Saturday, September 19, 2009

Stewards of the Poor: The Man of God, Rabbula, and Hiba in Fifth-Century Edessa

Translated by Robert Doran, 204 pages, Cistercian Publications.

These fifth-century Christian saints are striking by their very strangeness and remoteness in relation to modern Catholicism, even in relation to so-called traditionalists or old-fashioned believers. They went to extreme lengths to express their love for Christ.

In one story, “The Man of God,” the son of wealthy Romans left his wife on his wedding day without consummating the relationship, and trekked eastwards to eventually end up in Edessa, Syria. There he lived and begged among the poor, spending most of his time in prayer. He later returned secretly to his parents' household in Rome and lived there, unknown to his loved ones, until his death.

In another story, “The Heroic Deeds of Mar Rabbula,” we read “Then, because the desire for martyrdom was glowing like a fire in his heart, he rose up and led the blessed Eusebius, and the two of them journeyed to Baalbak, a city of pagans. In their divine zeal they entered the city's temple of idols to throw the idols down and be counted worthy for martyrdom...the pagans smote them mercilessly until they thought Rabbula and Eusebius were dead.”

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