Friday, December 13, 2013

Saint Andrew the Fool and the Homosexual Eunuch


The following dialogue consists of a chapter in the Life of Saint Andrew the Fool for Christ (May 28). It is a complex passage dealing with sensitive issues with unexpected twists and turns and paradoxes, as real life situations usually are, and for this reason it should be studied carefully, completely and within context. Saint Andrew was a holy man, specifically with the gift of being clairvoyant and a fool for Christ, who knew the secrets of people's hearts, and he spoke the truth as it was revealed to him and in the appropriate way for a particular moment. The story begins with Andrew, who wore very little clothing even in the winter, sitting in front of the gateway of the house of his disciple Epiphanios, who in the purity of his heart recognized the holiness of Andrew and kept the secret of his foolish behavior.

As he [Andrew] sat on the ground in front of the gateway there came a young eunuch who was the chamberlain of one of the nobles. His face was like a rose, the skin of his body white as snow, he was well shaped, fair-haired, possessing an unusual softness, and smelling of musk from afar. As Epiphanios had been brought up together with him and was his friend they loved each other dearly.

Now this eunuch carried with him dates, about thirty in number. When he saw the naked body of the holy man he was alarmed and asked Epiphanios, "My dearest and beloved Epiphanios, who is this man and why does he go naked, although it is winter and unbearably cold, being like those who have been shipwrecked at sea?"

Epiphanios answered, "My dearest brother, I do not know what I shall say about his appearance, since his mind has been taken prisoner by the Evil One and he wanders about like one possessed and confused. All such people tear their clothes and run about without feeling anything." This he said because he did not want to reveal the holy man's virtue.

When the eunuch heard this he fell silent and, having pity on the blessed man as one of the poor, gave him all his dates. "Take these just for now," he said, "for I have nothing else with me."

But the holy man, who with the eyes of his spirit already knew the works of his soul, looked at him sternly and said, "Fools do not eat a gift of colophonia."

The eunuch, who did not understand what he said, replied, "You truly crazy man, when you see dates, do you think they are fruit from Colophon?"*

The blessed man said to him, "You deceiver, go into your master's bed-chamber and perform with him the sick practice of the sodomites, that he may give you other dates too. You wretch, you do not see the rays of the kingdom of heaven, who do not know the cruelty and bitterness of hell, do you not even feel shame before the angel who accompanies you as a Christian? What should be done with you, impure that you are, because you frequent the corners and do what should not be done, things which neither dogs nor swine, nor reptiles nor serpents do? You accursed fellow, why do you do this? Woe to your youth, which Satan has wounded and thrown down headlong into the terrible depth of hell and vehemence and boundless vigor! See that you do not go further, lest the Godhead treat you as you deserve, here burning you whole with flashes of lightning, there with the hell of fire."

When the eunuch heard this he trembled with fear, his face turned red like fire and his shame was great.

Epiphanios said to the eunuch, "Sir, what happened to you? Why were you ashamed? Did I not tell you that he is crazy and says whatever occurs to him? However, my dear friend in the Lord, if you are aware that you are guilty of something of what he said to you, go at once and reform yourself and do not be angry at him for his words! You are young, dear friend, and Satan is wicked, deceiving us to commit sin for no other reason than to have us too for a consolation in the fires of hell."

When the eunuch heard this he went away, whereas the honorable Epiphanios helped the holy man to his feet and showed him to his room. There they found a table laid and sat down, enjoying the gifts of God.

After they finished their feast Epiphanios said to the blessed man, "Venerable sir, why did you rebuke my friend so bluntly?"

The blessed man answered, "Because he is dear to you and beloved, for this reason I did give to him this lecture, for had he not been your friend, he would not heard a single word from me. This is not my vocation, to rebuke sinners, but to run the straight road which leads to a better life."

Epiphanios said again, "I know that too, you servant of God, but this young man is a slave, and when he is forced by his master what can he do?"

The holy man replied, "Yes, I know, I am not ignorant of that. However, a slave should serve the man who bought him with regard to his physical needs, not with regard to the works of the devil, specifically not when it comes to this cursed and disgusting abnormality in which not even animals engage."

Epiphanios said, "If a master enjoins a slave to minister to his needs, be they physical, or spiritual, or sinful, and the slave fails to obey, you surely know, my Lord, how much he will suffer, being maltreated, beaten, threatened and receiving all sorts of punishments."

The holy man answered, "This, my son, is the martyrdom of Jesus Christ at which he hinted when he said: 'Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.' Thus if the slaves do not bow to the abominable sodomitic passion of their masters they are blessed and thrice blessed, for thanks to the torments you mention they will be reckoned with the martyrs."

* The eunuch thinks the holy man is speaking of the city of Colophon in Ionia, but the word colophonia implies a slaughter or abuse of the colon or anus.

Translation from The Perfect Servant: Eunuchs and the Social Construction of Gender in Byzantium by Kathryn M. Ringrose, University of Chicago Press, 2003, pp. 45-47.

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