St. Eusebius

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St. Eusebius, Priest and Martyr

From his genuine Acts, published by Dom. Martenne, Thesaur. Anecdotarum, t. 3, p. 1649.

About the End of the Third Century.

IN the reign of Dioclesian and Maximian, before they had published any new edicts against the Christians, Eusebius, a holy priest, a man eminently endowed with the spirit of prayer, and all apostolical virtues, suffered death for the faith, probably in Palestine. The emperor Maximian happening to be in that country, an information was lodged with Maxentius, president of the province, against Eusebius, that he distinguished himself by his zeal in invoking and preaching Christ, and the holy man was apprehended, and brought before him. Maxentius, whom the people stirred up by furious clamours against the servant of Christ, said to him: “Sacrifice to the gods freely, or you shall be made to do it against your will.” The martyr replied: “There is a greater law which says, Thou shalt adore the Lord thy God, and him alone shalt thou serve.” Maxentius urged: “Choose either to offer sacrifice, or to suffer the most rigorous torments.” Eusebius answered: “It is not consistent with reason for a person to adore stones, than which nothing is viler or more brittle.” MAXENTIUS: “These Christians are a hardened race of men, to whom it seems desirable rather to die than to live.” EUSEBIUS: “It is impious to despise the light for the sake of darkness.” MAXENTIUS: “You grow more obstinate by lenity and entreaties. I therefore lay them aside, and frankly tell you, that, unless you sacrifice, you shall be burnt alive.” EUSEBIUS: “As to that I am in no pain. The more severe or cruel the torments are, the greater will the crown be.” Upon this, Maxentius ordered that he should be stretched on the rack, and his sides rent with iron hooks. Eusebius repeated whilst he was tormenting: “Lord Jesus preserve me. Whether we live or die, we are yours.” The president was amazed at his constancy and fortitude, and after some time, commanded that he should be taken off the rack. Then he said to him: “Do you know the decree of the senate, which commands all to sacrifice to the gods?” These words show that the saint was indicted upon former laws, and that this happened before the general edicts of Dioclesian. Eusebius answered: “The command of God is to take place before that of man.” The judge, flushed with rage, commanded that he should be led to the fire as if it were to be burnt alive. 1
Eusebius walked out with a constancy and joy painted in his countenance which struck the prefect and the by-standers with amazement, and the prefect called after him: “You run to an unnecessary death; your obstinacy astonishes me. Change your mind.” The martyr said: “If the emperor commands me to adore dumb metal in contempt of the true God, let me appear before him.” This he said because he was impeached upon old laws, the present emperors not having yet made any new ones against the Christians. Maxentius therefore said to his guards and keepers: “Let him be confined till tomorrow;” and forthwith going in to the prince, he said: “Great emperor, I have found a seditious man who is disobedient to the laws, and even denies to my face that the gods have any power, and refuses to sacrifice, or to adore your name.” The emperor answered: “Let him be brought before me.” A person present, who had seen him at the prefect’s tribunal, said: “If you see him, you will be moved by his speech.” The emperor replied: “Is he such a man that he can even change me?” The prefect then spoke: “He will change not only you, but the minds of all the people. If you once behold his looks, you will feel yourself strangely moved to follow his inclinations.” 1 The emperor, however, ordered that he should be brought in. As he entered, every one was struck in beholding the dazzling brightness which appeared in his countenance, the joy and the affecting composure, sweetness and undaunted courage which shone in his looks and eye, and the gracefulness of his air, and whole mien, which in his venerable old age seemed to breathe an air of virtue above what is human. The emperor fixed his eyes steadfastly upon him, as if he beheld in him something divine, and spoke thus: “Old man, why are you come before me? speak, and be not afraid.” Seeing him still silent, he said: “Speak freely; answer my questions. I desire that you be saved.” Eusebius answered: “If I hope to be saved by man, I can no longer expect salvation from God. If you excel in dignity and power, we are, nevertheless, all mortal alike. Neither will I be afraid to repeat before you what I have already declared. I am a Christian; nor can I adore wood and stones; but I most readily obey the true God whom I know, and whose goodness I have experienced.” The emperor said to the president, “What harm is it if this man adores the God of whom he speaks, as above all others.” Maxentius made answer: “Be not deceived, most invincible emperor; he does not call what you imagine God, but I know not what Jesus, whom our nation or ancestors never knew.” The emperor said: “Go you forth, and judge him according to justice and the laws. I will not be judge in such an affair.” 2

This Maximian was by birth a barbarian, one of the roughest, most brutish and savage of all men. Yet the undaunted and modest virtue of this stranger set off by a heavenly grace, struck him with awe. He desired to save the servant of Christ, but, like Pilate, would not give himself any trouble, or hazard incurring the displeasure of those whom on all other occasions he despised. So unaccountably cowardly are worldly and wicked men in the practice of virtue, who in vice are unbridled and daring. Maxentius going out ascended his tribunal, and sternly commanded Eusebius to sacrifice to the gods. He answered: “I will never sacrifice to those who can neither see nor hear.” Maxentius said: “Sacrifice, or torments and flames must be your portion. He whom you fear is not able to deliver you from them.” Eusebius replied: “Neither fire nor the sword will work any change in me. Tear this weak body to pieces with the utmost cruelty; treat it in what manner you please. My soul, which is God’s, cannot be hurt by your torments. I persevere firm in the holy law to which I have adhered from my cradle.” The president, upon this, condemned him to be beheaded. Eusebius, hearing the sentence pronounced, said aloud: “I thank your goodness, and praise your power, O Lord Jesus Christ, that by calling me to the trial of my fidelity, you have treated me as one of yours.” He, at that instant, heard a voice from heaven saying to him: “If you had not been found worthy to suffer, you could not be admitted into the court of Christ, or to the seats of the just.” Being come to the place of execution, he knelt down, and his head was struck off. His soul flew to Christ; but Maxentius, afflicted with numberless pains, would not please Christ, and never was able to please the world, which he so much dreaded and courted. This is the martyr Eusebius, who is mentioned on this day in some ancient Martyrologies which bear the name of St. Jerom, and others, which place his death in Palestine. 3
The martyrs, by their meek constancy, vanquished the fiercest tyrants, and haughty lords of the world; they struck with a secret awe those who tormented them, whose obstinacy, malice, and love of the world, still shut their heart to the truth. 4

Note 1. Si ejus aspexeris vultum, sequêris et votum. Acta.

Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume VIII: August. The Lives of the Saints. 1866. August 14.

The Vigil of the Assumption

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The Vigil of the Assumption

What is this aurora before which the brightest constellations pale? Laurence, who has been shining in the August heavens as an incomparable star, is well nigh eclipsed, and becomes but the humble satellite of the Queen of Saints, whose triumph is preparing beyond the clouds. Mary stayed on earth after her Son’s Ascension, in order to give birth to His Church; but she could not remain forever in exile. Yet she was not to take her flight to heaven until this new fruit of her maternity had acquired the growth and strength which it belongs to a mother to give. How sweet to the Church was this dependence! A privilege given to her members by our Lord in imitation of Himself (Carnalia in te Christus libera suxit, ut per te nobis spiritualia flnerent.–RICHARD, a S. VICTORE, in Cant. Cap. xxiii). As we saw, at Christmas time, the God-Man carried first in the arms of his Mother, gathering his strength and nourishing his life at her virginal breast: so the mystical body of the Man-God, the holy Church, received, in its first years, the same care from Mary, as the divine Child our Emmanuel.

As Joseph heretofore at Nazareth, Peter was now ruling the house of God; but our Lady was none the less to the assembly of the faithful the source of life in the spiritual order, as she had been to Jesus in His Humanity. On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Ghost and every one of His gifts rested first upon her in all fullness; every grace bestowed on the privileged dwellers in the cenacle was given more eminently and more abundantly to her. The sacred stream of the river maketh the city of God joyful, because first of all the Most High has sanctified His own tabernacle, made her the well of living waters, which run with a strong stream from Libanus.

Eternal Wisdom herself is compared in the Scripture to overflowing waters; to this day, the voice of her messengers traverses the world, magnificent, as the voice of the Lord over the great waters, as the thunder which reveals his power and majesty: like a new deluge overturning the ramparts of false science, levelling every height raised against God and fertilizing the desert. O fountain of the gardens hiding thyself so calm and pure in Sion, the silence which keeps thee from the knowledge of the profane, hides from their sullied eyes the source of thy wavelets which carry salvation to the farthest limits of the Gentile world. To thee, as to the Wisdom sprung from thee, is applied the prophetic word: I have poured out rivers (Eccli. xxiv. 40). Thou givest to drink to the new-born Church thirsting for the Word. Thou art, as the Holy Spirit said of Esther, thy type: “The little fountain which grew into a river, and was turned into a light, and into the sun, and abounded into many waters (Esther x. 6).” The Apostles, inundated with divine science, recognized in thee the richest source, which having once given to the world the Lord God, continued to be the channel of His grace and truth to them.

As a mountain spreads out at its base in proportion to the greatness of its height, the incomparable dignity of Mary rested on her ever growing humility. Nevertheless we must not think that the Mother of the Church was to be nothing more than a silent winner of heaven’s favours. The time had come for her to communicate to the friends of the Spouse the ineffable secrets known to her virginal soul alone; and as to the public facts of our Saviour’s history, what memory surer or more complete than hers, what deeper understanding of the mysteries of salvation, could furnish the Evangelists with the inspiration and the matter of their sublime narrations? How could the chiefs of the Christian people not consult in every undertaking the heavenly prudence of her, whose judgment could never be obscured by the least error, any more than her soul could be tarnished by the least fault? Thus, although her gentle voice was never heard abroad, although she loved to put herself in the shade and take the last place in their assemblies, Mary was truly from that time forward, as the Doctors observe, the scourge of heresy, the mistress of the Apostles and their beloved inspirer. “If,” says Rupert (Rupert in Cant. i), “the Holy Ghost instructed the Apostles, we must not therefore conclude that they had not recourse to the most sweet teaching of Mary. Yea, rather, her word was to them the word of the Spirit Himself; she completed and confirmed the inspirations received by each one from Him Who divideth as He wills.” And St. Ambrose, the illustrious Bishop of Milan, speaking of the privilege of the beloved disciple at the last Supper, does not hesitate to attribute the greater sublimity of his teachings to his longer and more intimate intercourse with our Lady: “This beloved of the Lord, who, resting on His bosom, drank from the depths of Wisdom, I am not astonished that he has explained divine mysteries better than all the others, for the treasure of heavenly secrets hidden in Mary, was ever open to him (Amber. De Instit. virg. vii).”

Happy were the faithful of those days, permitted to contemplate the ark of the covenant, wherein, better than on tables of stone, dwelt the plenitude of the law of love! At her side, the rod of the new Aaron, the sceptre of Simon Peter, kept its vigour and freshness, and under her shadow the true manna of heaven was accessible to the elect of this world’s desert. Denis of Athens, Hierotheus, both of whom we shall soon see again beside this holy ark, and many others, came to the feet of Mary to rest on their journey, to strengthen their love, to consult the august propitiatory where the divinity had resided. From the lips of the Mother of God, they gathered words sweeter than honey, calming their souls, ordering their life, filling their noble minds with the brightness of heaven. To these privileged ones of the first age might be addressed those words of the Spouse, who in these years was completing His gathering from His chosen garden: I have gathered my myrrh with my aromatical spices: I have eaten the honeycomb with my honey: I have drunk my wine with my milk: eat, O friends, and drink, and be inebriated, my dearly beloved (Cant. v. 1).

No wonder that in Jerusalem, favoured with so august a presence, the first group of faithful rose unanimously above the observance of the precepts to the perfection of the counsels; they persevered in prayer, praising God in gladness and simplicity of heart, having favour with all the people; and they were of one heart and one soul. This happy community could not but be an image of heaven on earth, since the Queen of heaven was a member of it; the example of her life, her all-powerful intercession, her merits more vast than all the united treasures of all created sanctities, was Mary’s contribution to this blessed family where all things were common to all. From the hill of Sion, however, the Church had spread its branches over every mountain and every sea; the vineyard of the Pacific King was extended among all nations; it was time to let it out to the keepers appointed to guard it for the Spouse. It was a solemn moment; a new phase in the history of our salvation was about to begin: Thou that dwellest in the gardens, the friends hearken: make me hear thy voice (Cant. viii. 13). The Spouse, the Church on earth, the Church in heaven, all were waiting for her, who had tended the vine and strengthened its roots, to utter a word such as that which had heretofore brought down the Spouse to earth. But today heaven, not earth, was to be the gainer. Flee away, O my beloved (Ibid. 14); it was the voice of Mary about to follow the fragrant footsteps of the Lord her Son, up to the eternal mountains whither her own perfumes had preceded her.

Let us enter into the sentiments of the Church, who prepares by the fasting and abstinence of this Vigil to celebrate the triumph of Mary. Man may not venture to join on earth in the joys of heaven, without first acknowledging that he is a sinner and a debtor to the justice of God.

PRAYER.

O God, Who didst vouchsafe to choose for Thy habitation the virginal womb of the Blessed Mary, grant, we beseech thee, that, defended by her protection, we may joyfully assist at her festival. Who livest, &c.

To this Collect of the Vigil let us add, with the Holy Liturgy, the commemoration of a holy Confessor, whose imprisonment and sufferings at Rome, in the time of the Arians, made him well-nigh equal to the martyrs. As he is honoured with a Church in the eternal City, Eusebius is entitled to the homage of the whole world.

PRAYER.

O God, Who givest us joy by the annual solemnity of the blessed Eusebius, Thy confessor, mercifully grant, that celebrating his festival, we may approach to Thee by following his example. Through our Lord, &c.

The Liturgical Year. 1904. Abbot Dom Gueranger, O.S.B. Translated from the French by Dom Laurence Shepherd, O.S.B. Imprimatur, 1910.