Michael IV part 25

The Emperor’s Tonsure

52. The emperor, before the decease of his body, sought another more spiritual, change. He disdained the imperial rank which he was in so short a time to relinquish, mastered all his natural impulses and turned to God.**61 In order that he might not be interrupted while thus changing has like and making his confession to the Deity, he set out from his palace and retired to the monastery he had built, or rather, he was conveyed thither by his bearers.

Inside this place of meditation, kneeling on the floor of the church, he prayed to God that he might appear a well-pleasing sacrifice and be received pure after his consecration. Thus he conciliated the Almighty and won His favour. Then he put himself in the hands of the priests, asking them to sacrifice a willing victim — auspicious omen — and they, grouped round him on either side, chanted the opening prayers of the Sacrifice to the Lord.

Holy Mantle of Christ

They took off him the imperial robe and the purple, and they garbed him in the Holy Mantle of Christ. Then they took from his head the diadem and put on the Helmet of Salvation,**62 armed his chest and back with the Cross, and bravely girding him against the spirits of evil, let him go. So much for his zeal and determination.

53. In the thought that he was now changed to a higher life, he rejoiced and was exceeding glad. He had become swift-footed, as it were, and nimble for the spiritual journey. His own household, on the other hand, and especially the elder brother, were covered in a cloud of despair, so much so that they were unable to restrain their sympathetic laments. Not even the empress controlled her emotion.

When she heard from someone about his tonsure, she dared to leave the women’s quarters, overcoming every natural disinclination, and went on foot to see him. But Michael, whether through shame at the evils he had brought upon her, or because in his attention to God he had forgotten her, refused her permission to enter his presence.

54. She returned to the palace, and he, when the hour of prayer summoned and it was time for him to attend for the usual hymns, gently rose from his couch. When he was about to put on his shoes and found that the footwear he had formerly had was still unchanged, (because the customary leather sandals of the monks had not been prepared for him) he was angry at this lack of prevision and went barefoot to church, supported on either side.

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