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

THE fathers used to say concerning a certain brother who lived in a large monastery that, having contended mightily, and having been helped by God, he had made himself master of nine virtues, and that he was exceedingly desirous of making them ten, but that in spite of many contendings he was unable [to do so]. Then the Enemy, according to his custom, cast his arrows at him, and both by day and by night he vexed him and troubled him in order that he might depart from the monastery wherein he was, and he advised him, saying, “In another monastery thou wilt be able to complete the ten [virtues].” Now the brother, not understanding the cunning of the Evil One, was led by his thoughts, which seemed to incite him to [further] spiritual excellence, and he departed and went to another monastery with the expectation that he would find that which he sought. And having been received into the monastery to which he had gone, after a very short time, through the contending of the Calumniator, he lost one virtue. And once again the Calumniator cast into his mind the thought that he would depart from that monastery, although he remembered his promise, and said, “Thou hast not only not found that which thou didst seek, but thou hast also lost that which thou hadst.” Then the brother, being sad and sorry about that which had happened unto him, departed and went to another monastery, with the expectation that he would be able to acquire the virtue which he had lost, and also that he would be able to add another thereto. And whilst the brother was working and contending to acquire that virtue which he had lost and that which he had coveted, the Calumniator, through his wicked craftiness, made him lose another, and he did the same thing to him on several occasions; and he made him to go out from one monastery, and brought him into another so often that the brother at length lost four virtues.

And the brother wandered about hither and thither in a state of great agitation, and coming to a certain monastery he rested himself, and leaned against the door thereof, in dejection of spirit, and he cried over himself, and wept because of what had happened unto him. Then, having rested a little, he determined to go into that monastery in order to be received into it. And he told himself of all the things which had happened unto him, and all the trials which had attacked him in the monasteries wherein he had been; and he passed judgement upon his soul and said, “Art thou able to bear all the [trials] which are in this monastery?” And his soul made answer, saying, “I place my trust in the mercy of our Lord that He will give strength to my weakness, and that I shall endure [them].” Then, having decided these things in his thoughts, the brother wrote them all down on a piece of paper, and placed them in his girdle, and he strengthened his thoughts to go into the monastery that he might be received therein.

Now after he had been received, and had lived in the monastery for a short time, he began to have freedom of speech with the brethren, and with the archimandrite, and temptations also began to assail him; then he took out the written paper which was placed in his girdle, and read it, and felt relieved, and this he continued to do whensoever temptation assailed him. And the brethren marvelled because he was not perturbed when they were, for on several occasions, when the brethren of that monastery were in a state of excitement, he had not permitted himself to be agitated with them in the smallest degree, and they wished to know the reason of this. And one day when the monks were agitated and disturbed by a quarrel which was so serious that the matter nearly came to murder, that brother took the paper, and looked at it, and as he was reading it one of the brethren watched him. And when the tumult was over, and the brethren saw that he was not agitated, they marvelled, and said, “What is the meaning of this thing? And why is not that brother as excited as we are?” Then the brother who had watched the monk [read his paper] revealed to them the matter, saying, “He hath something in his girdle, and on account of it he remaineth undisturbed”; and the brethren enquired into the matter, and they found that it was even as the brother had said.

Then they approached the archimandrite, and said unto him, If thou dost not expel this brother, we will not remain here, and we will go forth, because he is a sorcerer, and behold, his sorceries are in his girdle”; and the archimandrite promised to expel him. Now the archimandrite delayed the expulsion of that brother, and one night, whilst he was asleep, the archimandrite went to him and took the paper from his girdle, and he read it and rejoiced with a great joy; and having read the paper he put it [back] into the girdle of the brother, who knew not what had been done, and no other man knew. And after a short time the brethren, through the agency of Satan, were greatly disturbed by a very serious quarrel, and that brother was in no wise agitated; and when they saw that he was not disturbed at all and that he was wholly tranquil, they rose up against the archimandrite, saying, “If thou dost not expel this brother we will all depart forthwith.” Then the archimandrite called the brother and said unto him, “What is this that thy brethren are saying against thee? They are bringing an accusation against thee.” And the brother expressed regret, saying, “Yes, father, all [their words] are true; but permit me to repent.” And the archimandrite said unto him, “But they say that thou art a sorcerer”; and the brother said, “Yes, I am even as they say, but I beseech thy piety, O father, that thou wilt allow me to repent here.” Then the archimandrite said unto him, “But they say that thy sorceries are in thy girdle.” And the brother, being unwilling that his spiritual excellence should be revealed, fell upon his face before the archimandrite and took hold of his feet, and made supplication to him, and wept with groans and sighs, saying, “Expose me not, O father, but forgive me for this once only, and I will repent with all my soul.” Then the archimandrite, who knew that great advantage would accrue to the whole brotherhood, would not be persuaded by him, but he commanded that his girdle should be loosened, and he himself took it and brought out therefrom the paper; and he then ordered that all the brethren should be gathered together, and that the paper should be read in a prominent place, so that all of them might hear. And after the paper had been read the brethren repented, and fell upon their faces before that brother, and they entreated him, saying, “Forgive us, father, for we have sinned against thee.” Thus that brother benefited the whole brotherhood, and they regarded him as a father.








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