Gleanings from Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers

greed

There was in Alexandria a virgin of humble appearance but of overbearing disposition. She was exceedingly rich, but never gave an obol to a stranger, virgin, church, or poor man. Despite the many rebukes of the fathers, she did not turn herself away from material wealth. Now she had some relatives and she adopted one of them, her sister's daughter, and night and day without any longing for heaven she kept promising her all her wealth. For this is one way the devil deceives us, by contriving to make us fight to excess in the guise of loving one's relatives ....

Now they say that the blessed Macarius wished to tap a vein of this virgin to alleviate her greed. This Macarius, priest and superior of the poorhouse for cripples, devised the following ruse. In his younger days he had been a worker in stones, what they call a gem engraver. He went to her and said: "Some precious stones, emeralds, and hyacinths, have come into my possession; whether they are simply a find or stolen property, I cannot say. Their value has not been ascertained, since they are priceless, but they can be had by anyone who has five hundred coins. If you take them, you will get your five hundred coins back from one stone; the rest you can use to pretty up your niece."

Intent on his every word, the maiden took the bait and fell at his feet, "I beseech you," she exclaimed, "do not let anyone else have them." Then he invited her, "Come to my dwelling and see them." She was not willing to wait, however, but threw down the five hundred coins for him, saying, "Take them as you wish, for I do not want to see the man who put them up for sale."

He took the five hundred coins and gave them for the needs of the hospital. Some time elapsed, and since the man seemed to have a very great reputation in Alexandria, and a love of God, and was charitable -- he was active until he was a hundred; we spent some time with him ourselves -- well, she was discreet about reminding him. Eventually she found him in the church and asked him, "I beg you, what did you decide about those stones for which I gave you the five hundred coins?"

He said in reply, "Just as soon as you gave me the money I put it down for the price of the stones. If you wish, come and see them in the hospital, for they are there. Come and see if they please you; if they do not, take your money back."

Now the hospital had the women on the upper floor and the men on the ground floor. And leading her he brought her up to the entrance and asked: "What do you want to see first, the hyacinths or the emeralds?" She replied: "As you please." He took her to the upper floor, pointed out the crippled and inflamed women, and said: "Look, here are your hyacinths!" And he led her back down again and showed her the men: "Behold your emeralds! If they do not please you, take your money back!"... Palladius Hist. Laus. 6. 1-9







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