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

AND again we saw another holy man whose name was Copres, and he dwelt in the desert, and was the archimandrite of fifty men; he used to perform many mighty deeds, for he could cure many sicknesses and diseases of various kinds, and he cast out devils, and drove away evil spirits, and did other wonderful works, some of which we saw with our own eyes. Now when he saw us, he saluted us, and prayed over us, and washed our feet, and he began to ask us questions about the world and the affairs thereof, but we entreated him to relate to us the story of his life and works first of all, and how it came to pass that God gave him such gifts, and by what kind of works he had become worthy of the same. And the blessed man, in whose mind there existed not the smallest degree of pride, began to tell us about his own life and works, and also about those of the great, and wonderful, and perfect fathers, the examples of whose lives and works he strove both to imitate and to emulate; and he answered and said unto us:—O my sons, my manner of life and my mourning are not to be compared with those of the early fathers.

For there was here before me a certain man, whose name was Petarpemôtîs, who was first and chief of all the monks who dwelt in this place; it was he who first made manifest (i.e., wore) this garb, and it was he who invented it. Now formerly he had been a thief, and a plunderer of the tombs of the heathen, and he had a great reputation for committing wickednesses of every kind connected with robbery and theft, and the following matter was the cause of [his finding] life. He once went to rob the religious house of a certain blessed woman who dwelt therein chastely, and without knowing it he found himself upon the roof of her house; and being unable to go into her house and plunder it, because the roofs of the house were as flat as the ground and they had no rain water pipes [leading thereto], for there is no rain in Thebaïs, and there was no place on the roof whereby he could enter the house, or by which he could leave it again, and he was neither able to descend nor to escape from it, he [was obliged to] stay there until the morning, and he wondered meanwhile in his mind what he should do until the daylight came. And whilst he was there he sank into a light sleep, and he saw in the form of a man an angel who said unto him, “Devote thou not such close attention, and diligence, and watching to thy life of thievery. If thou wishest to change thy wickedness into a life of good deeds thou must serve with the service of angels before Christ the King, and thou shalt receive from Him this power and authority.” And immediately he had heard [these things] he received [them] from him with gladness, and he who had appeared unto him in the form of an angel shewed him a company of monks, and commanded that he should have dominion over them.

And when he woke up from his slumber, he saw the nun standing before him, and saying unto him, “O man, what doest thou here? And what is thy report? Whence comest thou? Who art thou?” He saith unto her, “I know not, but I beseech thee to shew me the church.” And when she had shewn him the church, he went and fell down before the feet of the elders, and he entreated them that he might become a Christian, so that he might find an occasion for repentance. Now when the elders knew who he was, they marvelled at him, and they began to admonish him that henceforth he must not be a slayer of men; and he begged them that he might [be allowed] to learn the Psalms, and when he had learned three verses of the first Psalm, he said, “These are sufficient for me to learn.” And he tarried with the elders for three days, and straightway he went forth from them, and departed into the desert. And when he had lived [there] for five weeks without bread, a man came to him carrying bread and water, and he entreated him to eat thereof and to refresh himself. Now Petarpemôtîs lived there for three years in prayer and tears, and he fed himself upon the roots which were in the desert, and wandered about eating them; and after three years he returned to the church, and repeated before the fathers the belief and all the doctrine of the Church, and although he had never learned letters, he could repeat the Scriptures by heart. Then the elders marvelled at him and wondered how a man of his kind could have attained such a degree of learning and asceticism, and they gave him further light in respect of speech and learning, and when they had bestowed baptism upon him, they entreated him to remain with them. And he tarried with them for seven days more, and he went forth and departed to the desert, where he lived for a further period of seven years; and this blessed man was held to be worthy of a constant [gift of] bread, which was found every Sunday in his pillow-cloth. When he had prayed and given thanks, he would partake thereof, and then he would fast again until the following Sunday without in any way suffering.

And he came back again from that wilderness with works of spiritual excellence, and he departed from the desert, and made manifest his rule of abstinence and self-denial, and he incited many to follow after him. Now there drew nigh unto him a certain young man who entreated him that he might become his disciple, and having received him Petarpemôtîs dressed him in the way that he himself was dressed, that is to say, he wore a shirt with short sleeves, and an outer garment, and he placed a cowl upon his head, and tied a napkin about his loins, and he showed him the way and the rules of a life of mourning, and he trained him [in the life and deeds of the monks], and he placed a cape on his shoulders.

Now the custom of the blessed man was as follows: When a Christian died he remained with him the whole night long in vigil and prayer, and he would reverently dress him and bury him. And when that disciple saw him dressing the Christians who died in this way, he said unto him, “Wilt thou also dress me in this manner when I die, O master?” And he said unto him, “I will dress thee in this fashion, and I will wrap thee in a shroud until thou shalt say unto me, ‘I have enough.’ ” Now after no great length of time that disciple died, and the words of his master were indeed fulfilled, for Petarpemôtîs dressed him reverently in the fear of God, as was right, and he said in a loud voice before all those who were standing [there], “Have I dressed thee well, O my son, or dost thou still lack anything?” And the dead man sent forth a voice, and they all heard it, saying, “Thou hast dressed me, O my father, thou hast fulfilled thy promise, and hast completed thine undertaking”; and wonder laid hold upon all those who were standing there, and they glorified God. Then the blessed man departed into the desert according to his custom, and he went that he might occupy himself in his daily round of devotion, even as a man who fleeth from vainglory.

And after these things he went forth from the desert and departed to work for the brethren who were his disciples, and who were sick; now one of these was nigh unto death, and this God had revealed unto him, and the day wherein he would pass away was nigh, and the village was far away. And because he did not wish to enter therein by night (for he suspected evil), and because he would fulfil the word of our Lord, which said, “Walk in the light whilst ye have the light, and he who walketh in the light shall not be tripped up” (St. John 12:35), when he saw that the day was declining, he answered and said unto [the sun], “Tarry thou on the path of thy course, and wait for me a short time until I can come to the village”; and the sun stood still for a while, and went not down, and remained in his place, and he neither set nor went to rest until Petarpemôtîs had entered the village. Now this appearance was known unto all those who dwelt in the village, and they all ran, and stood still, and gazed for a long time at the sun, which set not. And when they saw Petarpemôtîs coming from the desert, they asked him, “What is the meaning of the sign of this sun which goeth not down?” Then he said unto them, “Do ye not remember the word of our Lord which said, ‘If ye have in you faith like unto a grain of mustard-seed, ye shall work miracles which shall be greater and more excellent than these’?” (St. Matthew 17:20.) Now when they heard these things great fear laid hold upon them, and they knew immediately that it was he who had held back the sun, and large numbers of them remained with him and became his disciples.

And he went into the house of one of his disciples who had been sick, and found that he was dead, and he drew nigh to the bier whereon the dead man was lying, and he prayed, and kissed him, and said unto him, “Dost thou desire to depart to God now, O my son, or wouldst thou remain alive in the body?” And the dead man sat up, and made answer unto him, saying, “It is better for me to leave the body that I may be with Christ, for I have no desire to live in the body”; and the blessed man said unto him, “Then die in peace, my son, and make entreaty before God on my behalf that thou mayest go unto Him.” And immediately the blessed man had said these words the man died on his bier. Then fear fell upon all those who were standing there, and they said, “Verily this is a man of God”; and when the blessed man had dressed him carefully (or well), he kept vigil the whole night [by him] and prayed and sang Psalms, and [then] he buried him in a proper manner.

And Petarpemôtîs went and visited another brother who was sick, and he saw that he was dying with difficulty, and that he was troubled in his mind; now his mind was rebuking him, and his conscience was pricking him because of his wickednesses. And the blessed man said unto him, “How canst thou go to God seeing that thou art prepared to carry with thee the accusation of neglect of thy works, that is to say, lax intentions in respect of thy manner of life?” Then that brother begged and entreated him to pray to God on his behalf, that there might be given unto him a little longer period of life so that he might amend his ways and deeds. And he answered and said unto him, “Now that thy life hath come to an end thou askest for time for repentance! What hast thou been doing all thy life long? Wast thou not able to heal thy blemishes? Yet thou hast added others to thy negligence!” But the man made supplication the more to him, and begged and entreated him to pray that he might rise up [again from his bed of sickness]. And Petarpemôtîs said unto him, “If thou wilt not add sins to thy sins, but wilt seek with all thy soul to repent, I will entreat God on thy behalf, for He is good and merciful, and ask Him to grant thee time and life that thou mayest pay back all that thou owest.” And when he had prayed he said unto him, “God hath granted thee to live in the body for three years longer, but only through earnest supplication (?)”; then he took him by the hand and raised him up from his sickness straightway, and he led him away with him and carried him off to the desert, where he lived with him for three years.

And when the three years were ended, he brought him back to his village, and set him before God, not as an ordinary man merely, but as a messenger who had been chosen by God, and they all marvelled at his works. And when the brethren were gathered together to him, Petarpemôtîs set that brother in the midst, and he narrated unto them the doctrine of life the whole night long; and suddenly he sank into a slumber, wherein he departed from this life to our Lord. Then the blessed man dressed him for burial, and he accompanied him to the grave with prayers.

Now they used to say that very many wonderful works were wrought by him, and they testified that on several occasions he walked upon the waters. And besides this he was once found in an upper chamber with the brethren, although the doors had been shut, for he had come in to them in the air by the power of angels. And they also said that he obtained from God everything which he asked for, and that he had the power to go whithersoever he pleased and whensoever he pleased, without trouble. And the blessed Petarpemôtîs once related to the brethren a story of how, on one occasion when he had gone out from the desert, he saw in his dream as if he had been taken up into heaven, and he saw there the good things that were prepared for the monks, and that the mouth of man could not describe, and that could not be uttered thereby. And he also said, “I saw Paradise with the eyes of this body, and I saw there the many multitudes of the saints, and I tasted the fruits of Paradise.” And he produced a proof of his assertion, that he might shew that the things which had been said by him were true, for he gave his disciples to eat [of the fruit of] a great, and marvellous, and extraordinarily large fig-tree, which possessed an odour that was different from any other smell in the world.

And whilst this holy man Copres was relating unto us all these things concerning Petarpemôtîs, he said, “I have seen in my youth [portions] of that fig-tree in the hands of his disciples, and I kissed them, and wonder at the odour thereof laid hold upon me; and the tree remained with his disciples for many years as a manifestation [of the truth of his words] unto many. For it was great beyond measure, and it had such wonderful properties that any sick person who inhaled its odour was straightway healed of his sickness.”

Now they say that at the beginning of his going into the desert, when he had not tasted food of any kind whatsoever for five weeks he found a man in the parched desert carrying bread and water, who begged of him to eat, and when he had done so he removed himself from him. And on another occasion the Evil One shewed him some fine gold which [in quantity] surpassed the treasures of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he answered and said unto him that showed him the gold, “May thou and thy money go to hell.” These and suchlike great things were, according to what they said, performed by Abbâ Petarpemôtîs, and they spake many other things before us the which [if written] the world could not contain. And, according to what these men said, Petarpemôtîs spake unto us, saying, “If we who are little people perform things which are little, like unto ourselves, that is to say, if we heal the halt and the blind, which selfsame things the physicians do by means of their art, in what consisteth the greatness?” Now whilst Copres, the elder, was relating these things unto us, one of us slumbered and fell into a sleep, and this man did not believe the things which he had heard the blessed man say. And having fallen asleep, he saw a marvellous book, and the book was laid upon the knees of this elder, and it was written wholly in gold, and above it there stood an old man who said unto him in a very threatening manner, “Didst thou not hear well what was being said that thou didst fall asleep?” Then immediately the man awoke from his sleep, and told us in the Greek tongue what he had seen.

Now whilst our brother was relating this dream to us, a certain villager was found to be standing there before him bearing upon his shoulders a bucket of sand, and he was waiting there to hear the end of his story; and we begged him to tell us why he was carrying the sand, and why he stood there, and what he wanted. Then Abbâ Copres answered and said unto us, “My sons, it is not seemly for us to boast, but it is fitting that we should declare before you the triumphs of the fathers, so that we may not be unduly exalted in our minds, and so lose our reward. Nevertheless, because of the earnestness, and for the sake of the welfare of you who have come unto us from a distance, we will not deprive you of benefit, and we will relate before your brotherhood whatsoever God hath wrought by our hands. At one time the land which is about us produced nothing, and it was with the greatest difficulty that the villagers who owned it were able to gather from it as much again as they sowed, for the worms were produced in the ears, and they destroyed all their harvest. Now some of those husbandmen had been converted by us, and they begged us to pray for their harvest, and we said unto them, ‘If ye have faith in God even this desert sand shall bring forth crops for you’. Then, without any doubt whatsoever, they filled their bosoms with the sand which is trodden under our feet, and they entreated us to bless it, and when we had prayed that it might be unto them even according to their faith, they went and mixed it with the wheat and sowed it in their fields, and immediately their land produced for them abundant crops, and they were larger than the crops obtained from the other lands in Egypt. Thus it became the custom for them [to bring sand] each year, and to trouble us [to bless it].”

And he also related unto us a certain wonderful thing which the Lord had wrought for us when large numbers of the brethren were gathered together, and he said, “On one occasion I went down to the city, and I found there a certain Manichean who was leading the multitudes into error, and because I was unable to rebuke and convince him openly I turned towards the multitudes, and said unto them, ‘Kindle ye a large fire, and let the two of us go into it when it is burning brightly, and he who remaineth in the fire without being burnt shall be the man who possesseth the true faith.’ And when this had been done, and the crowd had lit a fire with ready zeal, I urged the Manichean to go with me into it, but he said, ‘Let each of us go in by himself, and, moreover, it is meet that thou shouldst be the first to go in because thou didst give the command to have it made.’ Then, having made upon myself the sign of the Cross in the Name of Jesus Christ, I went into the fire, and was unharmed thereby, for the flame parted asunder on this side and on that, and it vexed me in no wise. And when I had remained in the fire for half an hour, and the multitudes had seen the wonderful thing, they cried out, and gave thanks to God, and compelled the Manichean to go into the fire, and when, because of his fear, he was unwilling to go into it, the crowd took him, and pushed him into the fire, and he was wholly consumed. As for me they took me, and escorted me to the church, and ascribed praise to God as they went.”

And on another occasion when I was passing by a certain heathen temple, the heathen were offering up sacrifices to their idols; and I said unto them, ‘Why do ye who are rational beings offer up sacrifices to things which are dumb? Are ye of your own will dumb that ye sacrifice to dumb things?’ And they admitted that what I said was good, and they came after me, and believed in Christ.

“And, moreover, we had a garden in a certain neighbouring place which was [intended] for the pleasure of the brethren who came unto us from afar off, and a certain poor man used to work therein. And one of the heathen went into the garden and stole some vegetables and departed; but he was not able to cook them, for although he kept the fire burning under the saucepan for three hours, they remained in the same state as when they were taken from the garden, and even the water would not boil! And when the man came to his senses he took the vegetables and brought them to us, and he begged that he might be forgiven the offence, and become a Christian; and he actually became one. Now on that very day certain brethren came unto us from a distance, and it is probable that those vegetables were brought on their account, so that they might enjoy them; and when we had tasted them, we gave thanks unto our Lord, for we had a twofold joy, first, because of the redemption of the soul of the man who had stolen them, and secondly, because the brethren who had come to us enjoyed them.”

These and many other wonderful things did our holy father Copres relate to us, and when he had made us rest, he took us into his garden and shewed us the palms and other fruit trees which Koprîs [sic] had planted with his own hands for the encouragement of those husbandmen who believed in Christ, and to whom he had said that this desert was able to bring forth fruit for those who believed in God; “And,” said he, when “I saw that they had sown sand, and that their crops were abundant, I also planted this garden for the enjoyment of the brethren, and it has come to its present state [of perfection].”

Here end the Triumphs of Copres and Petarpemotis








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