Friday, February 27, 2009

The History of the Blessed Nathaniel

Palladius tells of a monk Nathaniel, who had died fifteen years prior to Palladius' own arrival in Nitria. Nathaniel left his first cell because a devil was tempting him, and when the devil came to his second cell he repented and returned to the first cell where he remained for thirty-seven years without leaving once.

Towards the end of Nathaniel's life, this devil tempted him to leave the cell by appearing as a young man who needed help delivering bread to the monastery for the Eucharist. Nathaniel doubted and prayed and finally refused to leave his cell, calling out that if there was true need then God would help the young man, but if it was a temptation then it was fruitless. Infuriated, this devil "took the form of a whirlwind and the forms of wild asses which dance abotu and skip and break wind." (113)
Homily 13

Acts 5:17-33

Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation,

and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison.

But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said,

"Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life."

And when they heard that, they entered the temple early in the morning and taught. But the high priest and those with him came and called the council together, with all the elders of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought.

But when the officers came and did not find them in the prison, they returned and reported,

saying, "Indeed we found the prison shut securely, and the guards standing outside before the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside!"

Now when the high priest, the captain of the temple, and the chief priests heard these things, they wondered what the outcome would be.

So one came and told them, saying, "Look, the men whom you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!"

Then the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence, for they feared the people, let they should be stoned.

And when they had brought them, they set them before the councile. And the high priest asked them,

saying, "Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man's blood on us!"

But Peter and the other apostles answeredand said: "We ought to obey God rather than men.

"The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree.

"Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.

And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him."

When they heard this, they were furious and plotted to kill them.


I'm interested in how the Sadduccees and Pharisees on the council interact with one another. And I'm interested that one of the council's worries is that they would be blamed for the death of Jesus.


Chrysostom compares the miracle of the apostles' rescue from prison to Christ's miracles-- the deed is done in secret; its results are evident to all. He notes that the Pharisees do not ask, "How did you get out of prison?" but rather, "as if nothing had happened, they ask, 'Did we not straitly charge you not to speak?' " And after having witnessed the apostles' miraculous escape, "yet the expect to overpower them: such is their childish folly!" (81)

Chrysostom notes that the council feared the multitude when they ought to have been fearing God. When pressed, the apostles reply not in high rhetoric but rather with the same story they'd been telling again and again: "the Cross, the Resurrection." (83)

Remarking on the apostles' security in their oppression and poverty, Chrysostom comments favorably on the security and blessedness of voluntary poverty. A poor man, he suggests, can refrain from oaths and swearing much more easily than a wealthy man.