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

AND we came also to Oxyrhyncus, a great city in Thebaïs, but we are not able to relate all the wonderful things which [we saw] therein; for the city is so full of the habitations of the brethren that the walls thereof are wellnigh thrust out with them, so many are the brethren! And there are so many other monasteries round about the walls, on the outside, that one would think that they were another city, and the sanctuaries of the city, and the temples which are therein, and all the spaces about them, are filled with the monks. And besides these there were thirteen churches in which the people assembled, for the city was exceedingly large. There was a place set apart for the monks to pray in each of the monasteries, and one might think that the monks were not very much fewer in numbers than the ordinary inhabitants of the city, for they were so numerous that they even filled the [buildings at] the entrances to the city, and some of the monks lived in the towers by the side of the gates thereof. Now the people said that the monks who lived inside were five thousand in number, and that five thousand brethren lived round about it, and there was not an hour, either of the day or the night, wherein they were not performing the service of God. But there were also heretics in the city, and they were not of the heathen who dwelt therein. And all the inhabitants of the city were believers, and they would hearken to the Scriptures so readily that the Bishop was able to proclaim peace to the people even in the streets; and the officers and the princes of the city, who were lavish in their gifts to the congregations, used to place watchers at the gates and entrances thereof that if they saw any needy person or any stranger they might bring him to them, in order that they might supply his need from their gifts. And what shall we say concerning the fear of God which was in these men to such a degree that, when they saw us, who were strangers, passing through the streets, they drew nigh, like angels, unto us [and helped us]? And how can a man describe adequately the multitude of monks and the innumerable virgins who used to live there? Now we would make known that which we have learned from the holy Bishop who was there, namely, that he had under his authority ten thousand monks and twenty thousand virgins. I am wholly unable to express how great is the love of strangers and the affection which exist among these men and women, for our cloaks and the other portions of our apparel were wellnigh torn to rags by the force which each one of them, in the ardour of his love, displayed in dragging us to his home. And we saw there multitudes of fathers and of great monks who possessed gifts of divers kinds, for some had the gift of speaking, and some of doing works, and some of doing mighty deeds, and some of working signs.

Here endeth the History of the Monks in the City of Oxyrhyncus








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