|St. Matrona of Perge (Feast Day - November 9)|
Matrona is worthy of future life,
For she lived this life worthily.
By St. Symeon the Metaphrastes
It is most beneficial, and at the same time a holy work, to praise as much as we can those who lead a temperate life and who love virtue. For they are worthy of it, and also, speaking about them will make other men desire to do similar things. If the object of praise is a woman who is the weaker part of humanity and too delicate for hard work, this praise is beneficial to men at the same time as it is to women. It is able to kindle the enthusiasm of both toward good works. Women would be moved to take up the same pains hard work]and rewards since they belong to the same sex, while men would not want to seem second to women and less noble in their labors.
Matrona's life was one of those of praiseworthy and virtue-loving ones. She competed with men in virtue, and surpassed all in marvelous accomplishment, as will be made clear as the story continues.
There is a region called Pamphylia, subject to the Roman Empire, that lies on the frontier between Cilicia and Isauria. Many lived in that land and it had inhabitants from all cities and that is how it came to have such a name. The blessed Matrona was brought up in one of its cities, called Perge. She was liberally educated and taught by her parents. When she reached the age for marriage (and because she was very beautiful) she married a man, not a vulgar one or of the common people, whose name was Domitianus. She became the mother of one girl. Forthwith, the little girl was given a name proper for her future, Theodote, and from the cradle was dedicated to God.
As she [Matrona] led a moderate and modest social life, after marriage and cohabitation, she did not care for vain beauty, but she trained the inner man, thus trying zealously to go through life with dignity and sobriety.
While it would be worthy and even desirable to discuss things in details, it would be superfluous for us to disregard better and more perfect matters, and to prefer to engage the audience with the memory of these things. It is fitting to begin the narrative with what she preferred above all others. For she decided to keep to the utmost the word of the Apostle. He says that those who have wives be as if they had none [I Cor. 7:29]. Therefore, she willingly abandoned her fatherland, I say by divine providence which helped her with her plan, an she went to the queen of cities, Byzantium, with her husband, who went with her and did not stay away from her, but was neither aware of her plans nor know what she had in mind. When she entered the imperial city, she went to the churches of the saints every day. She would not stay away from them day or night, fasting, praying, sharing her possessions with the needy, and earnestly begging God to put an end to her inner fight against the flesh, for she was young then, not more than twenty-five years old.
At any rate, as has been said, she needed to be freed from the flesh so that she might live without her husband and be able to have the time to live freely the life of spiritual and divine persons. It was a certain Eugenia who incited her towards these good things. Noble as her name, she was one of those who spent her whole life in continuous vigils and prayers. Matrona competed in the good competition with her, and diligently trained herself in the way of an ascetic.
While this was taking place, Domitianus became grieved by her practices, and was driven to improper thoughts, saying that her absence from home was not motivated by good things, but she was drawn by her mind to cheap desires So he guarded her as much as he could so that she was not even able to come out of the bed-chamber. A contest developed between them. While he did not allow her to do her usual things, she tried not to be deprived of association with holy people. Although he continued to resist this she was very: persistent in her entreaties, and at length she was able to persuade him to let her do what she wanted.
She quickly went to the church of the holy Apostles, where she earnestly prayed an entreated that there would be no obstacles in her way to flee the world, but that she would be led to Christ along with the people who had already been led there. Now, as she was praying, evening had already fallen, and the door-keepers of the church ordered everyone to leave. But she found near one of the porticoes, the home of a certain old acquaintance, Susanna, who, from youth, had dedicated herself to the virginity and a life of devotion. With her, she passed the whole night. At day break, however, Matrona went to the teacher Eugenia, and discussed with her certain matters. And after many words had been exchanged, the teacher said that she must consider before anything else how to handle the affairs of her daughter, Theodote. Since Matrona's only goal was God, and she was contemptuous of all other concerns, she said, "Let the ascetic and solitary life accept me. I give Theodote to Susanna and God, and free myself of worrying about her." The deed immediately followed upon the word.
Again, as Matrona was seeking to learn how she must live in quietude and to please God, she was taught by the Lord through a vision in her sleep. Hers was a marvelous one. It seemed that her husband was chasing her and, as she fled, she was saved by some monks, which signified that she must go in a monastery of men and enter into the life of monks. For in this way, she would not be recognized either by her husband or by others.
She shaved her hair close to the skin and dressed herself like a eunuch. Once more she went with Eugenia to the said Church of the Holy Apostles, and desiring to learn the meaning of secret things from the divine, she opened the Holy Bible, and there she found it stated: "He who wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take his cross, and follow me" [Lk. 9:23). Thereupon, they had a firm knowledge of the things that please God, and having abandoned themselves to Him and expecting Him to be their assistant in their practices, they parted from each other.
Matrona, as has already been said, pretended to be a eunuch, and called herself Babylas. She went to the monastery of the holy Basianus. There she was received by the monks and immediately engaged in spiritual competition. She did not feign devotion by sadness and paleness of her face rather, she was truthfully pursuing virtue and was eager to escape notice, so that she soon elevated herself to the perfect life according to God, and all marveled that a man afflicted with the weakness of a eunuch could so endure hard labors and seek to surpass all the monks, winning over the spirit and despising glory as vanity and being completely obedient out of great modesty.
They were not envious of her for the zeal for virtue is free from envy. Rather they wanted to observe her as a teacher and to imitate her. But her secret almost came out, and it would have become evident that she was a woman, if she had not put an end to the suspicion through her spiritual wisdom.
It happened that once she was working in the garden with other monks, and she was more zealous than they in her work. A monk by the name of Barnabas, who was assigned to work with her, looked at her curiously. He had entered the monastic life a short while earlier, and even though he had come from the stage later he increased in virtue and became a abbot. He asked her to tell him why the lobes of her ears were pierced. The blessed woman quickly gave him an intelligent answer saying, "You have, O brother, suffered something human which is alien to our profession. One must pay attention to the land and not gaze curiously on human features. But to answer your question: the woman who had owned me before and who raised me was so affectionately disposed toward me that she wished even to place gold ornaments in my ears." So, the blessed woman, wisely, rid the monk of his suspicions.
But many troublesome thoughts came to her, and she remembered the exhortation of Eugenia who said: "it is difficult for a woman to live with men and pretend to be a man. It is impossible to avoid detection forever." Still, she thought more carefully, being alone with God, and said, "By Your sign, O Lord, I have entered the monastic life, and when You order me to follow You, I have followed the unalterable path wherefore You will neither deceive me nor will You allow me to stray from such a good purpose. But watching over my weakness, deign to help my aim and purpose." As she said these things, she envisioned a good outcome because of the purity of her soul.
For a long while she was living thus and acquiring her spiritual training, Basianus remained ignorant about her true identity, although he was not without a charismatic gift of prophecy. Thus, she escaped notice by the wisdom and hidden judgment of God, as once Elisha did with the Shunammite woman [II Kings IV]. Then, with time, the truth about her became known to him. It happened that the great Basianus saw in some dreams a man in modest habit, with a remarkable appearance who seemed to be of divine nature and who three times told him that, "The eunuch Babylas, whom you have among your flock of monks, is certainly a woman, but pretends to be a eunuch for disguise". After this, a certain man named Acacius, known for his fear of God and who was the abbot of the Monastery of Holy Abraham in the Triton [3rd district], saw the same vision.
Early in the morning, the great Basianus summoned a certain monk named John, who ranked second in the monastery, and described the dream he had to him. While he was discussing this, someone who was sent by Acacius, came to report to Basianus what he (Acacius) had seen in his vision. The great Basianus, wishing to be more sure, took the Holy Book in his hand, opened it, and there he found the words saying that "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman (took and) hid in three measures of meal, until the whole was leavened." [Lk. 13:20].
Then, when things became clear through his deep understanding, he began to consider how he could delicately deal with the problem without making it known to many. Therefore, he called the blessed woman, looked hard upon her, and said "What, O woman, made you perpetrate such a daring deed upon us and bring among us a totally unworthy temptation and shame by managing to remain undetected for so long." While this was being said, she sat crushed by the harshness of the speech, and being panic stricken by the cloud of bitterness on his face, and since her conscience clearly bore witness to what had been said, she threw herself on the ground at once and held the holy man's feet. and with very humble words only whispered she said, "I did not intent to bring temptation when I came among your flock, but rather to flee the temptation of the adversary and to avoid snares in life." Again Basianus told her, "How could you, a woman, come to the Holy Mysteries with your head uncovered and give fearlessly your mouth to the brothers in the Kiss of Peace?" She said, "As regards Holy Communion, I used to feign illness and come to communion with my head covered. I did not refuse the sign of brotherly love, for I thought , did not touch human lips, but men who search for angelic apathia."
Amazed by such wisdom, Basianus said, "And why did not you go to another monastery, that is, a woman's monastery?" She recovered herself a little and shook away her fear. She then began to say more words in her defense and made clear the thing pertaining to her. She said that she was married to a man according to the law and was the mother of a daughter, that she used to go and spend whole nights in the holy sanctuaries, and because of that she was sometimes threatened by her husband and sometimes suffered blows. In order to put an end to such violence, she sought a way that her husband would not be able to find her and that she could do what she wanted. She related this and how she entrusted her daughter to Susanna, and finally she related her dream, that as she fled from her husband, she seemed to be saved by the hands of the monks, because of which she changed her habit and even her name.
When Basianus heard these things, he felt a great admiration for her inordinately sharp wisdom and considered her intention acceptable. He inquired whether she still chose the monastic life. When she said she liked that very much, for in this way she would be away from the world and those of the world, Basianus said, "take courage, my daughter, about the future." He gave her a useful admonition. "From now on, daughter," he said, "put a veil over your head, for it is proper according to the law of nature, and thus wait for divine help," and [he added] that he too would do whatever was possible.
As she departed from there, God, who orders all things for the best, took Matrona's daughter from this life to himself so that the child would not become a temptation from the devil against Matrona. Since it had already become known that she was a woman, the devil could have distracted her from divine thoughts and could have led her mind to worldly concerns with the child as a pretext. Therefore, she did not grieve but was delighted in the matter, since she considered what had happened not to be the loss of a child, but relief from concern about the child.
She was in hiding with Susanna, or rather it was God who was looking after her through Susanna. Her fame proclaimed her everywhere, and through her deeds it reached every ear. Domitianus, her husband, was gradually trying to find out the truth of what had happened. As he continued tracing down his wife, after having been to the other monasteries, he finally came to the monastery where the blessed woman had been living. Sending forth incomprehensible and improper sounds from anger, he knocked [at the monastery's gate] at an inappropriate hour, and loudly said, "What violence and what great injustice have been done to me. Yes, O monks, yes, you have indeed done good things' Why did you wish to divide what was well united? Give me my wife, give me my legal partner"'
He shouted these things and more being motivated by desire and seized by sorrow. His voice was hoarse from pain. Then he heard them [the monks] say, "We did not have your wife, for entrance to the monastery is not allowed to women. We have known a certain eunuch. a monk called Babylas, who lived with us for sometime, but suddenly decided to move and go to Jerusalem. He separated himself from us a few days ago because, we know he wished to live abroad. Where he is now, only He God knows, to whom nothing is unknown. The truth of this will be confirmed by the whole city." Hearing all this, Domitianus was beaten off and lost every pretext to resume the search. He tried everything. Failure grieved him. He was angry, impassioned by his love for her. He left them, being torn apart by such passions.
Many concerns afflicted Basianus since he was entrusted with Matrona's soul lest it be lost. He summoned the first in rank among the monks and said, "We must consider further what to do about our sister who has been separated from us. For although she is of the other nature [sex], since she brought herself among us, her separation from us must be viewed as the removal of a limb. Let us arrange her affairs so that they will reach a good end, for fear that the evil one, who tries to tempt us every day, might prevail over her, using her husband as his instrument." Thus spoke Basianus, putting [the matter] to all for deliberation. A certain Marcellus, who then was a deacon. proposed an opinion saying that in the city of Emesa, whence he came, there was a hermitage of w/omen in which a sister of his was one of the nuns. "Therefore, if this seems acceptable to you, have her sent there, for when she is there, you may put worries about her off your minds." Basianus agreed, the deacon found a ship setting sail to that place, and put the holy woman on board.
She cheerfully accepted the decision as being made with God's aid. She brought along very little food. As she began the voyage, pushed by a favorable and fine wind, she crossed over to the monastery in Emesa. She was kindly received. She performed the labors of virtue so well that, as she was seen as a model, it was not easy for the nuns who tried to equal her in their labors. Thus, it seemed good to all the nuns to entrust her with the leadership of the monastery after the death of the abbess. As much as Matrona tried to hide herself, so God wanted to made her manifest and to place her light in the lamp and make her virtue evident.
At that time, a farmer, who was working on his small piece of land for several days, saw a flame gushing out of the earth. It [the flame] was constant and did not stop. Not being able to subdue the flame, the farmer went to the bishop of the city and reported it. The bishop realized that the phenomenon signified something very great. He went to the place and brought with him his clergymen. When he arrived there, he held a prayer and ordered them to dig up the earth. When this was done, an earthen jar was discovered. It contained no gold nor any other worldly ornament which may charm the worldly soul. It was an object of more valuable than all precious things. It was the venerable head of [St. John] the Forerunner.
When the story spread, no one stayed home, but everyone came to the site, and with hymns and praises they brought the honorable head to the church. When the blessed Matrona and all the nuns arrived at the scene of the spectacle, she came close, the head was laid out and myrrh was extracted from it. She gave myrrh from the head to all those who were around. She did that unwillingly. How that was and why it was imposed by God against her will will be explained.
She was in the middle of the crowd and was not allowed to leave as everyone was pressing to get the myrrh for himself. She herself got myrrh and was forced to give it to others. At that time, someone, who was born blind, came running past everyone, for there were also sore of the priests distributing the ointment. He came toward her and begged with many prayers. She gut the holy myrrh all around his eyes and at once he was able to see the light he who had never seen before. This made her famous and known by everyone, so that everyone said that she was the one who had managed to spend so much time undetected among monks.
The illustrious fame brought Domitianus again and led him to the monastery, as if leading him by the hand. When he heard that it was prohibited for men to gain entrance, he decided to conceal his true identity and pretend reverence. He asked some women to let him see Matrona to get grace from her and to prostrate himself before her. By more precise questioning, and some marks on his face, and from what she heard, she well recognized that he was her husband. What did she do? She asked for a period of seven days after which she would receive him at her leisure. When Domitianus heard this from the woman, he was in suspense with expectation, and waited for the appointed day. While he was going around waiting to she her, he was imagining that he already had her in his hands. Meanwhile, Matrona hastened and disguised herself again and went straight to Jerusalem, putting on only a hair shirt and carrying with her a very small piece of bread.
After the seven days had passed, the women came back as agreed. They heard from the nuns, who were saddened by great grief, that since the time they came and spoke to her, "she was neither seen by us afterward, nor do we know where on earth she is." As they learned these things, the women left at once, and told Domitianus. Having been stricken with a severe pain in his heart, Domitianus did not relax or waste any time until he reached Jerusalem. And again, he gave the description of the missing woman to other women he met. He turned every stone wishing to know her whereabouts. They [the women] said that they had seen a woman who fit the description, but they did not know for sure where she was. They said, "Wherever she finds herself, she stays in one of the churches and then rushes to go elsewhere. We will tell you how we will manage to find her. We shall split up, one by one, so that whoever sees her first will come as soon as possible to inform you." And so they did just what they said.
It happened that Matrona met and recognized Domitianus. Casting her eyes down and bringing her hand toward the earth, pretending to pick up a stone, she intelligently concealed herself from him. Then she met those women who were going round the entire area in a circle looking diligently for her and she knew that they spotted her by her features and that she would soon be caught. So she fooled them through her wisdom. She asked that she be allowed just three days to go to Sinai. After that she would return at once and go to see her husband. Learning this, Domitianus knew that such an answer was an excuse and, immediately followed her as quickly as he could. Again, when Matrona learned this, and that her pursuer was near and she was in danger; she became oppressed with a great fear. She went to an idol's temple near Beirut and stayed there, since she thought that to encounter demons and wild beasts was better than being taken by Domitianus. For if they [the demons] caught her they would harm only the body. But if her husband caught her he would be more deadly then demons and wild beasts, for he would destroy her body and soul at the same time. He would drag her back to the things of the world and claim her as his wife.
Therefore, she settled there and devoted her time to singing hymns and prayers to God. She heard the demons echoing her songs and sending forth the same sounds. This lasted for many days and occasioned fear and timidity in her. Then she crossed herself with the sign of the cross and came out against those fearful things. Because she could not see anything, she asked the divine grace to make evident what was in question. At once, she saw clearly what was invisible coming with fire and making inarticulate sounds. Again, they were censured by her and they departed and disappeared as if they were smoke.
Sometimes, when thirst seized that noble woman and got unbearable, she would come a little way out of the temple and bring modest refreshment to her mouth by the green herbs and moist grass. The Lord, who had once sent the unexpected manna and fed an entire people -- an evil and ungrateful people gave her both food and drink. In that hot country, where the sun is very strong, she discovered a place with a little moisture. She dug it with a sharp stone as much as possible and at night fall she returned and offered God the usual prayers. The next day she came and found the pond filled with water and edible herbs, a table not unworthy of the eater, but more pleasurable to her than those which delight the rich and delicate.
Thus she lived, constantly turned toward God, but the Evil One considered this to be bad and unbearable. On that account he disguised himself twice as a very beautiful woman and came to her and said, "Why, my lady, did you choose to settle in this gloomy and out of the way place? For solitude is long and the scarcity of necessary things is great. Besides you are young and very beautiful. I am greatly alarmed that you may become an occasion of desire for licentious eyes, and that is not good. And because this place is far away and there is no help nearby, you may bring violation unto your body. But if you trusted me and listened to me, I would take you to town, and there you would find a house suitable for your purpose, and live quietly as pleases you, and be in no need for any of the things that are necessary." But, detecting this to be a treacherous counsel by the adversary, she considered the words to be nonsense, and she overcame this snare. But that demon did not rest. He strove with all kind of cunning to attack Matrona. To be sure, he took the form of an old woman beggar. He let fire shine through his eyes. Trying to frighten her, he threw himself at her feet screaming strange and corrupt words. Since Matrona paid no attention, and the blessed woman did not even turn towards the demon, the demon became angry and audacious, "If I was not able to defeat you, the brave one, while you are a young woman, in old age, I shall bring upon you the most painful of things. Now I will set against you those who are in Beirut, for you dishonor their temple and, as much as you can, you neglect it." Revelations and divine vision came after these mischievous?lots of the Evil One, which is God's way of sending his aid to the oppressed and relieving sad things through good ones. For in the multitude of my thoughts in my heart." says the Holy David, "Your encouragements delight my soul." [Ps. 94:191. And so it happened.
She was holding the evening prayers as usual, when three men stopped by and openly began to sing with her. They knelt down behind Matrona for many hours. She turned her face around to know who they might be. The three men in such a gentle and serene manner, said, "Pray for us," thrice, and departed immediately.
As her virtue was making her well known, her fame traveled all over: that the evil spirit fled before Matrona, and that the temple became devoid of demons. Because of that, many came to her thinking it a great thing just to hear her words. Hence, a woman called Sophrone, who lived a life that is prudent like her name and who was of the Greek religion, and at the same time others who shared the same belief with her, gave themselves to Matrona, abandoning their parents, friends, and the world. They listened obediently to her and soon became worthy of holy baptism. Among them was a virgin, a Greek priestess of the temple who, when she heard these things about the holy woman, became filled with divine zeal and condemned her own gods. She hastened and gave to the poor the offerings lavish by the Greeks in unlawful sacrifices to demons. She separated herself from the others and came to Matrona and eagerly made herself one of those who chose to follow her.
As the day came when she was to offer the sacrifices, a multitude of people and her relatives assembled, and not finding her, had no way to perform the ceremonies without the priestess. They were not able to know what had happened before. But when her parents learned the matter, they came quickly to the temple where the holy woman lived, and seeing her [the priestess] at the holy woman's feet, they said to her, abusively, "O girl, have you looked with contempt upon the greatest of gods, and have left the sacrifice unperformed and agitated the people against us, for they would not tolerate insult against the gods? And why have you chosen this dishonorable and unworthy life over the noblest and most praiseworthy conduct? Now, abandon the irrationality that seized you, be sensible and of wise thought. Put away this mournful habit and be joyous and come to us who are joyous, lest what you think is the place of your salvation becomes your grave for if you do not do what we tell you, tomorrow you dwelling place will be destroyed by fire." Saying these things, they did not hear anything from her.
Matrona was peaceable and friendly to them. "Let her be," she said, "she has already been ordained handmaiden of the God of you gods. No longer is there anything in common between you and her." When they heard this, they turned away threatening to burn the temple and other worse things. The girl fell at the feet of the blessed woman and begged Christ that she be sealed by the seal of baptism as soon as possible. Then Matrona told the rest of them to stay and went to gather dry wood. When she collected a great deal, she returned. "Some of you," she said, "go quickly and tell those who came a short time ago, 'we have prepared for you fire and abundance of wood, why do you delay your arrival so as to complete what you threatened.'" When they heard these things, they were puzzled by the wisdom of her thought and her courage. They could not answer, and after that they never dared return to that place.
Then the blessed woman ordered those who returned to go again and find the bishop who was to send with them one of the priests and a deacon. As this was very quickly done she handed over to the priests, who had already arrived, the priestess who lately came to her They taught her, baptized her and brought her back to her [Matrona].
After baptism, therefore, Euche, for that was how she was renamed, was educated and trained in all the spiritual disciplines. She joined the rest, who became eight in number, in ascetic practices.
The holy woman was so pleasing in speech and sent forth such a sweet and goodly a scent, that it happened very often that those who came to see her, when she finished her discourse with them and wanted to return home, could not move. It was as if they were held by some kind of fetters, by their love for her, or as if they were thirsty and had not enough water, and for that reason they were reluctant to retire. Thus she was spiritually amiable to those who approached her.
She had a desire to see Basianus again. He was in the queen of cities, Constantinople, and so was Domitianus, her husband. The fear of her husband, lest she shall fall in his hands if she came to the city, pushed away the desire. And so she was torn by two thoughts: the desire for her spiritual father and the fear of her lawful husband. She thought she would rather go to Alexandria or, if that were impossible, to Antioch. The she devoted herself more intensely to prayers and waited for a sign from God of what she should do.
And when she was asleep, she thought she saw three men exerting themselves with full force, competing with each other as to who of the three would be chosen to take her for a wife. She turned aside what she heard and regarded the matter as very improper. (Those dreams which are contrary to the thoughts of the day confuse us). "Who are you?" the holy woman said to them, What are your names?" One was called Alexander, another Antiochus, and the last Constantine. At the end they tried to put an end to the dispute by casting lots. It fell to the one who was the youngest in age, that is Constantine. When she woke up from sleep, the holy woman perceived what the revelation of the vision meant. She decided to give up going to Alexandria or Antioch, and to go to Constantinople. For this would please God who makes obscure things clear.
Relating the vision to the sisters who were with her, she saw that they opposed her plan. Their opposition was not because they doubted the meaning of her dream, but because they had great affection for her and could not bear to leave, for, just like a new plant, they were refreshed by her words and were in danger of dying if they were deprived of her. "But," they said, "since it was divine providence which inspired your decision, we would in no wise be able to stop you." But they also said, "You should ponder to whom you will leave us after your departure."
At once she made their situation clear to the bishop. She asked that two deaconesses, whose virtue time had confirmed be sent to her. When they [the deaconesses] arrived, she entrusted them with the women who were under her responsibility. She greatly exhorted them to watch carefully over the souls handed to them ,'so that," she said, "those whom God has prepared to leave the world are not again abandoned to return to the vanity of the world and to neglect their covenants."
Having said these things and embraced them [the sisters], she took only one of them, the nun Sophrone, with her and went on board of the vessel which set sail, in favorable wind, to Constantinople. Soon she came to the church which was by the sea and dedicated in the name of God's Peace. She called in the deacon Marcellus and made known who she was. He was the one who had advised Basianus to send her to the monastery in Emesa. She was gladly received by him, and she was asked what might be the cause for such a long journey. She said "nothing else (for what possibly could it be that might make her disregard so much labor) except an unconquerable desire to be in communion with you and above all with holy Basianus. For this I have overlooked old age and female infirmity, and peaceful living and everything else and have taken the road which leads to you." She then told him briefly how Domitianus pursued her to Jerusalem and Sinai, how she lived in the idol's temple, and how innumerable crowds were brought to the faith by her. She did not relate this to boast, but for the love of truth. For vain display is alien to modest spirit and to a woman who pursued nothing as much as anonymity. Besides, she thought it improper that someone who had once belonged to the monastic life should abandon it: it could become a cause for scandal.
Marcellus immediately explained everything to Basianus. The latter was annoyed by the report. He ordered him to return as quickly as he could and set apart a quiet and noiseless place for her not far from the monastery so it would be easy for him [Basianus] to visit her if he wished. Marcellus carried out the order at once and a suitable dwelling was prepared where he lodged the saintly woman. Here the great Basianus came and met her, and said what was fit, and he learned from her what she had done and he gave what was necessary and asked her if she needed anything else. When she said that there were other sisters in Beirut who wish to come and live with her, he sent letters to the bishop of Beirut informing him of this, and he allowed those whom Matrona had asked for by name to be sent at once. So they were sent and came to live with Matrona. She presented herself in the most perfect virtue, as was said by many mouths and was clear to all.
With many others .he empress Verina, the wife of the great Leo, came to her, feeling that she was not honoring the saint, but herself by this. She was greeted by her [Matrona] with moderate friendship and in what was appropriate for that peaceful and philosophic soul to give. She [Verina] left admiring her virtue and that she lMatronal did not accept anything from this woman who was able and willing to give many things.
A certain Euphemia, former wife of Anthemus, the ruler of the Romans, visited the holy woman frequently and believed, through experience, what was said of her. At about this time, she saw that the wife of the patrician Sphoracius came down with a terrible illness that defied the medical profession and she had not a single hope of life. She [Euphemia] said to her, "If you listen to me, bid the physicians farewell, and now give yourself to the common good that came into the city, I mean the holy Matrona, who has freed many not only of corporeal illness, but that of the souls too and led them from impiety to righteousness, and you will soon hold her up for a marvel and send many others to her." Having said that, she related her life from beginning to end.
The next day, both of them came to her [Matrona], and having prayed together for a long time, the sick woman placed the holy woman's right hand upon the suffering part of her body and immediately felt the pain decrease. Matrona asked what the purpose of the touch [contact] was. When the sick woman told the truth, she [Matrona] said, "The Lord will release you from your affliction, for this is beyond our ability."
At any rate, from that time on the sick woman felt the illness leave, and she decided to remain with the holy woman until she was completely cured. So she demanded that her pack animals remain there. When she was told that there was no house for her to stay in, for the house was a single one, and rented, at once she had a talk with the blessed woman. She said "Through my illustrious birth I have a useless possession and plenty of houses already built, which are large and beautiful. I am ready to give you as many of them as you want, provided they are in a single place, for this will benefit me because they will become the habitation of many souls which will be saved in the future." Knowing in her heart that with this the door of salvation would be open to many souls, she [Matrona] agreed to accept the offer.
She summoned the deacon Marcellus, explained the matter to him and sent him to see the property which was offered. When he returned, he said that it was a nicely located place; it had the sea on the right side, and on the other, it neighbors the monastery of Basianus, and that it needed not a little and fortuitous care, but a great one.
Thus were these things reported and she at last accepted the offer. The donation was confirmed in writing. In return, the gift of perfect health was given to that woman by God. After this she repaired the house, giving readily whatever was needed for restoring and decorating. Up to this day these houses are called "The Severiana." The holy woman moved there from her earlier residence. But in no way did she move from her godly purpose and work, unless you call "moving" the change from the lesser to the greater. To this great thing she moved and prepared her flock, and she preserved it from suffering from attacks, being helped by Him who is the cause of good. Along with other things, something happened that brought even more glory to her.
The public and venerable feast of the martyr Laurentius was being celebrated and a great crowd streamed to his church and passed the day there. There were among the crowd two women, sisters by nature but not sisters in behavior, and much different one from the other. They were both notable and distinguished by race. Now, when the feast came to an end, they left there, and on their way back they came to the place where the monastery of the holy woman was. There, they heard the harmonious sound of holy hymns. They liked the hymns and they inquired who was the abbess and came to see her. After they had a talk with her, they got a great benefit from her words and by the decency of her manner. One of them, seized by spiritual love for her [the holy woman] said to the other, "You return, but I am staying with her. I have been seized by oblivion from my husband, home, and relatives, and as the holy David says, 'I chose to be thrown in the house of my God, rather than to rejoice in the glory of this world [I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness] [Ps. 84:10]". When Athanasia, for this was her name, said these things to her sister, the latter did not agree and openly opposed her saying that this matter was the [result of an] irrational levity and enthusiasm, easily leading to regret. She said this with a world-loving mind rather than with a sound one. The holy woman applauded her [Athanasia's] design towards God, but she too did not agree with the sudden decision. Rather she advised her to return first to her husband and discuss it with him. She said to her, "Try to live as simple a life as possible and God will make your way easy. Then you will come to me and you will achieve what you want. For although this holy desire has entered your mind and occupied it, still many things make me hesitate: your youth and your lack of experience about labor, for you are accustomed to being served, not to serve. However, the greatest hindrance is your husband.
When these things were said, Athanasia kept quiet. She disliked being rejected, but she did not want to raise opposition and assert her will. Because of this she left, but did not abandon her goal and purpose. She followed the counsel of the holy woman, that she should take care of her chaste and simple life and consider it as training for the ascetic life. She went to one of her farms and separated herself from her husband. She was eager to imitate the holy woman, eating at the same time as she and as simply, praying before and after meals and imitating the blessed woman as much as possible.
While she was there, seeking a seemly separation from her husband, something happened that offered, her a very plausible cause for divorce. Since she was away from home, as we said before, her husband, who was extravagant and intemperate, spent ail his fortune. As he became in need of money, he ordered his boy-servant to, secretly, steal money from the lady's chest and bring it to him. It happened that this did not escape the notice of the maid who was caking care of the lady's things. Later the lady was told about this by the maid. Athanasia used this as a reasonable excuse for separation. Finally, she persuaded her husband and collected the greatest part of her possessions, and took it with her to Matrona, to whom she entrusted her own soul. She came and brought her wealth with her. "Take these," she said, "and store them among the safe treasures of Christ. Don't suffer my soul to depart from your holy soul. It dedicates all these things to you for itself."
Matrona rejected the busy and troublesome administration of the treasure. However, she wanted to admit the suppliant and did not know what to do. Therefore, she referred the matter [regarding the money] to Basianus. She took his opinion and accepted what was offered. Some of the money was spent on works in the monastery - building a wall all around the hermitage and a building of three stories. The first floor which was close to the earth was marked for tombs. The second floor was agreeable for winter and convenient for the congregation, and here, a church was built. The third floor was well-aired and also was graced by a very beautiful church. These remain until now a witness to the magnificence and beauty of the building. On these things, as it has been said, some of Athanasia's money was spent. Some she [Matrona] distributed among the sanctuaries and other monasteries in Jerusalem that were in need. The rest was piously administered by the notable Marcellus to the poor. So Athanasia having, as we have said, rejected her temporary wealth, regained immortal wealth.
After living for fifteen years in this manner, the blessed woman was freed from present matters and went on her way toward God. Thus, the disciples of Matrona became more numerous for many came to her everyday wishing to be tended for by the teacher. When the time of her departure was at hand, the holy woman clearly was neither disturbed by preparing for the act of separation, "For I am prepared," said the holy David, "and not disturbed," [Ps. 119:60], nor again did she hasten the separation and this, as it was said, was because of her confidence and again because of her love for her flock. For her, it was more needful to abide in the flesh" according to Paul, [Philip. I:24], and because of this [the need to abide in the flesh] she was subjected to greater toil and thence could collect more fruit. Hence, she exerted herself more in her labor at the end, as good runners do, praying more and more earnestly.
God did not wish to deprive Matrona of her request to let her know clearly beforehand about her deliverance from this world. A more than usual sleep held her. In it, she seemed to be going around a faraway place full of trees and sweet water. Honorable and discreet women were standing there. They showed clear trace of virtue on their faces. They seemed to point towards a house further on, a house of unspeakable beauty, as if not made by human hand, and no tongue was able to describe it. They invited Matrona to go into the house saying, "It is yours, it was chosen and set apart for you." When she woke up, she interpreted the dream. After that occurrence, she had faith in what would receive her after her deliverance from life.
She lived to be a hundred years old, only twenty-five of them in worldly life. All the rest she spent in spiritual living and training. Then she left this world and went to her beloved Christ, having left behind her actions that were widely admired, but capable of being imitated by only a few. She came to Christ and begged him evermore to bestow grace upon the churches and give salvation to all his people who glorify Him as one of the indivisible Trinity, to which is due all glory, honor, and adoration, now and always, for ever and ever. Amen.