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

ACERTAIN history, which is full of pain and profit, O my beloved, came to me by chance, that is to say, through conversation and speech with the brethren, and I have thought much about it, and have determined that it is right for me to narrate it, and to set it down in writing, so that many from the reading of the same may acquire spiritual profit, and may watch against enmity, and may not have bitter hatred of one another for any reason whatsoever, and that each [of us] may be at peace with the other, and so that each [of us] may forgive the other any cause for murmuring or anger, and may remember the words of our Lord, and God, and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.

There were two brethren who dwelt in one abode in a certain Persian monastery, and it happened that one of them had cause for dispute with the other, and they separated, each from the other, the one leaving the monastery altogether, and the other remaining in the abode wherein they had lived hitherto. And it came to pass that he who remained behind was seized, and bound, and shut up in prison, for [giving] testimony concerning our Lord, and he was brought before the judge, and was questioned by him once, twice, and a third time, and he bore severe stripes and did not deny Christ, and he was again fast bound in the prison house. Now when his companion heard [this] he repented in his soul, and he thought, “It is right that I should go and be reconciled with my brother, for perhaps through this testimony which he persisteth in giving, he may depart from the world and go away, each of us keeping wrath against the other, and through this we both shall suffer no small loss, and probably I more than he.” And when the brother had meditated thus, he came to the prison and enquired for his companion who was imprisoned there, and he went into his presence and fell down at his feet, and besought and entreated him to be reconciled to him; but the brother who was in fetters would not be persuaded to do this, and continued in his wrathful condition, and when the brother saw this he left him and departed in sorrow.

And on the following day the judge commanded and they brought in before him the man who was bound and in prison, and he asked him if he would be persuaded to deny his God and to worship the sun, and he would not agree to do either; and the judge gave orders that he was to be laid out and beaten, and to be smitten with rods, and when they had laid him out, and the strokes were being laid on by two [men] at a time, he denied Christ. Now when the judge saw this, he commanded the men to stop beating him, and he called him to him, and asked him, saying, “What aileth thee? I caused thee to bear severe stripes on three previous occasions, and thou wast neither overcome nor didst play the coward’s part, and yet now, whilst they are coming near thee, thou dost deny [thy God].” And the brother said, “I have acted thus because I have sinned and treated with contempt the commandments of the Lord my God, Who commanded us to forgive each his offences. I had once a brother in our Lord, and we lived together in one monastery, and it happened that some cause for anger rose up between us, and we separated from each other in enmity. Yesterday he came to me in prison, and fell down before me and begged for peace from me, and I would not consent to be reconciled unto him, and therefore the goodness of God was cut off from me, and He did not help me this day as He hath always done before, and I denied [Him]. During the stripes which I received formerly I used to see Him spread out about a hand’s breadth above me, and He did not permit me to suffer, but to-day He forsook me, and at a small amount of pain I was terrified and I denied [Him].” Now when the judge had heard these things from him, he commanded that his fetters should be loosed from off him, and that he should be dismissed; and the brother, feeling disgrace and shame at the fall which had come upon him, went forth from the presence of the judge, and directed his way straight to his companion, and he fell down on his face at his feet, and wept and cried out bitterly, and entreated for mercy and peace; and when his companion looked upon him, he also suffered great grief, and he received him, and they were reconciled, and he prayed for him, and though the thing was bitter to him, they separated one from the other.

Then the brother who had denied his God straightway returned to the door of the judge, and he began to cry out and to curse the king, so that they might again bring him before the judge for examination; but the judge did not wish to say anything to him. And when the brother saw this, he departed from thence, and through penitence and grief for what had happened to him, and also through the pain and anguish of his soul, he threw himself, body and soul, into a fire temple; and he began to cast dust and everything else which came to his hands on the fire; and he cursed the king mightily, saying, “God will receive those who have been tripped up and have fallen, if they repent and turn unto Him.” And he departed from thence also, and he wandered about and went hither and thither, and he threw stones at every magian or pagan whom he met, and he never ceased from reviling the king; and he never ceased or kept silent concerning the compassion of our Lord, which is laid out for those who repent, and he cried out, saying, “Verily, there is no god except our Lord Jesus Christ, although I, through my sins, and my negligence of His mercy, have denied Him.” Now when the judge heard these things, he feared lest he would suffer a penalty and be condemned to death as one who had heard the king reviled, and had been neglectful; and straightway he sent forth a decree concerning him, and ordered that his head should be cut off quickly with the sword. And when they had seized the monk, and had taken him outside the city, he cried out with a loud voice, and said, “Blessed art Thou, O our Lord Jesus Christ, for ten thousand times ten thousand sins are too few for Thy mercy to forgive in one hour”; and having said this they made him kneel down, and he was smitten by the sword and received mercy. Glory be to the Power Who maketh strong His saints to do His Will, and may we have mercy shewn unto us through their prayers, for ever and ever. Amen.








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