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Chapter XV.

But lest this should perchance seem incredible to any one, I shall mention still greater things. I call Christ103103    “Fides Christi adest”: lit. “the faith of Christ is present.” to witness that I invent nothing, nor will I relate things published by uncertain authors, but will set forth facts which have been vouched for to me by trustworthy men.

“Numbers of those persons live in the desert without any roofs over their heads, whom people call anchorites.104104    Also spelt “anchoret”: it means “one who has retired from the world” (ἀναχωρέω). They subsist on the roots of plants; they settle nowhere in any fixed place, lest they should frequently have men visiting them; wherever night compels them they choose their abode. Well, two monks from Nitria directed their steps towards a certain man living in this style, and under these conditions. They did so, although they were from a very different quarter, because they had heard of his virtues, and because he had formerly been their dear and intimate friend, while a member of the same monastery. They sought after him long and much; and at length, in the seventh month, they found him staying in that far-distant wilderness which borders upon Memphis. He was said already to have dwelt in these solitudes for twelve years; but although he shunned intercourse with all men, yet he did not shrink from meeting these friends; on the contrary, he yielded himself to their affection for a period of three days. On the fourth day, when he had gone some distance escorting them in their return journey, they beheld a lioness of remarkable size coming towards them. The animal, although meeting with three persons, showed no uncertainty as to the one she made for, but threw herself down at the feet of the anchorite: and, lying there with a kind of weeping and lamentation, she manifested mingled feelings of sorrow and supplication. The sight affected all, and especially him who perceived that he was sought for: he therefore sets out, and the others follow him. For the beast stopping from time to time, and, from time to time looking back, clearly wished it to be understood that the anchorite should follow wherever she led. What need is there of many words? We arrived at the den of the animal, where she, the unfortunate mother, was nourishing five whelps already grown up, which, as they had come forth with closed eyes from the womb of their dam, so they had continued in persistent blindness. Bringing them out, one by one, from the hollow of the rock, she laid them down at the feet of the anchorite. Then at length the holy man perceived what the creature desired; and having called upon the name of God, he touched with his hand the closed eyes of the whelps; and immediately their blindness ceased, while light, so long denied them, streamed upon the open eyes of the animals. Thus, those brethren, having visited the anchorite whom they were desirous of seeing, returned with a very precious reward for their labor, inasmuch as, having been permitted to be eye-witnesses of such power, they had beheld the faith of the saint, and the glory of Christ, to which they will in future bear testimony. But I have still more marvels to tell: the lioness, after five days, returned to the man who had done her so great a kindness, and brought him, as a gift, the skin of an uncommon 32animal. Frequently clad in this, as if it were a cloak, that holy man did not disdain to receive that gift through the instrumentality of the best; while, all the time, he rather regarded Another as being the giver.

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