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

THERE was a certain old man who lived in his cell and performed mighty ascetic works, and who, whensoever the brethren of the Cells were gathered together for the vigil of the First Day of the week, would come to the general assembly, and would act in such a way as to make the brethren despise him, and indeed they regarded him as a man who had gone out of his senses, although he did everything with discretion. Now God, the Good and Compassionate, did not wish the labours of the old man to be hidden, but He revealed and made known some of them for the benefit of the community, and He sent angels, who were in the forms of rich and honourable men, to the priest of the Cells, and they came and saluted him; and when the priest saw them, he ran forward to meet them, for he thought that they who appeared to him were great and wealthy men, and he rose up immediately and saluted them. And after they had sat down and had held some converse with the old man, they besought him, saying, “O father, we beg of thee to allow us to go round the Cells that we may be blessed by the Fathers”; and he accepted their petition, and permitted them to do whatsoever they wished, and they asked him to send to them one of the brethren. Then the priest called one of the brethren, and commanded him to go with them, and beckoning him aside he said unto him secretly, “Take heed lest thou take them to the cell of that [mad] old man, for when they see that he hath lost his reason they will be sorry they have met him.” And when they had come out to go to the Cells, the honourable men fell down before the priest of the Cells, and said unto him, “O Father, give our brother orders to take us to see all the fathers,” and the priest said unto them, “I have commanded him to take you to them all.” And having gone to the fathers of the Cells, and visited them, they returned to the priest in his cell, and he said unto them, “Are ye gratified now that ye have seen the fathers?” And they said unto him, “O father, we are gratified, but we are sorry about one thing, that is to say, because thou didst command the brother who went with us that we should not see all the fathers.” Then the priest called the brother who had gone with them, and said in their presence, “Did I not tell thee to take the brethren to all the cells?” And the brother said, “Yea, father, thou didst tell me to do so, and I took them to all the cells, and they have seen all the brethren.” Then the honourable men said to the priest, “Forgive us, father, but there are some of the fathers whom we have not seen, and we are greatly grieved thereat; but say a prayer on our behalf so that we may depart.”

And after the priest had prayed over them, and they had departed from him, he called the brother who had gone with them, and said unto him, “How did these men know what I ordered thee [to do]? Didst thou, perchance, reveal it unto them?” And the brother made repentance, and said, “Forgive me, father, but I did not reveal [thy orders] unto them.” Then the priest knew that the matter was from God, and he rose up straightway and went to that old man whom he thought to be out of his mind, and he fell down on his face before him, and laid hold upon his feet, and besought him to reveal unto him his ascetic works and labours; and he swore to the old man that he would not rise up from the ground, and would not let go his hold upon him until he had done so, saying to the old man likewise, “That I should come to thee and that thou shouldst reveal thy labours unto me, are matters from God.” Now the old man was unwilling to reveal his works, because he did not wish to be held in honour because of them, nevertheless he was compelled to do so because the priest had told him that the matter was from God, and he promised the priest to reveal unto him one thing; and when the priest heard the promise of the old man, he rose up from the ground, and seeing the old man in a gentle and tranquil frame of mind, he marvelled, because he had never before seen him as he was at that moment. Then the old man said unto the priest, “Depart, O father, I did not know that I did even one good thing, but of such things which I have the following is one:—I have by my side two baskets, one on my right hand, and one on my left; for every good thought which springeth up in my mind I take a pebble and throw it into the basket which is on my right hand; and for every hateful thought which riseth in me, I also take a pebble and throw it into the basket which is on my left hand, and this I do every day. And when the time for the evening meal hath arrived, I take out the pebbles, and count them, and if the number of those which are in the basket of good thoughts on my right hand do not exceed those in the basket of evil thoughts on my left hand, I do not take any supper that evening; and if they do exceed, then I eat, and rejoice, for sometimes it happeneth that several days pass without my eating at all, because the pebbles of the good deeds do not exceed in number the pebbles of the bad ones. And whensoever an abominable thought cometh tome, I pass judgement on myself, and say, ‘Take heed, for thou wilt not eat to-day!’ ” And having heard these things the priest praised God, the Lord of the universe, and he marvelled how the old man could perform such works of righteousness and yet keep them hidden from every man.








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