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

AND when the brethren went forth to meet the holy man and to salute him, a certain young man also went out with them to salute Abbâ Pachomius, and he began to make a complaint to him, saying, “Verily, O father, from the time when thou didst depart to visit the brethren until this present they have not cooked either vegetables or crushed peas”; and the old man answered and said unto him readily and pleasantly, “My son, grievenot, for from this time forward I will make them to cook these things for thee.” And having gone round about through the monastery Abbâ Pachomius went to the place where the food was [kept], and he found him that did the cooking plaiting a mat of palm leaves, and he said unto him, “How long is it since thou hast cooked vegetables for the brethren?” and he answered, “Two months.” And Rabbâ said unto him, “Hast thou acted thus in spite of the command and ordinances of the holy fathers which enjoin that vegetables shall be cooked for the brethren every Saturday and every Sunday?” And the cook answered and said unto him, “Truly, O father, I wanted to cook some vegetables on each of these days, but because I saw that when they were cooked they were not eaten (for all the brethren, so to speak, were restraining themselves, and were not eating cooked food), except by the young men who usually ate them, and when I saw that when they were not eaten they were thrown away, [I cooked] no more so that all the expense and all the trouble might be avoided. Now we pour into the cooked food of the brethren forty boxes of oil daily. And when I saw that the food was not eaten I did not cook it, for I did not consider it to be right that we should throw away and waste such costly things. And moreover, because I could not sit idle I began to plait a mat with the brethren, for I thought that one man would be sufficient in the kitchen to prepare the less important meals for brethren, that is to say, chopped garlic, and mountain herbs [mixed with] vinegar and olive oil, and herbs from the garden.”

And when the holy man had heard these things he said unto the cook, “How many mats have ye made? Ye who belong to the kitchen must have been continually at this work”; and the cook said, “Five hundred.” And Abbâ Pachomius said unto him, “Bring them here, for I wish to count them”; and having brought the mats he ordered them to be thrown into the fire. Then, when they had all been consumed, Abbâ Pachomius said unto them, “Why have ye forsaken the ordinance which hath been given unto you for the government of the brethren through [your] Satanic minds? I have destroyed pitilessly the labour of your hands, and have burned it in the fire, so that ye may learn what it is for a man to treat lightly the laws of the fathers, which have been given for the benefit of souls. How great is the help which ye have removed from the brethren through your not having cooked food for them! Have ye forgotten that a man hath power over a desire for food, and that he who restraineth himself from such and such a food, for God’s sake, shall obtain from God wages which are not small? while he who hath not received authority, and who denieth himself by force or necessity will seek for wages in return for this in vain? And do ye not know that, if cooked meat be placed upon the table, and the brethren eat it not because they restrain themselves therefrom for God’s sake, they shall receive abundant wages? But if cooked meats be not given unto them, because they have not seen them abstinence and self-denial can never be reckoned unto them. For the sake of eighty boxes of oil, for such is the excuse [which ye have made], ye have cut off all the preparation of all the brethren; I would rather that all the world should be wasted than that one small spiritual virtue should be cut off from [their] soul[s]. I therefore truly wish to have food in abundance cooked daily and set before the brethren, so that in practising abstinence every day, and in restraining themselves from partaking of what hath been given to them, they may make an addition daily to their spiritual excellence. For if a man should happen to fall sick, and did not desire to go to the hospital, if he should come to the common table in order to partake of the vegetables which are usually given to the brethren, and should not find any there, what would happen to me? Would not a brother be offended in not finding at the common table that of which he was in need? And do ye not know that young men especially [cannot] continue in spiritual excellence unless they enjoy some small gratification or a little consolation from their food?”








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