Philip visits St. Nilus
Let Sinai tell, for she beheld His might,

and God's own darkness veiled her awful height. -- Heber.

Briso and the escort were to start with the letter to St. Nilus in ten days. Philip wrote to Chrysostom, cheered his heart with the confidential account of his interview with the Emperor, and said that he would write as often as was possible. Then he bade an affectionate and deeply grateful farewell to Olympias. To you, lady,' he said, I owe my very life. Never shall I kneel to God in prayer without remembering your name. May He lighten your burden of sorrow, and brighten the clouds around your heart with His eternal rainbow!'

Farewell, Philip,' said Olympias; our Patriarch has taught me not to find a fatal stumbling-block in my adversities; and my parting present to you shall be his treatise to me on the truth -- which may well be a guide to you throughout your life -- that "No one is injured save by himself."'

Philip's keen interest in seeing the world, and the near prospect of meeting Miriam once more, made the voyage full of delight to him. Briso was a kind, pleasant companion. Sailing down the Propontis, and past the blue Symplegades, and then along the coast of the Troad and Lesbos, they touched first at the port of Ephesus, and saw the scene of the labours of St. Paul. Then they sailed among the isles of Greece, and across the Mediterranean to Alexandria. It was well for them that they were bearers of letters from the Emperor, and had an escort, for this secured them from the deadly machinations of Theophilus. After catching a rapid glimpse of the marvels of Egypt, they crossed the desert, and Philip gazed up with undescribable awe on the bare crags of Sinai from under its purple shadows. The cell which Nilus had built for himself was on the little plateau in which is the cleft in the rock where tradition says that Elijah hid himself when he heard the voice of the Lord. It is a hollow enclosed by granite cliffs, and with one tall cypress in the centre, pointing, as it were, heavenwards with funereal finger.

The story of Nilus singularly illustrates the strange vicissitudes and intense religious emotions of the fourth century. He was a man of tall stature, stately presence, and masculine beauty, who had entered into the career of official life, had won great successes at Constantinople, and had even reached the lofty position of Præfect of the East. He had married, and was the father of two sons, and there seemed no doubt that he would die a statesman, wealthy, full of years, and crowned with civic honours. Suddenly, however, the convictions of religious life took hold of him, and in the overpowering contemplation of the three last things -- death, judgment, and eternity -- all that the world could offer seemed to slip into dust and ashes. In 390, without a word of public warning, he renounced the world, and, taking with him his son Theodulus, retired to the desert of Mount Sinai. Like the great Arsenius, the tutor of Arcadius and Honorius, who followed his example four years later, he had up to that time lived amid the splendour of a luxurious Court, attended by 'slaves in silken garments with golden girths.' Now he abandoned wealth and place, and retired to Mount Sinai, there to acquire a new and far more extraordinary power as the fearless oracle of the Christian world. But he had not escaped from severe trials. He found that even on Mount Sinai he had to wrestle with the demons of temptation no less than in the world. Barbarous marauders invaded the desert, and carried off many of the hermits, and among them Nilus and his son. They dismissed Nilus, but reserved the young Theodulus to sacrifice him to the Morning Star. But after the carouse of the night the barbarians overslept themselves, and the propitious hour of morning twilight was lost. To save themselves trouble they sold Theodulus into slavery, and in time he fell into the hands of a bishop, with whom Nilus found him. Struck with admiration for their goodness, the bishop compelled them both to accept ordination.

Briso and Philip, with the escort, climbed the steep ascent of Sinai, and Philip had often to lend his arm laughingly to the panting eunuch, who, accustomed to the luxurious ease of the palace, grumbled at the unwonted hardships to which he was exposed. When they reached the plateau where the cell of Nilus stood, beside a single almond-tree of which the pink blossoms were shining in the dawn of spring, the far-famed hermit and his son came out, and gave them a courteous welcome. Briso presented the Emperor's letter, and Nilus said that he would write and seal his answer that evening. During the day he talked long and earnestly with Philip about Chrysostom, for whom he had the highest admiration, which the dangerous vicinity of Theophilus did not prevent him from expressing. Surely,' he said, if, by giving up the world, a hermit has not learnt fearlessness in the cause of God, he has gained nothing.' He did not hesitate to express extreme disapproval of the conduct of Arcadius. And why does he send to me?' he asked indignantly. 'Arsenius is near us, in the Sketic desert. That truly great and holy man was his tutor and godfather, and is far worthier than I to advise and to pray for him.'

His Eternity the Emperor -- -- ' said Briso.

Tush! you are not in the Palace, but in the cell of Nilus, on Mount Sinai.'

Well, his Clemency Arcadius never liked the great Arsenius.'

Because he did his duty to him, and chastised him,' said Nilus, which Arcadius was too little-minded to forgive.'

Briso shuddered, and raised up a deprecating hand. Was it not high treason to listen to such remarks?

But what could one expect of a training in which mere children like Arcadius and Honorius sat, while their tutor stood?'

But,' said Briso, his Eternity Theodosius -- -- '

His Eternity is dead,' said Nilus, smiling.

Pardon me,' said Briso; it is only a phrase which I repeat from habit. Theodosius came in, and seeing his boys seated while their tutor stood, was so angry that he indignantly deprived them both of their imperial ornaments.'

Well done!' said the hermit.

Do you think I might see the great Arsenius?' asked Philip.

I would willingly introduce you to him,' said Nilus, kindly; 'but his temper is stern, his love of silence and solitude is a passion. He says, "I am often sorry for having spoken, never for having held my tongue." He would scarcely even allow the Patriarch Theophilus to visit him, and did not so much as offer him a seat. If the mood was on him, he might drive you away with stones, as he once did another visitor; or treat you as John the Dwarf treated him, who, though he knew how great Arsenius had been, merely flung him a biscuit, and let him eat it on his knees. No, you had better not visit him.'

They left the next morning, and Nilus gave to Briso his answer to the Emperor. Had Briso known the contents of the missive he would have trembled to give it to Arcadius. For Nilus wrote bitter reproaches against the Emperor for having exiled Chrysostom. 'When I heard of his banishment,' said Nilus, 'I was lightning-struck with the fire of grief. You have quenched the lamp of truth and silenced the trumpet of God.'

If the earthquakes at Constantinople had continued Arcadius would doubtless have been more deeply impressed by the rebukes of St. Nilus: but as they had ceased to shake the foundations of the Palace, he relapsed into his usual masterly inactivity, and let matters take their course.

chapter lxi philip and the
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