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

THERE was a certain worldly man who wished to become a monk, and he had a little daughter who besought him to take her with him to the monastery; now she was a maiden, and he entreated her, saying, “If thou wishest to become a nun let me take thee to a house for virgins,” but she said to him, “I cannot be separated from thee.” And her father, being much distressed about her because she wept by night and by day and begged that she might not be separated from him, made up his mind to take her with him, and he changed her name that it might not be known that she was a maiden. Now her name had been “Mârîâ,” but her father gave her the name of “Maryânâ” as if she had been a boy; then he committed the matter to God, and took her and went into a monastery without anyone perceiving that Maryânâ was a girl, and after several years Maryânâ’s father died performing the excellent works of the monastic life. Now the archimandrite saw that Maryânâ was working [hard], and was excelling in spiritual excellence, and he rejoiced in him, not knowing that he was not a boy, and he commanded that he should not be sent out on the highways [to beg] because he was a child; and the brethren were envious against Maryânâ because he did not go out on the highways with them.

And when the archimandrite saw that the brethren were envious against Maryânâ because he did not go out on the highways as they did, he called to Maryânâ and said unto him, “Since the brethren are envious against thee because thou dost not perform the work on the high roads as do they, I command thee to do so”; then Maryânâ fell down before the archimandrite and said unto him, “Whatsoever thou commandest me to do I will do gladly, O father.” Now the brethren of the monastery wherein lived Maryânâ, whensoever they went out on the high roads, visited a certain believer, in order to rest a little and to refresh themselves, and since Maryânâ was sent out, even according to what had been ordered by the archimandrite, the believing man whom the brethen visited saw him, (for he knew all the brethren of the monastery because he used to go to their monastery continually); and the believing man saw Maryânâ at the season of evening, and he took him and brought him to his house, so that he might rest there for the night. And the believing man had a daughter, and on the night wherein Maryânâ stayed with him a certain man seduced her, and he who had fallen upon her and seduced her commanded her, saying, “If thy father saith unto thee, Who is he that hath seduced thee? say thou unto him, It was Maryânâ the monk.” And as soon as Maryânâ had departed from them, the father of the maiden knew that his daughter had been seduced, and he asked her, saying, “Who hath seduced thee?” And she said unto him, “Maryânâ, the monk, is he who hath seduced me.” Then the father of the maiden rose up straightway, and went to the monastery, and with tears he spake before the archimandrite and the whole brotherhood, and said, “What offence have I committed against you that ye should seduce my daughter?” Now when the archimandrite heard this he was greatly moved, and he said to him, “What sayest thou? Who hath seduced thy daughter? Tell me who he is that I may expel him from the monastery forthwith”; and the man said unto him, “It is Maryânâ who hath seduced my daughter.” Then the archimandrite commanded that Maryânâ should be called so that he might go forth from the monastery, but having been sought for throughout all the building Maryânâ could not be found, and then they knew that he was out on a journey for the monastery; and the archimandrite said unto the father of the maiden, “There is nothing further which I can do except this: when Maryânâ returneth from the highway I will not allow him to enter the monastery,” and he gave orders to all the brethren of the monastery, saying, “When Maryânâ returns he is not to be allowed to enter the monastery.”

And when Maryânâ came back from the road they would not allow him to enter the monastery, and he wept at the door thereof and said, “What is my offence that I am not permitted to enter the monastery?” Then the doorkeeper said to him, “[Thou art not permitted to enter] because thou hast seduced the daughter of the believing man whom the monks visit”; and Maryânâ entreated the doorkeeper, saying, “For the Lord’s sake go in and persuade the archimandrite to permit me to enter the monastery, and whatsoever he ordereth me to do because of my fall I will do.” So the doorkeeper went in and told the archimandrite everything which Maryânâ had said, and the archimandrite said to him, “Go and tell Maryânâ, [saying], ‘Because thou hast done this thing thou shalt never see my face again; get thee gone to whatsoever place thou pleasest.’ ” When Maryânâ heard these things he was greatly afflicted, and he sat by the door of the monastery night and day, and wept because of what had happened to him; and he besought those who went in and those who came out to entreat the archimandrite on his behalf, and although very many folk did so, and begged him to let Maryânâ come into the monastery, the archimandrite would not be persuaded [to do so].

And after that maiden, through whom Maryânâ had been trodden in the dust, had given birth to her child, her father took the boy to whom his daughter had given birth, and brought it to Maryânâ, and said unto him, “Behold, here is thy son, take him and rear him”; and Maryânâ took the child, saying, “Glory be to God Who can endure and bear with sinners like myself.” And each day he took the child and went up the mountain to the goats of the monastery, and suckled him with goats’ milk, and when the child was suckled Maryânâ returned to the door of the monastery; now he never left the door of the monastery except when he went to give the child milk, and he besought those who went in and those who came out, with tears, to unite with him in making supplication to God to forgive him his sin. And he sat by the door of the monastery for four years, and tears were never absent from his eyes, neither by night nor by day, and every one who heard the sound of his weeping was grieved for his sake. Now after Maryânâ had suffered affliction by the door of the monastery for four years and had shewn the child to every man, saying, “Pray ye for me, for fell into fornication, and this child is the result thereof,” God moved the mind of the archimandrite to bring Maryânâ into the monastery, for His mercy was revealed upon him, and He commanded the archimandrite to bring Maryânâ in.

And as soon as Maryânâ heard that they were going to bring him into the monastery from the man who told him about it beforehand, he rose up straightway, and fell down before the Lord, and said, “Glory be to Thee, O Lord, Who hath not been unmindful of such a [great] sinner as I am! I give thanks unto Thee for all the goodness which thou hast shewn unto me. What have I to give unto Thee in return therefor? For Thou hast brought me into the monastery, by the door of which I had decided in my mind that I must die.” And as soon as those who had been sent to bring Maryânâ into the monastery had done so, Maryânâ fell down before the archimandrite, and before the whole brotherhood of the monastery, now he was carrying the child and was weeping, and sighing, and groaning, and he said unto them, “Forgive ye me, O masters and fathers, for I have angered God with [my] evil works, and you I have afflicted greatly; but pray for me, that God may forgive me the fall wherewith I fell.”

And after many years Maryânâ, having prevailed mightily in the great labours of spiritual excellence, delivered his soul to our Lord, and none of the brethren had ever seen him laugh or smile; on the contrary, he mourned all the days of his life. And when he was dead, the brethren drew nigh to anoint him with oil, according to the custom, and then they saw that Maryânâ was a woman. Then the brethren ran quickly and called the man who had made the accusation against Maryânâ, and when he had come and seen her, great wonder laid hold upon him, and he besought God to forgive him the great sin and wrong which he had done to Maryânâ; and all those who heard and saw this glorified God that His saints fight so bravely for His Name’s sake.








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