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Gathering Clouds A Tale Of The Days Of St Chrysostom by Frederic William Farrar


In every church a fountain springs,

O'er which the Holy Dove

Hovers with softest wings. -- Keble.

The exertions of Chrysostom during this memorable Lent produced their natural reaction. His bodily frame, weakened by years of asceticism, was incapable of sustaining the tremendous tension of soul and spirit necessitated by the events of the last two months, and he fell ill. It was not strange, for while he lived the life of a solitary for two whole years, and devoted himself to the study of the New Testament, he never lay down to sleep. The consequences had been a permanent weakness, and after his severe labours he completely broke down. Extreme languor confined him to his chamber and his bed.

And now he reaped the fruits of his kindness to Philip. The boy had completely recovered the effects of his cruel flagellation, and the amnesty accorded to the city had secured his safety; but meanwhile he had been left an orphan by the death of his mother, who died of a broken heart during the troubles which followed the execution of her husband. She had, indeed, left him a small patrimony, but he had no home. Chrysostom and Anthusa therefore decided to make Philip an inmate of their household, and, while he was nominally an attendant, Chrysostom really regarded him as an adopted son. His father, Hermas, had given the boy a good training, and he had meant him to follow the profession of a rhetorician. He had even aspired some day to make him a pupil of the much-admired Libanius. It was the ruin of all his prospects, and the consequent blighting of his ambition for the son of whom he was so proud, which had kindled the fierce wrath of Hermas against the Emperor. This bitterness of heart had driven him headlong into the riot, which had caused the forfeit of his life.

Philip felt a passionate love for his protector, and Anthusa supplied to him the place of his lost mother. While Chrysostom lay weak and ill Philip was tenderly assiduous in every ministration. He would read or talk to him, or when the Presbyter was too weary for even this he would sit silently by his bedside, anticipating every want. He was still ostensibly a Pagan; but he read the Gospels and the Acts to his protector, asked him eager questions, and shared in the simple devotions of the family. Of course his life was very different from what it had been in the old days, when he might have been seen singing with his schoolfellows in the colonnades, or shouting in the circus, or looking on with laughter at the shows in the streets. But a life of gay excitement was no longer needful to him. The terrible loss of his father, the sad death of his mother, his own imminent peril, his talk with Macedonius amid the strength and silence of the hills, his re-arrest, the frightful experiences of the flagellation and prison, had exercised a sobering influence over the natural brightness of his temperament. Meanwhile he had caught something of the most attractive side of the new faith. The chaste dignity of its continence, and its serene gaiety, so free from all dissoluteness, allured him to grasp, as it were, the holy hands extended to him. One thing only held him back -- the memory of his father's love. He did not see in the home of Chrysostom the unspeakable weariness which so often overshadowed the lives of the Pagans. Disenchanted of the old, won by the happy freshness of the new, he was drawn to Christianity day after day, by almost insensible gradations, like the happy catechumens with whom he had spent too brief a time in the monastery of Diodore. Chrysostom would not force the workings of the grace of God in the lad's heart. He waited for some new sign from Heaven.

The sign came quite naturally, yet in a way which they regarded as a Divine interposition. Philip had been reading the story how the young Christ had been found among the doctors in the Temple; and at night he dreamed that the boy Christ had appeared to him, bright and smiling as the Christians love to imagine Him in the days of the catacombs, and said to him, Hail, beloved one!' And he, wondering, but not recognising Him, said, 'Who art thou? for I know thee not.' How is it that thou knowest me not?' said the Vision, since I sit so often by thy side, and go with thee wherever thou art? Look in my face, and see what is written there.' And Philip looked, and saw written there, 'Jesus of Nazareth.' 'This is my name,' said the Vision; write it on thy forehead, and it shall be thy safeguard.'

He felt too shy to tell that dream to Chrysostom, lest it should seem presumptuous; but it left his heart full of sweetness. A few nights later he had been reading in the Gospel of St. John those last discourses of Christ, 'so rarely mixed of sadness and joy, and studded with mysteries as with emeralds.' The words, '

Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip?' haunted his memory, because he bore the same name as the Apostle of Galilee. That night he dreamed again that Jesus Christ appeared to him in the dignity and gentleness of His manhood, and said to him the words, '

Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip?' And, won by the ineffable tenderness of His voice and look, Philip had answered in his dream, Lord, if Thou wilt take me, I am Thine, and will be Thine henceforth for ever.'

This dream he told to Chrysostom with great modesty, and offered himself as a catechumen. Chrysostom embraced him in a transport of thankfulness, and his recovery was hastened by joy at the youth's conversion. From that day Philip was carefully instructed, and in due time he descended in white robes into the baptismal font in the Church of St. Babylas, while Anthusa and Chrysostom stood beside him; and even Macedonius came down from his mountain cave, and wept for gladness as he stood sponsor for the young fugitive to whom he had hardly been persuaded to give refuge. Many besides Philip had been won to the faith by the love and self-sacrifice recently shown by its adherents.

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