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

AND we saw also another priest, whose name was Apollo, who lived in the Thebaïd, on the borders of Hermopolis, whereunto our Redeemer went with Mary and Joseph, that there might be fulfilled the word of Isaiah (19:1), who said, “Behold the Lord is mounted upon swift clouds and shall go into Egypt, and the idols of Egypt shall tremble before Him, and shall fall upon the earth.” And we also saw there the house of idols wherein all the idols that were in it fell down upon their faces on the ground when our Redeemer went into that city. And we saw, moreover, that this man who dwelt in the desert was the Abbâ of five hundred monks who lived in the monasteries which stood around the base of the mountain, and that he was exceedingly well known throughout the land of Thebaïs; for he possessed the excellent virtues of the ascetic life, and God performed many great and mighty deeds through him, and very many signs took place by his hand. And this man Apollo, whose ascetic labours were so wonderful from his youth up, in the time of his old age was held to be worthy of an act of grace from God, for when he was eighty years of age he took possession of a great monastery containing five hundred marvellous men, who were also able to work miracles, and when he was fifteen years [older] (i.e., when he was ninety-five years of age), he departed from this world, having lived for forty years in the inner desert, where he led a perfectly spiritual life.

And towards the end he heard a voice like unto that of an angel, which said unto him, “Apollo, I am about to destroy the wisdom of the wise men of Egypt by thy hands, and I will remove the knowledge, which is not knowledge, of the fools of the nations; and thou shalt destroy for Me with them also the wise men of Babel (i.e., Babylon of Egypt), and thou shalt wipe out all the service of devils. And now, get thee away quickly to the desert, to the region thereof which is nigh unto the habitations of men, for thou shalt beget for Me a holy people, who shall be exalted by [their] good works.” Then Apollo made answer, and said, “My Lord, take Thou away from me pride, lest peradventure I become [unduly] exalted over the brotherhood, and I lose all the blessing thereof.” And the [divine] voice spoke again unto him, and said, “Place thine hand upon thy neck, and whatsoever thou layest hold upon, take it down and bury it in the sand”; then he quickly laid his hand upon his neck, and laid hold upon a small Ethiopian, and he buried him in the sand, as the creature cried out and said, “l am the spirit of pride.” And again the voice came to him, and said, “Get thee gone, and whatsoever thou shalt ask from thy God shall be given unto thee.”

So the blessed man, having heard [this], straightway set out to come to Shainâ, in the time of Julian, the Emperor [and] tyrant. And at first he lived in the desert which was nigh unto Shainâ, in a small cave which he found there on the side (or base) of the mountain, and his occupation was as follows:—he offered up prayer unto God the whole day through, that is to say, he prayed one hundred times in the night, and as many times in the day, and he bowed his knees when he prayed. As concerning his food he took no care whatsoever, for that was given unto him by God, and it was brought into the desert by an angel; his apparel consisted of a short-sleeved garment which covered his body, and a small napkin which he wore on his head, and these remained upon him in the desert and never wore out. He lived in the desert which was nigh unto Shainâ in the power of the spirit, and he worked miracles, and performed many wonderful cures, the glory of which it is impossible for a man to describe, but we have heard thereof from the elders who were with him, and who were also perfect men, and from the heads and governors of the brotherhood. This man, then, was famous as a new prophet, and as an apostle who had appeared in our generation. And when his fame had travelled abroad on all sides, all the monks who lived scattered about in various places came unto him in a body as unto a true father, and they offered themselves to him as an offering. And the blessed man stirred up some of them to divine visions, and others to glorious deeds of spiritual excellence, but he first of all shewed them by actual examples the things which he was exhorting them to do by his words, and he incited them on several occasions to perform work of ascetic excellence. One Sunday after another he ate with them, but he tasted nothing but the herbs which grew of themselves in the earth, and he ate neither bread, nor pulse, nor the fruit of trees, nor anything which had been prepared by fire.

Now in the reign of Julian, the blessed Apollo heard that a certain brother, who had been seized for military service, had been thrown into prison, and he took brethren, and went to visit him, and to comfort him; and having gone to him, he told that brother to endure the suffering, and to despise the tribulations which were surging in upon him, for the sake of the hope which is to come. Now that time was a season of strife, and the believing mind was sorely tried by the temptations which came upon it. And when he had strengthened the soul of the brother by such words as these, one of those who had been appointed by the Chiliarch to guard [him] came and said unto the Chiliarch, “The brethren wish to get that man out [of the prison].” Now when the Chiliarch heard this, he rose up, and came in an evil fury, and shut the doors of the prison, and set seals [upon them], and appointed stricter guards, and thus confined the blessed man, and all the brethren who were with him, in the prison, saying, “These men also are useful for military service,” and then he departed to his house without listening to the petition they made to him. But in the middle of the night the angel of the Lord, who held a lamp in his hand, lit up with his light the whole prison-house so brightly that all the watchmen were astonished, and they entreated the brethren who were therein to go away from them, and the doors were opened before them; and they said, “It is better for us to die for them, than to neglect the freedom which hath been sent from God to men who have been imprisoned in an unseemly manner.” And the Chiliarch and the noblemen who were with him came in the morning to the prison-house, and pressed the brethren to depart from the city, for his house had fallen down through an earthquake, and had buried the noble folk of his house; and when they heard this they went forth, and glorified God with a loud voice, and they departed to the desert with rejoicings.

Now all these brethren lived together after the example of the Apostles, and they possessed one mind and one soul, and the blessed man admonished them daily that they should excel in glorious works, and that they should drive away quickly and immediately to a distance, before they came, the evil crafts of the Calumniator which burst into the thoughts. For he said, “When the head of the serpent is bruised all his body dieth, for our Lord commanded us to be watchful against the head of the serpent, which is this:—We must not only take care that filthy and corrupt thoughts do not come into our minds, but we must blot out also the hateful appearances which are produced in our minds. Now, therefore, strive eagerly and earnestly that ye may emulate each other in the gloriousness of the ascetic works, so that no man may be found to be in any way inferior to his neighbour in spiritual excellence. And this is the sign that ye have approached the glory of ascetic labours, if ye can keep your bodies from the passions of the lusts; for the beginning of the gift of God is when a man acquireth also the manifestation of the wonderful [character] which is from God, lest peradventure he become [unduly] exalted thereby, or be lifted up in his thoughts, as if he were superior to his fellows, and lest he become like a man who maketh it to appear that he is worthy of all this grace; but if not, he will certainly forget that he lacketh divine grace, and that it hath been snatched away from his mind.”

Now therefore this man possessed the precious treasure of great doctrine in his mind, which we also heard from him on another occasion, and his works were more excellent than his teaching; for every petition which he asked of God was granted unto him, and visions also appeared unto him; for on one occasion he saw that his brother, who was older than he, and who also brought his life to an end in the desert, possessed more spiritual works than himself. And he saw, as in a dream, that he had become a counterpart of the Apostles, and that God had made him to inherit glory, and he was begging and entreating Him to bring about his departure from the world speedily, so that he might rest with him in heaven, and that it was said unto him by our Redeemer, “It is necessary for Apollo to live upon the earth a little longer, until many shall become perfect through envy of his glorious deeds, for he is prepared to be set over a great nation of monks, and of men who cultivate righteousness, so that he may receive glory proportionate to his labour.”

Such were the things which he saw, and they came to pass in connexion with the congregation of monks who came to him, and who, through his abundant doctrine, and through his numerous ascetic habits, became aliens to the world. And a great monastery for brethren grew up about him in the mountain, and at length five hundred men came to live there together; they had their habitation in common, and they sat at meat at one table, and verily, they appeared to be as angels, and they were like unto workers who were ornamented with princely ornaments, and were arrayed in white apparel. Thus were fulfilled the words of the Scriptures which say, “The dry desert shall rejoice, and the open plain shall leap for joy” (Isaiah 35:1); and, again, “Shout, and cry out, O thou who hast never brought forth, for the children of the barren woman are more numerous than those of her who hath had a husband” (Isaiah 54:1). And the word of the Prophet concerning the church among the Gentiles was fulfilled, and was completed also by the desert of Egypt, for the sons of God were more numerous there than in the land which had become settled and occupied by people. For in many of the cities of Egypt true congregations of monks increased even as they drew nigh to God in the desert thereof, and in proportion as the nation was at peace even so did the monks multiply in the desert of Egypt, and in them were fulfilled the words of the Apostle (Romans 5:20), who said, “Where sin increased there also did grace abound.”

Now at one time in Egypt the exceedingly abominable worship of idols was more common than among any other nation, for they worshipped dogs, and apes, and other things, and even garlic, and onions, and common garden herbs were considered to be gods, according to what we heard the holy man Apollo say, and he described the reason for the worship of idols which existed among the Egyptians, and said, “These heathen, and the early inhabitants of the country worshipped the bull because he was useful in ploughing the ground wherefrom they obtained their food, and they worshipped the waters of the Nile which irrigated their whole country, and also the earth itself which yielded to them excellent crops, and which is far more excellent than the soil of other countries. And they held in reverence their other polluted things, that is to say, dogs, and apes, and all their abominable animals and vegetables, because they had been to them the cause of redemption; now they had been brought to naught in the time of Pharaoh, when he and those who were with him were drowned whilst the children of Israel were pursued by them. For they did not cleave unto Pharaoh in that day, but each man among them made that which was his familiar [spirit] his god, and said, ‘This is my god, and through him I shall not perish with Pharaoh.’ ”

Such were the things which were in the discourse of Apollo, but it is meet that we should write down his deeds before his words. Once heathen peoples dwelt in the various places which were round about the blessed man, and the ten villages which were near him were very wicked, and they went astray in respect of the worship of idols. In one of these villages was a temple, and the idol which was in that village was very famous, and he was made of wood, and the priests danced before him, and carried him about in a procession from village to village, and then the people who were with him leaped and danced about. And once, when they were performing their play on the bank of the river, the blessed Apollo, and a few brethren who were with him, happened to be passing through the district at that time, and, when from a distance he saw the crowd which had begun its devilish sports, he bowed the knee on the spot where he was, and prayed to the Redeemer of all, and straightway all the people became bound with cords, and he put all the heathen in such a state that they were unable to crawl away from where they were, and as they were not able to depart from that place, one by one became parched [with thirst], and was obliged to suffer under the fierce heat of the sun the whole day long, and they marvelled at what had happened to them. Then their priests said, “There is a certain Christian in your borders, and it is he who hath done these things to them,” now they were speaking of the blessed man Apollo, who, by means of his prayers had brought to naught their festival, “and it is right that we should make entreaty unto him that we may not come into tribulation.”

And when the inhabitants of the country round about them heard [these things], they came at the sound of the uproar and asked them, saying, “What is this commotion which hath suddenly come upon you? And what is the cause thereof?” And they said, “We do not know, but we have a suspicion, we confess, of a certain man who is a Christian, and who liveth on the side of the mountain, and it is right that we should make entreaty to him.” Then the inhabitants bore testimony, saying, “Yea, this blessed man did pass through this country,” and the priests begged them that they would help them at once; and, wishing [to know] whether they were able to move the idol from his place, they brought oxen to draw him along, but the idol and the oxen became like unto beings who had been fixed there a long time. Now when there was not a (successful) issue to their undertaking on any side whatsoever, and no [help could be obtained] by entreating the people round about them, the priests of the idol sent to the holy man, saying that, if they were delivered from that place, they would turn aside from all their error. And when all these things had been told to the blessed man by a message, that servant of God came down quickly, and prayed over them, and released them from that restraint; and straightway they all followed him, and they believed in the Redeemer, the Lord of all, Who doeth wonderful things, and they straightway delivered the idol over to burn in the fire, and they became converted, and were baptized, and were added to the number of the sons of the Church, and many of them live to this very day in the habitation of the monastery. Thereupon the report of this old man went forth quickly into every place, and so many people believed on the Lord through him that in those borders henceforward no man gave himself the name of “heathen.”

And after a short time two villages quarrelled and fought over certain fields, and as soon as the blessed man heard thereof he went down to them quickly, that he might sow peace between them; now the men who were on one side would not be persuaded by his words, but they disputed them for the reason that they were relying, forsooth, upon a certain mighty man, who was a captain of a band of thieves, and he stood up on their behalf in the struggle. And when the holy Apollo saw this man disputing fiercely, he said unto him, “If thou wilt be persuaded by me, O my beloved, I will beseech our Lord to forgive thee thy sins”; and when the man heard these words, without any hesitation whatsoever he threw his weapons away from him, and fell at the knees of the holy man, and he turned his partisans back into their houses. And when there was peace between them, and every man had departed to his place this famous captain of thieves clung to the blessed man, and entreated him and openly demanded from him [the fulfilment of] his promise; and the holy man took him with him to the desert, and entreated him, and admonished him to be patient and said unto him, “God is able to grant thee this thing.”

And when it was night the two men saw in a dream that they were standing before the throne in heaven, and the two men also saw that the angels and the righteous men were worshipping God; and when they also knelt down on their knees, and bowed down on their faces before Christ, the voice of God came to them, saying, “What connexion hath light with darkness? Or what portion hath the believer with the unbeliever? (2 Corinthians 6:14, 15.) Why then doth this murderer stand with this righteous man, seeing that he is not worthy of this sight? But, O man, get thee gone, for behold, this little one among thy sons who hath taken refuge in thee shall be saved because of thee.” Now they saw and also heard many other things which the mouth must not dare to utter nor the ear to hear. And when they woke up they related the dream to those [who were with them], and those who heard how exceedingly glorious were the stories of these men [marvelled] that two men were able to relate one and the same dream. Now the captain of thieves remained in the monastery with the monks, and led therein a life of ascetic excellence until his departure from the world; and from being a wolf he had turned into a simple lamb; and in him was fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah (11:6, 7), who said, “The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat chopped straw like the ox.”

And we saw also there Ethiopians who lived with the monks, and they excelled to such a degree in the ascetic life that in them were fulfilled the words which are said in the Book, “Kûsh (Ethiopia) shall deliver the hand unto God” (Psalm 68:31).

And on another occasion when [the heathen] were arming against the Christians because of [a dispute concerning] the boundaries of certain territories, the blessed Apollo came to make peace between them. Now a certain chief of the force of the heathen was boasting and saying, “There can never be peace until death,” and the blessed man said unto him, “According to thy word even so let it be, for no man on either side shall die except thyself; and the earth shall not be thy grave, but the bellies of wild beasts.” And it came to pass that the man died, and in the morning his body was found, having been torn to pieces by vultures and hyenas; and when the conclusion of the matter was known they gave thanks, and believed in Christ, saying, “This man is certainly a prophet.”

Now the dwelling-place of the blessed Apollo was formerly in a cave, with five brethren who had been converted by him in the desert before he left the wilderness. And when the Easter Festival came, and they had performed the service of God in the cave, they made ready to eat whatsoever food they had; now their food consisted of a small quantity of dried bread and pickled vegetables. And the blessed Apollo said unto them, “O my sons, if we are believers and true servants of Christ, each one of us, let us entreat God to give us whatsoever He willeth to eat”; and they devoted their whole petition to this object, despising themselves as men who were unworthy of this gracious gift. And when the blessed man had prayed with a joyful countenance, and had made an end of his prayer, and they had all said, “Amen,” they found there in the night certain men standing by the door of the cave, and the men were strangers, whom no man knew, and they said concerning themselves that they had come from a far country. And they had brought with them from that country many things of which the brethren had never heard, and which existed not in the land of Egypt, that is to say, various kinds of fruits from Paradise; grapes, and pomegranates, and figs, and nuts, and almonds, which at that period did not exist [in Egypt], and honey in the comb, and a box of milk (or butter), and dates of huge size, and ten loaves of bread which were still hot; and the men who had brought these things gave them Unto them under the pretence that they had been sent by a great and rich and honourable man, and then they returned to their own country with the greatest haste and diligence. Then the holy men partook of what had been sent to them, and the food was sufficient [to last them] until Pentecost. And whilst they were wondering and saying, “Verily, these have been sent unto us by God,” one of the monks who were with him entreated the blessed Apollo that he might offer up a prayer for him to be worthy of the gracious gift, and having offered up a prayer on his behalf, the graces of humility, and of graciousness (or happiness), and of patient endurance, were bestowed upon him to such a degree that many marvelled at the excellence of the humility which he possessed. And the fathers related to us stories of the wonderful and mighty works which he performed, and many brethren testified concerning the miracles [which he wrought].

And a short time afterwards there was a great famine in the district of Thebaïs, and when the peoples of the country who were dwelling in that place heard that the monks who were with the blessed man were living without labour, they gathered themselves together, and came to him with their wives and children, and asked him for alms and for food, and he, like a man who did not fear that peradventure food would be wanting for himself and those who were with him, gave unto all those who had come to him that which was sufficient for each one of them from day to day. And when three baskets full of bread were all that remained, and the famine was still severe, he commanded and they brought these baskets into the midst [of them, and he found that] they would only suffice for one day’s food for the monks and those who were with them; and in the presence of all the crowds, who were listening, and the whole brotherhood of monks, he said with a loud voice, “Is not the hand of the Lord able to increase [these]? For thus saith the Holy Spirit, ‘Bread shall not be wanting in these baskets until we all eat new bread.’ ” And all those who were near him said, “In very truth the bread was sufficient to feed them for four months.” And he was in the habit of doing thus from time to time in respect of oil and wheat, until Satan came and said unto him, “Peradventure, thou art Elijah, or another of the Prophets, or one of the Apostles that thou darest to act thus?” Then the blessed man said to him, “And why should I not act thus? Were not the holy Prophets and the blessed Apostles men? And have not [the Fathers] handed down [to us] the tradition that they used to do such things? Or, is our Lord akin to them at one time and remote from them at another? Therefore, at all times God is able to do things like unto these, and there is nothing which is difficult for Him. If then God is good, why art thou, O corrupt one, evil?”

Why now should I not describe the things which we saw with our own eyes? Now at the time when the five hundred brethren were about to refresh themselves the baskets came in full, and when the brethren had eaten and were filled from them, by the blessing of the blessed man they went forth still being full.

And it is right that we should describe another miracle which we saw there and marvelled at. Now when we three brethren went to visit the blessed Apollo, and the brethren saw us from where he was, they recognized us by the descriptions which they had heard from him of our journey, and they met us with gladness and sang songs of praise, for such is the custom with all the brethren. And having bowed down with their faces to the ground, they rose up, and gave us the salutation of peace, and said to their companions, “Behold, the brethren of whom our Abbâ spake unto us three days ago have come to us,” for he had said, “Behold, after three days three brethren will come to you from Jerusalem.” And some of the brethren were going before us, rejoicing and singing Psalms, and some followed behind answering them, until we arrived at the place where the blessed man was; and when our father Apollo heard the sound of their singing, he also came forth to meet us, according to the custom of the brethren, and when he saw us, he was the first to bow low to the ground, and he stretched out his hand, and rose up, and kissed us, and he led us in, and prayed, and washed our feet with his own hands, and pressed us to rest ourselves and to partake of food, for it was his custom to do this to all the brethren who came to visit him.

Now the brethren who were with him did not approach their food straightway, but they first of all partook of the Eucharist of Christ together; and they used to do this daily at the season of prayer at the ninth hour, and afterwards they ate their meal; whilst they were sitting at meat they learned his commandments until the time for sleep, and afterwards some of them would go forth into the desert and repeat the Scriptures by heart, the whole night long, whilst others would take their meal with him and would glorify God until the morning. And we ourselves saw that such men began to sing the Psalms and hymns of praise in the evening, and that they continued to sing them until the day broke. Now many of them used to come down at the time of the ninth hour and receive the Eucharist, and then return to their places, and the spiritual food alone would be sufficient for them till the ninth hour on the day following; even thus did they, and many of them would continue to do thus, and remain without [ordinary] food for several days at a time, even from one Sunday to another. And we observed their joy in the desert, with which nothing on the earth, and no bodily delight, can be compared, for there was among them no man who was sorry or afflicted with grief, and if any man was found to be in affliction, our father Apollo knew the cause thereof, and was able to make known to him the secret thoughts of his mind. And he would say unto such an one, “It is not seemly for us to be afflicted at our redemption, for we are those who are about to inherit the kingdom of heaven; but let the Jews weep, and let the men of iniquity be in mourning, and let the righteous rejoice. For they have their happiness in earthly things, and they cultivate the things of earth, and why should not we, who are worthy of the blessed hope, rejoice always, even according to the encouraging words of the blessed Apostle Paul, who said unto us, ‘Rejoice in our Lord always, and pray at all seasons, and in everything give thanks” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18).

And what shall a man say concerning the grace which dwelt in the words of the blessed Apollo, and concerning his other glorious qualities, about which, because of their great number, we keep silence, and concerning which we have heard from others? Now he discussed many things concerning strenuousness in ascetic deeds together with us, and exhorted us how to receive the brethren, and he told us that when the brethren came to visit us it was seemly to bow low before them, “Not,” he said, “that we bow down before them, but before the God Who is in them. [When] thou seest thy brother, thou seest Christ. The custom of urging the brethren from time to time to come in and rest and refresh themselves we have derived from Abraham, and also from Lot, who pressed the angels [to stay with him]. And if it be possible it is fitting that the monks should partake of the Mysteries of Christ each day, and whosoever shall make himself to be remote from them shall remove himself from God; and whosoever shall do this shall receive our Redeemer always. For the voice of our Life-giver saith thus, ‘He who eateth My Body, and drinketh My Blood, remaineth in Me and I in him,’ and it is very helpful to monks to remember the Passion of our Redeemer at all times, because by the remembrance thereof which we thus keep we become worthy of the forgiveness of our sins always. Therefore it is right that we should always make ourselves worthy to receive the holy Mysteries of our Redeemer.

“Let then no man remit the well-known fasts which have been ordained unless it be for some cause [which] worketh tribulation. We keep the fast on the fourth day of the week because on that day the Jews plotted to betray our Lord, and also on the eve of the Sabbath because on that day He was crucified, and he who remitteth these becometh one of the betrayers and a Jew; but if thy brother cometh to thee during a period of fasting, and is in need of refreshment, although the time be unseasonable, set before him thy table [and let him eat] by himself, and if he wisheth not this, constrain him not, for this is an universal tradition [of hospitality].” And the blessed man blamed severely those who wore woven stuffs and dressed their hair in such a way that they would be seen by children of men to be fasting, and he called them seekers after the vainglory of men, for monks should humble their bodies by fasting and abstinence, and should work the things which are good in secret; and those who do not these things shew themselves only unto the multitude.

And what shall one say concerning all the teachings of the blessed man, which resembled his life and deeds, and which it is impossible for a man to write down, or even to mention in a fitting manner? On several occasions we conversed together the whole Sabbath, and when he was escorting us [on our way back] he said to us, “May ye have peace one with one another, and let no man separate himself from his companion on the way.” Then he said to the brethren who were with him, “Who among you is willing of his own accord to go and escort [these] brethren on the way to the other fathers?” And, with but very few exceptions, all the brethren sought anxiously to go with us and to escort us on our way; but the holy man Apollo selected three of them, men who were mighty in their ascetic labours, and understanding in their speech. Now they had been instructed in the languages of the Greeks, and the Romans, and the Egyptians, and, sending them with us, he commanded them not to leave us until we had seen all the fathers whom we wished to see, and had rejoiced in holding converse with them. Now it would have been impossible for a man to see all the fathers, even in the whole period of his life. Then he blessed us, and sent us away, saying, “May the Lord bless thee out of Zion, and may ye see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life” (Psalm 128:5).

And as we were journeying along our way through the desert, at the season of noon, we suddenly saw the marks of a monster serpent which had been lying like a log of wood on the sand, and we were afraid, but the brethren who were with us bade us be of good courage, saying, “Fear ye not, but come and see us slay him by faith For we have slain with our own hands many snakes, and asps, and vipers, so that there may be fulfilled that which is written, ‘I have given to you power to trample under foot serpents and scorpions, and all the power of the Enemy’ ” (St. Luke 10:19). Now we, because of our terror, begged the brethren that we might go straight on our journey, and might not follow the trail of the serpent, but one of them left us, and went forth and wandered about tracking the creature by the marks which it had left behind it, until at length he stood over its hole, and he besought us to go and see it, and the brethren who were with us encouraged us so to do, and we went there feeling afraid. Then a certain brother came to meet us, and led us to the monastery, and he said to us, “Ye are not able to resist the attack of the serpent, for he is fifteen cubits long, and, moreover, I have never seen a serpent larger than this one”; and conformably to his words we remained in our places. And the brother [who had found the serpent’s hole] went and begged that brother to let us go and slay the serpent, and blamed us because of our little faith, but he turned him back, and then took all of us into his monastery, and made us rest therein, and he related to me the following story:—

In the times which are past a certain holy man, whose name was Ammon, used to dwell in this monastery, and he it was who converted me, and the thieves used to vex him, for they stole his apparel and his food, and by reason of their vexatious attacks he went forth and departed into the desert; and he brought two great serpents and commanded them to guard the door of his abode, and when the thieves came according to their custom, they saw the serpents and marvelled, and, by reason of their fear, they fell down on their faces upon the ground. Then, having gone forth and seen the thieves, the blessed man spake unto them, and reviled them, saying, “Observe how much worse ye are than the serpents! These creatures are, for God’s sake, obedient to our command, but ye are neither afraid of God, nor do ye hold His servants in reverence”; and he took them into his dwelling, and fed them, and admonished them, and told [them] that they ought to change their mode of life. And straightway they repented and took up their habitation in a monastery, and they excelled more than many in spiritual works, until at length they also were able to work miracles.

Now on another occasion the inhabitants of that country came to the blessed Ammon, and made complaints to him about another serpent, and they entreated him to destroy it off their land because it used to slay their sheep and cattle; but he, as one who was not able to help them, dismissed them, and they went away in sorrow. And in the morning he rose up, and went to the place over which that serpent used to pass, and he knelt down there in prayer; now when the serpent came to pass by there, according to his wont, and saw the blessed man, he blew upon him, and hissed, and darted forward to strike him three times. Then the blessed man said unto him boldly, “May Christ, the Son of God, Who is about to destroy the great serpent, destroy thee also”; and immediately that he had uttered the word, the serpent burst asunder, and all his gall and blood came forth. And when the inhabitants of the country came and saw the serpent, they marvelled, and at the command of the blessed man, because of the stench, they heaped up the sand upon the serpent, but without the word of Abbâ Ammon they would not have approached the reptile, even though he was dead.

And on one occasion, whilst a certain youth was pasturing sheep, it happened that he saw that serpent, and he was smitten with wonder, and threw himself down in the field without saying a word; and his kinsfolk went forth to seek him, and they found him at eventide in a wretched and terror-stricken state, and they brought him to the blessed Ammon, and told him that they did not know the cause of his condition, and were ignorant of what had happened unto him; and the blessed man prayed, and anointed him with oil, and the boy was healed, and related what had happened to him, and for this reason especially the blessed man was constrained to destroy that serpent.

Here end the Triumphs of the Blessed Apollo and Ammon








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