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

136. A BROTHER asked Abbâ Ammon, and said unto him, “Tell me some word whereby I may live”; and Abbâ Ammon said unto him, “Go and make thy mind like unto the minds of those evil-doers who are in the prison house, and who ask those who go to them, saying, ‘Where is the governor? When will he come here?’ And their minds tremble in fearful expectation. Thus also is a monk bound to wait in expectation always, and he must admonish himself, saying, ‘Woe is me! For how can I stand before the throne of Christ? And how shall I be able to make answer unto Him?’ If thou art able to think thus always thou wilt be able to live.”

137. Abbâ Poemen was once passing through Egypt, and he saw a woman sitting in the cemetery and weeping, and he said, “If every kind of instrument of sweet music in the world were to come [here] they would not be able to change the grief of this woman’s soul [into gladness]; even thus it is meet for a monk to have pain (or grief) within himself.”

138. Three old men once came to Abbâ Sisoes because they had heard that he was a great man. And the first one said unto him, “Father, how can I escape from the river of fire?” And Abbâ Sisoes answered him never a word. Then the second old man said unto him, “Father, how can I escape from the gnashing of teeth, and from the worm which never dieth?” And Abbâ Sisoes answered him never a word. Then the third old man said unto him, “Father, what shall I do? For the remembrance of the outer darkness troubleth me.” And Abbâ Sisoes answered and said unto them, “I never think on any of these things, but I believe that God is Merciful, and that He will shew mercy unto me”; then the old men went away grieved at the answer which Abbâ Sisoes had spoken unto them. Now because he did not wish to send them away sorrowful, he brought them back, and said unto them, “Blessed are ye, O my brethren, for I have been jealous of you”; and they said unto him, “In what matter hast thou been jealous of us?” And he said, “The first one of you spake about a river of fire; and the second spake about the gnashing of teeth and the worm which dieth not; and the third spake about the outer darkness; if remembrances of this kind have dominion over your minds it is impossible for you to commit sin. What can I do who am stubborn of heart? For hardness of heart will not allow me to perceive even that there a punishment for men existeth, and because of this I sin every hour.” And when the old men had heard these words, they made excuses to him, and said, “In very truth according to what we have heard, even so have we seen.”

139. A certain father said that on one occasion when the brethren were eating the food of grace, one of them laughed at table; and Abbâ Sînû saw him, and burst into tears, and said, “What can there be in the heart of this brother who hath laughed? It is meet that he should weep because he is eating the food of grace.”

140. They say that when Abbâ Sisoes was sick the old men who were sitting with him saw that he was talking [to some one], and they said unto him, “What seest thou, O father?” And he said unto them, “Some people came to take me away, and I entreated them to leave me [here] a little longer that I might repent.” Then one of the old men said unto him, “What power hast thou in thee now for repentance?” Abbâ Sisoes said unto them, “If I can do nothing else I can sigh and lament a little over my soul, and this will be sufficient for me.”

141. Certain brethren went to an old man and, making apologies to him, they said, “Father, what shall we do, for Satan is hunting after us?” And he said unto them, “It is right for you to be watchful and to weep continually. My own thoughts are always fixed upon the place where our Lord was crucified, and I sigh and lament and weep about it always;” and thus having received a good example of repentance the brethren departed and became chosen vessels.

142. A brother asked Abbâ Muthues, saying, “Speak a word to me”; and the old man replied, “Cut off from thee contention concerning every matter whatsoever, and weep, and mourn, for the time hath come.”

143. Abbâ Ammon said that he saw a young man who laughed, and he said unto him, “Laugh not, O brother, for if thou dost, thou wilt drive the fear of God out of thy soul.”

144. Abbâ Paule used to say, “I had sunk in the mire up to my neck, and I wept and spake before God, saying, ‘Have mercy on me.’ ”

145. They used to say that Abbâ Theodore and Abbâ ’Ôr put on the skins of lambs for clothing; and they said to each other, “If God were to visit us now what should we do?” and they left [the skins], and departed to their cells weeping.

146. A blessed Archbishop, when he was about to depart from this world, said, “Blessed art thou, O Arsenius, because thou hast remembered this hour.”

147. An old man said, “God dwelleth in the man into whom nothing alien entereth.”

148. A brother asked a certain old man, and said unto him, “My soul desireth tears, even as I have heard that the old men [desire] them, but they will not come to me, and my soul is vexed.” And the old man said unto him, “The children of Israel entered into the land of promise [after] forty years; now tears are the land of promise, and since thou wouldst enter therein thou must not henceforward be afraid of fighting. For God wisheth to bring tribulation upon the soul in this manner in order that it may at all times be wishful to enter into that land [of promise].”

149. A brother asked Abbâ Poemen a question and said unto him, “What shall I do? for my thoughts disturb me, and they say unto me, ‘Thy sins have been forgiven thee,’ and they make me to pry into the shortcomings of the brethren.” Then Abbâ Poemen spake to him about Abbâ Isidore, who dwelt in a cell and wept over his soul, and his disciple used to dwell in another cell; and the disciple came to the old man, and finding him weeping, said unto him, “My father, why weepest thou?” And the old man said unto him, “I am weeping for my sins.” Then the disciple said unto him, “And hast thou any sins, father?” And the old man said unto him, “Indeed I have, my son, and if I were permitted to see my sins, not three or even four men would suffice to weep with me for them.” Then Abbâ Poemen said, “Thus it is with the man who knoweth himself.”

150. I have heard that the old men who lived in Nitria sent to Macarius the Great, who was living in Scete, and entreated him, saying, “In order that all the people may not be vexed, we beseech thee, O our father, to come to us so that we may see thee before [thou departest] to our Lord. And having gone [to them] they all gathered together to him, and the old men begged and entreated him to speak unto the brethren one word of profit; and the holy old man wept, and said unto them, Let us weep, O my brethren, and let us make our eyes to overflow with tears before we go to the place where the tears of our eyeballs will burn up our bodies.” And they all wept, and they fell upon their faces, saying, “Father, pray for us.”

151. When the blessed Arsenius was about to deliver up his spirit the brethren saw him weeping, and they said unto him, “Art thou also afraid, O father?” And he said unto them, “The dread of this hour hath been with me in very truth from the time when I became a monk, and was afraid.” And so he died.

152. And when Abbâ Poemen heard that he was dead, that is to say, that Abbâ Arsenius had gone to his rest, he said, “Blessed art thou, O Abbâ Arsenius, for thou didst weep over thyself in this world. For he who weepeth not for himself in this world must weep for ever in the next. He may weep here voluntarily, or there because of the punishments [which he will receive], but it is impossible for a man to escape weeping either here or there.”

153. A brother asked Abbâ Poemen and said unto him, “What shall I do in the matter of my sins?” And the old man said unto him, “When Abraham went into the Land of Promise he bought himself a grave, and through the grave he inherited the land.” And the brother said unto him, “What is a grave?” Then the old man said unto him, “Weeping and mourning are a grave and a place [of burial].”

154. One of the brethren asked Abbâ Poemen, saying, “Father, what shall I do in the matter of my sins?” The old man said unto him, “Whosoever wisheth to blot out his offences can do so by weeping, and he who wisheth to acquire good works can do so by means of weeping; for weeping is the path which the Scriptures have taught us, and the fathers have also wept continually, and there is no other path except that of tears.”

155. And the same old man (i.e., Poemen) said, “There are two things [to remember]: We must fear our Lord, and do good unto our neighbour.”

156. Abbâ Noah asked Abbâ Macarius, and said unto him, “Speak to me a word”; and the old man said, “Flee from the children of men.” Noah said unto him, “Father, what doth it mean to flee from the children of men?” The old man said unto him, “Thou shalt sit in thy cell and weep for thy sins.”

157. A brother asked an old man, and said unto him, “What shall I do, father?” The old man said unto him, “It is right that we should sigh and lament always.” Now it happened that one of the old men fell asleep, and that after a long interval he came to himself again, and the brethren asked him, saying, “What didst thou see there, O father?” and he said unto us with many tears, “I heard there the sound of the weeping of many, who were crying out and wailing incessantly, and saying, ‘Woe is me! Woe is me!’ And it is meet that we should always be saying the same thing.”








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