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The Legend of Hilaria (1913) pp. 63-. The story of Hilaria: Long Karshuni version


In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, one God, we begin to write, with the help and assistance of God, the story of king Zeno and his wife Shams al-Munir and the chosen Hilaria their daughter. May their prayer and blessings be with us. Amen.

There was a faithful king and his name was Zeno. He and his wife were honourable, just and merciful in their life like our noble father and mother Abraham and Sara and like the chosen Isaac and Rebecca, going the way of our father Jacob and Rachel, the Ancients. They were of honourable origin, but they had sorrow in this world because they were barren and had no child nor heir to govern towns and cities after their decease.

One day, by the working of the grace of the Lord Christ, who loveth mankind (honour and praise to him for ever. Amen.) they conceived a plan and they spoke one to the other: "Let us take a part of this money and go to the desert and the monasteries and to the temples of God and to the caverns and mountain-caves and to the clefts which are beneath the earth in darkness ..........1) who are bound, in a way pleasing to |66 God, by their own will, who are nourished and whose thirst is quenched, and who are all provided for by our Lord Jesus Christ, every one according to his wish and need; let us request them to stand before Christ and to pray for us; perhaps God will grant us a child whereby we shall be consoled for the rest of our lifetime.

So they went with zeal and warm faithfulness and with tears which flowed so as to soak their garments and with sighs which would remove mountains, partly on account of their sins and partly from longing for offspring. They reached the venerable places and attained their end by the power of Christ, for the sincere faithfulness that was in their heart. Then they returned to their appartments with joy and gladness.

After the completion of a certain number of days Shams al-Munir perceived [that she was pregnant]. She said to the faithful king Zeno: "My husband, rejoice; by the grace of the Lord and the prayers of the Fathers I perceive that I am pregnant". Then he thanked God and began to show the monasteries and the poor still more mercy and care; till the blessed bore a girl whose beauty was not equalled in her time. Seven days afterwards she was baptized and called Hilaria, the fruit of prayer, and he 2) used to call her by this name.

When she had grown up and had come to years of discretion, her father built for her a pavilion and a beautiful appartment, the most beautiful of his country. And he sent [someone] to ask and to search in the whole town for a chaste, pious, learned woman, able to read the holy Scriptures. When she was brought into the presence of |67 the king and the queen and they spoke to her, she answered in the best manner. Then they praised and thanked God for granting them their wish. Then king Zeno took the hand of his daughter and they entrusted her to her governess, in order to teach her good demeanour and science and reading, that her intellect might shine and her demeanour be beautiful. The chaste woman received [her] with gladness and great joy, kissed the feet of the king and the queen, took the hand of the chosen [maid] and went away confiding in God. He 3) sent with them two blessed old men to wait at the door, and food and drink and servants and utensils, suiting to royal rank. Every fifth day the king took the queen and they visited their daughter, the fruit of prayer, and the joy of their heart.

In this blessed state and good demeanour she stayed for six years; then Christ would lead her to perfection. She used to read in the stories of the martyrs and the narratives of the saints which had reached perfection in the desert. Then her heart thirsted and she loved them warmly and longed for dwelling with and amongst them. So she began to fast, to pray and to observe vigils and to shed tears, the beginning of every [spiritual] gift and of remission of sins. But her beauty began to wither. Her governess observed her and said to her: "My daughter, I see thy beauty withered." She made an obeisance for her and said: "[This is caused] by my longing for meeting the saints and living amongst them. My heart is thirsting vehemently after seeing them; I hope that thy venerable person will hide me from my |68 father and mother. All food, which is brought, I shall, give to the poor; perhaps God will open for us a way to the desert by their prayers". In this state she remained for a year. As she withered her parents observed her and said to her: "Our daughter, blood of our hearts, we find thee withering in a vehement way and we are sorry for thy sake; is there not a secret sorrow which thou revealest not to us?" She smiled and said: "What sorrow can he have, who enjoyeth such honour, who hath so many servants, and whose parents converse with him? Be good to me, that I may lead this agreeable life in your shadow". So she comforted their heart by her words; they rejoiced when she spoke to them in this way; they took leave from her, kissed her and said to her: "Remain in peace". They greeted also her governess and went to their castle and court.

When the chosen [maid] perceived that they observed her she feared they would thwart her and her work would be idle; so she stood the whole night praying and shedding tears like rain; she beseeched God to save and liberate her according to His will and good pleasure. The next morning her governess came to her. They greeted one another and the chosen Hilaria took a golden dinar and gave it her governess, saying: "I request thee to buy for me to day a monk's habit". She went to the porter and said to him: "Run and buy for this dinar a cowl and a mantle and a habit, which must be worn out". He went and brought her what she had commanded; she took it and went to the chosen maid who took it with joy and gladness. They wept together till their garments were soaked by tears. Then they took leave from one another. Hilaria, the |69 pure, said to her governess: "From to day till after three days visit me not, in order that, if they ask thee, thou mayest swear sincerely: "I know not where she hath gone to, nor at what time she hath departed". She accepted her command and this was an achievance from God, strong is His name, exalted His praise.

She rose in the midst of the night and departed confiding in God, reciting psalms and praises and sanctifications to Our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom may be glory and praise. He sent her the angel of grace and protected her wholly against the animals and the children of man, till she arrived at Suk Misr 4). While she passed she saw a monk who was going his way, his head bent. She went up to him and saluted him. He answered her salutation. Then she began to ask him about the way of living of the monks in the desert and as to which monastery was the first to be reached and what its name was. He informed her about their whole way of living and said: "The first monastery thou wilt reach is that of Abu Macarius; therein are three hundred monks; part of them feedeth upon grass like the beasts; another part fasteth one, two or three days and [then] eateth some bread; part of them sleepeth not and all are, according to Christ's good pleasure, standing night and day". She said to him: "Pray over me and give me thy prayer 5), that I may reach them and dwell amongst them". Then they prayed over one another and went their way both of them.

She went, confiding in God, barefoot, on the thorns |70 and pebbles and thistles till the blood ran from her feet and the sun had burnt her skin and her beauty had faded away and she had become like an Abessinian. When she reached the gate of the monastery by the grace of Christ, she knocked and the porter came and opened the door saying: "What is thy wish, my brother?" He 6) answered: "To dwell with your holiness, if it please Christ". He said: "Stay here, my brother, till I shall have informed the prior of the monastery."

He went and informed the prior of the monastery; then the prior of the monastery came to Hilaria, the chosen. When he came near her she rose towards him, made an obeisance and saluted and kissed his feet and his hands. He embraced her and said: "Blessed be thy coming to us, my child; by thy prayer God may protect our monastery from Satan". Then he 7) sobbed and wept. The prior of the monastery began to interrogate him saying: "From where art thou, my lord, and what is thy country and thy family? Inform me truly about

thy coming and all thy affairs". He answered: "My name is John the eunuch. I know neither father nor mother other than the Lord who created me. I was the slave of a king. When he was at the point of death he freed me. Meditating I said to myself: "The service of the children of man and of earthly kings is nothing in comparison with [the service] of the king of heaven and earth". Then I went confiding in God, bought this garment from a monk, changed my dress, till I came under the feet of your holiness, our Father. I request |71 from your holiness to guide me by your excellency and bounty.

Then grace came down 8) upon the prior of the monastery and he knew that he 9) was one of the Lord's chosen. He put before him food and water to drink after the hot journey. Then he ordered the wooden gong to be rung and all the brethren assembled, three hundred in number. They brought water and washed his feet and drank the water in order to obtain a blessing. Then they put on him the holy habit, glory on glory and honour on honour 10), and grace came down upon him and upon the whole monastery. When they looked upon him joy and gladness increased among them. They gave him a cell that he might perform his works as he liked; whereupon he prostrated himself at the feet of the brethren, received their prayer 11) and went to his cell. Then he began to do his hard works so that all the brethren and the prior of the monastery were ashamed by the ardour of his labour. ---- Now we shall return to her father Zeno and her mother. 

As usually they rose and went to the castle. The old men came and opened the doors; then they entered. Now she would run to meet her mother and her father joyfully and to salute them. When they entered they perceived the disorder and traces of her, but they heard no sound. They called for the governess, who began to tremble, so that she could not answer them. When they reached the room, where their daughter used to sleep, |72 they found that she had laid off her silk garments and the golden girdle which was round her waist and her shoes and that she had departed barefoot. Then the king said: "Tell me, woman, and be not afraid, whether thou knowest where she hath gone to". She swore to them: "I know not where she hath gone to, nor at which time she hath departed. But three days before she gave me a golden dinar and said to me: "I beg thee to buy for me a monk's habit". Then I went and bought what she wished". Then they understood that she had gone to the desert. The king beat his breast and threw the crown from his head and began to recite about what had befallen him regarding his daughter:

"O star, that sparkled upon me, and now hath set and become obscure,

O moon, that shone upon me, and now is eclipsed and become dark". And he said: "Thou, Lord, who makest the rivers flow and hast created the creatures in the deepest depth, that they praise Thy holy name; Thou hast created the trees and hast adorned them by beautiful fruit, that they give praises to thy great name". With the axes of his sighs he demolished mountains and with the soap of his tears he washed his garments, saying:

"Thou, who gavest back Joseph to our father Jacob so that his sorrow and his grief ceased, just so I expect from Thy generosity, that I may see her with my eyes and augment praise and glory to Thy name". While he recited and lamented and wept those who heard him trembled from awe before his words. And the old men cried in the metre of Mar Jacob: |73 

(12 "The righteous have bewailed their beloved with great sorrow,

Because resurrection was hidden from them and not spoken out,

Abraham bewailed Sara when he buried her

And accompanied and interred her with great mourning before the eyes of many.

Abraham was bewailed by his heir Isaac.

And when Isaac died he was bewailed by Jacob.

Joseph and his brethren mourned seventy days and bewailed the old Jacob when he had died 12)".

Then he 13) threw the crown from his head; her mother p. laid aside the royal robe and put on a coat of hair and put off her veil and began to lament and to utter bitter words, till the hard stones would weep with her. She said: "Had I wings like the dove and strength like the eagle, I should fly round the blood of my heart and make cease this heavy sorrow and grief. I must lament with the lamenting dove and cry with the nightingale when she crieth in the trees. So I lament and cry over ----the blood of my heart which hath ruined my strength and vigour and hath gone. She said in the metre of Mar Ephrem:

(14 This is the gate full of mercy,

In it is mercy.

Enter, o sinner, and beg mercy

From thy Lord who is full of mercy 14).

Weep, ye daughters of Eve, with me over a ewe which had one lamb and the wolf came and fetched it, and now how can the ewe be consoled? And over a |74 dove which had one cub and the hawk fetched it, and now whereby can the dove be consoled? And over a vineyard which had one bunch and the sparrows came and picked it away and now whereby can the vineyard be consoled? O wine in a glass, O rose of the gardens which hath withered now. O myrtle, whose odours I used to smell when the zephyr blew, which would heal my sickness".

Her mother and her father remained for three days weeping and lamenting. And after three days they opened the treasuries and gave gold to the slaves of the court and said to them: "Go and search in all monasteries and dwellings of hermits; perhaps you will find the light of my eye and the blood of my heart". He took with him his bodyguard and marched towards the desert till he reached the monastery where his daughter was serving her Lord. The monks feared from awe before the king and flew into the desert. When the king...15) they asked him saying:

"What is thy wish, happy king"? He beat his breast and lamented and wept, saying: "My child Hilaria, the fruit of prayer, hath flown from between my hands and, we know not what hath passed her, we hope that your holiness will, stand praying and beseeching God; perhaps He will accept your prayer and as He hath done the first time, when He gave me her, He will give her back to us this time by your prayers". They rang the

wooden gong and three hundred monks assembled. They stood praying and the chosen [maid], John the eunuch, amongst them. They began to beseech and to pray, that |75 Christ might reveal to them what had passed her; but she beseeched Christ to conceal it and her prayer was accepted and got the upperhand over the three hundred so that she was not found out. Then the prior of the monastery came and began to console the king saying: "Faithful and happy king (may God prolong thy life and forgive thy sins) be not grieved nor ....16) over the brilliant gem which shineth before its Creator. Compare thyself with our father Abraham, how he let down the knife on the neck of Isaac to slay him. Compare thyself, O king (who may be rendered happy by his Lord) with Jephtah who sacrificed his daughter and shed her blood from love for his Lord. Compare thyself, O king (may his Lord render him happy) with the blessed Lady Shamuni, the martyr, how she sacrificed her seven sons to God with joy and gladness. So thou wilt be consoled by Christ and He will comfort thy heart by His grace. Perhaps He will grant thee another child".

The king and queen were consoled by the speech of the venerable Father and their sorrow ceased. They returned to their home being bewildered. After a short time God granted them a girl; they rejoiced over her greatly. She was brought up in the way of princely children, in the best manner, till she had finished five years of her life. Then Satan began to throw her down and to torment her vehemently. The queen said to the king: "My husband, we cannot but send her to the monastery of Abu Macarius, perhaps Christ will heal her by their prayers". The king said: "Thy advice is accepted". At once he ordered the most splendid votive |76 presents to be brought and summoned ten old men, whom he commanded to accompany His daughter to the monastery and to stay with her three days. If she was healed then, they should take her back; but if not, they should leave her behind in the monastery till she would have been healed. They answered: "We shall obey thy command". They took the girl and accompanied her to the monastery, told the monks her history, and made themselves worthy of the confidence the king had put in them. They remained three days with them and, the girl being not healed, they left her behind in the monastery and returned to the king. When it was evening the prior of the monastery and the monks deliberated: "To whom shall we entrust this girl?" They unanimously chose John the eunuch, because he was a eunuch and more abundant in performing offices and ascetic works than any of them. Then they called him and trusted to him the girl his sister, the daughter of his mother and his father. He accepted her with joy and great gladness and took her hand and they went to his cell. When they had entered the cell the chosen [maid] rose, set her sister at her side, and began to shed tears and to sigh and to beat her pure breast and to cover the ground with her face, before Christ.

After three prostrations Satan left the girl, shrieking and flying, like a slave, more black than soot. She went up to her sister, made the sign of the cross upon her and embraced her. She praised the Lord and thanked Him, accepting the signs of His grace, for this gift and the healing which had taken place at her hands.

Then she began to speak with her sister in rest and tranquillity, saying: "What is the name of the king thy |77 father and of thy mother?" She answered: "The name of my mother is Shams al-Munir and the name of my father is king Zeno". She said: "May Christ inspire them with righteousness, prolong their kingdom and give them victory over their enemies". She answered: "Amen. It may be according to thy word and by thy prayer".

When she had given this sweet answer, Hilaria perceived that she was completely healed from her sickness. Then she asked, saying: "Hast thou brethren or sisters?" She answered: "No, Father, I have no brother nor sister. But sometimes my mother sighed and shed tears. When I asked: "Why weepest thou, mother?", she said: "I had a daughter, named Hilaria; she left her castle in the dead of night and we have heard nothing of her". While she told this, the holy maid shed tears; she said: "May the Lord help her and console her sorrow and...."17). She answered: "Amen. May it be by thy prayer, our Father. May thy word be accepted". Then Hilaria began to teach her reading and knowledge and demeanour and agreeable speech and dignity. And by the prayer of the holy maid, her mind was opened and she began to read and to interpret like one of the old and learned men. After two months the men came to fetch her. They brought presents and all sorts of good things. They asked after the girl and it was told them that she was healed. When she was brought into their presence and they had saluted her, she gave the best answer and began to ask about her parents in most beautiful words. Then they praised God and thanked [Him for] His bounty and kissed the feet of the prior |78 of the monastery and of those who were present with him. They stayed with them three days, till they had overcome the fatigue of the journey, then they took the girl and returned to their abode and castle. When she met her mother and father, they were struck by her good colour and beauty. She began to tell them about the inhabitants of the monastery. Her father said to her: "My beloved, who was the man that healed thee, who was so benevolent towards thee? [Tell us], then we shall honour him. Who hath wrought this benefaction? We shall honour him and reward him twofold for what he hath done for thee". She answered: "My father, when the slaves had left me and were gone, the wooden gong was rung and the monks assembled and deliberated together: "With whom shall we leave this girl?" They said unanimously: "With the chosen John, the eunuch". Then the prior of the monastery called him and said: "Draw near, my child. Accept the word of thy brethren and take the daughter of the faithful king, and beseech Christ thy prayer, that she may be healed and your fame exalted and confidence in Him and in the faithful be augmented by your holiness". Then he wept and prostrated himself on the ground, saying: "Who am I amongst your holy persons? For I am a sinful slave, lower than all the brethren, O Father". The prior of the monastery sobbed and wept and considered his demeanour and modesty. He laid the exalted cross on his head and said: "Contradict not the opinion of the brethren about thyself, O saint of the Lord". Then he drew near and kissed the feet of the prior of the monastery and of the old men, obeyed, and took my hand with love and great joy. I went with him to his cell. |79 When he had entered his cell, he turned towards the East 18) and began to pray.

He beat his breast and shed tears till they trickled on the ground like rain, and covered the ground with his face, so that I trembled from awe before him. When he had prostrated himself one time and two times and three full times, and laid the cross on my head ---- lo, there departed from me a slave black as soot. He cried to him and scolded him. Then he left the cell and flew. At the same moment I felt that I was healed and that my soul had become quiet. Then he stroked my head with his blessed hand and began to converse with me in quietness and tranquillity. When he spoke with me, I smelled from his mouth an odour like perfume, which refreshed me. Then he began to ask about my father and my mother, saying: "Hast thou brethren or sisters"? And he asked about all my kindred. The more I spoke to him, the more he wept, so that I wondered for which cause those tears trickled and streamed down constantly, not to speak of fasting, prayer, and long vigils. When he desired to sleep he lent against the wall and slumbered somewhat. Then he began with passion and great strength his prostrations and humiliations. When he had finished his prayer he taught me reading and the principles of good demeanour and knowledge. He held me in great honour. And when thou sent after me, my father, it was not a light matter for me to let him alone. May the Lord show us mercy by his prayer, constantly. Amen".

King Zeno wondered at what he heard about this |80 saint and he began to think where this eunuch might come from and which king he possibly could have served and what his origin might be. His thoughts tortured him vehemently. Then he called the old men which had brought back the girl, and said to them: "Go and return to the monastery a second time and take with you food and drink and presents as is becoming to the sacred monastery. And greet the prior of the monastery and tell him to send me ten old men of the monks, amongst them John the eunuch. This is absolutely necessary". Then the slaves of the king rose and loaded up all sorts of things becoming to the monastery and the monks. They departed confiding in God, like all faithful persons. When they had reached the monastery they told the prior of the monastery what the king had said to them. The prior answered: "The order of the faithful king (may God prolong his happiness and confirm his dynasty) be carried out". The wooden gong was rung and all the monks assembled and received the blessing from one another like the angels 19). They stood during the ministration of the exalted sacrifice, the hope of the living and the dead. The prior of the monastery selected nine old men, called John and said to him: "Rise," confiding in Christ (honour and praise to Him who hath given this gift to thy holiness), O glory of our religion and crown of our heads, joy of our hearts; rise and go to the king and be ever more loyal to him". They received the blessing of one another and went on their way. On the whole way they recited psalms and songs of praise without break, so that the bodyguard of |81 the king trembled from awe before them. When they entered the town the king heard of their arrival. The people went to meet them with signs of honour and great esteem; and the faithful, men and women, would take dust from under their feet and give it their children to drink. And the blessing [of God] took abode in that town by their prayers and blessings.

The king summoned his confidant and said to him: "Take these old men and let them take rest, heat water and wash their feet. Spread the best cloth under them and pour the water of their feet into the storehouses that people may receive a blessing by the blessings of their prayers; and bring food as much as thou canst." He answered: "According to thy good pleasure, O king of the time." The king laid hold on John and went with him to the royal appartment. When he drew near to the girl she uttered a cry and came towards him, kissed his feet and prostrated herself on the ground and covered his feet with her face. Then the Fruit of Prayer cried, in the metre of Mar Jacob: (20 "Peace, peace unto you, who are far and near, sayeth the Lord, who hath spread peace among mortals. The cross hath shown the love of the Father towards the whole world. The Lord hath revealed Himself and the world hath perceived how He loveth it" 20). She blessed her mother and raised her head from the ground. Grace came down upon that place where she had taken abode. ---- When they had taken rest, the king opened the conversation and said: "Our Father, heavenly blessing hath come down upon us by the coming of thy highness and thou hast shown |82 us the utmost bounty and favour by the healing of our daughter. I beseech thy holiness to tell me from where thou art and what thy extraction is, and who was the king whom thou hast served and who hath freed thee, and how thou earnest to the monastery, how thou wast liberated from [the service of] the kings, so that they let thee go to this holy monastery." After every answer the king asked a new question. Then she perceived the thoughts of her father, that he was weary on account of herself. Obedient as she was, she understood that the word of a king is not to be withstood. She said: "Happy king, if thou desirest that I speak to thy majesty about myself, give an order to these servants [to depart] and let nobody stay except thyself and my mother the queen and the beautiful girl." He ordered those who were present to depart. They saluted the king, took Hilaria's blessing and went away. Then she conjured her father, saying: "Swear by the right hand [of God] and by the voice that cried over the Jordan when our Lord was baptized; swear to me by the whole congregation 21), and" by the blood and the water which flowed from His side and saved our father Adam and his posterity; and swear to me by His mighty resurrection and His ascension unto heaven, that thou wilt not press me nor divulge my secret; then I will reveal my history to thee". He trembled from awe before the oaths with which she had conjured him. Then he swore to her all the oaths which she had conjured him by. Then she took the cape from her head and raised the cloth from her eyes. She recited, saying in the metre of Mar |83 Ephrem: (22 "You are my father and my mother and I am your daughter Hilaria. Let us cry and say to the Lord, the Highest: Halleluja". The king and Shamsha Munira listened to Hilaria. They were confused and trembled and they fainted, being as dead 22). You are my father and my mother and I am your daughter Hilaria". They trembled and fainted and were confused and (23 fell down 23) on the ground from the vehemence of what had befallen them, they lay down and were as dead. ----When she saw what had befallen her mother and her father, she wept and said: "O Lord, let them constantly be confident in Thee". Then she took water, blessed it, and sprinkled it on them so that they awoke and praised the bounteous Lord and they were no longer sorry but constantly glad; they cried together, in the metre of Mar Ephrem: (24 "A thousand times a thousand and ten thousand times ten thousand be the praise of Thee, who acceptest the praise of the praisers who praise Thee. The whole creation is obliged to praise Thee. The high and the low places sing Thy praise. Praise to Thee" 24). Then they bowed their heads till they ceased weeping. Then they began conversation with their daughter gladly and joyfully and quietly, as she requested them. Her father said: "My daughter, light of my eyes, which hath been augmented to day so that it shineth by thy light; my daughter, my heart's blood, I shall not break towards thee the oath which I have sworn; but how can I dispense with thy holiness? What is the best way of acting, my daughter? Build for thee and for |84 these holy men, thy brethren, a monastery outside this city, that I and thy mother and sister may be with thee morning and evening". She answered: "No, my father; do not annul the institutions of the Ancients, who have laid the foundations of the monasteries in the desert. Know, my father, that the farther the monasteries are from the world the better it is. And regarding me, Christ will give thee patience and inward joy and thy soul will rejoice in the grace of thy Lord." He answered and said: "Amen, may thy word be accepted."

They stayed three days till the fatigue of the journey had disappeared. Then the saints begged him permission to depart. He said: "Your order will be done". He ordered to be brought before his daughter clothes and utensils, gold and silver, tapers and perfume, oil and food, in unnumbered masses. She said: "My father, may thy votive presents be accepted, and the Lord forgive thy sins and trespasses. As to gold and silver, we have no prescript to take it. But I will give thee and thy servants a counsel." He said: "Give order, O blood of the heart of thy mother and father." She said to him: "My father, seven days after our depart thou shalt send masters and workmen in great number in order to make in the monastery deep pits, that all people may drink from their water and thy wages be constant till the end." He said: "Thy will be done, O crown of our heads." Then she took all that could be profitable to the holy monastery; and the rest she told her father to divide among the poor. Then they took leave from her and asked her blessing. And she also prostrated herself before her parents.

Then they went on their way. People perceived them and went to meet them. And they tore pieces from their |85 habits and took the dust from under their feet and the Lord gave them according to their fidelity. With trouble and accompanied by a crowd they departed from the town. They marched singing and sanctifying and. praising God, under the royal safeguard. And the secret remained kept. When they came near the monastery, the prior and all the brethren went to meet them. They made obeisances before one another and praised the Lord and thanked for the signs of His grace. Then everyone took the place becoming to him. After the seven days the king sent his slaves and workmen with them to the monastery. They saluted the prior of the monastery and told him the command of the king: "We have to do what John shall order us". Then John was called. He left his cell, reciting the praise of the Lord and his lips ceased not sanctifying the Lord. They went to meet him and asked his blessing. He asked after the king and the queen and the state of mind of the girl. They answered: "They wish thee much peace. The girl is well". Then they praised God and thanked Him and said to John: "See, where thou wilt have us work". He said to them: "From here till there. Work so and so and it will be completed by the power of the Lord and His good pleasure". They began to dig and built and completed by the power of Him who worketh all completion; to Him be praise and honour eternally. Amen. When the workmen had finished and terminated their work they received the prayers and the blessings of the brethren and returned to the king and congratulated him on the completion of the work. He praised God and thanked Him, and asked after John. They said: "What shall we tell thee about his holiness, standing among us and laying |86 hand on the work like us, while his lips ceased not praising and sanctifying God? Blessed are the father and the mother who begat him." When this word reached his ear his heart trembled 25) and rejoiced, he gave them their wages and presents very graciously and began to send every two months presents in honour of the (26 secret of his heart 26) so that all the monasteries and everyone who heard it, wondered and they began to speak with one another, saying: "If he belonge.d not to his kindred, he would not show him this honour and submissiveness". And she used to take all the presents which her father sent and send them to the monasteries in the neigbourhood. But when she heard that the monks spoke amongst each other in that way, she feared that her history might be revealed and her work become fruitless. Then she went away stealthily and travelled in the desert in heat and thurst, barefoot on thistles and pebbles and thorns, one, two, three days, till she reached the border part of the desert. There she found a garganas-tree and near it a waterpool; at the water grew desert herbs. Near the tree was a hole which could hold one man. She praised God and thanked Him for the signs of His grace and said: "This garganas-tree is winter food, and the herbs are summer food. Then she entered the hole and dwelt in it for ten years, nobody knowing about her except Christ who had created and sent her."

Now there were venerable old men among the priors of the monasteries who used every year to take with them a beast of burden and to load on it food and |87 drink and clothes and shrouds, and to go round the whole desert. And every one whom they saw in need of food, they would feed; and whom they saw bare, they would clothe; and whom they found sick or distressed they would cure, and whom they found dead they would bury according to God's order.

During ten years the existence of this saint remained concealed, till the day of her transition to blessed Paradise came. Then they came up to the entrance of the hole; at once they heard the sound of sighing from the depth of the earth. They thought it to be an animal growling against them. But as soon as they inspected the place they found there the traces of human footsteps. They said to one another: "There is a saint in this hole. Possibly he is ill, let us go in and look." They made the sign of the cross on their face, began to recite and entered up to the border of the hole; at once they saw the hair of the innocent one shining like a polished sword in the sunshine. When she heard their reciting she rose and made an obeisance before them. Then she went back, sat down leaning on her side and trusted her pure spirit to her Lord. At her death her pure odour spread till the desert was filled with her perfume. Then the saints began to praise and to sanctify the Lord Jesus Christ, who loveth the children of man and giveth them such beautiful gifts. They bore her out of the hole and began to put off her worn out clothes and shroud her honourably in new shrouds, as was becoming. But while they were stripping off her clothes they found her breasts withered on her pure bosom like leaves wither beneath the trees; then one of them knocked his head and cried to his companions: |88 "Look here, my brethren, and gaze at this wonder; she is a virgin and not a man." When they saw the wonder they praised God who had helped her and led her to perfection. They dug a grave and buried her and the angels descended to honour her.

When they had buried her, they went to the water-pool to drink. But they found the water dried up and the herbs withered and likewise the tree. Then they praised the great Lord and stayed wondering over this fact. Then each of them laid his head on a stone and lay down to sleep. They beseeched God to make known to them her whole history, and her coming to that place. They laid down their heads and slept. Then the angel descended and made known to them her whole history from the beginning of her beautiful demeanour up to the day of her departure as they had witnessed it. When they awoke and discussed their dream among themselves it appeared to be one and the same. Then they wrote down the history of the chosen virgin and sent it to the parts of the whole world that it might be profitable for the faithful by her prayers.

And we, the sinners, will beseech our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to give you security in your dwelling places and_to protect your wives and to support your old men, to give health to your youths and to bring up your children, to give abundant blessing on the work of your hands, by the prayer of the dome of. light, the mother of all creatures, the mother of Salvation, the mistress of women and men, the hope of the dead and the living, our Lady Mariam, the mother of God, the Virgin, and of Mar Petrus the Apostle, and by the prayers of the pure Prophets and Disciples and the rest of the Martyrs |89 and the Saints and by the prayer of this excellent saint Hilaria, the daughter of the faithful king Zeno. Their prayers and the prayers of all who have the same rank may protect all the faithful and the poor scribe and the reader and the hearers. The mercy of the Lord be upon every one who sayeth Amen, O Lord of the worlds, Amen, (27 our Father in heaven 27).

Here endeth the story of the holy Hilaria, the daughter of king Zeno. May the Lord protect us by her prayers. Amen.

[Footnotes renumbered and moved to the end]

1. 1) Some words seem to have fallen out here.

2. 1) The king seems to be meant.

3. 1) The king.

4. 1) See introduction.

5. 2) Nearly synonymous with blessing.

6. 1) Hilaria is henceforth spoken of as of a man.

7. 2) Hilaria.

8. 1) According to A. 

9. 2) Hilaria.

10. 3) The author means to say: the glorious habit on a glorious person.

11. 4) Cf. p. 64, note 2.

12. (1----1) Syriac verses. 

13. 2) The king.

14. (3----3) Syriac verses.

15. 1) [Karshuni] which I do not understand.

16. 1) []. which I do not understand.

17. 1) [] which I do not understand.

18. 1) The direction of prayer for Eastern Christianity.

19. 1) Litt. the class of angels.

20. 1 ---- 1) Syriac text.

21. 1) i. e. Christianity.

22. (1 ---- 1) Syriac text, followed by an Arabic translation. 

23. (2----2) Only in C. 

24. (3----3) Syriac text.

25. 1) See the Glossary s. v.[].

26.  (2----2) Hilaria.

27. (1 -- 1 ) Syriac words.

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This text was transcribed by Roger Pearse, Ipswich, UK, 2004.  All material on this page is in the public domain - copy freely.
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Early Church Fathers - Additional Texts