Apocryphal Literature

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Apocryphal Literature

The ascetics renounced everything that was of earthly provenance, neglecting their life needs, lived their days in fasting and prayers, in self improvement according to the principles of the Christian religion, thus approaching God, which was the very ideal of asceticism. The hagiographies aimed at strengthening the Christian moral standard and lacked of historical data, because what was in the foreground were the life principles which the ascetic followed. In accordance with the already established pattern, the hagiography was composed in the latter way in order to glorify as much as possible the moral character of the saint. The hagiographies depicted the saints’ life from beginning to end, and often narrate the miracles they made even after their death. Usually, the first description is that of the saint’s birth and childhood. In almost all of the hagiographies the saint showed piousness and inclination towards religion even as a child. He avoided playing with the rest of the children; he meditated, fasted and prayed. The hagiographer usually underlined points of the saint which were in accordance with the life of a Christian following the Christian canon. The hagiographer added on to the saint supernatural powers, the representations of which were the miracles he generated. The mode often found in the Hagiographies is the dialogue, which created certain dynamism of narration. The monologues were given in the form of a prayer, thrill, grief, crush; they were full of lyric pathos. The very narration within the hagiographies was enriched with abounding comparison, reminiscence, epithets, symbols, and metaphors. The narration was of a rhetorical character. In the epoch of the developed feudal system in the South-Slav lands, those proclaimed to be saints were individuals from the top social layers, from the state and Church hierarchy, including herein, first and foremost, the governors and the Church heads. Their lives are described in a distinct literary genre – the biographies, which were highly fostered in the Middle Ages.
Out of the translated hagiographies the most popular were: The Life of Gorge of Kapadokia, The Life of Paul the Caesarian, the Life of Alexei, the peaceful man etc.
The St. George of Kapadokia Hagiography2F is known as indicated by the earliest copy from the 14th century. The foremost text of the latter hagiography referred to St. George, as a soldier-saint; but, in the following reworked copies, in addition to the basic fable on the fierce tortures St. George underwent, renouncing to give up Christianity, the episode on the dragon, which threatened the life of the emperor’s daughter, was further included in this hagiography’s base.
The St. George of Kapadokia legend was elaborated not only within the Byzantine, but also the South-Slav literature, and in the literature of other cultures, too. This is the type of a Christian hero idealized in the most beautiful way. George of Kapadokia was a character fit to be an idealized combatant for Christianity because, according to tradition, he had come from high social circles, in times of the most severe persecutions of the Christians.
The legend says George was a very rich man, who, following the Christian principles, dealt out everything he had to the poor and took an open stand for the persecuted Christians. Thus he made the emperor furious, so the latter ordered for George to undergo torture, of a sort such that only the medieval writer’s fantasy could give a picture of. He endured most various cruelties – until his brain leaked down his nose. George withstood it all thanks to the prayers and the genuine faith in God.
As a final try, the emperor called the sorcerer to dissuade George from Christianity by means of spell. On the contrary, George made a great impression on him, so he asked to be converted to the Christian faith.
The legend on George of Kapadokia evolved gaining various episodes. This character impressed the feudal lords because it had come from high social circles. Later on, the anonymous writers depicted this character according to the taste and the needs of the feudal society.
Yet another translated and popular hagiography of the South-Slav literature was the one on the life of St. Paul the Caesarian.3F
The scripture dates from the 17th century, however, judging by its popularity, no doubt it was written earlier. In fact, it’s about the popular narrative on the incestuous sin of the Antique king Oedipus, transferred to the Byzantine saint from the 6th century and Christianized. The incestuous sin is one of the heaviest, even if committed out of ignorance. However, Christianity regards one’s penitence as the most important phase of the self-improvement of one’s soul. In this hagiography the anonymous writer underlines that even the most terrible sin, such as the incestuous, can be repented if one approaches it honestly and behaves according to the norms of the Christian living.
The Antique legend on the incestuous sin, alike the Christian one, grew from the corresponding social relations. Without knowing it, Oedipus married his own mother and bore heavy repercussions as a result of the latter kind of violation. Such relations between the son and the mother were regarded as an offense, most probably as of the patriarchy-strengthening period. However, the incestuous sin depicted in this hagiography grows out of the feudal social system.
Paul the Caesarian is a fruit of a sinful marriage between a brother and a sister, the Caesarian emperor and empress, who got married, fully conscious, so as to prevent the dividing up of the feudal property. Immediately after he was born, Paul was put into a chest and thrown into the sea, out of which he saved himself in some miraculous way. Once grown up, he married the Caesarian empress, whose husband had died, not knowing she was his mother. But, Paul found out, and, before committing the sin with his mother he addressed the St. Goldenmouth John for penitence.
The Golednmouth ascertained that the very act of marrying the mother was a severe sin that required an equivalent atoning. Therefore, The Goldenmouth locked himself inside a marble pillar and threw the keys into the sea. The keys were found 12 years later, and when the pillar was opened – Paul was found alive and consecrated.
The ending of this hagiography became of use to the medieval priests in their sermons to point out to the believers the importance of penitence and of the mercy of God who forgave even the most terrible sins to those who felt honest repentance.
This very much popular Christian legend on Oedipus’ sin entered the folk literature, the famous lyrics about Nachod Simon, Tsar Dusan and about others.

Translated by: Aneta Manevska

2. А.Б. Р.Eстенко, Легенда о св. Георгиj и дракон в Византискоj и славјaноруској литературах, Одеса 1909.
3. М. Драгоманов, СНУНК, V, 268-310< истото, бр. VI, стр.239-304< Н. А. Наќов, СНУНК, IX, 94< С. АргировŠ, СНУНК, VII, 556< А. И. ŸŸŸцимирски‡, Сборник Харчковскаго историко-филологиќеског општества 1909.

AuthorDobrila Milovska
2018-08-21T17:23:37+00:00 August 1st, 2002|Categories: Reviews, Literature, Blesok no. 27|0 Comments