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

AND it came to pass once when Rabbâ, and Theodore whom he loved, were walking through the monastery by night, that they saw suddenly a great phantom, which was full of the deepest deceit; now that which appeared was in the form of a woman, and its beauty was of so indescribable a character that no man was able to tell the beauty, or the form, or the appearance, which belonged to that phantom, and even Theodore, who looked at that phantom, was exceedingly perturbed, and his face changed colour. And when the blessed man saw that he was afraid, he said unto him, “Be of good cheer in the Lord, O Theodore, and fear not,” and the holy man, having said these things unto him, commanded him to pray with him, that the phantom which was striking wonder into them might be driven away. And as they were praying the phantom came nearer and nearer and took a solid form, and when it, and the company of devils which ran before it, drew nigh, for their prayer did not drive it back, it came forward and said unto them, “Why do ye labour in vain? Ye are unable at this present to do anything whatsoever against me, for I have received power from God, Who sustaineth the universe, to tempt whomsoever I please; and I have abundance of time in which to do this, for this I have asked from God.”

Then Pachomius asked her, saying, “Whence comest thou? And whom dost thou wish to tempt?” And the phantom answered and said, “I am the daughter of the Calumniator, whose great power cannot be described, and unto me the whole company of the devils is subject. It was I who brought down the holy stars to the earth, and it was I who snatched Judas from the Apostolic power. I have received authority [or power] to make war against thee, O Pachomius, for I am not able to endure the reproach of the devils, and no man hath made me as weak as thou. Thou hast made me to be trampled under foot by youths, and by old men, and by young men, and thou hast gathered together against me a congregation such as thou hast, and hast set for them [as] a wall which shall never fall the fear of God, so that my ministers are not able to approach with boldness and freedom unto anyone of you. Now all these things have happened unto me because of the Word of God Who was made man, for it is He Who hath given you power to trample upon all our might, and to hold us in derision.”

And when the holy man Pachomius asked her, “Hast thou come to tempt me alone according to what thou sayest?” she said unto him, “I have come to tempt thee, and all those who are like thee.” Pachomius said unto her, “So then thou wilt tempt Theodore also?” And she said, “I have received power over thee, and over Theodore, but I am never able to come nigh unto thee.” And when Pachomius had said unto her, “Why?” she said unto them, “If I were to make war with you [two], you would have an occasion for help and not for injury, and especially would it be so in thy case, O Pachomius, who with the eyes of thy body art worthy to be a spectator of the glory of God; but ye will not live for ever for those for whom at present ye make yourselves a wall through your prayers, and whom ye help; and the time will come after your death when I shall have dominion over those whom thou now protectest against me, for ye have made me to be trodden under foot by this multitude of monks.”

Then Rabbâ said unto her, “How knowest thou that those who shall come after us will not serve the Lord more truly than do we, and that they will not be able to confirm and strengthen those who come after us in the fear of God more than do we?” And the phantom said unto him, “I do know this.” And Rabbâ said unto her, “Thou liest by thy wicked head, because thou hast no knowledge whatsoever beforehand of the things which are going to take place, for unto God alone belongeth fore-knowledge; thou art then the chief of falsehood.” And the phantom answered and said unto him, “True, I have no knowledge whatsoever of anything by [the faculty] of fore-knowledge, even as thou sayest, for it belongeth to God alone to know what is going to happen beforehand, but I told thee that I had knowledge because [I judged] by analogy.” And the blessed man said unto her, “How canst thou judge by analogy?” And she said unto him, “By the things which have already taken place I am able to judge of what will take place in the future.” Then Rabbâ said unto her, “How?” And she said unto him, “I know that the beginning of every matter is in love and knowledge, and it receiveth confirmation from the things which are provided, and especially through the divine care and the calling of heaven, and by the Will of God it becometh confirmed by wonderful things and signs, and it is confirmed also by various powers which are exercised therein; but when that beginning waxeth old and becometh grey, it falleth away from growth, and when growth hath fallen away [i.e., ceased], it perisheth of old age, or languisheth through sickness, or decayeth through neglect.”

And afterwards Rabbâ asked her, saying, “Why hast thou come, according as thou sayest, to tempt these great [saints] and not all the brethren? If it be as thou sayest, the destruction of souls resteth with thee to work, and thou surpassest in power all the devils, and thou must have all this power so that thou mightest be able to strive against men like these.” And the phantom answered and said unto him, “I have already told thee that when the strength of the Sustainer of creation, the Redeemer Christ, appeared upon the earth, we were brought so low that, like a sparrow, we were mocked and laughed at by men such as these who are clothed with the Spirit, and who seek to learn the Lord; but although we have become feeble through Him, we do not cease to work as much as we possibly can [against you], and we never cease from opposing you by every means in our power. And we sow the seed of our wickedness near the soul of him that striveth with us, and this we do especially when we see that he receiveth [it], and if we see that he really permitteth us to embrace him, then do we inflame him with fierce lusts, and we encompass him like mighty ones and cruel devils, whom it is exceedingly difficult to defeat. But if he is not willing to receive our seed, and will not, through his faith in God, and the watchfulness of his mind, accept with pleasure the things which are offered unto him by us, we dissolve away even as smoke is dissipated in the air. This is the reason why I am not permitted to wage war with all the monks, and I do not do so because all possess not perfection. For if it were permitted to me to wage war against them all, I should be enabled to lead astray many of those who lean upon thee.”

And the blessed man said unto her, “Fie upon your wickedness which never sleepeth! Ye will never cease to stir yourselves up against the race of the children of men until the divine and unpolluted grace of God descendeth from heaven and destroyeth you.” Then, having said these things, Rabbâ commanded the phantom to depart unto the place whither it had been commanded to go, and never again to approach with her feet his monastery. And when the morning was come, he cried out unto all the great brethren, and related unto them all the things which he had seen and heard from the destroying devils, and unto the other brethren who were living in the other great monasteries he sent letters, and informed them, in the fear of God, by means of these concerning the vision [which he had seen].








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