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

AND there was also [there] among those who were very famous a certain brother who cultivated the ascetic life by himself, and when he heard of the divine rule of our holy Father Pachomius he entreated him to receive him in the monastery; and when Rabbâ had received him, and he had passed a little [time] with the brethren, he desired greatly to bear witness (i.e., to become a martyr), although the world was in a state of peace, and the Church was flourishing and was, by the grace of God, at peace, and the blessed Constantine, who had put on Christ, was at that time reigning. And this brother was continually entreating the blessed man Pachomius, and saying, “Pray for me, O father, that I may become a martyr”; but Rabbâ admonished him that he should not permit this thought to enter his mind again, and said unto him, “Brother, endure the strife of the monks mightily and blamelessly, and make straight thy life in the way which will please Christ, and thou shalt have companionship with the martyrs in heaven.”

As, however, the brother made his desire for this thing stronger each day, and he was wearying the holy man therewith, Rabbâ, wishing to drive away this kind of desire from him, said unto him, “I will pray [for thee], but if thou seekest for this thing thou wilt be vanquished. And put armour on thy soul, lest, when the hour cometh wherein thou hast to bear witness, thou shalt deny Christ. Verily thou wilt certainly commit sin, because of thine own will thou drawest nigh unto temptation, although our Lord Jesus commanded us, saying, ‘Pray that ye fall not into temptation’ ” (St. Matthew 26:41; St. Mark 14:38; St. Luke 22:40, 46). And having said these things unto him, he admonished him to take good heed unto himself, and not to meditate upon martyrdom.

And it came to pass that two years later certain of the brethren were sent by Rabbâ to a village which was further to the south to collect wreaths [to make] mats for the monastery; now this village was nigh unto the barbarians who are called “Blemmyes.” And whilst the brethren were there, and were on an island where there were large numbers of reeds, the blessed man Pachomius sent the brother who was wishing to suffer martyrdom to carry a little money to them for their expenses, and he commanded him to take good heed to himself. And he said unto him, “The words which are written, ‘Behold, now is the acceptable time (2 Corinthians 6:2) behold, now is the day of redemption,’ have a mystical signification [for thee], and ye shall not commit an offence against any man, so that there may be no blemish in our ministration”; so the brother took an ass to carry the money and departed to the brethren.

Now when he had arrived at the place which is opposite the desert, the barbarians came down [to the river] to draw water, and they came upon the brother, and made him to come down from off the ass, and they bound his hands, and took the ass and that which was thereon, and they led him up to a neighbouring mountain where there were other barbarians. Now when the barbarians saw that they came with an ass, they began to make a mock of him, and to say, “O monk, come and worship our gods,” and they slew some beasts, and poured out libations to their gods, and they brought the monk and urged the monk to pour out libations with them. And when he did not want to do this they rose up in wrath and came towards him with their drawn swords in their hands in a threatening manner, and said, “If he be unwilling to sacrifice to our gods and to pour out libations to them, we will kill him.” Then seeing the drawn swords and the savage disposition of the people, straightway the brother took wine and poured out a libation to their gods, and because he was afraid of dying the death of the body he slew his immortal soul by denying God, the Lord of all; now when he had done these things the Blemmyes sent him away.

Then having descended from the mountain, when he had come to himself he knew his iniquity, that is to say, the wickedness which he had committed, and he rent his garments, and having beaten himself upon his face severely he came to the monastery; and the blessed man knew what had happened to him, and he went forth to meet him in sore affliction. And when the brother saw that he was coming to him, he threw himself on his face upon the ground, and shedding tears cried out and said, “I have sinned against God and against thee, O father, and I would neither listen to thy promise nor to thine admonition, and had I but hearkened unto thee, I should not have had to bear what I have suffered.” And having said these words, Rabbâ said unto him, “Rise up, O wretched man, thou hast snatched thyself away from the good things which were awaiting thee, for in very truth there was laid up for thee a crown which thou hast cast away from thee; thou wast ready to be reckoned with the holy martyrs, but thou hast cut thyself off from their blessed companionship. Our Lord Jesus Christ was near with His holy angels, and He wished to lay the crown upon thy head. Through thy momentary turning back thou hast refused (or denied) this, and in being afraid of that death which thou wast about to endure, a death which thou didst not seek, thou hast fallen away from God and destroyed thine everlasting life. Where are the words which [thou didst speak] before this [happened]? Where is thy desire for martyrdom?” And the brother said, “I have sinned in all these [respects], O father, and I am no longer able to lift up my face to heaven. I am lost, O father, I have no position wherefrom I may contemplate what I shall do, O father, I never expected that the matter would happen thus.”

Then having said these words with tears, Rabbâ spake unto him, saying, “Thou, O wretched man, hast made thyself altogether an alien to the Lord, but the Lord is good, and He never keepeth His anger for a testimony, for He is a lover of mercy, and He is able to sink our sins in the depths of the sea. As far as are the heavens from the earth so far hath He put away our iniquity and sins. For He desireth not the death of the sinner, but his repentance, and He wisheth not that a man who hath fallen should remain in his fallen condition, but that he should rise up; and He desireth not that he who hath turned back should keep afar off from Him, but that he should return quickly to Him. Therefore despair not, for there is still a hope of [thy] redemption. For it is said, ‘If thou cuttest down a tree it shall renew itself’ (Job 14:7). If then thou wishest to obey me in everything which I shall say unto thee, thou shalt obtain forgiveness from God.” And with tears the brother said, “From this time forward I will obey thee in everything, O father.” Then Rabbâ commanded him to seclude himself in a cell alone, and never to hold converse with any man until death, and to eat one meal daily, of bread and salt only, and to drink water only for the whole period of his life, and to plait two palm-leaf mats daily, and to keep vigil as long as possible, and never to cease from crying. So that his brother departed, even as the blessed man had commanded him, and he carried out everything which he had told him to do. And he held converse with no man except Rabbâ and Theodore, and with a few of the other great sages; and he passed ten years in striving in this manner, and died in the grace of the Lord, and Rabbâ bore witness nobly concerning his tranquil state.








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