Pictor’s Metamorphoses – The Enamored Youth

The saint turned to the maiden and bellowed: “Who has made of God’s handmaid a vessel of unholy lust?”

-“The Enamored Youth,” Pictor’s Metamorphoses, Hesse

There was a youth in the neighbourhood of the same market-town of Gaza who was desperately in love with one of God’s virgins. After he had tried again and again those touches, jests, nods, and whispers which so commonly lead to the destruction of virginity, but had made no progress by these means, he went to a magician at Memphis to whom he proposed to make known his wretched state, and then, fortified with his arts, to return to his assault upon the virgin. Accordingly after a year’s instruction by the priest of Æsculapius, who does not heal souls but destroys them, he came full of the lust which he had previously allowed his mind to entertain, and buried beneath the threshold of the girl’s house certain magical formulæ; and revolting figures engraven on a plate of Cyprian brass. Thereupon the maid began to show signs of insanity, to throw away the covering of her head, tear her hair, gnash her teeth, and loudly call the youth by name. Her intense affection had become a frenzy. Her parents therefore brought her to the monastery and delivered her to the aged saint. No sooner was this done than the devil began to howl and confess. “I was compelled, I was carried off against my will. How happy I was when I used to beguile the men of Memphis in their dreams! What crosses, what torture I suffer! You force me to go out, and I am kept bound under the threshold. I cannot go out unless the young man who keeps me there lets me go.” The old man answered, “Your strength must be great indeed, if a bit of thread and a plate can keep you bound. Tell me, how is it that you dared to enter into this maid who belongs to God?” “That I might preserve her as a virgin,” said he. “You preserve her, betrayer of chastity! Why did you not rather enter into him who sent you?” “For what purpose,” he answers, “should I enter into one who was in alliance with a comrade of my own, the demon of love?” But the saint would not command search to be made for either the young man or the charms till the maiden had undergone a process of purgation, for fear that it might be thought that the demon had been released by means of incantations, or that he himself had attached credit to what he said. He declared that demons are deceitful and well versed in dissimulation, and sharply rebuked the virgin when she had recovered her health for having by her conduct given an opportunity for the demon to enter.

The Life of St. Hilarion, St. Jerome (390 AD), paragraph 21

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