September 2, 2019

The Miracle of Saint Mamas and Emperor Julian the Apostate

The historian Sozomen and Saint Gregory the Theologian tell us, that Julian the Apostate and his brother Gallus, while being educated at Caesarea, lived pious Christian lives, and diverted themselves, as youths, in building churches to the martyrs, particularly one to Saint Mamas; but that while Gallus’s part advanced, that of Julian fell down again every day. While Sozomen identifies the church as the one containing the tomb of Saint Mamas, Gregory doesn't identify it. The miracle is seen as reflecting the story of Cain and Abel, where God accepted the offering of Abel, while rejected that of Cain.

Sozomen writes in his Ecclesiastical History (Bk. 5, Ch. 2):

'It is said that they undertook to deposit the tomb of Saint Mamas the martyr in a large edifice, and to divide the labor between themselves, and that while they were trying to excel one another in a rivalry of honor, an event occurred which was so astonishing that it would indeed be utterly incredible were it not for the testimony of many who are still among us, who heard it from those who were eyewitnesses of the transaction.

The part of the edifice upon which Gallus labored advanced rapidly and according to his wishes, but of the section upon which Julian labored, a part fell into ruin; another was projected upward from the earth; a third immediately on its touching the foundation could not be held upright, but was hurled backward as if some resistant and strong force from beneath were pushing against it.

This was universally regarded as a prodigy. The people, however, drew no conclusion from it till subsequent events manifested its import. There were a few who from that moment doubted the reality of Julian's religion, and suspected that he only made an outward profession of piety for fear of displeasing the emperor, who was then a Christian, and that he concealed his own sentiments because it was not safe to divulge them.'

Saint Gregory the Theologian writes in his 4th Oration (24-29) which is his First Invective Against Julian:

'By most sumptuous monuments to Martyrs, by emulation in their offerings, by all the other marks by which the fear of God is characterized, did they make known their love of wisdom and their love of Christ: the one of them being sincerely pious; for although too hasty in temper, nevertheless he was genuine in his piety; the other awaiting his opportunity, and concealing under a mask of goodness his evil disposition. A proof of this (for indeed I cannot omit noticing it) was the miracle which then occurred, one highly deserving of being remembered, and capable of opening the eyes of many of the ungodly.

Both the brothers were, as I have told you, laboring for the Martyrs, and were zealously vying with one another in erecting an edifice to their honor with a large and efficient body of workmen, but inasmuch as the work did not proceed from the same motive, so neither did the labor come to the same end with both. For the work of the one (the elder brother, I mean) was finishing, and going on according to calculation, as though God readily accepted the offering, like Abel's sacrifice, rightly offered up, and cut in pieces; for the donation was, in some sort, the consecration of the first-fruits of the flock, but the offering of the other (alas for the dishonor of the impious, that already in this world bears testimony to the next, and that proclaims beforehand great events by trifling signs!), the God of Martyrs rejected it, as He did the sacrifice of Cain!

And he continued laboring, and the earth shook off what he had toiled at, and he grew all the more zealous in the task, and she rejected the foundations of him that was unsound in the faith; as though she were crying aloud at the shaking of the world that was about to proceed from him, and doing honor to the Martyrs through the dishonor she did to the most impious of men. This fact was a kind of presage of the future obstinacy and madness of the man, and of his insults to the Martyrs, and of his lawless conduct against the sacred edifices - one that from afar pursued the persecutor, and signified in advance the recompense of his impiety!

O thou Soul, clever truly for evil-doing, yet that canst not escape thy own punishment! O thou God, that hidest the future, in order that it may either cut short impiety, or display Thy foreknowledge! Oh unexpected, yet more true than unexpected miracle! Oh brotherly love of the Martyrs! They did not accept honor from him that was hereafter to do dishonor to many Martyrs; they did not receive the gift of him that was hereafter to make many Confessors, or rather, to begrudge them the credit of the conflict! Or, to speak more correctly, they did not suffer themselves to be the only Martyrs to be insulted, whilst the others were interred and cared for by pious hands; nor would they give the Sophist of Wickedness the pleasure of exulting over the insults done them, in order that by the same hand some monuments of the Martyrs should be set up, and others pulled down; and that some Martyrs should be honored, but others dishonored; whilst the honor in semblance anticipated by but a little while the dishonor in reality; lest, in addition to the greatness of the insult, he should think in himself how clever he was in thus cheating (as he did man) God also - the most quick-sighted, the All Wise, He who "seizeth the wise in their craftiness" - by means of his outward show; but that he might know that he was understood, and that he might not be puffed up, seeing that he was detected.

For if the God of Martyrs had not checked his impiety, nor had dried up, like a poisonous stream, his intended and concealed villany, or cut it short by what means He only knew, according to His hidden wisdom and government, like as He suffered the iniquities of the Amorites to fill up their measure; but it was needful that his evil intention should be hated, and his offering be rejected, for the edification of the multitude, and that the justice and purity of God with respect to the things offered unto Himself should be manifested to the world.

For He that said unto backsliding Israel, "If ye offer a wheaten cake, it is vain: your incense is an abomination unto me;" not accepting their New Moons and Sabbaths and Great Day, seeing that He, being full, stands not in need of anything that is human and little, so that He should take pleasure in those who offer to Him unworthily; for He abominates the sacrifice of transgressors, even though it be a calf, as that of a dog, and their frankincense like a blasphemy; and excluding from the Temple and shaking off as defilement the hire of a harlot; whilst He gives honor to that sacrifice alone which pure hands bring unto the Most Pure, and a high and sanctified spirit. What wonder, then, if He did not accept honor from that man, offered in bad manner and from a bad motive, - He that seeth not as man seeth, nor looketh at the outward appearance, but at the hidden man, and the inward workshop of virtue or of wickedness! So much for this; and if anyone is incredulous, we call in evidence those that beheld the fact, for they are numerous, who have delivered down the miracle to us, and will deliver it down to those who come after.'