prepared everything of which he had need, and she attended to his bodily wants, and whatsoever he needed that she provided, and she borrowed books and brought [them] to him; and no man in Alexandria knew during that whole period of thirty years where the blessed Athanasius was. And when the death of Constantine (i.e., Constantius) was announced, and Athanasius also heard thereof, he rose up and came by night and he was suddenly found to be in the church, and all those who saw him marvelled as they looked carefully at him, for he was like unto a man who had risen from the grave. And he made an apology to those who truly loved him, and spake unto them, saying, “I did not flee unto you, for the reason that there might not be unto you an occasion for swearing [false] oaths. And moreover, because of the search and enquiry which they were sure to have made for me I fled unto that woman concerning whom no man could suspect of harm, for she is young and beautiful. And I have gained two things, my own life and hers; I have helped her in many things, and I have taken care and preserved myself.”

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