December 31, 2016

Saint Melania the Younger of Rome (Palladius of Helenopolis)

St. Melania the Younger (Feast Day - December 31)

By Bishop Palladius of Helenopolis

(Lausiac History, Ch. 42)

Now inasmuch as I have already promised above to relate the history of Melania the Younger it is meet that I should pay my obligation, for it is not just that I should consign to oblivion a young woman who, though so very young in her years, by reason of her indefatigable zeal and knowledge was very much wiser than the old women, or that I should omit to make manifest by words the history of one who, though a girl in stature, was old in the mind of the fear of God.

Now therefore the parents of this maiden drew her by force into marriage, and they united her unto one of the nobles of Rome, but she kept in mind continually the words which had been spoken unto her by her aged relative, and kept herself as was fitting, and became strengthened especially in the fear of God. And she had two sons, and as both of them died she came to be possessed of such a hatred of marriage that she said unto her husband, whose name was Pinianus, the son of Severus, a man of consular rank, “If you wish to live with me a life of purity I will regard you as the husband and lord of my life; but if, inasmuch as you are a young man, this is too hard for you, take everything which I have and leave only free to me my own body, for in this way I shall be able to fulfill my desire which is in God, and I shall become the heir of the excellences of that woman after whose name I have been called. For if God desired me to lead the life of this world He would never have taken away the children to whom I gave birth.”

And when they had been for a long time debating the matter, at length God had mercy upon that young man, and He placed in him the zeal of the fear of God to such a degree that he also sought to be excused from all the material things of this world, and thus was fulfilled the word which had been spoken by the Apostle, saying, “How do you know, O woman, whether you shall give life to your husband [or not]? Or how do you know, O man, whether you shall give life to your wife [or not]?” (1 Cor. 7:16.)

Now when she was married to her husband she was about twelve [or thirteen] years old, and she lived with him for seven years, for she was twenty years of age when she withdrew from the world. First of all she bestowed all her raiment of silk upon the holy altars, which also did Olympias, the handmaiden of Christ, and the remainder of her apparel of silk she cut up, and made it suitable for the service of the church in other ways. Her silver and gold she entrusted to an elder whose name was Paul, who was a monk from Dalmatia, and she sent it by sea to the countries of the East, I mean to Egypt and to the Thebaid, to the amount of ten thousand darics; and she sent in this manner ten thousand darics to Antioch, and to the countries which were nigh thereunto, but to Palestine she sent fifteen thousand darics. To the churches which were in the islands, and to the people who were in exile she sent ten thousand darics, and to those who were in the West, I mean in the churches, and in the monasteries there, and the houses for the reception of strangers, and to all those who were in want she distributed [her gifts] with her own hands. And I speak as before God [when I say] that she must have given away four times these [amounts besides], and that she snatched away [her money] from Alaricus her confidential servant as from the mouth of a lion. Of those who wished to be free among her servants she gave freedom to about eight thousand in number, and on the remainder who had no wish to have their freedom, and who preferred rather to remain in the service of her brother, she bestowed three thousand darics. All the villages which she had in Spain, and in Aquitania, and in the island of Tarragon, and Gaul she sold, as well as those which she had in Sicily, and in Campania, and in Africa, and received the proceeds thereof in her own hands, so that she might give them to the monasteries, and churches, and all those who were in want. Such was the wisdom of Melania, this lover of Christ, and such was the mature and divine opinion which she adopted in respect of the weighty burden of these riches.

And her manner of life was thus. She herself ate once a day, though at the beginning she ate once in five days, and the young women whom she had converted and who lived with her she commanded to partake of food every day. And there lived with her also the mother of Albina, who observed the same rule of life, and who distributed her possessions among the needy after the manner of Melania; and sometimes they dwelt in the plains of Sicily, and sometimes in the plains of Campania, and they had with them fifteen men who were eunuchs, and a proportionate number of virgins who ministered as servants.

And Pinianus, who had once been her husband, was now one who helped in the work of ascetic excellence, and was her associate, and he dwelt with three hundred men who were monks and read the Holy Scriptures, and he enjoyed himself in the garden, and conversed with the people. Now these men who were with him helped and relieved us in no slight degree, and we were very many in number, when we were going on our way to Rome on behalf of the blessed man John the Bishop, for they received us with the greatest good will and they supplied us with provisions for the way in great abundance, and they sent us on our way in joy and gladness.

And their kinsman, whose name was Pammachius, a man of consular rank, withdrew from the world as did they, and he lived a life which was pleasing unto God, and during his lifetime he distributed his possessions among the needy, and left them [to them] after his death; and thus he departed unto our Lord. In like manner the man Macarius, and Constantinus, who was the assessor to the prefects in Italy (now they were well known men and men who merit mention), arrived at the highest pitch of ascetic excellence which I describe even as it is; and they abide in the body at this present and lead a life of glorious and divine deeds, and are awaiting the perfect life which is full of happiness.