Chapter IX.—Serapion, the Archdeacon, and St. Olympias. Some of the Celebrated Men insolently bear down upon John, traducing him as Impracticable and Passionate.
The enmity of the clergy against John was greatly increased by Serapion, his archdeacon. He was an Egyptian, naturally prone to anger, and always ready to insult his opponents. 1595 The feelings of hostility were further fostered by the counsel which Olympias received from John. Olympias was of most illustrious birth, and although she had become a widow while young, and was zealously attached to the exercises of monastic philosophy according to the laws of the church, yet Nectarius had ordained her p. 405 as deaconess. John, perceiving that she bestowed her goods liberally on any one who asked her for them, and that she despised everything but the service of God, said to her: “I applaud your intentions; but would have you know that those who aspire to the perfection of virtue according to God, ought to distribute their wealth with economy. You, however, have been bestowing wealth on the wealthy, which is as useless as if you had cast it into the sea. Know you not that you have voluntarily, for the sake of God, devoted all your possessions to the relief of the poor. You ought, therefore, to regard your wealth as belonging to your Master, and to remember that you have to account for its distribution. If you will be persuaded by me, you will in future regulate your donations according to the wants of those who solicit relief. You will thus be enabled to extend the sphere of your benevolence, and your mercy and most zealous care will receive reward from God.”
John had several disputes with many of the monks, particularly with Isaac. He highly commended those who remained in quietude in the monasteries and practiced philosophy there; he protected them from all injustice and solicitiously supplied whatever necessities they might have. But the monks who went out of doors and made their appearance in cities, he reproached and regarded as insulting philosophy. For these causes, he incurred the hatred of the clergy, and of many of the monks, who called him a hard, passionate, morose, and arrogant man. They therefore attempted to bring his life into public disrepute, by stating confidently, as if it were the truth, that he would eat with no one, and that he refused every invitation to a meal that was offered him. I know of no pretext that could have given rise to this assertion, except that, as I have been assured by a man of undoubted veracity, John had, by rigorous asceticism, rendered himself liable to pain in the head and stomach, and was thus prevented from being present at some of the choicest symposia. Hence, however, originated the greatest accusation that was ever devised against him.
Soc. vi. 4, 11; Pallad. Dialog. Pallad. H. L. cxliv.; Epp. xvii. ad Olympiadem. Soz. has independent material concerning Olympias and Isaac.