St. Anicetus, Pope, Martyr
See Eusebius, b. 5, c. 24. Tillemont, t. 2, p. 442
He succeeded St. Pius in the latter part of the reign of Antomnus Pius, sat about eight years, from 165 to 173, and is styled a martyr in the Roman and other Martyrologies: if he did not shed his blood for the faith, he at least purchased the title of martyr by great sufferings and dangers. He received a visit from St. Polycarp, and tolerated the custom of the Asiatics in celebrating Easter on the 14th day of the first moon after the vernal equinox, with the Jews. His vigilance protected his flock from the wiles of the heretics, Valentine and Marcion, instruments whom the devil sent to Rome, seeking to corrupt the faith in the capital of the world. Marcion, in Pontus, after having embraced a state of continency, fell into a crime with a young virgin; for which he was excommunicated by the bishop, who was his own father. He came to Rome, in hopes to be there received into the communion of the church, but was rejected, till he had made satisfaction, by penance, to his own bishop. Upon which he commenced heresiarch, as Tertullian and St. Epiphanius relate. He professed himself a Stoic philosopher, and seems to have been a priest. Joining the heresiarch Cerdo, who was come out of Syria to Rome, in the time of pope Hyginus, he established two gods, or first principles, the one, the author of all good; the other, of all evil: also of the Jewish law, and of the Old Testament: which he maintained to be contrary to the New. Tertullian informs us1 that he repented, and was promised at Rome to be again received into the church, on condition that he brought back all those souls which he had perverted. This he was laboring to effect when he died, though some understand this circumstance of his master Cerdo. He left many unhappy followers of his errors at Rome, in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Persia, and Cyprus.*
The thirty-six first bishops of Rome, down to Liberius, and, this one excepted, all the popes to Symmachus, the fifty-second, in 498, are honored among the saints; and out of two hundred and forty-eight popes, from St. Peter to Clement XIII., seventy-eight are named in the Roman Martyrology. In the primitive ages, the spirit of fervor and perfect sanctity, which is now a-days so rarely to be found in the very sanctuaries of virtue, and in the world seems in most places scarce so much as known, was conspicuous in most of the faithful, and especially in their pastors. The whole tenor of their lives, both in retirement and in their public actions, breathed it in such a manner as to render them the miracles of the world, angels on earth, living copies of their divine Redeemer, the odor of whose virtues and holy law and religion they spread on every side. Indeed, what could be more amiable, what more admirable, than the perfect simplicity, candor, and sincerity; the profound humility, invincible patience and meekness; the tender charity, even toward their enemies and persecutors; the piety, compunction, and heavenly zeal, which animated all their words and their whole conduct, and which, by fervent exercise under sufferings and persecutions, were carried to the most heroic degree of perfection? By often repeating in our prayers sacred protestations of our love of God, we easily impose upon ourselves, and fancy that his love reigns in our affections. But by relapsing so frequently into impatience, vanity, pride, or other sins, we give the lie to ourselves. For it is impossible for the will to fall so easily and so suddenly from the sovereign degree of sincere love. If, after making the most solemn protestations of inviolable friendship and affection for a fellow-creature, we should have no sooner turned our backs, but should revile and contemn him, without having received any provocation or affront from him, and this habitually, would not the whole world justly call our protestations hypocrisy, and our pretended friendship a mockery? Let us by this rule judge if our love of God be sovereign, so long as our inconstancy betrays the insincerity of our hearts.
St. Stephen, Abbot of Citeaux, C.
From the Exordium of Citeaux: the Annals of that Order by Manriquez: the short ancient Life of St. Stephen, published by Henriquez in his Fasciculus, printed at Brussels in 1624, and by Henschenius, 17 Apr. t. 2, p. 497; also from the Little Exordium of Citeaux, and the Exordium Magnum Cisterc, both in the first tome of Teissier’s Bibliotheca Patrum Cisterc. See De Visch’s Bibliotheca Cisterciensis, or History of the Writers of this Order, in 4to. printed in 1656. Le Nain, Hist. de l’Ordre de Citeaux, t. 1, Stephens, Monast. Anglic. t. 2; Britannia Sancta. and Hist. Littéraire de la France, t. 11, p. 213.
A. D. 1134.
St. Stephen Harding was an Englishman of an honorable family, and heir to a plentiful estate. He had his education in the monastery of Sherbourne, in Dorsetshire, and there laid a very solid foundation of literature and sincere piety. A cheerfulness in his countenance always showed the inward joy of his soul, and a calm which no passions seemed ever to disturb. Out of a desire of learning more perfectly the means of Christian perfection, he, with one devout companion, travelled into Scotland, and afterwards to Paris, and to Rome. They every day recited together the whole psalter, and passed the rest of their time on the road in strict silence, occupied in holy meditation and private prayer. Stephen, in his return, heard at Lyons of the great austerity and sanctity of the poor Benedictin monastery of Molesme, lately founded by St. Robert, in 1075, in the diocese of Langres. Charmed with the perpetual recollection and humility of this house, he made choice of it to accomplish there the sacrifice of himself to God. Such was the extreme poverty of this place, that the monks, for want of bread, were often obliged to live on the wild herbs of the wilderness. The compassion and veneration of the neighborhood at length supplied their wants to profusion: but, with plenty and riches, a spirit of relaxation and self-love crept in, and drew many aside from their duty. St. Robert, Alberic his prior, and Stephen, seeing the evil too obstinate to admit a cure, left the house; but upon the complaint of the monks, were called back again; Robert, by an order of the pope, the other two by the diocesan. Stephen was then made superior. The monks had promised a reformation of their sloth and irregularities; but their hearts not being changed, they soon relapsed. They would keep more clothes than the rule allowed; did not work so long as it prescribed, and did not prostrate to strangers, nor wash their feet when they came to their house. St. Stephen made frequent remonstrances to them on the subject of their remissness. He was sensible that as the public tranquillity and safety of the state depend on the ready observance and strict execution of the laws, so much more do the perfection and sanctification of a religious state consist in the most scrupulous fidelity in complying with all its rules. These are the pillars of the structure: he who shakes and undermines them throws down the whole edifice, and roots up the very foundations. Moreover, in the service of God, nothing is small true love is faithful, and never contemns or wilfully fails in the least circumstance or duty, in which the will of God is pointed out. Gerson observes, how difficult a matter it is to restore the spirit of discipline when it is once decayed, and that, of the two, it is more easy to found a new order. From whence arises his just remark, how grievous the scandal and crime must be of those who, by their example and tepidity, first open a gap to the least habitual irregularity in a religious order or house.
Seeing no hopes of a sufficient reformation, St. Robert appointed another abbot at Molesme, and with B. Alberic, St. Stephen, and other fervent monks, they being twenty-one in number, with the permission of Hugh, archbishop of Lyons, and legate of the holy see, retired to Citeaux, a marshy wilderness, five leagues from Dijon. The viscount of Beaune gave them the ground, and Eudes, afterwards duke of Burgundy, built them a little church, which was dedicated under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin, as all the churches of this order from that time have been. The monks with their own hands cut down trees, and built themselves a monastery of wood, and in it made a new profession of the rule of St. Bennet, which they bound themselves to observe in its utmost severity. This solemn act they performed on St. Bennet’s day, 1098: which is regarded as the date of the Cistercian order. After a year and some months St. Robert was recalled to Molesme, and B. Alberic chosen the second abbot of Citeaux These holy men, with their rigorous silence, recollection, and humility, appeared to strangers, by their very countenances, as angels on earth, particularly to two legates of pope Paschal II., who, paying them a visit, could not be satiated with fixing their eyes on their faces; which, though emaciated with extreme austerities, breathed an amiable peace and inward joy, with a heavenly air resulting from their assiduous humble conversation with God, by which they seemed transformed into citizens of heaven. Alberic obtained from Paschal II. the confirmation of his order, in 1100, and compiled several statutes to enforce the strict observance of the rule of Saint Bennet, according to the letter. Hugh, duke of Burgundy, after a reign of three years, becoming a monk at Cluni, resigned his principality to his brother Eudes, who was the founder of Citeaux, and who, charmed with the virtue of these monks, came to live in their neighborhood, and lies buried in their church will several of his successors. He was great-grandson to Robert, the first duke of Burgundy, son to Robert, king of France, and brother to king Henry I. The second son of duke Eudes, named Henry, made his religious profession under B. Alberic, and died holily at Citeaux. B. Alberic finished his course on sackcloth and ashes, on the 26th of January, 1109, and St. Stephen was chosen the third abbot.* The order seemed then in great danger of failing: it was the astonishment of the universe, but had appeared so austere, that hitherto scarce any had the courage to embrace that institute. St. Stephen, who had been the greatest assistant to his two predecessors in the foundation, carried its rule to the highest perfection, and propagated the order exceedingly, so as to be regarded as the principal among its founders, as Le Nam observes.
It was his first care to secure, by the best fences, the essential spirit of solitude and poverty. For this purpose, the frequent visits of strangers were prevented, and only the duke of Burgundy permitted to enter. He also was entreated not to keep his court in the monastery on holydays, as he had been accustomed to lo. Gold and silver crosses were banished out of the church, and a cross of painted wood, and iron candlesticks were made use of: no gold chalices were allowed, but only silver gilt; the vestments, stoles, and maniples, &c., were made of common cloth and fringes, without gold or silver. The intention of this rule was, that every object might serve to entertain the spirit of poverty in this austere order. The founder, with this holy view, would have poverty to reign even in the church, where yet he required the utmost neatness and decency, by which this plainness and simplicity appeared with a majesty well becoming religion and the house of God. If riches are to be displayed, this is to be done in the first place to the honor of Him who bestowed them, as God himself was pleased to show in the temple built by king Solomon. Upon this consideration, the monks of Cluni used rich ornaments in the service of the church. But a very contrary spirit moved some of that family afterwards to censure this rule of the Cistercians, which St. Bernard justified by his apology. Let not him that eateth, despise him that eateth not.1 And many saints have thought a neat simplicity and plainness, even in their churches, more suitable to that spirit of extraordinary austerity and poverty which they professed. The Cistercian monks allotted several hours in the day to manual labor, copying books, or sacred studies. St. Stephen, who was a most learned man, wrote in 1109, being assisted by his fellow monks, a very correct copy of the Latin Bible, which he made for the use of the monks, having collated it with innumerable manuscripts, and consulted many learned Jews on the Hebrew text.* But God was pleased to visit him with trials, that his virtue might be approved when put to the test. The duke of Burgundy and his court were much offended at being shut out of the monastery, and withdrew their charities and protection: by which means the monks, who were not able totally to subsist by their labor, in their barren woods and swampy ground, were reduced to extreme want: in which pressing necessity St. Stephen went out to beg a little bread from door to door: yet refused to receive any from a simoniacal priest. For though this order allows not begging abroad, as contrary to its essential retirement, such a case of extreme necessity must be excepted, as Le Nain observes. The saint and his holy monks rejoiced in this their poverty, and in the hardships and sufferings which they felt under it; but were comforted by frequent sensible marks of the divine protection. This trial was succeeded by another. In the two years 1111 and 1112, sickness swept away the greater part of this small community. St. Stephen feared he should leave no successors to inherit, not worldly riches, but his poverty and penance; and many presumed to infer that their institute was too severe, and not agreeable to heaven. St. Stephen, with many tears, recommended to God his little flock, and after repeated assurances of his protection, had the consolation to receive at once into his community, St. Bernard, with thirty gentlemen; whose example was followed by many others. St. Stephen then founded other monasteries, which he peopled with his monks; as La Ferté, in the diocese of Challons, in 1113; Poatigni, near Auxerre, in 1114; Clairvaux, in 1115, for several friends of St. Bernard, who was appointed the first abbot; and Morimond, in the diocese of Langres. St. Stephen held the first general chapter in 1116. Cardinal Guy, archbishop of Vienne, legate of the holy see, in 1117, made a visit to Citeaux, carried St. Stephen to his diocese, and founded there, in a valley, the abbey of Bonnevaux. He was afterwards pope, under the name of Calixtus II., and dying in 1124, ordered his heart to be carried to Citeaux, and put into the hands of St. Stephen. It lies behind the high altar, in the old church. St. Stephen lived to found himself thirteen abbeys, and to see above a hundred founded by monks of his order under his direction. In order to maintain strict discipline and perfect charity, he established frequent visitations to be made of every monastery, and instituted general chapters. The annalist of this order thinks he was the first author of general chapters; nor do we find any mention of them before his time. The assemblies of abbots, sometimes made in the reigns of Charlemagne and Louis le Débonnaire, &c., were kinds of extraordinary synods; not regular chapters. St. Stephen held the first general chapter of his order in 1116; the second in 1119. In this latter he published several statutes called the Charte of Charity, confirmed the same year by Calixtus II.* He caused afterwards a collection of sacred ceremonies and customs to be drawn up, under the name of the Usages of Citeaux, and a short history of the beginning of the order to be written, called the Exordium of Citeaux. The holy founder made a journey into Flanders in 1125; in which he visited the abbey of St. Vast, at Arras, where he was received by the abbot Henry and his community, as if he had been an angel from heaven; and the most sacred league of spiritual friendship was made between them, of which several monuments are preserved in the library of Citeaux, described by Mabillon. In 1128, he and St. Bernard assisted at the council of Troyes, being summoned to it by the bishop of Albano, legate of the apostolic see. In 1132, St. Stephen waited on pope Innocent II., who was come into France. The bishop of Paris, the archbishop of Sens, and other prelates, besought the mediation of St. Stephen with the king of France and with the pope, in affairs of the greatest importance. The Cistercian monks came over also into England in the time of St. Stephen. The extreme austerity and sanctity of the professors of this order, which did not admit any relaxation in its discipline for two hundred years after its institution, were a subject of astonishment and edification to the whole world, as is described at large by Oderic Vitalis, St. Peter, abbot of Cluni, William of St. Thierry, William of Malmesbury, Peter, abbot of Celles, Stephen, bishop of Tournay, cardinal James of Vitry, pope Innocent III., &c., who mention, with amazement, their rigorous silence, their abstinence from flesh-meat, and, for the most part, from fish, eggs, milk, and cheese; their lying on straw, long watchings from midnight till morning, and austere fasts; their bread as hard as the earth itself; their hard labor in cultivating desert lands to produce the pulse and herbs on which they subsisted; their piety, devotion, and tears, in singing the divine office; the cheerfulness of their countenances breathing a holy joy in pale and mortified faces; the poverty of their houses; the lowliness of their buildings, &c.
The saint having assembled the chapter of his order in 1133, when all the other business was dispatched, alleging his great age, infirmities, and incapacity, begged most earnestly to be discharged from his office of general, that he might in holy solitude have leisure to prepare himself to appear at the judgment-seat of Christ. All were afflicted, but durst not oppose his desire. The chapter chose one Guy; but the saint discovering him unworthy of such a charge, in a few days he was deposed, and Raynard, a holy disciple of St. Bernard, created general. St. Stephen did not long survive the election of Raynard. Twenty neighboring abbots of his order assembled at Citeaux, to attend at his death. While he was in his agony, he heard many whispering that, after so virtuous and penitential a life, he could have nothing to fear in dying: at this he said to them, trembling: “I assure you that I go to God in fear and trembling. If my baseness should be found to have ever done any good, even in this I fear, lest I should not have preserved that grace with the humility and care I ought.” He passed to immortal glory on the 28th of March, 1134, and was interred in the tomb of B. Alberic, in which also many of his successors lie buried, in the cloister, near the door of the church.* His order keeps his festival on the 15th of July, as of the first class, with an octave, and with greater solemnity than those of St. Robert or St. Bernard, having always looked upon him as the principal of its founders. The Roman Martyrology honors him on the 17th of April, supposed to be the day on which he was canonized, of which mention is made by Benedict XIV.2
St. Simeon, Bishop of Ctesiphon,
and his companions, martyrs
From their genuine acts, published by Assemani, Acta Mart. Orient. t. 1, p. 1; Sozom. b. 2, c. 8, 9, 10. &c.
A. D. 341.
This holy primate of the church of Persia, was its most illustrious champion in the great persecution of Sapor II., surnamed the longlived.† The haughtiness of this prince appears from his letter to Constantine the Great, preserved by Ammianus Marcellinus, in which he styles himself king of kings, partner with the stars, brother of the sun and moon, and says,1 “That whereas in valor and virtue he surpassed all his predecessors, he ought to have demanded the largest extent of empire that any of them had possessed. Nevertheless, though their dominions had formerly reached as far as Macedonia, he contented himself with insisting only on the restitution of the eastern parts, which had been usurped by the Romans.” It was as much out of hatred of the Roman name, as of the faith, that this haughty tyrant vented his rage on the Christians of his empire in three bloody persecutions. The first he raised in the eighteenth year of his reign, of Christ 327, in which were crowned Jonas, Barachisius, and others, mentioned on the 29th of March: the second in his thirtieth year, in which died SS. Sapor, Isaac, &c., whom we commemorate on the 20th of November: and the third, of all others the most cruel, in his thirty-first year. This was continued with the utmost rage, during the last forty years of his reign. Sozomen writes,2 that the names of sixteen thousand who were crowned by it, were upon record; but adds, with St. Maruthas, that those whose names were not known on earth, were innumerable.* Of these glorious martyrs, St. Simeon and his companions were the most illustrious.
St. Simeon was surnamed Barsaboe, signifying the son of a fuller, from the trade of his father, according to the custom of the Orientals. He was a disciple of Papa, bishop of Ctesiphon, and by him made his coadjutor, in 314; from which time he sat twenty-six years and some months; some time with Papa, afterwards alone. The council of Nice declared the bishop of Ctesiphon metropolitan of all Persia, which happened in St. Simeon’s time: for he assisted at that council, not in person, but by his priest, who was afterwards his successor, and named Sciadhustes, as Ebedjesus and St. Maruthas testify.† The Chaldaic acts of the martyrdom of St. Simeon, written by St. Maruthas, give us the following account of his triumph.
In the hundred and seventeenth year of the kingdom of the Persians, the thirty-first of Sapor, the king of kings, of Christ the three hundred and fortieth, king Sapor, resolving to abolish the Christian religion, decreed, that whoever embraced it should be made a slave, and oppressed the Christians with insupportable taxes. St. Simeon wrote to him a letter, with that courage which nothing but a truly apostolic spirit could dictate. And to the threats of the king against him and his people, he answered: “As Jesus willingly offered himself to death for the whole world, and by dying redeemed it, why shall I be afraid to lay down my life for a people, with the care of whose salvation I am charged? I desire not to live, unless I may continue unspotted and undefiled. God forbid that I should purchase life at the hazard of those souls for which Jesus died. I am not so slothful as to fear to walk in his steps, to tread the path of his passion, and to share in the communion of his sacrifice. As to your threats against my people, they do not want for courage to die for their salvation.” The king, receiving this answer, trembled with wrath, and immediately dictated a decree, commanding all priests and deacons to be put to death, the churches to be levelled with the ground, and the sacred vessels to be converted to profane uses He added: “And let Simeon, the leader of wicked men, who despises my royal majesty, worships only the God of Cæsar, and despises my divinity, be brought and arraigned before me.” The Jews, naturally enemies to the Christians, seeing the circumstances favorable to their malice, said to the king: “If you, O king, write to Cæsar, he will take no notice of your letter: but at a poor line from Simeon he will arise, adore, and embrace it with both hands, and command all things contained in it to be instantly put in execution.” Simeon, pursuant to the king’s orders, was apprehended and bound in chains with two others of the twelve priests of his church, Abdhaicla and Hananias. As he was led through his native city Susan, he begged he might not pass by a great Christian church lately converted into a Jewish synagogue by the authority of the Magians,* lest the very sight should make him fall into a swoon. Being hurried on by the guards in great haste, they made a long journey in a very few days, and arrived at Ledan, the capital of the Huzites, or, as it is called by the Latins, the province of Uxia, upon the river Oxios, to the East, adjoining to the province of Susan. The governor had no sooner informed the king that the leader of the Christians was brought thither, than Simeon was ordered to appear before him. The holy bishop refusing to prostrate himself according to the Persian custom, the king asked why he did not adore him as he had formerly been accustomed to do. Simeon answered: “Because I was never before brought to you bound, and with the view of compelling me to deny the true God.” The Magians told the king that Simeon ought to be put to death as a conspirator against his throne. Simeon said to them: “Impious men, are not you content to have corrupted the kingdom? Must you endeavor to draw us Christians also into your wickedness?” The king, then putting on a milder countenance, said: “Take my advice, Simeon, who wish you well: adore the deity of the sun: nothing can be more for your own and your whole people’s advantage.” Simeon answered: “I would not adore you, O king; and you far excel the sun, being endued with reason. We Christians have no Lord but Christ, who was crucified.” “If you adored a living God,” said the king, “I would excuse your folly; but you give the title of God to a man who expired on an ignominious tree Lay aside that madness, and adore the sun, by whose divinity all things subsist. If you do this, riches, honors, and the greatest dignities of my kingdom shall be yours.” Simeon replied: “That sun mourned at the death of Christ its Lord and the Creator of men, who rose again glorious, and ascended into heaven. Your honors tempt not me, who know much greater are prepared for me in heaven, with which you are unacquainted.” The king said: “Spare your own life, and the lives of an infinite multitude, who, I am resolved, shall all die, if you are obstinate.” Simeon boldly answered: “Were you to commit such a crime, you would find cause to repent of it on the day when you will be called upon to give an account of all your actions; you will then know the heinousness of your offence. I resign to your pleasure this miserable short life.” Then the king said: “Though you have no compassion for yourself, I pity at least your followers, and will endeavor to cure them of their folly, by the severity of your punishment.” Simeon answered: “You will learn by experience that Christians will not lose their lives in God, for the sake of living here with you; nor would we exchange the eternal name we have received from Christ, for the diadem which you wear.” The king said: “If you will not honor me before my nobles, nor adore me with this sun, the deity of all the East, I will to-morrow cause the beauty of your face, and the venerable comeliness of your body, to be disfigured by blows, and stained with your blood.” Simeon replied: “You make the sun and yourself equally gods, but you are greater than the sun. If you disfigure this body, it has a repairer who will raise it again, and restore with interest this beauty which he created, and which is now despicable.” The king then commanded he should be kept in close confinement till the next day. It is remarked that St. Simeon was exceeding comely in his person, and venerable and graceful in his aspect.
There sat at the palace gate, as Simeon was led through it, an old eunuch, in the highest favor with the king, who had been trained up by him from his infancy. He was then the first nobleman in the whole kingdom, and the Arzabades, that is, the keeper of the king’s chamber, or the lord high chamberlain: his name was Guhsciatazades, which in Chaldaic signifies nobleman. Sozomen calls him Usthazanes. He was a Christian but fearing his master’s displeasure, had some time before publicly adored the sun. This minister seeing the saint pass by, as he was led back to prison, rose up and prostrated himself before him. But the bishop, having been informed that he had been guilty of an outward act of idolatry, reprimanded him sharply for it, and turned away from him. This touched the eunuch to the quick, who entering into a sense of the enormity of his crime, burst into loud cries and many tears, filling the court with his lamentations, saying to himself: “If Simeon’s aversion and rebuke be so grievous to me, how shall I be able to bear the anger and indignation of God, whom I have basely denied!” Whereupon, hastening home, he threw off his rich garments, and put on black for mourning, according to the Persian custom, still in use, under any affliction. In this dress he returned, and sat in grief at the palace gate in his usual place. The king being informed of it, sent to inquire why he mourned, while his sovereign enjoyed his crown and health. He answered, that it was for a double fault, the renouncing the true God by adoring the sun, and the imposing on the emperor by an insincere act of worship, acting therein contrary to the dictates of his reason and conscience. The king, enraged thereat, said: “I will soon rid you of this mad grief, if you continue obstinate in your present opinion.” Guhsciatazades replied: “I call to witness the Lord of heaven and earth, that I will never more obey you in this nor repeat that of which I heartily repent. I am a Christian, and will never more be guilty of so base a perfidy against the true God to please man.” The king said: “I pity your old age: I grieve to think you should lose the merit of your long services to my father and to myself. I beg you, lay aside the opinions of wicked men, that you may not perish together with them.” The eunuch answered: “Know, O king, that I will never abandon God, and pay divine worship to creatures.” “Do I then worship creatures?” said the king. “Yes,” said the nobleman, “even creatures destitute of reason and life.” Hereupon the king commanded him to be put to the torture, but at the request of the nobility changed his mind, and gave orders for his immediate execution. As he was led out to be beheaded he sent a faithful eunuch to the king, begging, as the last and only favor for all his past services, that a crier might proclaim before him, that he was not put to death for any crime, but purely for being a Christian. This he desired, that he might repair the scandal which his apostacy had given. The king the more readily assented to the proposal, because he thought it would the more effectually deter his subjects from a religion which he punished with death even in a faithful domestic, and a kind of foster-father: not considering how much so great an example would encourage them. The holy old man was beheaded on Maundy-Thursday, the thirteenth lunar day in April. St. Simeon being informed in his dungeon of the martyrdom of Guhsciatazades, gave most hearty thanks to God for his triumph, and earnestly begged his own might be hastened, crying out: “O happy day, which will call me to execution! It will free me from all dangers and miseries, and present me with my long desired crown: it will end all my sorrows, and wipe away all my tears.” While he poured forth his soul in languishing sighs and long prayer, with his hands lifted up to heaven, the two priests who had been apprehended with him, saw and admired his countenance most beautiful and shining, expressing the inward joy of his soul, and his longing hope and desires. Maundy Thursday night the saint spent in prayer, crying out: “Hear me, O Jesus, though most undeserving and unworthy, grant that I may drink this cup on this day, and at the hour of your passion. May all know that Simeon was obedient to his Lord, and was sacrificed with him.”
Simeon being brought to the bar the next day, it being Good-Friday, and refusing, as before, to adore the king, he said to him: “Simeon, what is the result of this night’s deliberation? Do you accept of my mercy, or do you persist in disobeying me, and choose death? Adore the sun but for once, and never adore it again, unless you please. On that condition, I promise you all liberty, security, and protection.” Simeon replied: “I will never be guilty of such a crime and scandal.” The king said: “I call to remembrance our former friendship: on which account I wished you well, and have given you signal proofs of my lenity: but you contemn my benevolence. Impute therefore all to yourself.” Simeon said: “Flatter me not: why am not I speedily sacrificed? The table is ready prepared for me, and the happy hour of my banquet calls me.” The king, turning to his nobles, said: “Behold the wonderful dignity of his countenance, and the venerable majesty of his person. I have seen many countries, but never beheld so graceful a face, and such comely limbs. Yet see the madness of the man, he is obstinately bent on dying for his error.” To this they all answered him: “O king, your wisdom cannot so much admire the beauty of his body, as not to regard more the minds which he has corrupted.” Then the king condemned him to be beheaded, and he was immediately conducted to execution. A hundred other Christians were led out to suffer with him: among whom were five bishops, some priests and deacons, the rest were of the inferior clergy. The chief judge said to them: “If any one of you will adore the sun, the great god, let him step forth: his life shall be granted him.’ But not one of them accepted life at this rate, all crying out: “Our faith in God teaches us to contemn your torments, your swords cannot cut off our firm hopes of our resurrection. Your pretended deity we will never adore.” The officers accordingly began to dispatch them, while St. Simeon, standing in the midst of them, continued exhorting them to constancy in the assured hope of a happy resurrection. After the hundred martyrs were executed, St. Simeon also received himself the stroke of the axe, together with his two companions, Abdhaicla and Hananias. The latter, as he was putting off his clothes, was seized with a violent but involuntary trembling; which being observed by Phusikius, or Phasic, who had been a few days before created by the king the Karugabarus, or prefect of the king’s workmen, cried out: “Hananias, banish all fear: shut your eyes one moment, and you will behold the light of Christ.” He had no sooner said this, than he was seized and carried before the king, who reproached him as ungrateful for the honor lately conferred upon him. Phusikius answered: “I could desire to exchange my life for their death. I renounce this your honor, full of cares and trouble, and beg their death, than which nothing can be more happy.” Then the king said: “Do you despise your dignity, and prefer death? Are you a lunatic?” Phusikius answered: “I am a Christian: and, by a most certain hope in God, I prefer their death to your honors.’ The king being enraged, said to his attendants: “This man must not die by any common death;” and commanded that the back of his neck should be cut through into his mouth, and his tongue plucked out by the roots through the wound. This was executed with extreme cruelty and Phusikius expired the same hour. He had a daughter who had consecrated her virginity to God, who was also apprehended, and crowned with a no less glorious martyrdom in 341. St. Simeon and all this troop are mentioned with most honorable encomiums in the Roman, and all the Eastern martyrologies. St. Maruthas translated the relics of St. Simeon, and deposited them in the church of his own episcopal city, which from thence took the name of Martyropolis. St. Simeon suffered on the 17th of April, in 341, the second year of the great persecution, and is named in the Roman Martyrology on the 21st of this month: but is honored in the Greek Menæa on the 17th, and in the menology of the emperor Basil on the 14th of this month.
1 Præscr. c. 30.
* The liberality of pope Clement VIII. in giving the body of St. Anicetus, found in the Catacombs, to the domestic chapel of the prince of Altemps at Rome, induced John Angelo, prince of Altemps, to write his Vita Aniceti, Papæ et Martyris.
* B. Alberic is honored with an office on the 26th of January, by the Cistercian order in Italy, by a grant of the Congregation of Sacred Rites. See Bened. XIV. de Canon. l. 1, c. 13. d. 17, p. 100.
1 Rom. 14:3, 6.
* This most valuable MS. copy of the Bible is preserved at Clteaux, in four volumes in folio. Manriquez in his Annals, and Henriquez in his Fasciculus, give us a short pathetic discourse on the death of B. Alberic. ascribed by many to St. Stephen, and not unworthy his pen.
* St. Robert, in the foundation of Citeaux, proposed to himself, and prescribed to his companions, nothing else but the reformation of the order of St. Bennet, and the observance of his rule to the letter, as Benedict XIV. takes notice, (de Canoniz. l. 1, c. 13, n. 17. p. 101,) nor did the legate grant him leave for his removal and new establishment with any other view or on any other condition. (Exordium Magn. 1. 1, c. 12, Hist. Lit. Fr. t. 11, p. 225.) St. Stephen in the Charte, or Charter of Charity, prescribes the rule of St. Bennet to be observed to the letter, in all his monasteries, as it was kept at Citeaux, (c. 1.) It is ordained that the abbot of Citeaux shall visit all the monasteries of the order, as the superior of the abbots themselves, and shall take proper measures with the abbot of each house for the reformation of all abuses, (c. 4.) Upon this rule the grand Conseil at Paris decreed, in the year 1761, that the abbot of Citeaux could not establish in the four first abbeys of the order, and their filiations or dependencies, the reformation which he attempted, without the free consent of the four abbots of those houses. St. Stephen orders other abbots to perform every year the visitation of all the houses subject to them. (c. 8.) And appoints the four first abbots of the order, viz., of La Ferté, Pontigni, Clairvaux, and Morimund, to visit every year, in person, the abbey of Citeaux, (c. 8,) and to take care of its administration upon the death of an abbot, and assemble the abbots of the filiations of Citeaux, and some others, to choose a new abbot, (c. 19.) If any abbot busies himself too much in temporal affairs, or falls into any other irregularity, he is to be accused, to confess his fault, and be punished in the next general chapter, (c. 19.) If any abbot commits or allows any transgression against the rule, he is to be reprimanded by the abbot of Citeaux, and if obstinate, to be deposed by him, (c. 23,) and in like manner the abbot of Citeaux by the four first abbots, (c. 27, 28, 29, 30.)
The Usages of Citeaux, Liber Usuum, were compiled about the same time, and according to Bale, Pits Possevin, and Seguin, by St. Stephen; though Bilto, Pritero, and Henriquez are of opinion they were completed by St. Bernard. In it all the regular observances of Citeaux are committed to writing in five parts, which comprise one hundred and eighty chapters. B. Alberic had before published certain regulations for this order in 1101, assisted principally by St. Stephen, who was at that time prior under the abbot Alberic. The Usages were approved by the holy see, at or about the same time with the Charte of Charity and were probably published in the same general chapter. At least they are mentioned among the acts of the general chapters compiled by Rainard, the fourth abbot of Citeaux, in 1134. These have always made the code of this order: the best edition is that in the Nomasticon Cisterciense, published at Paris in 1664, by F. Julian Paris.
The Exordium Parvum, or Short History of the Origin of Citeaux, was composed by St. Stephen’s order, by some of his first companions. This most edifying golden book, as it is justly called by the annalist of the order, is inserted by F. Telssier, in the Bibliotheca Patrum Cisterciensium, which he published in three volumes in follo, in 1660. We have in the same place the Exordium Magnum Cisterciense, or larger history of the beginning of this order, compiled near one hundred years later, in the thirteenth century.
* A description of this saint’s tomb, and of those of several dukes of Burgundy, and other great and holy men interred in this church, is given in Descript. Historiques des principaux Monumens de l’Abbaye de Cisteaux, in the Mémoires de l’Acad. des Inscript. t. 9, p. 193.
2 De Canoniz. l. 1, c. 13, n. 17, t. 1, p. 100.
† King Hormisdas dying, left his queen with child, and the infant in the womb was immediately proclaimed king by the Magians, who went so far as to crown it, yet unborn, by placing the diadem for that purpose upon the mother. Thus Sapor was born king in 310, and lived seventy years, dying in 380; and the beginning of his reign was dated in 309, some months before his birth. He was the ninth king of the Saxanite, or fourth dynasty of the Persian kings, founded by Artaxerxes, a Persian, who defeated and slew Artabanus, king of Parthia, in whom ended the Parthian empire, in the year of Christ 223, of the Greeks of the Seleucidæ 534, the third of the emperor Alexander. St. Maruthas, in the acts of the martyrs, with the Persians of his time, computes the years from this epoch: thus he says the great persecution was begun in the thirty-first year of king Sapor, and the hundred and seventeenth of the Persian empire, i. e. of the reign of the Saxanite, or last dynasty, which held that empire four hundred and eighteen years, till the use of the Mahometan kingdom.
1 B. 17, c. 5.
2 Soz. b. 2, c. 15.
* The Christian faith was planted in the Parthian empire by the apostles. St. Ambrose, (in Ps. 45,) St. Paulinus, (carm. 26,) &c., testify that St. Matthew preached to the Ethiopians, and afterwards to the Parthians, Persians, and Medes. Eusebius and Theodorus the Studite say, that St. Bartholomew also preached in India and Persia. Some are of opinion, from St. John’s epistle being inscribed to the Parthians, that they had been, in part, his conquest to Christ. The Chaldæans and Persians all agree that St. Thomas the Apostle, and Thaddæus, me of the seventy-two disciples, with his two disciples, Maris and Aghæus, were the principal apostles of the East, and to them they ascribe the foundation of the see of Seleucla and Ctesiphon. Their testimonies may be seen in Assemani’s Bibliotheca Orientalis, t. 3, par. 2, p. 4. Eusebins shows that there were many Christians in Persia in the second century.
† Seleucia, called by the Syrians Selik, was built by Seleucus Nicator, or his son, and so called from him. Ctesiphon was situated on the opposite eastern bank of the Tigris, built by the Parthians in a most fruitful plain, separated from Seleucia by the river, though Strabo, &c. make the distance three miles. They were the two capital cities of Assyria and the Persian empire, during the reigns of the Arsacide kings, the ruins of whose palace long subsisted there. The archiepiscopal see of Seleucia and Ctesiphon enjoyed the right of primacy over all the churches in Persia, and the first general council of Nice decreed that it should be the first in rank and dignity after the great patriarchates, as is mentioned in the Arabic. canons, (can. Arabic. 38, alias 33,) and as the Orientals assure us. St. Simeon is said to have been the first archbishop to whom the title of Catholicus of Persia was given. (See Steph. Evod. Assemani, p. 4.) Seleucia and Ctesiphor having been destroyed in the wars, in 762, Abdalla Abugiapharus Almansores, the second of the Abbacl le caliphs, built Bagdad, or new Babylon, on the western bank of the Tigris, about the place where Seleucia had stood. The Nestorian patriarch, who pretends to succeed the ancient Catholicus of Seleucia, resides at Bagdad. (See Steph. Evod. Assemani, p. 38.) Old Babylon stood on the Euphrates, probably on a channel diverging to the Tigris. The distance between the Tigris and Euphrates where nearest, about Seleucia and Babylon, was above two hundred furlongs, according to Strabo, l. 16, near the mouths of the two rivers, twenty-five Roman miles, according to Pliny, l. 6, c. 27.
Susa, the capital of the old Persian kings, lay to the east from Seleucia, according to Pliny, l. 6, c. 27, four hundred and fifty Roman miles; from Ecbatana, capital of Media, where the ancient kings of Persia passed the summer, as the winter at Susa, (see Cellarius, t. 2, p. 668, ad Lipsiens 1732.) also four hundred and fifty Roman miles; from whence twenty to the Portæ Caspiæ or Streights in the Caspian mountains, (separating Media from Parthia.) From Susa to the Persian gulf Pliny counts two hundred and fifty miles. Herodotus (1. 5) counts from Sardes to Susa four hundred and fifty parasangs, (each of thirty furlongs,) or thirteen thousand five hundred furlongs, and from Ephesus to Sardes five hundred and forty furlongs, that is, from Ephesus to Susa, fourteen thousand and forty furlongs.
N. B. Pliny informs us that the Persian parasang was not always of the same measure; and the same is to be said of the Parthian schœnus. Hasius proves that in Xenophon the parasangs are in such a proportion that thirty-three measured a degree on the equator, that is, sixty modern Italian, or seventy-five old Roman miles. As eight furlongs made a Roman mile, De l’Lsle counts six hundred in a degree or seventy two Roman miles. A German mile comprises four Italian, or five old Roman miles, or forty furlongs. One furlong contained six hundred and twenty-five Roman, or six hundred Grecian feet, i. e. five hundred and seventy-one Paris feet. The confusion found in the mensurations of roads in Pliny, Diodorus. &c., is thought by Hasius to proceed from a great difference in the old furlong, of which he thinks a degree contained one thousand one hundred. F. Hardouin, in his notes on Pliny, (1. 6, c. 27,) takes notice, that a Persian parasang was of sixty, or of thirty or forty furlongs; and that there was as great a difference in the Egyptian schœnus.
* The Magians had always a great sway in the Persian government, till the Mahometans possessed themselves of that empire, who put many of them to death, and abolished their sect in the cities, though some still remain in the mountains and in Caramania. The word in Chaldaic signifies prediators. They were philosophers, much addicted to the folly of judiciary astrology and divinations
Butler, A., The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints (New York 1903) II, 98-108.