Life of Mar Aba – chapter 23

I’m still translating chapters of the 6th century Saint’s life of the East Syriac patriarch, Mar Aba.  And I’ve had a complaint!  Let me say that I’m doing this, not because these hagiographical texts from the ages of superstition are edifying — far from it, to me — but because this particular one contains valuable historical information about how the attitude to Christians in Persia changed in the late 6th century.

Unfortunately the work is studded with material whose historicity is doubtful, to say the least.  The next chapter is probably an example.  It reads like identikit hagiography to me.  The work of God in people’s lives is always wonderful to hear, but this material does not seem to tell of it; the focus in all this sort of writing is on how wonderful the human Mar Aba is, not on God.  

Oh well.  If there is more good stuff in this Life, we have to get to it past this sort of stuff.

23.  There was at that place a plague, and those who saw it trembled and those who heard about it were terrified.  The blessed one was asked to leave; but he would not, and said, “Death and life are in God’s hand; wherever I am, I am his in life and death.  It is necessary only that we believe in him and walk in good works according to his will.  Believe in him, and stay.”  And many remained and were not struck down by that harsh plague.  But if anyone was hit, he blessed oil and gave it, and they annointed him and, depending on his faith, he recovered from that disease.

A woman from that village, whose husband, named Arwândâd (?), was the judge, was tempted by the evil spirit.  She came and with her husband threw herself for a long time at the door of the blessed one, to  get him to come and put his hand on her head.  But he would not, but blessed oil and sent it to her.  She annointed herself and the devil departed from her and she was tempted no more.  All who knew her previously saw what had happened and praised God.

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