Chapter XLIII.—A Farther Notice of the Churches at Bethlehem.
For without delay she dedicated two churches to the God whom she adored, one at the grotto which had been the scene of the Saviours birth; the other on the mount of his ascension. For p. 531 he who was “God with us” had submitted to be born even in a cave 3276 of the earth, and the place of his nativity was called Bethlehem by the Hebrews. Accordingly the pious empress honored with rare memorials the scene of her travail who bore this heavenly child, and beautified the sacred cave with all possible splendor. The emperor himself soon after testified his reverence for the spot by princely offerings, and added to his mothers magnificence by costly presents of silver and gold, and embroidered hangings. And farther, the mother of the emperor raised a stately structure on the Mount of Olives also, in memory of his ascent to heaven who is the Saviour of mankind, erecting a sacred church and temple on the very summit of the mount. And indeed authentic history informs us that in this very cave the Saviour imparted his secret revelations to his disciples. 3277 And here also the emperor testified his reverence for the King of kings, by diverse and costly offerings. Thus did Helena Augusta, the pious mother of a pious emperor, erect over the two mystic caverns these two noble and beautiful monuments of devotion, worthy of everlasting remembrance, to the honor of God her Saviour, and as proofs of her holy zeal, receiving from her son the aid of his imperial power. Nor was it long ere this aged woman reaped the due reward of her labors. After passing the whole period of her life, even to declining age, in the greatest prosperity, and exhibiting both in word and deed abundant fruits of obedience to the divine precepts, and having enjoyed in consequence an easy and tranquil existence, with unimpaired powers of body and mind, at length she obtained from God an end befitting her pious course, and a recompense of her good deeds even in this present life.
[Literally, beneath the earth. It seems to have been characteristic of the age of Eusebius to invest the more prominent circumstances connected with the Lords life on earth with a degree of romance and mystery equally inconsistent with Scripture and with probability. It is obvious that Scripture furnishes no authority for the caves either of the nativity or ascension. See ch. 41, supra.—Bag.] Compare discussion by Andrews, Cave of the Nativity in his Life of our Lord (N.Y.), 77–83.531:3277
[Alluding probably, to the discourse in Matt. xxiv., delivered by our Lord to the disciples on the Mount of Olives.—Bag.]