Chapter VI.—Athanasius, after having been Seven Years concealed in the House of a Wise and Beautiful Virgin, reappears at that time in Public, and enters the Church of Alexandria.
At this period, Athanasius, who had long remained in concealment, having heard of the death of Constantius, appeared by night in the church at Alexandria. 1376 His unexpected appearance excited the greatest astonishment. He had escaped falling into the hands of the governor of Egypt, who, at the command of the emperor, and at the request of the friends of George, had formed plans to arrest him, as before stated, and had concealed himself in the house of a holy virgin in Alexandria. It is said that she was endowed with such extraordinary beauty, that those who beheld her regarded her as a phenomenon of nature; and that men who possessed continence and prudence, kept aloof from her in order that no blame might be attached to them by the suspicious. She was in the very flower of youth and was exceedingly modest and prudent, qualities which are wont alone to adorn the body even to a refinement of beauty when nature may not be helpful with the gift. For it is not true, as some assert, that “as is the body, so is the soul.” On the contrary, the habit of the body is imaged forth by the operation of the soul, and any one who is active in any way whatever will appear to be of that nature as long as he may be thus actively engaged.
This is a truth I think admitted by all who have accurately investigated the subject. It is related that Athanasius sought refuge in the house of this holy virgin by the revelation of God, who designed to save him in this manner.
When I reflect on the result which ensued, I cannot doubt but that all the events were directed by God; so that the relatives of Athanasius might not have distress if any one had attempted to trouble them about him, and had they been compelled to swear. There was nothing to excite suspicion of a priest being concealed in the house of so lovely a virgin. However, she had the courage to receive him, and through her prudence preserved his life. She was his most faithful keeper and assiduous servant; for she washed his feet and brought him food, and she alone served in every other necessity, which nature demands in her exacting uses; the books he stood in need of she cared for through the help of others; during the long time in which these services were rendered, none of the inhabitants of Alexandria knew anything about it.
Pallad. H. I. 136; cf. Soc. iii. 4; cf. Chronicon prævium to Festal letters, under a.d. 360.