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

AND it came to pass on the morrow that the blessed man departed to visit the other monasteries, and he arrived at the monastery which is called “Demeskenyânôs,” and entered therein; now there was in that monastery a fine, large fig-tree, which one of the youths was in the habit of climbing up secretly, and he plucked the fruit thereof, and ate it. And when Rabbâ had gone in, and had drawn near that fig-tree, he saw an unclean spirit sitting in it, and he knew straightway that it was the devil of the love of the belly; and the holy man, knowing that it was he who led astray the youths, called to the gardener, and said unto him, “Brother, cut down this fig-tree, for it is a stumbling-block to those who possess not a well-established mind, and it is not a seemly thing for this tree to be in the middle of the monastery.” Now when the gardener, who was called Yâwnân, heard these words, he was sorely grieved, for he had passed eighty-five years in the monastery, and he had lived therein a pure and honourable life, and by himself he had cared for all the fruit [trees] therein, and he had planted all the trees that were in the monastery [garden]. Now, until the day of his death he never tasted any of the fruit whatsoever, though all the brethren, and the strangers, and those who dwelt round about them used to eat their fill in the fruit season. And this brother dressed in this fashion: he joined three skins [of goats] together to form a covering for his body, and these were sufficient [clothing] for him; he didnot lay down for himself one kind of bed in the winter season, and another in the time of summer. What rest of the body was he knew not, because of the press of his labours, for, with a ready mind, he toiled always; he never ate any cooked food whatsoever, neither did he partake of lentiles, or of any other food [of the same kind], but he lived all the years of his life on plantains only, which he ate with vinegar. And the brethren used to declare positively about him, and say, that he did not even know where the hospital was, and that still less did he know what the sick folk ate.

And besides all these things, he never, so far as we have heard concerning him, lay upon his back until the day of his death, but he worked all day long in the garden, and towards sunset he used to take his food and go into his cell, and sitting upon a chair which he had in the midst thereof, he would plait ropes until [the time for the recital of] the service of the night, and in this way it might happen that he was able to snatch a little sleep through the absolute need of his corporeal nature, and that he slept whilst he was plaiting the ropes which were in his hands. Now he did not plait these ropes by the light of a lamp, but whilst he was sitting in darkness and reciting the Scriptures. And he had only one garment of linen, which he used to put on when he was about to partake of the Holy and Divine Mysteries of Christ, and immediately [he had done this] he would take it off and lay it aside, so that he might keep it clean, and it lasted him for eighty-five years. And that blessed old man performed very many other works which deserve praise, but we have not set them down in the book of this history, lest our discourse might become either too long or too full for those faithful ones who believe, and we should cause those who read it to become weary.

Now we found out concerning this man of whom we have written these things when he was dead, and he died in an unusual manner, that is to say, he was sitting upon a chair and plaiting ropes, according to his custom, and the ropes were found in his hands when he was dead. And this blessed man did not die suddenly, and so lose any portion of the happiness which was due to his health, but he fell ill, like all other men, and he would not be persuaded to go into the hospital, because he did not wish to be ministered to by any man, as are other sick folk; and he did not want to eat any of the meat which the brethren who were sick were wont to eat. And he would not lie upon his back even when he was sick, and he would not permit anyone to place a cushion for him when he was sitting up, or anything whatsoever which was a little soft, and was able to afford him relief. And no man was standing by him when he died, and he went to his rest grasping his rope-work [in his hands]. It was, moreover, a wonderful thing to hear how they buried him; for it was impossible to stretch out his legs, because they had become [stiff] like logs of wood, and it was impossible to make one hand lie by the side of his body. It was impossible to strip off him the skin garment wherewith he was clothed, and we were therefore obliged to roll him up in cloth like a bundle and to bury him in that state.

To this man came the blessed Pachomius, and told him to cut down this fig-tree, and when Yâwnân heard this, he said unto Rabbâ, “Nay, O father, for we are accustomed to gather a large crop of fruit from this fig-tree for the brethren”; now although Rabbâ was greatly grieved because of this matter he did not wish to urge the old gardener any further, and he was the more grieved because he knew that Yâwnân lived a great and marvellous life, and that he was held to be wonderful by many, and by great and small alike. And it came to pass on the day following that the fig-tree was found to have become withered so completely that not one soft leaf or fruit was found upon it. Now when the blessed man saw these things, he was greatly grieved, not for the sake of the fig-tree, but because of his own disobedience, when Rabbâ told him to cut down the fig-tree, and he did not act according to his word.








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