March 28, 2018

Of the Virgin Who Fell, Made a False Accusation, and Repented

By Palladius, Bishop of Helenopolis

A certain virgin, the daughter of an elder in Caesarea of Palestine, having been beguiled and led astray by a man, fell, and he who had beguiled her instructed her to make an accusation against a certain reader of the church of the city. And the time having arrived when her conception became known, and being called upon to confess her matter by her father, she made the accusation against that reader, and the elder, her father, thereupon, like one who believed her implicitly, made the affair known to the Bishop. Then the Bishop laid his hand upon the shrine, and commanded that the reader should be called, and his affair having been enquired into, like one who was confident in his own integrity, he was unwilling to confess that he had done the wrong; for how was it possible for him to accuse himself of that which he had not done? And the Bishop becoming angry said unto him, “Will you not confess, O wretched and polluted man, you who are guilty and full of uncleanness?” And the reader answered him, saying, “Master, I have neither knowledge nor feeling about this matter, for my thoughts and mind are clean in respect thereof, and no thought concerning this woman has ever entered my mind. But if you wish to hear that which has never taken place, I will say that I myself committed the offense.” And having spoken thus, the Bishop straightway removed the reader from his position. Then the reader drew nigh and entreated the Bishop, saying, “Master, since I have stumbled and fallen, give the command that the woman be given unto me to wife, for I am no longer a cleric, and she is not a virgin.” So the Bishop gave the woman to the reader to wife, because he thought that he was held by love of her, and that he could not cut the affair concerning her out of his thoughts.

And when the reader had received the woman from the Bishop, he placed her in a religious house for women, and he begged the woman who ministered unto the wants of the sisters to take great care of her straightway. Now a short time afterwards the day arrived wherein she must give birth to her child, but the poor creature was not able to bring it to birth, and although she could hardly bear the cruel and violent pains of her birth-pangs which were bringing her to the house of the dead, her child did not come forth. And one, two, three days passed by until the seventh day arrived, and by reason of her great and frequent sufferings the woman was nigh to come unto Sheol; and she neither ate, nor drank, nor slept, but she was crying out and saying, “Woe unto me, for I am dying, and I made an accusation of fatherhood against such and such a reader.” Now the women who were standing before her having heard these words made them known to her father, who, however, fearing lest he should be blamed severely because he had made an accusation of fatherhood against the reader, held his peace concerning the matter for another two days; and meanwhile the young woman neither gained relief from her sufferings nor died. Now therefore when the nuns could no longer bear the pain of her violent shrieks, they ran and told the Bishop, saying, “Such and such a woman has for some days past been crying out and confessing that she made an accusation of fatherhood against the reader.” Then the Bishop sent deacons unto him with the message, “Pray that the woman who made an accusation against you may have relief”; but the reader answered them never a word. Now he had not opened his door since the day on which the accusation had been made against him, but he entreated God and made supplication unto him that the matter might become known and the truth revealed. Thereupon the father of the woman went to the Bishop, and prayer was offered up in the church, but even by these proceedings the woman did not obtain relief. Then the Bishop rose up and went to the reader, and knocked at the door and the reader opened to him, and he went in to him and said, “Eustathios, rise up and unloose that which you have bound.” And at once the reader knelt down with the Bishop, and they prayed to God, and straightway the woman gave birth to her child. Thus were the supplication of this man and his constant persistence in prayer able to clear away oppression and to chastise and rebuke also the woman who made the false accusation, for from that day onwards she fulfilled the days of her life with good works. Thus we should learn to be constant in prayer and to recognize the power thereof when it is offered unto God with the deep feeling of the whole heart.

From The Lausiac History, Ch. 29.