St. Porphyrius, Bishop of Gaza, Confessor
From his life, written with great accuracy by his faithful disciple Mark. See Fleury, t. 5. Tillemont, t. 10. Chatelain, p. 777. In the king’s library at Paris is a Greek MS. life of St. Porphyrius, (abridged from that of Mark,) which has never been translated.
PORPHYRIUS, a native of Thessalonica in Macedonia, was of a noble and wealthy family. The desire of renouncing the world made him leave his friends and country at twenty-five years of age, in 378, to pass into Egypt, where he consecrated himself to God in a famous monastery in the desert of Sceté. After five years spent there in the penitential exercises of a monastic life, he went into Palestine to visit the holy places of Jerusalem. After this he took up his abode in a cave near the Jordan, where he passed other five years in great austerity, till he fell sick, when a complication of disorders obliged him to leave that place and return to Jerusalem. There he never failed daily to visit devoutly all the holy places, leaning on a staff, for he was too weak to stand upright. It happened about the same time that Mark, an Asiatic, and the author of his life, came to Jerusalem with the same intent, where he made some stay. He was much edified at the devotion with which Porphyrius continually visited the place of our Lord’s resurrection, and the other oratories. And seeing him one day labour with great pain in getting up the stairs in the chapel built by Constantine, he ran to him to offer him his assistance, which Porphyrius refused, saying: “It is not just that I who am come hither to beg pardon for my sins, should be eased by any one: rather let me undergo some labour and inconvenience, that God, beholding it, may have compassion on me.” He in this condition never omitted his usual visits of piety to the holy places, and daily partook of the mystical table, that is, of the holy sacrament. And as to his distemper, so much did he contemn it, that he seemed to be sick in another’s body and not in his own. His confidence in God always supported him. The only thing which afflicted him was, that his fortune had not been sold before this for the use of the poor. This he commissioned Mark to do for him, who accordingly set out for Thessalonica, and in three months’ time returned to Jerusalem with money and effects to the value of four thousand five hundred pieces of gold. When the blessed man saw him, he embraced him, with tears of joy for his safe and speedy return. But Porphyrius was now so well recovered, that Mark scarcely knew him to be the same person: for his body had no signs of its former decay, and his face looked full, fresh, and coloured with a healthy red. He, perceiving his friend’s amazement at his healthy looks, said to him with a smile: “Be not surprised, Mark, to see me in perfect health and strength, but admire the unspeakable goodness of Christ, who can easily cure what is despaired of by men.” Mark asked him by what means he had recovered. He replied: “Forty days ago, being in extreme pain, I made a shift to reach Mount Calvary, where, fainting away, I fell into a kind of trance or ecstacy, during which I seemed to see our Saviour on the cross, and the good thief in the same condition near him. I said to Christ, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom: whereupon he ordered the thief to come to my assistance, who, raising me off the ground on which I lay, bade me go to Christ. I ran to him, and he, coming off his cross, said to me: Take this wood (meaning his cross) into thy custody. In obedience to him, methought I laid it on my shoulders, and carried it some way. I awaked soon after, and have been free from pain ever since, and without the least appearance of my having ever ailed anything.” Mark was so edified with the holy man’s discourse and good example, that he became more penetrated with esteem and affection for him than ever, which made him desirous of living always with him in order to his own improvement; for he seemed to have attained to a perfect mastery over all his passions: he was endued at the same time with a divine prudence, an eminent spirit of prayer, and the gift of tears. Being also well versed in the holy scriptures and spiritual knowledge, and no stranger to profane learning, he confounded all the infidels and heretics who attempted to dispute with him. As to the money and effects which Mark had brought him, he distributed all among the necessitous in Palestine and Egypt, so that, in a very short time, he had reduced himself to the necessity of labouring for his daily food. He therefore learned to make shoes and dress leather, while Mark, being well skilled in writing, got a handsome livelihood by copying books, and had some to spare. He therefore desired the saint to partake of his earnings. But Porphyrius replied, in the words of St. Paul: He that doth not work let him not eat. He led this laborious and penitential life till he was forty years of age, when the bishop of Jerusalem ordained him priest, though much against his will, and committed to him the keeping of the holy cross: this was in 393. 1 Continue reading