The Life of Severus of Antioch – part 6

Severus has yet to put in an appearance, as Zacharias Rhetor is busy telling us all about his own student experiences in Alexandria ca. 500 AD.

Paralios, having offered God an exploit of this nature, received the baptism of the Redeemer when the Easter festival arrived, along with many pagans who had been zealous for idolatry until their old age, and had long served the wicked demons.  Also baptised with him was the admirable Urbanus, who today is professor of Latin grammar in the imperial city, and Isidore of Lesbos, brother of the Zenodotus whom I mentioned earlier, as well as many others.  After burning all the formulae of invocation of the gods of the pagans, i.e. the demons, that he possessed, he [Paralios] received baptism.  In fact these were tormenting him before the divine baptism, and filling him with terror after the idols had been burned, and he came to my house to ask me what he should do.  I went back with him, having with me a Christian book, and thinking to read to him the homily of exhortation of Gregory the Theologian, relating to the redemptive baptism.  I found him, following a struggle with the demons, very burdened and very depressed.  He could hardly breathe, he said, under the influence of the Christian words.  I asked him whether by chance he had with him the formulae to invoke the gods of the pagans.  He admitted that he had, when his memory was appealed to, that he possessed papers (χάρτης) of this sort.  I said to him, “If you want to be delivered from this obsession with demons, deliver these papers into the flames.”  This he did in front of me, and, from that moment, he was delivered from his obsession with demons.  After that I read to him the homily of exhortation of the divine Gregory.  Then he heard these words, “But do you like in the world, and are you soiled with public business, and would it be hard for you to lose the divine mercy?  The remedy is simple: if it is possible, flee from the forum and society, attach to yourself the wings of the eagle, or rather of the dove, to speak more appropriately.  (What is there, indeed, in common between you and Caesar, or the affairs of Caesar?)  Tarry where there is neither sin or darkness, where there is no snake who bites along the road, and prevents you from walking in the way of God.  Free your soul from the world, flee Sodom, flee the fire, take the road without turning back, for fear that you may be turned into a pillar of salt, save yourself on the mountain of faith so that you do not perish.”  After, as I was saying, Paralios had heard the reading of this passage, he shouted, “Let us take wings and fly to the divine philosophy, with the redemptive baptism.”  It was with this thought that he approached the divine baptism, and that he was initiated into the divine mysteries.  On the eighth day after baptism, when he had to take off the clothing of the newly baptised, he went along with my brother Stephen, who was studying literature and learning medicine, to the joy of the monastic life.  He stayed there during the night, unknown to me, because he had found me too weak, to tell the truth, ran with him to Enaton, and went to the convent of the great Salomon, near the illustrious Stephen.  After earnestly petitioning his brother Athanasius, he took the monastic habit (σχῆμα), and embraced the divine philosophy among them, at the same time as my brother.

One thought on “The Life of Severus of Antioch – part 6

  1. A lot of converts apparently experience this kind of intense difficulty with psychological problems and spiritual warfare right before Baptism (in addition to the more normal kinds of indecision, sadness, anxiety, loss of comfort zone, family opposition, etc.), and then many have that surge of energy after Baptism. It sounds very familiar from conversion stories, albeit most people don’t go run off all night to a monastery!

Leave a Reply