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

158. ABBÂ ARSENIUS once fell sick at Scete, and he was in need of a bowl of pottage; and since this was not to be found there, he took the remains of the Eucharist (or food of grace), and said, “I give thanks unto Thee, O Christ, that, because of Thy name, I am able to receive the food of grace.”

159. There was a certain holy man whose name was Philagrius, who lived in Jerusalem, and he worked with his hands and toiled [to earn] the food which he needed; and the old man rose up to see the work of his hands, and he found a purse containing one thousand darics which had dropped from some one [on the road], and he remained in the place where he was, saying, “The man who lost this will come back seeking for it.” And behold the man did come back, and he was weeping, and the old man took him aside and gave him the darics; and their owner laid hold upon him, and wished to give him some small sum of money, but the old man refused to accept anything. Then the owner of the darics began to cry out and say, “Come ye and see what the man of God hath done”; but the old man fled secretly and departed from the city, lest what he had done should become known, and men should pay him honour because of it.

160. They say that Abbâ Serapion the Bishop went on one occasion to one of the brethren, and found [in his cell] a hollow in the wall which was filled with books; and the brother said unto him, “Speak to me one word whereby I may live.” And the Bishop said unto him, “What have I to say to thee? For thou hast taken that which belongeth to the orphans and widows and laid it up in a hole in the wall.”

161. Abbâ Theodore of Parmê possessed some beautiful books, and he went to Abbâ Macarius and said unto him, “Father, I have three books, and I gain profit from them, and the brethren borrow them from me, and they also have profit from them; tell me, now, what shall I do with them?” And the old man answered and said, “Ascetic labours are beautiful, but the greatest of them all is voluntary poverty.” And when Abbâ Theodore heard these words he went and sold the books and gave the price of them to the poor.

162. They say about a certain monk that when his food came to him he was in the habit of taking so much of it as he needed, [but that if it happened that another man was brought to him he would not accept any of it], saying, “It is sufficient for me; behold my Lord hath fed me.”

163. A certain monk used to live in a cave in the desert, and a message was sent unto him by his kinsfolk, saying, “Thy father is grievously sick, and is nigh to die, therefore come, and inherit his possessions”; and he made answer unto them, saying, “I died to the world long before he will die, and a dead man cannot be the heir of a living one.”

164. An old man was asked by a brother the question, “How shall I live?” Then the old man took off his garment, and girded up his loins therewith, and lifted up his hands and said, “It is meet for a monk to be as naked in respect of this world’s goods as I am of clothing. And in his striving against his thoughts he must stand as upright as a vigorous athlete, and when the athlete contendeth he also standeth up naked, and when he is anointed with oil he is quite naked, and hath nothing upon him; and he learneth from him that traineth him how to contend, and when the enemy cometh against him he throweth dust upon him, which is a matter of this world, that he may be able to grasp him easily. In thyself, then, O monk, thou must see the athlete, and he who sheweth thee how to contend is God, for it is He Who giveth the victory, and Who conquereth for us; and those who contend are ourselves, and the striving is [our] opponent, and the dust is the affairs of the world. And since thou hast seen the cunning of the Adversary, stand thou up and oppose him in thy nakedness, being free from any care which belongeth to this world, and thou shalt overcome [him]. For when the mind is weighted down with the care of the world it cannot receive the holy word of God.”

165. They say concerning Abbâ Arsenius that as, when he lived in the world, his apparel was finer than that of anyone else, so, when he lived in Scete, he wore raiment which was inferior to that of every one else. And when, at long intervals, he came to church, he used to sit behind a pillar so that no one might see his face, and he might not see the faces of others; now his face was like that of an angel, and his hair was as white as snow, and as abundant as [that of] Jacob. His body was dry by reason of his labours, and his beard descended to his belly, but his eyelashes were destroyed by weeping; he was tall in stature, but somewhat bowed by old age and he ended his days when he was ninety-five years old. He lived in the world, in the palace, for forty years, in the days of Theodosius, the great king, who became the father of the Emperors Honorius and Arcadius, and he lived in Scete forty years, and he lived for ten years in the Troja of Babylon which is opposite the Memphis which is in Egypt, and he dwelt for three years in Canopus of Alexandria, and during the two remaining years he came to Troja again, where he died. And he finished his career in peace and in the fear of God.

166. On one occasion a certain Bishop came to the Fathers in Scete, and a brother went forth to meet him, and having met him, he took him and brought him into his cell; and having set before him bread and salt, he said, “Forgive me, O my father, for I have nothing else to set before thee.” And the Bishop said unto him, “I wish that when I come another year I may not find even bread and salt in thy cell.”

167. One of the old men said, “If thou sittest in a place and seest people with abundant provisions, look not at them; but if there be a man who is destitute, look at him as one who hath no bread, and thou shalt find relief.”

168. Abbâ Isaac, the priest of the Cells, used to say that Abbâ Pambô said, “The manner of the apparel which a monk ought to wear should be such that if it were cast outside the cell for three days no one would carry it away.”

169. A certain brother asked one of the old men a question, and said unto him, “Dost thou wish me to keep two darics as provision for the needs of the feebleness of the body?” And the old man, perceiving his mind and also that he wished to keep them, said unto him, “Yea.” Now when the brother had gone to his cell, he became troubled in his mind, and he debated in his thoughts, saying, “Did the old man speak truthfully or not?” Then he rose up, and went back to the old man, and made excuses to him, and said, “For our Lord’s sake, tell me the truth, because my thoughts are troubling me about these two darics.” The old man said unto him, “I spake to thee as I did because I saw that thy mind was to keep them, but it is not necessary for thee to keep the two darics, except only for the need of thy body. But why is thy hope set upon two darics? If by chance they were lost would not God take care of thee? Let us then cast [our] care upon Him, for it belongeth to Him to take care of us continually.”

170. Some of the old men used to tell a story about a gardener who used to work and to give away whatsoever he gained thereby in alms, but subsequently his thoughts said to him, “Gather together a few oboli, lest when thou hast grown old thou fall into want”; so he gathered together some money, and filled a large vessel therewith. And it fell out that he became sick, and the disease seized upon his foot, and he spent the whole of the money in the vessel on the physicians, and was not in the least benefited thereby. At length another physician came unto him and said, “If thou dost not cut off thy foot all thy body will putrefy,” and he came to consider the cutting off of his foot. And in the night he came to himself, and he groaned, and wept, and said, “Remember, O Lord, my former deeds,” and straightway a man appeared behind him, and said unto him, “Where are thy oboli?” and the gardener said immediately, “I have sinned, forgive me”; and straightway the man approached his leg, and it was made whole forthwith, and he rose up, and went to the garden to work. And in the morning the physician came to cut off his foot as he had said, and [the servants] told him, “He went to this work in the night”; and straightway [the gardener] glorified God.

171. Abbâ Agathon saw Abbâ Nastîr wearing two shoulder wrappers, and he said unto him, “If a poor man were to come, and ask thee for a garment, which of them wouldst thou give him?” And Abbâ Nastîr replied, “I would give him the better of them”; and Abbâ Agathon said unto him, “And if another poor man came, what wouldst thou give him?” Abbâ Nastîr saith unto him, “I would give him the half of that which remained.” And Abbâ Agathon said unto him, “Supposing yet another beggar came, what wouldst thou give unto him?” And Nastîr said unto him, “I would cut the half which remained into two pieces, and give one to him, and with the other I would cover my body.” And Abbâ Agathon said unto him, “And supposing yet another beggar were to come?” and Nastîr said, “I would give him what was left. For though I do not wish to receive anything from any man, yet I would go and sit down in some place until God sent me wherewith to cover myself.”

172. The blessed woman Eugenia said, “It is right for us to beg, but only we must be with Christ. He who is with Christ becometh rich, but he who honoureth the things of the body more than the things of the spirit shall fall both from the things which are first and the things which are last.”

173. One of the old men said, “How can a man teach unto his neighbour that which he himself doth not observe?”

174. They say that Abbâ Theodore excelled in the three following things more than any other man, and that he attained in their performance a degree which was greater than that of many, namely, voluntary poverty, self-abnegation, and flight from the children of men.

175. Abbâ Poemen used to say, “He who laboureth and keepeth [the result of] his work for himself is a twofold grief.”

176. Abbâ Isaac used to say to the brethren, “Our fathers and Abbâ Panbô used to wear old garments which were much mended and were patched with rags, but at this present ye wear very costly apparel; get ye gone from this place, for ye have laid the country waste, and I will not give you commandments, for ye will not keep them.”

177. On one occasion a brother came to the church of the Cells wearing a small head-cloth which came down to his shoulders, and when Abbâ Isaac saw him he followed him, and said, “Monks dwell here, but thou art a man in the world, and thou canst not live here.”

178. A certain man, having made himself remote from the world, and divided his possessions among those who were in need, left to himself the remainder of his riches. And when the blessed Anthony heard [this] he said unto him, “Dost thou wish to become a monk? If thou dost, get thee to such and such a village, and take some meat, and lay it upon thy body, and come hither alone”; and having done this the dogs, and the hawks and other birds of prey rent and tore his body. And when he returned to the blessed man, Saint Anthony asked him whether he had done as he had commanded him, and when the man had shewn him his body which was rent and torn, the blessed Anthony said unto him, “Even thus are those who wish to go out from the world, and who nevertheless leave themselves certain possessions, wherefrom arise for their owners war and strife.”

179. A brother asked Abbâ Poemen the question, saying, “An inheritance hath been bequeathed to me; what shall I do with it?” Abbâ Poemen said unto him, “Go, and after three days come unto me, and I will give theecounsel.” And the brother came, and Abbâ Poemen said unto him, “What counsel shall I give thee, O brother? If I tell thee to give it to the church, they will make feasts with it; and again, if I tell thee to give it to thy kinsmen, thou wilt have no reward; but if I tell thee to give it to the poor, thou wilt have no [further] care. Therefore go and do with thine inheritance what thou pleasest, for I am not able to advise thee rightly.”

180. A certain man entreated an old man to accept from him a gift of grace for his wants, but he refused to do so because the labour of his hands was sufficient for him; and when he who asked him to accept it persisted, saying, “If thou wilt not accept it for thine own needs, at least do so for the wants of others,” the old man answered and said unto him, “It would be a twofold disgrace [unto me]. First, because I should accept something which I do not want, and secondly, because I should be giving away with boasting the charity of another.”

181. An old man used to say, “It is not right for a man to have any care whatsoever except the fear of God, for,” said he, “although I am forced to take care for the needs of the body, no thought whatsoever concerning anything riseth in my mind before the time when I shall require to make use of it.”

182. The same old man used to say, “When thou risest up, in the morning, say, ‘O body, work that thou mayest be fed; O soul, rouse up that thou mayest inherit life.’ ”

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