March 13, 2018

Life of the Holy Virgin Euphrasia of Tabennisi

St. Eupraxia of Tabennisi (Feast Day - July 25)

By An Anonymous Author

Chapter I

At the time of the most godly emperor Theodosius [379-395], there was a certain senator in the royal city called Antigonus. He was of the imperial family and a member of his closest circle, a man wise in deeds as well as in words, who governed the province of Lycia [a province of Asia Minor between Caria and Pamphylia] conscientiously according to Roman Law. He was a compassionate man, sensitive to the needs of others. The Emperor loved him not only as a relative and a senator but as a godly Christian who was always able to offer good advice. He was extremely wealthy; the royal city had no one else like him in respect of wisdom, good deeds and riches. He took a wife called Euphrasia [who is elsewhere called Euphraxia] of his own nation and from the same imperial family, who feared the Lord deeply and spent much time in church offering her prayers and tears to God. She helped many to take part in the work of God by means of her many gifts to churches and monasteries. The emperor and Augusta his wife dearly loved her not only because she was of their family, but also for her upright morals, her honesty and her deep piety. They had one daughter who was also called Euphrasia, after her mother.

Chapter II

After their daughter was born, Antigonus said to Euphrasia one day:

"You know, Euphrasia, my sister, that this life is nothing, that the vanity of riches and this temporal existence is nothing. A human lifespan of eighty years is consummated in ruin, whereas riches laid up in heaven last for infinite ages of ages to them who fear God. We deprive ourselves of those riches if we are fettered by the standards of the world and held in thrall to the deceits of temporal riches, or if we pass our days in idleness, acquiring nothing useful to our souls."

"What are you suggesting we should do, my husband?" asked Euphrasia.

"God has given us one daughter, which should be quite enough for us. We don't need to conform any further to this unfortunate and miserable age."

Euphrasia sprang to her feet and raised her hands to heaven.

"Blessed be God," she said to her husband Antigonus with a sigh. "He has given you the grace to fear him, and lead you into a knowledge of his truth. To tell you the truth I have often prayed to God to illumine your heart and enlighten your mind on this very matter, though I did not presume to broach the subject myself. Shall I tell you who is the prime mover in this?"

"Tell me anything you like, my sister."

"The Apostle bore witness many long ages since, you know, and said, 'We have but a short time. It remains that those who have wives should live as those who have them not' (1 Cor. 7:29). All the desires of the world are doomed to perish. What use is our money and abundant possessions? None of it will go down with us into the grave. Let's make haste to act on your good advice and give much to the poor, so that the plan you have proposed will not be unfruitful."

Hearing this, Antigonus glorified God.

Chapter III

Having entered into this higher way of life and given a great deal to the poor, Antigonus lived only for one more year after renouncing his wife. He had died after conducting his life in this godly way for a whole year, and so was buried in peace. The Emperor and Augusta both mourned for him, not just because he was descended from the same family line, but because he had been upright and devout. They were very solicitous for Euphrasia's welfare, not just because of family ties, but also because she was now in the same position as a young unmarried woman. Two years and three months only had she lived with a husband, one year of which they had abstained from each other and lived as brother and sister.

So once Antigonus was buried, Euphrasia received great support from them, to the extent that she felt able to take her daughter and hand her over into the care of the Emperor and Augusta. She fell at their feet, crying and weeping.
"I commend this orphan into your hands and the hands of God," she said. "Be mindful of Antigonus who belonged to you, and take this child and care for her, and stand in the place of both father and mother for her."

Many of those who heard this shed many tears. Even the royal couple wept.

Chapter IV

A little while later, when mourning for Antigonus had subsided a little, the Emperor persuaded Euphrasia that her daughter should be betrothed to a certain rich senator. The betrothal was arranged in expectation of her arriving at full age, for at present she was only five years old. After some further time had passed, this senator began to entertain a desire to be united with Antigonus' widow. He begged for the support of various matrons, who persuaded Augusta that the senator should be allowed to exchange marriage vows with Euphrasia, without seeking permission from the Emperor. Euphrasia wept bitterly when told about this plan and complained to the women responsible.

"Woe to you in the life to come!" she cried. "In foisting this plan upon me, you are contriving to hinder the path of a woman who is striving to live for God alone. Leave me alone. In any case you have ensured that I no longer have any desire to be part of your circle."

They were left in some confusion, and told Augusta what had happened. The Emperor got to hear about it as well, and was furious with Augusta.

"Really, Augusta," he cried, "You have done something which is completely and utterly out of order! Is this your kind of Christianity, Augusta? Is this the way you fulfill your promise to God to govern in a godly manner? Is this the way you honour the memory of Antigonus whom we valued so greatly? You have done something completely at odds with the way we should be governing. Here is this woman who is still technically an infant, although she had lived with a husband for a year. By agreement they stopped sleeping with each other for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, and now you want to compel her to return to the way of the world? Have you no fear of God, to perpetrate this wickedness? How am I going to persuade people that I did not authorize this? What you have done is bizarre! Indecent! You have flouted my imperial authority, and sullied the memory of my dearest and greatly loved Antigonus!"

Augusta was covered in confusion at this rebuke, and was struck dumb and as still as a stone for nearly two hours. Euphrasia, Antigonus' widow, had become the occasion of an enormous dissension between the Emperor and Augusta, and at that thought Euphrasia was very upset, and with downcast eyes she felt she might just as well be dead. She decided to leave the city entirely.

"We have large estates in Egypt," she said to her daughter, weeping bitterly, "so let's go there and visit your father's property. Everything I have is yours, my daughter."

So Euphrasia and her daughter left the imperial city, without telling the Emperor, and went to Egypt. They intended to stay there, and visited all their estates in quick succession, before going into the interior of the Thebaid, taking with them slaves and stewards to look after their luggage. They stayed in several monasteries both of men and of women, where they offered many prayers and gave considerable gifts of money.

Chapter VI

In one place there was a monastery of women which had a hundred and thirty architria [Rosweyde conjectures this word probably means 'small cells', presumably small buildings with three domes]. It was said that many notable virtues could be observed there. Nobody drank wine in that monastery, they ate no apples or grapes or figs or other fruits which the region brought forth in abundance. One of those women who had renounced the world denied herself the use of oil in her diet, and fasted daily from vespers to vespers. There were some who ate only every two days, some every three. None of them ever washed their feet. They poured scorn upon the very mention of a bath, judging it to be a word which was almost obscene, to which they ought to shut their ears. There was one of them who took her meager allowance of sleep on the ground, with a covering of goatskin only one cubit wide and three long. Their outer garments were of goatskin right down to the tips of their toes. Each of them did as much manual labour as possible. If anyone fell ill there was no provision for medicine or ointments, but they accepted their illnesses as the greatest of blessings from the Lord, and bore their weakness in expectation of the medicine of the Sunday Eucharist. None of them wandered outside the gates. There was a mature woman in charge of the gate, who was responsible for all communications inwards and outwards. She was one who dispensed a great deal of sound common sense.

Chapter VII

Euphrasia greatly valued the wisdom of these holy women, the fruit of their marvellous lives, and often went to the monastery where she offered incense and candles. One day she had a request to make of the abbess and her deputies.
"I hope you won't be too angry if I offer you a little gift of twenty or thirty pounds of gold, that you might pray for this little friend of yours and her father Antigonus."

"My dear good lady," replied the abbess, "Your servants have no need of any gifts and no longing for money. For we have left all, and scorned the things of this world in order to enjoy the blessings of eternity. We desire to possess nothing that we may not lose the kingdom of heaven. But I don't want to disappoint you, or send you away empty-handed, so just take a little lamp oil and incense to the oratory, and that will be ample reward for us."

Euphrasia did so, and begged all the sisters to pray for Antigonus and his daughter Euphrasia.

Chapter VIII

One day the abbess put the child Euphrasia to the test.

"Now then, Euphrasia," she said, "how do you like our monastery and all the sisters?"

"Oh, I like you very much, ma'am," she replied.

"Well, if you like us so much, why not wear the habit as we do," said the abbess jokingly.

"If my mother has no objections," said the little girl, "I would be quite happy to stay here for ever."

"Whom do you love best, then, out of us and the man you are betrothed to?"

"I don't know him, or he me. I know you, and I love you. Tell me, whom do you love, me or him?"

"We love you, and we love our Christ."

"And I truly love you and your Christ."

Euphrasia the mother listened to all this and her tears flowed without restraint. The abbess was very moved by what the little girl said, to think that such a small girl should come out with such things. For she was only seven years old, when this conversation was taking place.

"Come, daughter," said the mother with a sigh and a bitter tear, "Time to go home. It's evening already."
"I want to stay here with my lady abbess."

"No dear," said the abbess, "you can't stay here. Off you go home. No one can stay here unless they have given themselves completely to Christ."

"Where is Christ?"

The abbess pointed out an image of the Lord. Euphrasia ran up to it and kissed it, turned round and said:

"I truly vow myself to Christ and will not go home with my mother."

"My daughter," said the abbess, "it is not for you to stay here, you can't stay here."

"Where you are," she replied, "there shall I be."

It was already evening, but however much both mother and abbess urged her to go home nothing would persuade her to leave. Day after day both mother and abbess talked to her, but they were unable to make her change her mind and could not drive her out of the monastery.

"My daughter," the abbess said at last, "if you want to stay here you must be able to read, and learn the Psalter, and fast until vespers like all the other sisters."

"I can learn to fast and do everything, if only I can stay here."

"Well, my lady," the abbess said at last to the girl's mother, "Let the girl stay here. I perceive the grace of God alight in her, and I recognize that her father's virtue, and your honesty, and the prayers of both of you have given her a vision of eternal life."

Chapter IX

Euphrasia arose and took her daughter over to the image of the Lord, raising her hands to heaven with a loud cry and many tears.

"Lord Jesus Christ," she cried, "take this little girl who longs for you and has offered herself to you," and turning to her daughter, "Euphrasia, my daughter, may God who has laid the foundations of the everlasting mountains confirm you in his fear."

She handed her over to the abbess, and beating her breast and weeping, left the monastery. The whole congregation wept with her in sympathy.

Chapter X

A few days later the abbess took Euphrasia into the oratory, prayed over her, and clothed her in the monastic habit.
"O eternal King," she prayed as she stretched out her hands to heaven, "you have begun a good work in her; bring it peacefully to perfection, we pray. Grant that this little girl may ever walk according to your name, and be found faithful in your sight."

Euphrasia's mother also prayed, and said to her daughter:

"Is it your will, my daughter, to be clothed in this habit?"

"It is, mother. For I have learned from the abbess and from the sisters that this habit is the bridal dress which the Lord Jesus Christ gives to those who love him."

"May he to whom you are betrothing yourself, " said her mother, "make you worthy of his marriage bed."

With these words and prayers for her daughter, she said farewell to the abbess and the sisters, embraced her daughter, and left to resume her usual custom of moving about, supplying the needs of the poor.

Chapter XI

After a few days the abbess asked the girl's mother to come and see her privately.

"I have something to tell you," she said, "but don't be alarmed."

"Tell me, whatever it is."

"I saw in a dream Antigonus your husband standing in great glory, begging the Lord Jesus Christ that you might depart from your body and be with him from then on, and enjoy the glory which he enjoyed."

Like the religious woman she was, she went home not in the least perturbed but glad and joyful. She prayed that indeed she might be allowed to depart this life and be with Christ. She went to see her daughter.

"My daughter," she said, "my lady abbess has told me that Christ is calling me and the day of my departure is at hand. Everything belonging to your father and me I give into your hands. Distribute it wisely, that you may gain a heavenly inheritance."

"Woe is me," cried her daughter, "I am now a pilgrim and orphan!"

"My daughter, you have Christ for your father and your husband, so don't say you are a pilgrim and an orphan. And you have your lady abbess in place of a mother. So look to it that you carry out everything you have promised. Fear God, honour all your sisters, serve them with all humility. Never entertain in your heart any thoughts that you are of the imperial family and therefore they ought to be your slaves. Be poor on earth that you may be rich in heaven. See now, everything is yours. Give lands and money to the monastery on your father's behalf and mine, that we may find mercy in the sight of God and escape the punishment eternal."

Three days later she died, and they buried her in the monastery's cemetery.

Chapter XIII

When the Emperor heard that Euphrasia the wife of Antigonus was dead he summoned the senator to whom her daughter had been betrothed and told him the news, adding that the girl had joined a monastery. The senator begged the Emperor to send a letter by special messenger to the girl instructing her to come back to the city to be married. When Euphrasia received his letter she wrote back in her own hand.

"My Lord Emperor, are you really trying to persuade me to renounce Christ in order to unite myself to corruptible human flesh which to day is, and tomorrow will be food for worms? God forbid that your servant should do this thing. Therefore, my Lord Emperor, don't let that man trouble you any further. I have given my allegiance to Christ, and that it is impossible to deny. I beseech you that in your position of authority you bear in mind what my parents wanted, and gather together all my assets and distribute it to the poor and the orphans and to the churches. I know that you do remember my parents, especially my father, for I have heard that he was in constant attendance on you in the palace. Bearing in mind what you know about them, dispose of my money as you know they would wish. Free all our slaves and grant them legal rights. Instruct all my father's bailiffs to remit any debts incurred by tenants since the day my father died up until now. And so let me be found worthy to serve Christ unhindered, without having any responsibility for all these worldly affairs. He knows I have commended my soul to him. May you and Augusta pray for your servant, that she may be found worthy to serve Christ as a servant of his."

She signed the letter and gave it to the special messenger who took it and brought it back to the Emperor. He opened it and read it privately with Augusta, shedding many tears and offering many prayers for Euphrasia.

Next morning the Emperor summoned the whole senate, which included the father of Euphrasia's bridegroom, and ordered the letter to be read out loud to them all. The eyes of all filled with tears as they listened to it, and agreed together with one accord.

"Truly, my Lord Emperor, the daughter of Antigonus and Euphrasia is a true member of your family, a girl in whose veins runs noble blood. She is a true religious daughter of religious parents, a holy branch springing from a holy root."

And as if with one voice they all glorified God and prayed for the girl. The senator had no further chance of having his demands met.

Chapter XIV

Once the Emperor had disposed responsibly of Euphrasia's assets and distributed them well, he died and was buried in peace with his fathers. Euphrasia continued to flourish and prosper in the sight of God, increasing in her practice of fasting. She was now twelve years old and applying herself ever more strongly to the battle. At first she fasted from vespers to vespers, then she ate only every two days, then three days. She swept out the refectory, made the sisters' beds, and carried water for the kitchen.

There was a custom in the monastery that when any sister felt herself being tempted by the devil during sleep she would tell the abbess about it as soon as possible. The abbess would ask God in tears that the devil might depart, and direct that a layer of stones should be put under the blanket the sister slept on, and ashes sprinkled on the goatskin covering. She was to sleep like this for ten days. When Euphrasia was tempted by the devil one night, she sprinkled ashes over her bed. When the abbess noticed this she laughed.

"The girl is beginning to learn about temptation!" she said to one of the senior sisters. And she prayed to God:
"O God by whose will she was created, strengthen her in your fear."

She called Euphrasia to speak to her.

"Why didn't you tell me you were being tempted by the devil?"

"Forgive me, my lady," said Euphrasia as she fell at the abbess's feet. "I was too ashamed to tell you what it was about."

"Look, my daughter, you are now being called into the battle. Be strong, that you may conquer and win the crown."

Chapter XV

A few days later her temptations were renewed and she told another sister called Julia about it who was very fond of Euphrasia, and who was also deeply engaged in the battle.

"Euphrasia, my friend," said Julia, "don't hide this from the abbess, but tell her about it so that she can pray for you. We are all tempted by the devil, but we trust in the name of Christ that we shall conquer. So don't delay, my sister. Tell the abbess what it is all about, and don't worry."

"Oh, thank you, Julia," said Euphrasia. "God reward you, my sister, for helping me and strengthening my soul. I will go, truly, and tell my lady abbess what is happening."

"You do that, and she will pray for you and prescribe some sort of abstinence for you."

She went to see the abbess and told her about her troubles.

"Never be afraid, my daughter," said the abbess, "of all the attacks of the devil, who is always doing his worst against us. Struggle against him by trying to keep your mind still, and he won't be able to prevail against you. You are bound to be tested a great deal by him, but struggle, that you may conquer and win the victory and receive the crown from your bridegroom Christ, and as far as possible increase your practice of abstinence. The more you strive, the greater the gifts you will receive. How many days do you go fasting?"

"Three days, my lady."

"Add an extra day, then."

Euphrasia accepted this injunction gladly and departed.

Chapter XVI

By the time she had reached the age of twenty she had become strong and stable. She was very beautiful, as befitted a matron of imperial blood. When she was tempted anew she confided in the abbess.

"Fear not, my daughter," said the abbess. "God is with you."

Now there was a heap of stones in the courtyard of the monastery. The abbess decided to test the ability of Euphrasia to be obedient to herself as mother.

"Come, my daughter," she said, "pick these stones up and take them over to the bread oven."

Euphrasia immediately began to pick up the stones. Some of them were so big that it would almost need two sisters to carry one of them, but she was young and strong, and she lifted them up on to her shoulders without any help from anyone. She did not ask the abbess to let her get help from another sister. She did not say, "These stones are too heavy. I can't do it". She did not say, "I am fasting and I am too weak to carry this heavy load." She simply did what she was told in obedience and complete trust.

Chapter XVII

Next day the abbess said to her:

"It's not the right place for those stones to be next to the furnace. Take them back to where they were."
With complete trust she again did what the abbess said. And the abbess kept this up for twenty days, in order to test her patience. All the sisters could see what was happening and were quite amazed. Some of the sisters scoffed, but others shouted, "Go for it, Euphrasia!"

This went on for thirty days. The next day, as Euphrasia was going off to carry stones after the morning offices were said, the abbess said to her, "Finish doing that work, my daughter. Instead get flour and water and bake bread for you to serve to the sisters this evening." These commands also she fulfilled with true gladness and joy.

Chapter XVIII

The devil tempted her again in her sleep, for she had a dream in which the senator to whom she had been betrothed came with a large band to snatch her out of the monastery and carry her off. She screamed out loudly as she lay in her bed, rousing the abbess and all the sisters in alarm at the terror of her voice.

"Whatever is the matter, my daughter?" asked the abbess.

She told the abbess of her dream, and the abbess directed that all the sisters should stand in prayer with her, which they did, right up to the third hour of the day. At the third hour, Euphrasia stood to lead the office while the others sat, after which Euphrasia carried out all the necessary tasks for the sisters. She swept out the refectory, made the beds, filled the water jars and carried them to the kitchen, chopped wood and cooked pulses, kneaded flour and cooked bread in the oven. And while doing all this she did not miss the night psalmody, or the offices of the third, sixth and ninth hours, or vespers. It was not until vespers were over that she had any time to herself. Julia also helped her in all her tasks, for she was very fond of Euphrasia.

Chapter XIX

The devil again began to tempt her in her dreams and increased the intensity of the battle to the highest degree. Again she opened up her fears to the abbess.

"Euphrasia, my daughter," said the abbess, after praying for her, "this is a time of battle. Take care that you do not let the devil soften your resistance and bring to naught all the work you have done. After struggling with you for a while he may retire in defeat, but will always come back again!"

Julia also had some advice for her.

"If we can't keep fighting and winning now, how shall we be able to do so when we are old?"

The Lord lives, Julia my sister," replied Euphrasia, "and if the abbess agrees I shall begin to fast for a whole week at a time, until with the help of the Lord I shall overcome."

"If you can manage to do that on earth, how blessed you will be in heaven! There is no one in this monastery who goes without food for a whole week except our lady abbess."

Euphrasia went to the abbess again to tell her of the attacks of the devil in her sleep and asked for permission to go for the whole week without food.

"Do what seems possible for you, my daughter," said the abbess, "and may God who created you strengthen you and give you victory against the devil."

So Euphrasia began to spend the week fasting, without missing any of the offices or the tasks she performed for the sisters. They were all astonished at how much such a young and beautiful girl cold put up with.

"We have been watching Euphrasia for the last year," some of them said among themselves, "and we have not seen her sitting down day or night, except when she goes to bed at night. She never even sits down to eat her bread."

All the sisters loved her because she was so humble, and took pains to act as if she were the slave of all the sisters, even though she was a member of the imperial family. So they all prayed for her very much, begging God for her salvation.

Chapter XX

One of the sisters called Germana, who was from the working class, began to feel quite hostile towards Euphrasia, and cornered her one day in the kitchen.

"It's all very well for you to be told by the abbess to eat only once a week, Euphrasia," she said, "but some of us don't feel we could do that. How would we go on if the abbess told us to do that?"

"Sister," said Euphrasia, "our lady abbess has said that each one of us must act according to her own ability. She did not impose this ruling on me without good reason."

"You are just a scheming poser. Is there anyone who doesn't know that you are being clever and carrying on like this, so that you can become abbess after this one goes? I hope in Christ that you would never be found a fitting person to fill this abbess's shoes."

Euphrasia fell at her feet.

"Forgive me, sister," she said, "and pray for me."

When the abbess got to hear of what had happened, she called Germana out in front of everybody.

"You are a wicked servant," she said, "and very far off from God. What harm has Euphrasia ever done you for you to be so keen on spoiling her good intentions? You are an outsider as far as the rest of the sisters are concerned, you are a disgrace to our profession, and you are excluded from Chapter meetings forthwith."

Euphrasia pleaded strongly that Germana might be forgiven, but the abbess was implacable, and remained like that for the next month.

Euphrasia seemed to be getting nowhere with her pleas, until on the thirtieth day she got together with Julia and some of the senior sisters in the monastery and went to plead with the abbess to be reconciled with Germana. The abbess again called Germana out in front of everybody.

"You decided in your own heart, "she said, "to try and destroy the good work of this sister. Didn't it occur to you that although she is an aristocrat, and a member of the imperial family she has nevertheless humbled herself and made herself the slave of all for God's sake?"

The pleas of everyone on behalf of Germana won the day and the abbess relented.

Chapter XXI

The devil did not let up in his assaults upon Euphrasia. He raved furiously against her and tried to bring her to her death. When she was at the well one day to draw water, the devil picked her up along with the bucket and threw her in. Euphrasia was appalled to find her head hitting the bottom of the well, but she came up to the surface of the water, and holding on to the well-rope she called out: "Christ help me!" Her voice was heard, and the abbess and the sisters, realizing that she had fallen in, ran to the well and pulled her out. As she came out she laughed and signed herself with the cross.

"My Christ is alive!" she cried. "So you can never conquer me, you old devil. I give no ground to you whatsoever! Up to now I have been carrying only one bucket of water at a time from the well. From now on I will carry two!" And so she did.

Chapter XXII

When the devil realized that he had not succeeded in drowning her in the well, he followed her when she went out to chop wood. After she had chopped for a while with the devil standing there watching her, he jerked her arm as she was bringing the axe down on to the wood, so that she cut her foot at the base of the shin. She saw this gaping wound with blood pouring out of it and dropped the axe and fell to the ground in a faint. Julia came in great haste and shouted out to the sisters that Euphrasia had been struck by an axe and was dead. Everyone cried out in alarm and ran to the scene, surrounding Euphrasia and weeping. When the abbess came she sprinkled water on Euphrasia's face, signed her with the cross and held her in her arms.

"Euphrasia, my daughter, how did you come to be so wounded?" she cried. "Come back to us. Speak to your sisters."
Euphrasia opened her eyes.

"Lord Jesus Christ," prayed the abbess, "heal your servant who has suffered so much for you."

She bound Euphrasia's foot with strips of cloth, helped her up, supported her with her hands and began to lead her back to the monastery. But Euphrasia saw the piece of wood still lying there that she had dropped.

"As the Lord lives," she cried, "I will not go back in until I have completed my set tasks."

"Don't be silly, sister," said Julia, "you won't be able to manage it. Leave it. I will pick it up. You go in and rest. You are hurt."

Euphrasia would not hear of it, but picked up an armful of wood to take in with her. Even then the devil did not spare her. She caught her foot in her tunic as she was going up the steps and fell forward on to the wood she was carrying, so that a splinter went into her face. It looked to the sisters as if it had gone into her eye.

"I told you you should have gone in to have a rest," exclaimed Julia, "but you wouldn't listen!"

"My eye is all right," said Euphrasia. "Just pull this splinter out."

As she did so, Euphrasia began to bleed, but the abbess anointed her with oil, prayed for her, and laid hands on her.
"You go and lie down," said the abbess. "I will get some of the other sisters to finish your work."

"As the Lord lives," said Euphrasia, "I will not lie down till I have finished my duties."

The sisters begged her to lie down and rest because of her injuries, but she would not, even though in her weakened state both wounds were still bleeding. She insisted on carrying out her usual services for the sisters; and she was just as insistent on attending the divine offices as she was in her serving duties.

Chapter XXIII

On another occasion she was going up with Julia to the third solarium, [In classical Latin solarium means 'sundial'. Rosweyde explains it as simply meaning 'the highest part of the building exposed to sun', and wonders why there should have been three of them] when the devil seized her and threw her down to the bottom. Julia screamed and the sisters came running, but Euphrasia simply got up and greeted them. They took her to the abbess who asked her if she had been hurt.

"As the Lord lives, my lady, "replied Euphrasia, "I have not the faintest idea how it was I came to fall, or how I ever got up again."

The abbess was amazed that she was completely uninjured after having fallen from such a great height and she glorified God.

"Go back to your work, my daughter" she said, "and the Lord will be with you."

Chapter XXIV

Again the devil tried to kill her. It happened like this: She was pouring a boiling pot of cooked vegetables into another container, when the devil took her feet from under her, She fell backwards and the contents of the pot splashed all over her face. The sisters feared for her safety, but she simply got up and laughed.

"What are you worried about?" she said.

The abbess was relieved to see that she was uninjured. She looked in the pot and could see that what was left in it was still boiling hot.

"Amazing!" she said to Euphrasia. "It is just as if it were only cold water that fell over your face. God keep you, my daughter, and may he continue to grant you power to endure all things in his fear."

The abbess called a meeting of the senior sisters in the oratory.

"I suppose you realize that Euphrasia has earned special favors from God? As you know, she had a very great fall but was completely unharmed, nor did she suffer any injury from that scalding water."

"She truly is a handmaid of the Lord," they said, "and the Lord has a special care for her. In all these trials she has been preserved safely by the Lord."

Chapter XXV

Not only in the city but also in the whole province roundabout the custom had developed of bringing any sick children to the monastery, to these sisters who could work miracles. The abbess would receive them, take them into the oratory and pray for them to the Lord. Almost immediately their spirits would revive, and their mothers would receive them back healed, and they would all go forth glorifying God.

Now there was one devil-possessed woman in the monastery who had been imprisoned there from infancy for her own good. An unclean demon infested her spirit. She frothed at the mouth and ground her teeth and screamed out loud, so that even if her hands were tied everyone who heard her was filled with fear. The abbess and the senior sisters had often prayed for her without success. No one was able to go near her, not even to take her food to her; bread or vegetables were put into a pot hanging from the end of a stick, and offered to her from a safe distance. Sometimes she would overturn the pot and throw it, stick and all, in the direction of whoever was bringing her food.

Chapter XXVI

One day the gatekeeper came to the abbess with an urgent message.

"My lady," she said, "there is a woman standing weeping outside the gate with her child of about eight years old, paralyzed, deaf and dumb."

The abbess knew by the revelation of the Spirit that Euphrasia had been given the grace of the Lord against demons.
"Ask Euphrasia to come here," she said to the gatekeeper. And when she appeared she said to her:

"Go and take that child from his mother and bring him here."

She went out to the gate and when she saw the child, paralyzed and trembling, she was over come with compassion, heaved a deep sigh and made the sign of the cross over him.

"May he who created you heal you, my son," she said.

And she picked him up and took him to the abbess. While she was carrying him the boy was healed and began to cry for his mother, which gave Euphrasia such a start that she dropped the boy on the floor. The boy immediately got up and ran towards the gate, still crying for his mother. Meanwhile the gatekeeper ran to the abbess to tell her what had happened. The abbess called the mother of the child.

"Now look here, my sister," she said, "Have you come here simply to pay tricks on us?"

"In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, my lady," said the mother, "that child has never walked or spoken a word until this present moment. But when that other sister picked him up he began to speak! She was so startled she dropped him on the floor, but the child got up immediately and ran to me, your servant."

"So then, he is completely restored to you!" she said. "Take him and go in peace."

Which she did, and departed glorifying God.

Chapter XXVII

The abbess again consulted the senior sisters.

"What is your opinion of Euphrasia?" she asked.

"She is a true handmaid of God," they replied.

The abbess called her.

"Euphrasia," she said, "I want you to go to this demented sister of ours, to see if she will take food from your hands, as long as you are not afraid of her?"

"No, I am not afraid," she replied, "as long as it is you ask me to do it."

So Euphrasia took a bowl with some pulses and broken bread and offered it to her, but she gnashed her teeth and howled, rushed at her and seized the bowl, threatening to smash it. Euphrasia grasped hold of her hand.

"As the Lord lives," she said, "if I can just manage to throw you down on the ground I will get the abbess's cane and give you such a whipping that you will never dare to try that again!"

This had the effect of intimidating her completely, and Euphrasia continued in a rather quieter vein, and spoke to her coaxingly.

"Sit down, now, sister," she said, "take some food and drink and just don't get excited."

And indeed she did sit down, and ate, and drank, and stayed quite calm.

From that moment onwards, food was always given to her under the threat of the cane. The sisters soon knew what Euphrasia had done, thanked the Lord for her, and if ever the sister showed signs of getting upset and violent, they would simply say to her:

"Calm down, sister, restrain yourself, or else sister Euphrasia will come and give you a whipping." And she was immediately quiet.

Chapter XXVIII

Germana, however, was still full of spite as hot as a raging furnace.

"If it hadn't been Euphrasia," she said to the sisters, "why couldn't somebody else have been the one to approach that sister with her food? I'm going to take some food to her myself."

Which she did.

"Here is some food for you to eat, sister," she said.

The possessed woman jumped on her, tore her clothes, grasped her and threw her to the floor, fell on top of her and began to tear at her flesh with her teeth. Germana screamed, but nobody was brave enough to come to her help. Julia ran to the kitchen to get Euphrasia.

"Hurry, sister," she shouted, "Germana is being torn to pieces by that woman!"

Euphrasia ran as fast as she could, grabbed the possessed woman by her hands and neck and succeeded in dragging her off Germana, who lay there bleeding and torn.

"This is a fine escapade of yours," she said. "What did you think you were doing?"

The woman was still standing there, frothing at the mouth and grinding her teeth.

"From this time on, sister," said Euphrasia, "if you get violent towards the sisters, I shan't spare you, I will have no pity on you, but I will get my lady abbess's cane and beat you mercilessly!"

And at once she sat down, and ceased from her ravings.

Chapter XXIX

Next morning as they came out of the oratory after divine office, Euphrasia went to visit the possessed woman and found that she had torn her clothes to pieces and thrown them on the floor, where she sat picking up her own excrement and eating it. Euphrasia wept at the sight and went to tell the abbess about it. The sisters all came together, and found her still sitting there, naked, gathering filth and eating it. The abbess ordered that she be given another tunic to wear. Euphrasia took the tunic and a small dish of pulses and broken bread which she held out to her.

"Take this, sister, and get dressed," she said. "Why are you disgracing yourself like this?"

She accepted it, and ate and drank, and Euphrasia put her clothes on for her, and did not cease weeping and groaning for her all day until vespers. And after vespers she began with tears to pray to the Lord that this woman might be healed.

At dawn next day the abbess found her.

"Why didn't you tell me that you were offering prayers for this possessed woman? If you had told me I would have joined you."

"Forgive me, my lady," replied Euphrasia. "It was just that I saw her so vulnerable and acting so disgracefully that I was sorry for her."

"There is something I must say to you," said the abbess, "and that is that you must take care that the temptations of Satan do not result in you getting a bit above yourself! Your must just accept that it is Christ who has given you power over the demons to drive them out."

Euphrasia poured ashes upon her head and prostrated herself on the ground.

"I know that I am an unclean and unfortunate person," she cried. "Why should I be the one to expel such a powerful demon, when you have all prayed for such a long time without success?"

"My daughter," said the abbess. "The emergency of the moment found you with the strength to cope with it. Your reward will be great in heaven."

Euphrasia went back into the oratory and prostrated herself before the altar and prayed that through her prayers the possessed woman might be healed and help given her from on high. She got up from the floor and on the instructions of the abbess went back to the woman. The sisters all followed her, in some awe at what was being done.

"May you be healed," she said to the woman, "through my Lord Jesus Christ who created you." And she made the sign of the cross on her forehead, and a great cry came from her mouth, as all who were there can bear witness.

"Why should I depart on the orders of this impostor and deceiver, after having lived here for so many years? No one has ever been able to drive me out, so why should this filthy and abandoned person be trying to disturb me?"

"It is not I who am disturbing you," said Euphrasia, "but Christ the God of all."

"I am not going, you filth," cried the demon. "I do not accept that you have the power to drive me out."

"I know I am unclean and full of all kinds of wickedness," said Euphrasia, "as you yourself have just said. But it is the command of the Lord that you should come out of her, before I make use of the abbess's ring, which will torment you above measure!"

The demon still resisted and refused to go so Euphrasia held up the abbess's ring and cried:

"Go! before I put you to torture!"

"Why should I go? I can't go!

Euphrasia began to strike her with the ring, and on the third strike she cried out:

"Depart from this image of God, you unclean spirit!"

"I can't go! Why are you tormenting me? Where can I go?"

"Into the outer darkness! Into the eternal fire! Into the unending torment prepared for you and for the devil your father and for all who follow him!"

The sisters were witnesses to all this but did not dare come too close, while Euphrasia just kept on struggling with the demon, who kept on resisting.

"Lord Jesus Christ," she cried, looking up to heaven. "Let me not be confounded in this hour! Let not this unclean demon have the mastery!"

And at last, with frothing at the mouth and grinding of teeth, he fled, and the woman was healed from that moment.
The sisters rushed towards her, glorifying God, and a great fear fell upon them all. Euphrasia lifted the woman up and washed her, and clothed her, and led her by the hand to the abbess, who together with all the sisters took her into the monastery and gave glory to God for the miracle they had seen done.

Chapter XXX

From that time on Euphrasia humbled herself even more, going without sleep for a whole night at a time, and maintaining her practice of fasting for the whole week. She continued to serve the sisters in menial tasks, and strove to live in gentleness, humility and joy.

One day the abbess had a vision which left her in a state of extreme distress. The senior sisters noticed and began to question her about it.

"Tell us, my lady abbess, why you are going around groaning, and giving us such cause to worry about you."
"Don't press me on that until tomorrow."

"Trust us, my lady. If you don't tell us what it is, it will only make us more and more worried about you."
"I'm worried about something in the future, and I didn't want to tell you about it until tomorrow. But seeing you are pressing me, listen: Euphrasia is going to leave us. Tomorrow her life here comes to an end. But don't upset her by telling her that."

The senior sisters cried out in distress at what the abbess had to say, and continued to lament for quite some time. One of the sisters, as soon as she had heard this, ran to the bread oven where she found Euphrasia cooking bread along with Julia, her usual companion.

"Sister Euphrasia," she said, "You ought to know that the abbess and the senior sisters are in a terrible state of grief because of you."

Julia and Euphrasia were bewildered, and just stood there open-mouthed.

"Perhaps she has heard a rumour," said Julia, "that your former fiancé has persuaded the Emperor to order your removal from the monastery, and that is what she is upset about."

"As my Lord Jesus Christ lives," said Euphrasia, "not even if the foundations of the whole round world were shaken, could I be persuaded to abandon my Lord Christ. Do me a favor, sister Julia, while the bread is cooking, go and see if you can find out what the problem is and set my mind at rest."

Julia went and stood outside the abbess's door, and could hear her still talking about her dream.

"I saw two men in monastic habits," she was saying, "who came looking for Euphrasia, and they said to me, 'Bring her here. You must.' And then others came along and said, 'Take Euphrasia and bring her before the Lord.' So I summoned her, and hurried along with them, and we came to a gateway whose glory I couldn't begin to describe, and it opened to us of its own volition, and we went in, and we saw an indescribably beautiful heavenly palace, and there was a nuptial throne there, not made with hands. I was prevented from going any closer, but they took Euphrasia and offered her to the Lord. She fell down and kissed his immaculate feet, and I saw ten thousand Angels and a numberless multitude of Saints standing around looking on, and I saw, the mother of the Lord taking Euphrasia - truly! - and leading her to the nuptial couch, where there was a beautiful crown prepared, and I heard a voice saying to Euphrasia, 'Behold, your reward. Now hurry and come here in ten days' time, to enjoy these things for endless ages.' That was nine days ago, when I saw the vision, so tomorrow Euphrasia will die."

Chapter XXXI

As Julia listened secretly to the abbess's story, she began to beat her breast and face. She wept and returned to the kitchen, where Euphrasia as alarmed to see her in tears.

"For the sake of the Son of God, sister Julia," she cried, "tell me what you have heard and what you are crying about."
"I am weeping, dear sister, because today we shall be parted, so I have heard the lady abbess say. Tomorrow you will breathe your last!"

Euphrasia was shocked at hearing this, and sat down completely distraught. Julia sat down beside her, weeping.
"Give me your hand, sister," said Euphrasia, "and help me to where the firewood is kept and leave me there. I will leave you to take the bread out of the oven and take it into the monastery."

This Julia did, saying nothing as yet to the abbess. Euphrasia lay down n the floor.

"Why, O Lord," she cried, "are you being so cruel to your pilgrim and orphan? Why are you angry with me? Now is the time when I ought to be doing battle with the devil, but you are demanding that I give up my soul. Have mercy on your handmaid, O Lord Jesus Christ. Spare me for at least a year that I may weep for my sins, for I have not sufficiently repented, I have not done penance. I cannot work out my salvation (Philippians 2.12), for no one can approach you from the lower regions. Once dead, there is no repentance, tears cannot prevail beyond the grave, for the dead praise not thee, O Lord (Psalms 6.5). It is the living who praise your holy name. Grant me just one more year, that I may do penance. Without your aid I am become as withered as the fig tree (Mark 11.21)."

One of the sisters heard her laments and told the abbess and the sisters that Euphrasia was lying in the woodshed, weeping.

"It is because she had heard that she was going to die," said Julia.

"Who was it told her?" exclaimed the abbess. "Causing such grief to her soul like that. Who told her and saddened her heart? Didn't I tell you to say nothing until her hour had come? Why have you done this and hurt her so deeply? Go, someone, and bring her here."

Several sisters went to where Euphrasia was.

"Come, sister," they said. "The abbess is calling for you."

She got up and went with them, crying and sobbing, and stood in front of the abbess, weeping and lamenting, and pouring forth heartrending groans.

"What has happened, my daughter," said the abbess, "to make you groan so grievously?"

"I am mourning for myself," she replied, "because you knew I was going to die, and you didn't tell me so that I might have time to weep for my sins, still embroiled in sinfulness as I am."

She prostrated herself and clasped the feet of the abbess, her who had been always been so prompt to give her good counsel.

"Have mercy on me, my lady," she cried, "and pray for me to the Lord that he might grant me one more year to do penance, for I know not what darknesses may overwhelm me."

"As the Lord lives," said the abbess, "Christ your king surely counts you worthy of joining the heavenly choir."

And she told her all the details of the good things in store for her, and asked her to pray to the Lord that she also might be found worthy to share in those things. Euphrasia prayed, and she and the abbess together turned towards Christ in prayer that what one would enjoy the other might enjoy also.

Chapter XXXII

As Euphrasia lay at the abbess's feet she began to feel cold and stiff, then after a while became quite feverish.
"Pick her up," the abbess said to the sisters, "and let us all go into the oratory, for her time is come."

They put her in the oratory and kept vigil over her till vespers. After vespers it was time for the evening meal, and the abbess told everyone to leave the oratory, keeping only Julia with her so that Euphrasia would not be left alone. They closed the doors and remained with her till morning. Julia prayed to Euphrasia:

"My dear sister, do not forget me. Remember how closely we have always been united on this earth. Pray to God that I be not separated from you. Remember how I have shared in your battles. Pray to the Lord that he will release me from the burden of this flesh in sure hope that I may be found worthy of being with you."

When morning was come, the abbess noticed that Euphrasia was breathing and stirring a little.

"Go and fetch my daughters," she said to Julia, "so that they can say goodbye to her before she goes."

They all came in weeping to make their farewells.

"Remember us, dear sister Euphrasia," they said, "for your name is blessed of the Lord who loves you."

Last of all came in that woman who had suffered for so long from a demon and who had been healed by Euphrasia. She grieved like everyone else, and kissed Euphrasia's hands.

"How much these hands have ministered to me, an unworthy sinner!" she said. "It was these hands that drove the demon out of me."

When Euphrasia made no reply, the abbess said to her:

"My daughter, can you not give this sister some comfort? Can you not just say something to her, for she is so terribly upset?"

Euphrasia responded.

"Why grieve for me, sister?" she said. "Just let me rest in peace, for I am going fast. But you, just keep on blessing the Lord, and he will keep you safe. But pray for me, for there is a great battle going on in my soul at this moment."

The abbess prayed, they all responded Amen, and Euphrasia gave up her spirit. She was thirty years old, and they buried her in the same grave as her mother, glorifying God that they were privileged to have one of their sisters in the presence of God.

Chapter XXXIII

It was Julia who had taught her how to read and how to sing the psalms, and she had loved that pupil of hers who had belonged to the Emperor's family. She wept for three days without leaving Euphrasia's grave. On the fourth day, however, she felt quite happy and went to the abbess to tell her why.

"Pray for me, my lady," she said "for through blessed Euphrasia's intercession Christ is calling me."

She kissed all the sisters, and on the fifth day after Euphrasia's death her teacher Julia died also, and was buried in the same tomb as the blessed Euphrasia.

Chapter XXXIV

Thirty days later the abbess summoned the senior sisters.

"My daughters," she said, "you must choose someone else as a mother to take my place and preside over you."

"Why are you saying this, my lady? Tell us! You have never spoken to your servants like this before."

"The Lord is calling me," she said. "Sister Euphrasia has been praying very diligently for me, so that I too may merit a heavenly marriage bed. Julia also is sharing in what Euphrasia has been granted and has entered into that palace not made with human hands, and I too am hastening on the way to being found worthy of sharing that place with them."

The sisters rejoiced at hearing of the great glory which Euphrasia and Julia enjoyed, and prayed likewise that they all might deserve to be partakers of such a marriage. They chose one of the sisters called Theogenia to preside over them, whom the abbess called to her side.

"All the sisters have a good opinion of you, and given you the leadership, and the responsibility of handing on the divine rule and all that follows from it. In the name of the undefiled and consubstantial Trinity I urge you to take no thought for riches or possessions, nor engage the sisters in worldly concerns, but rather, despising temporal goods you may earn the right to eternal blessings."

To the rest of the sisters she said:

"You have all witnessed the perfection of the life and conduct of Euphrasia. Imitate her that you may share with her where she is."

They all said Amen. She said farewell to them all, went into the oratory, and shut the door as she told them that no one else should come in until next morning.

Next morning when they went in they found her asleep in the Lord. They sang a hymn to the Lord and placed her in the same tomb as the blessed Euphrasia. And from that time on no one else was buried in that tomb.

Chapter XXXV

Many signs and healings were done at this memorable tomb, and demons screamed as they were expelled, for Euphrasia was strong for us after her death and looked after us.

This is the true life of the blessed lady Euphrasia who earned admission to the company of heaven. Let us all, brothers as well as sisters, make haste to imitate her manner of life and seek after humility, obedience, labour, gentleness, long-suffering, that we may be worthy of the Angelic life and with great joy be at one with our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be honour and glory unto the ages of ages. Amen.