Bookthree

25 Such was the situation when another memorable work of great importance was done in the province of Palestine by the Godbeloved. It was this. He decided that he ought to make universally famous and revered the most blessed site in Jerusalem of the Savior's resurrection. So at once he gave orders for a place of worship to be constructed, conceiving this idea not without God, but with his spirit moved by the Savior himself.

26 (1) Once upon a time wicked men—or rather the whole tribe of demons through them—had striven to consign to darkness and oblivion that divine monument to immortality, at which, brilliant with light, the angel who had descended from heaven had rolled away the stone of those whose minds were set like stone in their assumption that the Living One was still with the dead, when he announced the good news to the women and removed the stone of disbelief from their minds by the information that the one they sought was alive. (2) It was this very cave of the Savior that some godless and wicked people had planned to make invisible to mankind, thinking in their stupidity that they could in this way hide the truth. Indeed with a great expenditure of effort they brought earth from somewhere outside and covered up the whole place, then leveled it, paved it, and so hid the divine cave somewhere down beneath a great quantity of soil. (3) Then as though they had everything finished, above the ground they constructed a terrible and truly genuine tomb, one for souls, for dead idols, and built a gloomy sanctuary to the impure demon ofAphrodite; then they offered foul sacrifices there upon defiled and polluted altars. They reckoned there was one way alone and no other to bring their desires to realization, and that was to bury the Savior's cave under such foul pollutions. (4) The wretches could not understand that it would be against nature for the one who had crowned his brow with the conquest of death to leave his accomplishment hidden. No more could the sun remain unnoticed by the whole world inhabited by man, as it shines after rising above the earth and drives its proper chariot course across the sky; but brighter than this the Savior's power as it illuminates the souls, though not the bodies, of men was filling the entire world with his own beams of light.

(5) Nevertheless the devices of these godless and wicked men against truth lasted for long ages, and no one was ever found—no governor, no commander, no emperor even—competent to clear away what had been perpetrated but one alone, the friend of God the universal King. (6) Possessed therefore by the divine Spirit, he did not negligently allow that place that has been described to remain smothered by all sorts of filthy rubbish through the machination of enemies consigned to oblivion and ignorance, nor did he yield to the malice ofthe guilty; but calling upon God to be his collaborator, he ordered it to be cleared, thinking that the very space that enemies had sullied should especially benefit from the great work being done through him by the All-good. (7) At a word of command those contrivances of fraud were demolished from top to bottom, and the houses of error were dismantled and destroyed along with their idols and demons.

27 His efforts however did not stop there, but the emperor gave further orders that all the rubble of stones and timbers from the demolitions should be taken and dumped a long way from the site. This command also was soon effected. But not even this progress was by itself enough, but under divine inspiration once more the emperor gave instructions that the site should be excavated to a great depth and the pavement should be carried away with the rubble a long distance outside because it was stained with demonic bloodshed. 28 This also was completed straightaway. As stage by stage the underground site was exposed, at last against all expectation the revered and all-hallowed Testimony (martyriori) of the Savior's resurrection was itself revealed, and the cave, the holy of holies, took on the appearance of a representation of the Savior's return to life. Thus after its descent into darkness, it came forth again to the light, and it enabled those who came as visitors to see plainly the story of the wonders wrought there, testifying by facts louder than any voice to the resurrection of the Savior.

29 (1) With these things thus completed, the emperor next gave orders by the stipulations of pious laws and by generous grants for a place of worship worthy of God to be built with rich and imperial munificence around the Savior's cave, as if he had intended this for a long time and had looked into the future with superior foreknowledge. (2) He instructed those who governed the eastern provinces by generous and lavish grants to make the building out of the ordinary, huge, and rich, and to the bishop of the church who then presided in Jerusalem, he sent the following document. By it he displayed in clear terms the love for God in his own soul and the purity of his faith in the Savior's Word, writing in this fashion:

30 (1) Victor Constantinus Maximus Augustus to Macarius.

So great is our Savior's grace, that no words seem enough to match the present miracle. For the evidence of his most sacred passion, long since hidden under the ground, to have remained unknown for such a long period of years, until through the removal of the enemy of the whole republic it was ready to be revealed, once they were set free, to his servants, truly surpasses all marvels. (2) If all those from every part of the world with a reputation for wisdom were to gather together in one place and try to say something worthy of the event, they would not be able to compete with the least part of it. The evidence of this miracle surpasses every natural capacity of human thought in the same degree that heavenly things are by common consent mightier than human. (3) That is why it is always my first and only goal, that, just as the evidence for the truth manifests itself with newer wonders every day, so all our souls may by utter seriousness and unanimous endeavor also become more earnest about the holy law. (4) The thing therefore which I consider clear to everybody is what I want you in particular to believe, namely, that above a 11 else my concern is that that sacred place, which at God's command I have now relieved of the hideous burden of an idol that lay on it like a weight, hallowed from the start by God's decree, and now proved yet holier since it brought to light the pledge of the Savior's passion, should be adorned by us with beautiful buildings.

31 (1) A is thus for your own Good Sense to make such order and provision of what is needed that not only a basilica superior to those in all other places, but the other arrangements also, may be such that all the excellences of every city are surpassed by this foundation. (2) As to the building and decoration of the walls, be advised that our friend Dracillianus, who exercises his office among the praefecti illustris-simi, and he who is governor of the province have been entrusted by us with its care. For my Religious Care has ordered that craftsmen and laborers and everything they may learn from your Good Sense to be needed for the building work should forthwith be supplied by their provision. (3) As to the columns or marble, you should after a survey yourself write promptly to us about what you may consider to be of most value and use, so that whatever quantity and kind of materials we may learn from your letter to be needful may be competently supplied from all sources. It is right that the world's most miraculous place should be worthily embellished. 32 (1) As to the vault of the basilica, whether you decide that it be coffered or in another style of construction I would wish to learn from you. If it were to be coffered, it might also be decorated with gold. (2) In short, in order that your Holiness may make known with all speed to the aforementioned magistrates how many laborers and craftsmen and what other expenditures are required, take care to refer immediately also to me not only the matters ofthe marble and pillars, but also the lacunary panels, should you judge that best.

God preserve you, dear Brother.

33 (1) Thus did the emperor write. No sooner had he written than the commands were put into effect. New Jerusalem was built at the very Testimony to the Savior, facing the famous Jerusalem of old, which after the bloody murder of the Lord had been overthrown in utter devastation, and paid the penalty of its wicked inhabitants. (2) Opposite this then the emperor erected the victory of the Savior over death with rich and abundant munificence, this being perhaps that fresh new Jerusalem proclaimed in prophetic oracles, about which long speeches recite innumerable praises as they utter words of divine inspiration.

(3) As the principal item he first of all decked out the sacred cave. It was a tomb full of agelong memory, comprising the trophies of the great Savior's defeat of death, a tomb of divine presence, where once an angel, radiant with light, proclaimed to all the good news of the rebirth demonstrated by the Savior. 34 This then was the first thing, like a head of the whole, which the emperor's munificence decorated with superb columns and full ornamentation, brightening the solemn cave with all kinds of artwork. 35 He then went on to a very large space wide open to the fresh air, which was decorated with a pavement of light-colored stone on the ground, and enclosed on three sides by long surrounding colonnades.

3' (1) On the side opposite the cave, which looked toward the rising sun, was connected the royal tem-pie, an extraordinary structure raised to an immense height and very extensive in length and breadth. Its interior was covered with slabs of varied marble, and the external aspect of the walls, gleaming with hewn stone fitted closely together at each joint, produced a supreme object of beauty by no means inferior to marble. (2) Right up at the top the material that encased the outside of the roofs was lead, a sure protection against stormy rain, while the interior of the structure was fitted with carved coffers and like a vast sea spread out by a series of joints binding to each other through the whole royal house, and being beautified throughout with brilliant gold made the whole shrine glitter with beams of light. 37 Round each of the sides extended twin ranges of double colonnades, in upper and lower stories, their tops also decorated with gold. Those at the front of the house rested upon huge pillars, while those inside the front were raised under blocks plentifully decorated all round their surfaces. Three doors well placed to face the sunrise received the crowds flowing in. 38 Facing these as the chief point of the whole was the hemisphere attached to the highest part of the royal house, ringed with twelve columns to match the number of the Apostles of the Savior, their tops decorated with great bowls made of silver, which the emperor himself had presented to his God as a superb offering.

39 For those going on from there to the entrances situated at the front of the shrine, another open space awaited them. Arcades stood there on either hand, a first court and colonnades beyond, and finally the gates of the court. Beyond these, right in the middle of the open square, the porticoes forming the entrance to the whole, beautifully wrought, offered to those passing outside a striking view of what was to be seen within.

40 This, then, was the shrine that the emperor raised as a manifest testimony of the Savior's resurrection, embellishing the whole with rich imperial decoration. He adorned it with untold beauties in innumerable dedications of gold and silver and precious stones set in various materials. In view of their size, number, and variety, to describe in detail the skilled craftsmanship that went into their manufacture would be beyond the scope of the present work.

41 (1) He took in hand here other sites venerated for their two mystic caves, and he adorned these also with rich artwork. On the cave of the first divine manifestation of the Savior, where he submitted to the experience of birth in the flesh, he bestowed appropriate honors, while at the other he dignified the monument on the mountaintop to his ascension into heaven. (2) These also he artistically honored, perpetuating the memory of his own mother, who had bestowed so much good on human life. 42 (1) This lady, when she made it her business to pay what piety owed to the all-sovereign God and considered that she ought to complete in prayers her thank-offerings for her son, so great an emperor, and his sons the most Godbeloved Caesars her grandchildren, came, though old, with the eagerness of youth to apply her outstanding intellect to enquiring about the wondrous land and to inspect with imperial concern the eastern provinces with their communities and peoples. (2) As she accorded suitable adoration to the footsteps of the Savior, following the prophetic word that says, "Let us adore in the place where his feet have stood" (Ps 132:7), she forthwith bequeathed to her successors also the fruit of her personal piety.

43 (1) She immediately consecrated to the God she adored two shrines, one by the cave of his birth, the other on the mountain of the ascension. For the God with us allowed himself to suffer even birth for our sake, and the place of his birth in the flesh was announced among the Hebrews by the name of Bethlehem. (2) Thus then the most devout empress beautified the Godbearer's pregnancy with wonderful monuments, in various ways embellishing the sacred cave there. The emperor himself shortly afterward honored this, too, with imperial dedications, supplementing his mother's works of art with treasures of silver and gold and embroidered curtains. (3) Again the emperor's mother erected on the Mount of Olives the monument to the journey into heaven of the Savior of the Universe in lofty buildings; up by the ridges at the peak of the whole mountain she raised the sacred house of the church and constructed just there a shrine for prayer to the Savior who chose to spend his time on that spot, since just there a true report maintains that in that cave the Savior of the Universe initiated the members of his guild in ineffable mysteries. (4) There also the emperor bestowed all kinds of offerings and ornaments on the great King.

These then were the two everlastingly memorable, noble, and utterly beautiful dedications to her Savior at two mystic caves, which Helena Augusta, the God-beloved mother of the Godbeloved emperor, founded as tokens of her pious intent, her son providing her with the right arm of imperial authority. (5) But the lady not long after reaped the due reward. She had traversed a whole lifespan amid everything good to the very portal of old age; by words and deeds she had produced luxurious growth from the Savior's commandments; and then she had completed in full vigor of mind a life so orderly and calm in both body and soul, that as a result she also met an end worthy of her religion and a good reward from God even in this present life.

44 As she visited the whole East in the magnificence of imperial authority, she showered countless gifts upon the citizen bodies of every city and privately to each of those who approached her, and she made countless distributions also to the ranks of the soldiery with magnificent hand. She made innumerable gifts to the unclothed and unsupported poor, to some making gifts of money, to others abundantly supplying what was needed to cover the body. Others she set free from prison and from mines where they labored in harsh conditions, she released the victims of fraud, and yet others she recalled from exile. 45 Brilliantly though she shone in such things, she did not despise the other aspects of devotion to God. She allowed herself to be seen continually making personal visits to the church of God. She adorned the places of worship with shining treasures, not neglecting the shrines in even the smallest of towns. One might see the wonderful woman in dignified and modest attire joining the throng and manifesting reverence toward the divinity by every kind of practice dear to God.

46 (1) When she had finally completed the course of a long-enough life and was called to the higher sphere, having lived to something like 80 years of age, when she was very near the end she made arrangements and dispositions, drawing up her last will in favor of her only son the emperor, the monarch and world-ruler, and his sons the Caesars, her own grandchildren, bequeathing to each of her issue part of her estate, everything she possessed in the whole world. (2) Having settled her affairs in this way, she finally came to the end of her life. So great a son was present and stood by her, ministering and holding her hands, so as to make it seem likely to right-thinking people that the thrice-blessed one was not dead, but had in reality undergone a transformation and removal from earthly life to heavenly. Her very soul was thus reconstituted into an incorruptible and angelic essence as she was taken up to her Savior. 47 (1) Even the temporal dwelling of the blessed one deserved no ordinary care, so with a great guard of honor she was carried up to the imperial city, and there laid in the imperial tombs.

Thus passed away the emperor's mother, one worthy of unfading memory both for her own Godloving deeds and for those of the extraordinary and astonishing offspring that arose from her. (2) He deserves to be blessed, all else apart, for his piety to the one who bore him. So far had he made her Godfearing, though she had not been such before, that she seemed to him to have been a disciple of the common Savior from the first, and so far had he honored her with imperial rank that she was acclaimed in all nations and by the military ranks as Augusta Imperatrix, and her portrait was stamped on gold coinage. (3) He even remitted to her authority over imperial treasuries, to use them at will and to manage them at her discretion, in whatever way she might wish and however she might judge best in each case, her son having accorded her distinction and eminence in these matters, too. It was therefore right that while recording his memory, we should also record those things wherein, by honoring his mother for her supreme piety, he satisfied the divine principles that impose the duty of honoring parents. . . .

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