Saint Nil l'Ascète
Abbé (✝ v. 450)
Disciple de saint Jean Chrysostome, il fut préfet de Constantinople à l'époque de l'empereur Théodose. Marié à une pieuse chrétienne et père d'une fille et d'un fils, ils décidèrent quelques années plus tard d'aller vivre au désert. Ils se retirèrent au Mont-Sinaï, dans la solitude, rejoignant les moines du monastère de Sainte Catherine seulement les dimanches et les jours de fête. Une bande arabe fit un jour irruption dans le monastère. Beaucoup de moines furent massacrés. Les plus jeunes dont Théodule, le fils de saint Nil, furent emmenés pour être vendus comme esclaves. Quelques-uns s'enfuirent et, parmi eux, saint Nil. Revenu au monastère, il reprit sa vie ascétique, écrivit plusieurs traités spirituels dont "la philosophie du Saint-Esprit". Il défendit par ses écrits saint Jean Chrysostome alors exilé. Il eut la joie de retrouver son fils quelques années avant sa mort.
Près d’Ancyre en Galatie, au Ve siècle, saint Nil, abbé, qui fut disciple de saint Jean Chrysostome, gouverna longtemps son monastère et diffusa par ses écrits la spiritualité ascétique.
Saint-Nilus (Neilos) l'Ermite (Vème siècle), anachorète, docteur de l'Église, est originaire d'Ancyre, en Galatie. Il reçut les leçons de saint Chrysostome, et dut à ses talents encore plus qu'à son illustre naissance d'être élevé à la dignité de préfet de Constantinople. Les honneurs et les richesses n'avaient aucun attrait pour son âme tout occupée de Dieu, et sa famille partageait ses pieux sentiments. Sa femme et sa fille embrassèrent la vie religieuse dans un monastère, et lui-même se retira avec son fils Théodule dans le désert de Sinaï, où il pratiqua les exercices les plus parfaits de la vie monastique, partageant son temps entre la prière, l'étude et le travail des mains. Ce fut là qu'il composa les écrits parmi lesquels on remarque surtout son vigoureux plaidoyer pour un retour à la pauvreté monastique par une apologie d'une vie de prière loin de l'agitation des cités, et son livre de la Prière, qui l'ont fait regarder comme un des plus éloquents disciples de saint Chrysostome. Saint Nil mourut dans un âge fort avancé sous le règne de Marcien vers 451. Ses reliques furent transportées du mont Sinaï à Constantinople, au temps de Justin le Jeune, et déposées dans la basilique des Saints-Apôtres, le 12 novembre, jour où l'Église honore sa mémoire.
Saint Nilus s'était retiré dans la solitude pour prier pour le monde qu'il estimait si perverti, et ses oraisons furent gratifiées de quelques lumières particulières pour l'époque où les temps de la terre seraient accomplis…
Nilus l'aîné, du Sinai (mort en 430 ch), a été l'un des nombreux disciples de saint Jean Chrysostome. On le connaît d'abord comme un laïc, marié , Avec deux fils. À cette époque, il était un fonctionnaire de la Cour de Constantinople , Et aurait été l'un des Prætorian Préfets , Qui, selon Dioclétien et Constantin sont les principaux fonctionnaires et les chefs de tous les autres gouverneurs pour les quatre principales divisions de l'empire. Leur autorité, cependant, avait déjà commencé à diminuer d'ici à la fin du quatrième siècle.
Alors que Saint Jean Chrysostome a été patriarche, avant son premier exil (398-403), il a dirigé Nilus dans l'étude de Scripture Ecriture et dans les œuvres de piété (Nikephoros Kallistos, "Hist. Eccl.", XIV, 53, 54). A propos de l'année 390 (Tillemont, "Mémoires", XIV, 190-91), ou peut-être 404 (Leo Allatius "De Nilis», 11-14). Nilus a quitté son épouse et un fils et a pris l'autre, Theodulos, Avec lui au mont Sinaï pourdevenir moine. Ils ont vécu là jusqu'à environ l'an 410 (Tillemont, ib., P. 405) où les Sarrasins envahitrnt le monastère et firent prisonnier Theodulos, destiné au sacrifice de leurs dieux. Mais finalement ils le vendirent comme esclave. De sorte qu'il devint la possession de l'évêque de Eleusa Eleusa en Palestine. L'évêque reçu Theodulos parmi les membres du clergé et fit de lui le porte-détenteur de la l'église. Nilus ayant quitté son monastère à la recherche de son fils, le retrouva à Eleusa Eleusa L'évêque après avoir ordonné les prêtres, leur permis de revenir au Sinaï . La mère et l'autre fils avaient également embrassé la vie religieuse en Egypte. Saint-Nilus resta certainement en vie jusqu'à l'an 430. . On ne sait pas combien de temps après il mourrut. Certains auteurs croient qu'il vécu jusqu'en 451 (Leo Allatius, op. cit., 8-14). C'est ce que suppose l'Eglise Byzantine qui le fête le 12 Novembre. D'autre part, aucun de ses ouvrages n'évoque le Concile d'Ephèse (431) ) et il semble ne connaître que le début des troubles nestoriens, donc nous n'avons pas de preuves de sa vie au-delà de 430.
De son monastère du Sinaï, Nilus fut reconnu dans l'ensemble de l'Eglise d'Orient, par ses écrits et sa correspondance qui attestent qu'il a joué un rôle important dans l'histoire de son temps. Il était connu comme théologien, érudit théologique et écrivain ermite, de sorte que les gens de toutes sortes, de l'empereur jusqu'aux plus simples, lui écrivaient et le consultaient. Ses nombreuses œuvres, dont une multitude de lettres, composées de dénonciations d'hérésie, de paganisme, de manque de discipline , de règles et de principes d'ascétisme. En particulier les maximes sur la vie religieuse. Il met en garde et menace les personnes en haut lieu, des abbés et des évêques, des gouverneurs et des princes, et même l'empereur lui-même, sans peur. Il a tenu une correspondance avec Gaina, un chef de file des Goths, en s'attachant à le convertir de l'Arianisme (livre I de ses lettres, nos. 70, 79, 114, 115, 116, 205, 206, 286), il dénoncé vigoureusement la persécution de Saint Jean Chrysostome à la fois à l'empereur Arcadius (ib., II, 265, III, 279) et de ses courtisans (I, 309, III, 199).
Nilus doit être considéré comme l'un des principaux écrivains ermite du Ve siècle. Sa fête est maintenue, le 12 Novembre dans le Calendrier Byzantin ; Il est rappelé également dans la martyrologie romaine à la même date. Les Arméniens se souveniènnent de lui, avec d'autres Pères égyptiens le Jeudi du troisième dimanche de l'Avent (Nilles, «Kalendarium Manuale", Innsbruck, 1897, II, 624).
Les écrits de St. Nilus du Sinai Sinaï ont d'abord été édité par Possinus Possinus (Paris, 1639); en 1673 Francisco Suárez a publié un supplément à Rome, ses lettres ont été recueillies par Possinus (Paris, 1657), une plus grande collection a été faite par Leo Allatius (Rome, 1668).
Nilus the Elder, Abbot (RM)
(also known as Nilus the Wise)
Died c. 430. Here we have another example of a problematic saint-- or rather two saints with the same name who lived about the same time and place. In the course of history, their stories became intertwined, so that now it is difficult to untangle them. Both of their stories, however, are interesting. Attwater says that today's Nilus (the Wise of Ancyra) became a disciple of Saint John Chrysostom when a student at Constantinople. On returning to his native Ancyra (now Ankara, Turkey) he founded a monastery nearby, where he wrote the works for which he is remembered. They were intended for his monks, and are mostly moral and ascetical treatises; a series of his passages on prayer is printed in English in Early Fathers from the Philokalia (1954), but it is a work of which the authorship is questioned. Nilus also conducted a large correspondence (including two letters addressed to Emperor Arcadius rebuking the emperor for exiling Saint John Chrysostom from Constantinople) and many of his letters are extant.
Delaney records the story of the other Nilus (the Elder) and claims today as his feast also. He says that Nilus was an imperial official, perhaps a prefect, at Constantinople, where he became a disciple of Saint John Chrysostom. Though married with two children, Nilus became a monk on Mount Sinai, taking his son Theodulus, after Nilus and his wife mutually agreed to leave the secular world.
During a raid on the monastery by Arabs, Theodulus was kidnapped and Nilus went after him, finally tracing him to Eleusa (near Beersheba), where he had been given shelter by the local bishop, who ordained both of them. Nilus is reputed to have written theological and ascetical treatises and numerous letters but many authorities believe that Nilus the author was a monk called "the Wise" at Ankara, Turkey (then Ancyra, Galatia) (Attwater, Benedictines, Delaney). Even in the latest version of the Benedictine work, the two are confused.
St. Nilus, Anchoret, Father of the Church, Confessor
NOBILITY, dignities, honours, and riches, have not given such great lustre to the name of St. Nilus, as the contempt of those things for the love of Christ. In his retreat, such was his care to live unknown to the world, that he has concealed from us the very manner of life which he led in the desert, and all we know of him is reduced to certain general circumstances. He seems to have been a native of Ancyra in Galatia, says Orsi: it appears by his writings that he had a regular education, in which piety and religion had always the ascendant. It is uncertain at what time of life he had St. Chrysostom for master; but it must have been at Antioch, whither the reputation of that holy doctor must have drawn him, perhaps when he resigned his government in order to retire from the world. St. Nilus was married, had two sons, lived in great splendour and dignity, and was raised by the emperor to the post of prefect or governor of Constantinople. The ambition, avarice, jealousies, and other vices which reigned in the court of Arcadius, could not fail to alarm the conscience of a pious and timorous magistrate, who, in all his actions, feared nothing so much as to authorize or connive at injustice or sin. And the desire of living only to God and himself worked so strongly in his heart, that he obtained, though with some difficulty, his wife’s consent to withdraw himself from the world, about the year 390. His eldest son he left to her care to be trained up to the duties of his station in the world, and with the younger named Theodulus, betook himself to a solitary life in the desert of Sinai. In this retreat they lived together in the most fervent exercises of the monastic state, and sustained many conflicts against both their visible and invisible enemies.
The works which St. Nilus hath left us were in great request amongst the ancients, and as Photius justly remarks, 1 demonstrate the excellent perfection of his virtue, and his great talent of eloquence. 2 In his treatise, On the Monastic Life, he observes that Christ came from heaven to teach men the true way of virtue and wisdom, to which all the sages of the ancients were strangers. He adds, that the first Christians imitated their master in all things; but that this primitive zeal being cooled, some persons took a resolution to abandon the perplexing business of the world, and renounced riches and pleasures, the better to apply themselves to the exercise of all virtues, and to curb their passions. But that this state, so holy in its original, had then so much degenerated, that many professors of it disgraced it by their irregularities. These disorders he censures with great fervour and acuteness, in this and his other ascetic works, in which he strongly recommends voluntary poverty, obedience, concord, and humility. In his book on prayer, a work particularly admired by Photius, many excellent maxims are laid down. The saint recommends, that we beg of God, in the first place, the gift of prayer, and entreat the Holy Ghost to form in our hearts those pure and ardent desires which he has promised always to hear, and that he vouchsafe to teach us interiorly to pray: this holy doctor will have us only to ask of God, that his will be done in the most perfect manner. To persons in the world, he inculcates temperance, humility, prayer, contempt of the world, continual meditation on death, and the obligation of giving large alms. The saint was always ready to communicate to others his spiritual science. For, in the tranquillity of his solitude, he had learned to know God in a manner in which he is not known in the tumult of the world, and to taste the sweets of his peace. What proficiency he had made in the maxims of an interior life, and in the study of the holy scriptures, and how much he was consulted by persons of all ranks, appear from the great number of his letters, which are still extant. They are short but elegant, and written with spirit and vehemency, especially when any vice is the theme. By an express treatise, he endeavours to show the state of anchorets or hermits to be preferable to that of religious who live in communities in cities, because the latter find it more difficult to preserve their virtue and recollection, and to subdue their passions; but he must speak of hermits, who have been first well exercised under some experienced master, and he takes notice that hermits have their particular difficulties and great trials. This he himself had experienced by violent interior temptations and troubles of mind with which the devil long assaulted him; but he overcame them by assiduous reading, prayer, singing of psalms, frequent genuflexions, patience, the practice of humility, and the sign of the cross, with which he armed himself upon the sudden appearance of an enemy. 3 The same arms he recommends to others under the like temptations. 4 He lays down excellent rules against all vices in his treatises, On Evil Thoughts, On Vices, and On the Eight Vicious Thoughts or Capital Sins, on which he says excellent things, especially on the dangers of vain glory and sloth. Who would not have thought that St. Nilus, by forsaking the world, was out of the reach of exterior trials and afflictions: yet, in the wilderness, he met with the most grievous. The Saracens making an inroad into the deserts of Sinai, massacred a great number of the monks, and finding Theodulus, our saint’s son, in a certain monastery, they carried him away captive with several others. The anxious father sought him on every side, and fell himself into the hands of the invaders, but soon procured his liberty. At length he found his son at Eleusa, with the bishop of that city, who had ransomed him out of charity. The good prelate with joy restored him to his father, whom he obliged to receive the holy order of priesthood at his hands. 5 Nilus was then fifty years old. He lived to a very great age, and died in the reign of the emperor Martian. His love of obscurity followed him to the grave, so that the year and circumstances of his happy death are concealed from us. His remains were brought to Constantinople in the reign of Justin the Younger, and deposited in the church of the apostles there. On St. Nilus see the accurate Leo Allatius, Diatriba de Nilis et eorum scriptis, in the end of his epistles; Fabricius, Bibl. Gr. ad Leon. Allat. Diatrib. de Nilis, ad calcem, vol. 5; Tillemont, t. 14; Orsi, l. 28, n. 83, 84, 85, 94; Jos. Assemani in Calend. ad 14 Jan. t. 6, p. 68.
Note 1. Cod. 201. [back]
Note 2. The works of St. Nilus, without his letters, were published at Rome in 1673, by Joseph-Maria Suarez. F. Peter Poussines, Jesuit, published his letters to the number of 335, in quarto, at Paris, in 1657. Leo Allatius hath printed a much greater number in four books, at Rome, in 1668, folio. The saint frequently admonishes priests not to be too harsh in receiving sinners; and relates that, in the time of the apostles, a bishop called Carpus was rebuked by Christ in a vision, for using too much rigour towards penitents: (l. 2, ep. 190, et ep. 64, l. 4, recited in the second council of Nice:) he blames the Lord Olympiodorus, to whom this letter is addressed, that he had caused the shapes of beasts and other strange forms to be painted upon the walls of the church; and tells him, that we may only paint the cross in the chancel, and round the church place pictures of the Old and New Testament, that those who cannot read may learn the history of the Bible. The Iconoclasts had falsified this passage by putting it, may white over the walls, instead of, may paint, &c. He tells us, (l. 1, ep. 294,) that St. Chrysostom, celebrating the divine mysteries, saw angels attending the priests at the distribution of the adorable body and blood of Jesus Christ. [back]
Note 3. L. de Theodulo filio, n. 8. [back]
Note 4. L. 3, ep. 98. [back]
Note 5. See S. Nili, narrationes septem de cæde Monachorum, et de captivitate filii sui Theoduli. [back]
Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73). Volume XI: November. The Lives of the Saints. 1866.
Nilus the elder, of Sinai (died c. 430), was one of the many disciples and fervent defenders of St. John Chrysostom. We know him first as a layman, married, with two sons. At this time he was an officer at the Court of Constantinople, and is said to have been one of the Prætorian Prefects, who, according to Diocletian and Constantine's arrangement, were the chief functionaries and heads of all other governors for the four main divisions of the empire. Their authority, however, had already begun to decline by the end of the fourth century.
While St. John Chrysostom was patriarch, before his first exile (398-403), he directed Nilus in the study of Scripture and in works of piety (Nikephoros Kallistos, "hist. Eccl.", XIV, 53, 54). About the year 390 (Tillemont, "Mémoires", XIV, 190-91) or perhaps 404 (Leo Allatius, "De Nilis", 11-14), Nilus left his wife and one son and took the other, Theodulos, with him to Mount Sinai to be a monk. They lived here till about the year 410 (Tillemont, ib., p. 405) when the Saracens, invading the monastery, took Theodulos prisoner. The Saracens intended to sacrifice him to their gods, but eventually sold him as a slave, so that he came into the possession of the Bishop of Eleusa in Palestine. The Bishop received Theodulos among his clergy and made him door-keeper of the church. Meanwhile Nilus, having left his monastery to find his son, at last met him at Eleusa. The bishop then ordained them both priests and allowed them to return to Sinai. The mother and the other son had also embraced the religious life in Egypt. St. Nilus was certainly alive till the year 430. It is uncertain how soon after that he died. Some writers believe him to have lived till 451 (Leo Allatius, op. cit., 8-14). The Byzantine Menology for his feast (12 November) supposes this. On the other hand, none of his works mentions the Council of Ephesus (431) and he seems to know only the beginning of the Nestorian troubles; so we have no evidence of his life later than about 430.
From his monastery at Sinai Nilus was a wellknown person throughout the Eastern Church; by his writings and correspondence he played an important part in the history of his time. He was known as a theologian, Biblical scholar and ascetic writer, so people of all kinds, from the emperor down, wrote to consult him. His numerous works, including a multitude of letters, consist of denunciations of heresy, paganism, abuses of discipline and crimes, of rules and principles of asceticism, especially maxims about the religious life. He warns and threatens people in high places, abbots and bishops, governors and princes, even the emperor himself, without fear. He kept up a correspondence with Gaina, a leader of the Goths, endeavouring to convert him from Arianism (Book I of his letters, nos. 70, 79, 114, 115, 116, 205, 206, 286); he denounced vigorously the persecution of St. John Chrysostom both to the Emperor Arcadius (ib., II, 265; III, 279) and to his courtiers (I, 309; III, 199).
Nilus must be counted as one of the leading ascetic writers of the fifth century. His feast is kept on 12 November in the Byzantine Calendar; he is commemorated also in the Roman martyrology on the same date. The Armenians remember him, with other Egyptian fathers, on the Thursday after the third Sunday of their Advent (Nilles, "Kalendarium Manuale", Innsbruck, 1897, II, 624).
The writings of St. Nilus of Sinai were first edited by Possinus (Paris, 1639); in 1673 Francisco Suárez published a supplement at Rome; his letters were collected by Possinus (Paris, 1657), a larger collection was made by Leo Allatius (Rome, 1668). All these editions are used in P.G., LXXIX. The works are divided by Fessler-Jungmann into four classes:
- (1) Works about virtues and vices in general: — "Peristeria" (P.G., LXXIX, 811-968), a treatise in three parts addressed to a monk Agathios; "On Prayer" (peri proseuches, ib., 1165-1200); "Of the eight spirits of wickedness" (peri ton th'pneumaton tes ponerias, ib., 1145-64); "Of the vice opposed to virtues" (peri tes antizygous ton areton kakias, ib., 1140-44); "Of various bad thoughts" (peri diapsoron poneron logismon, ib., 1200-1234); "On the word of the Gospel of Luke", xxii, 36 (ib., 1263-1280).
- (2) "Works about the monastic life": — Concerning the slaughter of monks on Mount Sinai, in seven parts, telling the story of the author's life at Sinai, the invasion of the Saracens, captivity of his son, etc. (ib., 590-694); Concerning Albianos, a Nitrian monk whose life is held up as an example (ib., 695-712); "Of Asceticism" (Logos asketikos, about the monastic ideal, ib., 719-810); "Of voluntary poverty" (peri aktemosynes, ib., 968-1060); "Of the superiority of monks" (ib., 1061-1094); "To Eulogios the monk" (ib., 1093-1140).
- (3) "Admonitions" (Gnomai) or "Chapters" (kephalaia), about 200 precepts drawn up in short maxims (ib., 1239-62). These are probably made by his disciples from his discourses.
- (4) "Letters": — Possinus published 355, Allatius 1061 letters, divided into four books (P.G., LXXIX, 81-585). Many are not complete, several overlap, or are not really letters but excerpts from Nilus' works; some are spurious. Fessler-Jungmann divides them into classes, as dogmatic, exegetical, moral, and ascetic. Certain works wrongly attributed to Nilus are named in Fessler-Jungmann, pp. 125-6.
NIKEPHOROS KALLISTOS, Hist. Eccl., XIV, xliv; LEO ALLATIUS, Diatriba de Nilis et eorum scriptis in his edition of the letters (Rome, 1668); TILLEMONT, Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire ecclésiastique, XIV (Paris, 1693-1713), 189-218; FABRICIUS-HARLES, Bibliotheca græca, X (Hamburg, 1790-1809), 3-17; CEILLIER, Histoire générale des auteurs sacrés, XIII (Paris, 1729-1763), iii; FESSLER-JUNGMANN, Institutiones Patrologiæ, II (Innsbruck, 1896), ii, 108-128.
Fortescue, Adrian. "St. Nilus." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 12 Nov. 2016 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11079b.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Douglas J. Potter. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.
- Nilus of Sinai
- Nilus of Ancyra
- Neilos of….
Byzantine imperial official; may even have been a Prætorian Prefect. Married and father of two. When the children were grown, Nilus and the wife agreed to lead separate lives devoted to God. Monk on Mount Sinai with his son Theodulus.
After a few years on the Mount, Arab raiders kidnapped Theodulus. Nilus went in search of him and found him in Eleusa in Palestine where the bishop had ransomed him out of slavery and made him the door-keeper of his church. The bishop ordained them both, and the returned to Sinai.
Noted author on theological matters, his works influenced the Eastern Church. Bishop of Ancyra. Friend, supporter and spiritual student of Saint John Chrystostom.
- 4th century Byzantium
- c.430 of natural causes
San Nilo il Sinaita Confessore
IV-V sec. - Ancyra (Galazia), 430 circa
Martirologio Romano: Presso Ankara in Galazia, nell’odierna Turchia, san Nilo, abate, che, ritenuto discepolo di san Giovanni Crisostomo, resse a lungo un monastero e diffuse con i suoi scritti la dottrina ascetica.
bizantini sarebbe stato prefetto di Costantinopoli sotto Teodosio il Grande. Sposato e padre di due figli, decise di lasciare tutto ed intraprendere vita ascetica ed eremitica. Per questo, andò a vivere sul Sinai, mentre la moglie ed una figlia ne seguirono l'esempio, recandosi in un romitorio in Egitto.
Molto probabilmente, S. Nilo era discepolo del grande S. Giovanni Crisostomo, e divenne abate di un monastero ad Ancyra, in Galazia, dove morì intorno al 430 d.C.
In suo onore, il Santo di Rossano Calabro, Nicola Malena, assunse, dopo aver preso i voti a S. Nazario, presso Salerno, il nome di Nilo, divenendo appunto S. Nilo di Rossano, fondatore di Grottaferrata.
Autore: Francesco Patruno