Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
The Ecclesiastical History, Dialogues, and Letters of Theodoret.: Of the Son of the Priest.
Chapter X.—Of the Son of the Priest.
A young man who was a priests son, and brought up in impiety, about this time went over to the true religion. For a lady remarkable for her devotion and admitted to the order of deaconesses 631 was an intimate friend of his mother. When he came to visit her with his mother, while yet a tiny lad, she used to welcome him with affection and urge him to the true religion. On the death of his mother the young man used to visit her and enjoyed the advantage of her wonted teaching. Deeply impressed by her counsels, he enquired of his teacher by what means he might both escape the superstition of his father and have part and lot in the truth which she preached. She replied that he must flee from his father, and honour rather the Creator both of his father and himself; that he must seek some other city wherein he might lie hid and escape the violence of the impious emperor; and she promised to manage this for him. Then, said the young man, “henceforward I shall come and commit my soul to you.” Not many days afterwards Julian came to Daphne, to celebrate a public feast. With him came the young mans father, both as a priest, and as accustomed to attend the emperor; and with their father came the young man and his brother, being appointed to the service of the temple and charged with the duty of ceremonially sprinkling the imperial viands. It is the custom for the festival of Daphne to last for seven days. On the first day the young man stood by the emperors couch, and according to the prescribed usage aspersed the meats, and thoroughly polluted them. Then at full speed he ran to Antioch, 632 and making his way to that admirable lady, “I am come,” said he, “to you; and I have kept my promise. Do you look to the salvation of each and fulfil your pledge.” At once she arose and conducted the young man to Meletius the man of God, who ordered him to remain for awhile upstairs in the inn. His father after wandering about all over Daphne in search of the boy, then returned to the city and explored the streets and lanes, turning his eyes in all directions and longing to light upon his lad. At length he arrived at the place where the divine Meletius had his hostelry; and looking up he saw his son peeping through the lattice. He ran up, drew him along, got him down, and carried him off home. Then he first laid on him many stripes, then applied hot spits to his feet and hands and back, then shut him up in his bedroom, bolted the door on the outside, and returned to Daphne. So I myself have heard the man himself narrate in his old age, and he added further that he was inspired and filled with Divine Grace, and broke in pieces all his fathers idols, and made mockery of their helplessness. Afterwards when he bethought him of what he had done he feared his fathers return and besought his Master Christ to nod approval of his deeds, 633 break the bolts, and open the doors. “For it is for thy sake,” said he, “that I have thus suffered and thus acted.” “Even as I thus spoke,” he told me, “out fell the bolts and open flew the doors, and back I ran to my instructress. She dressed me up in womens garments and took me with her in her covered carriage back to the divine Meletius. He handed me over to the bishop of Jerusalem, at that time Cyril, and we started by night for Palestine.” After the death of Julian this young man led his father also into the way of truth. This act he told me with the rest. So in this fashion these men were guided to the knowledge of God and were made partakers of Salvation.
The earliest authorities for the order are St. Paul, Rom. xvi. 1, and probably 1 Tim. iii. 11; and Pliny in his letter to Trajan, if ancilla = διάκονος100:632
Vide note on page 98.100:633
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