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

248. ABBÂ POEMEN used to say, “Satan hath three kinds of power which precede all sin. The first is error, and the second is neglect (or laxity), and the third is lust. When error hath come it produceth neglect, and from neglect springeth lust, and by lust man fell; if we watch against error neglect will not come, and if we be notnegligent, lust will not appear, and if a man worketh not lust, he will, through the help of Christ, never fall.”

249. They used to say that there was a certain father who was [occupied] in great works, and that [on one occasion], when he was singing the Psalms and praying, one of the holy men came unto him, and he heard him striving with his thoughts, and saying, “How long for the sake of one thought wilt thou go through all this?” Then the man who had come thought that the father was striving with another man, and he knocked at the door before going in to make peace between them; but when he had gone inside he saw no other man there. And because he possessed some authority over the father, he said unto him, “Father, with whom wast thou striving?” And he said, “With my thoughts. For I can repeat fourteen Books, but if I hear one little word outside it will make useless my service to me, and [the repetition] of all these Books will be in vain. And this word only cometh and standeth before me at the season of prayer, and it is because of this that I strive.” And when the holy man heard [these things], he marvelled at the spiritual excellence and purity of the old man, and how openly he had told him about his war.

250. One of the old men used to say, “The Prophets compiled the Scriptures, and the Fathers have copied them, and the men who came after them learned to repeat them by heart; then hath come this generation and [its children] have placed them in cupboards as useless things.”

251. A disciple of Abbâ Ammon told the following story: “On one occasion when we were singing the service, my mind became confused, and I forgot the verse in the Psalm; and when we had ended the service Ammon answered and said unto me, ‘Whilst I was standing up during the service it seemed that I was standing on fire and was being consumed, and my mind was unable to make me turn aside either to the right hand or to the left. And as for thee, where was thy mind when we were singing the service? for thou didst omit a verse from the Psalm. Didst thou not know that thou wast standing in the presence of God, and that thou wast speaking unto Him?’ ”

252. A certain brother came to dwell in a cell with one of the fathers, and he told him of a thought whereby he was afflicted; and the old man said unto him, “Thou hast left upon the earth the excellent service of the fear of God, and thou hast taken and hast laid hold upon a staff made of a reed, that is to say, evil thoughts. Take unto thyself the fear of God, which is the fire, and as soon as they come nigh unto thee they shall be burned like reeds.” Now this man was, according to what his disciple related about him, a great old man, and for twenty years he never lay upon either of his sides, but slept upon the seat whereon he sat to work. Sometimes he ate once in two days, and at other times once in four days, and at others once in five days, and in this manner he passed twenty years. Now I said unto him, “What is this which thou doest, O father?” And he said unto me, “Because I set the judgement of God before my eyes I cannot be negligent, for I keep in remembrance [the fact that] my sins are many.

253. Whilst Abbâ Arsenius was dwelling in Canopus of Alexandria a certain noble lady came to him; she was a virgin, and was exceedingly rich, and she feared the Lord, and she was from Rome and had come to see Abbâ Arsenius. Now Theophilus, Archbishop of Alexandria, received her, and she begged him to entreat the old man to receive her. Then Theophilus went to Abbâ Arsenius and entreated him, saying, “Such and such a noble lady hath come from Rome, and she wisheth to see thee, and to be blessed by thee”; but the old man refused to receive her. And when Theophilus informed her that the old man refused to receive her, she commanded them to make ready the beasts [for travelling], and she said, “By God, I believe that I shall see him. I did not come to see men, for there are men in my own city, but I came to see a prophet.” And when she came outside the cell of the old man, he happened, through the working of God, to be there, and she saw him, and fell down at his feet; then he lifted her up eagerly, and looking at her, said, “If thou wishest to look upon my face, behold, look”; but she by reason of her bashfulness, was not able to look upon his face. Then the old man said unto her, “Hast thou not heard about my works, and that I am a sinner? For it is these which it is necessary for thee to see. How didst thou dare to travel hither by ship? Didst thou not know that thou wast a woman, and that it was incumbent upon thee not to go forth anywhere? Wouldst thou go back to Rome and make a boast to the women [there] that thou hast seen Arsenius, and dost thou wish to make the sea into a road whereby women shall come unto me?” And the lady said unto him, “Please God I will not let any woman come unto thee; but pray for me that God may have me in remembrance always.” Then Abbâ Arsenius said unto her, “I will pray to God that He may blot out the memory of thee from my heart”; and when she heard these words she went forth, being afraid. Now as soon as she had come to the city a fever began to come upon her because of her grief of mind, and the people told the Bishop, saying, “That noble lady is ill”; and he came to her, and entreated her that he might learn the cause of her sickness.Then she said unto him, “Would that I never had journeyed thither! For I said unto the old man Arsenius, ‘Make mention of me in prayer,’ and he said unto me, ‘I will pray unto God that He may blot out the remembrance of thee from my heart,’ and behold I shall die of grief.” And the Archbishop said unto her, “Dost thou not know that thou art a woman, and that the Enemy doeth battle with the holy men by means of women? It was for this reason that the old man spake as he did; for thy soul, however, he will pray always.” And the noble lady remembered [these things] in her mind, and she rose up, and went to her country with gladness.

254. They say that Abbâ Hôr (or Ôr) of the Cells dwelt for twenty years in the church, and that he never once lifted his eyes and saw the roof thereof.

255. Abbâ Ammon asked Abbâ Poemen about the unclean thoughts which a man begetteth, and about vain lusts; Abbâ Poemen said unto him, “Peradventure shall an axe boast itself without him that heweth therewith? (Isaiah 10:15.) Do not henceforward aid these thoughts and they will come to an end.”

256. They say concerning Abbâ Paphnutius, the disciple of Abbâ Macarius, that when he was a youth he used to look after the oxen with others of his companions; and they went to take some cucumbers to the animals, and as they were going along one of the cucumbers fell, and Abbâ Paphnutius took it up and ate it, and whensoever he remembered this thing, he used to sit down and weep over it with great feeling.

257. One of the fathers went to Abbâ Akîlâ and saw that he was throwing up blood from his mouth, and he asked him, saying, “What is this, O father?” and the old man said unto him, “It is a word. I was vexed with a certain brother, and I was engaged in a strife of which I knew nothing, and I made supplication to God that it might be taken from me; and straightway that word became blood in my mouth, but when I spat it up I was relieved, and I forgot my vexation.”

258. One of the old men used to say: “We were going [on one occasion] to the mountain of the blessed Anthony to visit Abbâ Sisoes, and when he sat down to eat there came up to us a young man who begged for alms; and when we were beginning to eat, the old man said, ‘Ask that young man if he wisheth to come in and eat with us.’ Now when one had said this to him, the young man refused [to do so], and the old man said, ‘Let whatsoever is left over by us be given to him to eat outside.’ Then the old man brought out a jar of wine which he kept for the Offering, and he mixed for each one of us a cup, but he gave to the young man two cups, whereat I smiled, and said unto him, ‘I also will go outside, and thou shalt give me two cups of wine also.’ Abbâ Sisoes said, ‘If he had eaten with us he would have drunk the same quantity as ourselves, and he would have have been convinced that we did not drink more than he did; but now he will say in his mind, These monks enjoy themselves more than I do. It is good therefore that our conscience should not hold us in contempt.’ ”

259. One of the old men came to another old man who was his companion, and as they were talking together one of them said, “I have died to the world”; and his companion said, “Have no confidence in thyself that this is so until thou goest forth from the world, for although thou sayest, ‘I have died,’ Satan is not dead.”

260. A brother asked Abbâ Sisoes, saying, “Tell me a word [whereby I may live].” The old man saith unto him, “Why dost thou urge me, O brother, to speak a useless word? Whatsoever thou seest me do, that do thyself.”

261. A brother asked Abbâ Poemen, saying, “Is it possible for a man to keep hold upon all thoughts, and not to give any of them to the Enemy?” The old man said unto him, There are some of them who give ten and keep one, and “there are some who give one and keep ten.” And the brother told this saying to Abbâ Sisoes, who said, “There are some who do not give even one [thought] to the Enemy.”

262. Abbâ Joseph asked Abbâ Sisoes, saying, “How many times is it right for a man to cut off his passions?” The old said unto him, “Dost thou wish to learn when thou must cut them off?” and Joseph said unto him, “Yes.” Abbâ Sisoes said unto him, “Whensoever passion cometh cut it off immediately.”

263. Abbâ Nastîr and a certain brother were walking together in the desert, and they saw a serpent, and both took to flight; and the brother said to Nastîr, “Father, art thou also afraid?” The old man said unto him, “My son, I am not afraid, but it was a beneficial thing for me to flee, for otherwise I should not have been able to escape from the thought of the love of approbation.”

264. Certain men who lived in the world came to see Abbâ Sisoes, and though they spoke much he held his peace and answered them never a word; at length one of them said to his companions, “My brethren, why do ye trouble the old man? He eateth not, and for this reason he is not able to talk.” And when the old man heard this, he made answer unto them straightway, and said, “My sons, I eat whensoever I feel the need of eating.”

265. On one occasion a certain judge of the district wished to see Abbâ Poemen, but the old man refused [to see him]. And, like a crafty man, the judge made an excuse, and seized Abbâ’s nephew, and threw him into prison, saying, “Unless Abbâ cometh and maketh entreaty on his behalf he shall not go out.” Then Abbâ’s sister came and stood by the door of his cell and wept for her son, but although she importuned him greatly, he did not give her an answer; now when the woman saw this she began to revile him, saying, “O thou who possessest mercy of brass, have mercy upon me, for my son is the only [child] I have.” And Abbâ Poemen sent her a message, saying, “Poemen hath no sons,” and thus she departed. And when the judge heard [these things] he answered and said, If Abbâ, will only give the order I will release him”; and after this the old man sent him a message, saying, “Examine and consider his case according to the Law, and if he be worthy of death, let him die; and if he be not do whatsoever thou pleasest with him.”

266. They say that in the mountain of Abbâ Anthony seven brethren dwelt, each of whom used to watch in the date season and drive away the birds; and among them was an old man who, when it was his day for watching [the dates], used to cry out, saying, “Depart, O ye evil thoughts, from within, and depart, O ye birds, from without.”

267. On one occasion the Arabs came and plundered Abbâ Sisoes and the brother who was with him of everything they had, and being hungry, the brethren went out into the desert to find something to eat. And when they were some distance from each other, Abbâ Sisoes found some camel dung, and he broke it, and found inside two grains of barley; and he ate one grain and placed the other in his hand; and when the brother came, and found that he was eating, he said unto him, “Is this love? Thou hast found food, and thou eatest it by thyself and hast not called me [to share it with thee].” Abbâ Sisoes saith unto him, “I have not defrauded thee, O brother, for behold, I have kept thy share in my hands.”

268. Mother Sarah used to say, “Whensoever I put my foot on the ladder to go up, before I ascend it I set my death before mine eyes.”

269. A certain brother came to Abbâ Theodore and entreated him to shew him how he twisted palm leaves, and he sent him away, saying, “Go away, and come here to-morrow morning.” Then the old man rose up straightway, and put some leaves to soak in water, and made ready, and when the brother came in the morning he shewed him [how to make] one or two plaits, and he said to him, “Work thus”; and the old man left him and went to his cell. And at the proper season the old man took him food and made him eat, and he rose up and went away; and when he came [back again] in the morning, the old man said unto him, “Why didst thou not take some palm leaves with thee? Take some now, and get thee gone, for thou hast made me fall into the temptation of caring about things,” and he did not allow him to come inside [his cell] again.

270. On one occasion Abbâ Muthues went from Re‘îth to Mount Gebêl, and he had with him his brother’ Awsâbh, and Kântîrsâ, the Bishop, took the old man and made him a priest. And when they were eating together the Bishop said unto him, “Forgive me, Abbâ, for I know that thou didst not wish for this thing, but I ventured to do this thing that I might be blessed by thee.” Then the old man said unto him with a meek spirit, and with a sorrowful mind, “I will labour in this work, though I must be separated from this my brother who is with me, for I cannot endure the making of all the prayers.” The Bishop said unto him, “If thou knowest that he is worthy I will make him a priest also”; and Abbâ Muthues said unto him, “Whether he be worthy [or not] I do not know, but one thing I know, and that is, that he is better than I am,” so the Bishop laid his hands upon him and made him a priest also. And they ended their lives together, but one of them never approached the altar for the purpose of offering up the Offering, for the old man used to say, “By God, I hope that ordination doth not make it obligatory on me to do so, because I cannot offer up the Offering, for ordination belongeth unto those who are pure [only].”

271. A certain brother in Scete called one of his companions to come to him in his cell to wash his feet, and he did not go; and twice and thrice he said, “Come to [my] cell, and wash thy feet,” and he went not. And at length the brother went to him, and made excuses to him, and entreated him to go with him, and he rose up and went; and the brother said unto him, “How is it that thou didst not come when I entreated thee so often to do so?” And he answered and said unto him, “Whilst thou wast speaking my will would not consent to my coming, but when I saw that thou wast doing the work of monks, that is to say, repenting, then I rejoiced and came.”

272. On one occasion when the old man Zeno was walking in Palestine, he became weary, and he sat down by the side of a cucumber bed to eat; and his thought said to him, “Take a cucumber and eat, for of what value is one cucumber?” And he answered and said to his thought, “Those who steal go to torment; try thy soul, then, and see if it be able to endure the torment.” And he crucified himself in the heat for five days, and having tortured himself he said unto his thought, “I cannot endure that torment; how then can the man who cannot do this steal and eat?”

273. They say that on one occasion, when it was time for Abbâ Poemen to go to the congregation for the service, he sat down for about one hour examining and passing judgement upon his thoughts, and that at the end of this time he went forth.

274. They say that a certain old man dwelt by himself in silence, and that a son of the world used to minister unto him continually; and it happened that the son of that son of the world fell sick, and his father entreated the old man to go with him to his house and to pray over him, and, when he had entreated him to do so often, the old man went forth and departed with him. And the man went before him and entered the village, and he said unto the people thereof, “Come forth to meet the monk”; now when the old man saw the people from afar off, and perceived that they had come forth to meet him carrying lanterns, straightway he stripped off his garments, and dipped them in the river, and he began to wash them, being naked. And when the man who ministered unto him saw [this], he was ashamed, and he entreated the people of the village, saying, “Get ye back, for the old man hath certainly gone mad”; then he approached the old man, and said unto him, “Father, what is this which thou hast done? For all the people are saying that the old man hath a devil.” And the old man said, “This is what I wished to hear.”

275. Paesius on one occasion had strife with the brother who was with him whilst Abbâ Poemen was sitting by, and they fought with each other until the blood ran down from both their heads; and although the old man saw [them] he uttered no word whatsoever. Then Abbâ Job came and found them fighting, and he said to Poemen, “Why hast thou let these brethren fight, and hast said nothing to them whilst they have been fighting?” Abbâ Poemen said unto him, “They are brethren, and will become reconciled again.” Abbâ Job said, “What is this that thou hast said? Thou seest that they continue to fight, and yet thou sayest that they will be reconciled again.” Abbâ Poemen said unto him, “Thou must think in thy heart that I am not here.”

276. Mother Sarah sent a message to Abbâ Paphnutius, saying, “Dost thou think that thou art doing God’s work in allowing thy brother to be reviled?” Abbâ Paphnutius saith, “Paphnutius is here doing the work of God, and I have no concern whatsoever about man.”

277. The old man Poemen used to say, “Thou shalt have no dealings whatsoever with a child of the world, and thou shalt hold no converse with women”; and he also said, “Thou shalt possess no knowledge of the judge (or governor), lest, when thou hearest his words, thou perform his work.”

278. One of the old men used to say, “I have never taken one step forwards without first of all learning where I was about to set my foot, and I have neither crossed my boundary to walk on a height, nor have I descended into a deep place, and been troubled by so doing; for my only care hath been to beseech God until He brought me forth from the old man.”

279. On one occasion the brethren were gathered together in Scete that they might enquire into the history of Melchisedek, and they forgot to invite Abbâ Copres to be with them; finally, however, they did call him, and they enquired of him concerning the matter. And he smote three times on his mouth, and said, “Woe be to thee! Woe be to thee, O Copres, for thou hast left undone what God commanded thee to do, and thou art enquired of concerning the things which God hath not demanded of thee”; and they all left the place and fled to their cells.

280. An old man used to say, “Freedom of speech (or boldness) is a wind which parcheth, and it smiteth the fruit at the harvest.”

281. An old man used to say, “The act of despising oneself is a strong fence for a man.”

282. The old man said, “The withdrawal in secret [from works] maketh dark the understanding, but the persisting in endurance with vigilance illuminateth and strengtheneth the soul of a man.”

283. An old man used to say, “Laughter and familiar talking are like unto the fire which kindleth among the reeds.”

284. Certain heretics came on one occasion to Abbâ Poemen, and they began to calumniate the Archbishop of Alexandria, and to speak evil things concerning him, and they sought to prove that as they had received consecration from the priests, they were consecrated like [other] priests; and the old man held his peace. Then he called his brother, and said unto him, “Make ready a table and make them eat,” and he dismissed them that they might depart in peace.

285. Some of the old men asked Abbâ Poemen, saying, “If we see one of the brethren committing sin, wouldst thou have us rebuke him?” And the old man said unto them, “If I had some business which made me pass by him, and in passing by him I saw him committing sin, I should pass him by and not see him.”

286. And the old man also said, “It is written, ‘Whatsoever thine eyes have seen, that declare.’ But I say unto you, that unless ye have not first touched with your hands, ye shall not testify. For on one occasion the devil led astray a brother in a matter of this kind. This brother saw a brother committing sin with a woman, and the war being strong against him, he went to them, thinking that what he saw was really a man and a woman, and he kicked them with his foot, and said, ‘Enough, enough, how long [will ye act thus]?’ And suddenly he discovered that the things were sacks of wheat. For this reason I say unto you that unless ye have felt with your hands ye should not offer rebuke.”

287. One of the fathers related a story, saying:—On one occasion in Scete when the clergy were offering up the Offering, something which was like unto an eagle descended upon the Offering, and no man saw the appearance except the clergy; and one day a brother questioned the deacon about the matter, and the deacon said unto him, “I am not at leisure now [to discuss it].” And afterwards when the time arrived for the Offering, and the clergy went in as usual to offer It up, the form of the eagle did not appear as it did before; and the priest said unto the deacon, “What is this? The eagle hath not come as usual, and the fault of this lieth either upon me or thee. But get thee gone from me, and if the eagle then appeareth and descendeth, it will be evident that it did not come down now because of thee, and if it doth not descend thou wilt know that the fault is mine.” Now as soon as the deacon had departed, the eagle appeared as usual, and after the Office had been said, and the service was ended, the priest said unto the deacon, “Tell me what thou hast done.” And the deacon, wishing to shew him everything, made excuses, saying, “I am not conscious in my soul of having committed any sin, except when a brother came to me, and asked me a question on the matter, and I made answer to him, saying, ‘I am not at leisure [to talk] with thee.’ ” Then the priest said, “It was because of thee that the eagle came not down, for the brother was offended at thee”; and straightway the deacon went to the brother, and expressed his contrition, and entreated him [to forgive] him his offence.

288. They used to speak about a certain father, who for seven years asked God to give him a certain gift, and [at length] it was given unto him; and he went to a great old man and told him about the gift, and when the old man heard thereof, he was grieved, and said, “What great labour!” Then he said unto the father, “Go and spend seven years more in entreating God that the gift may be taken away from thee, for it will do thee no good”; and the old man went, and did as he had told him until the gift was taken away from him.

289. A certain brother dwelt in a cell outside his village, and he had passed many years without going into the village; and he said unto the brethren who were with him, “Behold, how many years have I lived here without going into the village, whilst ye are always going therein.” Now Abbâ Poemen was told about this man, and that he used to say words of this kind to the brethren, and he said, “If I were [that man] I would go up and walk round about in the village during the night, so that my thoughts might not be able to boast themselves that I had not gone into it.”

290. One of the fathers said, “God beareth with the sins of those who live in the world, but He will not endure the sins of those who live in the desert.”

291. Abbâ Job used to say, “Since the time when I was [first] called by the Name of Christ, falsehood hath never gone forth from my mouth.”

292. Abbâ Poemen used to say, “If a man dwelleth with a youth, however much he may guard his thoughts he maketh a means for sin.”

293. A certain brother asked an old man, saying, “What shall I do because of my negligence?” The old man said unto him, “If thou wilt root out this small plant, which is negligence, a great forest will come into being.”

294. Abbâ Poemen used to say, “Do not dwell in a place wherein thou seest that there are those who have envy against thee, for if thou dost thou wilt never advance.”

295. Abbâ Chronius used to say, “The man who dwelleth with a youth will, unless he be mighty, go downwards, and if he be mighty, even though he doth not go downwards temporarily, yet he will never advance in spiritual excellence.”

296. Abbâ Anthony used to say, “There are some monks who vex their bodies with the labours of abstinence and self-denial, and who, because they have not found understanding, are remote from the path of God.”

297. Abbâ Poemen used to say, “Teach thy heart to keep that which thy tongue teacheth.”

298. Abbâ Poemen used to say, “One man is thought to be silent, yet his heart condemneth others, and he who is thus speaketh everything; and another speaketh from morn until evening, and yet keepeth silence, but such a man speaketh not without profit.”

299. I have heard that there were two old men who dwelt together for many years, and who never quarrelled, and that one said to the other, “Let us also pick a quarrel with each other, even as other men do.” Then his companion answered and said unto him, “I know not how a quarrel cometh,” and the other old man answered and said unto him, “Behold, I will set a brick in the midst, and will say, ‘This is mine,’ and do thou say, ‘It is not thine, but mine’; and from this quarrelling will ensue.” And they placed a brick in the midst, and one of them said, “This is mine,” and his companion answered and said after him, “This is not so, for it is mine”; and straightway the other replied and said unto him, “If it be so, and the brick be thine, take it and go.” Thus they were not able to make a quarrel.

300. There was a certain brother who lived a life of very strict seclusion, and the devils, wishing to lead him astray, [used to appear] to him, when he was sleeping at night, in the form of angels, and wake him up to sing the Psalms and pray, and they would shew him a light. And he went to an old man, and said unto him, “Father, the devils come to me with a light and wake me up to sing and pray”; and the old man said unto him, “Hearken not unto them, O my son, for they are devils, but, if they come to wake thee up, say unto them, ‘When I wish to rise up I will do so, but unto you I will not hearken.’ ” And when they came to wake him he said unto them what the old man had told him, and they said unto him forthwith, “That wicked old man is a liar, and he hath led thee astray. For a certain brother came to him and wished to borrow some oboli on a pledge, and although he had money to lend, he lied and said, ‘I have none,’ and he gave him none, and learn from this thing that he is a liar.” Then the brother rose up early in the morning and went to the old man and related unto him everything which he had heard, and the old man said unto him, “The matter is thus. I had some oboli, and a brother came and asked me for some money, and I would not give him any because I saw that if I did so we should arrive at the loss of [our] soul[s]. And I made up my mind that I would treat with contempt one of the commandments, and not ten, and [therefore] we came to enmity [with each other]. But do thou hearken not unto the devils who wish to lead thee astray.” And when he had been greatly confirmed by the old man, that monk departed to his cell.

301. Abbâ Isaac, the priest of the Cells, said, “I saw a certain brother reaping the harvest in the field, and he wanted to eat one ear of wheat; and he said to the owner of the field, ‘Dost thou wish me to take one ear of wheat to eat?’ And the owner of the field wondered (now he profited greatly therefrom), and said unto him, ‘My son, the field is thine, and dost thou ask [my] permission to eat?’ To this extent did that brother shew scrupulous care.”

302. A brother asked an old man, and said unto him, “What shall I do? For the thoughts which make war with me are many, and I know not how to contend against them.” The old man said unto him, “Do not strive against them all, but against one, for all devilish thoughts have only one head, and it is necessary for a man to understand and to make war upon this head only, for afterwards all the rest will perforce be brought low. Just as in war, if on one side a very mighty man appear, the men on the other side use every means in their power to set up in opposition to him a mighty man who is stronger than he is, because, if he be able to hurl down that chief, all the rest will take to flight and be vanquished. In this same manner there is one head to all the thoughts which come from devils, whether it be fornication, or riotous living, or love of money, or wandering about from place to place, for if thou wilt first of all recognize it and wilt drive it out, it will not lead thee astray in respect of other things.” And [when] that chief thought came, and stood up and fought against him, he recognized which it was, and contended against it only.

303. Abbâ Lôt went to Abbâ Joseph, and said unto him, “Father, according to my strength I sing a few Psalms, and I pray a little, and my fasting is little, and my prayers and silent meditations [are few], and as far as lieth in my power I cleanse my thoughts, what more can I do?” Then the old man stood up, and spread out his hands towards heaven, and his fingers were like unto ten lamps of fire, and he said unto him, “If thou wishest, let the whole of thee be like unto fire.”

304. A certain brother entreated one of the old men to interpret to him some words which he had asked him, saying, “If I see a man doing something, and I tell others about it, I mean not by way of passing judgement upon him, but merely for the sake of conversation, would this be considered as evil talk of the thoughts?” The old man said unto him, “If there be any motion of passion the repetition is wicked, but if it be free from passion the repetition is not wicked, but speak in such a way that evil increase not.” And another brother made answer to the old man, and said, “If I come to one of the old men and ask him, saying, ‘I wish to dwell with such and such a man, [may I do so?]’ and I know at the same time that it will not be profitable for me, what answer must he make me? If he saith, ‘Thou shalt not go,’ hath he not condemned that man in his mind?” Then the old man answered and said unto him, “This refinement [of thought] is not [given] to many, and I do not regard it as a sure matter. If there be any passion in the motion of the soul I should say that he would injure himself; but in words there is no power [to do so]. And as to ‘What is he bound to say?’ I say that I do not know, if his soul be [not] free [from passion]; but if it be free from passions he will not condemn any man, and he will condemn himself, and say, ‘I am a changeable person,’ now perhaps [this] will not help thee, but if he be a man of understanding he will not go.” Now the old man did not speak concerning wickedness, but only that wickedness might not be multiplied.

305. Abbâ Arsenius said unto Abbâ Alexander, “When thou hast finished the work of thy hands, come to me and we will eat; but if strangers come, eat with them, and do not come to me.” Now Alexander continued at his work late, and when the time for the meal had arrived, and palm leaves were still standing before him, although he was anxious to keep the word of the old man, he also wanted to finish up the leaves, and then to go to him. Now when the old man saw that Abbâ Alexander delayed [in coming] to eat, he thought that it was because strangers had come to him. And when Abbâ Alexander had finished his work he went to the old man, who said unto him, “Did strangers come to thee?” And Alexander said unto him, “No, father.” Then the old man said unto him, “Why hast thou delayed [in coming]?” And Alexander answered and said unto him, “Because thou didst say unto me, ‘When thou hast finished thy leaves come to me’; and paying heed to thy word, and having finished [my work], behold, I have come.” And the old man marvelled at this scrupulous obedience, and said unto him, “Make haste and perform thy service of praise and prayer, and bring it to an end, and drink some water, for if thou dost not do it quickly thy body will become sick.”

306. Abbâ Poemen used to say often, “We need nothing except a watchful and strenuous heart.”

307. A brother asked Abbâ Poemen, saying, “How is it right for me to live in the place wherein I am?” The old man saith unto him, “Acquire the thought of sojourning in the place where thou livest, and desire not to cast thy word among the multitude, or to be the first to speak, and thou wilt find rest.”

308. Abbâ Agathon said concerning Abbâ Mûaîn that, on one occasion, he made fifty bushels of wheat into bread for the needs of the community, and then laid it out in the sun, but before it became dry and hard he saw something in the place which was not helpful to him, and he said to the brethren who were with him, “Arise, let us go hence”; and they were greatly grieved. And when he saw that they were grieved, he said unto them, “Are ye troubled about the bread? Verily I have seen men take to flight and forsake their cells, although they were well whitewashed and contained cupboards which were filled with books of the Holy Scriptures and service books, and they did not even shut the cupboard doors, but departed leaving them wide open.”

309. Abbâ Copres used to say, “Blessed is the man who beareth temptation with thanksgiving.”

310. Abbâ Poemen used to say, “The mighty ones have been many, and those who never felt envy have been many, and they have neither been jealous in an evil way, nor have they stirred up their own passions.”

311. Abbâ Sisoes used to say, “Seek the Lord, and search [Him] out, but not only in the place where [thou] dwellest.”

312. An old man used to say, “Eat not before thou art hungry; lie not down to sleep before thou art sleepy; and speak not before thou art asked a question.”

313. An old man used to say, “Prepare not a table before the time when thou art alone, and speak not before thou art asked a question, and if thou art asked a question, speak that which is fair and helpful, and not that which is evil and destructive.”

314. Abbâ Euprepius said, “If thou art not certain in thyself that God is faithful and mighty, believe in Him, and associate thyself with those who are His, but if thou art doubtful thou canst not believe. For we all believe and confess that God is mighty, and we are certain that all things are easy for Him [to do]; do thou then also shew thy belief in Him by thy works, for in thee also He worketh miracles, and doeth wonders, and sheweth forth marvels.”

315. Abbâ Theodore used to say, “If thou hast affection for a man, and it happeneth that he fall into temptation, stretch out thy hand to him, and lift him up therefrom, but if he fall into heresy, and will not be persuaded by thee to return, cut him off from thee immediately, lest, if thou tarry long with him, thou be drawn unto him, and thou sink down into the uttermost depths.”

316. One of the fathers used to tell the story of Abbâ John, the Persian, who by reason of the abundance of his spiritual excellence arrived at goodness; now this man used to dwell in the Arabia of Egypt. And on one occasion he borrowed one dînâr from a brother, and bought some flax to weave, and a brother came and entreated him, saying, “Give me a little flax that I may make a tunic for myself”; and he gave it to him with joy; and then another [brother] entreated him, saying, “Give me a little flax that I may make myself a turban,” and he gave unto him also, and the man departed. And many other brethren borrowed from him, and he gave them [the flax] with rejoicing; but finally the owner of the dînâr came, and wanted to take it back. Then the old man said unto him, “I will go and bring it to thee,” but as he had no place wherefrom he could give it to him, he rose up and went to Abbâ Jacob, so that he might persuade him to give him a dînâr wherewith to repay the brother; and as he was going he found a dînâr lying on the ground, but he was not disposed to offer it to him, so he prayed and returned to his cell. And the brother came again and pressed him to let him have what was his own, and the old man said unto him, “Have patience with me this time only, and I will bring it to you.” And he again rose up and went to that place where he had found the daric, and, having made a prayer, he took it. And he came to the old man Jacob, and said unto him, “As I was coming to you, O father, I found this dînâr on the road. Do now, O father, an act which is worthy of love, and make a proclamation throughout these boders, for perhaps some one hath lost the dînâr, and if its owner be found, give it unto him.” Then the old man went, and made a proclamation for three days, and he could not find the man who had lost the dînâr. Then the old man said unto Abbâ Jacob, “If no man hath lost the dînâr give it unto that brother to whom I owe one, for I was coming to obtain one from thee for the Lord’s sake, when I found it.” And the old man Jacob marvelled at him, because, although he owed a dînâr, and had found one, he did not immediately take it and pay his debt. Now this habit also was found with that old man who owed the dînâr: if any man came and wanted to borrow something from him, he did not give it unto him with his own hands, but he said unto him, “Take for thyself whatsoever thou wishest”; and when the man brought back that which he had taken, the old man would say unto him, “Place it where thou didst take it from,” and if he did not bring it back he would say to him nothing at all.

317. Abbâ Daniel used to say that on one occasion certain fathers came from Alexandria to see Abbâ Arsenius, and one of them was the brother of Timothy, Patriarch of Alexandria, and they were taking his nephew also. Now the old man was ill at that season, and he did not wish to spend much time with them, lest, peradventure, they should come to visit him another time and trouble him; and he was then living in Patârâ of Estôrîs, and the fathers went back sorrowfully. And it happened on one occasion that the barbarians invaded the country, and then Abbâ Arsenius came and dwelt in the lower countries; and when those same fathers heard [of his coming] they went to see him, and he received them with gladness. Then the brother who belonged to them said unto him, “Father, knowest thou not that when [these fathers] came to thee on the first occasion at Estôrîs thou didst not protract thy conversation with us?” The old man said unto him, “My son, ye ate bread, and ye drank water, in very truth, but I refused to eat bread and drink water, and I would not sit upon my legs through torturing myself, until the time when I knew from experience that ye must have arrived at your homes, for I knew that for my sake ye had given yourselves trouble.” Thus they were pleased and gratified in their minds and they departed rejoicing.

318. Abbâ Daniel used to say: Abbâ Alexander dwelt with Abbâ Agathon, and the old man loved Abbâ Alexander because he was a man of labour, and he was gentle and gracious. And it happened that all the brethren were washing their linen armcloths in the river, and Alexander was quietly washing his with them; but the brethren said unto Abbâ Agathon, “Brother Alexander doeth nothing,” and the old man, wishing to quiet his disciples, said unto him, “Wash well, O brother, for the armcloth is [made] of linen.” Now when Alexander heard [this] he was grieved, and afterwards the old man entreated him, saying, “What then? Do I not know that thou canst wash well? But I spake as I did to thee before them so that I might rebuke their minds by thine obedience.”

319. They used to say that one day when Abbâ John came to the church which was in Scete he heard the brethren quarrelling with each other, and that he went back to his cell, and went round it three times, and then entered it; now the brethren saw him, and they expressed their contrition to him, saying, “Tell us why thou didst go round thy cell three times.” And he said unto them, “Because the sound of the quarrel was still in my ears, and I said, ‘I will first of all drive it out from them, and then I will go into the cell.’ ”

320. They used to say about Abbâ ’Ôr that whilst other monks would give a pledge for the palm leaves when they wished to buy, he would never give any pledge whatsoever, but whensoever he required leaves he would send the price of them, and take them. Now his disciple went on one occasion to buy leaves, and the gardener said unto him, “A man gave me a deposit, but he hath not taken away his leaves, and therefore thou mayest take them”; and having brought them he came to the old man and related unto him the matter as it had happened. And when the old man heard it, he wrung his hands, and said, “’Ôr will not work this year,” and he did not cease [to importune] his disciple until he had returned the palm leaves to their [proper] place.

321. They used to tell the story of a certain brother who never ate bread, but only unleavened cakes soaked in water; and whenever he visited the monks when they sat down to eat he would set before himself unleavened cakes and eat [them]. And it happened that one day he went to a certain great Sage, and there also visited him at the same time other strangers, and the old man boiled a few lentiles for them; and when they sat down to eat that brother also brought out his soaked cakes, and set them before himself, and ate them. Now when the old man saw this, he held his peace and did not rebuke him before the brethren who happened to be there, but when they rose up from the table, he took him aside privately, and said unto him, “O brother, if thou goest to visit a man do not reveal thy rule of life, but eat with the brethren that thou mayest not think within thyself that thou art better than they, and so condemn them. But if thou wishest to keep hold upon thy self-denial, sit in thy cell and do not go out of it.” Then the brother was persuaded by the old man, and he ate with the brethren what they ate so as to deceive them, according to what the old man had said.

322. A certain father whose name was Eulogius, having led a life of great austerity and labour in Constantinople, obtained great fame and reputation; and he came to Egypt in order that he might see something more excellent, and when he heard about Abbâ Joseph he came to him, expecting to see a very much more laborious form of life than his own. And the old man received him with gladness, and said unto his disciple, “Make some distinction in the food which ye have to prepare, and let it be suitable for strangers.” Now when they had sat down to eat, those who were with Abbâ Eulogius said, “Bring a little salt, for the father will not eat this”; but Abbâ Joseph ate, and drank, and held his peace. And Eulogius passed three days with him, but he never heard them singing the Psalms, and he never saw them praying, for every act of worship which they performed was in secret; and he went forth from them having profited in no wise. And by the Providence of God it happened that they lost their way, and they returned the same day, and they came and stood at the door of the old man’s cell; and before they could knock at the door, Eulogius heard them singing the Psalms inside, and having waited for a long time, they knocked, and immediately those of the company of Joseph who were singing inside stopped. Now when Eulogius and those who were with him had gone inside the old man received them again with gladness, and because of the heat which they had endured, Abbâ Joseph’s monks gave Eulogius [some] water to drink; and this water was a mixture, part being sea water and part being river water, and when Eulogius had tasted it he was unable to drink it. Then he repented within himself, and he went in to Abbâ Joseph and fell down at his feet, and entreated him to be allowed to learn his rule, for he wished so to do, and he said, “What doth this mean? When we were with you ye sang no Psalms, but as soon as we have left you ye perform services overmuch. And when I want to drink water I find it to be salt.” The old man said unto him, “It was brother Sylvanus who did this, and he mixed the water without knowing”; and Eulogius entreated him [to tell him about it], for he wished to learn the truth. Thereupon Abbâ Joseph said unto him, “That mixture of wine which we drink we drink for the sake of the love of Christ, but the brethren always drink this water.” And Abbâ Joseph taught him the difference [between their rules of life], and that he toiled in secret and not before the children of men; and he ate a meal at the same table with them, and he partook of whatsoever was set thereupon; and Eulogius learned that, even as the old man had said, Abbâ Joseph performed his ascetic labours in secret, and having profited greatly he departed with gladness, giving thanks unto God.

323. On one occasion there was a feast, and the brethren were eating in the church; and there was among them a brother who said unto him that ministered at the tables, “I do not eat boiled food, but bread and salt,” and the servant cried out to certain other brethren before the whole assembly, saying, “Such and such a brother doth not eat boiled food, therefore bring him salt.” Then one of the old men came to that brother, and said unto him, “It would have been better for thee this day to have eaten flesh in thy cell than that this word should have been heard before the whole assembly.”

324. On one occasion Ammon came to the brethren, and the brethren expressed contrition, saying, “Tell us a word [whereby we may live].” The old man said unto them, “It is this: we must travel along the path of God with due order.”

325. They used to say that the face of Abbâ Panbô never smiled or laughed. Now one day when the devils wished to make him laugh, they hung a feather on a piece of wood, and they carried it along and danced about therewith in great haste, and they cried out, “Hâilâw, Hâilâw.” Now when Abbâ Panbô saw them, he laughed, and the devils began to run and jump about, saying, “Wâwâ, Abbâ Panbô hath laughed.” Then Abbâ Panbô answered and said unto them, “I did not laugh [for myself], but I laughed at your weakness, and because it needeth so many of you to carry a feather.”

326. On one occasion a certain brother committed an offence in the coenobium, and in the places which were therein a certain old man had his abode; now he had not gone out of his cell for many years. And when the Abbâ of the coenobium came to the old man he told concerning the folly (or offence) of that brother, and about his transgression. Then the old man answered and said, “Drive him out from you”; and when that brother was driven out, he departed and went into a reedy jungle, and as some brethren happened to pass by to go to Abbâ Poemen they heard the voice of the brother weeping; and they went in and found him in great labour, and they entreated him to let them take him with them to Abbâ Poemen, but he would not be persuaded [to go], and said, “I will die here.” And when they came to Abbâ Poemen they told him about him, and he entreated them, saying, “Go to that brother, and say ye unto him, Abbâ Poemen calleth thee”; now when the brother learned that Abbâ Poemen had sent the brethren to him, he rose up and went. And when Abbâ Poemen saw that he was sorrow-stricken, he rose up and gave him the salutation of peace, and smiling with him, gave him [food] to eat. Then he sent his brother to the old man, saying, “For many years past I have greatly longed to see thee, because I have heard about thee, but through negligence both of us have been prevented from seeing each other. Now therefore that God wisheth it, and the opportunity calleth, I beg thee to trouble thyself [to come] hither, and we will each welcome the other.” Now, as I have already said, the old man had up to that time never gone out of his cell. And when the old man heard the message, he said, “If God had not worked in him he would not have sent for me”; and he rose up and came to him; and having saluted each other, they sat down with gladness. And Abbâ Poemen said unto him, “There were two men living in one place, and both of them had dead, and one of them left weeping for his own dead and went and wept over that of his neighbour”; and when the old man heard these words he repented, and he remembered what he had done, and said, “Abbâ Poemen is above in heaven, but I am down, down, on the earth.”

327. An old man used to say, “It is right for a man to keep his work in all diligence so that he may lose nothing thereof; for if a man worketh even a very little, and keepeth it, his work remaineth and abideth.” And the old man used to narrate the following matter: An inheritance was left unto a certain brother, and whilst he was wishing to make therefrom a memorial to him that had died, a certain brother who was a stranger came to him, and he roused him up in the night saying, “Arise, and help me to sing the service.” Then the stranger entreated him, saying, “Leave me, O my brother, for I am away from labour, and I cannot [get up]”; and the brother who had welcomed him said, “If thou wilt not come, get up and depart from this place”; and the stranger rose up and departed. And at the turn of the night he saw in his dream him who had driven him out giving wheat to the baker, and that the baker did not give him [back] even one loaf of bread; and he rose up and went to an old man and related unto him the whole matter even as it had taken place, and the old man said unto him, “Thou hast performed a beautiful action, but the Enemy hath not allowed thee to receive the reward [thereof].” And after these things the old man said that [this] story was a proof according to which it is right for a man to be watchful and to guard his work with great care.

328. An old man said, “The Calumniator is the Enemy, and the Enemy will never cease to cast into thy house, if he possibly can, impurity of every kind, and it is thy duty neither to refuse nor to neglect to take that which is cast in and to throw it out; for if thou art negligent thy house will become filled with impurity, and thou wilt be unable to enter therein. Therefore whatsoever the Enemy casteth in little by little do thou throw out little by little, and thy house shall remain pure by the Grace of Christ.”

329. On one occasion Abbâ Poemen entreated Abbâ Macarius with frequent supplication, saying, “Tell me a word [whereby I may live]”; and the old man anwered and said unto him, “The matter which thou seekest hath this day passed from the monks.”

330. Abbâ Nicetas used to tell about two brethren who had met together, and who wished to dwell together; and one of them thought, saying, “Whatsoever my brother wisheth that will I do,” and similarly the other meditated, saying, “Whatsoever will gratify my brother that will I do.” Now when the Enemy saw this, he went to them and wished to separate each from the other, and as he was standing before the door, he appeared unto one of them in the form of a dove, and to the other in the form of a raven. Then one of them said unto his companion, “Seest thou this dove?” and the other replied, “It is a raven.” And they began to quarrel with each other, neither of them yielding to his companion, and they stood up and fought with each other, even unto blood, and at length, to the joy of the Calumniator, they separated. And after three days they came to themselves and were sorry for what had happened, and they went back and lived together in peace as they did formerly, and each expressed his sorrow unto the other. And each of them devoted himself to performing the will of his companion, and they lived together until the end.

331. One of the old men used to say, “If thou seest a man who hath fallen into the water, and thou canst help him, stretch out thy staff to him, and draw him out, lest, if thou stretch out thy hand to him, and thou art not able to bring him up, he drag thee down and both of you perish.” Now he spake this for the sake of those who thrust themselves forward to help other people who are being tempted, and who, through wishing to help [others] beyond their power, [themselves] fall. It is right for a man to help his brother according to the power that he hath, for God demandeth not from a man that which is beyond his strength.

332. A brother asked an old man, and said unto him, “Supposing that I find sufficient for my daily wants in any place, dost thou wish me not to take care for the work of my hands?” The old man said unto him, “However much thou mayest have, do not neglect the work of thy hands; work as much as thou canst, only do not work with an agitated mind.”

333. An old man used to say, “When the soldier goeth into battle he careth for himself only, and so also doth the watchman; let us then imitate these men, for riches, and family, and wisdom, without a correct life and works, are dung.”

334. An old man used to say “I await death evening, and morning, and every day.”

335. The same old man used to say also, “As he who is a stranger is not able to take another stranger into the house of one by whom he hath not been entreated to enter, so also is it in the case of the Enemy, for he will not enter in where he is not welcomed.”

336. Abbâ Epiphanius said, “He who revealeth and discovereth his good work is like unto the man who soweth [seed] on the surface of the ground, and doth not cover it up, and the fowl of the heavens cometh and devoureth it; but he who hideth his good works is like unto the man who soweth his seed in the furrows of the earth, and he shall reap the same at harvest.”

337. Abbâ Epiphanius used to say, “Whensoever a thought cometh and filleth thy breast, that is to say, thy heart, with vainglory or pride, say thou unto it, ‘Old man, behold thy fornication.’ ”

338. And he also said, “O monk, take thou the greatest possible care that thou sin not, lest thou disgrace God Who dwelleth in thee, and thou drive Him out of thy soul.”

339. The old men said, “Let no monk do anything whatsoever without first of all trying his heart [to see] that what he is about to do will be [done] for God’s sake.”

340. One of the fathers asked a youthful brother, saying, “Tell us, O brother, is it good to hold one’s peace or to speak?” then that young brother spake unto him, saying, “If the words [to be said] be useless, leave them [unsaid], but if they be good, give place to good things, and speak [them]. Yet, even though the words be good, prolong not thy speech, but cut it short, for silence is best of all.”

341. Rabbâ Paul the Great, the Galatian, used to say, “The monk who living in his cell hath some small need, and who goeth out to provide therefor, is laughed at by the devils.”

342. The blessed woman Eugenia said, “It is helpful to us to go about begging, only we must be with Jesus, for he who is with Jesus is rich, even though we be poor in the flesh. For he who holdeth the things of earth in greater honour than the things of the Spirit falleth away both from the things which are first and the things which are last. For he who coveteth heavenly things must, of necessity, receive the good things which are on the earth. Therefore it belongeth unto the wise to await not the things which now exist [here], but the things which are about to be, and the happiness which is indescribable, and in this short and trouble some life they should prepare themselves therefor.”

343. On one occasion when Abbâ Arsenius was living in the lower lands, and was troubled, he determined to leave his cell without taking anything from it, and he departed to his disciples in the body, that is to say, to Alexander and Zoilus. Then he said to Alexander, “Arise, and go back to the place where I was living”; and Alexander did so; and he said to Zoilus, “Arise; and come with me to the river, and seek out for me a ship which is going to Alexandria, and then come back, and go to thy brother.” Now Zoilus marvelled at this speech, but he held his peace; and thus they parted from each other, and the old man Arsenius then went down to the country of Alexandria, where he fell ill of a serious sickness. And his disciples went back and came to the place where they had been formerly, and they said to each other, “Perhaps one of us hath offended the old man, and it is for this reason that he hath separated from us”; but they could not find in themselves anything with which they had ever offended him. Now the old man became well again, and he said, “I will arise and go to the fathers,” and he journeyed on and came to Patârâ where his disciples were. Now when the old man was nigh unto the river-side a young Ethiopian woman saw him, and she came behind him, and drew near him, and plucked his raiment; and the old man rebuked her. Then the maiden said unto him, “If thou art a monk, depart to the mountain.” Now the old man being somewhat sad at this remark, said within himself, “Arsenius, if thou art a monk, depart to the mountain”; and afterwards his disciples Alexander and Zoilus met him, and they fell down at his feet, and the old man threw himself down [on the ground] also, and he wept himself, and his disciples wept before him. And the old man said unto them, “Did ye not hear that I have been sick?” And they said unto him, “Yes.” And the old man said, “Why did ye not seek to come and see me?” And Abbâ Alexander said, “Because the way in which thou didst leave us was not right, and because of it many were offended, and they said, ‘If they had not wearied (or pressed) the old man in some way he would never have separated from them.’ ” The old man saith unto them, “I know that myself, but men will also say, ‘The dove could not find rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned to Noah in the ark’ ”; thus the disciples were healed, and they took up their abode with him again.

344. Abbâ Daniel used to tell concerning Arsenius that he never wished to speak about any investigation into the Scriptures, although he was well able to speak [on the subject] if he had been so disposed, but he could not write even a letter quickly.

345. A certain old man used to say, “Vaunt not thyself over thy brother in thy mind, saying, ‘I possess a greater measure of self-denial than he doth, and I can endure more than he,’ but be subject unto the Grace of Christ, with a humble spirit, and love which is not hypocritical, lest through thy haughty spirit thou destroy thy labours. For it is written, ‘Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall’ (1 Corinthians 10:12); and, ‘A man must be seasoned with Christ as with salt.’ ”

346. An old man used to say, “Let there be not unto thee free converse with the governor or with the judge, and be not with either of them continually; for from such freedom of speech (or boldness) thou wilt acquire [the habit of thinking], and from merely thinking thou wilt covet.”

347. Abbâ Agathon used to say, “I have never lain down to sleep and kept anger in my heart, or even a thought of enmity against any man; and I have never allowed any man to lie down to sleep keeping any anger against me.”

348. The old man Hyparchus used to say, “Do not abuse thy neighbour, and drive not away a man who turneth towards thee, so that thou mayest be able to say to our Lord, ‘Forgive us our sins, even as we also forgive those who trespass against us.’ ”

349. One of the fathers used to say, “If a man ask thee for anything, and thou givest it to him grudgingly, thou wilt not receive a reward for that which thou hast given, as it is written, ‘If a man ask thee to go with him a mile, go with him two’; and the meaning of this is, ‘If a man asketh anything of thee give [it] unto him with all thy soul and spirit.’ ”

350. One of the fathers related that there were three things which were especially honoured in monks: that is to say, with fear and trembling, and spiritual gladness they thought it meet to draw nigh, I mean to the participation in the Holy Mysteries, and the table of the brethren, and the washing of one another, according to the example which their true Rabbâ Christ shewed unto them, before the great day of His Resurrection was fulfilled. And the old man himself produced an illustration [of this], saying, “There was a certain great old man who was a seer of visions, and he happened to be sitting at meat with the brethren, and whilst they were eating, the old man saw in the Spirit as he was sitting at the table that some of the brethren were eating honey, whilst others were eating bread, and others dung; and he wondered at these within himself. And he made supplication and entreaty unto God, saying, ‘O Lord, reveal unto me this mystery, and tell me why when the food is all the same, and when the various things which are laid upon the table are only different forms thereof, the brethren appear to be eating different kinds of food, for some seem to be eating honey, and others bread, and others dung.’ Then a voice came unto him from above, saying, ‘Those who are eating honey are those who eat with fear, and with trembling, and with spiritual love when they sit at the table, and who pray without ceasing, and whose praise goeth up to God like sweet incense; for this reason they eat honey. And those who eat bread are those who confess and receive the Grace of God, which is given unto them by Him for these things. And those who eat dung are those who complain, and say, This is sweet and pleasant, and that is not seemly and prospereth not.’ Now it is not right to think about these at all, but we should glorify and praise God the more, and receive (or welcome) His abundant provisions which come to us without labour, so that there may be fulfilled in us that which was said by the blessed Apostle, ‘Whether ye eat, or whether ye drink, or whether ye do anything else, do all things unto the glory of God’ ” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

351. They say that Abbâ ’Ôr never told a lie, and never swore, and never cursed a man, and never spoke unless it was absolutely necessary.

352. One of the old men said, “That which thou observest not thyself, how canst thou teach to another?”

353. And it was he who said unto his disciple, “Take heed that thou never bringest an alien word into this cell.”

354. An old man used to say, “As far as I have been able to overtake my soul when it hath transgressed, I have never slipped (or committed an offence) a second time.”

355. An old man used to say, “Strive with all thy might so that thou mayest never in any way do evil to any man, and make thine heart to be pure with every man.”

356. Abbâ Agathon used to say to himself, whensoever he saw any act or anything which his thought wished to judge or condemn, “Do not commit the thing thyself,” and in this manner he quieted his mind, and held his peace.

357. The old men used to say, “For a man to be so bold as to condemn his neighbour resembleth the sweeping of the lawgiver, or the judge, from off his seat, and the wishing to pass judgement in his place, and it is as if a man were to bring an accusation against the weakness of the judge and to condemn him, and such an act will be found to be the rebellion of the slave against his Lord, and against the Judge of the living and the dead.”

358. An old man used to say, “From the greatest to the least of the things which I perform, I carefully consider the fruit which will be produced from it, whether it be in thoughts, or in words, or in deeds.”

359. They used to tell the story about Abbâ Pachomius and say that on many occasions he heard the devils repeating many evil things of various kinds, some of which were to come upon the brethren. First of all he heard one of them saying, “I have [strife] with a man who constantly [defieth] me, for whensoever I approach to sow thoughts in his mind, immediately he turneth to prayer, and I depart from him being consumed with fire.” And another devil said, “I have [strife]with a man who is easy to persuade, and he doeth whatsoever I counsel him to do, and I love him dearly.” It is right then, O my brethren, that we should keep ourselves awake always, and that, making ourselves mighty men in the Name of the Lord, we should strive against the devils, and then they will never be able to overcome us.

360. One of the holy men used to say, “Through holding small wickednesses in contempt we fall into great ones; consider then attentively the following story which is told even as it took place. A certain man laughed in an empty manner, and his companion rebuked and condemned him; [another brother] happened to be there, and he thought lightly of the matter, saying, ‘This is nothing; for what is it for a man to laugh?’ [And the brother replied, ‘From laughter] pleasure is produced, and next empty words, and filthy actions, and iniquity, and so from the things which are thought to be small that wicked devil bringeth in great wickednesses. And from great wickednesses a man cometh to despair, for this cruel and wicked evil hath the Evil One discovered (or invented) through the malignity of his craftiness, for a man to commit sin is not so destructive as for a man to cut off hope from his soul. For he who repenteth in a fitting manner, and according to what is right blotteth out his offences; but he who cutteth off hope from his soul perisheth because he will not offer unto it the binding up of repentance. Therefore let not a man hold in contempt small wickednesses. For this is the seed which the Calumniator soweth, for if he made war openly it would not be difficult to fight, and victory would be easy; and even now, if we be watchful and strenuous, it will be easy for us to conquer, for it is God Who hath armed us, and He teacheth us and entreateth us not to hold even the smallest wickednesses in contempt. Hearken thou unto Him as He admonisheth [us], saying, (St. Matthew 5:22) “Whosoever shalt say unto his brother ‘Râkâ,’ shall be guilty of the fire of Gehenna”; and, “He who looketh upon a woman to desire her hath already committed adultery with her in his heart” (St. Matt, 5:28). And in another place He rebuked and admonished those who laugh, and concerning the idle word also He said, “Its answer is given”; and on account of this the blessed Job, “ ‘because of the thoughts which were in the hearts of his sons, offered up an offering. Now therefore, since we know all these things, let us take good heed to ourselves [and avoid] the beginning of the movement of our thoughts, and then we shall never fall.’ ”

361. A brother said unto an old man, “Dost thou not see that I have not even one war in my heart?” The old man said unto him, “Thou hast an opening in thee at each of the four points of the compass, and whatsoever wisheth can go in and come out without thy perceiving it. But if thou wilt set up a door, and wilt shut it, and wilt not allow evil thoughts to enter, thou wilt then see them standing outside; for if our minds be watchful and strenuous in loving God, the Enemy who is the counsellor of wickednesses will not approach [us].”

362. A certain Mother of noble rank said, “As the stamped silver coin which is current loseth its weight and becometh less, so doth the spiritual excellence which is apparent and is made manifest become destroyed; and as wax melteth before the fire, so also doth the soul become lax and confused, and strenuousness departeth from it.”

363. One of the old men used to say, “The man who doeth many good deeds doth Satan cast down by means of small matters into pits, so that he may destroy the wages of all the good things which he hath performed.”

364. A brother asked Abbâ Poemen, saying, “For what purpose were spoken the words, ‘Take no thought for the morrow?’ ” The old man said unto him, “For the man who is under temptation, and is in affliction; for it is not meet that such a man should take thought for the morrow, or should say, ‘How long shall I have to endure this temptation?’ but he should think upon patient endurance, saying, ‘It is to-day, and the temptation will not remain thus for a long time.’ ” And the old man said, “It is good that a man should be remote from temptation of the body, for he who is nigh unto the temptation of the body is like unto him that standeth upon the mouth of a deep pit, and whom, whensoever his enemy wisheth, he can easily cast therein. But if he be remote from the temptation of the body, he is like unto a man who is far away from the pit, and even though his enemy may wish to cast him into it, he is not able to do so because the pit is far away from him, and whilst he is either urging him or dragging him thereto, God, the Merciful One, sendeth him a helper.”

365. And a brother said unto Abbâ Poemen, “My body is weak, and I am not able to perform ascetic labours; speak to me a word whereby I may live”; and the old man said unto him, “Art thou able to rule thy thought and not to permit it to go to thy neighbour in guile?”

366. And a brother also asked him, “What shall I do? For I am troubled when I am sitting in my cell.” The old man said unto him, “Think lightly of no man; think no evil in thy heart; condemn no man and curse no man; then shall God give thee rest, and thy habitation shall be without trouble.”

367. And the same old man used to say, “The keeping of the commandments, and the taking heed to oneself in everything, and the acquisition of oblations, are the guides of the soul.”

368. Abbâ Poemen said, “A brother asked Abbâ Moses, saying, ‘In what manner is a man to keep himself from his neighbour?’ The old man said unto him, ‘Except a man layeth it up in his heart that he hath been already three years in the grave, he will not be sufficiently strong [to keep] this saying.’ ”

369. Abbâ Poemen said, “If thou seest visions and hearest rumours, repeat them not to thy neighbour, for this is victory of the war.”

370. The same old man also said, “The chief of all wickednesses is the wandering of the thoughts.”

371. Abbâ Poemen said, “If a man perform the desire, and pleasure, and custom of these, they will cast him down.”

372. A brother asked Abbâ Poemen, saying, “If a brother owe me a few oboli, shall I remind him of it?” The old man saith, “Remind him once.” And the brother said unto him, “And if I have reminded him and he hath given me nothing, [what am I to do then?]” The old man saith unto him, “Let the thought perish, only do not harass the man.”

373. A brother asked Abbâ Joseph, saying, “What shall I do? For I cannot be disgraced, and I cannot work, and I have nothing [wherefrom] to give alms.” The old man said unto him, “If thou canst not do these things, keep thy conscience from thy neighbour, and guard thyself carefully against evil of every kind, and thou shalt live; for God desireth that the soul shall be without sin.”

374. A brother asked Abbâ Sisoes of Shĕkîpâ about his life and works, and the old man said unto him that which Daniel spake, “The bread of desire I have not eaten,” that is to say, “A man should not fulfil the lust of his desire.”

375. On one occasion Abraham said unto Abbâ Sisoes, “Abbâ, thou hast grown old, let us draw nigh unto the habitations of the children of men for a little”; and Abbâ Sisoes said unto him, “Let us go where there is no woman”; then his disciple said unto him, “And what place is there without a woman except the desert?” The old man said unto him, “Then let us go to the desert.”

376. On one occasion certain brethren came to Abbâ Pambô, and one of them asked him, saying, “Father, I fast two days at a time, and then I eat two bread-cakes; shall I gain life, O father, or am I making a mistake?” And another asked him and said, “I perform work with my hands [each] day to the value of two kîrâts (i.e., carats), and I keep a few oboli by me for my food, and the remainder I spend upon the relief of the poor; shall I be redeemed, O father, or am I making a mistake?” And the other brethren asked of him many things, but he answered them never a word. Now after four days they were wishing to depart, and the clergy entreated them, saying, “O brethren, trouble not ye yourselves, for God will give you a reward. The custom of the old man is not to speak immediately, for he doth not speak until God giveth him permission to do so.” Then the brethren went to the old man and said unto him, “Father, pray for us”; and he said unto them, “Do ye wish to depart?” And they said unto him, “Yes.” Then he took their actions into his consideration, and he put himself in the position of one who was writing on the ground, and said, “Pambô, one fasteth two days at a time, and then eateth two bread-cakes; shall he become a monk by such things as these? No! Pambô, [another] worketh for two carats a day, and giveth to those who are in need, shall he become a monk by such things as these? No!” And he said, “[Thy] actions are good, and if thou preservest thy conscience with thy [good actions] thou shalt live”; and being consoled by these words, the brethren departed rejoicing.

377. Certain of the old men used to say, “If temptation cometh upon thee in the place where thou dwellest, forsake not the place in the time of temptation, lest peradventure thou findest wherever thou goest that from which thou fleest; but endure until the period of temptation be overpast, and thy departure can be [effected] without offence and without affliction, for thou wilt have departed in a time of peace. Now if thou departest during a period of temptation, many will be afflicted because of thee, and will say that thou didst depart because of the temptation, and this will be unto them a source of grief.”

378. On one occasion when Abbâ Sisoes was sitting down with a certain brother, he sighed unknowingly, and he did not perceive that the brother was with him, because his mind was carried away by the noonday [prayer]; and he made apologies to that brother, and said unto him, “Forgive me, O my brother, that I heaved a sigh before thee [proves] that I have not yet become a monk.”

379. An old man used to say, “Whensoever I bring down the bar of the loom, and before I raise it up again, I always set my death before mine eyes.”

380. Another old man used to say, “When I am plaiting (or sewing) a basket, with every stitch which I put into it I set my death before my eyes before I take another stitch.”

381. Abbâ Daniel used to say, “On one occasion we went to Abbâ Poemen, and having eaten together, he said unto us subsequently, ‘Go ye and rest yourselves a little, O my brethren’; and when the brethren had gone to rest themselves I remained that I might be able to talk to the old man privately. And I rose up and came to his cell, and I saw that he was sitting outside on a mat, and seeing me he lay down; now he did not know that I had seen him seated, and he pretended to be asleep. And this was the custom of the old man, for everything which he did was done by him in secret.”

382. One of the fathers asked Abbâ Sisoes, saying, “If I am living in the desert and the barbarians come against me to kill me, supposing that I have strength may I kill one of them?” The old man said unto him, “No. Commit thyself unto God, and leave [it to Him]. For with every trial which cometh upon a man he should say, ‘It hath come because of my sins’; but if something good happeneth to him, let him say, ‘It is of the Providence of God.’ ”

383. One of the old men used to say, “When the eyes of the ox are covered over then he is subjugated by the yoke bar, but if they do not cover [his] eyes he cannot be made to bow beneath the yoke; and thus is it with Satan, for if he can cover over the eyes of a man he can bring him low with every kind of sin, but if his eyes be able to see (or shine), he is able to flee from him.”

384. Abbâ Anthony said, “It is not seemly for us to remember the time which hath passed, but let a man be each day as one who beginneth his toil, so that the excessive weariness [which we shall feel] may be to our advantage. And let him say, as Paul said, ‘That which is behind me I forget, and I reach out to that which is before me’ ” (Philippians 3:13). And let him also remember the word of Elijah, who said, ‘As the Lord liveth, before Whom I stand this day’ ” (1 Kings 17:1).

385. And the same old man said also, “Let us not consider the time which is past, but let a man be even as he who beginneth, and let him take care in such wise that he shall make himself stand before God.”

386. Abbâ Paphnutius said: “A monk is bound to keep not only his body pure, but his soul free from unclean thoughts. Now we find that the body is consoled by thoughts, and unless the thoughts withdraw themselves they will sink the body; and the manner in which the thoughts work is as follows: they feed all lusts of the flesh, which is ruled by them, and in welcoming the lusts they stir up the body also in revolt, and they cast it down, like a pilot who is caught in a storm, and they make the ship to sink. And is it fitting that we should know that if one man loveth another he will say nothing evil about him? for if he doth speak against him he is not his friend; similarly he who loveth lust will not speak anything evil against it, and if he doeth so he is not its friend. But if a man [speak] against that which he knoweth not, (or against that which causeth him no affliction), or against that which causeth him no pain, [he may speak evil], but against that which he hath suffered, and that wherewith he hath been tried by the Enemy, he will speak evil, and he will not talk about him as a friend, but as an enemy. Thus whosoever speaketh evil of and who despiseth lust is not a friend of lusts.

387. And he also said, “As judges (or governors) slay the wicked, even so do labours slay evil lusts; and as wicked slaves fly from their lords even so do lusts fly from the exhaustion [caused by] ascetic labours. But good slaves hold their masters in honour as sons hold in honour their fathers. For the exhaustion [caused by ascetic labours] produceth good works, and from it the virtues spring up, even as the passions are produced from dainty meats. Exhaustion then begetteth good works, when a man hath wearied himself with [all] his soul, and it bringeth forth virtues and destroyeth vices, even as a righteous judge [destroyeth the wicked].”

388. A brother asked Abbâ Poemen, saying, “Since I suffer loss in spirit when I am with my Abbâ, dost thou wish me to continue to live with him any longer?” Now that old man knew that the brother was suffering loss through living with his Abbâ, and the old man marvelled how the brother could ask him the question, “Dost thou wish me to dwell with him any longer.” And the old man said unto him, “If thou wishest, dwell [with him],” and the brother went and did so, but he came again to the old man and said, “I am suffering loss in spirit”; and the old man said unto him nothing. And, when for the third time the brother came and said unto him, “Indeed, I cannot henceforth dwell with him,” Abbâ Poemen said unto him, “Now thou knowest how to live; depart, and dwell with him no longer.”

389. Therefore the old man said, “If there existeth a man who knoweth how to suffer loss in his spirit, and who still [feeleth] the need to ask a question about [his] secret thoughts, it is a good thing that he should ask; and it belongeth unto the old men to search into and investigate a matter of this kind, for concerning open sins a man doth not feel it necessary to enquire, but he cutteth them off immediately.”

390. A brother asked one of the fathers, saying, “Tell me a word whereby I may live”; and the old man answered and “said, ‘We must be careful to work a little, and we must be neither negligent nor contemptuous, and then we may be able to live.’ ” And an oldman told him the following story, saying, “There was a certain prosperous husbandman who was exceedingly rich, and wishing to teach his sons husbandry he said unto them, ‘My sons, behold, see how I have become rich, and if ye will be persuaded by me, [and will do as I have done], ye will become rich also.’ Then they said unto him, ‘Father, we will be persuaded [by thee], tell us how [to become rich].’ Now although the husbandman knew well that he who laboureth always becometh rich, yet because he thought that they might be negligent, and despise [work], he made use of cunning in his words, and said unto them: ‘There is one day in the year whereon if a man worketh he will become rich, but because of my exceedingly great old age I have forgotten which it is; therefore, ye must work continually, and ye must not be idle even one day, and ye must by every possible means in your power go forwards. But if ye are neglectful and disinclined to work, even for one day, take good heed to yourselves lest the day whereon ye do not work be that very day, and that lucky day pass you by, and your labour for all the rest of the year be in vain.’ ” Thus also, O my brethren, if we labour and work each day, and we do not make use of sloth and negligence and contempt we shall find the way of life.

391. Abbâ Agathon asked Abbâ Alônîs, saying, “I wish to hold my tongue that it may not speak falsehood, [what shall I do?]” Abbâ Alônîs said unto him, “If thou dost not lie, thou art about to commit many sins.” Agathon said, “How?” And the old man said unto him, “Behold, two brethren are going to commit a murder, and one of them will flee to thee. And it will happen that the judge will come and search for him, and he will ask thee, saying, ‘Did this murder take place in thy presence?’ And if thou dost not wish to tell a I lie thou wilt deliver up to death the other man, whom it would be right for thee to let go free, so that he might be reserved for the judgement hall of God, Who knoweth all things.”

392. A certain brother was travelling on a road, and his aged mother was with him, and they came to a river which the old woman was not able to cross; and her son took his shoulder cloth and wound it round his hands so that they might not touch his mother’s body, and in this manner he carried her across the river. Then his mother said unto him, “My son, why didst thou first wrap round thy hands with the cloth, and then take me across?” and he said, “The body of a woman is fire, and through thy body there would have come to me the memory of [the body of] another woman, and it was for this reason that I acted as I did.”








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