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

BY the help of our Lord I will, therefore, begin [to write] for thee, [O Lausus,] the histories of the holy Fathers, and I will omit nothing concerning them which I will not make known in [my] discourse, neither the histories of those who lived in cities, nor of those who lived in villages or in caves, nor of those who became famous in the desert. Nay, I will even add to my discourse the histories of those who lived among the general assembly of a community, for no special country or place wherein they lived and wherein they perfected the life of ascetic excellence needs to be sought out, for [everywhere] they led the pure life and conversation of chastity and integrity, and performed the deeds of the simple mind wherein, through the help of Christ, they wrought and fulfilled the lives and deeds of angels.

Now at first, when I went to Alexandria in the second consulship of the Emperor Theodosius the Great, who now because of the orthodoxy of his faith in Christ sojourneth with the angels, I met in the city a wonderful man who was adorned in every respect with the most beautiful qualities of speech, and knowledge, and life and conversation, whose name was Isidore. He was a priest and was the overseer (i.e., manager or secretary) of the hospital, of the church of Alexandria, and it was said of him that in his early youth he had lived in a monastery in the desert, and that he triumphed in the contest of the ascetic life: I saw, moreover, his cell in the mountain of Nitria. I met him when he was an old man seventy years of age, and when he had lived fifteen years longer he departed from this world. Now to the end of his life this holy man never put on either a linen tunic or even a head-covering; he never washed, and he never ate flesh, and he never ate a full meal seated comfortably at a table; and yet, through Divine grace, his body shone. He possessed a sound and healthy body, and he was, by the grace of Christ, so fully endowed with strength that those who beheld him and who did not know him would not be persuaded that he lived a life of self-denial, and they thought and said that he must lead a life of great luxury and that he must eat abundantly of rich meats. Now, if I were to undertake to declare the marvellous character of his life and deeds, and wished to recount the excellence of his soul, and to make manifest every fact concerning them, all time would not suffice [for me to declare them], nor would paper [suffice for me to write them]. For this man was so lovingly merciful and so full of peace that, by the reason of orthodoxy of his faith in Christ, even his enemies who did not believe were put to shame by him, from his early youth up, and at his good deeds and at the abundance of his graciousness were put to the blush; for he was gracious unto every man.

Now he possessed the gift of the spirit and the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, and the comprehension of divine learning, and he kept the commandments [so strictly] that at noon, the time when the brethren were wont to take their food, the mind of this holy man was carried away as it were in a slumber, and the greater number of the brethren were marvelling at his example and knowledge, and many, many times they tried to persuade him to relate unto them the things which he saw, and entreated him to tell them concerning the marvellous state which had come upon him, but he could not be persuaded [to do so]. Finally he was constrained by the power of their love, and he answered and said unto them, “My mind departed and was carried away by contemplation, and I was snatched away by the similitude of a thought, and I was fed with the food of glory, which, however, it is impossible for me to describe.”

Now I knew this man, and on several occasions he burst into tears at the table; and when I asked him, “What is the cause of these tears?” he said unto me, “I am ashamed of myself because, being a rational being, I eat the food of an irrational creature; I desire to live in Paradise, where I should enjoy the food which is imperishable. for [although] we have received that power which is from Christ, yet am I drawn to partake of the food which perisheth. I would partake of the food which is spiritual, and I would that I were in the Paradise of delights in the dominion which God hath given unto me; and behold I am eating the food of the beasts.”

And unto this man were known all the members of the Roman Senate and the free-born women of the nobles [of Rome], because in former times he had gone with Bishop Athanasius to that city, and he had also been there with the holy man Bishop Demetrius. And Isidore, having great riches, and wanting nothing, was wont to give abundantly and without sparing to the poor and needy. And when he had ended his days and came to die, he made no will whatsoever; and he left no money to any man, and he left nothing to his brethren. To his sisters who were virgins he also left nothing, and he made no provision at all for them, but committed them to the care of Christ, saying, “He who created you will provide for your living and also whatsoever things of which ye have need, even as He hath [provided] for me.” Now with his sisters was a company of about seventy sisters.

Now when I had come unto him to be his disciple, and I was persuading him to hold me worthy of the rank of those who lived in a monastery, being in the vigour of my early manhood and needing not the word only but also the labour of the body, and severe physical exercises, even like the young unbroken animal, I besought him to teach me his beautiful way of life and to let me dwell by myself, for I was heedful of nothing, being in the vigour of my early manhood, and I had no great need of doctrine, but only [to learn] to subdue the passions of the flesh. Then, like a good teacher, he took me outside the city unto a place which was six miles distant, and wherein there was restful solitude, and he handed me over unto an anchorite whose name was Dorotheos,








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