Chapter XXVII.—St. Epiphanius, Bishop of Cyprus, and a Particular Account of his Acts.
Epiphanius was at this period at the head of the metropolitan church of Cyprus. 1570 He was celebrated, not only for the virtues he manifested and miraculous deeds during his life, but also for the honor that was rendered to him by God after his death; for it was said that demons were expelled, and diseases healed at his tomb. Many wonderful actions wrought while he lived are attributed to him, of which the following is one of the most remarkable that has come to our knowledge. He was extremely liberal towards the needy, either to those who had suffered from shipwreck or any other calamity; and after expending the whole of his own patrimony in the relief of such cases, he applied the treasures of the church to the same purpose. These treasures had been greatly increased by the donations of pious men of various provinces, who had been induced by their admiration of Epiphanius to entrust him with the distribution of their alms during their lives, or to bequeath their property to him for this purpose at their death. It is said that on one occasion the treasurer, who was a godly man, discovered that the revenues of the church had been nearly drained, and so little remained in the treasury that he considered it his duty to rebuke the bishop as a spendthrift. Epiphanius, however, having, notwithstanding these remonstrances, given away the small sum that had remained, a stranger went to the little house where the treasurer lived, and placed in his hands a bag containing many gold coins. Since neither the giver nor the sender was visible, it seemed very naturally miraculous, that in a gift of so much money a man should keep himp. 396 self unknown; thus everybody thought it to be a Divine work.
I desire also to relate another miracle that is attributed to Epiphanius. I have heard that a similar action has been related of Gregory, who formerly governed Neocæsarea; and I see no reason to doubt the veracity of the account; but it does not disprove the authenticity of the miracle attributed to Epiphanius. Peter, the apostle, was not the only man who raised another from the dead; John, the evangelist, wrought a similar miracle at Ephesus; as did likewise the daughters of Philip at Hierapolis. Similar actions have been performed in different ages by the men of God. The miracle which I wish to instance is the following. Two beggars having ascertained when Epiphanius would pass that way, agreed to extract a larger donation than usual from him by having recourse to stratagem. As soon as the bishop was seen approaching, one of the beggars flung himself on the ground and simulated death; the other stood by and uttered loud lamentations, deploring the loss of his companion, and his own poverty, which made him unable to procure sepulture for him. Epiphanius prayed to God that the deceased might rise in peace; he gave the survivor sufficient money for the interment, and said to the weeper, “Take measures, my son, for the burial of your companion, and weep no more; he cannot now arise from the dead; the calamity was inevitable, therefore you ought to bear it with resignation.” Saying these words, the bishop departed from the spot. As soon as there was no one in sight, the beggar who had addressed Epiphanius touched the other with his foot, as he lay extended on the ground, and said to him, “You have well performed your part; arise now, for through your labor, we have a good provision for to-day.” He, however, lay in the same way, neither heard any cry, nor perceived him who moved him with all his strength; the other beggar ran after the priest and confessed their artifice, and, with lamentations and tearing of his hair, he besought Epiphanius to restore his companion. Epiphanius merely exhorted him to submit with patience to the catastrophe, and sent him away. God did not undo what had happened, because, I feel persuaded, it was his design to show that those who practice deception on his servants are accounted as guilty of the fraud as if it had been perpetrated against Him who sees all, and who hears all.
Independent chapter. Cf. life by alleged Polybius.