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

I SAW then on the borders of the city of Lycus, in the Thebaïd, the great and blessed man John, a man who was truly holy and excellent, and by his works it was known unto every man that he possessed the gift of prophecy. And he made known unto the believing Emperor Theodosius, before they took place, the things which God was about to do unto the children of men, and he revealed [to him] what manner of ending they would take, and the arrogance of the kings who would rise up against him, and how they would speedily be destroyed, and how the nations which would gather together to make war upon him would perish, [and his ability to read the future was] so [great] that even a general came to enquire of him, if he should be able to conquer the Kûshâyê peoples (i.e., the Nubians), who at that time had boldly invaded Syene, which is the beginning of the Thebaïd, and who had overrun the city and laid it waste. And the blessed John said unto him, “Thou shalt go up against them, and shalt overtake them, and thou shalt conquer them, and shalt be victorious [or triumphant] before the Emperor”; and these things were actually done. Now this blessed man possessed the power of prophecy to an extraordinary degree, according to what I have heard from the fathers who were constantly with him, and as the lives of these men were well known to the inhabitants of that country, and were carefully scrutinized by them, it is impossible to think that their stories about him were in any way hypocritical; on the contrary, their language was incapable of describing his honourable life and deeds.

There was a certain tribune who came to him, and who begged and entreated him to allow his wife to come to him, for she was exceedingly anxious to see him; she was about to go up [the river] to the district of Syene, and before she went up she wished to see him, that he might offer up prayer on her behalf, and bless her, and then send her away [on her journey]. And because the blessed man had taken a vow not to see women, and because he was ninety years of age, now he had been in a cave for forty years, and he had lived therein the whole time, and had never departed from it, and because he never allowed any man to come into his abode, he excused himself from seeing the noble lady; and he was in the habit of saluting folk through his window only, and of blessing those who came to him therefrom, and he spake with every man only concerning the care which it was necessary to take in the matter of the life and works of ascetic excellence. And, although the tribune multiplied greatly his supplications and entreated him to allow his wife to come to him, now the dwelling of the blessed man was situated in the mountainous desert about five miles distant from the city, the holy man would not be persuaded to do so, but said, “This thing is impossible”; and he dismissed the tribune in grief and in sorrow. And the woman tormented her husband by day and by night, and she took an oath, saying, “I cannot go to any other place until I have seen the holy prophet.” And when the oaths of the woman were revealed to the blessed man by her husband, he discerned the faith of the woman, and said unto her husband, “I will appear unto her in a dream this night, but she must never [try] in addition to see my face in the body”; and the tribune made known to his wife the words of the blessed man. And as she was lying in her bed at night she saw the prophet himself come to her, and he said unto her, “What have I to do with thee, O woman? Why dost thou so eagerly desire to see my face? Am I a prophet or a righteous man? I am a sinner and a man of passions even as ye are, but behold, I have prayed for thee and for thy husband, and for thy dwelling, that even as ye have believed, so may it be unto you. Therefore get ye gone in peace;” and having said these words he departed from her. And when the woman woke up she related to her husband the words of the prophet and described his form and appearance, and she offered her thanks to the prophet through her husband. Now when the holy man John saw that her husband had come, before he could speak he said unto him, “Behold, thy request is completed, for I have seen thy wife, and I have fulfilled her petition, and thou must never see my face again; but depart ye in peace.”

Now the wife of another prefect was with child, and she was nigh unto [her time] for bringing forth; and her husband was away at a distance, and on the day in which the blessed man John met her husband she was afflicted, even unto death, with the pains of her bringing forth. And the holy man John gave the news to her husband, and said unto him, “If thou didst only know the grace of God, for behold, a son hath been born unto thee this day, thou wouldst praise God, for his mother hath suffered in no small degree. Behold, thou shalt go and shalt find the boy to be seven days old on thine arrival, and thou shalt give him the name of John, and when he hath grown up, and hath been instructed, and is seven years of age, thou shalt send him to the solitary monks in the desert.”

And the blessed John also made manifest wonderful things like these to stranger folk who used to come to him, and he very frequently made known to the people of the city who used to come to him beforehand concerning their affairs, and showed them the things which were about to happen. And he told each one of them that which was done by him in secret, and he foretold concerning the rise of the river Nile, and the good crop which there would be as the result thereof, and described it unto them; and he declared and pointed out the time when the anger of God was about to come upon them, and rebuked those who were the cause of the same. Now the blessed man John did not himself work his cures openly, but he used to consecrate the oil and give [it] to those who were afflicted, and they were healed. Thus the wife of a certain nobleman had the light of her eyes taken away through the cataract which obstructed the light thereof, and she begged and entreated her husband to take her to him, and when he said unto her, “The blessed man hath never met a woman,” she besought him to have a message sent to the holy man asking him to offer up a prayer on her behalf; and this the blessed man did, and he also sent her some oil over which he had said a blessing and made the sign of the Cross, and when she had smeared her eyes therewith three times, after three days she was able to see. Then she praised God the Lord of all, and openly gave thanks unto Him always.

And what shall we say about his other deeds? [Nothing]. We can only tell of the things which we saw with our own eyes. Now there were of us seven brethren who were strangers, and who went to him all together, and having given us the salutation of peace with his glorious face, and shown his gladness [at seeing us] to each one of us, we asked him before anything else to offer up a prayer on our behalf, for it is the custom with all our fathers in Egypt to do this. Then he asked me if there was, perchance, a man among us who was a priest or deacon, and although we said there was none such among us all, he well knew that there was one among us who was hiding his honourable rank. Now there was among us one who had received the hand of deaconship, but only one of the brethren, and he was with us, knew of this, and the deacon, by reason of his humility, prohibited him from making this known to anyone, “For,” said he, “in comparison with these holy men I am not worthy to be called even Christian; permit me then not to make use of the honour of deaconship.” Then the blessed man pointed out to us all with his hand the deacon, and said, “This brother is a deacon”; whereupon the deacon denied this repeatedly, thinking to lead us astray, but the blessed man grasped the hand of the deacon through the window, and kissed it, and begged him, rebuking him at the same time, saying, “Wrong not the grace of God, O my son, and lie not concerning the gift of Christ with the denial of an alien; for falsehood, whether it be uttered concerning a small matter or a great one, or something which is convenient, is still falsehood, and is not to be praised. For our Redeemer said, ‘All falsehood is of the Evil One’ ” (St. Matthew 5:33, 37; St. John 8:44). And the deacon being thus rebuked accepted the reproof of the old man pleasantly.

And when we had prayed and made an end of our supplications, one of us became afflicted with shiverings and strong fever, and he begged the blessed John that he might be healed. Then the blessed man said unto him, “This sickness is for thy benefit, because a diminution of faith hath come upon thee,” but he gave him some oil, and let him anoint himself therewith, and when the man had rubbed the oil upon his body, every evil thing which was inside him he cast forth through his mouth, and he was completely cured of his sickness, and departed on his own feet with us to the place where travellers rested.

Now the blessed man appears to have been about ninety years old, and his whole body was emaciated and frail as if by the severity of his rule of life, and no hair whatsoever remained upon his cheeks; and he ate nothing whatsover except dried vegetables (or fruits), and in the period of his old age he did this at sunset. In the early part of his career he suffered severely, because he would neither eat bread, nor anything which had been cooked by fire. And he commanded us, and we sat down with him, and we gave thanks unto God that we were esteemed worthy to see him; and he rejoiced [in us] as if we had been beloved children of his who were meeting their father after a long absence, and with a joyful countenance he held converse with us, saying, “Where do ye come from, my sons, and from what country? Ye have come to a miserable and wretched man.” And when we told him [the name of] the country, and that we had come to him from Jerusalem for the benefit of our souls, and that that which we had received with our ears we might see with our own eyes, for the hearing of the ears is less trustworthy than the sight of the eyes, and frequently error maketh its way into what is heard by the ears, whilst the remembrance of what a man hath seen can never be blotted out from the heart, and the description of the same will be permanently fixed in the mind, the blessed man John anwered and said unto us, “What great thing did ye think ye would see, O beloved sons, that ye have come all this way, and have toiled all this great toil? Did ye desire to come and see miserable and wretched men? We possess nothing whatsoever which is worth looking or wondering at. There are, however, in every place men who are wonderful and who are worthy of admiration, that is to say, men who are called in the church the Prophets and Apostles of God, and of these it is meet that we should emulate their example.

But I marvel greatly at the indefatigable zeal which made you treat the tribulations of the journey with contempt in order that ye might come hither, for your welfare, to those men who, because of their sluggishness, are unwilling to go out of their caves. And I say that, although that which ye have now done meriteth praise, ye must not allow the thought to come into your minds that ye have fulfilled completely every duty, but ye must make yourselves to be like unto your fathers in respect of the glorious rules of life by which they were guided and the works which they did. For although ye possess all the virtues, which is a difficult matter to accomplish, ye must not even so be [over-] confident in yourselves, for the men who have become puffed up with pride, and who thought they had arrived at the stage of [being worthy of] praise, have subsequently fallen from their high estate. But examine yourselves carefully and see whether your consciences are pure, so that purity may not be driven out from your minds; and let not your thoughts wander about at the season when ye stand up in prayer before God, and let not any other thought enter into your mind and turn it away from that glorious sight of God which riseth upon the pure heart at the season of prayer, and which enlighteneth and maketh the understanding to shine; and let not the remembrance of evil thoughts disturb your minds. And examine yourselves and see whether ye have truly made a covenant with God, and whether ye have not, after the manner of men, entered in that ye may attain the freedom which is in Christ, and whether ye do not desire to possess the vainglory of ascetic deeds, and whether ye do not, after the manner of men who boast themselves before men, [possess only] the similitude of our ascetic deeds. And take heed lest any passion whatsoever vex you, or any longing for honour or glory from the children of men, or any deceitful desire of priesthood, or of self-love. And do not think that ye are righteous men only, but be ye diligent and zealous in very truth that ye may neither be boastful nor unduly exalted by applause.

And let there not be any anxiety about family in the mind of him that prayeth unto God in very truth, neither shall there be to him any remembrance of the fair things which have been done by him, nor love for other folk, nor any memory whatsoever of the world, for if the man who holdeth converse with his Lord be reduced, or drawn aside, or led away by any other mind [than this] his labour is emptiness. Now this falling away happeneth to the mind of man after man who doth not deny the world absolutely, and who hunteth after the approbation of the children of men; for he devoteth himself unto everything in multitudes of ways, and his mind is divided among many kinds of thoughts, both of the body and of the earth, and thereupon he is obliged to strive against his own passions and is not able to see God. It is therefore not seemly for a man to think that he hath found knowledge with absolute certainty, [lest peradventure being unworthy of knowledge], and having only acquired a small portion thereof, he imagine that he hath found the whole of it, and so he devote himself wholly to destruction. But it is right that we should always draw nigh unto God with moderate ideas and in faith, so far as it is possible to approach Him in the mind, and so far as the children of men are able to attain unto Him. It is right therefore that the mind of every man who loveth God should be remote from all these things, for he who in truth seeketh after God with all his heart will remove his mind far away from every earthly thing, and he will direct the gaze of his understanding towards God, for it is written, ‘Turn ye and know that I, even I, am God’ (Psalm 46:108). He therefore who is worthy of a little of the knowledge of God, for man is not able to receive the whole of it, is able to acquire the knowledge of many things, and to see those mysteries which the knowledge of God will shew him. And he will see the things which are about to happen beforehand, and glorious revelations will be made known to him as [unto] the saints, and he will do mighty works, and everything which he asketh from God he shall receive.”

And having said these things unto us, and many others which also concerned the rules of the life of ascetic excellence, he added the following:—“It is right that every one who is a man of discernment should wait for his departure from this world as if he were going to approach a life of happiness, and that he should not set before his eyes the humiliation of the body, and should not fill his belly with that which he hath; for the thoughts of him that filleth himself full of meats resemble those of men who are fed upon delicate meats. But strive ye in your life and deeds to acquire the power of enduring lusts and appetites patiently, and let no man seek after the things which are fine, and those which are gratifying to the body, but let him restrain himself in the short time [which we have] here so that he may inherit rest and relaxation in the kingdom of God, for it is said, ‘Through abundant tribulation it is meet for us to enter into the kingdom of God’ (Acts 14:22). And in this manner also Paul the Apostle admonished us, and he spake that which he had learned from our Redeemer, Who said, ‘How strait and narrow is the way which leadeth to life, and few there be who find it (St. Matthew 7:14); and how broad is the gate, and wide the way which leadeth to destruction, and many there be who travel upon it.’ And let us not be in despair in this country, for in a very little while we shall depart unto the world of rest; and let not any man be [unduly] exalted through the fair deeds which he performeth, but let him be always in a state of penitence. And let him betake himself away far into the desert whensoever he feeleth within himself that he is becoming [unduly] exalted, for on several occasions the monastic dwelling which is nigh unto villages hath harmed those who were perfect. And he must do as did one unto whom this happened, who said in his Psalm (Psalm 55:6, 7), ‘Behold, I fled away to a remote place, and I took up mine abode in the whirlwind,’ and I waited for God to deliver me from littleness of soul, and from the spirit of the world. And this very thing hath happened unto many of our own brethren, and because of their pride they fell away from the mark which they had set for themselves.

Now there was a certain brother who dwelt in a cave which was in the desert nigh unto Shainâ, and he followed the ascetic life with the utmost strenuousness, and he used to provide himself with bread day by day by the labour of his hands; and because he was constantly in prayer, and excelled greatly in praiseworthy actions, and had confidence in himself, and was proud of his fair life and deeds, the Tempter, having asked God for him as he asked Him for Job, shewed him the form of a beautiful woman who was wandering about in the desert in the evening. Now this woman, finding the door of the cave open, leaped up, and passed through the door, and fell upon the knees of the man, beseeching him to let her rest there because the night had overtaken her, and he, having compassion upon her, [did] what was not right, and received her into the cave, and he wished to learn from her how she had come to lose her way. Then she spake unto him, and sowed words of sin and of incitement to lust in his ears, and she prolonged her conversation with him so that by means of her lascivious flattery she might excite him to the hateful lust; and there being much speech between them, together with laughter and jesting, she led him astray little by little by means of much speaking until at length she took hold of his hand, and then of his beard, and then of his neck, and finally she made the valiant man her captive. Meanwhile as thoughts of these things were chasing each other through his mind, and he believed that the matter was in his own hands, he waited for the moment and the opportunity when he would be able to fulfil his lust; and having delivered himself over to his wicked imagination, he strove diligently to work it out, and to be united to the woman like a man who hath lost his mind, and like a horse mad with desire, [and as he was about to fulfil his lust] the woman cried out several times, and suddenly escaped from out of his hands, and flew away like a shadow. Then straightway there was heard in the air the great shouts of laughter of the multitudes of devils who had overthrown him and made him to fall into error, and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Whosoever exalteth himself shall be humbled; and as for thee, O thou who didst exalt thyself unto the heavens, behold, thou hast been brought down into the deepest depth.

And it came to pass after these things that the man rose up in the morning having been clothed with grief the [whole] night, and he beat his breast and cried over himself the whole day through; and having given up all hope of his redemption, he did that which was unseemly and went back to the world again. For it is of the cunning of the Evil One that, having vanquished a man in the strife, he bringeth him to a senseless state of despair, and he is never able to stand up again. Therefore, O my sons, it helpeth us not to dwell in caves near to the villages, and the meeting with women is not beneficial to us, for we keep in our minds a remembrance which cannot be blotted out from the mind, both of their words and appearance, and moreover it is not right that we should reduce ourselves to despair; for behold, very many men have been in despair about themselves, but the compassion of God hath not forsaken them.

For there was a young man in a certain city who had committed multitudes of sins and great wickednesses, with a most evil intent, yet at a sign from God he repented of his sins, and departed to the place of the tombs, where he wept over his former sins; and he cast himself upon the earth face downwards, and did not care to lift up his voice and to make mention of the Name of God in his mouth, or to make entreaty to Him, and he thought that he was not worthy to live, and before his death he shut himself up in the place of the tombs, groaning from the depth of his heart, because he had lost all hope of his life. Now when he had passed a whole week of days in this manner, those devils who had formerly injured his life rose up against him by night, and cried out, saying, ‘Where is that corrupt and filthy man who, having filled himself as full as he could with pollution and corruption, doth now unseasonably and suddenly appear to be both chaste and good, and because he is not able to do so he wisheth to become a Christian, and a man of well ordered life? What then is the beautiful thing which thou expectest to acquire now that thou hast sated thyself with every kind of wickedness? Wilt thou not stand away from where thou art, and come with us and [enjoy] the things which thou usually hast? Behold, whores and tavern companions are waiting for thee, wilt thou not then come and gratify thy lust with us? Every hope for thee hath been extinguished, and truly thy punishment shall arrive swiftly, and in this manner thou wilt slay thyself. Why art thou terrified at [the idea of] punishment, O wretched man? And why strivest thou that it may not come upon thee swiftly?’ And they said unto him very many other things, and cried out to him, ‘Thou art ours, for thou didst make a covenant with us. Thou didst commit every kind of wickedness, and thou wast worse than every one of us, and wouldst thou dare to flee [from us]? Wilt thou not return us an answer, and wilt thou not agree with us and go forth with us?’

But the young man continued to weep steadily, and he neither inclined his ear to hearken unto them, nor made answer unto them. Then, when those devils had remained with him a long time and had done nothing [unto him], as they were speaking wicked and abominable devils laid hold upon him, and smote him with severe stripes, and tore to pieces his whole body, and entreated him most evilly, and then departed, leaving him with very little life in him. And the young man lay groaning in the same place where they had left him, for he was unable to turn round and depart to another place, and shortly afterwards, when he had regained a little of his breath, the members of his house and his relatives went forth in sorrow to seek him, and when they found him they learned from him the cause of the stripes, and they besought him to go with them to his house; but the young man did not yield to their frequent and urgent entreaties. And again, on another night, those devils made to come upon him stripes which were more numerous and more severe than the former ones, nevertheless he would not consent to depart from that district at the entreaty of his relatives, but he said unto them, ‘It is better “for me to die [thus] than to live with the blemishes of this world upon me.’ On the third night, however, within a very little, through the multitudinous stripes of the devils, he departed from this temporary life, for they fell upon him without mercy, and they smote him with blows where the former blows had fallen, and they entreated him so evilly that he was obliged to fight for [his] breath. And when they saw that he would not yield to them, they left him for dead and departed from him, and they went away from him, crying out and saying, ‘Thou hast conquered us, thou hast conquered us, thou hast conquered us.’ And afterwards nothing evil came upon him.

And the pure young man continued to dwell in the grave and to lead a pure life gloriously, and he was so weighted with the fear of God in the wonderful and mighty deeds which he made manifest, that many folk marvelled at him, and desired greatly [to do as he did], for those who had entirely abandoned all hope of their souls devoted themselves to the performance of his excellent rules of life. And in him was fulfilled that which is written, ‘Whosoever humbleth himself shall be exalted’ (St. Luke 14:11). Therefore, O my sons, I beseech each and every one of you before all things to lead a life of humility, for that is the foundation of all the glorious virtues; but besides this, the dwelling in a remote desert place is exceedingly helpful to the performance of deeds of ascetic excellence.

And there was also another solitary monk who dwelt in a place which was a long way off in the desert, and having led for many years a life of perfection with all credit, in the time of his old age he became tempted by devils; he had been a strenuous man and had loved the life of quiet contemplation all his days, and he excelled exceedingly in prayers, and in [singing] praises, and in multitudes of visions, and spiritual manifestations were revealed unto him with such scrupulous exactness, some in revelations and some in dreams, that finally he was able to walk in the footsteps of incorporeal beings. And because he was not stablished in the earth, and took no care about his food, he sought not in the trees the things of which the body hath need, neither in the green herb, nor in the birds, nor in the animals of the desert, and he was full of trust in God. For from the time when he went forth from the habitation of men into the desert, he had no care whatsoever in his mind about that whereon he was to live and to support his body, but wholly forgetting all such things his whole love was exalted to God. And he awaited his call from Him and his departure from this world, and he enjoyed exceedingly the visions and the hope of that which was to come, and his body did not shrink by reason of length of years nor did his soul decay, and he possessed a beautiful nature through his chaste life. But God took care of him, and at certain welldefined intervals, that is, once every two or three days, he found bread upon his table; and whensoever he felt that his body needed food, he would go into the cave and take rest, and having refreshed himself, and bowed himself before God, he would return again to his praises, and say ‘Amen’ in his prayer and in his visions. And rejoicing in his peace every day he added to the glory of his life and works, and he waxed stronger daily in the hope of that which is to come, like a man who was confident that he would depart from this world in virtue, which actually took place within a very short time from his fall, through the temptation that subsequently came upon him.

But why should we not tell the story of his sin whereto his folly was exceedingly close? For, having become proud in his mind, and thinking therein that he was better than many men, and that he possessed some faculty for goodness which was greater than that possessed by all other men, and trusting in himself that this really was so, at no remote time there was born in him first of all a degree of negligence which was so small that it might be imagined that it was not negligence, and then there burst into existence contempt, which is a greater [sin] than negligence, and then sluggishness made itself felt, and as a result of these things he used to stand up in vigil and prayer in a listless fashion, and the entreaty of his prayer became small, and his praises of God were short, and his soul longed for pleasures, and his mind inclined to terrestrial things, and his thoughts wandered to hateful things, and in secret he meditated upon the abominable things of lust. But, however, the constraint of his former life and deeds was still with him as a protection, and at eventide, after his usual prayer, he found upon his table the bread which had been given to him by God, and he ate and was refreshed. And because he did not cast away his shortcomings, and did not consider that his negligence injured his strenuousness in ascetic virtues, and increased his zealousness in the performance of other things which were hateful, and because he did not turn to the healing of his wickednesses, and because it was a small matter in his sight that he had fallen away entirely from the things which were seemly, the evil lust of filthy fornication seized upon his mind, and carried him away in his thoughts to the world.

And having remained [thus] for one day, he turned to his usual service of singing the Psalms, and he prayed, and praised God, and went into the cave, and he found therein his bread which had been placed there at [the fixed] time, but it was not as pure as it was usually, and it was somewhat dirty; and though he marvelled thereat, and was sad about it, he ate the bread and was refreshed. And it came to pass on the third night that there was added a threefold evil, and he delivered over his wicked mind quickly to his guilty thoughts; now it seemed in his consciousness as if there was a woman close to him, and lying by his side, and as if he was looking at her with his eyes, and as if he was actually performing an act of union with her. Now on the third day he went out to his occupation of prayer and praise, but his thoughts were not clean, and his mind was wandering about hither and thither, and he was moving the sight of the pupils of his eyes in all directions, and the remembrance of his lusts shortened his good work. And he went back in the evening seeking for bread, and when he had gone into the cave he found upon his table bread, part of which had been eaten by the mice, and part had been gnawed by dogs, and the rest was dry; then he groaned again and wept, but not sufficiently to restrain him from his wickedness. And having eaten the bread, which was not according to his taste, he endeavoured to take some rest.

Then again the evil thoughts stirred in him, and made war upon his mind so that they might lead him along the road and carry him to the world; and he rose up by night and went forth from his cave to travel in the desert to Shainâ, and whilst he was still far from the habitations of men, the day overtook him, and the heat of the sun afflicted him, and he looked round about him that, peradventure, he might see a monastery wherein he might enter and rest himself. And he saw a monastery, and went into it, and the chaste and believing brethren who regarded him as a true father received him; and they washed his face and his feet, and when they had prayed, and set forth a table, they entreated him lovingly to partake of whatsoever they had, and when he had eaten and was refreshed, they asked him to address to them a word of help and to tell them how they might be able to escape from the crafty snares of the Enemy, and to rise up and to prevail like men over lascivious thoughts. Then that monk, like a father who was admonishing his sons, commanded them to persevere in the labours of ascetic life, even unto weariness, as men who, after a short time, would depart to abundant delight; and having spoken unto them several other most excellent things he helped them greatly. And having made an end of his admonitory discourse, he remembered himself a little, and thought within himself, saying, ‘How is it that I am able to rebuke others, and remain myself without reproof?’ Then having understood his guiltiness, he ran back with all speed to the desert, and wept over himself, saying, ‘If it had not been that the Lord helped me my soul would have been destroyed by misery, for I am within a very little of [falling] into every kind of wickedness, and my life would have been destroyed in the earth.’ And it was fulfilled in him the saying, ‘A man is helped by his brethren, even as a city is helped by its fortress, and he is like a wall which shall never fall.’ And from that time onwards, for the whole period of his life, that monk mourned and wept because he was deprived of his heavenly table, and he obtained his daily bread only by means of great toil. And he shut himself up in the cave, and [put on] sackcloth and ashes, and he humbled himself in prayer; and he neither rose up from earth nor ceased from groans and sighs, until he heard in a dream a sound of angels which came to him, [and said], ‘God hath received thy repentance, and hath had mercy upon thee. Therefore take good heed that thou stumble not a second time into sin. And the brethren whom thou didst admonish shall come unto thee and console thee, and shall bring unto thee a blessing [which] thou shalt receive from them, and ye shall be refreshed and shall give thanks unto God always.’

These things which I have narrated unto you, O my sons, [shew] that ye should acquire humbleness of mind before every other thing in your life and works, and in all matters which shall be unto you, whether they be small or whether they be great, for this is the first commandment of our Redeemer, Who said, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (St. Matthew 5:3). Take good heed that ye be not confounded by the Devil when filthy visions rise upon you, and go not astray after devils when they shew you a lying vision. But if anyone come unto you, be it brother, or friend, or wife, or old man, or father, or teacher, or mother, or sister, or son, or daughter, first of all lift up your hands in prayer, and if it should happen that any lying vision of devils should come, it will depart quickly from before you. And moreover, if men or devils would lead you astray, and would incite you [to sin] by flattering you, be not persuaded by them, and be not lifted up in your minds. For in this way they have led even me astray on several occasions, and the devils would let me neither pray nor take my rest in the night season, and they used to show me lying visions the whole night long, and then in the morning they would laugh at me, and would bend the knee before me, and say, ‘Father, let us vex thee [by day] in the same way as we did all night long,’ and I would say unto them, ‘Get ye gone from me, O ye workers of iniquity, for ye shall not vex the servant of God.’ Therefore, O my sons, after quietness, follow ye after and love peaceful meditation, and train yourselves at all times in the vision of excellence, and ye shall acquire in prayer to God the broadness of a pure mind. For he is a good and fair athlete of Christ, and a noble and strenuous man, who shall at all seasons train himself in labours, who shall do fair deeds continually, who shall shew forth love for the brethren and for strangers, who shall perform love and mercy, who shall visit and relieve all those who are nigh unto him, who shall help the suffering and support the sick, and who shall bring his days to an end without stumbling. For if a man bring his days to an end without stumbling, even though he labour in and be held fast by the things of earth, he is a fair, and good, and noble soldier and workman, and worker and doer of the commandments.

“But the spectator of the mind who leaveth all these things for others to administer [or provide] is far better, and more excellent and greater than he, and he pursueth spiritual instead of corporeal things, and leaveth the transitory things of this world unto others; for he denieth himself, and forgetteth himself, and taketh up his cross and cleaveth unto Christ, and he embraceth the things of heaven continually, and he maketh his escape from everything [earthly], and draweth nigh unto God, and he will not allow himself to be drawn to turn behind him through any care whatsoever. And such a man as this is, through his godly works, and the praises which he offereth up continually before God, with God, and, being free and unfettered by any tie whatsoever, he standeth before God in security, and his mind is not drawn away by any other care. He who is in this condition holdeth converse with God continually, and offereth up to Him unceasingly praise and glorifying. But it is necessary [that those who seek after God should forsake] everything which is visible, and should turn themselves completely towards God, and should commit themselves to Him that He may protect their lives; for the man in whom God dwelleth doth not know even that the world existeth, since the whole of creation is an alien thing in his eyes, because he is crucified unto all the world, and it is accounted by him as nothing.”

These then were the things which the blessed John related unto us (now he told us many others), and he held converse and talked with us for three days, and he healed our souls until the season of the ninth hour; and when he gave us [his] blessing, he spake unto us also a word of prophecy, saying, “This day letters [recording] the victory of Theodosius the Emperor have entered Alexandria, and these make known that he hath slain [A.D. 394] Eugenius the tyrant, and the death which the Christian Emperor Theodosius himself will die.” Now these things actually happened as he said. And having seen many other fathers, other brethren came and informed us that the life of the blessed John had come to an end in a most excellent and exemplary manner; for he commanded him (i.e., his disciple) that for three days no man should be allowed to go up to him, and he bowed his knees in prayer, and his career was crowned, and he went to our Lord, to Whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Here end the Triumphs of the Blessed Mar John








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