lundi 8 juin 2015

Sainte MÉLANIE (MELANIA) l'ancienne, veuve

Sainte Mélanie

Veuve romaine ( 410)

que l'on appelle également Mélanie l'ancienne parce qu'elle est la grand-mère paternelle de sainte Mélanie la jeune. Elle s'enfuit d'Italie au moment de l'invasion des Goths et alla s'établir en Terre Sainte pour le reste de ses jours. On dit qu'elle avait un caractère irascible dont souffrit sa petite-fille. Ce qui ne l'empêcha pas d'être reconnue comme sainte. Ceci peut nous consoler de nos emportements, et nous rendre confiance en la bonté de Dieu à notre égard.

SOURCE : http://nominis.cef.fr/contenus/saint/506/Sainte-Melanie.html

 A partir du IVe siècle, de nombreux Romains s'installent dans le même temps en Palestine, et nous retrouvons parmi eux quelques noms des nobles Romaines que nous évoquerons dans le contexte monastique occidental, car elles avaient auparavant organisé leur demeure romaine en communauté : Mélanie l'Ancienne, veuve du Préfet de Rome, s'installe vers 380 sur le mont des Oliviers, à Jérusalem, et fonde un monastère double, le couvent masculin étant confié à Rufin d'Aquilée (Rufinus, 345-410), connu pour ses traductions d'Origène. Mélanie et Rufin se lient d'amitié avec Egérie, venue de Gaule ou d'Hispanie, qui débarque à Jérusalem en 381. Paula, qui fonde à Bethléem, en 386, un monastère double, dont celui des hommes est dirigé par saint Jérôme ; sa cousine, Mélanie la Jeune, petite-fille de Mélanie l'Ancienne, est une des plus grandes fortunes de Rome. Elle voyage beaucoup, rencontre Augustin à Thagaste, se défaisant progressivement de sa colossale fortune en immenses dons aux quatre coins de la chrétienté naissante. Elle installera en 417 un monastère de 80 vierges sur le mont des Oliviers puis en 432, à la mort de Pinien, son époux, aussi fortuné qu'elle, elle fondera cette fois un monastère d'hommes, où s'installera un prince géorgien, Nabarnugi (Pierre Ibère) qui fondera lui-même un monastère près de l'église de Sion. Jérusalem se couvrira bientôt de nombreux monastères.

SOURCE : http://archive.wikiwix.com/cache/?url=http://www.encyclopedie-universelle.com/abbaye-origines-palestine2.html&title=Encyclop%C3%A9die%20de%20la%20langue%20fran%C3%A7aise

Une « route de femmes »

samedi 24 mai 2008




En 384, alors que Jérôme se prépare à repartir en Orient, il écrit à Paula, une des ses élèves romaines, veuve de son état, pour la décider à entreprendre le même pèlerinage, et il lui rappelle un fait-divers qui défraya la chronique romaine plus d’une dizaine d’années plus tôt : « Mais pourquoi ressasser de vieilles histoires ? Suis donc les exemples du présent : vois sainte Mélanie [femme d’un Préfet de Rome], vraie noblesse des chrétiens de notre époque… Le cadavre de son mari était encore chaud, on ne l’avait pas encore inhumé qu’elle perdit en même temps ses deux fils. Je vais dire une chose incroyable mais non pas fausse, j’en atteste le Christ. Qui, dans cette conjoncture, ne l’eût imaginée hors d’elle-même, les cheveux épars, déchirant ses vêtements et lacérant sa poitrine avec frénésie ? Pas une larme ne coula. Elle tint bon sans broncher… après avoir cédé tout ce qu’elle possédait au seul fils qui lui restât, bien qu’on fût au début de l’hiver, elle s’embarqua pour Jérusalem ». En fait, Mélanie fit d’abord voile pour l’Egypte afin de se mettre à l’école des moines, ces chrétiens qui initiaient une nouvelle manière d’être disciple du Christ en abandonnant famille et richesses pour être seuls avec l’Unique. Athanase d’Alexandrie ayant fait connaître en Occident Antoine, le Père des moines, par un petit livre, cette première « vie de saint » avait déclenché un enthousiasme sans précédent chez les chrétiens, mais plus encore chez les chrétiennes militantes de Rome qui, comme Asella ou Marcella, se mirent à refuser mariage et honneurs – souvent au grand dam de leurs familles – pour se regrouper en petites communautés vivant dans la prière et l’étude de la Parole de Dieu.

L’ensemencement monastique ne prit pas d’ailleurs que dans la vieille aristocratie romaine, qui pouvait y voir encore, par le relais de ses femmes, un moyen de cultiver l’excellence que lui refusait maintenant le nouveau pouvoir politique siégeant au loin, à Constantinople. Des bourgeoises - comme la sœur de Basile de Césarée ou celle d’Augustin - fondent des communautés d’un type nouveau dans les villae familiales avec leurs parentes et leurs servantes à la fin du IVe siècle. Les communautés monastiques se multiplient en Syrie, en Palestine à Jérusalem et à Bethléem – autour des Romaines Mélanie et de Paula, la disciple fidèle et l’égérie de Jérôme ; cependant c’est l’Egypte qui reste la terre des moines et des moniales : à la fin du IVe siècle, la ville d’Antinoé rassemble douze communautés de femmes ; celle de Tabennèse comptait environ 400 femmes vivant dans une stricte clôture et sous la direction d’un abba . Des femmes pouvaient aussi se voir reconnaître un charisme de direction spirituelle et reçurent de la Tradition le titre prestigieux d’amma (« Mère ») comme Sara, Théodora ou Synclétique que venaient consulter laïcs, moines et évêques.

Le prestige des moines est tel que l’Egypte devint une véritable terre sainte, visitée pieusement à l’instar de Jérusalem et de Bethléem par les riches matrones venant même d’extrême occident, de Galice comme Egérie, l’auteur d’un pittoresque récit de pèlerinage, ou comme Poemonia, une parente de l’empereur Théodose, au point que l’ermite Jean de Lycopolis se désolait de ce que la mer Méditerranée soit devenue une « route de femmes », femmes que les moines auraient de plus en plus de mal à garder à distance. Si certaines matrones venaient seulement demander une grâce ou une guérison, d’autres demeuraient à la limite du désert pour s’initier à l’ascèse et pratiquer la « vie évangélique ». L’école pouvait être rude ; Mélanie – encore elle - fit apporter trois cent livres d’argenterie au désert de Nitrie pour les donner à abba Pambo : « Sans se lever, continuant de tresser ses feuilles de palmier, il me bénit en me disant simplement : « Que Dieu te donne la récompense » [Pambo ordonne à son disciple que cette somme soit attribuée aux monastères les plus pauvres]. Quant à moi, je restais là, poursuit Mélanie, m’attendant à ce qu’il me félicite ou me loue pour ce don. Comme il ne disait toujours rien, je repris « Pour que tu le saches, maître, il y a trois cents livres ». Sans relever la tête, il me répondit : « Celui à qui tu l’as apporté, mon enfant, n’a pas besoin de poids. Celui qui pèse les montagnes sait bien davantage la quantité de cet argent. A la vérité, si c’est à moi que tu le donnais, tu faisais bien de me le dire, mais si c’est à Dieu, Lui qui n’a pas dédaigné les deux oboles de la veuve, tais-toi » .

A la génération suivante, l’exemple de Mélanie fut imité par sa petite fille prénommée aussi Mélanie. A la veille de la prise de Rome par les Goths d’Alaric, elle obtint de son époux Pinianus qu’il vécût auprès d’elle comme un frère (elle lui avait donné auparavant deux enfants qui ne vécurent pas) et qu’il la suivît dans sa conversion à la « vie parfaite » en se dépouillant de leurs immenses propriétés, qui se répartissaient sur trois continents, et en affranchissant 8 000 de leurs esclaves. Ce ne fut pas sans susciter un tollé d’indignation de la part des sénateurs romains, encore largement païens. Même le très chrétien Théodose voit d’un très mauvais œil la conversion ascétique d’une de ses jeunes parentes, du nom d’Olympias : ne va-t-elle pas dilapider l’héritage familial au profit des églises et des pauvres, alors qu’un si bon parti récompenserait fort à propos un général ou un ministre zélé ? Olympias refuse le mariage, l’empereur place ses biens sous séquestre. La jeune femme ne s’en réjouit que davantage , s’estimant libérée d’un pesant fardeau qui mettait en péril son propre salut ! Devant tant d’opiniâtreté, Théodose céda et Olympias fut ordonnée diaconesse en dépit de son jeune âge (elle a trente ans et les canons ecclésiastiques n’admettent pas au diaconat des femmes de moins de soixante ans). C’est elle qui accueillera à Constantinople Jean Chrysostome devenu évêque de la capitale, le secondant fidèlement dans sa tâche de pasteur et de réformateur, le soutenant aux moments d’épreuve lors du conflit avec la cour et les puissants, ce qui l’entraîna dans la disgrâce de Jean et elle mourra comme lui, en exil, loin de sa communauté religieuse. S’il nous reste 17 lettres de Jean en exil à Olympias, la tradition, hélas, ne jugea pas utile de conserver les lettres de la diaconesse, pas plus que celles de Marcella, de Paula ou autres Mélanie.

Le prestige du modèle ascétique est tel que même les princesses de la famille impériale, comme les trois filles de l’empereur Arcadius font vœu de célibat et mènent au palais une véritable vie monacale. En raison de cette inflexion religieuse, les impératrices, à l’instar de leurs pères ou de leurs époux, s’estiment en droit de se mêler de théologie : Eudoxie soutient un temps Nestorius, condamné au concile d’Ephèse en 431, et Pulchérie s’empresse de réunir le concile de Chalcédoine en 451 qui mit fin – pour un temps court – aux querelles christologiques. Cependant, si nos sources (vies de saints, correspondances…) sont bien documentées sur les « femmes bien-nées », bien plus rares sont les éclairages que l’on peut porter sur les autres femmes, c’est à dire leur immense majorité, qui restent encore attachées aux cultes traditionnels et familiers, principalement dans les campagnes. Encore entrevoit-on au détour d’une lettre de Jérôme que Paula avait fondé à Bethléem trois monastères de femmes correspondant à leurs origines sociales (les nobles, les bourgeoises et les servantes), ou encore que l’entrée au couvent avait pu être décidée par le père ou le reste de la famille : « De malheureux parents, chrétiens à la foi imparfaite, vouent à la virginité leurs filles, si elles sont laides ou faibles de quelque membre, parce qu’ils ne trouvent pas de gendre à leur goût » . Palladius admire ingénument une vieille moniale d’Egypte, amma Talis : « avec elle habitaient soixante jeunes filles qui l’aimaient tellement qu’il n’y avait pas de clé à la clôture du monastère comme dans les autres : l’amour de la vieille femme les retenait ». Ailleurs, une solide fermeture était nécessaire, sous peine de voir s’envoler quelques novices moins motivées que les autres !

SOURCE : http://caritaspatrum.free.fr/spip.php?article75

Melania the Elder, Widow (AC)

Died in Jerusalem c. 400-410. This Melania, a Roman patrician of the Valerii family, was the paternal grandmother of the saint by the same name. Left a widow at age 22, she was away from Rome from 372 to 379, mostly in Palestine where she was associated with Saint Jerome. Melania left Italy for good following the Visigoth invasion. She had a somewhat domineering personality, and her relationship with her granddaughter was not always easy. The relationship with Saint Jerome was a clash of titans (Attwater, Benedictines). Saint Melania is portrayed in art as a widow praying in a cave with a water-pot, bread, and a pilgrim's staff near her (Roeder).

SOURCE : http://www.saintpatrickdc.org/ss/0608.shtml

St. Melania the Elder

Commemorated on June 8

St. Melania was a wealthy and noble woman, born in Spain in the fourth century. Upon turning fourteen, she married and moved with her husband to the suburbs of Rome.

At 22 years old, she was left a widow, when her husband and two of her children died. Immediately following their deaths, she converted to Christianity. When her remaining son turned ten, she placed him with a guardian and set off for Alexandria where she joined other Christian desert ascetics to visit the monks at Nitria.

She gave away most of her great wealth to the needy, and to Egyptian Christians being persecuted by the Arians. It is said that in three days she fed some 5,000 people.

When the Orthodox in Egypt were exiled to Palestine, she went with them to Jerusalem, where she built a convent for virgins on the Mount of Olives. Eventually, over 50 nuns found the path to salvation at her monastery.

Melania founded more monasteries and promoted theological tolerance and the unity of Christianity. On a visit to Rome to see her son, she also influenced his daughter, Melania. Known as Melania the Younger, she too took up the religious calling and followed her grandmother back to Jerusalem.

St. Melania entered the convent herself, and entered into eternal life there in 410. Her granddaughter, Melania the Younger, is commemorated on December 31.

By permission of www.abbamoses.com


MELANIA THE ELDER

CHAPTER XLVI: MELANIA THE ELDER

[1] The thrice­blessed Melania Divas a Spaniard by origin, but afterwards belonged to Rome. She was the daughter of Marcellinus the ax­consul, and wife of a certain man of high official rank, whom I do not quite remember. Having become a widow at twenty-two, she was favored with the divine love, and having said nothing to any one­for she would have been prevented­in the time when Valens had the rule in the empire, she had a guardian nominated for her son and took all her movable property and put it on a ship; then she sailed with all speed to Alexandria, accompanied by various highborn women and children. [a] After that, having sold her goods and turned them into money, she went to the mountain of Nitria, where she met the following fathers and their companions­Pambo, Arsisius, Sarapion the Great, Paphnutius of Scete, Isidore the Confessor, bishop~of Hermopolis, and Dioscorus. And she sojourned with them for half a year, travailing about in the desert and visiting all the saints. [3] But after this, when the prefects of Alexandria banished Isidore, Pisimius, Adelphius, Paphoutius and Pambo, with them also Ammonius Paroles, and twelve bishops and priests, to Palestine in the neighborhood of Dioczesarea, she followed them and ministered to them from her own money. But, servants being forbidden them, so they told me­for I met the holy Pisimius and Isidore and Paphnutius and Ammonius­wearing the dress of a young slave she brought them in the evenings what they required. But the consular of Palestine got to know of it, and wishing to fill his pocket thought he would terrify her. [4] And having arrested her he­threw her into prison, ignorant that she was a lady. But she told him: " For my part, I am So­and­So's daughter and So­and­So's wife, but I am Christ's slave. And do not despise the cheapness of my clothing. For I am able to exalt myself if I like, and you cannot terrify me in this way or take any of my goods. So then I have told you this, lest through ignorance you should incur judicial accusations. For one must in dealing with insensate folk be as audacious as a hawk." Then the judge, recognizing the situation, both made an apology and honored her, and gave orders that she should succor the saints without hindrance.

[5] After they were recalled she founded a monastery in Jerusalem, and spent twenty­seven years there in charge of a convent of fifty virgins. With her lived also the most noble Rufinus, from Italy, of the city of Aquileia, a man similar to her in character and very steadfast, who was afterwards judged worthy of the priesthood. A more learned man or a kinder than he was not to be found among mend [6] So these two during twenty­seven years receiving at their own charges those who visited Jerusalem in pursuance of a vow, bishops and monks and virgins, edified all who visited them, and they reconciled the schism of Paulinus, some 400 monks in all, and winning over every heretic that denied the Holy Spirit they brought him to the Church; and they honored the clergy of the district with gifts and food, and so continued to the end, without offending anyone.

CHAPTER LIV: THE ELDER MELANIA

[I] THOUGH I have told above in a superficial way of the wonderful and saintly Melania, nevertheless I will now weave into my narrative at this point what remains to be said. What stores of goods she used up in her divine zeal, as it were burning them in a fire, is not for me to dwell on, but for those who dwell in Persia. For no one escaped her benevolence, neither East nor West nor North nor South. [2] For thirty­seven years she had been giving hospitality, and at her own costs had succored both churches and monasteries and strangers and prisoners, her family and her son himself and her stewards providing the money. She persevered so long in the practice of hospitality that she possessed not even a span of land. She was not drawn (from her purpose) by desire for her son, nor did yearning after her only son separate her from love towards Christ. [3] But thanks to her prayers the young man attained a high standard of education and a good character and an illustrious marriage, and participated in the honors of the world; he had also two children. A long while after, hearing how her granddaughter was situated, that she was married and was proposing to renounce the world, afraid lest they should be injured by bad teaching or heresy or evil living, though an old woman of sixty years, she flung herself into a ship and sailing from Caesarea reached Rome in twenty days. [4] And having met there that most blessed and worthy man Apronianus, a pagan, she instructed him and made him a Christian, persuading him to be continent as regards his wife, Melania's niece named Avita. And having also strengthened the will of her own granddaughter Melania, with her husband Pinianus, and instructed her daughter in­law Albina, wife of her son, and having induced all these to sell their goods, she led them out from Rome and brought them into the holy and calm harbor of the (religious) life. And in so doing she fought with beasts a in the shape of all the senators and their wives who tried to prevent her, in view of (similar) renunciation of the world on the part of the other (senatorial) houses. But she said to them: " Little children, it was written 400 years ago, It is the last hour. Why do you love to linger in life's vanities? Perchance the days of antichrist will surprise you, and you will cease to enjoy your wealth and your ancestral property." [6] And having liberated all these she led them to the monastic life. And after instructing the younger son of Publicola she brought him to Sicily, and having sold all her remaining goods and receded their value, she came to Jerusalem. Then, having got rid of her possessions, within forty days she fell asleep in a good old age and profound meekness, leaving behind both a monastery in Jerusalem and an endowment for it.

[7] But when all these persons had left Rome there fell on Rome a hurricane of barbarians, which was ordained long ago in prophecies, and it did not spare even the bronze statues in the Forum, but sacking them all with barbaric frenzy delivered them to destruction, so that Rome, which had been beautified by loving hands for 1200 years, became a ruin. Then those who had been instructed (by Melania) and those who had opposed her instruction glorified God, Who had persuaded the unbelievers by a reversal of fortune, in that, when all the other families had been made prisoners, these ones only were preserved, having been made by Melania's zeal burnt­offerings to the Lord.

CHAPTER LV: SILVANIA (MELANIA continued)

[1] IT SO happened that we traveled together from Aelia to Egypt, escorting the blessed Silvania the virgin, sister­in­law of Rufinus the ex­prefect. Among the party there was Jovinus also with us, then a deacon, but now bishop of the church of Ascalon, a devout and learned man. We came into an intense heat and, when we reached Pelusium, it chanced that Jovinus took a basin and gave his hands and feet a thorough wash in ice­cold water, and after washing flung a rug on the ground and lay down to rest. id] She came to him like a wise mother of a true son and began to scoff at his softness, saying: " How dare you at your age, when your blood is still vigorous, thus coddle your flesh, not perceiving the mischief that is engendered by it? Be sure of this, be sure of it, that I am in the sixtieth year of my life and except for the tips of my fingers neither my feet nor my face nor any one of my limbs have touched water, although I am a victim to various ailments and the doctors try to force me. I have not consented to make the customary concessions to the flesh, never in my travels have I rested on a bed or used a litter."

[3] Being very learned and loving literature she turned night into day by perusing every writing of the ancient commentators, including 3,000,000 (lines) of Origen and 2,500,000 (lines) of Gregory, Stephen, Pierius, Basil, and other standard writers. Nor did she read them once only and casually, but she laboriously went through each book seven or eight times. Wherefore also she was enabled to be freed from knowledge falsely so called (I Tim. 6:20) and to fly on wings, thanks to the grace of these books; elevated by kindly hopes she made herself a spiritual bird and journeyed to Christ.

Palladius: The Lausiac History


St. Melania the Elder 

Source

Several sources for the life of Melania the Elder, the most complete first hand record being Palladius's Lausiac History (trans. R.T. Meyer, Ancient Christian Writers, Paulist Press, ©1964), containing three chapters, numerous additional references, and the life of her granddaughter, St. Melania the Younger. Important additional first-hand information is located in the writings of Rufinus of Aquileia, St. Jerome, and in the lives several Fathers of the Egyptian Desert.[1] The accounts are not consistent in every detail, especially with regard to her son.[2]

Life

St.Melania was the daughter of the Roman consul, Marcellinus, and born Spain in 341. She moved to Rome following her marriage at age 14, to a proconsul and prefect of Rome. She was widowed eight years later, age 22.

Among the richest women of her day, she gave away her son to the care of a trustee, and took all her household goods to Alexandria, where she sold them and befriended the ascetics and teachers there. She made extended pilgrimages to the Nitrian desert, learning true philosophy from the great fathers, including Pambo, Paphnutius, Isidore, and Evagrius. When the Arian bishop Alexandria, Theophilos, banished many ascetics and hierarchs during the anthropomorphite controversy, St. Melania followed them into Palestine.

The depth of her compassion for the needy is reflected in an Egyptian tradition holding that to alleviate suffering at the hands of the Arians, she feed out of her own wealth some 5,000 people over the course of three days.

In Palestine, St Melania supported the ascetics from her own wealth. To serve them, she wore slave's clothing, an action that resulted in her being cast into prison. When brought before the judge she defended her action declaring herself a slave of Christ.

St. Melania remained in Jerusalem when the exiled ascetics were allowed to return to Egypt, and out of her own wealth established a female cenobium on the Mount of Olives that exceeded fifty monastics, energetically practiced hospitality, and funded churches and monasteries in the Roman and Persian Empires, and charitable works. Erudite, she constantly read and re-read the works of Origen, Basil the Basil the Great, and Gregory of Nazianzus, turning night into day, she once reproached a young man, saying How can a warm-blooded young man like you dare to pamper your flesh...Do you not know that this is the source of much harm? Look, I am sixty years old and neither my feet nor my face, nor any of members, except for the tips of my fingers, touched water, although I am afflicted with many aliments and my doctors urge me. I have not yet made concessions to my bodily desires, nor have I used a couch for resting, nor have I ever made a journey on a litter.

As in Alexandria, in Jerusalem she used the nobility of her character and hospitality in service of the unity and peace of the Church. In the words of Palladius describing her, and her coenobium's, work:

So, for twenty-seven years they both entertained with their own private funds the bishops, solitaries, and virgins who visited them, coming to Jerusalem to fulfill a vow. They edified all their visitors and united the four hundred monks of the Pauline schism by persuading every heretic who denied the Holy Spirit and so brought them back to the Church. They bestowed gifts on the local clergy, and so finished their days without offending anyone.

At age sixty, she traveled to Rome and promoting and teaching the ascetic, peace-loving life. Among those choosing to follow her in the practice of self-control and renunciation were her daughter-in-law, Albina, her granddaughter, St. Melania the Younger and her husband, Pinianus. In doing so, she challenged the Roman Senators and their wives, for whom notions of asceticism within marriage, chastity, and virginity were deeply scandalous. Palladius records her prophetic response: Little children, it was written over four hundred years ago, it is the last hour. Why are you fond of the vain things of life? Beware lest the days of the Antichrist overtake you and you not enjoy your wealth and your ancestral property. Prophetic, for Rome was soon sacked Alaric in 410, the year of her repose.
Prior to her repose, St. Melania disposed of all her wealth, sending it to Jerusalem.

Understanding Her

St. Melania and her social network was one of the most important in the fourth and early fifth century Christianity. Fluent and well read in both Latin and Greek, her geographical connections reached from Spain to Persia. She grew-up as a member of the first generation in which members of the nobility and social elites were expected to take Christianity seriously, and lived to see it become the official religion of the Empire. This she did without hypocrisy or compromise in her way of living, first becoming both an icon of repentance and then an evangelist to her social peers, urging them to understand the way of salvation through a life in Him upon whose shoulders rested the government of the universe.

Her connections to Hellenistic Christianity of Alexandria, Origen and Evagrius, is no more a basis for skepticism than the use of these important authors by most of the great Church Fathers. Indeed, both the breadth of her reading and her political savvy is reflected in her opposition to Arianism, and how personally she understood the Psalmist when he said Jerusalem is builded as a city which its dwellers share in concord. (Ps. 121, LXX) and again Behold now, what is so good or so joyous as for the brethren to dwell together in unity?...For the Lord commanded the blessing, life forevermore. (Ps. 132, LXX). In age which saw both the apostasy of Julian, the destructiveness of Arianism, and proclamations of the Council of Nicaea, providing erudite hospitality at the center of Christian pilgrimage was no plain piety.

Making Jerusalem, and not Alexandria, the center of her activity during the difficult period between the Councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon, St. Melania and her community on the Mount of Olives were profoundly important to the sifting of ascetical wisdom and liturgical expression (that is theological) synthesis that based Palestinian monasticism.[3]

Humbling herself by submitting all her wealth, erudition, and daily activity to the hosting of Christ, acquiring poverty by elevating those poor in body and mind, she acquired a mature Christian soul, thus, in Palladius words, became a female Man of God. The comparison to St. Alexis, the Man of God is instructive, for both profound saints, the highest reality is the anticipation of fully unity with the true Bridegroom, Christ God. Her life gives no room for effeminate sentimentality, let alone then, as now, contemporary sociological agendas: St. Melania the Elder's asceticism is as needed as it is uncompromising.

Odes of Solomon: Ode II


I am putting on the Love of the Lord.
And His members are with Him,
And I am dependent on them; and He loves me.
For I should not have know how to love the Lord
If He had not continuously loved me.
Who is able to distinguish love,
Except him who is loved?
I love the Beloved and I myself love Him,
And where His rest is, there also am I.
And I shall be no stranger,
Because there is no jealousy with the Lord Most High and Merciful.
I have been united to Him, because the lover has found the Beloved,
Because I live Him that is the Son, I shall become a son.
Indeed, he who is joint to Him who is immortal,
Truly shall be immortal.
And he who delights in the Life,
Will become living.
This is the Spirit of the Lord, which is not false,
Which teaches the sons of men to know His ways.
Be wise and understanding and vigilant.
Hallelujah.


translated by James H Charlesworth, Scholars Press, ©1977

Troparion and Kontakion

Troparion for St. Melania the Edler, in the Eigth Tone
Scorning perishable riches and worldly dignity, thou sought heavenly glory through self-denial and toils. By humility, thou made noble rank noble in heaven. Thou didst build a holy house in Jerusalem, where thou guided souls to salvation. O Mother Melania grant us the alms of thy rich prayers to God.
Kontakion for St. Melania the Elder, in the Fourth Tone
O wise Melania in using thine earthly to comfort and help the poor, together with the riches of thy mind, thou led many of noble rank to the joy of poverty in spirit for Jesus' sake.

Feast day: June 8

[1cf. Tim Vivian, "Introduction" to Four Desert Fathers, SVS Press, ©2004 for an informative discussion of St. Melania's relationship to the Egyptian desert.

[2Some modern biographies, including official ones, wrongly claim she had three sons, two of which died. While understandable, this is a confusion with her granddaughter, St. Melania the Younger, who, according to both Palladius and Rufinius in Apology Against Jerome, Book 2 (in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series vol. 3), had two children, both of which died prior to the parents entry into asceticism.

[3For a useful introduction, cf. John Binns, Ascetics and Ambassadors of Christ: The Monasteries of Palestine 314-631 Oxford University Press, 1996/©Binns, 1994.