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

ABBÂ BYTINIUS said:—The disciple of Macarius once told me the following story, and said:—Abbâ Macarius once said to me whilst I was living in Scete:—Two young men, who are strangers, have gone down there, and one of them hath a few hairs as a beard, and the other hath the beginning of a beard. And these young men came and said unto me, “Where is the cell of Abbâ Macarius?” And I said unto them, “What seek ye with him?” And they said, “We have heard of his life and deeds, and we have come to see him.” And I said unto them, “I am he”; and they offered me repentance, and said unto me, “We wish to abide here.” Now, seeing that they were proud because of [their] riches, I said unto them, “Ye will not be able to dwell here”; and the elder of them said unto me, “If we are unable to dwell here, we will go to another place.” Then I said to myself, “Why should I be an occasion of stumbling to them, for the labour itself will make them flee?” And I said unto them, “Come, make ye a cell for yourselves if ye can”; and they replied to me, “Only shew us how to do it, and we will do it.” So I gave them an axe, and a tool for digging up the ground, and a sack of bread and salt, and I shewed them a rock wherefrom they might [hew] stone, and I said to them, “Hew your stone from here, and then bring wood from the forest and roof over [the place], and then take up your abode.” Now I thought that they would straightway take to flight, but they said unto me, “What is your work here?” And I said unto them, “The weaving of palm leaves,” and I plucked some leaves from the palms in the grove, and shewed them how to begin to work to plait baskets, and I said unto them, “Give them to the guardians, and they will give you bread.” And from that hour I left them, and everything which I had said unto them they performed with great persistence and diligence, and they remained there for three years and never came to me; and I continued to debate in my thoughts, saying, “What kind of work is theirs that they never come in to me to ask me for anything? The people that are afar off come to me, but these who are close by do not come to me, and they have gone nowhere else, except to the church to receive the Offering when they have leisure.”

Then I prayed to God and fasted for a whole week that He might shew me their work, and straightway I rose up and went to them that I might see how they were; and when I had knocked, they opened the door to me, and they saluted me, and then held their peace; and I prayed, and sat down. Then the elder of the men motioned to the younger, who went outside, and sat down, and he plaited ropes, and said nothing; and at the season of the ninth hour he knocked at the door, and the younger man came and made a sign to him, and he went forth and cooked a little food. And he made another sign to him, and he prepared a table with three bread cakes upon it, and then stood by in silence. Then I said, “Arise, let us eat”; and they drew nigh and we ate, and one of them brought an earthenware pitcher of water, and we drank. And when the evening had come, they spake to me, and said, “Art thou going away?” and I said, “No, I am going to pass the night here.” Then they laid down a palm-leaf mat for me on one side [of their cell], and they threw themselves down upon the bare earth on the other side of the cell by themselves. And when I had prayed to God to inform me concerning their toil, the roof was opened, and the place became as light as it was in the day time, but they did not see that light. Then, thinking that I was asleep, the elder man smote the younger, and they rose up, and girded up their loins, and spread out their hands to heaven; and I saw them, but they did not know that I could see them. And I saw the devils hovering about over the young man like flies, and some of them wished to settle on his eyes, and some on his mouth, and behold, the angel of the Lord was going round him, and was driving away from him the devils with a sword of fire; now the devils did not dare to approach the elder man. And about the time of morning the two men threw themselves on the ground and I made myself to appear like one who had just woke up from sleep, and they likewise feigned to have only then become awake. And the elder man spake unto me these words only: “Dost thou wish us to recite twelve Psalms only?” And I said unto him, “Yes,” and the younger man recited five Psalms out of [each of the] six Pethgâmâ, and one Hûlâlâ; and at every Pethgâmâ a lamp of fire came forth from his mouth, and went up into heaven; and similarly, when the elder man stood up and recited the Psalms there went forth from his mouth as it were a rope of fire, which ascended into heaven. Now I could only recite the Psalms little by little. And I cameforth and said unto them, “Pray ye for me”; but they excused themselves, and were silent. And I learned that the elder man was perfect, but that the Enemy still waged war against the younger man. And after a few days the elder man died, and three days later the other man died also; and whensoever the fathers came to Abbâ Macarius he used to take them to the cell of those brethren, and say unto them, “Behold ye the martyrium of these little strangers.”








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