Severianus of Ancrya: Inexplicable Kindness

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Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Romans 16:3-4

“In Ancyra Galatia it so happened that I was able to speak with a certain nobleman called Severianus and his wife, although I did not have any great intimacy with them. They placed all their good hope in a future life, to the disappointment of their children. They had four sons and two daughters, but they disbursed all the revenues of their estates among the needy, making no settlement upon any of them except in marriage settlements.

“It will all be yours after we are dead,” they said to the other children. “For as long as we are alive we shall save our surplus earnings and distribute them to churches, monasteries, guestmasters and to anyone who is needy. Their prayers will bring the reward of eternal life to us and you and our family in exchange for the labors of this present time.”

They also displayed notable virtue during a time of great famine when everyone was feeling hungry, for they opened up their storehouses on many of their estates and gave to the poor, with the result that many who were then heretics came back to the true faith. It was their otherwise inexplicable kindness which persuaded heretics to come back into agreement with the true faith, giving thanks to God for their simplicity and immense generosity.

They had another admirable practice. What they wore was very old and unpretentious, they were sparing in what they ate to a degree almost impossible to describe. They were simply content with enough necessary to support life. A wonderful devotion towards God went along with this. They spent most of their time in the country, avoiding the city and its vices, lest the excitement and confusion of city life draw them away from a truly joyful life and they should fall away from the commandments of God. All the good deeds and upright life of these blessed people helped them to keep their eyes fixed on the eternal rewards prepared for them by the glory of God.”

Severianus of Ancrya in Lausiac History (Historia Lausiaca) by Palladius Part 15) Chapter CXIV “The life of the blessed Severianus and his wife.”

When I read ancient vignettes like this one, it inspires me to share it with my wife and resolve to follow their example. What does it spur within you?

Some feel like the four sons and two daughters in the narrative. They were disappointed that mom and dad “disbursed all the revenues of their estates among the needy, making no settlement upon any of them except in marriage settlements.”

Candidly, as our son and daughter grow deeper in relationships that appear to be leading to marriage, some might say they would feel this way. I think if you asked them, however, they would say that with joy they have embraced the lifestyle of simplicity and generosity.

Why recount their story today? When “inexplicable kindness” intersects with generosity, there is no greater witness to the gospel. It even persuades “heretics to come back into agreement with the true faith.”