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

444. ABBÂ ISAAC, the priest of the Cells, used to say: When I was a young man I used to dwell with Abbâ Chronius, and he never at any time told me to do any work; now he was an old man and he trembled, but he would stand up and give water with his hands to me, and to all of us alike. And with Abbâ Theodore of Parmê it was the same, for he never told me to do any work whatsoever, but he would make ready the table with his own hands, and would say, “Brother, come [and] eat.” And I said unto him, “Father, I came that I might assist thee, and how is that thou dost not tell me to do something?” But the old man in all this held his peace. And I went up and informed the old men, and they came to him, and said unto him, “Father, this brother came unto thy holiness that he might be assisted [by thee], and why dost thou not tell him to do something?” Then the old man said unto them, “Am I the head of a monastery that I should give him a command? I shall say unto him nothing except that [I] wish him to do that which he seeth me do.” And from that time I was always before him in doing that which the old man was going to do; now whatsoever he did, he did in silence, and in this manner he made me to know and taught me to work in silence also.

445. There was a certain Egyptian monk in Constantinople under the reign of Theodosius the Less, and he used to dwell in a little cell, and when the Emperor went forth [on one occasion] to take his pleasure, he came by himself to the monk; now the following of men who were with him waited for him at a distance. And the Emperor took off his crown from his head, and hid it, and he knocked at the door of the monk, and when he opened to him he knew that it was the Emperor, but he [feigned] forgetfulness and would not recognize him, and he welcomed him as one of his own rank in life, and he prayed and sat down. Then the Emperor began to question him, saying, “How are the fathers who are in Egypt?” And the monk said unto him, “They all pray for thy health.” And the Emperor examined his cell, and saw nothing there except a small basket wherein was bread, and the monk said to him, “Eat,” and he dipped the bread in water, and poured oil on it, and salt, and he gave it to the Emperor, who ate it; and he gave him some water, and he drank. Then the Emperor said unto him, “Knowest thou who I am?” And the monk said unto him, “God knoweth who thou art.” And the Emperor said unto him, “I am Theodosius, the Emperor,” and straightway the monk paid homage unto him. Then the Emperor said unto him, “Blessed art thou in that thou hast none of the cares of this world; verily I was born to kingship and before this day I have never been satisfied with bread and water, and they have pleased me greatly”; and the Emperor began to pay honour to him. And straightway that monk fled to Egypt with all the speed that was possible.

446. A certain brother came to Abbâ Macarius, the Egyptian, and said unto him, “Father, speak to me a word whereby I may live.” Abbâ Macarius saith unto him, “Get thee to the cemetery and revile the dead”; and he went and reviled them, and stoned them with stones, and he came and informed the old man [that he had done so]. And the old man said unto him, “Did they say nothing unto thee?” and the brother said unto him, “No.” And again the old man said unto him, “Go to-morrow and praise them, and call them, ‘Apostles, Saints, and Righteous Men’ ”; and he came to the old man, and said, “I have praised them.” And the old man said unto him, “And did they return thee no answer?” and he said “No.” And the old man said unto him, “Thou seest how thou hast praised them, and that they said nothing to thee, and that although thou didst revile them they returned thee no answer. And thus let it be with thyself. If thou wishest to live, become dead, so that thou mayest care neither for the reviling of men nor for [their] praise, for the dead care for nothing; in this wise thou wilt be able to live.”

447. One of the fathers used to relate that he had an old man in a cell, who performed many ascetic labours, and who clothed himself in a palm-leaf mat; and this old man went to Abbâ Ammon, who, seeing that he wore a palm-leaf mat only, said unto him, “This will profit thee nothing.” And the old man asked him, saying, “Three thoughts vex me. Shall I go to the desert, or shall I go forth into exile, or shall I shut myself up in a cell, and receive no man, and eat once every two days?” Abbâ Ammon said unto him, “Thou art not able to do any one of these things, but go, sit in thy cell, and eat a very little food each day, and let there be in thine heart always the word[s] of the publican, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner,’ and thus thou shalt be able to live” (St. Luke 18:13).

448. Abbâ Daniel used to relate a story, saying:—There was with us in Babylon of Egypt the daughter of a man who was the captain of a company of soldiers, and she was possessed of a devil, and her father took her to many places, but she could not find healing. Now her father had a friend who was a monk, and he said unto him, “No man is able to cure her except those monks of whom I spake unto thee, but even if we entreat them to do this they will not agree to it, because they flee from the love of the approbation [of men]. Nevertheless, when they come to sell [their] baskets, ye shall pretend that ye wish to buy some, and when they come to sell and to take the price of the baskets from thy house, we will say unto them, ‘Put up a prayer, and this maiden shall be healed’ ”; and the man did so. And they came as it were to buy baskets, and they found the disciple of these holy men sitting down and selling [them], and they took him and the baskets, and carried him to their houses, and then they set another man in his place, and commanded him when the monks came to bring them to them. Now when their disciple entered the house, the maiden who was possessed of a devil went forth and smote him on the cheek, but that brother fulfilled the commandment and turned to her the other cheek, and straightway that devil, who was unable to bear the blow of the commandment of Christ which was fulfilled, cried out with a loud voice, and departed. And when the monks came [the people in the house] related unto them the reason for what had happened, and they glorified God, and said, “It is customary for the boasting of the Evil One to fall before the humility of the commandments of Christ.”

449. On one occasion Abbâ Ammon went to Abbâ Anthony, and he lost the way, and sat down for a little and fell asleep; and he rose up from his slumber, and prayed unto God, and said, “I beseech Thee, O Lord God, not to destroy that which Thou hast fashioned.” Then he lifted up his eyes, and, behold, there was the form of a man’s hand above him in the heavens, and it shewed him the way until he came and stood above the cave of Abbâ Anthony; and when he had gone into the cave to the old man, Abbâ Anthony prophesied unto him, saying, “Thou shalt increase in the fear of God.” Then he took him outside the cave, and showing him a stone, said, “Curse this stone, and smite it,” and he did so, and Abbâ Anthony said unto him, “It is thus that thou shalt arrive at this state, for thou shalt bear heaviness, and great abuse”; and this actually happened to Abbâ Ammon. Now, through his abundant goodness Abbâ Ammon knew not wickedness. And after he had become a Bishop, through his spiritual excellence they brought unto him a virgin who had conceived, and they said unto him, “So-and-so hath done this deed; let them receive correction”; but he made the sign of the Cross over her belly, and ordered them to give her six pair of linen cloths, and he said, “Peradventure when she bringeth forth either she or the child will die, [and if either dieth] let them be buried.” Then those who were with him said unto him, “What is this that thou hast done? Give the command that they receive correction.” And he said unto them, “See, O my brethren, she is nigh unto death, and what can I do?” Then he dismissed her. And the old man never ventured to judge anyone, for he was full of loving-kindness and endless goodness to all the children of men.

450. They used to say that [on one occasion] when Abbâ Arsenius the Great fell ill in Scete, a priest went and brought him to the church, and he spread a palm-leaf mat for him, and [placed] a small pillow under his head; and one of the old men came to visit him and saw that he was lying upon a mat and that he had a pillow under his head, and he was offended and said, “And this is Arsenius lying upon such things!” Then the priest took the old man aside privately, and said unto him, “What labour didst thou do in thy village?” and the old man said unto him, “I was a shepherd.” And the priest said unto him, “What manner of life didst thou lead in the world?” and he said unto him, “A life of toil, and sore want.” And when the old man had described all the tribulation which he had endured in the world, the priest said unto him, “And here what manner of life dost thou lead?” And the old man said unto him, “In my cell I have everything comfortable, and I have more than I want”; and the priest said unto him, “Consider [the position of] Abbâ Arsenius when he was in the world! He was the father of kings, and a thousand slaves, girt about with gold-embroidered vests, and with chains and ornaments round their necks, and clothed in silk, stood before him; and he had the most costly couches and cushions [to lie upon]. But thou wast a shepherd, and the comforts which thou didst never enjoy in the world thou hast here; but this man Arsenius hath not here the comforts which he enjoyed in the world, and now thou art at thine ease whilst he is troubled.” Then the mind of the old man was opened, and he expressed contrition and said, “Father, forgive me; I have sinned. Verily this is the way of truth. He hath come to a state of humility, whilst I have attained to ease.” And the old man having profited went his way.

451. They used to say that on one occasion Abbâ Macarius was passing along the road when Satan met him, and the Devil wished to cut him down with the scythe which he held in his hand, but he was unable to do so, and he said unto him, “Macarius, I am dragged along by thee with great force, but I cannot overcome thee. Now, behold, everything which thou doest I can do also. Thou fastest, and I never eat at all. Thou watchest, and I never go to sleep, and there is one thing only wherein thou dost conquer me.” Then Macarius said unto him, “And what is that?” And Satan said, “It is thy humility, for it is because of this that I cannot vanquish thee”; then Macarius spread out his hands in prayer, and the Devil was no more seen.

452. On one occasion a devil took a knife and stood over Abbâ Macarius wishing to cut off his leg, and when he was unable to do so on account of the humility [of the old man], he answered and said unto him, “Everything which ye possess we possess also, and it is only in humility that ye are superior to us, and [it is only by means of it] that ye conquer us.”

453. Abbâ Anthony said, “I saw all the snares of the Enemy laid out upon the ground, and I groaned and said, ‘Who can escape from these?’ ” And the devils said unto me, ‘Humility “maketh a man to escape from these, for we cannot attain unto it.’ ”

454. An old man said, “Whensoever a man is praised it is meet for him to think upon his sins, and he should consider, saying, ‘I am unworthy of the things which are said about me.’ ”

455. The blessed Macarius behaved towards all the brethren without any wicked suspicion, and certain people said unto him, “Why dost thou act in this manner?” And he said, “Behold, for twelve years I have been supplicating my Lord to give me this gift, and would you advise me to relinquish it? If it happen that one of the brethren commit a sin before the eyes of him who possesseth no wickedness, and he know that it is an evil thing, it is not right that he should bear some of the pain of him that hath fallen.”

456. Abbâ Poemen used to say, “No monk should condemn any man in anything, and no monk should reward a man with [evil for] evil, and no monk should be a man of anger.”

457. An old man asked Abbâ Poemen, saying, “Some brethren dwell with me; dost thou wish me to give them commandments?” And he said unto him, “No, but thou thyself must first do work, and if they wish to live, they will observe [it] and do [it].” The old man said unto him, “Ought they also to wish me to govern them?” And Abbâ Poemen said unto him, “No, be unto them an example, and not a lawgiver.”

458. Abbâ Poemen said, “If a brother come unto thee, and thou be not benefited by his coming in [to thee], enquire in thine heart, and learn what thought thou hadst [in thy mind] before the entrance of that brother, and then thou wilt learn whence cometh the source of injury; if thou wilt do this with humility and knowledge, behold, thou wilt live without blame with thy brother, and thou wilt bear thine own shortcomings. If a man maketh his habitation with knowledge it will not fall, for God is before it, and, as it appeareth to me, from this habitation a man may acquire the fear of God.”

459. A brother asked an old man, saying, “By what means may a man go forward? and the old man said unto him, The greatness of a man consisteth of humility, for in proportion as a man descendeth to humility, he becometh exalted to greatness.”

460. Abbâ John used to say, “We relinquish a light burden when we condemn ourselves, but we take upon ourselves a heavy burden when we [attempt to] make ourselves righteous.”

461. On one occasion Abbâ Theophilus went to the Nitrian Mountain to visit the fathers, and the priest of the Mountain came to him; and Abbâ Theophilus said to him, now he was Theophilus the Bishop of Alexandria, “What thing of excellence hast thou found on this road?” And the old man said unto him, “I make accusations against myself, and I blame myself at all times”; and Abbâ Theophilus said unto him, “Verily this is the way of truth.”

A variant reads: “On one occasion the Archbishop Theophilus went to the mountain of Nitria, and a certain Abbâ of the monks who was in the mountain came unto him; Abbâ Theophilus said unto him, “What more do the monks find in this way [than in any other]?” The old man said unto him, They condemn themselves continually, and they do not judge their neighbours”; and Abbâ Theophilus said, “There is no way but this.”

462. On one occasion they brought a man possessed of a devil to one of the old men of Thebes, and entreated him to cast the devil out, but the old man was unwilling [to do so]; but since they urged him strongly he was persuaded, and he had mercy on the man, and he said to the devil, “Get thee out from that which God hath fashioned.” Then the devil answered and said, “I am going out, but I would ask thee to tell me one thing: What is the meaning of that which is written in the Gospel, Who are the goats and who are the sheep?” The old man answered and said, “I myself am [one of] the goats, but God knoweth who the sheep are”; and when the devil heard this, he cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Behold, I go forth because of thy humility,” and straightway he left the man and departed.

463. They used to say that on one occasion a few early, white figs came to Scete, but because they were nothing [of importance] they did not send any to Abbâ Arsenius, not wishing to insult him; and when the old man heard of this he did not come to the congregation, saying, “Ye separated me from the blessed gift which God sent to the brethren because I was unworthy to partake of it.” And when the old man heard [this] they profited [greatly] by his humility, and the priest went and carried some of the figs to him, and brought him to the congregation with great joy.

464. A certain Abbâ asked Abbâ Muthues, saying, “If I go to a place to dwell, how wouldst thou have me conduct myself?” The old man said unto him, “If thou wishest to dwell in a certain place, [do so,] but do not let go forth concerning thyself any fame for praiseworthy acts, [or say,] ‘I do not eat,’ or, ‘I do not drink,’ for such things only produce empty fame; and thou wilt find at length that thou wilt profit from many, for men will go where they can find qualities of this kind.” Then the brother said unto him, “What shall I do?” and the old man said unto him, Wheresoever thou dwellest conduct thyself in a simple manner like every one else, and what thou seest those who fear God do, [I mean] those in whom thou hast confidence, that do also, and thou shalt be at ease. For to be as all other men are is true humility, and the men who see that thou art like unto all other men will regard thee as they regard every one else, and thou wilt not be troubled.”

465. A certain brother went on one occasion from Egypt to Syria to visit Abbâ Zeno, and the Egyptians began to make accusations against his thoughts before the old man. And when Abbâ Zeno heard this, he marvelled and said, “The Egyptians always hide the spiritual excellences which they possess, but they describe the shortcomings which they do not possess; on the other hand, the Syrians and the Greeks declare that they possess the virtues which they have not, and they hide the shortcomings which they do possess.”

466. They used to talk about a certain old man who fasted for seventy weeks, and who only ate each Saturday; and he asked God that a word from the Book might be given unto him, but it was not given. Then he said within himself, “Behold, I have laboured in all these things, and I have omitted nothing; I will arise and go to my brother and question him [about it].” And when he had shut the door to depart, the angel of the Lord appeared, and said unto him, “The seventy weeks wherein thou didst fast have not come nigh unto God, but, inasmuch as thou hast humbled thyself to go to thy brother, I have been sent to make known unto thee a word, and to give thee rest”; thereupon he made the word known unto him, and gave him rest, and departed.

467. A brother asked an old man, saying, “What shall I do? For the love of praise is killing me.” The old man said unto him, “Thou doest well, for behold, thou hast made the heavens and the earth.” Then the brother was sorry because of what the old man had said unto him, and he expressed contrition, and said, “Father, forgive me, but I have done nothing of the kind”; the old man said unto him, “If now He Who did make them came into this world in humility, why dost thou who art mud boast thyself?”

468. One of the old men said, “Be not humble in thy words only, but also in thy deeds.”

469. On one occasion a certain governor came to see Abbâ Sîmôn, and when the old man heard of his coming from those who came to make it known to him beforehand, he straightway girded up his loins, and went up a palm tree to clean it. And when those who came cried out to him, saying, “Old man, tell us where the monk is,” he said unto them, “He is not here”; so they departed from that place.

470. One of the fathers from Parmê told a story of how, on one occasion when he had returned to Abbâ Theodore, he found him wearing a ragged shirt, and his breast was naked and bare, and his outer garment was dragged round in front of him. And, behold, a certain Count came to see him, and when his followers knocked at the door, and called the old man, he went out to meet him quite carelessly; and I took a small piece of coarse cloth and threw it over his shoulders that his breast might be covered, but the old man took it in his hand and waved it, and threw it away. And when the Count went I said to him, “Father, what is this that thou hast done? For a nobleman came unto thee to be helped, and to gain profit, and behold, he hath perhaps gone away offended.” And the old man said unto me, “Get thee gone, Abbâ. We are still subject unto men. We have done the deed, and he is gone; but whether he wisheth to be benefited, or whether he wisheth to be offended is his affair. As for me, as far as I am able I shall always meet men of this kind in this way.” And he commanded his disciple, saying, “If any man cometh and wisheth to see me, say not to him anything after the manner of men, but if I am eating, tell him that I am eating, and if I am asleep, tell him that I am asleep.”

471. A certain woman who was afflicted in her lungs with the disease called cancer, heard concerning Longinus and wished to see him; now he used to dwell in [the monastery of] Hantôn in Alexandria. And whilst the woman was seeking and wishing for him, it happened that the blessed man was gathering sticks on the sea-shore, and when the woman found him, she said unto him, “Father, where dwelleth the man of God, Abbâ Longinus?” Now she did not know that he himself was Longinus. And he said unto her, “What dost thou want with that lying hypocrite? Do not go to him, for he is a liar. What is it that causeth thee pain?” Then the woman shewed him the place, and the old man made the sign of the Cross over it, and he dismissed her, saying, “Go, and may our Lord heal thee, for Longinus is unable to do thee any good whatsoever.” And the woman went away believing in the word, and she was healed straightway; and afterwards when she was telling folks the story, she said, “I have learned by the marks which were on the old man that he himself was Abbâ Longinus.”

472. On one occasion a certain governor arranged to see Abbâ Sîmôn, and the clergy told him beforehand, saying, “Father, make thyself ready, for a certain governor hath heard of thy life and works, and he wisheth to come and be blessed by thee”; and the old man said unto them, “I am ready.” Then the old man went in and took in his hand some bread and cheese, and went out to the door and sat down there, and he changed about from place to place eating; and when the governor came with his company, and saw him sitting and eating, they despised him, saying, “So this is the monk of whom I have heard!” And they left him and departed.

473. An old man was asked, “How is it that there are men who say, ‘We have seen a vision of angels?’ ” and the old man said, “Blessed is he who seeth his sins continually.”

474. They used to say that when any man came to Abbâ Poemen he used to send him to Abbâ Job, his brother, saying to him, “He is older than I am”; and Job used to say to those who came, “Go unto my brother Poemen, for he possesseth the grace of these gifts.” Now if Abbâ Joseph was sitting with him Abbâ Poemen would not speak before him.

475. When a certain brother went to the festival he asked Abbâ Poemen, “What wouldst thou have me to do?” The old man said unto him, “Be thou a friend unto him that leadeth thee away by force, and sell thy work graciously.”

476. A brother asked an old man, “What is the work of exile?” And the old man said unto him, “I knew a brother who went forth into exile, and he went in to lodge in a church, and it happened that the brethren were about to eat some of the sacramental bread; and when they sat down this man sat down with them. Now when some of the other monks saw him, they said, ‘Who hath brought this man in [to eat] with us?’ And one of them said [unto him], ‘Arise, and get thee outside,’ and straightway he rose up and went forth as the brother had told him; but the others being sorry about this matter went out and brought him in. And after these things a certain man asked him, ‘What was in thy mind when thou didst go out and come in again?’ He said unto them, ‘I thought in my mind that I was like a dog which when he is driven out goeth out, and when he is called cometh in.’ ”

477. They used to say that when Abbâ Moses was one of the clergy he wore a long outer garment, and that the Bishop said unto him, “Behold, thou art wholly white, O Abbâ Moses.” The old man said unto him, “Is the Pâpâ within or without?” And again, wishing to try him, the Bishop said unto the clergy, “When Abbâ Moses goeth into the sacrarium drive him out, and go after him and hear what he saith.” Now when he went into the sacrarium they rebuked him and drove him out, saying, “Get outside, O Ethiopian”; and having gone forth he began to say to himself, “They have treated thee rightly, O thou whose skin is dark and black; thou shalt not go back as if thou wert a [white] man.”

478. An old man used to say, “Do not despise or think lightly of him that standeth before thee, for thou knowest not whether the Spirit of God is in thee or in him, though thou callest him who standeth before thee him that ministereth unto thee.”

479. Abbâ John the Less used to say, “Humility and the fear of God are more excellent than all the [other] virtues.”

480. They used to say that a certain old man, who had young men living with him, told them on one occasion to do something, and when they did it not he said nothing further to them about it, but rose up himself in their sight and did what he had told them to do without anger, and without labour.

481. Another old man used to say, “Humility is not without salt, but it is salted with salt.”

482. An old man used to say, “I would rather learn than teach.”

483. And he also used to say, “Do not learn before the time, so that thou mayest not have little admonition all thy time.”

484. Abbâ Agathon said, “If a man of wrath were to raise the dead, he would not be accepted by any man.”

485. A brother asked Abbâ Timothy, saying, “I myself can see that my memorial is ever before God”; and the old man said unto him, “It would not be any great thing for thy thought (or mind) to be with God, but it would be a great thing for a man to see his soul beneath all creation.”

486. Abbâ Theodore used to say, “There is no spiritual excellence greater than that of a man who despiseth not his companion.”

487. An old man was asked, “By what means doth the soul receive humility?” And he said, “By searching into it, and by remembering the evil things which have been done by it.”

488. One of the old men said, “I asked Abbâ Sisoes, saying, ‘Tell me a word,’ and he said, ‘It is right for a monk to humble himself lower than the idols’; and I went to my cell, and took counsel with myself, and meditated for an hour, saying, ‘What do the words “lower than the idols” mean?’ Then I returned and went to the old man, and said unto him, ‘What do the words “lower than the idols” mean?’ And he said unto me, ‘It is written concerning the idols, “They have a mouth and speak not, and they have eyes and see not, and they have ears and hear not”; even thus is it right for a monk to be.’ And because idols are an abomination, a man must hold himself to be abominable in his own sight.”

489. A brother asked Abbâ Sisoes of Thebaïs, saying, “Speak a word to me,” and Sisoes said unto him, “What have I to say unto thee? I read the New Testament, and I reflect on the Old Testament.”

490. That same brother went to Abbâ Sisoes of Pâtârâ, and told him the word which Abbâ Sisoes of the Thebaïd had spoken, and Abbâ Sisoes said unto him, “I lie down to sleep in my sins, and I rise up in my sins.”

491. There was a certain monk who lost himself in the desert, and he said to himself, “I have kept myself rightly, and I possess all the virtues,” and he prayed to God and said, “If I be lacking in anything, shew Thou me how I may perform it.” And God, wishing to humble his mind, said unto him, “Go to such and such a head of a monastery, and whatsoever he telleth thee to do that do.” And God sent a revelation to the head of the monastery, and said unto him, “Behold, such and such a monk will come unto thee, and say thou unto him, ‘Take a whip in thy hands, and go forth and pasture swine.’ ” And the monk went forth immediately, even as the head of the monastery told him, and pastured swine, and when those who had known him formerly, and those who had heard about him, saw him pasturing swine, they said, “Ye see the great monk about whom we have heard, behold, his heart hath gone mad, and a devil hath seized him, and he is [now] pasturing swine.” Then God, when He saw his humility, and that he was hearing and bearing the reproach of men, set him free so that he might go back where he had been formerly.

492. An old man used to say, “If a man hath laid some work upon a brother to do, he must perform that command in the fear of God and in humility; for he who for God’s sake layeth [some work] upon a brother maketh the brother to submit himself thereto, and [the one brother] must do what [the other brother] hath laid upon him. But if a man wisheth to give commands to a brother, not in the fear of God, but on his own authority, wishing to be unto him a master and a governor, God, Who seeth the hidden things of his heart, will not allow him to be obedient unto him and to do [that] work, for the work that is for God’s sake is evident, and that which is of the man’s own authority is well known. For that which is for God’s sake cometh with humility and entreaty, whilst the works which are of man’s own authority are with wrath and trouble, and they come from the Evil One.”

493. A brother asked Abbâ Isidore, “Why is it that the devils fear thee so greatly? The old man said, “Because from the time that I became a monk I have laboured hard not to allow anger to enter into my throat; that is why they fear me.”

494. An old man used to say, “On one occasion I went to the fair to sell with [other] brethren a few things, and I saw anger drawing nigh unto me, and I left the things and fled straightway.”

495. Abbâ John the Less used to say, “On one occasion when I was going up on the Scete road with some palm leaves I heard a camel speaking words to me, and he was about to make me angry, but I straightway left the palm leaves and fled.”

496. The same old man when he was in the harvest [field] heard a brother speaking to his companion in anger, saying, “Come hither,” and straightway he left the harvest and fled.

497. A brother asked an old man, “Why is it, when I am performing my little services of prayer and praise, that I sometimes see in myself that there is nothing lacking in my heart, and that I do not wish it?” The old man said unto him, “How then can a man appear to love God?”

498. Abbâ John the Less said unto the brethren who were with him, “Although we be little folk in the eyes of men, let us consider how we may be held in honour before God.”

499. They used to say that Abbâ Patrâ and Abbâ Ampîkôs were close and affectionate friends, and that when the old men were eating in the church, and they were urging them to come to the table of the fathers, it was only with hard work that Abbâ Patrâ would go by himself; and after he had eaten, Abbâ Ampîkôs said unto him, “How didst thou dare to go to the table of the old men?” Abbâ Patrâ said unto him, “If I had sat with you the brethren would have honoured me as an old man, and they would have required it of me to be the first to say the blessing, and I might have thought in my mind that I was greater than you all. But since I went to the fathers I am the least of you all, and I am abased, and I think in my thoughts that I am nothing.”

500. On one occasion a brother committed sin in the church, and the priest drove him out therefrom, and there was there a man of discretion whose name was Bessarion, and he also arose and went out of the church, and said, “If ye have judged that this man who hath committed only one offence is not fit to worship God, how very much less fit am I, who have committed many sins, to do so?” And the old man said, “ ‘Woe be unto him that is without more than unto him that is within,’ that is to say, ‘Woe be unto him that is [within him that is without!’] Now this is what I would say, When a man in the world findeth a cause [of complaint] against a man who liveth a life of silent contemplation, or who hath departed from the world, this is a [cause of] judgement and of a fall unto him who giveth him reason [for complaint]. Take the greatest possible care then, O monk, not to commit sin, lest thou disgrace God, Who dwelleth in thee, and drive Him out from thy soul.”

501. Abbâ Pîôr worked hard to be able to overcome the disposition to say “Thou” to any of the brethren.

502. The disciple of Abbâ Arsenius used to say, “When the old man was about to die, he commanded us, saying, ‘Do not let it be a care unto you to make a commemoration for me, but offer up the Offering only; for, he used to say, if during my life-time I have done anything which is worthy of commemoration, I shall most certainly find [a memorial of it].’ ”

503. Abbâ Ammon said, “A man may pass one hundred years in his cell, and not know rightly how a monk should live in his cell, or even how to live secluded for one day.” And he used to say, “The proper way and manner for a monk to live is to condemn himself continually.”

504. Abbâ Poemen used to say, “If a man will only condemn himself he will be able to endure and continue wheresoever he dwelleth.”

505. Abbâ Poemen used to say, “We live in the troubles and trials which come upon us because we do not take to ourselves the humble names which the Scriptures have given us; and because we do not consider how our Lord Jesus relieved the Canaanitish woman (St. Matthew 15:22) who took to herself abominable names, moreover, we do not consider how, when Abigail said unto David, ‘On me be the sin’ (1 Samuel 25:24), he was entreated by her and loved her. Abigail must be taken as [representing] the person of the soul, and David as the Godhead; if then, the soul will condemn itself before God, He will love it, and will give it the delight of rest.”

506. An old man used to say, “In all thy trials blame no man; blame thyself only, saying, ‘These things have happened to me because of my sins.’ ”

507. On one occasion Abbâ John was called to the church, and the brethren surrounded him and asked him questions about their thoughts; and one of the old men said unto him, “John is like unto a whore who adorneth herself that she may multiply lovers for herself; thus art thou.” And Abbâ John sighed and said, “Father, thou hast spoken the truth.” Afterwards a certain man told him that he loved him, [and said], “Art thou not disturbed within?” He said unto him, “No. But as I am without, even so am I within.”

508. One of the old men used to say about Abbâ John, that he lived in such a way that, through the humility which he possessed, he held all Scete suspended on his finger.

509. Abbâ John of the Thebaïd used to say that, before all else, it was right for a monk to acquire humility, for this was the first commandment of our blessed Redeemer, Who said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God” (St. Matthew 5:3).

510. John Kolob used to say, “Humility is the door which leadeth into the kingdom, and our fathers, through many revilings, have gone into the city of God rejoicing.”

511. An old man used to say, “It is good for a man to say, ‘Forgive me,’ and then to make an offering of something; for this suiteth the monkish garb.”

512. The same old man also said, “A dog is better than I am, for he hath love, and he cometh not to judgement.”

513. Abbâ Eupraxius used to say, “The tree of life which riseth in the heights is humility.” He also said, “Make thyself like unto the publican; and be not made guilty with the Pharisee; choose for thyself the meekness of Moses, so that thine heart, which is as hard as steel, thou mayest change into a fountain of water.”

514. One of the old men said, “I would rather have defeat with humility than conquest with boasting.”

515. An old man said, “When the thought of pride goeth up in thee, and thou becomest arrogant, examine thy conscience [and see] if thou hast kept all the commandments, and if thou lovest thine enemies, and if thou lovest the approbation of thine enemy, and if thou art grieved when he is afflicted, and if thou art considered by thyself to be an unprofitable servant, and a sinner greater than any other man. And even if thou hast performed rightly all the demands of ascetic excellence, thou shalt not be proud, for thou must know that the thought of pride abrogateth and maketh unprofitable all the virtues.”

516. An old man used to say, “He who is held in greater honour or is more praised than he deserveth suffereth great loss; but the man who receiveth neither honour nor praise from men shall be praised above all.”

517. A brother asked an old man, saying, “Is it a good thing for us to repent many times?” The old man said unto him, “We see that when Joshua, the son of Nun, lay upon his face the Lord spake with him” (Joshua 5:14).

518. An old man was asked, “Why do the devils fight against us in the way they do?” And he said, “Because we throw away from us our armour, that is to say, obedience, humility, and abstinence.”

519. The old men used to say, “Whensoever we have no war to wage then especially it is meet that we should abase ourselves, for God, because He knoweth our feebleness, giveth us His protection for nothing, but if we boast ourselves, He removeth it from us and we perish.”

520. A brother asked an old man, saying, “What is the perfection of a monk?” The old man saith unto him, “Humility, for when once a man hath arrived at humility, he can reach forward to the goal.”

521. The old man said, “If a man can say unto his brother, ‘Forgive me,’ and can humble himself, this belongeth to the perfection of the monk.”

522. One of the old men said, “When a man saith unto his companion, ‘Forgive me,’ and at the same time humbleth himself, the devils are consumed.”

523. A certain brother was offended at his brother, and when the latter heard thereof he went to him to express his contrition, but he would not open the door; then he who had offended his brother went to another old man and related the matter unto him, and the old man answered and said, “Observe lest in thine own mind thou art justifying thyself, and art condemning thy brother, as if he were the offender, for it may be that because of this he would not be persuaded to open unto thee. Nevertheless, do thou what I am going to tell thee. For although he hath offended thee, go thou, and hold firmly [to the belief] that thou hast offended against him, and may God put it into thy brother’s mind to be reconciled to thee.”

524. And the old man related unto him a story which explained the matter, saying, “There were two men who were living in the world, and were fearers of God, and they were both of the same mind, and they went forth and became monks; and when they heard in a plain manner the word of the Gospel which saith, ‘There are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven’ (St. Matthew 19:12), they arrived at the hottest point of their love, and they made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Now when the Bishopheard [of this] he set them aside and excommunicated them. Then those men, wishing to show that they had done what was good, said unto one another, ‘We have made ourselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, and this Bishop driveth us out! Let us go and make a complaint against him to the head of our monasteries, that is, to the Bishop of Jerusalem’; and when they had gone to him they related unto him the whole matter. Then the Bishop said unto them, ‘And I also set you aside and excommunicate you’; and being greatly grieved at this remark also they went to the Bishop of Antioch, and related the matter unto him, and he also drove them away with the same words. Then the two brethren said unto each other, ‘Let us go to the Patriarch of Rome, and he will avenge us and will take vengeance on all these [Bishops].’ And having gone to the great Patriarch and Bishop of Rome, and made him to know their matter, and what the Bishop and Patriarch [of Antioch] had said unto them, they said at length, ‘We have come unto thee because thou art the head of them all.’ Then the Bishop of Rome also said unto them, ‘I also excommunicate you and excommunicate ye shall be.’ Then, not knowing what to do, they said to each other, ‘All these men accept the persons each of the other, and each honoureth the other, because they are accustomed to assemble together at the Synods, but let us go to the holy man of God, Epiphanius, Bishop of Cyprus, because he is indeed a Bishop, and he doth not accept the person of any man.’ Now when they drew nigh unto the city, it was revealed unto Epiphanius concerning them, and he sent [a man] to meet them, and to say unto them, ‘Ye shall not come into the city.’ And when they came to themselves they repented, and said, ‘In very truth we have sinned; with what can we justify ourselves? For, even supposing that the Bishop and the Patriarchs have excommunicated us in an unseemly manner, peradventure this man is a prophet besides, for behold, God hath revealed unto him concerning us beforehand; let us then condemn ourselves in respect of everything which we have done.’ Then when God, Who knoweth that which is in the hearts [of men] saw that they had in very truth condemned themselves, He worked upon the mind of Epiphanius so that, of his own accord, he sent and brought them, and associated them in communion with him. And he also wrote concerning them to the Bishop of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Receive thy sons, for they have repented in truth.’ ”

And the old man said, “This is the healing of a man, and God desireth that a man should lay the offence of his companion upon himself.” And when that brother heard [this story] he acted according to the word[s] of the old man, and he went and knocked at the door of that brother, who, immediately he perceived and knew from inside [that it was he], expressed his contrition to him whilst he was as yet inside, and then straightway opened the door; and they made friends together, each with each, with all their souls, and the two of them were in great peace.

525. Abbâ Poemen used to say, “As the earth falleth not, because it is fixed from below, even so he who abaseth himself shall never fall.”

526. Abbâ Sisoes asked Abbâ ’Ôr, and said unto him, “Tell me a word of excellence”; and he said unto him, “Dost thou think me true, and dost thou believe my promise?” And Abbâ Sisoes said unto him, “Yes.” Abbâ ’Ôr said unto him, “Go, and whatsoever ye have seen me do, that also do thyself”; and Abbâ Sisoes said unto him, “What do I see in thee, O my father?” And Abbâ ’Or answered and said unto him, “My mind is more abased than that of the least of all the children of men.”

527. On one occasion seven brethren came to Abbâ Arsenius and they entreated him, saying, “What is the work of monks?” And the old man answered and said, “When I came to dwell in this place I went to two old men, and I asked them this same question. And they answered and said unto me, ‘Dost thou believe in us?’ and I said, ‘Yes.’ Then they said unto me, ‘Go, and whatsoever thou hast seen us do, that also do thyself.’ ” And the brethren asked him subsequently, saying, “Tell us, father, what was their work?” Then the old man said unto them, “The one acquired great humility, and the other obedience.” And they said unto him next, “Tell us what is thy work?” and the old man said unto them, “According to my will, and according to my mind; it is a great thing for a man not to bind himself with any matter”; and having profited they departed in gladness, giving praise unto God.

528. A brother asked Abbâ Poemen, saying, “What shall I do with the weight of weariness which holdeth me?” And the old man said unto him, “Both large and small boats are provided with thick ropes for towing, and if there be blowing a wind which is not favourable to the course of the ship, they throw them round their breasts and pull them along [from] dry land; and quietly and little by little they let the ship go on her way until God sendeth a wind which is suitable for bearing her along whithersoever they wish her to go. But if they learn that a storm hath begun to rise, they make haste and drive a stake in the ground, and tie up the ship lest she should drift away. Now the stake is that a man should condemn himself.”

529. A brother asked Abbâ Poemen, “How is it possible for a man to avoid speaking evilly to his neighbour?” The old man answered and said unto him, “We and our brethren possess two images. Whensoever then a man condemneth himself, his brother appeareth unto him beautiful and excellent; but whensoever a man appeareth beautiful to himself, his brother will be found to be, in his sight, hateful and abominable.”

530. Another old man said also, “Humility is not insipidity, but it is seasoned, as it were, with salt.”

531. He also used to say, “For a man to despise himself is a strong wall.”

532. He also used to say, “Him who hath become despised for our Lord’s sake, will our Lord make wise.”

533. An old man used to say, “Take heed, with all thy might, that thou doest nothing which meriteth blame, and desire not to adorn thyself.”

534. An old man used to say, “If humility descendeth to Sheol it is exalted unto the heavens; and although pride goeth up to the heavens it shall be brought down to Sheol.”

535. There were two brethren in Scete, and he who was younger than his fellow was the older in the monastic garb, and one of the fathers having come to visit them, they brought out a vessel of water and wanted to wash him. And the man who was the younger in respect of years drew nigh to wash the old man, but the old man laid hold upon his hands, and prevented him, and then he drew near him that was the elder [in respect of years] to wash him. And the brethren who were standing near him said unto him, “The younger brother, O father, is the older in respect of the monastic garb”; then the old man said unto them, “I take the priority in the monastic garb of the younger man and place it upon him that is the elder.”

536. There was a certain brother in a monastery, and he used to take the whole weight of the brethren upon himself, and seeking to be held in contempt in the sight of every man, he used to make accusations against himself, even to the committing of fornication, and he used to say, “I have committed it.” Now the brethren who did not understand his life and works used to murmur against him, saying, “How very many are the wickednesses which this man doeth here, and because of them he doth not even work.” Then their Abbâ, because he knew his works, and because he knew also that he was taking the affairs of every man upon himself, and that he did not do these things, spake unto the brethren, saying, “I will undertake that he will make one mat in a week, in humility, [which is more than all] your work [which is done] with boasting, and if ye wish to know whether the matter be so [or not], bring hither all your work, and bring hither also the mat of that brother, and light a fire and throw therein all your work”; [and when they had done so] everything was consumed except the mat of that brother. Now when the brethren saw this, they feared, and expressed their contrition, and from that time they held him to be an Abbâ.

537. They used to say that Abbâ Poemen never gave his mind to the Lord, and that his knowledge was superior to that of [any] one of the old men.

538. Abbâ Ammon asked Abbâ Poemen concerning the impure thoughts that were born of a man, and [concerning] vain lusts; and Abbâ Poemen said unto him, “Shall the axe boast itself against him that wieldeth it?”

539. Abbâ Betimius asked Abbâ Poemen, saying, “If a man be angry with me, and I express my contrition, and he will not accept it, what am I to do?” the old man said unto him, “Take with thee two of thy friends, and express thy contrition [in their presence].” And the old man Betimius said unto him, And if he will not be persuaded [to accept it] then? And Abbâ Poemen answered and said, “Take with thee five others”; and Abbâ Betimius answered and said, “And if he will not be persuaded by these?” Abbâ Poemen saith, “Then take with thee a priest”; and Abbâ Betimius said, “And if he will not be persuaded [then]?” Abbâ Poemen said unto him, “Without anger and without excitement pray unto God that He may put into his mind [the desire for peace], and straightway thou shalt have no further care.”

540. An old man used to say, “Tell me, brother, if thou hast acquired the seal of work, which is humility?” A holy man who saw another sinning wept bitterly, saying, “This man may sin to-day, but how many times shall I sin to-morrow? In whatsoever way a man may sin before thee, do not condemn him, but think in thy mind that thou art a greater sinner than he, even though he be a man in the world, and [remember] besides that he is sinning greatly against God.”

541. Certain brethren went to visit Abbâ Poemen, and whilst they were sitting with him, they praised a certain brother, saying, “He hateth evil things.” Abbâ Poemen said unto him that spake unto him, “What is the hatred of evil things?” Now the brother was astonished, and he found nothing to say; and he rose up and threw himself before the old man, saying: “Do thou tell me what is “the hatred of evil things.” And the old man said unto him, The hatred of evil things is for a man to hate his own sins, and to justify those of his neighbour.”

542. A certain brother committed an offence in Scete, the camp of the monks, and when a congregation was assembled on this matter, they sent after Abbâ. Moses, but he refused to come; then they sent the priest of the church to him, saying, “Come, for all the people are expecting thee,” and he rose up and came. And he took a basket with a hole in it and filled it with sand, and carried it upon his shoulders, and those who went out to meet him said unto him, “What meaneth this, O father?” And he said unto them, “[The sands are] my sins which are running down behind me and I cannot see them, and I, even I, have come this day to judge shortcomings which are not mine.” And when they heard [this] they set free that brother and said nothing [further] to him.

543. Abbâ Moses entreated Abbâ Zechariah, saying, “Speak a word of consolation unto the brethren,” and “Zechariah took his cloak, and laid it beneath his feet, saying, Except a man let himself be trodden upon thus he cannot be a monk.”

544. A brother asked Abbâ Alônîs, saying, “What is the meaning of a man despising himself?” The old man said unto him, “It meaneth that thou must set thyself below all the beasts, for thou must remember that they will not be judged.”

545. And the same old man said also, “If a man accustom himself to be a teacher, this act belongeth to labour.”

546. A brother asked Abbâ Poemen, saying, “What is the right manner for me to live in my cell?” Abbâ Poemen said unto him, “How a man should live in his cell is known to men, that is to say, he must work with his hands, and eat once [daily], and hold his peace always, and meditate on the Holy Scriptures; but for a man to gain profit inwardly (or secretly), he must bear the condemnation of himself whithersoever he goeth, and he must not neglect the times of service and of secret labour. And if it happen that thou hast made the time unprofitable, when thou goest into the congregation of service complete thy service without troubling thyself; by the fulfilment of these things, grasp to thyself an upright congregation, so that thou mayest draw nigh thereto, but keep thyself remote from the assemblies of evil things.”

547. On one occasion when Abbâ Arsenius was in his cell the devils rose up against him and vexed him; and those who used to minister to him came to him, and as they stood outside his cell they heard him crying out to God, saying, “O God, forsake me not. I have never done before Thee anything which is good, but grant, O Lord, according to Thy grace, that I may begin in the way.”

548. Now, when he was about to die Alexander and Zoilus, his brethren and disciples, were greatly disturbed, and he said unto them, “Why are ye troubled? The hour hath not yet come.” They said unto him, “We are not troubled about thee, father.” And he said unto them, “When the hour hath come I will tell you, for it will be for me to rise up against you before the throne of Christ if ye give my bones to any man.” Then they said unto him, “What shall we do then? For we do not know how to bury [thee].” The old man said unto them, “Do ye not know how to throw a cord round my legs and to carry me outside the mountain?”

549. And his word at all times was this, “Arsenius, because thou didst go forth”; and he used to repeat this saying, “That I have spoken I have many times repented; that I held my peace I have never repented.”

550. On one occasion the governor of the country seized one of the inhabitants of his village, and the people entreated the old man to go and bring out him that had been seized; and the old man said unto them, “Leave me for three days, and afterwards I will go.” Then Abbâ Poemen prayed to the Lord, and said, “Lord, if thou dost not grant me this act of grace the people will not allow me to live in this place”; and the old man went to entreat the governor, and the governor said unto him, “Yea, father, thou makest entreaty for a thief.” And the old man rejoiced that he did not receive from Him this act of grace.

551. On one occasion certain old men went to visit Abbâ Anthony, and Abbâ Joseph was with them, and the old man wishing to try them spake a word from the Book, and began to question the youngest of them, saying, “What is the meaning of this word?” And each of them said, “I have never yet understood it,” and last of all Abbâ Anthony said unto Abbâ Joseph, “And what dost thou say that this word meaneth?” Abbâ Joseph saith, “I do not know.” And Abbâ Anthony said unto him, “In truth, Abbâ Joseph, thou hast found the way to say, ‘I do not know.’ ”

552. Abbâ Muthues said, “In proportion as a man draweth nigh unto God, it is meet that he should regard himself as a sinner, for the Prophet Isaiah (chap. 6:5), who saw the Lord, calleth himself wretched and unclean.”

553. The old man used to say, “Who sold Joseph?” They said unto him, “His brethren,” and the old man said unto them, “No, it was humility that sold him. For he never said, ‘I am your brother,’ and he never answered them, but held his peace. He sold himself by his humility, and this humility made him governor over the land of Egypt.”

554. A brother came to Abbâ Muthues, and said unto him, “How is it that those who are in Scete do more than that which is written in the Book, for they love their enemies more than themselves?” Muthues said unto them, “I do not yet love even the man who loveth me more than I love myself.”

555. There was a certain old man in Egypt before those who belonged to the company of Abbâ Poemen came there, and he possessed knowledge and great honour; and when those of the following of Abbâ Poemen went up from Scete, every man left [that old man] and came to Abbâ Poemen and those who were with him, and the old man was filled with envy, and he cursed the followers of Abbâ Poemen because of this. Now Abbâ Poemen heard of it, and he was vexed about it, and he said unto the brethren who were with him, “What shall we do for this old man? For the men who have forsaken him have cast us into vexation, and they have left that holy old man and turned their looks upon us, who are nothing. How then can we satisfy this old man?” Then he said unto the brethren who were with him, “Make ye some bread and boil a little food, and we will go to him, and will take with us also a vessel of wine, and we will eat with him, and perhaps by these means we shall be able to pacify him”; and they took the food and went to him. And when they had knocked at the door his disciple looked out and asked them, “Who are ye?” And they said unto him, “Tell the Abbâ that it is Poemen, and he wisheth to be blessed by him”; and when his disciple had told him this, the old man said, “Send them away,” and he said, “I have not leisure [to receive them].” Then the disciple told them these things, but they stayed there lovingly, saying, “We will not go away unless we are held to be worthy of the blessing of the old man.” Now, when the old man saw their humility and patient persistence, he repented, and opened the door to them, and when they were eating together, he said unto them, “Verily, the things which I have heard were in you are not in you, but indeed what I see in you is a hundredfold [greater than what I expected]”; and he became unto them a friend from that day.

556. On a certain occasion when Abbâ John was sitting before the church, the brethren surrounded him, and asked him about their thoughts, and when one of the old men saw him, he said unto him, “Thy repentance is full of sorceries.” Abbâ John said unto him, “It is even so, and this thou sayest having only seen what is without, but if thou couldst see what is within what wouldst thou say?”

557. Muthues repeated the following:—“When I was a young man I used to say to myself, ‘Perhaps thou wilt do something good’; but now that I am an old man I see that I have not done even one good work.”

558. He used to say concerning Abbâ Macarius that, if the brethren drew nigh unto him in fear, as to a great and holy old man, he would not answer them a word, but if one of the brethren treated him with familiar contempt, [saying], “Father, if thou wert a camel wouldst thou not steal the natron and sell it, and would not the driver beat thee?” he would answer him. And if any man spake unto him in anger, or with words similar to these, he would answer any question which was put to him.








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