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

THE blessed man, Paule the Simple, the disciple of the holy man Anthony, used to relate to the fathers the following matter:—I once went to a certain monastery that I might visit the brethren for profit spiritually, and after some conversation on the matter, and the customary talk, they went into the holy church that they might form a congregation as usual, and perform the service of the Holy Mysteries. And the blessed Paule looked at and scrutinized carefully each one of them, so that he might see in what frame of mind he was going, for he had the gift, which had been given unto him by God, of looking into the soul of every man, and of knowing what his soul was like, even as we have the power of looking upon the faces of each other. And he saw that every man was going in with a glorious aspect of soul, and with face full of light, and that the angel of each man was rejoicing in him, with the exception of one whose face was sick and afflicted, and whose whole body was in darkness, and devils had hold upon each of his hands, and they were lifting him up and dragging him towards them, and they had put a ring in his nose; and he saw also that the holy angel of this man was a long way from him, and that he followed after him sadly and sorrowfully.

And when the blessed Paule saw these things he wept, and smote himself upon the breast many times, and he sat down before the church, and he cried unceasingly for the man who had appeared unto him in this state. Now those who saw the old man became greatly astonished suddenly, and especially at his swift change [from happiness] to weeping and tears, and they asked him, and entreated him, and begged him to tell them what he had seen, for they thought that, though blaming them, he would do so, and they besought him also, with one voice, to go into the congregation with them. But Paule drove them away from him, and he would not let himself be persuaded to do this, so he sat down outside the church and held his peace, and he cried aloud and groaned loudly concerning that which had appeared to him.

And after a short time, when the service was ended, and all the fathers were coming out, Paule scrutinized carefully each one of them, so that he might see in what manner would come out those whom he had seen go in, and whether it would be with the same countenance as that wherewith they had gone in, or otherwise. And he saw again that man whom he had seen go in, and whose body before he had entered into the church was in darkness, and behold, he came forth from the church with his face full of light, and his body was white, and the devils followed him at a great distance, and his guardian angel was quite close to him, and walked with him; and he was glad and rejoiced greatly over that man. Then the holy man Paule leaped up, and stood there glad and rejoicing, and he cried out and blessed God, saying, “Hail to the overflowing mercy of God! Hail to the immeasurable goodness! Hail to His rich treasuries! Hail to His pleasure, which is beyond measure!” And he ran up and stood upon a lofty platform, and cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Come ye, and see how awful are the works of God, and how greatly they are worthy of admiration! Come ye, and see Him Who wisheth that all the children of men should live, and should turn to the knowledge of the truth! Come, let us kneel and worship Him, and say, ‘Thou art He Who alone is able to forgive ‘sins.’ ” Therefore all the fathers ran diligently so that they might hear what he was saying. And when they had all gathered together, the holy man Paule related unto them the things which he had seen both when they went into the church, and when each one of them came out; and they entreated that brother [to tell them] what was the reason of that complete change, and of the gladness which God bestowed upon him [so] quickly.

And the man, being afraid lest he might be rebuked by the blessed Paule, related the following things concerning himself before them all, and without any concealment whatsoever, and said, “I am a sinful man, and for a long time past, even unto the present day, I lived in fornication. When I went into the church, I heard the [Book of] the Prophet Isaiah read, that is to say, I heard God speaking through him, and saying, Wash, and be clean, and remove your evil deeds from “before Mine eyes. Hate the things which are evil, and learn to do good, seek out judgement, and pass [righteous] sentences upon those who are afflicted. And if your sins be red like crimson, they shall become white as snow. And if ye are willing to hearken unto Me, ye shall eat of the good things of the earth.”

“Now when I had heard read [these] words from the Prophet, that is to say, had heard God Who was speaking by him, I forthwith repented in my soul sincerely, and sighing in my heart I said unto God, Thou art the God Who didst come into the world to make sinners to live, do Thou then make manifest in me the things which Thou hast promised in Thy Prophet, and fulfil them in me, even though I be unworthy of the same, for I am a sinner. For behold, I promise, and I enter into a covenant with Thee, and I will thrust this promise down into my soul, and will acknowledge [it], that from now and henceforth I will never commit such wickedness as this, but I will keep myself remote from all iniquity, and I will serve Thee from this day onwards with a clean conscience. Therefore, O Master, from this day, and from this hour, accept me, for I am penitent; and I will make supplication unto Thee, and will remove myself forthwith from all sin. Therefore with such promises and covenants as these I came forth from the church, and I determined in my soul that I would never again do anything which would injure [my] fear of Him”; and when all the fathers heard [this], they all cried out with a loud voice, and said unto God, “O Lord, how great are Thy works! Thou hast created all of them in wisdom.”

Now therefore, O Christians, since we know from the Holy Scriptures and from divine revelations how great is the grace which God dispenseth to those who truly run to Him for refuge, and who blot out their former sins by means of repentance, and also how, according to His promise, He rewardeth with good things, and doth neither take vengeance according to what is just, nor bring upon men a punishment for their former sins, let us not be in despair of our lives. For, even as He promised by the hand of Isaiah the Prophet, He will make clean those who have toiled in sin, and will make them bright and white like clean wool and snow, and will make them to be happy with the blessings of heaven. And moreover, God asserteth with oaths by the hand of the Prophet Ezekiel that He doth not desire their destruction, for He saith, “As I live, saith the Lord, I do not desire the death of a sinner, but that he should turn from his evil way and live” (Ezekiel 33:11).








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