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

BROTHER. How is love (or charity) acquired by men of understanding?

541. OLD MAN. True and pure love is the way of life, and the haven of promises, and the treasure of faith, and the interpreter of the kingdom, and the herald of that which is hidden.

542. B. I do not know the power of the word.

O.M. If a man loveth not God, he cannot believe in Him, and His promises are not true [to him], and he feareth not His judgement, and he followeth Him not. Now because love is not in him [he cannot] be free from iniquity, and await the life which is promised, but he performeth at all times the plans of sin; and this [happeneth] because the judgement of God is [too] exalted in his sight. Therefore let us run after love, wherewith the holy fathers have enriched themselves, for it is able to pay back [what is due] to its nature and its God. This then is praise.

543. B. How doth wisdom dwell in man?

O.M. Now when a man hath gone forth to follow after God with a lowly mind, grace bestoweth itself upon him, and his conduct becometh strengthened in the spirit, and when he hateth the world he becometh sensible of the new conduct of the new man, which is more exalted than the impurity of the human abode; and he meditateth in his mind the humility of the rule of the life which is to come, and he becometh a man of greater spiritual excellence.

544. B. How is love made known?

O.M. By the fulfilment of works, and by spiritual care, and by the knowledge of faith.

545. B. What are the works?

O.M. The keeping of the commandments of the Lord with the purity of the inner man, together with the labour of the outer man.

546. B. Is he who is destitute of work also destitute of love?

O.M. It is impossible that he who is of God should not love, and it is impossible for him that loveth not to work, and it is impossible to believe that he who teacheth but worketh not is a true believer, for his tongue is the enemy of his action, and though he speaketh life he is in subjection unto death.

547. B. And is he who is in this state free from retribution?

O.M. Such a man who speaketh the things of the spirit, and performeth the things of the body, and supplieth his own wants, is not deprived of reward, but he is deprived of the crown of light, because the guidance of the spirit refuseth to rule him.

548. What are fasting and prayer?

O.M. Fasting is the subjugation of the body, prayer is converse with God, vigil is a war against Satan, abstinence is the being weaned from meats, humility is the state of the first man, kneeling is the inclining of the body before the Judge, tears are the remembrance of sins, nakedness is our captivity which is caused by the transgression of the command, and service is constant supplication to and praise of God.

549. B. Are these able to redeem the soul?

O.M. When internal things agree with external, and manifest humility appeareth in the hidden works which are from within, verily, a man shall be redeemed from the weight of the body.

550. B. And what is internal humility?

O.M. The humility of love, peace, friendship, purity, restfulness, tranquillity, subjection, faith, remoteness from envy, and a soul which is free from the heat of anger, and is far from the grade of arrogance, and is redeemed from the love of vainglory, and is full of patient endurance like the great deep, and whose motion is drawn after the knowledge of the spirit, and before whose eyes are depicted the fall of the body, and the greatness of the marvel of the Resurrection, and the demand for judgement which shall come after the revivification, and its standing before the awful throne of God. [If the soul hath these things] redemption shall be unto it.

551. B. Is there any man who fasteth that shall not be redeemed?

O.M. There is one [kind of] fasting which is from habit, and another from desire, and another from compulsion, and another from sight, and another from the love of vainglory, and another from affliction, and another from repentance, and another from spiritual affection; for although each of these seems to be the same as the other in the mind externally, yet in the word of knowledge they are distinct. Now the way in which each is performed by the body is the same, and the way in which each is to be undertaken is wholly the same by him who travelleth straightly on the path of love, and who beareth his burden with patient endurance spiritually, and who doth not rejoice in his honour.

552. B. Who is the true [monk]?

O.M. He who maketh his word manifest in deeds, and beareth his passion with patient endurance; with such a man life is found, and the knowledge of the spirit dwelleth in him.

553. B. Who is the pure habitation?

O.M. He who is destitute of the good things of the body, and who rejoiceth in the love of his neighbours in the love of God; for spiritual relaxation is produced in proportion as need ruleth over the soul.

554. B. With what is a man able to overcome lust?

O.M. With spiritual remembrance. If the desire for the delights which are to come doth not obliterate that of the things which are here, a man cannot conquer; for if the ship of the merchant did not arrive over and over again by means of hope, he could not endure the storms, and he would go on his way of tribulation.

555. B. How doth a man go forth from the world?

O.M. By forsaking entirely the gratification of desire, and by running to the utmost of his power in the fulfilment of the commandments; for he who doth not act in this way falleth.

556. B. Behold, through what have the men of old triumphed?

O.M. Through the fervour of their supernatural love, and through the death of the corruptible man, and through the contempt for pride, and through the abatement of the belly, and through the fear of the judgement, and through the promise of certainty; through the desire for these glorious things the fathers have acquired in the soul the spiritual body.

557. B. How can I conquer the passions which trouble me when they are fixed in me by nature?

O.M. By thy death to this world; for if thou dost not bury thy soul in the grave of persistent endurance the spiritual Adam can never be quickened in thee. When a dying man hath departed from this temporary life he hath no consciousness of this world, and all his perceptions are at rest and are abated. Now if thou forsakest that which is of nature naturally, and thou dost not perform it voluntarily in thy person, thou art dead; but if thy desire dieth in repentance, the whole of [thy] nature ceaseth from this temporary life by the death of the spirit just as do the motions of the body at the natural end of time.

558. B. To what extent is a man held capable of revelation?

O.M. To the same extent as a man is capable of stripping off sin, both internally and externally. For when a man dieth by spiritual sacrifice, [he dieth] to all the words and deeds of this habitation of time, and when he hath committed his life to the life which is after the revivification, Divine grace bestoweth itself upon him, and he becometh capable of divine revelations. For the impurity of the world is a dark covering before the face of the soul, and it preventeth it from discerning spiritual wisdom.

559. B. Is he who loveth money able to believe the promises?

O.M. No. If he believeth, wherefore doth he possess [riches]? Perhaps our hope is [set] upon gold, or perhaps the hand of the Lord is too small to redeem [us]? The body of our Lord is given unto us for [our] happiness, and His blood is the drink of our redemption, and He withholdeth from us the loaves of bread and the apparel which groweth old. He who loveth money is divided in his mind concerning God, and he prepareth for himself pleasures before God giveth them unto him; and though he rejoiceth in the promises in [his] word, he maketh them to be a lie by his deed. True indeed is the word of our Lord which He spake, “It is as difficult for the rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven as it is for a camel to go through the hole of the needle”; it is impossible to possess in one dwelling both God and mammon. Monks should, then, not belong unto the things which are seen.

560. B. Who is indeed the man of excellence?

O.M. He who crieth out always that he is a sinner, and asketh mercy from on high, whose word is laden with the feeling of discernment, and his senses with the watchfulness of deeds, and who, being silent, yet speaketh, and who, though speaking, holdeth his peace, and whose actions are wholly good fruits for the life of time, and the revelation of Christ.

561. B. What is the way of life?

O.M. The going forth of a man from this world on his entrance into another. But if a man forsaketh his childhood of humility and cometh to the old age of this world in his love, he revealeth the way of life. To go forth truly from this world is to be remote from it.

562. B. And what shall I do in respect of the world which troubleth me?

O.M. This world troubleth thee because its care is in thy mind, and the love of it is in thy body, and its pleasures are in thy heart; forsake the world and it will depart from thee, and root up from thyself all its branches, and behold, the war thereof will die down in thee. For as long as thy body seeketh its gratifications, and its lust is of this world, thou art not capable of life.

563. B. What is pure prayer?

O.M. Pure prayer is little in speech and great in deeds, for if it were not so work would be more excellent than supplication.… For if it be not so why do we ask and yet not receive, seeing that the mercy of God aboundeth? The method of penitents is, however, something different, as is also the labour of the humble, for the penitents are hirelings, and the humble are sons.

564. B. From what is the love of money produced?

O.M. From desire, for unless a man desireth he doth not possess. When a man desireth he possesseth, and when he possesseth he hath fulfilled his desire; and when he hath fulfilled his desire, he becometh greedy; and when he hath become greedy he committeth fraud, and when he hath committed fraud his possessions have become many. When his possessions are many his love diminisheth, and when his love hath diminished the remembrance of God is removed from his heart. And when the remembrance of God hath been removed from his heart, the mind becometh darkened, and his understanding is blinded; and when his understanding hath become blinded the power of discernment is darkened, and when the power of discernment hath become dark, the soul loseth its sight. And when the soul hath lost its sight good is rooted out therefrom, and wickedness entereth in, and sin taketh up its rule; and when sin hath taken up its rule the thought of God is blotted out, and the passions of the body are stirred up, and they seek to satisfy their needs. And having taken that which they sought for, it is necessary for much money to be collected, and when money is multiplied, the gratification of the body is fulfilled, and it eateth and drinketh, and committeth adultery and fornication, and it lieth and worketh fraud and oppression, and it transgresseth the covenant, and destroyeth the Law, and treateth the promises with contempt, and the lust for the things which are seen is fulfilled. Let money be an abominable thing in our sight, and let us not love it; but if we perform the lust of the flesh it is an absolute necessity to love money; for money belongeth to the flesh and not to the spirit, even as saith the Apostle, “The flesh hurteth the spirit, and the spirit the flesh, and both are opponents each of the other” (Galatians 5:17).

565. B. What is the kind of prayer which is not acceptable before God?

O.M. The destruction of enemies, and asking for evil things [to come upon] those who do harm to us, and the health of the body, and a multitude of possessions, and abundance of offspring—prayers for these things are not acceptable before God. But if God beareth with us whilst we are sinners and commit offences against Him, how much more is it right that we should bear with each other? It is not right for us to ask for the things which belong to the body, for the wisdom of God provideth all things.

566. B. What is purity of soul?

O.M. Remoteness from anger and from the error of the remembrance of evil things, and being weaned from the bitter nature, and reconciliation with our enemies, and peace which is beyond troubling, and simplicity of love which is above this world; with these things is the inner man cleansed, and he putteth on Christ and is redeemed.

567. B. What is envy?

O.M. Hatred towards the virtues of other folk, and wickedness towards the good, and a bitter mind towards the innocent, and anger against those who are prosperous in this world, and the cloaking of the upright conduct of those who repent, and vexation with the peace of the lovers of God.

568. B. How ought we to pray before God?

O.M. For the return of sinners, and the finding of the lost, and the bringing near of those who are afar off, and friendliness towards those who wrong us, and love towards those who persecute us, and a sorrowful care for those who provoke to wrath; if a man doeth these things verily there is repentance in his mind, and sinners will often live, and their soul[s] be redeemed in life. For the prayer which our Lord delivered unto us for the need of the body is a word which covereth the whole community, and was not uttered solely for those who are strangers to the world, and who hold in contempt the pleasures of the body. For he in whose dwelling the kingdom of God and the righteousness thereof are found lacketh nothing, even when he asketh [not].

569. B. What is remoteness from the world?

O.M. The thought (or mind) which overcometh the love or the body; for if the body be not trampled upon by the feeling of patient endurance a man cannot conquer in his strife.

570. B. Is the soul of a man, which is held fast in the lust of the things which are seen, fair in the sight of God?

O.M. Who is able to live chastely when the body is making demands upon him? Or, in what soul is found the love of our Lord which bestoweth itself upon the things which are seen and which are corruptible? A servant cannot serve two masters, and the soul cannot please God with spiritual excellence so long as the memories of the things which are corruptible are in its mind, for the mind of the flesh cannot please our Lord; and except the world die in the heart humility cannot dwell therein, and except the body be deprived of its lusts, the soul cannot be cleansed from thoughts.

571. B. Why is the mind disturbed at meeting women?

O.M. Because they make use of the lust of nature. For, when the sight hath fallen upon the construction for the production of children and the gratification of the body, that old poison layeth hold upon it, and the law of the desire is confounded; now desire conquereth nature, not by the stirring up of the passions, but by the will, [and] by the fulfilling of works of humility, which, by the might of our Lord, conquer everything by their love, and by the patient endurance of the merit of Christ.

572. B. Who is the mighty man, he who is remote from the world, or he who dwelleth therein?

O.M. The mighty man conquereth in every place, whether he be in the world or without. Nevertheless, the fathers departed to the wilderness, the place which is preserved from the uproar of those who are afraid that as long as they dwell in the body the passions which give trouble will cleave to them. Now, for those who have ended the great strife of their conflict in the world Divine grace hath worked with its power, and it still worketh for the remembrance and benefit of the community, and truly great is the crown of those whose spiritual ship hath not sunk to the bottom of the tossed and troubled sea of this world, and hath not ceased its course heavenwards by the straight road which is full of fear.

573. B. Is it helpful to the soul to make oneself a stranger?

O.M. With perfect thanksgiving it doth help, provided that the soul beareth chastely afflictions, and rejoiceth in our Lord who giveth pleasure; but if it doth not, its good seed is made of no effect because it doth not give fruit beloved of God, and if it endureth and uttereth blessing it hath a reward, but if it lack these things it becometh a mere wandering of the mind, and a sight which is without profit. The best thing of all is the quietness of the mind which is akin to God.

574. B. Since all the creatures of God are holy, why do the fathers make the sign of the blessed Cross over the things which they eat?

O.M. It is true that all the creatures of God were pure [when they came from] Him that created them, but because sin gained dominion everything became polluted; but the advent of our Lord came, and sin was abrogated and righteousness had its rule, and everything was made holy, whether it was in the heavens or on the earth. But because the blessed fathers knew the wiles of Satan, and that they would certainly bring upon them that which would do them harm by means of such things as are employed as food, they signed what they ate with the holy sign of the Great Cross so that they might slay all the craftiness of the Calumniator.

575. One of the fathers said, “On one occasion I was lying down at night, and I thirsted for water to drink; now there was near me one of the holy men who lived in a holy manner, and he saw that I took up the vessel to drink without having made over it the [sign of] the Cross. And he said unto me, ‘Wait, master, wait’; and he made the sign of the Cross over it, and straightway the Calumniator fell from the vessel in the form of a flash of fire, and both he and I saw it. And we wondered at the great might of our Redeemer, and at the marvellous symbol of His merit.”

A variant [reads]:—One of the fathers said, “I was lying down one night, and I thirsted for water to drink. And there was with me a certain widow who lived a chaste life, both when she was with her husband, and afterwards, and she said unto me, ‘Wait, master, wait,’ and she made the sign of the holy Cross over the vessel of water, and straightway there fell from it the Calumniator in the form of a flash of fire, and both she and I saw him. And we wondered at the might of the Redeemer, and at the marvellous symbol of His merit.”

These things were indeed told to us by the blessed mouth which is remote from falsehood; therefore it is required of us necessarily to do this [i.e., make the sign of the Cross] for the protection of our life. Now the Enemy used to wage war openly against that widow who did these things, even as I have learned from the chosen ones of our Lord, and one of the holymen who heard [this] from her own mouth spake thus:—The blessed woman said as follows:—One day I went to the house of God, and Satan drew nigh, and said unto me, “Why dost thou pray like a man, and say, Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost?” And I said unto him, “How then shall I pray?” Then Satan said unto me, “Thou shouldst pray in this wise, and say, Glory be to thee, Mary, mother of Christ.” Then I answered and said unto him, “There is dust in thine eyes, Satan. Why should I forsake the Lord and worship a handmaiden?” And he disappeared from me.

576. And the blessed man said unto me also:—The same old woman said in my presence:—And again I went to the church according to [my] custom, and I entered in and prayed, and then the Enemy came and made blind my eyes, and I could not see, and I called one of the women, and she carried me to my house. And after three days he departed from before my eyes, and he began to go in front of me; then I said unto him, “There is a thing which thou must do for me. Go thou to where thou didst first seize upon me.” And we went to the church, I and he. And I left him where he had seized me, and went away a short distance, and turning round I looked for him, and I saw him standing like a shadow; then I went a little further, and I turned round again, and I [still] saw him. And I shut the door of the church and went out, and then I opened it again and went in, and I saw him still standing there, and he ceased to practise his wiles upon me. Such were the great things which happened to the blessed old woman. For the monk must not boast himself over the man who is in the world, for in it are mighty men; and if such things as these are to be found in Eve, how much more ought they to be found in the Adam which hath been redeemed by [the second] Adam?

577. One of the fathers said, “Whilst I was sleeping one night, the Enemy came and smote me, and said unto me, ‘Go to the world and work righteousness; why dost thou shut thyself up like a beast in a cave?’ And knowing the wickedness of the Enemy, who regarded me with an evil eye, I made the sign of the Cross, and he fled from me. Then, having waited a few days, he came and smote me on the neck in a bantering fashion, saying, ‘Now that thou hast become a righteous man, go to the world that I may not destroy thee’; and when I prayed and made the sign of the Cross over my face he departed from me. And after a short time he came again, and he took up a seat upon my neck, and then I bade my soul to be of good cheer, and stood up, and made the sign of the Cross, the symbol of merit, before him, and he disappeared again, for he was not able to stand before me.” Now these things took place and happened in this wise in very truth, and we may therefore know and understand the conduct wherein God rejoiceth, and there is, even as this [story sheweth], no reason for fearing the devils and all the evil spirits. Whosoever holdeth in contempt humility, and penitence of the mind, and the subjugation of the body, and remoteness from the care for the things which are seen, falleth into the inclination of the world, and despiseth the good riches of the fear of God, and his hope for the inheritance of holy men is cut off, and for the delights of heaven which neither pass away nor are dissolved. May we, through the grace and mercy of Christ, be held to be worthy of these things! Amen.

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