Thursday, February 1, 2018

Holy Great Martyr Elias the New of Heliopolis (+ 799)

St. Elias of Heliopolis (Feast Day - February 1);
Image from the Monastery of Saint John the Forerunner in Douma-Lebanon

Life of the Holy Great Martyr Elias the New of Heliopolis

1. We have already refuted the arguments or disbelief of the many regarding the holy great martyrs, having cleansed the faithful from impiety in our two previous accounts. Now, in this one as well, the third one after the others, we start by announcing to all those who have even a small hope of salvation as comfort and encouragement the forgiveness that is always bestowed upon sinners.

2. For it is written in the gospel of Luke that “A Pharisee invited” our Lord Jesus Christ “to dine with him, and he entered the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. Now, there was a sinful woman in the city who learned that he was at table in the house of the Pharisee. Bringing an alabaster container of ointment, she stood behind him at his feet weeping and began to bathe his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the ointment. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner’. Jesus said to him in reply, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’ ‘Tell me, teacher,’ he said. ‘Two people were in debt to a certain creditor; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other owed fifty. Since they were unable to repay the debt, he forgave it for both. Which of them will love him more?’ Simon said in reply, ‘The one, I suppose, whose larger debt was forgiven.’ He said to him, ‘You have judged rightly.’ Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? When I entered your house, you did not give me water for my feet, but she has bathed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but she has not ceased kissing my feet since the time I entered. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she anointed my feet with ointment. So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.’ He said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ The others at table said to themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’ But he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’” For even though the woman was a sinner, as you heard, if the benevolent Jesus forgave her her many sins because of those tears and the anointing with ointment do you not believe that the sins great or small of these neomartyrs would be forgiven because of their many afflictions and the sacrifice of their own blood? You judge, those of you who calculate like Pharisees, if neomartyrs will be forgiven their sins. We know according to the other evangelists, and most clearly in [the gospel] by Matthew, it is not fitting to create troubles for our soul that is now like that woman, for they know that she performed a good deed.

3. And indeed this great neomartyr before us, did not act like we do to the poor among the saints, sharing in their sufferings through good deeds, but he himself rose up on his own when he anointed his very own blood like ointment on His body, for the burial of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. For this reason Christ will say now, as he did then, “Amen, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the entire world, what he has done, just like her, will be said in his witness”. But let us in no way be reproached like that Pharisee when we invite Christ, or rather when Christ invites us [to His feast] to eat bread in His Church, His all holy and life giving body, and says [to us] as if speaking to him [Pharisee], “And you did not give a drink, ‘a cup of cold water’ as it is written, to him who stood upon the road of martyrdom in the name of my disciple. While these, the neomartyrs, wiped down together with the feet the entire flesh with tears and streams of blood. You did not give me the kiss of love of one another, while they even laid down their souls on behalf of their faith. You did not anoint my head with the oil of benevolence and charity for those who are of the same descent, while their heads were cut off with swords for me. For this reason it is said, ‘Their sins are forgiven, although they are a great many, for they have loved much, rather than yours who in vain boast to love through words only’”.

4. That which he did in his witness will be proclaimed to the entire world. I will write down at once what he did, calling upon his [Elias’] grace and drawing inspiration from the most Holy Spirit as I open my mouth. I intend to narrate his story, for many desire to hear it in its fullness with eager attention, without preference for intricate inferences and eulogistic reworkings, but rather the events as they happened in simple phrases38, so that through its persuasiveness and hopefulness the present story may cause every pious and god-loving soul to rejoice and to delight with the gladness with which it ought be glad, for this one, the son of our homeland, was not dead and came to life again, but was living and died for the hope laid up in store in the heavens. For this reason, having made the distinction, I will start from the beginning and from thence I will narrate all his shifts of fortune with all truthfulness.

5. This holy neomartyr and contender of Christ, Elias, descended from the most pious native born citizens of Heliopolis of Second Phoenicia near Mount Lebanon, from Christian upbringing and lowly means, and pursued a craft which they call carpentry, working with medium-sized pieces of wood. He, along with his poor mother and two brothers, leaving Heliopolis, his homeland, migrated to Damascus that was a great metropolis, in which he hoped to live an easier life. When he arrived there he hired himself out to a certain man, who was Syrian in descent, but a client and attached to one of the Arabs. Thereupon he continued in his service two years, making his living in the same craft. By the influence of the devil and the consent of the Arab, the client Syrian renounced the faith of Christ, but persevered making his livelihood in his craft. Being a child, Elias, the one who is now a great martyr, ignoring the designs of the Devil, remained hired out in his trade to the apostate.

6. A short time later the Arab, the patron of the apostate, died after engaging his son in marriage. Thereafter his son had a male child and with the exhortation of his fellows he celebrated the birthday of his son, preparing a feast. While the feast was taking place and the apostate was feasting, they called upon Elias, the great martyr, for service. Elias was about twelve years old. He served them, joking and rejoicing with them at the feast, inasmuch as he was an innocent child. The dinner guests, along with the patron of the apostate, turned to the martyr and said, “Where are you from child? For we see you to be clever and willing to share our joy.” The apostate responded taking on the reply, “He is hired out to me in my craft, and as you can see he is good.” Laying hold of him separately they said to the saint, “If you want child, you too can renounce your Christian faith and can become just like us, continuing with your master no longer as a hired servant, but as a son.” Immediately the saint replied, “You have gathered here to feast, not to offer public speeches. Stop saying these things to me.” They responded, “Meanwhile, come eat with us.” Approaching with guilelessness and eating the saint continued to serve them, when some stood up from the dinner and began dancing, and taking hold of the saint they persuaded him to dance with them. What is more, banding together they loosened the saint’s belt and threw it to the side at that time so that it would not prevent the body from easily being drawn to dance. Then the dinner of evil preparation came to an end.

7. After the night passed, the holy great martyr Elias got up in the morning. Since all the dinner guests had slept together at the house, he girded his own belt according to the custom of the Christian com- munity43, and after washing his face he departed the house and was on his way to pray to God. One of those still under the influence of the evening’s intoxication, called out and said, “Elias, where are you going?” The saint responded, “I am going to pray.” Taking up the conversation another one said to the saint, “And did you not deny your faith late last night?” The saint disdained these words, and without even turning around to the speaker went to prayer; and then returning from there he arrived at the workshop and there found the apostate. And the apostate said to him, “Indeed, Elias, if I had not prevented our companions, they would have caused you grief today because they say you denied Christ last night. But work and be without fear.” The saint was amazed to hear these things, and kept quiet for a short while, then during the time of the midday meal, leaving the workshop he went to his brothers, and narrated to them what had happened to him. By decision of his older brother along with his mother they went to the apostate and said to him, “Man, behold our brother has been working for you for a year and has not received any portion of his wages from you. Give us our fair portion and our brother will depart from your service, for we have decided to send him back to Heliopolis, our homeland.” The apostate said in response, “You are not due out- standing wages from hiring out the child. But neither will I release the child to leave my service, as he has apostatized from your Christian faith, and I have witnesses against him.”

8. Thereupon, a disputation took place between the two, with the saint narrating those things that were said during the evil dinner on the one hand, and the apostate asserting obstinately that he would lead away the saint to the ruler, on the other. At that time, the saint’s brothers gave up his wages they had been demanding, and having apparently appeased the apostate, and taking the saint with them his brothers said, “Brother, we agree that you should return to Heliopolis, our homeland, and live there working to make a living as best as you can for some time, until this conversation is forgotten. For we are fearful lest seeing you here the apostate might again be stirred up and cause trouble. He has turned to such behavior since he desires to have you as his slave.” Having pacified [the apostate], the saint then returned to Heliopolis, and made a living working in his own homeland for eight years. After considering these years [to be sufficient time] he journeyed down to Damascus. When his brothers being in agreement with each other on the matter said to the saint, “By this time a period of eight years has passed and has caused the apostate to forget the thoughts he had about you. For since you left his service we have encountered and met him by chance many times and he has said nothing to us about you. Now, we are in agreement that you should not be separated from us, especially since this causes our mother sorrow. But though you are young in age, for you have just completed your twentieth year and you have only begun growing a beard, rely on your craft like a man. Open a workshop and live in Damascus with us.”

9. The saint was persuaded, and the thought becoming deed, he devoted himself in his workshop to producing and selling packsaddles for camels. When the apostate leaned this and harboring envy against the saint, for he lived nearby the workshop, he came to the saint and said to him, “Friend, where have you been these years? Why do you censure me when I have come to you today? But come now and work with me again becoming my partner.” The saint replied smiling, “You have wronged me [in the past], having deprived me of my wages, do you wish to wrong me again?” The apostate was vexed by these words and said to the saint, “Indeed, I have wronged you allowing you to remain in your faith after you renounced it.” Addressing the son of the deceased Arab, his patron, whose evil banquet has already been described, he [apostate] said to him, “Do you not witness that this Elias apostatized, denying Christ that evening?” He replied, “Yes.” The apostate then said to the saint “Let us take him before the eparch.”

10. Dragging the saint by the hand he brought him before a certain Leithi by name, with the young man [son of the deceased Arab patron] supporting his testimony that events had occurred thus. The eparch questioned the saint if those things said about him were true. He replied, “In no way, may it never be that I would renounce the faith in which I was born. But I confess Christ and venerate him as being the God of heaven and earth and sea.” The eparch said, “Let it be con- ceded that you had never renounced [your faith], but because you were presented [before the court], we encourage you to apostatize and come to the religion of the Arabs, and you will enjoy every honor from us.” The saint responded, “May it never be that I would do such a thing. For I am a Christian, descended from Christian ancestors, and I am ready to die for my faith.” The eparch said, “As the witnesses have brought charges against you, I accept the testimony against you and insist that you renounce [Christianity] because it is not at all possible to permit those who once and for all have accepted our religion [to return to their former faith].” The saint replied, “You are the judge and may accept however you like my accusers, but I tell you more fervently that I am a Christian and I will deliver my body to you (if it is necessary), so as to show that my faith is not forced but voluntary.”

11. The judge commanded that the saint be stripped and flogged, until (he said) through force he should admit the denial of which he was accused. Stripping the holy great martyr and stretching him out with ropes they beat him with thin rawhide whips, until his blood streamed down. He [saint] implored the judge to stop those who were beating him, letting out a small cry of entreaty, submissively begging for the mercy of the judge. The judge replied, “What is it, young man? If you wish, deny Christ and walk away.” The saint responded, “I did not call upon your benevolence for this, so that I may renounce [my faith], but so that you may take pity upon my tender youth and human nature and release me allowing me to remain steadfast in my faith, that I have practiced and inherited from my ancestors.” The judge said, “Do not think you will be released from this trial if first you do not deny the Christ in whom you believe.” The saint said, “It remains then for you to command the beating and for me to be beaten.” These were the great martyr’s very own words to the judge, “From you the giving [of the beatings], for me the enduring [of the lashes]. Behold, I am presenting myself to you having become as hard as a diamond.”

12. Then the judge being enraged with the saint’s response, added many more floggings to his [sentence], and placing him in irons he ordered that he [Elias] be dragged by his feet to prison. Then the holy martyr was dragged, and as the ground beneath him met the wounds he had acquired from the flogging extending from head to waist, it tore the flesh that was soft, because of his youth, at the same time. Shut in [prison] he lay in pain because of his wounds. The report announcing the events about the contender spread out quickly throughout the entire city, and the saint’s brothers went to him weeping and exhorting him to submit to the sufferings for Christ’s sake. The great martyr of Christ, Elias, looking up to the heavens said con- soling his brothers, “Have faith, my brothers, that I will not shame you, nor shall Christ’s faith be insulted through me. But I shall endure whatever else I must suffer. I also confess to you about one statement that I uttered to the judge calling upon his benevolence that I shall never again appeal to him, but to no other than my Lord Jesus Christ, our true God. I will call upon him and he will be my aid. I will narrate to you now that which I saw in a vision during the preceding night. I saw myself sitting in a bridal chamber, in a place of honor, while another chamber was prepared for me interwoven with different flowers and wreaths were hanging for me. Turning around I saw a black Ethiopian standing near me showing me a cross and threatening me with death, while swords and fire and many other terrors were roaring against me. I laughed at him. I was rejoicing (as it seemed to me) sitting and delighting in the flowers of the wreaths. Now I say to you, my brothers, that whether they crucify me, or burn me with fire, or if I had to suffer everything at the same time, nevertheless, I proclaim to you that I prefer to suffer everything on behalf of that hope, which I have in Christ, and see myself in great joy and fervent faith, and [for this reason] I am pained little and suffer [little] from these lashings. And now do not weep for my sake, but having done a good deed go in peace.” The prison guard approached them rebuking the brothers of the saint and he cast everyone out of the prison saying, “I have been commanded not to let anyone visit the saint, neither is he allowed to have any sort of care, but only if he renounces [his faith] he will be released, or will continue to suffer torture if he remains steadfast.”

Photo of Heliopolis in Syria, today's Baalbek, taken in 1890

13. After a few days they brought forth saint Elias bound in irons to the judge Leithi. Looking upon the saint he said, “Young man, since you are being questioned, for the sake of peace, you should renounce Christ and walk away. What will be your profit, if you die and descend into Hades?” The saint responded with confidence and said, “I am a Christian and I have told you: From you [come] the beatings, and from me [comes the endurance] to be beaten.” Then he [Leithi] commanded again that he [Elias] be beaten by strong men with rawhide whips. And as soon as the beatings commenced, because the flesh was rotten, it was filled with secretions and poured forth a great deal of pus, and also worms fell out and a foul smell spread around. The judge, unable to bear the sight of the rotting flesh, commanded that the saint be thrown upon the ground on his face, and to be beaten with rods from his lower back to his feet on both sides, hoping either to prevail over the brave contender or to kill him. The saint was beaten for a long time, and he did not let out a single sound to the judge, but rather he strengthened himself calling upon our Lord Jesus Christ. He [Elias] amazed the judge, for he [Leithi] said that, “Previously when he was tortured a little he called upon our mercy, now, [while being tortured] in a greater degree he did not even turn our way.” Indeed, there is nothing more steadfast than he who is prepared to suffer everything.

14. Therefore, he ruled against him that he [Elias] should be dragged again to prison. Then, while the saint was being dragged, the crowd of people from the market gathered and some trampled on him while others spat at him, and others still threw at him the garbage they found discarded in the marketplace. While confined [in prison] that night, he was suffering all over his body. Then he witnessed around him what appeared as a flood of light, and (as the prison guard related to some individuals) voices of chanters resounded from the light. For no one conversed with him [Elias] at any time after he was imprisoned for the second time. Only during his presentation at the tribunal and at times when he was being taken [out of prison] one of the neighbors who happened to be there might speak to the martyr, and yet when presented [at the tribunal] saint Elias confessed having seen Christ anointing him and strengthening him for the contest.

15. Then Leithi went to Mouchamad, who was tetrarch and ruler48 being the nephew of Maadi (the king of the Arabs),49 and expounded in its entirety the sudden change of the saint’s fortune and those things that he [Leithi] showed him [Elias] in his desire to prevail over him. In amazement the ruler commanded the saint to be presented and this was done. Then the ruler said, “Young man, Leithi recounted to me your story and I reproached him, for subjecting you to so much. But I will speak on your behalf, and take off my clothes and dress you in them, honoring you for the dishonor you have suffered. I will provide you with a horse and chariot and gold and a beautiful maiden for your wife. Only be persuaded by me today and become a co-religionist with us.” The saint responded, “You have both agreed to contrive to my destruction. For one offers torture and threats, while the other offers flattery and distinctions. Therefore, ruler, listen now: I am a Christian and I do not accept the honors which you put forth, that I might receive only once I have been deceived and have denied Christ”. The ruler said, “Do you perchance think that after the beatings you will be released, and for this reason you remain steadfast? Know then that a command has come down from Maadi that all accused of this crime, namely those who convert to the faith of the Arabs and then immediately convert back again to Christianity, must be imprisoned, and if then, in spite of exhortations, they do not apostatize from the faith of Christ, they should be put to death. Now, as you have already been charged, if on the one hand we convince you, that is well; but if we do not, know that we will put you to death with many tortures.” The holy Elias said in response, “I saw all these things of which you speak in a night vision.Truly, I was decapitated and crucified and burned, and I have prepared myself to suffer all this willingly so that I might sit in the bridal chamber and the chambers may be interwoven with flowers and that I may be crowned with unsullied wreaths. Therefore, do what you command and begin whence you wish.”

16. Then, while the saint was standing there, two of the ruler’s sons entered at that place, and being informed of the reason for the confining irons and the lashings and turning around to the saint with sympathy and mercy, by way of flattery they spoke to the saint swearing terrible oaths, which those who take a solemn oath in the religion of Moameth [MuΊammad] exchange among themselves. If only he would deny the name of Christ, they promised to receive him as their own brother and to hold him in very high honor and campaign together with him, and to also register his name in their kingly books. He [Elias] stood without trembling, sneering at them. Then, the ruler commanded Leithi, the eparch, to take the saint and return him to the same tortures, until he either was released having apostatized or was put to death if he remained unchanged. It was the season of winter, and the month of January. Thrusting him away from the ruler’s presence, he [Leithi] took him to a place called Prasina51, and he commanded him to stand naked before the tribunal until, he said, he thought further about him.

17. Then, since his [Elias’] constitution was not able to withstand the icy cold suffering, and as already after the violence of nakedness he was led away to prison again in the same manner as before, and there having no comfort or warmth, there the saint suffered in turn and a great affliction overcame him as part of his martyrdom. His belly was chilled by the cold and became ill with dysentery and the great endurance of the saint was seen in all things. For his constitution acted against him and he was outwardly swollen. Those around him took no heed, and the duration [of his anguish] was neither quick nor short, but was stretched out to forty days. Carrying him as if he were dead they tossed him upon any beast of burden they could per chance get hold of, took him to the courthouse and threw him down as though he were a loathsome unburied corpse, and none of the faithful dared approach him. And then the very same prison guards, returning the saint back to prison again, abandoned him to be submerged into the very same misery.

18. A claim is made about him [Elias], that on the first of February, that is one day before the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, that having died upon that day he went to the Lord. But putting off [the narration of] the day of his death, we will fill in the remaining [events of his life].

19. While the saint was still in prison and exhausted with terrible sufferings, certain individuals were sent by the ruler to prison to the martyr, intending to deceive him. The emissaries were from the ranks of the most persuasive Arabs, who induced the great martyr with rhetoric and flattery. They demonstrated nothing else other than to prove the martyr even braver in his suffering. By an incredible miracle the contender rose up, and in a sudden turn of events by the almighty God, he girded his own belt and washing his face he sat in prison as though having suffered nothing, being entirely fresh in the face and rejoicing in his soul. While he was in this state, the prison guards arrived and brought the saint, walking in irons, to the tribunal. A man seeing the saint with a fresh face said to Leithi, “This one has received food and for this reason he did not take notice of the tortures.” Then Leithi commanded that after the saint was stripped twelve swords be presented in the hands of soldiers to surround the contender and the soldiers to swing them around, as if to terrify the martyr, and seeming to want to strike him and cut him down. At this point arrived a certain great old logothete sent by the ruler, honored by the entire nation of the Arabs for his facility in debate. Approaching the saint he encouraged him, exhorting him to say only one word and then to be released to go wherever he pleased. Bringing forth a moneybag filled with much gold he showed it to the holy martyr saying, “We will provide you with this as compensation for the maltreatment and tortures which you suffered. Take it and go.” He [Elias] bent his head forward and striking [it] with his hand and greatly reviling and blaming the foolish old man he sent him away.

20. Leithi then said to the saint, “Wretch, behold I have placed around you clubs and swords surround you. I will not cease beating you with the clubs and striking you with the swords, until I see you breathing your last breath, and then cutting your head off I will hang you upon a cross, and finally, after burning you with fire I will throw [your corpse] into the river’s current so that there will be no remembrance of you upon the earth.” Leaning toward the ear of one of the soldiers he commanded him to strike with his sword and to slice at the shoulder of the saint, so that (he said) becoming fearful he [Elias] would be cleared [of the charges] by renouncing his faith. The soldier attacked him with demonic boldness, and said, raising up his sword, “Wretch, we have been commanded to cut you down. Say the word and save yourself.” The saint said nothing, but only through a hand gesture he assented to be cut to pieces. Bringing down the sword, the soldier made contact with the saint’s shoulder striking him hard. Then the saint turned to the East, as if gazing at Christ his judge and bending his knees and resting both hands upon the earth, he stretched out his neck. The eparch, angered by the willingness of the saint command- ed that he be beheaded. Then the sensible ones among the soldiers withdrew their swords, unwilling to behead the saint because of his faith, and when the eparch called upon them to strike him [Elias] down, they arranged payment [among themselves] twenty silver coins for him who would cut down the saint. One of the Persian [soldiers] taking this sword with both hands struck at the saint on the neck and cut him through with the third strike.

21. As the saint lay slaughtered like a lamb, one of the notables came by who had not yet been informed about the holy neomartyr Elias, and inquired about the execution. Learning that he was killed for his faith, he was amazed, and wanting to see what appearance he might have had, he bent down and taking hold of the saint’s hair he raised the saint’s face and turned it toward himself. Behold, he saw the saint’s face as though he were still alive and it was very radiant. Sighing he said, “It is a great thing to die for your faith. This one did not die, but lives.” Then the judge commanded that the body be dragged and hung outside the gates in the garden. He ordered that the gate of the garden be closed so that the saint’s body would be guarded securely, so that none of the Christians would be able to approach and take from it some kind of blessing. At the same time the executioners washed the place where he was beheaded and gathering up the soil they threw it in the great current of the nearby Chrysorrhoes river. Nevertheless, the holy neomartyr Elias continued to hang from the cross from the first of February of the year six thousand two hundred and eighty seven for fourteen days.

22. Nor did the Lord abandon his contender unrewarded, but glorified him with many manifestations proclaiming his death honorable. And many narrated afterward the things they witnessed. While he was still hanging from the cross, some said they saw a radiant lamp shining brightly over his head, while others [said they saw] a most brilliant star, greatest in relation to the circle of the moon, which had never before appeared, except since the time when the holy body of the young neomartyr was hung at that place. As some others relate, even until now this same star appears at that place during the same time of the year, at the very place of the holy burial of the saint, demonstrating and reminding us that “the death of his saints is honor- able before the Lord”.

23. And another native of Heliopolis, known to the holy great martyr, who had not yet learned of the fate that befell the saint, went down to Damascus for business purposes. While on the road near or little more than fifteen markers from the metropolis he saw the holy great martyr Elias coming before him, alone, dressed in white clothing and illuminated by radiant glory and riding on a white horse. The saint said to his fellow countryman, “Greetings, dear friend.” Turning, the countryman said, “Master Elias?” The saint responded, “It is I.” The countryman said, “Indeed, had you not addressed me first, I would not have recognized you. For I see you are in a different station and position from the one I knew in the past. Will you then come to us at the village as was your habit to make our ploughs in accordance with your profession as a carpenter?” Then the saint said, “Enter Damascus and there you will be told about my affairs.” And immediately the saint disappeared. Astounded the countryman went away amazed at how he saw the saint, and how he had immediately disappeared. At any rate, reaching the gate outside Damascus, he turned toward the cross of the saint and recognized him hanging. He asked some locals whom he encountered there leaving the city, and said. “Brothers, is this not Elias from Heliopolis, the carpenter?” They responded, “Yes, it is he, and after having suffered many things for Christ for days he was executed and hung as you see.” Then the countryman shouted out with amazement, “By God, who sanctified him [Elias], today, two hours ago, I encountered him face to face sitting on a horse draped in white clothing and he said these words to me.”

24. While the conversation was still taking place he saw some of the faithful passing by and bowing down their heads before the saint’s cross, and sealing their faces with the sign of the cross. One of them arriving there and learning about the countryman’s experience, narrated that, “I, too, will tell you what God has revealed yesterday, glorifying his young holy great martyr. I am a neighbor of a certain Arab, and during the night I heard my neighbor calling upon his household and saying in the language of the Arabs, ‘Get up and see what these Christians are doing to the executed and crucified one.’ And raising up his household made inquiries to learn what had happened. And he said, ‘I had been looking out of the window for some time and I saw that the Christians had hung a great lighted chandelier above the head of the crucified one, and after gathering up their priests and monks they have assembled choirs around his cross and they were chanting singing hymns of his trials. But I also saw Elias himself chanting with the choirs of children and addressing them. And the executed one chanted along with the choirs as if he were living. This is not a trick of the Christians, but [was accomplished by] the power of God, who is showing us that this executed one has achieved great glory having been killed for his faith.’ Then while the Arab was narrating these things to his household, he leaned out to see and could no longer see anything. Coming to his senses he said, ‘Verily, it is not possible these were deceits of men, since the surrounding guards prevent any man from approaching day or night.’”

25. Then the Arab went to Leithi, the eparch of the city, and narrated [the events] secretly. He, upon hearing the story commanded, that before the story of these visions spread, the saint’s body should be taken down from the cross and burned with fire, so, he said, that Christians may not take it and build churches and perform feasts celebrating his memory. Then the guards took down the body of the saint and splitting the wood of his cross and laying it underneath, then placing the body upon it, and placing above it other flammable wood they set it on fire. And the flame rose up to a great height in the sky, but the most sacred body remained unburned, I think because of the saying written by David, “The just shouted out and the Lord listened to them”, and “The Lord guards all their bones, not one of them will be shattered.” But the shameless ones, sinning badly, placed another heap of firewood, greater than the first, and the flame on the one hand rising up to the sky was enveloped in the conflagration, while on the other hand the body was preserved as were the bodies of the three holy children in the furnace (for neither did this one venerate an outdoor phantom), as they did not bend their knee to the Persian images. Again for the third time the guards threw more than thirty loads of vine branches in the conflagration, but accomplished nothing new by doing these things but burning the body only slightly. Later, growing weary and cutting the body in pieces they threw it in the great current of the nearby river, so that in this too the martyr could join in chanting, as David says, “We have been through fire and rain, and you have taken us out to recover.” Then the guards were in amazement.

26. After this the holy and great martyr appeared to many of the Christ loving brethren in Damascus revealing to them where some of his scattered holy limbs, that Christ had preserved, were carried by the current. Looking carefully for them, they took them and keep them not openly, but anointing them with perfumed ointment they honor them in secrecy, so that the saint’s relics may not be consigned again to obliteration by being recognized. And thereafter the saint exhibited the great strength of his spiritual energy, having the grace of the Holy Spirit embedded in his relics and providing cures, and appearing to those who appeal to this saint. For he fixes his gaze [Elias?] upon his master and the angel and has the keenest ministering spirit in heaven sent out for service. And the lord rejoiced with his service through visions and appearances. And accordingly, [Elias] “by faith offered” himself to God as “a greater sacrifice” like Abel over Cain, through tortures and death and fire and water, through which it was witnessed that he is just, with God himself also witnessing in His gifts that having died in faith he [Elias] still speaks. Like each of the saints enumerated in chapters in the bible faithfully, we too calling upon him with faith, will find him an aid in every sorrow, speaking and disseminating grace, and interceding constantly on the behalf of his Christian co-religionists and fellow servants, in Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom [is due] glory and power along with the eternal Father and the most Holy Spirit unto eternity. Amen.

Translation from "ELIAS OF HELIOPOLIS THE LIFE OF AN EIGHT-CENTURY SYRIAN SAINT" by Stamatina McGrath.


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