Saints and Persecution

Homily of St Athanasius the Great

Apologia de fuga sua, ante medium

IT IS WRITTEN in the Law : Ye shall appoint you cities to be cities of refuge for you.  Into such cities, they which were pursued by a slayer might enter and be safe.  

And in the latter days, when that same Word of the Father, who aforetime had spoken unto Moses, was come amongst us, he gave again the same commandment in these words : When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another.  

And another time he added : When ye shall see the abomination of desolation (spoken of by Daniel the Prophet) stand in the Holy Place (whose readeth, let him understand,) then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains ; let him which is on the house-top not come down to take anything out of his house ; neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.

THE SAINTS, knowing these words of the Lord, have obeyed them in their lives.  For what the Lord hath thus commanded by his own mouth was the same as he had spoken through his Saints before his coming in the flesh ; and to obey this commandment worketh in a man perfection, since whatever God commandeth is a thing which it behooveth man to do.  

For this cause, that very Word of God himself, after he was made man for our sake, thought it meet when they sought him, even as at this present time they are seeking us, to hide himself ; to fly and escape from their laying in wait for him ; although when that time was come which he had himself decreed, and wherein he willed to suffer in the body for us all, he willingly gave himself up to his enemies.

HOLY MEN of God, therefore, having learnt from this ensample of their Saviour, (for the same is and hath been the Teacher of all such, whether of old time, or in these latter days,) have known how that it is lawful to baffle their persecutors by taking flight, and by hiding themselves when sought after.  

For since they know not the day nor the hour wherein an all-seeing God hath ordained their end, they do not daringly give themselves into the power of such as hate them.  But rather, knowing it to be written : My time is in thy hand : and again : The Lord killeth, and maketh alive : they endure to the end, as saith the Evangelist.  

Yea, they wander about, as saith the Apostle, in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented, of whom the world is not worthy ; they wander in deserts, and in mountains, and hide in dens and caves of the earth, until either their appointed time is come, or until God, the Appointer of times, more plainly speaketh unto them, and chaineth up the persecutors, or manifestly giveth them over into the hands of the same, as may be his own good pleasure.

From the Anglican Breviary

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