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Moments in Time Aiding the Enemy

By Gary Macy

There are so many great stories of Christian charity, but this must be one of the most impressive. At the time, the Romans were at war with the Persians and, well, wait, I will let a contemporary, the church historian Socrates, tell the story: “A noble action of Acacius, bishop of Amida, at that time greatly enhanced his reputation among all men. As the Roman soldiery would on no consideration restore to the Persian king the prisoners whom they had taken in devastating Azazene, these prisoners, about 7,000 in number, were dying of starvation, and this greatly distressed the King of the Persians. Then Acacius thought such a matter was by no means to be trifled with; having therefore assembled his clergy, he thus addressed them: ‘Our God, my brethren, needs neither dishes nor cups; for He neither eats, nor drinks, nor is in want of anything. Since then, by the liberality of its faithful members, the church possesses many vessels of both gold and silver, we should sell them, that by the money thus raised we may be able to redeem the prisoners and also feed them.’ Having said these things and others similar to these, he melted the vessels down, and from the proceeds paid the soldiers a ransom for their captives, whom he supported for some time; and then furnishing them with what was needful for their journey, sent them back to their sovereign.” The king of Persia, it is said, was astonished. No doubt.

Gary Macy is a theology professor at the University of San Diego.

National Catholic Reporter, October 1, 1999