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

THERE was a certain man in Scete whose name was Stephânâ, who had dwelt in the desert for twenty-nine years; his apparel was made of palm leaves, and he lived in such a strict state of self-denial, and persisted to such a degree in ascetic abstinence that he never had the least inclination for the meats which are usually desired, and which are pleasant to the taste; and he greatly condemned those who, because of sickness, either ate cooked food or drank cream. Now the gift of healing had been given to him to such a degree that he could cast out devils by a word. And it came to pass that on one occasion a man in whom was an unclean spirit came to Scete, and he wished to be healed, and when the monk saw that he was vexed sorely by the devil he made a prayer and healed him. But at length this monk was rejected by Divine Providence because of his immeasurable arrogance and haughtiness, for he imagined himself to be more excellent in his life and works than the other fathers; first of all he separated himself from the brotherhood, and then he went and became archimandrite in one of the Alexandrian monasteries, “For,” he said in his pride, “am I to be in subjection to Macarius? And are not my life and works better than his?” And this man arrived at such a state of madness that he went to Alexandria, and gave himself up to gluttony, and drunkenness, and to the eating of more flesh than rational beings are wont to eat, and finally he fell and settled down into the pit of the lust for women; and he was always going about in the houses of harlots, and in the taverns of ill-fame, and he hung closely to the whores, and gratified his lusts in a filthy manner without shame, and he became a laughing-stock to all who knew him. But the spirit went forth to those who knew him, saying, “The law was not made for the perfect,” and he himself said, “I do not act [thus] because of passion and fornication, neither do I do anything which is abominable, for it is not a sin to go with women, for male and female were created by God.”

And it fell out that one day I and the blessed man Evagrius went to Alexandria on some business which called us thither. And we had with us four brethren; and as we were passing through the city market that monk met us accidentally, and he was talking with a harlot about his filthy lust; and when the blessed Evagrius saw him, he wept, and fell down at his feet and made obeisance unto him, but the man did not incline his head in the smallest degree, and with infinite arrogance and haughtiness he made answer to him, saying, “What do hypocrites and deceivers seek here?” Then the blessed Evagrius entreated him to go with us to the place where we were lodging, but he did not by any means wish to go; and when, with the greatest difficulty, he had been persuaded to go with us, so soon as we had entered in and prayed, the blessed Evagrius fell upon his neck and kissed him, and with tears said unto him, “Verily, O my beloved, from all that divine service of angels thou hast been brought down to this depth of wickedness; and thou hast turned thyself from converse with God to converse with harlots; and instead of the life and service of angels thou hast chosen the life of devils! But I beseech and entreat thee not to cut off the hope of thy redemption, but arise, and come with us to the desert, for by my hands God the Merciful is able to restore thee to thy former grade.” Now his understanding had been so blinded by Satan that he did not know how to listen to what was said unto him, nor did he know what he answered. And he said unto Evagrius, “Up to the present I have certainly been wandering about, but now I have found the path of truth,” and he began to make a mock of the fathers, and to say, “Ye certainly wander about [i.e., err], and ye dwell in the desert under a false character, for the sake of men, and not for the sake of God, and ye are to the spectators as idols whom men decorate, and to whom they pay worship”; and thus, being full of the pride and boasting of Satan, he spurned the fathers and went forth and departed, and the blessed Evagrius and the brethren wept and groaned over him greatly.

Then that man carried off a certain virgin, who was an orphan and a nun living by herself, with a foul design to his monastery, and though he did this with the excuse that he was going to help her by means of alms of which she was in need, it was in reality that he might fulfil his wanton desire. And having lived with her in this degraded state for about two years, at length there came to him thieves by night, who first tied him with cords, and then smote him with hard and cruel blows, until he brought out whatsoever he had in his dwelling and laid it before them; and last of all they shut him up with the woman with whom he used to work out his wantonness in a house wherein there was straw, and, both of them being bound with cords, the thieves set fire to the house, and thus the two were consumed, and they died a bitter death. And in them was fulfilled that which was spoken by the teacher of the Gentiles, who said, “Because they did not decide within themselves to know God, God delivered them over to the knowledge of vanity, that they might disgrace their bodies therewith, and they received the reward which befitted their error in their own persons (Romans 1:28); that is to say, the burning of the fire which is here is a pledge of that fire which tormenteth all the wicked.” Now the things which happened to Stephânâ took place because he separated himself from the brotherhood, and because he was [unduly] exalted in his mind, and because he imagined that he was perfect.








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