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

238. THEY say that Abbâ John, the disciple of Abbâ Paulê, possessed great obedience. Now in the place where they used to live there was a sepulchre, wherein dwelt a savage panther, and Abbâ Paulê saw in it a few little heaps of goods, and he said unto John, “Go to the sepulchre and bring me some of the things from there”; and John said unto him, “My father, what shall I do with the panther?” And the old man laughed and said unto him, “If he cometh against thee, tie him up and bring him here”; so John went there at eventide, and the panther came against him, and when he went to lay hold of him the animal fled from him. Then John pursued him, saying, “My father told me to fetter thee,” and he seized him, and bound him with cords. Meanwhile the old man was very much troubled about John, and he was sitting waiting for him anxiously; and behold, he came dragging along the panther which was tied with ropes, and the old man saw and marvelled. Then the brother said unto him, “Father, behold, I have taken prisoner the panther according as thou didst command, and I have brought him here”; and the old man, wishing to remove from him the occasion for boasting, smote him, and said, “Thou hast brought a wandering dog!” and he untied the animal and let him depart.

239. Abbâ Joseph used to say, “There are three things which are held in honour before God: first, when a man is sick, and he addeth to his toil, and receiveth it with thanksgiving; secondly, when a man maketh all his works to be pure before God, and when he hath in them no human consideration; thirdly, when a man submitteth himself to authority, and obeyeth his father, and setteth aside his own will. Such a man hath one crown the more, but I personally would choose the sickness.”

240. They used to say that Abbâ Sylvanus had in Scete a disciple whose name was Mark, and that he possessed to a great degree the faculty of obedience; he was a scribe, and the old man loved him greatly for his obedience. Now Sylvanus had eleven other disciples, and they were vexed because they saw that the old man loved Mark more than them, and when the old men who were in Scete heard [of this] they were afflicted about it. And one day when they came to him to reprove him about this, Sylvanus took them, and went forth, and passing by the cells of the brethren, he knocked at the door of each cell, and said, “O brother, come forth, for I have need of thee”; and he passed by all their cells, and not one of them obeyed him quickly. But when they went to the cell of Mark, he knocked at the door and said, “Brother Mark,” and as soon as Mark heard the voice of the old man, he jumped up straightway, and came out, and Sylvanus sent him off on some business. Then Sylvanus said unto the old men, “My fathers, where are the other brethren?” And they went into Mark’s cell, and looked at the quire of the book which he was writing, and they saw that he had begun to write [one side of] the Greek letter o (or ω), and that as soon as he heard the voice of his master, [he ran out] and did not stay to complete the other side of the letter. Now when the old men perceived these things, they answered and said unto Sylvanus, “Verily, O old man, we also love the brother whom thou lovest, for God also loveth him.”

241. On another occasion the mother of Mark came to see him, and she had with her an abundant company of members of her household; and an old man went forth to her, and she said unto him, “Abbâ, tell my son to come forth and see me”; and the old man went in, and said to him, “Go forth and see thy mother.” Then Mark wrapped himself up in rags, and blackened his face by standing up in the sooty chimney, and he went forth thus fulfilling the behest of his master, and shutting his eyes, he said unto those [who were with his mother], “Live ye! Live ye!” but he did not look at them. Now his mother did not recognize him, and she sent in again to the old man a message, saying, “Send me my son, O father, so that I may see him.” Then the old man said unto Mark, “Did I not tell thee to go out and see thy mother?” And he said unto him, “Father, I went forth according to thy word, but I beseech thee do not tell me to go forth again, lest peradventure I feel myself compelled to disobey thee”; and [the old man] spake with her, and quieted her, and sent her away in peace.

242. And they used to tell about two brethren who lived in a monastery, and who both had arrived at a high grade in the ascetic life; the one devoted himself to an austere life of self-denial and poverty, and the other was obedient and humble. And being angry with each other they wished to know which of the two [kinds of] service was the greater, and they went down to the river where there were many crocodiles, and that brother who possessed the faculty of obedience went in, and stood up among them, and they all worshipped him. Then he cried out to his fellow who was a mourner, and said unto him, “Forgive me, O my brother, I have not yet attained to such a high degree of faith as thou hast”; and when they returned to the monastery, the head of the monastery heard a voice, saying, “The man who obeyeth is better than the man who leadeth a life of voluntary poverty.”

243. Abbâ Daniel used to say, “On one occasion Abbâ Arsenius called me and said unto me, ‘Make thy father to be gratified, so that when he goeth to our Lord, he may make entreaties to Him on behalf of thee, and good shall be unto thee.’ ”

244. A certain brother was engaged in a war against Satan, and he told the matter to Abbâ Herakles; and wishing to strengthen and confirm him the old man told him the following story:—There was a certain old man who had a disciple, and he had been very obedient unto him for many years, and when the war came upon him, he made a request to his master, saying, “I beseech thee to make me a monk.” And his master said unto him, “Seek out a place for thyself, and we will build a cell for thee, and thou shalt become a monk.” So the disciple went and found a place, which was distant from his master about one hundred paces, and he made himself a cell. Then the old man said unto that brother, “Whatsoever I say unto thee, that do. When thou art hungry, eat; and when thou art thirsty, drink; and sleep, but thou must not go out from thy cell until the Sabbath Day, when thou shalt come to me.” Then the old man went back to his cell. And the brother did according as the old man told him for two days, but on the third day he became dejected, and wearied, and said, “What hath the old man done for me, seeing that he hath not commanded me to make prayers?” Then he rose up and sang more Psalms than usual, and after the sun had set he ate his food, and he rose up, and went, and lay down upon his mat; and he saw, as it were, an Ethiopian who stood up and gnashed his teeth at him, and the monk, by reason of his great fear, ran quickly to his master, and he knocked hastily at his door, saying, “Father, have mercy upon me, and open to me immediately.” Now because the old man knew that he had not kept his commandment he refused to open the door to him until the morning, and when he opened the door in the morning, he found him [there], and as the brother entreated him to be allowed to enter, the old man had compassion upon him and brought him in. Then he began to say unto the old man, “I beseech thee, O father, [to believe me]. When I went to lie down to go to sleep, I saw a black Ethiopian on my bed.” The old man said unto him, “This [happened] because thou didst not keep my words.” Then he laid down a rule for him which was suitable to his strength and to the monastic life, and dismissed him, and little by little he became an excellent monk.

245. A man who wanted to be a monk came to Abbâ Sisoes the Theban, and the old man asked him, if he had any possession whatsoever in the world, and he said, “I have one son”; and the old man, wishing to find out if he possessed the faculty of obedience, said unto him, “Go, and throw him in the river, and then come, and thou shalt be a monk,” and because the man was obedient he went straightway to do it. Now when he had departed the old man sent another brother to prevent him from doing this thing, and when the man had taken up his son to throw him into the river, the brother said unto him, “Thou shalt not cast him in.” Then the man said unto him, “My father told me that I was to cast him in,” and the brother replied, “He told me that thou wast not to cast him in,” so the man left him, and came [unto the old man], and through his obedience he became a chosen monk.

246. The Abbâ who was in Îlîû used to say, “Obedience cometh into existence because of obedience; for if a man obeyeth God, God also will obey him.”

247. On one occasion four brethren came to Abbâ Pambô from Scete, and they were wearing skins, and each one of them, whilst his neighbour was absent, recounted [to him] his works, [saying], the first one fasteth very often, and the second leadeth a life of poverty, and the third possesseth great love, and concerning the fourth the other three said, “He hath been in subjection to the old men for twenty-two years.” Then Abbâ Pambô said unto them, “I say unto you that the spiritual excellence of this man is great. Each of you hath chosen the ascetic virtue which he possesseth according to his own wish, but this man hath cut off his own desire, and hath performed the will of others; and those who are thus will, if they keep these things to the end, become confessors.”








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