Life And Writings Of Sulpitius Severus by Sulpitius Severus
Chapter XII. |I believe, my dear Sulpitius, that you remember with what emphasis he extolled to usà
|I believe, my dear Sulpitius, that you remember with what emphasis he extolled to us (when you too were present) that virgin who had so completely withdrawn herself from the eyes of all men, that she did not admit to her presence Martin himself, when he wished to visit her in the discharge of duty. For when he was passing by the little property, within which for several years she had chastely confined herself, having heard of her faith and excellence, he turned out of his way that, as a bishop, he might honor, with pious respect, a gift of such eminent merit. We who journeyed with him thought that that virgin would rejoice, inasmuch as she was to obtain such a testimony to her virtue, while a priest of so great reputation, departing from his usual rigor of conduct, paid her a visit. But she did not relax those bonds of a most severe method of life, which she had imposed upon herself, even by allowing herself to see Martin. And thus the blessed man, having received, through another woman, her praiseworthy apology, joyfully departed from the doors of her who had not permitted herself to be seen or saluted. O glorious virgin, who did not allow herself to be looked upon even by Martin! O blessed Martin, who did not regard that repulse as being any insult to himself, but, extolling with exultant heart her excellence, rejoiced in an example only too rare in that locality! Well, when approaching night had compelled us to stay at no great distance from her humble dwelling, that same virgin sent a present to the blessed man; and Martin did what he had never done before (for he accepted a present or gift from nobody), he refused none of those things which the estimable virgin had sent him, declaring that her blessing was by no means to be rejected by a priest, since she was indeed to be placed before many priests. Let, I beg, virgins listen to that example, so that they shall, if they desire to close their doors to the wicked, even shut them against the good; and that the ill-disposed may have no free access to them, they shall not fear even to exclude priests from their society. Let the whole world listen attentively to this: a virgin did not permit herself to be looked upon by Martin. And it was no common priest whom she repulsed, but the girl refused to come under the eyes of a man whom it was the salvation of onlookers to behold. But what priest, besides Martin, would not have regarded this as doing an injury to him? What irritation and fury would he have conceived in his mind against that virgin? He would have deemed her a heretic; and would have resolved that she should be laid under an anathema. And how surely would such a man have preferred to that blessed soul those virgins who are always throwing themselves in the way of the priest, who get up sumptuous entertainments, and who recline at table with the rest! But whither is my speech carrying me? That somewhat too free manner of speaking must be checked, lest perchance it may give offense to some; for words of reproach will not profit the unfaithful, while the example quoted will be enough for the faithful. At the same time, I wish so to extol the virtue of this virgin, as nevertheless to think that no deduction is to be made from the excellence of those others, who often came from remote regions for the purpose of seeing Martin, since indeed, with the same object in view, even angels ofttimes visited the blessed man.