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The Paradise Of The Holy Fathers Volumes 1 and 2 by Saint Athanasius Of Alexandria

ACERTAIN old man, who was held worthy to be the Bishop of a city in Egypt, told the following story (which he tried to make one think he had heard from another man, but he himself had actually done the things which he described), and he said:—Once there came to me the thought that I would go into the inner desert which is over against Usa (Οὔση), that I might see if I could find therein [any] holy men who worshipped Christ, and taking with me food and water for four days I set out on my journey; and after four days my food came to an end, and I wondered what I should do [for more], and I plucked up courage and committed myself to God. Then I went on for another four days, when I became so weak that I could not stand up any longer, because through hunger and exhaustion I had no strength in me; and I became sick in spirit and threw myself on the ground. And a certain man came and drew his finger across my lips, and forthwith I became so strong that I thought that neither fatigue nor hunger had ever drawn nigh me; and as soon as I perceived the strength which had come to me I rose up again and continued my journey for four days more. Then once more I became weary, and stretched out my hands to heaven, and behold, that man who had given me strength before, drew nigh to my lips and made me strong, and I continued my journey in the desert after this for seven days more, when I found a booth, with a palm tree and water by the side of it; and there was standing [there] a man, the hair of whose head was quite white, and he had made clothing for himself, and his face was awesome [to look upon]. Now on seeing me he stood up in prayer, and when he had prayed and I had answered “Amen,” he knew that I was a man. Then he took hold of my hands and questioned me, and said, “How didst thou come hither? Doth everything in the world still exist? Are the Christians being persecuted?” And I said unto him, “By the help of your prayers, for in truth ye serve God, I have traveiled and come into this desert; and, by the power of Christ, the persecution of the Christians is at an end.” And in turn I said unto him, “Father, tell me how thou didst come hither.” And with sighs and tears he began to say unto me: “I was a bishop, and during the period of the persecution many sufferings came upon me, but finally, because I could bear the tribulations no longer, I sacrificed [unto idols]. And having come to my senses I recognized the wickedness which I had committed, and I made myself come to this desert that I might die here. And I have passed forty-nine years here in making supplication to God for my folly, and in entreating Him to forgive me the sin which I sinned; now God gave me life from this palm tree, but I did not receive any encouragement to hope for the forgiveness of my sins until the completion of forty-eight years.”

And after he had said these things to me, he rose up suddenly and went outside the booth and stood up for many hours in prayer; and when he had finished his prayer he came to me, and as I looked upon his face fear and wonder fell upon me, for it was a face as of fire. And seeing that I was afraid he said unto me, “Fear not, for the Lord hath sent thee to me that thou mayest bury my body,” and as soon as he had finished speaking, he stretched out his hands and his feet and died. Then I took the garment which I had on me [and tore it in two], and in one half of it I rolled him up and laid him in it in the earth, and the other half formed my apparel. Now as soon as I had buried him the palm tree dried up, and the booth fell down. Then I made many entreaties unto God, and I prayed unto Him to leave me the palm tree, so that I might pass the rest of my life there, but as this did not take place, I perceived that it was not the will of God that I should remain here; so I prayed, and returned to the habitation of the children of men. And behold, that man who had given me strength before came again to me and gave me courage, and thus I arrived and came to the brethren; and having related unto them these things I encouraged them not to be in despair about their souls, but [to feel] that in patient endurance they would find our Lord.








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