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

Questions of the Brethren, and Answers of the Fathers, which are exceedingly fair and beautiful

604. THE brethren said:—There were two brethren who were the sons of a merchant, and their father died, and they divided their inheritance between themselves, and unto each one there came five thousand dînârs. And one of the brethren divided his inheritance among the churches, and the monasteries, and the poor, and he himself became a monk, and he chose for himself a life of continual silence, and fasting, and prayer; now the other brother built a monastery for himself, and gathered brethren to him, and he took care of the strangers, and the poor, and the sick, whom he received and relieved. When the two brothers were dead there was questioning among the brethren about them, and they went to Abbâ Pambô and asked him, “Which manner of life and conduct was the more excellent and exalted?” And having learned from God, he said unto them, “They are both perfect, and in my sight they appear to be of equal merit.” Explain to us now the old man’s words, for how can the man who is destitute, and the man who hath possessions be equal [in merit]? The old man said, “Since the whole conduct of these brethren was to God, and since whatsoever they did they did it for God, with an upright aim, and since the aim of each was the same, they appeared to be in the old man’s opinion of equal merit before God.”

605. The brethren asked Abbâ Nastîr, “What rule of life and conduct should a man follow?”

The old man said, “All rules of conduct are not alike. Abraham was a lover of strangers, David was a humble man, Elijah loved silence, and God accepted the work of all of them. Whatsoever work is of God, if thy soul desireth it, that do, and God be with thee.”

606. The brethren said:—Abbâ Pamô said, “If there be three monks in one place, and one of them live in silence [it is] well, and if another be sick and he give thanks in his weakness, and if another minister to men and relieve them, all three of them are in the same service.” Reveal to us now the mind of this holy man.

And Abbâ Pambô said, “If a man dwell in silence for God’s sake, and not for the sake of vainglory, or any other human thing; and if another, who is sick, give thanks to God for his sickness, and he endure him that ministereth unto him with longsuffering, he becometh like unto him that is in silence; and if he who ministereth unto men doeth it not for a reward of this world, but for God’s sake, and if he constraineth himself in everything, and doeth the will of those who are ministered unto by him in love and gladness, he thus becometh like unto him who shutteth himself up in silence, and like unto him that is sick, and in this way the work of all three is of equal merit. For Abbâ Joseph and Abbâ Poemen divided the perfect ascetic life into three classes, and therefore Abbâ Nastîr said to that brother, ‘If thou conduct thyself according to any one of the three thou shalt be perfect.’ And this is well known from that which Abbâ Anthony said, ‘Many have afflicted themselves with labours and tribulations, and because they had not in them the power of discernment, they did not know the way of truth.’ And again he said, ‘One man might live in a cell for a hundred years, and yet not know how to dwell therein [rightly] for one day, because he humbleth not himself, and accounteth not himself a sinner, and a feeble man, and ignorant, but he justifieth himself, and blameth others; nevertheless it is right that we should know that, even though some are sick, and others relieve the wants of men and minister unto them with an upright aim, those who lead a life of silence lead a superior life, and follow a line of conduct which is more excellent than all the rules of life which are followed among brethren. And this life is superior in the same way that the Spirit of God is more exalted than the holy angels, according to what we have learned from the history of the holy men Abbâ Arsenius and Abbâ Moses the Ethiopian. For when one of the brethren went to the blessed Arsenius [to enquire of him] concerning the love of a silent life of contemplation, he neither set a table for him nor gave him refreshment; then he went to the blessed Abbâ Moses and he both welcomed him and gave him refreshment. And when one of the great fathers heard [this], he entreated our Lord to reveal to him this matter, saying, “How is it that one fleeth for Thy Name’s sake, and another welcometh and giveth refreshment for Thy Name’s sake?” And there appeared unto him on the river two ships, in one of which were Abbâ Arsenius, and the Spirit of God Who was travelling along in silence, and in the other was Abbâ Moses, who was travelling with holy angels that were feeding him upon honey, with the comb thereof. And by this the fathers understood that the life of silent contemplation was as greatly exalted above alms and ministrations as was the conduct of Matthew the Evangelist above that of Zacchaeus the tax-gatherer.’ ”

607. The brethren said: The brethren asked Abbâ Pambô, saying, “Supposing that a man who liveth in the world hath a wife and children, and supposing that he giveth much alms, and setteth free slaves, and redeemeth those in captivity, and visiteth the sick, and relieveth those who are afflicted, and fulfilleth all the things which are proper for him [to fulfil], is not such a man equal in labour to one of the three classes of monks, that is, to the man that dwelleth in silence, or him that is sick, or him that ministereth unto the poor?”

And the old man said, “Not altogether.”

And the brethren said, “Wherefore?”

And the old man said, “Because, although the man who is in the world leadeth a life of righteousness, his whole conduct is outside the body, but all the labour of the monks is inside the body, that is, fasting, and prayer, and vigil, and hunger, and thirst, and the constraint of the will at every moment, and wars, both secret and manifest. And it is well known and manifest that the men, who are in the world and who are exceedingly excellent in their conduct, are not equal to the monks in their labours; for our Lord Jesus Christ surnamed the monks ‘sons of light,’ and those who are in the world ‘sons of the world.’ Now the monks with their members, and with their thoughts, and with their bodies, and with their conduct serve God perfectly with stern labours and afflictions, and they offer themselves up to God as a living, and rational, and holy sacrifice, with rational and spiritual service, and they are crucified unto the world, and the world is crucified unto them, according to the word of our Lord, Who said, ‘Whosoever wisheth to come after Me, let him take up his cross, and follow Me,’ that is to say, Let him not fulfil his own will, but let him do My will only, and bear tribulations of all kinds. And monks shall leave father, and mother, and brothers, and sisters, and kinsfolk, and country, and in return for these they shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. And to the men who are in the world, He said, ‘Acquire for yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, so that when it hath come to an end they may receive you into their everlasting habitations.’ For as men who are in the world receive monks into their houses, so shall the monks receive those who have lived in the world into the kingdom of heaven; and by this our Lord shewed that all the good things of God and His kingdom belong to the monks who, from their youth even to their old age, have laboured to God in the excellent works of the ascetic and monastic life. But it is right that we should know to what degree the soul is superior to the body. The life which is led by the monks in silent contemplation, and the works thereof, are as much superior to the life which is led by righteous men in the world, as the life and conduct of the angels are superior to those of men. And the life and conduct of the monks are superior to those of men who are in the world, because the latter please God because of their love for men, whilst the monks do so because of their love for God.”

608. The brethren said, “Into how many orders have the fathers arranged the monastic life?” And the old man said, “Into three orders.”

609. The brethren said, “What are they?” And the old man said, “The perfect, those who are half perfect, and the beginners.”

610. The brethren said, “Whence canst thou prove to us that this is so?” The old man said: “From the words of our Lord in the Gospel. For he said, ‘The sower went forth to sow. And some [seeds] fell on the roadside, and others fell on the rock, and others among thorns’ (St. Matthew 13:3 ff.) Now these three [kinds of] seed are those who are in the world. And as concerning the other seed of which He spake, saying that it fell on good ground, and gave fruit, some thirtyfold, and some sixtyfold, and some a hundredfold, these are the grades of monks, for the seed which yielded fruit thirtyfold is the beginners, and that which yielded sixtyfold is the half-perfect, and that which yielded one hundredfold is the perfect.”

611. The brethren said, “And supposing a man in the world conducteth himself in a wholly perfect manner, and according to what is right, is not his labour equal unto that of a beginner?” The old man said, “No.”

612. The brethren said, “Why [not]?” The old man said, “Although the monk is little and is a beginner, he is still more excellent than the man in the world who keepeth every just [demand] of righteousness.”

613. “Why did Abbâ Anthony say unto Paule, his disciple, ‘Go and dwell in silence that thou mayest receive the temptations of devils?’ ” The old man said, “Because the perfection of the monk ariseth from spiritual conduct, and spiritual conduct is acquired by the conduct of the heart, and purity of heart ariseth from the conduct of the mind, and the conduct of the mind from prayer which is unceasing, and from strife with devils; but unceasing prayer, and the contendings with devils, both in the thoughts and in visions, have no opportunity for existence without silence and solitariness.”

614. The brethren said, “What is the meaning of that which Paphnutius and James the Lame said to Mâr Evagrius, ‘Every lapse which taketh place through the tongue, or through lust, or through an action, or through the whole body, is in proportion to the measure of pride which a man possesseth’? Now what is the lapse which cometh through lust? And what is the lapse which cometh through an action? And what is the lapse which cometh through the whole body? Enlighten us about these [various] kinds of lapses.” The old man said, “The lapse through lust is the fall which taketh place inwardly through pride, even as the blessed Macarius said, ‘Thou shalt not be lifted up in thy heart and in thy mind through the knowledge of the Scriptures, lest thou fall into a spirit of blasphemy in thy mind.’ And the lapse through the tongue resembleth that into which one of the monks once fell through his pride, and he reviled the holy man Evagrius and the fathers who were in the desert of Scete. And the lapse through an action resembleth that into which another monk fell when he became lascivious and abominable; and the lapse through the whole body resembleth that when, through his pride, one of the brethren was abandoned to the hands of thieves, and they burned him with fire.”

615. The brethren said:—Palladius said, “Once the blessed man Diocles said, ‘The mind which falleth from God is either delivered over to the devil of wrath, or to the devil of fornication.’ And I said unto him, ‘How is it possible for the human mind to be with God uninterruptedly?’ And he said, ‘In whatsoever work of the fear of God the soul [is engaged], provided that the soul hath due care, its mind is with God.’ What is the meaning of the action of which the old man spake?”

The old man said, “He calleth [a man’s] care concerning God’s promises ‘action of the fear of God,’ wishing to say thus:—If thou art unable to bind thy thought continually in various ways to God, though thou thinkest about His Majesty, and His power, and His grace, and thou prayest to Him without ceasing and without wandering [in thy prayer, thy mind cannot be with Him]; but if thou reducest thine understanding by means of the constant labour of prayer and by the thought which is on God, and more particularly through the war with devils that [accompanieth] this work, bring down thy mind by degrees from the thought which is about God, and from prayer, and fetter it with the thought which is lower than this, and meditate on the promises of God, and think upon His commandments and the correction of thyself. And set not free thy mind from spiritual care, and do not make it wander and think the thought of passibility, but fetter thy mind to some thought of excellence, which will make it gain profit. And when it hath rested somewhat, then raise it up on high, and make it to labour in the thought which is of God, and in pure prayer which hath no wandering therein. For as the growth of the capacity of those who are as yet in the grade of bodily prayer and the reading [of the Scriptures] still existeth, even when they are exhausted by standing up, and by the singing of the Psalms, and they rest their bodies for a little by sitting down and by meditation upon the reading, and when they have rested their bodies and their mind hath become enlightened through the reading, they stand up for service and prayer, so also it is right for those who have arrived at a correct conduct of the mind, and who think continually about God, and who pray to Him without wandering, when they are exhausted by this severe labour, to bring down their minds from time to time, and to relieve it by means of thought concerning some profitable subject which is less exalted than the thought about God. And this thought must take the place to them of reading, and they must meditate upon God’s promises and commandments, and upon their straightness which is in God; and if some abominable thought knock [at the door of their minds] they must quickly make their minds to enter into prayer and into the thought which is upon God. And if there stir in their heart a thought of passion, as soon as they have refreshed themselves by means of thinking about some profitable subject, they must make their mind to enter into the height of prayer, and they must pray without ceasing, and meditate upon God. And from this we know that when the soul meditateth with understanding upon some profitable subject, or upon some profitable action, its mind is with God, even as the blessed man Diocles said. Similarly, whensoever a monk thinketh about the passions of sin, or about deeds connected with the world, his mind is with Satan.”

616. The brethren said, “Why is it that the Divine Light did not shine in the hearts of all the monks until a long time after they had been cleansed by labours and contests? And why is it that the light of grace did shine upon some men before they went forth from the world and came to the ascetic life, as it did in the heart of Abraham Kindônâyâ through the Divine revelation on the day of his feast, and straightway he left his feast, and went forth from the world?” The old man said, “Whensoever this light riseth in its order in the hearts of men, according to what the fathers say, it cometh in this wise. First of all Divine Grace maketh a man hot with the love of God, and he hateth all the glories and honours of this world; and next he cometh in a state of poverty to this rule of life, and Divine Grace itself first giveth him the love of labours, and it maketh the things which are hard easy to him. And it protecteth him from the fierce attacks of the war of devils, so that they may not, whensoever they wish and will, assault him, but only according to his strength, and his capacity, and as is convenient for his growth. And thus after many labours and contests, his heart is purified with abundant humility, and he shineth with the light of grace, and he is held to be worthy to see Christ in a revelation of light. And the fathers also said, that in proportion as the monk himself travelleth along the path of ascetic excellences to meet our Lord by means of labours and contests, so doth our Lord advance to meet him with light until they meet each other, and then the monk remaineth in our Lord by means of labours, and our Lord remaineth in him by means of his light, even as Abbâ Isaiah said in his interpretation of that which our Lord said, ‘Remain in Me and I in you.’ Thus thou seest, O my brother, that He wisheth us to remain in him first of all by the labours of righteousness, and then He will remain Himself in us in purity and in light. And the words, ‘The monk travelleth along the path of ascetic excellences until he seeth Him and is illumined by Him,’ explain the verse, ‘My soul thirsteth for Thee, the Living God,’ ” et cetera.

617. The brethren said, “Why is it that though the holy fathers incite us continually to the labours of excellence, and to the contending against passions and devils, Abbâ Isidore restrained Abbâ Moses the Ethiopian from works, and from contests with devils, saying, ‘Rest thee, Moses, and quarrel not with the devils, and seek not to make attacks upon them, for there is a measure [i.e., moderation] in everything’; doth this apply also to works and to the labours of the ascetic life?”

The old man said, “Because at the beginning Abbâ Moses was ignorant of the rule of the ascetic life, and because he was healthy of body, he worked overmuch, and he thought that he would be able to prevail mightily against devils by the multitude of his works alone, and that he would be able to vanquish them. Therefore, because the devils perceived his object, they attacked him more severely with frequent wars, both secretly and openly, but Abbâ Isidore, wishing to teach him the truth, and to make him to acquire humility, said unto him, ‘Without the power of the Spirit which our Lord gave us in baptism for the fulfilling of His commandments, the which is confirmed in us each day by the taking of His Body and Blood, we cannot be purified from the passions, and we cannot vanquish devils, and we cannot perform the works of spiritual excellence’; thereupon Abbâ Moses learned these things, and his thoughts were humbled, and he partook of the Holy Mysteries, and the devils were conquered, and they reduced their war against him, and from that time forward he lived in rest, and knowledge, and peace. Many monks have imagined that their passions would be healed, and that they would acquire soundness of soul merely by their labours and strenuousness, and therefore they were abandoned by grace, and fell from the truth. For as he who is sick in his body cannot be healed without the physician and medicines, however much he may watch and fast during the time he is taking the medicine, so he who is sick in his soul through the passions of sin, without Christ, the Physician of souls, and without the partaking of His Body and Blood, and the power which is hidden in His commandments, and the humility which is like unto His, cannot be healed of his passions, and cannot receive a perfect cure. Therefore, whosoever fighteth against the passions and the devils by the commandments of our Lord is healed of the sickness of the passions, and acquireth health of soul, and is delivered from the crafts of the devils.”

618. The brethren said, “With what object did those two monks say to Abbâ Macarius, ‘If thou art not able to become a monk like us, sit in thy cell, and weep for thy sins, and thus thou shalt be like us?” The old man said, “Because they knew that, if a man was able to be a solitary in his body, and a dweller in silent contemplation, and a worker both in his soul and in his body, who made himself humble and who wept each day for his sins, and who cut off from himself all memories of every kind of passion and anxious thought, and who meditated only upon God and upon his own correct behaviour, such a man was a monk (or solitary) in very truth, even as the blessed Evagrius said, ‘The monk who is remote from the world is he who hath cut off from himself all the motions of his passions, and hath fastened unto God all the mind of his soul.’ ”

619. The brethren said, “Why is it that certain ot the Fathers were called Mĕshannayânê [i.e., men who transferred themselves from one place to another], since they were recluses, and never departed from their cells?” The old man said, “Because after much silent contemplation, and unceasing prayer, and watching of the mind, they were worthy to depart from the earth in their minds, and to ascend unto heaven to Christ the King. And they did not do this on occasions only, but continually, for whensoever they wished, or whensoever they sang the Psalms, or prayed, or meditated upon God, straightway their mind was exalted to heaven, and stood before our Lord. But there were other [kinds of] ‘Mĕshannayânê,’ that is to say, those who lived with wild beasts in the deserts, such as Abbâ Bessarion, and others who were like unto him.”

620. The brethren said, “What is [the meaning] of the fact that when one of the monks saw a brother in the mountain he fled from him, and was unable to bear the smell of the children of men?” The old man said, “The monk fled because he saw that the brother was carrying silver. And when the brother saw that the monk fled, he cast off his garments and pursued him. And when the monk saw that he had cast off his garments, he waited for him, and welcomed him gladly, saying, ‘Since thou hast cast off the matter which is of this world I have waited for thee. I was not able to bear [the sight thereof] because I myself am naked.’ I looked beyond my rule of life and saw that he was carrying a burden upon his shoulder like a man who was in the world.”

621. The brethren said, “Why did the monk not permit that brother who came to him to dwell in the cave by his side, but did say unto him, ‘Thou art not able to bear up against the attack of devils?’ ” The old man said, “Because he knew his manner of life and works, and also that he possessed not the labours and the strenuousness which were sufficient to make him strong to resist the fierce assault of the savage nature of the devils which make war against the monks. For according to the labour of every man, and according to his striving, and his rule of life and strenuousness, and according as he is able to bear, so much the greater are the ferocity, and the wickedness, and the bitterness, and the craftiness of the devils who make war against him. Similarly, when one of the brethren entreated Abbâ Apellen to allow him to live with him in the desert, he said unto him, ‘Thou art not able to bear the temptation of the devils.’ Finally, when the brother urged him [to let him do so], he commanded him to dwell in a cave by his side. And the devils came against him in the night and sought to strangle him, until Abbâ Apellen came, and surrounded the cave with the sign of the Cross, after which the brother was able to live in the cave. For not all monks are able to fight against the devils, but only such as are perfect and humble.”

622. Why is it that the two Romans who went to Abbâ Macarius, did not, during the whole period of three years which they lived [near him] come to him and ask him, or any other aged man, questions about the thoughts? The old man said, “Because the elder brother was exceedingly wise, and perfect and humble. Had he gone to Abbâ Macarius, or to one of the other old men, his perfection would have been revealed, and he would have [received] praise throughout Scete from the Fathers, who would have wondered, saying, ‘How is it that a young man hath become perfect in three years’? It is, however, not right for us to make ourselves like unto these two brethren, and to neglect the doctrine of the old men. As for the two brethren, the elder was perfect, and the younger was humble, and learned from him.”

623. The brethren said, “The history of the triumphs of Bessarion saith that during all the days of his life he dwelt in waste places, and in the desert and in the mountains, and among the rocks.” Once having come to a certain monastery, he stood up by the door like a wandering beggar, and then sat down weeping and crying out, even as one who had been rescued from a storm. And when the brethren entreated him to go in and rest with them, he said, ‘Before I find the possessions of my house which I have lost I cannot endure being under a roof; for thieves fell upon me on the sea, and a storm reared itself up against me, and I have been robbed of the riches which I once possessed, and from being a man of high estate I am become of no account.’ Now what were the riches which [he inherited] from his parents and lost? And what does this [story] mean? Who are parents? What does he refer to by the words ‘sea, and storms, and waves’? Who were the thieves? Are these words spoken of himself or of the other persons? The old man said, “These things are said of all the monks who are still striving and contending against passions and devils, and who are lacking at the present time purity of heart, and fruits of the spirit, and visions of our Lord, and they are not spoken of men who are perfect as he was. The word ‘sea’ he applieth to the sea of the mind whereon the monk saileth with works of spiritual excellence, wherefrom he entereth the haven of impassibility, even as the blessed Macarius saith, ‘He who wisheth to cleave the sea of the mind, maketh himself longsuffering.’ And he calleth temptations ‘storms,’ and the passions ‘waves,’ and the ‘thieves’ are devils, and his ‘parents’ are the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, One God, in Whose image and likeness we are made, even as our Creator said, ‘Come, let us make man in our image and likeness,’ and also as our Lord said, ‘Be ye like unto your Father, Who is in heaven.’ And He calleth the spiritual excellences, which contain likenesses of the similitude of our Father, Who is in heaven, and which make us heirs of God, and sons of the inheritance of Jesus Christ, by the name of ‘riches and possessions of his parents,’ and these are faith, and hope, and the love of God and man, and joy, and rest, and peace, and graciousness, and pleasantness, and lowliness, and humility, and longsuffering, and patient endurance, and integrity, and simplicity, and purity, and mercy, and cleanness of heart, and the holy light of the mind, and pure prayer, and the divine light which riseth on the heart at the hour of prayer, and spiritual prayer, and Divine knowledge, and the visions and revelations of our Lord. These are the possessions of the soul, some of which it acquireth naturally, and some by Divine Grace; now those which it acquireth naturally are they which the Creator sowed in its nature at the beginning of its creation, and those which it acquireth by Divine Grace are they which are bestowed upon it by the baptism in Christ. And these possessions are lost to a man through pleasures, and honours, and lusts, and benefits, but they are found and acquired, and the soul waxeth rich in them, through tribulations, and revilings, and oppression, and hardships. Now although Abbâ Bessarion, and men who were as perfect as he was, possessed these things, other men lack them and are strangers unto them. [And as regards the words] ‘He once came to a certain monastery, and sat down outside the door like a wandering beggar,’ [they mean that] he saw clearly with the secret eye of the mind that the greater number of the monks were destitute of this spiritual possession, and of the spiritual excellences and gifts which have been already mentioned. And being incited there, to by the law of affection and of brotherly love, he cried out and wept on their behalf, as if it had been on his own, and he made supplication to the loving-kindness of God that He would make them worthy of the riches of His love, and of the possession of His Grace.”

624. The brethren said, “What are the nine spiritual excellences which that holy man possessed, and what did he lack?” The old man said, “Although they are not written down I think that they were as follows: 1. Voluntary poverty. 2. Abstinence, 3. Constant evening fasting. 4. Vigil. 5. The recital of the whole Book of the Psalms seven times during the night and day. 6. The reading of the Holy Books between times. 7. Lowliness. 8. Humility. 9. Love of man. These are the nine spiritual excellences which he possessed, and by means of them he vanquished all passions. By poverty he overcame the love of money. By abstinence he conquered unbridled appetite and gluttony. By fasting he overcame the passion of the love of the belly. By vigil he vanquished sleep. By the recital of the Psalms he did away idleness. By reading he kept away the converse of evil. By lowliness he dispelled wrath and anger. By humility he overcame vainglory and pride. By love of man he conquered hatred, and spite, and enmity. Now the spiritual excellence which he lacked, and which is the tenth, was the constant fervour of the love of God, which is in our Lord Jesus Christ, and this can [only] be gathered together, and stablished and acquired by the secret prayer of the mind, which is unceasing and wandereth not, and by the strict and constant suppression of the thoughts of the passions, and the incitements of devils, when they first begin to bestir themselves in the heart. And because among all the works of ascetic excellence there is none more difficult [to do] than this, for, even as the blessed Macarius said, ‘All the fightings and fierce, and crafty, and evil temptations of the devils are set in array against it,’ the holy man is not able easily to become perfect in the love of Christ, which is acquired by the concentration of the mind and by deep thought about God. Therefore the blessed Evagrius said, ‘If thou canst overcome the wandering of the thoughts, it is the end of all ends; and if thou canst make deep thought about God have dominion in thee, thou canst overcome all passions, and thou shalt be worthy of the perfection of the love of Christ.’ By the love of man and by the other virtues a monk may, by the help of God, vanquish all the passions; but by the love of Christ he shall conquer the evil passion of the love of the soul, which is the first of all the passions, and which embraceth them all, even as Saint Evagrius said, ‘The first of all the passions is the thought of the love of the soul, and after it come the following eight.’ And again he said, ‘Conquer the strife of the love of the soul which is in thy bosom, by that which is towards God.’ For until the monk is worthy of this love, he is unable to acquire exact consolation from the remainder of the labours of the other spiritual excellences, even though it be that he obtaineth assistance from them, as Abbâ Isaiah said, ‘Although the children of Leah were a help to Jacob, yet he loved Joseph most of all, and when Joseph was born, he wished to leave Laban and go to his parents,’ that is to say, When a monk hath become worthy, and hath acquired the perfect love of Christ, which is stablished by silent contemplation, and the power to pray without ceasing, and his soul is at all times rejoicing and exulting with gladness, he will not be content to remain in this life; but each and every day he will be desiring eagerly and longing to depart from the body, and to be with our Lord in Paradise, which is the habitation of the spirits of just men who have become perfect, and the holy country which is exalted above the passions, and devils, and the striving of those who cultivate the virtues until the revelation of our Lord Jesus, Who loveth to make perfect a man with the never-ending happiness of His love in a glorious kingdom.”

625. The brethren said, “Explain to us the course of life and labour of the old man [who made] baskets, [and dropped] small stones in them.” The old man said, “The course of life of that old man was one which was of the mind, and it was stern, and excellent, and it swiftly brought the monk unto purity of heart. And as concerning that which he said, ‘I set two baskets, one on my right hand and one on my left,’ etc. it doth not [mean] that he sat the whole day with his baskets round him, but that his two baskets were set in two places. And he himself was occupied with service and prayer, and with his toil, and for every thought, good or bad, which entered his mind he cast a pebble [into the baskets], that is to say, the labour is very severe for the man for a certain time at the beginning, because the devils are envious at the purity of heart which is acquired by him, and therefore they afflicted this old man also for a long time with the multitude of evil thoughts which were stirring in him, even as he said, ‘Many days I have eaten nothing, because the good thoughts did not outnumber the bad ones.’ Now he used to afflict his body with the labour of much fasting, so that he might do away the evil thoughts, because it is not the soul only which feeleth the labours of the body, its counterpart through its union with it, but also those devils which wage war against the soul, and they feel the labours of the body more than doth the soul. For immediately the devils see the monk afflicting his body with labours, they become afraid, and stagger about, because they are more tormented by the labours than is the man who is engaged in them. Therefore the blessed Evagrius, when the demon of fornication assailed him, stripped off his tunic and stood the whole night long, in the season of winter, under the open sky, and by these means he made the demon to suffer pain, and he fled from him. And again, when the demon of blasphemy attacked him, he stood naked under the open sky, in the season of winter, for forty days. And because the thought of gluttony stirred in the heart of Abbâ Zeno, and made him to eat a cucumber by stealth, he crucified his soul in the sun, during the season of summer for five days. In this wise the holy men were afflicting themselves with labours and tribulations, and when the devils were stirring up in them the thoughts of sin, the demons were afflicted and tortured far more than they thereby. Now the demons were afflicted and tormented by the labours of the patient endurance of the monks not only in their minds but in their persons, through the operation of the holy angels, and by the command of God, even as, on one occasion, one of the devils was tortured the whole night in the cell of those two brethren who were brothers naturally, when he wished to separate them from each other. For when the younger brother lighted a lamp the devil threw down the candlestick, and extinguished the light, whereupon the [elder] brother smote him [on] the cheek; and the other brother expressed his contrition, and said, ‘My brother, have patience, and I will light the lamp [again].’ And when God saw the patient endurance and humility of the young man, He commanded His angel, and he fettered the devil the whole night long in their cell; and the devil was tormented therein until the morning because of that [blow on] the cheek which he made the one brother to suffer from the other through his wicked agency; and that wicked devil was fettered and tortured the whole night long. And the devils are tortured not only when we afflict our bodies with labours, in order that we may not consent to the will of devils, but also when they stir up in us evil thoughts; if we constrain ourselves a little, and cast them from us, at the same time calling our Lord to our assistance, straightway the holy angels which cleave unto us will constrain the demons, and will drive them away from us, and we shall be full of light, and of fervour, and of gladness. Even as one of the demons said to Abbâ Pachomius, A certain monk, against whom I wage war, is very strenuous, and whensoever I draw nigh unto him to sow evil thoughts in him, he betaketh himself to prayer, and I, though burning with fire, have to depart from his presence blazing (?) even like iron which hath been thoroughly well [heated] in the fire.’ Now monks are, at the beginning [of their career] afflicted for a long time, not only by the stirring up of the evil thoughts themselves, but also by their tarrying in the heart; but after a known time a man receiveth strength from our Lord, through their tarrying, and also after a known time their motion is restrained, and then the monk also hath rest from strivings, and he is held to be worthy of purity of heart. For at the beginning of the strivings the devils stir up evil thoughts in the heart mightily; sometimes, however, these are destroyed through prayer at the very beginning of their movement, and sometimes they remain. And afterwards the mind becometh strong against them, and doth not permit them to tarry altogether in the heart, but it is as yet unable to restrain their violent movement, and the [tribulation which they cause], even as one of the old men said, ‘I carried on a strife for twenty years in order that an evil thought might not enter my heart, and until the ninth hour I used to see Satan with his bow drawn to shoot an arrow into my heart. And when he found no opportunity of doing this, he would become dejected and go away ashamed each day.’ Now the old man [of whom we first spake] held fast to his rule in respect of the baskets, and though he was afflicted for a long time by the motion of evil thoughts, and sometimes even by their tarrying in his heart, finally he received power over their tarrying only, for their rising up remained for a considerable time. And having laboured in striving for twenty years against the motion of the thoughts, finally he became strong [enough to resist them], and he overcame them. And the devils fled from him, and he arrived at a state of purity, and at the haven of impassibility, and he was held to be worthy of revelations.”

626. The brethren said, “If the holy men themselves afflict themselves with labours of tribulation because of the tarrying of the evil thoughts which bestir themselves in them, and if they sin against God though not consenting to them, why should we toil against the motion of the devils? For behold, even as the blessed Evagrius said, ‘Whether they fight against us or not the matter is not in our hands.’ ” The old man said, “The perfection of the monks ariseth from a spiritual rule of life, and a spiritual rule of life cometh from purity of heart, and purity of heart from divine vision; ‘Blessed are those who are pure in heart, for they shall see God.’ When, therefore, a monk laboureth, and afflicteth himself because of the motion of evil thoughts, in order to prevent their remaining for a long time in his heart, and when after a considerable time his heart becometh pure, there remaineth disgust only therein, and it vexeth the mind of the monk, and preventeth his ascent to God, and cutteth off his journeying to Him, and doth not allow him to enjoy the vision of glory. Now when a monk worketh for a considerable time because of the motion of evil thoughts [in him], God hath compassion upon his trouble, and not only doth his heart become cleansed, and his soul pure from every thought of evil, but he is also held to be worthy of the sight of our Lord in a revelation of light, and henceforth, the devils never again dare to stir up evil thoughts in the heart of him that hath been esteemed worthy of this great thing. And should it happen that they dare so to do, they suffer pain and burn even as he suffereth who is hot, and who kicketh away with his feet the piercing goads of iron which glow with heat in the fire. During the interval between the beginning of the strife against evil thoughts and [the attainment of] purity of heart, the devils sometimes vex the monk, and sometimes are vexed by him, even as the blessed Evagrius said, ‘If those who go down to the conflict afflict [others], they are themselves afflicted’; so the devils afflict us, and they are also afflicted by us. They afflict us when we receive their evil thoughts, and they are afflicted by us when we, by means of prayer and wrath, hide (i.e., suppress) their thoughts. When, then, we labour and afflict ourselves for a considerable time in order that their thoughts may not tarry in us, we also afflict ourselves with labours and prayer so that they may not vex and hinder us by [their] violent motion, and afterwards power is given unto us by our Lord to lift ourselves up upon the necks of our enemies, and thenceforward our heart resteth and is at peace, not only from the perception of their thoughts, but from all the violence of their motion. And the peace and rest of God rule over our souls, and we see that there remaineth only the war which is manifest of the visions of devils until the time of death merely to terrify us, so that we may not be exalted [unduly] and destroy ourselves. And should it happen that the devils stir up thoughts in the heart of him that hath been made perfect, straightway they become extinguished, even as fire is extinguished when water falleth thereon.”

627. The brethren said, “Why do the devils fear the labours of the monks, even as the Fathers say, ‘If thou wishest the devils to be afraid of thee, despise lusts’?” The old man said, “They are afraid because of three things, 1. First. Because our Lord treated with contempt three kinds of passions, wherein are included and contained all the various classes of passions, and these are they: The love of the belly, the love of money, and vainglory. By means of these the Calumniator fought against our Redeemer, and through His constancy in the wilderness, and silent contemplation, and fasting, and prayer, He overcame Satan; therefore all the monks who travel in His footsteps, and who by means of fasting, and prayer, and silent contemplation, hideaway all the thoughts of sin, and who perform their labours in righteousness, our Lord maketh to conquer by His strength, and He vanquisheth the devils who are their enemies. And as the demons fear and tremble, not only by reason of the Crucifixion of Christ, but even at the sign of the Cross, wheresoever it be made apparent, whether it be depicted upon a garment, or whether it be made in the air, so also do the devils fear and tremble, not only by reason of the labours of our Lord and His constancy in the wilderness, but also at the existence of the monks in the wilderness, and at their silent contemplation, and their fasting, and their prayers, and their patient persistence in the performance of difficult labours, which take place for Christ’s sake. Therefore on one occasion Abbâ Macarius said unto Palladius, ‘Speak to the devils which war against thee with disgust, and sluggishness, and despair: if I had no labours of spiritual excellence, nevertheless for the sake of Christ I would guard these walls and His Name would be sufficient for the redemption of my life’. 2. Secondly. The war and contest which the devils [wage] against the monks possess both rule and system, and they are neither irregular nor unsystematic. And as when the devils stir up the monks by means of evil thoughts of sin, and the monks accept them, and consent to them, and let themselves be incited to commit sin thereby, straightway their souls become dark, and remote from God, and sorely afflicted, and ashamed, and guilty, and weak and miserable, so when their souls accept not these thoughts, and they do not consent to them, and do not allow themselves to be incited to sin thereby, but drive them away and cast them out as soon as ever they begin to have motion [in them], and call upon our Lord to help them, straightway all the former things which come against the monks, inasmuch as they do not acquiesce in their incitings, are hurled upon the demons with greatly intensified force, and they become ashamed, and tremble, and are destroyed, even as the blessed Mark said, ‘As he who breaketh into a house which is not his own taketh to flight with fear and trembling as soon as he heareth the voice of the master of the house, so also doth Satan,’ etc. 3. Thirdly. Because without labours and humility we who are rational beings are unable to please God, and because without them neither men nor angels can enjoy His love and His blessings, therefore also the demons and devils, which live wholly in a state of pride and laxity, [cannot enjoy them].”

628. The brethren said, “Why is it that although the Fathers gave the admonition, ‘Whensoever a demon appeareth unto a man in any form whatsoever, let that man make the sign of the Cross, and pray, and that similitude will disappear,’ we see that on several occasions the devils still remain, and not in appearance only, but also in terrors, which remain for a long time, and in many cases in blows and stripes?” The old man said, “The holy Fathers gave the admonition because it would apply in the majority of cases. For since our Redeemer was crucified for us, and since He exposed to disgrace the Rulers and Dominions, which are evil demons, and put them to shame openly by His Person, even as it is written, from that time onwards, whensoever they have made themselves visible to the adorers of Christ in divers form [to do them] harm, as soon as a man hath made mention of the Name of Christ, and hath signed himself with the sign of the Cross, the devils have fled straightway, and their forms have disappeared. And this happeneth not only in the case of holy men, and perfect men, but also in respect of ordinary men who possess shortcomings.”

629. The brothers said, “Why was the blessed Martînyânâ, after all the great ascetic practices which he had acquired, and the gifts of the spirit which he had received, and after he had burned his fingers for the sake of the harlot, still afraid of the war of fornication, and why, having gone and dwelt in the island in the sea for thirty years, did he not stay [for] a season with that woman whom he had brought up from the sea, but cast himself in the sea being afraid of the contest?” The old man said, “Because the whole strength of the demon of fornication was discharged upon him, and he was, therefore, properly afraid. For those who have not with them this war in all its fierceness imagine that they have overcome it, but let them not boast themselves, and let them know the truth, that is to say, they have not vanquished the demon of fornication, and it is only that he hath not waged war against them with all his strength, because he hath not been permitted so to do, and he hath not been permitted to do so because of their feebleness and laxity. For the war of fornication which cometh upon a man only attacketh him in the degree which he is able to bear. For, behold, the great and famous fathers who endured this war in all its severity for a long time were always in a state of fear and trepidation, as was also Abbâ Arsenius, who was a man eighty years old; and when the noble lady came to him and said, ‘Remember me in thy prayers,’ he did not hesitate to say, ‘I will pray to God that He may blot the remembrance of thee out of my heart.’ And by means of this which he spake, he put to shame the demon of fornication, and shewed how great was the hatred for this unclean passion that warreth against the holy men which he possessed.”

[The story of Martînyânâ and the harlot is as follows:—There was a certain monk who dwelt in the desert, and whose name was Martînyânâ, and he laboured in great works, and God wrought by his hands many mighty deeds, and he was applauded by all men. Now when Satan, the Evil One, saw that he was greatly applauded he became bitterly angry, and he wished to distract and to withdraw him from his rule of life and ascetic labours. One day Satan saw that many folk were glorifying him, and he went and dwelt in a certain harlot, and he sent her to the blessed man in order to make him fall. So the harlot took her attire, and placed it in a bag, and went to the holy man, and when she arrived at his abode it was evening; and she knocked at the door and said, “O Saint Martînyânâ, open the door to me, so that the wild beasts may not eat me.” Now the holy man thought that she was a phantom, and he rose up and prayed, and since meanwhile she ceased not to cry out, he rose up from his prayer, and opened the door to her, and said to her, “Whence comest thou to me, O devil?” And she said, “[My] companions have forsaken me on the road, and I wandered about in the desert, and have arrived hither”; and he left her [there], and went into the inner cell, and shut the door thereof between himself and her. And after the old man had laid down to sleep the harlot arrayed herself in her attire, and put on her ornaments, and then sat down; and when the morning had come, the old man went forth from his cell, and seeing her dressed he said to her, “Whence art thou? What is thy business?” And she said, “I am a daughter of people of high degree, and my parents are dead, and they have left me great wealth. I heard that thou wast a great man, and I have come to thee, and I beg thee to come to my house and take me to wife, and we will live on thy excellence.” Then the old man said unto her, “How can I forsake my labour and my rule of life, and take thee to wife, and fall from my covenant?” And she said unto him, “What sin is there in it? Did not Adam and all the Fathers take wives, and Noah, and Abraham, from whose seed Christ hath risen?” Now by repeating these and suchlike things, she wellnigh succeeded in leading the holy man away captive, and he said unto her, “O woman, tarry a little so that I may see, lest peradventure some one may come and see us.” And having gone up to the roof to look, he woke up in his mind, and he made a flame of fire and stood up in it, and stayed in the fire until he burnt his toes; and when the harlot saw this, she fell down at his feet and wept, saying, “I have sinned against God and thee,” and she revealed unto him the whole truth, [saying], “I repent.” And the holy man sent her to a nunnery, and he remained in his cell until his feet were healed of the burning of the fire. And after he was healed of his sickness, he rose up and went and dwelt in an island in the sea, where there were neither women nor men.]

630. The brethren said, “What is the meaning of that which one of the old men said, ‘If thou seest the wings ot ravens flying about thou wilt also see the prayer of him that is oppressed in mind being exalted?’ ” The old man said, “As the ravens do not in the course of their flight mount upwards to the height of heaven like the eagle, but fly close to the surface of the ground and wheel about [seeking] for their unclean food, so is the mind of the man who is not fervent in the love of God, and who is continually in a state ot sluggishness and dejection, for when he standeth up for service or for prayer, his thought will not be exalted to the height of the love of Christ, but his mind will wander after evil passions.”

631. The brethren said, “An old man said, ‘If thou seest a young man who, in his desire, ascendeth unto heaven, take hold of his foot and sweep him hence, for in this way thou wilt help him’; what is the meaning of the words, ‘Who in his desire ascendeth unto heaven?’ ” The old man said, “This resembleth that which Isaiah spake, ‘If the mind seeketh to ascend to the Cross before the feelings cease from feebleness, the wrath of God shall come upon him because he hath begun to do something which is beyond his capacity, without having first of all cured his feelings.’ Now certain of the beginners in the ascetic life are so silly and bold as to dare to undertake things which are far above their capacity and their strength; they do not wish to learn, and they will not be persuaded by the commands of their Fathers, but, without having lived the proper period of time in the coenobium, they dare to enter the cell, even as it is written concerning one of the brethren in the Book of Paradise, for immediately he had received the garb of the monk, he went and shut himself up as a solitary recluse, saying, ‘I am a monk of the desert’; and the Fathers went and brought him out into the monastery [again]. There are others, too, who seek to shut themselves up for a week at a time, and it in no wise helpeth them; and there are others, the children of this world, who at the beginning of their careers imitate the exalted rule of life of the Fathers, and who imagine that they can imitate the rule of the mind, that is to say, of the spirit, when as yet they have not fulfilled the rule of the body. Therefore their lives and works are not open to the Fathers, and they will not receive correction, but they live according to their own desire, and they are delivered over into the hands of the devils who make a mock of them.”

632. The brethren said, “One of the brethren asked Abbâ Poemen, saying, ‘My body is feeble, and I cannot lead an ascetic life.’ Abbâ Poemen said unto him, ‘Canst thou lead the ascetic life in thy thought, and not permit it to go with deceit to thy neighbour?’ Tell us how the feeble man was able to lead the ascetic life in his thoughts.” The old man said, “This question belongeth closely, both in order and meaning, to that which a certain brother asked Abbâ Poemen, saying, ‘My body is feeble, but my thoughts are not.’ Now in the former case he spake having regard to those who were afraid that through pains and sickness they would become negligent of the labours of spiritual excellence, and, in a different manner, that they might fall into pains and sickness by way of punishment; in the latter case he spake having regard to those who had toiled for a very long time in the labours of self-denial, and who had finally become enfeebled, either through old age, or through pains and sicknesses, and who were ceasing from ascetic labours. Now this is what Abbâ Poemen [meant] when he said, ‘If thou art not now able, by reason of thy weakness, to toil in the labours of the body as thou didst formerly, toil in the labours of the soul, that is to say, the ruling of the thoughts, which is the ruling of the mind; if thou art unable to fast from meats, fast from evil thoughts; and if thou art no longer able, through the weakness of the body, to stand up and to recite as many Psalms as formerly, make thy mind to stand up before our Lord, and pray before Him vigilantly with the prayer which is secret and pure, and be tranquil, and humble, and pleasant, and good, and forgiving, and merciful; and endure thy sickness and weakness with praise, and make no man to be sorry by thy tongue; and judge not, and blame not, and condemn not thy brother in thy heart. Now these excellences may be cultivated in the soul with the labours of the mind, and not those of the body, and they are not impeded by the weakness of the body.’ ”

633. The brethren said, ‘Why is it that the monks are “obliged to go round about begging for the meat and raiment of which they have need, like those who are in the world, although our Lord promised them, saying, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God and its righteousness, and that of which ye have need shall be given to you?’ ” (St. Matthew 6:33). The old man said, “This [saying] is a proof of the wisdom and grace of God towards those who are in the world, for, in the majority of cases, the righteousness of the children of this world consisteth of alms and compassion; but the children of light are righteous men and monks who, in their persons, and in their members, and in their thoughts, serve our Lord. And God hath made the monks to have need of the children of this world because of His love, so that they may care each for the other, and may pray each for the other, that is to say, the children of the world must care for the monks, and the monks must pray in love for them. And as the children of the world make the monks associates with them in the corporeal things of the world, the monks must make the children of the world to be associates with them in the things of heaven, for our Lord spake to the children of the world, saying, ‘Make ye to yourselves friends of this mammon of iniquity, so that when they have become perfect they may receive you into their tabernacles which are for ever’ ” (St. Luke 16:9).

634. The brethren said, “What is the difference between [the words], ‘I will dwell in you,’ and ‘I will walk in you,’ which God spake concerning the righteous? And what is the meaning of ‘dwelling,’ and ‘walking’?” The old man said, “God dwelleth in the saints through the constant remembrance with which they remember Him, as they marvel at Him, and His works; but He walketh in them by means of His visions and revelations [which He sendeth] upon them as they marvel at His majesty, and rejoice continually in His love.”

635. The brethren said, “With how many, and with what names is the meditation upon God called?” The old man said, “Its names are six, and they are as follows:—1. Hope in God. 2. The state of being bound to our Lord. 3. Continuance with God. 4. Persistence in all the good works of God. 5. Holding fast to God. 6. Dependence upon God. Hope in God [meaneth], fix ye your gaze upon Him, and hope in Him, that is to say, meditate ye upon Him. Being tied to our Lord [meaneth] that we should be bound to our Lord, and should fast and pray, until the old man cometh to an end, both without and within. Continuance with God is the state of being gratified through Him. Persistence [meaneth] that we should possess persistence in the Lord in all the good works of God. Holding fast to God [meaneth], ‘Cut off from thyself all cares which are not of Him, and let thy mind fasten its gaze upon God only.’ Dependence upon God meaneth], ‘Hang thyself upon God,’ to Whom be glory (or praise)! Amen.”

636. The brethren said, “An old man was asked a question by one of the brethren, who spake thus:—‘If I am in a state of admiration of God, and in purity of soul, and the time of prayer arriveth, ought I to come to prayer or not?’ ” And the old man said, “ ‘What man who possesseth riches will make himself poor?’ Explain to us the meaning of the words of the holy man.” The old man said, “The holy man calleth ‘admiration of God and purity [of soul]’ that to which the blessed Mark gave the name ‘meditation upon God’ and atmosphere of freedom.’ There are some brethren whose hearts become pure after labours and great strivings, and they become worthy of pure prayer, and their hearts also become illumined from time to time by the light of Divine Grace, and they attain to the meditation which is on God, and to the spiritual understandings which are superior to custom. The Fathers would not permit the men who attained to this capacity, when they were standing in the purity of soul of this nature, and in the atmosphere which was free from trouble, and when the beater struck the board, and the season for prayer arrived, to leave this enjoyable meditation, and to stand up and sing the Psalms, but they [allowed] them to remain therein until it had come to an end. For a man to sing the Psalms and to perform the service could always be found, but such meditation and such purity of the understanding, and the atmosphere of freedom could not at all times be acquired, and a man is neither able nor hath the power to attain to this state whensoever he pleaseth, for it is a gift from heaven which is given by our Lord from time to time to him that is worthy thereof. For this reason one of the Fathers gave the following commandment:—If a man enjoyeth such meditation whilst he be standing up at the service, let him not interrupt it until it cometh to an end, for such meditation filleth the place of the service of the Psalms. See then that thou drivest not away from thee the gift of God, and let thy subservience (or submission) to the same stand firm; but it is right to know that certain brethren have not as yet attained to meditation of this kind. They have thought that these words were spoken for every man and for men of every kind of capacity, and although their minds have been illumined somewhat by the Psalms and prayers, they have relaxed the fulfilment of the canon of their service, wherein are placed their consolation, and their wages, and their profit, and have occupied themselves [with the meditation], but on several occasions they have been interrupted in the meditation which hath come to them by the devils. It is, therefore, not right for the brethren who are beginners in the ascetic life to do this, but they should commit their life and works and meditation wholly to God, and if it should happen that this meditation cometh to them, let them reveal the matter to one of the old men who is acquainted with such things, so that the demons may not lead them astray and work their destruction.”

637. The brethren said, “By what means did the Fathers sing the Psalms of the Holy Spirit without wandering [of mind]?” The old man said, “First of all they accustomed themselves whensoever they stood up to sing the service in their cells to labour with great care to collect their minds from wandering, and to understand the meaning of the Psalms, and they took care never to let one word (or verse) escape them without their knowing the meaning thereof, not as a mere matter of history, like the interpreters, and not after the manner of the translator, like Basil and John [Chrysostom], but spiritually, according to the interpretation of the Fathers, that is to say, they applied all the Psalms to their own lives and works, and to their passions, and to their spiritual life, and to the wars which the devils waged against them. Each man did thus according to his capacity, whether he was engaged in a rule of life for the training of the body, or of the soul, or of the spirit, even as it is written, ‘Blessed are the people who know Thy praises, O Lord,’ that is to say, blessed is the monk who, whilst glorifying Thee with praise, collecteth his mind from wandering, and understandeth clearly the knowledge and meaning of the Psalms of the spirit, even as it is written, ‘Sing ye unto God with praise, sing ye unto our King.’ When then a man singeth the service in this manner, and payeth attention to the meaning of the verse, he acquireth daily the faculty of singing a song mingled with the meditation of God and with the gaze [which is fixed] upon Him. And after the time in which he hath arrived at the spiritual rule of life, immediately a monk hath begun to sing the Psalms, though one or two sections of them become too great for him, he is permitted to sing them with understanding and with the meditation which is on God, and he refraineth from the customary Psalms, and he singeth a song which is superior [to that of] body and flesh, and which is like unto that of angels, even as the Fathers say.”

638. The brethren said, “By means of what thoughts of excellence may the children of this world not be offended by the monks, when they see or hear concerning the stumblings (or lapses) which come upon them through the frailty of [their] nature, and from the wars of the devils?” The old man said, “When they consider and look upon the monks as frail men, who are clothed with a body which is full of passions, and who although they are monks are striving to imitate the life and deeds of angels, yet owing to the weakness of their bodies, and the inclination of their souls, and the need which cleaveth unto them, and the strivings of the devils against them, the children of the world will see that it is quite impossible that the monks should not be snared, involuntarily, by certain weaknesses. For behold, some of the perfect men [mentioned] in the Old and New Testaments were caught in snares against their will, through the frailty of their nature and the war of the devils, as, for example, the blessed and perfect men Moses, and Aaron, and David, and Samson, and Hezekiah, and Peter and Paul.”

639. The brethren said, “Why do the monks who have led a life of hard labour become in their old age silly, and simple, and act in a foolish way like children and drunken men?” The old man said, “Because all the ascetic excellences which God hath placed in the nature of their souls, and which appear in them from their youth up, perish through the relaxing of the will, and through the love of the body, and the war of the devils, and finally through labours and contendings. Sometimes they receive them from our Lord as gifts, even as it is written, ‘Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of God,’ even as our Lord said.”

640. The brethren said, “What should be the beginning of the fight against sin of the man who hath cast all impediments out of his soul, and who hath entered the arena, and where should he begin the contest?” The old man said, “It is well known unto every man that in all the contests against sin and its lusts the labour of fasting is the first thing [to undertake], and it is so especially in the case of him that fighteth against the sin which is within him; and the sign of the enmity against sin and its lusts becometh apparent in those who go down to this invisible conflict when they begin to fast. And next cometh the rising up in the night, and whosoever loveth the occupation of fasting all the days of his life is a friend of chastity. For as the pleasure of the belly, and the laxity caused by the sleep which inciteth to a polluted bed, are the head and chief of all the sins which are in the world, and all the abominations thereof, so fasting, and strict vigil in the fear of God, with the crucifying of the body throughout the night against the pleasures of sleep, are the foundation of the holy path of God, and of all the spiritual excellences. For fasting is the strengthener of all spiritual excellences, it is the beginning and end of the strife, and it is the foremost of all virtues; and as the enjoyment of the light cleaveth closely to the eyes which are healthy, so doth the desire for prayer cleave closely to the fasting [which is observed] with discernment. For as soon as a man hath begun to fast, he desireth greatly to converse with God in his mind. The body which is fasting cannot continue to lie on [its] bed the whole night, for fasting naturally inciteth to wakefulness towards God, not only by day, but also by night; for the empty body is not fatigued overmuch by its conflict with sleep, even though it be weak in the senses thereof, for its mind is towards God in supplication, and it is better for it to cease from labour through weakness than from the weights of meats. As long as the seals of fasting lie upon the mouth of man, his thoughts meditate upon repentance, and his heart maketh prayers to arise; and mildness lieth upon his countenance, and abominable motions are remote from him, and rejoicing never, in the smallest degree, appeareth in his forehead, for he is a foe of lusts and of unprofitable converse. The man who fasted regularly and with understanding, and whom abominable lust brought into subjection hath never been seen, for fasting is the abode of all spiritual excellences, and he who holdeth it in contempt disturbeth them all. Now, the first commandment which God laid down for our nature at the beginning gave [Adam] warning concerning the eating of food, and the head of our race fell through eating, therefore, at the point where the first corruption took place [in asceticism], must begin the building of the fear of God, when they lay down the first course for the observance of the law. And moreover when our Lord shewed Himself at the Jordan He also began at this point, for after He was baptized the Spirit took Him out into the wilderness, and He fasted for forty days and forty nights; and all those who travel in His footsteps lay the beginning of their strife on this foundation. For who shall treat with contempt, or hold lightly the armour which hath been forged by God? If He Who laid down the law fasted, who is there among those who would keep the law that hath not need thereof? Immediately this armour appeareth on a man straightway terror falleth upon the thoughts of the chief of the rebellion, that is, Satan; and his power is shattered at the sight of the arms which our Captain of the host hath placed in our hands, for as soon as he seeth the might of this armour on a man he knoweth at once that he is ready for the contest. What armour is there which is as strong or which giveth such boldness in the fight against evil spirits as hunger for the sake of Christ? For in proportion as a man is harried and brought low in his body, at the time when the phalanx of Satan surroundeth him, doth his heart support itself with confidence, and he who treateth this with contempt is lax and is a coward in respect of other spiritual triumphs, because he hath not upon him the armour whereby the divine athletes have gained the victory. And at the very beginning the sign of weakness appeareth in him, and he himself giveth the opportunity of defeat to his adversary, and since he goeth naked into the strife it is evident that he will emerge therefrom without victory, because he hath cast away from him the strength which would stir up in him the divine zeal; for his members are not clothed with the flame of hunger, that is to say, fasting. As merchants cannot without labour and trouble save up riches, so the righteous man without anguish and labour for the sake of righteousness cannot expect the crown and the reward.”

641. The brethren said, “If a man attaineth unto purity of heart what is the sign thereof? And when will he know himself if the heart is coming to purity?” The old man said, When he seeth that all men are fair, and when no man appeareth to him to be unclean or polluted; whosoever is thus indeed standeth in purity. And if this be not the case, how can he fulfil the word of the Apostle which saith, ‘When a man standeth wholly in purity, he will think that every man is better than he in heart and in truth,’ unless it be that he attaineth to the state of him of whom it is said, ‘He whose eyes are pure seeth not wickedness.’ ”

642. The brethren said, “What is purity? And to what length doth its limit extend?” The old man said, “In my opinion purity consisteth in oblivion of the various kinds of knowledge which are beyond nature, and which nature hath discovered in the world; and the limit thereof is that a man should be wholly free from them, so that he may arrive at the state of natural simplicity and integrity which he possessed at first, and which somewhat resembleth that of a child, except in the case of small matters.”

643. The brethren said, “Is it possible for a man to attain to this state?” The old man said, “Yea. Behold, one of the old men attained to this state to such a degree that he was in the habit of asking his disciple continually if he had eaten or not. And on one occasion one of the saints, who was a a very old man, became too innocent and simple, and attained to such a state of simplicity and purity that he did not even know how to keep watch upon himself so that he might partake of the Mysteries, or whether he had done so or not, until at length his disciples kept him in his cell, and took him that he might partake of the Mysteries, just as if he had been a child. Now although he was in this state as regards the things of this world, he was perfect in his soul.”

644. The brethren said, “What are the [subjects of] meditation and conversation which it is meet for a man to have whilst he is living the life of the recluse and passing his time in silent contemplation, so that his understanding may not occupy itself with casual thoughts?” The old man said, “Dost thou ask concerning meditation, what shall a man have wherewith to put to death the world in his cell? Hath the man whose soul is strenuous and watchful any need [to ask] the question as to what labour he shall occupy himself with when he is alone? What is there for the monk to occupy himself with except weeping? If, then, the monk be unoccupied with weeping, and he be able to pay attention to [any] other thought, what is the meditation which hath died out of him? And if we come to silent meditation, we can also be constant in weeping, and therefore let us beseech our Lord most earnestly with the mind that He may grant this unto us.”

645. The brethren said, “Since, then, a man is not sufficient for the constant exercise of this faculty, because of the frailty (or sickness) of his bodily nature, it is right that he should have something else besides this which shall be useful for the consolation of his mind, so that the passions may not attack him through the idleness of the understanding.” The old man said, “The passions cannot attack the soul of the monk, whose heart hath been cut off from the world by living a solitary ascetic life, unless he hath been negligent of the things which it is proper for him to do; and this is so especially if he hath, besides the employment [of reading] the Scriptures, the helpful thoughts of the man who is occupied with spiritual excellence. And living alone and in silence will help this [result] greatly, and he will receive in his mind the hope of the world which is to come, and the glory which is laid up for the saints.”

646. The brethren said, “One of the old men said, ‘I have toiled for twenty years that I might see all men together (i.e., alike).’ How can a man attain to this measure, and when, and by what means? Give us a demonstration concerning this matter.” The old man said, “It is only the perfect men who attain to this measure, and according to what the Fathers say, without contemplation in silence, and prayer, and great conflicts, and humility, no man can attain thereto. And there is a similarity to this demonstration in the case of natural parents, for as they regard all their children in the same way, and as they love them all equally, and pity and spare all of them alike, even though there be among them great and small, and healthy and sick, and righteous and sinners, and good-looking and bad-looking, so the strenuous Fathers after the labours and the contests which they have passed through during long periods of time spent in silent and solitary retirement, regard all men, both the righteous and the sinners, in the same way, and they love them all alike and without distinction. And as God maketh the shadow to fall upon all men, both upon the righteous and upon sinners, even though he loveth the righteous for their righteousness, yet He sheweth most compassion upon the sinners. And the coming of our Lord was for the sake of sinners, for [saith He], ‘I did not come to call the righteous,’ &c.”

647. The brethren said, “Why was it, when the brother, according to the body, of one of the Fathers who was living the life of a recluse, sent to him, when he was about to die, to come and see him, that he would not do so, and that the one brother died without seeing the other? And what is the meaning of the words which he spake, ‘If I go forth and see him my heart will not be pure before God’?” The old man said, “The holy man was living secluded in a cell, in a habitation of the brethren, and his brother according to the body was also living, like the other brethren in another cell, and when the latter became sick unto death, he wished to see his brother before he died. Now to the holy man, since he was keeping silence in respect of all the other brethren, it did not appear to be right to go forth to his brother according to the body, and not to go forth afterwards to his spiritual brethren, that is to say, to those who dwelt in the monastery with him. Had he gone forth to his brother according to the body at the season of his death, and had not gone forth to his brethren in the spirit, he would not have found freedom of speech with God at the season of prayer, but his mind would have passed judgement upon him, and his mind would have been darkened, as if he had held in contempt and treated his brethren in the spirit in a dishonourable fashion, and had done more honour to his brother according to the body than to them. This is the meaning of what he said, ‘I cannot go forth, for if I do, my heart will not be pure before God.’ ”

648. The brethren said, “The sage said, ‘Whosoever possesseth not the art of labouring, that is, either the things which belong to the labour of the spirit, whereby he may find consolation from God in his inner man in the spirit, or the things which belong to the art of human labour, cannot tarry long in his cell; whosoever doth not possess one or other of these cannot tarry long in his cell.’ Explain to us the words of the old man.” The old man said, “The things which belong to the art of human labour are well known unto every man; but things which belong to labour of the spirit he calleth the following: fasting, vigil, the singing of psalms and hymns, the prayers which are said kneeling down, anguish, weeping, tears, and other labours which are like unto these. And together with these [there must be the recital of] the offices for the seven hours [of the day and night], and the reading of the Holy Scriptures and of the [books of] doctrine of the old men, and these make the monk to acquire patient endurance, and the ability to live the ascetic life alone in a cell, and they produce for him joy and spiritual comfort. If he be a beginner in the ascetic life and strong, and he toileth in labours, he will acquire consolation; and if he be a feeble old man, or sick, he will labour in the labours of the mind, and will find joy. For as all the objects which are of gold are wrought by means of anvil, and a hammer, and a pair of tongs, so by means of the labour of the body in a place of silence and seclusion, and the striving of the mind, are wrought all the fruits of the spirit, which the Apostle said were love, joy, peace, faith, humility, graciousness, pleasantness, long-suffering and patient endurance.”

649. The brethren said, “On one occasion, when the brethren were sitting down and asking questions about the thoughts, one of them said, ‘It is not a great matter if a man seeth thoughts afar off.’ What did he want to say? Explain to us the words of the old men.” The old man said, “When the brethren drew nigh to the Fathers and asked them questions [wishing] to learn concerning the mode of action and thought in respect of the wars of the devils, the Fathers did not persuade those among them who appeared to possess subtlety of thought, and intelligence, and understanding, and to hate the passions, and to be fervent in the spirit, to cast out from themselves straightway the thoughts of the passions whensoever they stirred in them, and to make them to depart foolishly, but they ordered them to tarry with them, and to examine carefully how they arose, and then to contend against them; for in proportion as they were trained in the knowledge of strivings and contendings against the passions and against devils they would benefit not themselves only, but many other people also. And in this wise acted also Evagrius, that man of understanding, and Abbâ Poemen, and others who were like unto them. Therefore Abbâ Joseph said to Abbâ Poemen, ‘When the passions rise up in thee, give unto and receive from them, and understand carefully their crafty nature, and train thyself to contend against them.’ Now there are certain weak and foolish brethren whom in no way whatsoever doth it benefit to dally with the rise of the thoughts of the passions which are in the heart, on the contrary, it is far better for them, immediately they perceive the motions of the passions, to cast them forth from them by prayer, and with anger and hatred. Therefore, when several of the Fathers were gathered together and were discussing the conflicts of the thoughts, and whether it was right to dally with them because of knowledge [concerning them], or to suppress them by means of prayer through fear [of them], one of the Fathers said, ‘Even to understand the thoughts afar off is a great and excellent work, but it is a far greater work, and one which maketh a man to acquire practice, for him to understand the thoughts, and to wage war against them. When he hath gained experience of their crafty character, then he will suppress them and make them to disappear by the power of prayer and humility. Now the meaning of this question is this. When a man hath laboured in conflict and contest against the passions for a long time in seclusion, by the grace of our Lord his heart becometh purified, and rest and peace reign in his soul, and he hath relief from tribulation, and he rejoiceth in God at all seasons, and the devils have no power henceforth to stir up evil thoughts in his soul, because his heart is filled with divine thoughts, and the understanding of spiritual things, and he is never without the mind which is in God, and the remembrance of His fear and mercy. And should the demons dare to stir up thoughts in him, they will not [succeed] in rousing those which cause anguish and which bring to naught spiritual excellences, but only those which are of an ordinary nature, and which impede the vision, even as Evagrius said.’ ”

650. The brethren said, “How is it possible for a man to live in such a way as to be pleasing to God?” The old man said, “It is impossible for a monk to rise to the height of the love of God, unless he first of all regard with affection and love man, the image of God; for this is the end of all the commandments of our Lord Jesus Christ, even as He Himself said, ‘If ye love Me, keep My commandments.’ ”

651. The brethren said, “An old man said, ‘If there rise up in thy mind a thought about the need of the body, and thou castest it out once, and it cometh to thee a second time, and thou castest it out, should it come a third time, pay no regard to it, for it appertaineth to war’; explain to us these words.” The old man said, “If whilst thou art in seclusion, and art engaged in spiritual labour, Satan, being envious of thee, and wishing to drive thee out of the cell, or to impede thy spiritual progress, stir up in thee one of the thoughts which goad a man into sin, either to eat before the proper time, or to lie down and sleep, or to visit some one, or to do something else; and if he sheweth thee thy power of discretion [saying], ‘It is unseemly for thee to do this thing’; or again, should some evil devil constrain thee, and hinder thee, and wishing to make thee to cease from thy labour, should mock and scoff at thee; then stand thou up quickly, and bestir thyself boldly, and bow thy knee before our Lord, and pray, and ask, and entreat for help, and mercy, and protection. For that brother who soaked palm fibres in water, and who sat down to plait ropes and mats, was engaged in a similar war, and a demon roused up in him the thought to go and visit one of the brethren; and he cast the thought from him twice, and thrice. Now finally, because he did not understand that the war was of the Evil One, who sought to stop [his work] and drive him out of his cell, he was overcome by the war, and he left the palm leaves soaking in the water, and ran and hurried out in great haste. At length the matter was revealed unto one of the holy men who was a neighbour of his, and he cried out to him, saying, Captive, Captive,’ and made him to come back to his cell, and afterwards the devils cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Ye have overcome us, O monks.’ For the demons are so wicked, and they are so envious of the monks when they remain constantly in seclusion for our Lord’s sake, that on several occasions they have, in an irregular manner, driven them out of their cells, as if for a good object, but their object was not a good one.”

652. The brethren said, “Why was it that Abbâ Ammon was not able to overcome the passion of wrath for fourteen years, although he said unto us, that he had entreated God, with anguish and tears, both by day and by night unceasingly, to give him the victory over it?” The old man said, “That passion probably overcame him to an excessive degree through the natural constitution of his body, but it is quite certain that the passions and the devils waged war against him like a mighty man and a warrior. For the devils made war upon the Fathers with intense fierceness and violence, upon each man according to his capacity, and in proportion to their power to triumph, through long-suffering, that is to say, through patient and persistent endurance, the battle against them was protracted.”

653. The brethren said, “Abbâ Dorotheus said, ‘Our lack of ability to distinguish between matters will permit us to acquire great excellence in the virtues’; explain to us what the old man [intended] to say.” The old man said, “He wished to say as follows:—‘Because of our lack of ability to distinguish between matters we do not make progress in the virtues, and our heart is not quickly purified, and we do not ascend to perfection, because we do not labour with the knowledge and power of discernment which it is right [for us to have]; but [we progress] painfully, and [only] for the sake of vainglory, and as the result of chance circumstances, and without discretion. And, as it cometh, this resembleth that which the blessed Evagrius spake, saying, “As it is not the material foods themselves which nourish the body, but the power which is in them, so it is not matters themselves which make the soul to grow, but the power of discernment which [cometh] from them.” And he also said, “As the feeding, and health, and growth of the body do not come through the actual materials of our foods, for these are cast out of the body in the draught, but from the hidden power which is in them, so also the nourishment and the growth of the soul take place through the fear of God. And the healthy state thereof which ariseth through impassibility, and the perfection thereof which is in righteousness, do not exist through the labours of the body only, but from the deeds and acts which [are performed] with knowledge, that is to say, with a straight object, and from the action of the mind which hateth passions, and from the prayer which is joined to humility, and from the mind which is in God.” ’ ”

654. The brethren said, “Abbâ Arsenius said unto one of the brethren, ‘Lead the ascetic life with all the strength that thou hast, and the hidden labour which is within, and which is performed for God’s sake, shall vanquish thine external passions’; to what doth he give the name of ‘passions’?’ The old man said, “In this case Arsenius calleth the labours of the body ‘passions.’ For labours are also called by the name of ‘passions,’ because they constrain those who toil, and make them feel pain, even as Abbâ Macarius said, Constrain thy soul with pains and labours of every kind in ascetic excellence.’ And this is what Abbâ Arsenius said to that brother, Labour with all thy might in the work of righteousness, and toil with the labours of the mind more than with all the various kinds of work of the body. For the labours of the body only incite and gratify the passions of the body, but the labours of the mind, that is to say, the thought which is in God, and prayer without ceasing, and the suppression of the thought[s] with humility, liberate [a man] from all the passions, and they vanquish devils, and purify the heart, and make perfect love, and make him worthy of the revelations of the spirit.”

655. The brethren said, “What is the meaning of that which Abbâ Benjamin said, ‘Had Moses not been gathering the sheep into the fold he would not have seen Him that was in the bush’?” The old man said, “What he said was this:—As the blessed Moses, who was held worthy of the vision in the bush, first gathered together the sheep which he was tending into one company lest, when going to see that wonderful sight, his mind should be perturbed through anxiety about the sheep which were [wandering] in the desert, so also is it with the monk, for if he wisheth and desireth the purity of heart which looketh upon God in the revelation of light, it is right that first of all he should abandon every earthly possession, and his feelings, and his passions, and he should live in seclusion always, and should collect his mind and free it from all wandering and straying, and should have one object only to gaze upon, that is God. In this manner he will become worthy of purity of heart, and he will enjoy visions and revelations concerning Him.”

656. The brethren said, “Hieronymus said that the blessed Evagrius commanded the brethren who were with him not to drink their fill of water, and said, ‘There are always demons in the places wherein there is water’; what opinion is this?” The old man said, “The blessed Evagrius interpreted these words spiritually, as being suitable to our mode of life, and he said that which our Lord said, ‘The demongoeth round about in the places wherein there is no water, that he may seek for rest, and he findeth it not’; which saying maketh us to understand that when the unclean devil of fornication wageth war against the monk, if the monk afflicteth himself by eating food sparingly, and especially by drinking water sparingly, Satan will never be able to injure him by means of this passion. And the devil will never be gratified at the fulfilment of this passion by him, for there is nothing which will dry up the arteries, and prevent the accident of the night, and make a monk to possess chaste and quiet thoughts by day, so much as the restraining of the belly by thirst. Some fast the whole day until the evening, and some fast for [several] nights at a time, yet when they break their fast and eat a little food, because they drink much water, they benefit in no wise by their fasting and by the sparing use of food which they practise because of the war of lust. For the drinking of much water filleth the arteries [of the monk] with [excessive] moisture, and Satan findeth an occasion for exciting him by means of thoughts in the daytime, and he trippeth him up by means of dreams by night, and he depriveth him of the light of purity. Therefore, in another place, Abbâ Evagrius admonisheth the monk, saying, ‘If thou wishest for chastity make little thy food, and restrain thyself in the drinking of water, and then impassibility of heart shall rise upon thee, and thou shalt see in thy prayer a mind which emitteth light like unto a star.’ ”

657. The brethren said, “In how many ways doth Divine Grace call the brethren unto the life of the solitary ascetic?” The old man said, “In very many and different ways. Sometimes Divine Grace moveth a man suddenly, even as it moved Abbâ Moses, the Ethiopian, and sometimes by the hearing of the Scriptures, as in the cases of the blessed Mâr Anthony and Mâr Simon Stylites, and at others by the doctrine of the word, as in the cases of Serapion, and Abbâ Bessarion, and others who were like unto them. Concerning these three ways whereby Divine Grace calleth to those who would repent, I would say that Divine Grace moveth the conscience of a monk in the manner which is pleasing to God, and that through these even evil-doers have repented and pleased God. And there is, moreover, the departure from this world by the hands of angels, by terrors, and sicknesses, and afflictions, even as that which took place in respect of the blessed Evagrius; and sometimes God Himself calleth from heaven and taketh a man out of the world, as in the cases of Paul, and Abbâ Arsenius.”

658. The brethren said, “Wherefore is it that the beginning of the doctrine of the old men is laid down in the books from the choice (or election) of Abbâ Arsenius, and on [his] coming forth from the world into a monastery, and from a monastery of the brethren into the seclusion which is in a cell?” The old man said, “Because he was called by God to the monastery, and from the monastery to the cell, and because it is certain that these two calls were according to the Will of God, well was it that the beginning of the doctrine of the old men [was derived] from the history of this holy man.”

659. The brethren said, “Explain unto us these two calls of Abbâ Arsenius. What is the meaning of that which was said in the first call, ‘Flee from the children of men and thou shalt live,’ and what is the signification of that which was said at the second call, ‘Flee, keep silence and live a life of contemplation in silence, for these are the principal things which keep a man from sinning?’ ” The old man said, “The meaning of ‘Flee from the children of men, and thou shalt live,’ is this:—If thou wishest to be delivered from the death which is in sin, and to live the perfect life which is in righteousness, leave thy possessions, and family, and country, and depart into exile, that is, to the desert and mountains to the holy men; and cultivate with them My commandments, and thou shalt live a life of grace. And the meaning of ‘Flee, keep silence, and live a life of contemplation in silence’ is this:—Since when thou wast in the world thou wast drawn towards anxieties about the affairs thereof, I have made thee to come out from the world, and I have sent thee to the habitation of monks, so that after a short time of dwelling in the coenobium thou mayest be drawn, first to the cultivation of My commandments openly, and secondly to contemplation in silence. And now that thou art trained in the former sufficiently, thou mayest flee, that is to say, get thee forth from the monastery of the brethren, and enter into thy cell, just as thou didst go forth from the world, and didst enter into the monastery. And the meaning of ‘Keep silence, and lead a life of contemplation in silence,’ is:—Having entered into thy cell to contemplate in silence, thou shalt not give the multitude an opportunity of coming in to thee, and talking to thee unnecessarily, except on matters which relate to spiritual excellence; if thou dost not do this thou wilt benefit by sitting in silent contemplation. For through the sight, and the hearing, and the converse of the multitude who shall come in to thee, the captivity of wandering thoughts will carry thee off, and thy silence and thy contemplation will be disturbed. But do not imagine that the mere fact of having left the brethren in the monastery, or not bringing other men into thy cell to be disturbed by them will be sufficient to make thy mind to be composed, or to enable thee to meditate upon God, and to correct thyself, unless thou dost take good heed not to occupy thy mind with them in any way whatsoever when they are remote from thee. For until a man arriveth at a state of impassibility, and overcometh by striving both the passions and the devils, whensoever a monk remembereth any man in his cell, he remembereth him in connexion with some passion, that is to say, with desire (or lust), or with anger, or with vainglory. And if it should happen that the mind wandereth in respect of ordinary things (or means), unless he cutteth them off from him, his wandering inclineth through absolute necessity towards a remembrance which is allied to some passion. And it is also thus in the case of a neophyte, for whensoever during his contemplation in silence he remembered women he falleth into the lust of fornication; and whensoever he remembereth men, he is either wroth with them in his thoughts, and he maketh accusations against them, and blameth them, and condemneth them, or he demandeth from them vainglory, and he inclineth to passibility. Therefore when Abbâ Macarius was asked, ‘What is the right way for a brother, who is a neophyte, to live in his cell?’ he said, ‘Let no monk when he is in his cell have any remembrance whatsoever of any man, for he cannot profit in any way in restraining his feelings from the conversation of men, except he take care to withhold his thoughts from secret intercourse with them.’ This is the meaning of the words, “ ‘Flee, keep silence, and contemplate in silence.’ ”

660. The brethren said, “What is the meaning of the words which one of the old men spake, saying, ‘He who dwelleth with men, because of the commotion of worldly affairs is unable to see his sins; but if he dwell in the silent repose of the desert he will be able to see God in a pure manner?’ ” The old man said, “The excellences which are cultivated in the world, and to which our Lord, speaking in the Gospel, ascribed blessing, are loving-kindness, peace-making and the other commandments which are like unto them, and it is quite possible for such virtues to be cultivated in the world by certain strenuous persons. But the purity of heart which seeth God, and to which our Lord ascribed blessing, saying, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God,’ cannot be acquired without dwelling in the desert, and solitary and silent contemplation, and the monk must acquire it in the following way. First of all a man must go forth from the world, and dwell in a monastery, and after his training in a monastery and having gone into his cell, he must die through contemplation in silence, and through the other labours of his body, and through striving against the passions, and through conflict with devils. Then through the tranquillity of mind [which he will acquire] in silent contemplation, he will remember his sins, and when he hateth his passions, and hath petitioned for the remission of his sins, and hath suppressed his thoughts, and hath become constant in pure prayer, and hath cleansed his heart from odious thoughts, then shall he be worthy to see in his heart, even as in a polished mirror, the light of the revelation of our Lord [shine] upon it, even as the Fathers say. Well, then, did that holy man say to those brethren, Visit the sick, reconcile the men of wrath, for he who cultivateth spiritual excellences in the world cannot, by reason of the commotion of the affairs thereof, see his sins; but if he continue in silent contemplation and prayer he shall see God.”

661. The brethren said, “What is [the meaning of] that which Abbâ Sisoes said to Abbâ Ammon, ‘Freedom of my thoughts in the desert is sufficient for me?’ ” The old man said, “Sisoes was a great and a perfect old man, and he dwelt all the days of his life in the remote desert, and after he had become old, and was exceedingly feeble, the Fathers brought him to the monastery of the brethren, who used to go in and visit him each day, for the sake of some profitable discourse and helpful prayer. And because he was unaccustomed to feel comfortable in the presence of many folks, his mind began to wander about in remembering the brethren, and to meditate upon many things, and he was unable to find that dominant freedom for the continuous, secret prayer of the mind, which is superior to every influence that would make it decline, and is free from every [other] attraction, and he was, therefore, rightly grieved. Now one day, Abbâ Ammon went to visit him, and he saw that he was sorry about his coming from the desert, and he said unto him, ‘Father, it is not right for thee to be sorrowful because thou hast drawn nigh to the place where the brethren dwell, for thy body hath become feeble, and thou art unable to perform those works wherein thou wert wont to labour in the desert.’ Now when Abbâ Sisoes heard these things, he looked at Abbâ Ammon sternly, and he answered him with indignation, saying, ‘What sayest thou to me, Ammon? Was not the freedom of the thoughts which I had in the desert sufficient to take the place for me of all labours? And as regards thyself also, O Ammon, who art conscious of the life and acts of the freedom of the mind, and who art not subject unto the constraint of wandering and disturbance of the mind, and who art not impeded by old age and infirmity, tell me what thou art able to do in the desert at thy great age? Even if I be unequal to the labours of the body, because I have become infirm through old age, I am better able to perform the labours of the mind than I was in the time of my early manhood. Or, perhaps in thy opinion the clear shining of the mind, which a monk acquireth by a life of contemplation in silence, and the constant intercourse with God, and the prayer which is without ceasing, and the remembrance of Christ, and the constant gazing upon Him, and the exultation of the soul in Him, and the favour of His love, and the affection for His commandments, and the desire for His good things, and the meditation upon His glory, and the thought about His excellence and His majesty, and the admiration of His humility, are matters which are small and contemptible? All these labours of the mind, and many others which are like unto them, neither old age nor infirmity impedes, but they are prevented, and brought low, and, by degrees, are destroyed, by converse with the children of men, and by seeing many people, and by care about worldly affairs.’ ”

662. The brethren said, “They used to say that when the service in the church was over, Abbâ Macarius was wont to flee to his cell, and that the brethren said, ‘He hath a devil, but he doeth the work of God.’ Now who were those who said that he had a devil? And what was the work of God which he used to do?” The old man said, “Those who said that he had a devil were the lazy brethren. Whensoever Satan seeth the monks who are leading a life of spiritual excellence in the monastery, the devils stir up the lazy brethren to wage war against them, by means of abuse, and revilings, and backbiting, and calumny, and by means of the trials which they bring upon them. Now the work of God which Abbâ Sisoes did when he fled [to his cell] was this: Prayer accompanied by weeping and tears, according to the exhortation of Abbâ Isaiah, who said, ‘When the congregation is dismissed, or when thou risest up after eating, sit not down to talk with any man, either concerning the affairs of the world, or concerning matters of spiritual excellence; but go thou into thy cell, and weep for thy sins, even as Abbâ Macarius the Alexandrian said unto the brethren who were with him, “Brethren, flee.” And the brethren said, “Father, how can we flee more than [in coming] to the desert?” and he laid his hand upon his mouth, and said unto them, “Flee ye in this manner”; and straightway every man fled to his cell and held his peace.’ ”

663. The brethren said, “Abbâ Anthony said, ‘As a fish dieth when it is lifted up out of the water, so doth the monk [die] if he remain long outside his cell’; explain these words to us.” The old man said, “Because the remembrance of God is, in our Lord Jesus Christ, the life of the soul, which the Fathers call the ‘repository of life,’ and ‘the breath of the life of the soul and of the mind,’ when the monk tarrieth in the cities, and in the sight and converse of the children of men, he dieth in respect of the breath of life which is in God, that is to say, he forgetteth God, and the love of Christ groweth cold in his heart, the love which he hath acquired by many labours, and he forgetteth his virtues, and he becometh lax in respect of [his] liking for tribulations, and he loveth pleasures, and hath an affection for lusts, and the sincerity of his heart is troubled through the disturbance which entereth into his senses, that is, seeing, and speaking, and hearing, which are indeed the strength of the soul; and it happeneth also that he falleth into great passions, wherefrom may Christ God save us! Amen.”

664. The brethren said, “The excellent man Hieronymus said in the history of the triumphs of the blessed Isidore, the archimandrite, that he had in his monastery one thousand monks, and that they all lived within the gate of his habitation, and that none of them ever went outside it until the day of his death, except two brethren who only set out therefrom to sell their handiwork, and who brought in only such things as were required for their absolute needs. How is it that in an assembly of our early Fathers, that is, a congregation containing one thousand brethren, two men only were sufficient [to provide for] their ministrations? In our generation if there was a congregation of five and fifty monks, only five would lead a life of ascetic excellence in seclusion, and the [other] fifty would be going out and coming in ceaselessly and without rest to supply them with what they needed.” The old man said, “Concerning the love for labours, and the watch which the early Fathers kept [on themselves], and concerning the love of pleasure, and the laxity of ourselves who belong to a later time, if it be right to tell the truth, we ought to speak most concerning the laxity and ignorance of the governors of monasteries. In former times the brethren who lived lives of contemplation and seclusion and loved spiritual repose were many, and those who went out on to the high roads, and entered the cities, and performed outside labours were few; but in our days, in a congregation which, as ye have said, containeth five and fifty monks, five will lead a life of spiritual repose inside the monastery, and the other fifty will toil ceaselessly in the works which are outside it, and during the whole time they will complain and blame the five who are inside, because they do not go out and serve even as do they. And through the words of these foolish and insolent men all the spiritual excellences which are cultivated in the monastery will perish and come to an end. And according to what I say, if the Fathers set the life of contemplation in silence against the whole of the labour of the ascetic life, and if it be more excellent than it all, who would blame him that loveth spiritual contemplation and repose, and the quiet of the cell?”

665. The brethren said, “On one occasion a congregation of monks assembled on the great festival of the Resurrection, and there were gathered together in the monastery all the Fathers, and all the recluses, and other monks, and all the old men in the congregation were asked, Which is the mightiest and most severe war which can come upon monks? And they all agreed that no war is harder or more cruel than that which maketh a man to leave his cell and depart, and that when that war is fought down, all other contests may be easily reduced. Explain to us the meaning of these words.” The old man said, “Constant spiritual repose in a cell hath hope closely bound up in it, but going out there from is united to despair. As long as a man liveth in spiritual repose, and loveth the quiet of the cell, little by little he goeth forward, one step at a time, according to the order of succession; and he hath hope that in our Lord he will vanquish each of the passions, and that through his repose and labours he will acquire spiritual excellences and the grace of Christ. But if the life becometh tedious to him, and he go forth and leave his cell, and wander about, he will neither vanquish the passions, nor acquire spiritual virtues, but he will incline to despair, and to utter destruction. Therefore the Fathers have well said that no war is more cruel than the war of wandering.”

666. The brethren said, “Abbâ Theodore and Abbâ Lûkî passed fifty years in being harassed by their thoughts which urged them vexatiously to change [their] place [of living]; and they said, ‘When the winter cometh we will change.’ And when the winter had come, they said, ‘We will change in the summer’; and thus they continued to do till the end of their lives. Reveal to us if it were the devils who were urging these famous Fathers to go forth from their cells for a period of fifty years, that is, until their death.” The old man said, “The devils urged the great Fathers to wander and to go forth from their spiritual repose because they well knew the benefit which accrued to them therefrom, and these holy Fathers were urged by the devils also, but did not leave their cells. To-day, however, in this generation, the same devils harass the monks, and drive them out of their cells by this war of departure, and therefore the great Fathers who have felt this war of wandering and of departure have said, ‘There is no war which is more cruel to the monk than this; may Christ help us and deliver us from it.’ ”

667. The brethren said, “Abbâ Anthony used to say, ‘He who dwelleth in the desert is free from three wars, that is, from speaking, hearing, and seeing’; explain these words to us.” The old man said, “The old man did not speak [thus] because the strife of him that dwelt in spiritual repose in the desert was less fierce than that of him that wandered about and mingled with men, but that he might show how much more hard and laborious was the war of devils which taketh place in the heart of those who dwell in spiritual repose than that which cometh in the heart of those who dwell with brethren. And because of this the fathers pursued after a life of contemplation in silence, lest when the wars of speaking and seeing and hearing were added unto that which was already in their heart, they would fall by reason of their severity, even as actually happened on one occasion, for a woman came to the monks who were living a life of silent contemplation, and there was added to the war which was already in their hearts the wars of seeing, and hearing, and speaking, and they would have been vanquished by the severity thereof had it not been that the grace of our Lord supported them. That the war which taketh place in the senses of the soul against the monks who live a life of silent contemplation is mightier and fiercer than that which taketh place in the senses of the body, is well known from the words which the blessed Evagrius spake, saying, Against the monks who lead a life of silent contemplation the devils in person wage war, but against those who lead a life of spiritual excellence in a general assembly of brethren, the devils only stir up and incite the lazy brethren; but the war which ariseth from the sight, and the hearing, and the speech is much less fierce that that which is waged against the monks who dwell in silent solitude.”

668. The brethren said, “What is the meaning of that which Abbâ Anthony said, ‘A monk’s cell is the furnace of Babylon, and it is also a pillar of light’?” The old man said, “There are two things peculiar to the cell; the one warmeth and setteth on fire, and the other giveth light and rejoicing. To neophytes it is oppressive and troublesome, by reason of the many wars and the dejection which are therein, but it rejoiceth the perfect and maketh them glad, with purity of heart, and impassibility, and revelations of light; and it is even thus with those who begin to live in silent contemplation, for although at the beginning they are for a considerable time afflicted by the wars of the passions, and by devils, they are never forsaken by the help of Divine Grace. For our Lord Himself, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, cometh to them secretly, and he becometh to them a helper and a companion, and after they have overcome both passions and devils, according to systematic order, He maketh them worthy of the happiness which is in His perfect love, and the revelation of His glorious light.”

669. The brethren said, “Abbâ. Moses the Ethiopian was on one occasion reviled by certain men, and the brethren asked him, saying, ‘Wast not thou troubled in thy heart, O father, when thou wast reviled?’ And he said unto them, ‘Although I was troubled, yet I said nothing.’ What is the meaning of the words, ‘Although I was troubled I spake not’?” The old man said, “The perfection of monks consisteth of two parts, that is to say, of impassibility of the senses of the body, and of impassibility of the senses of the soul. Impassibility of the body taketh place when a man who is reviled restraineth himself for God’s sake and speaketh not, even though he be troubled; but impassibility of the soul taketh place when a man is abused and reviled, and yet is not angry in his heart when he is abused, even like John Colobos. For on one occasion when the brethren were sitting with him, a man passed by and upbraided him, but he was not angry, and his countenance changed not; then the brethren asked him, saying, ‘Art thou not secretly troubled in thy heart, O father, being reviled in this fashion?’ And he answered and said unto them, ‘I am not troubled inwardly, for inwardly I am just as tranquil as ye see that I am outwardly’; and this is perfect impassibility. Now at that time Abbâ Moses had not arrived at this state of perfection, and he confessed that although outwardly he was undisturbed, yet he was waging a contest in his heart, and he maintained silence and was not angry outwardly; and even this was a spiritual excellence, although it would have been a more perfect thing had he not been angry either inwardly or outwardly. And the blessed Nilus made a comparison of these two measures of excellence in the cases of the blessed men Moses and Aaron. The act of covering the breast and heart with the priestly tunic which Aaron performed when he went into the Holy of Holies represented the state of a man who, though angry in his heart, suppresseth his wrath by striving and prayer; and the state of a man not being angry at all in the heart, because he hath been exalted to perfection by [his] victory over the passions and the devils, Nilus compared to that which is said of the blessed Moses, saying, ‘Moses took the breast for an offering, because the soul dwelleth in the heart, and the heart I in the breast.’ And Solomon said, ‘Remove anger from thy heart,’ and concerning Aaron the Book saith, ‘He was covering his breast with the ephod and tunic,’ and this teacheth us monks that it is meet for us to cover over the wrath which is in the heart with gentle, and humble, and tranquil thoughts, and that we should not allow it to ascend to the opening of our throat, and that the odiousness and abomination thereof shall be revealed by the tongue.”

670. The brethren said, “Why is it that, although all the fathers used to admonish the brethren to ask the old men questions continually, and to learn from them, and to reveal to them their thoughts, and to live according to their directions, one of the old men said to one of the brethren, ‘Go, sit in thy cell, and thy cell shall teach thee everything’?” The old man said, “There is no contradiction in these words of the Fathers, and what the old man said hath an object, the meaning of which is well known. The old man who admonished the brother that he should learn like a beginner was great and famous, and to that brother who asked him the question he spake thus:—In the early days when thou goest to thy cell lay hold upon the habits (or orders) of the neophytes, and live according to them for a considerable period, that is to say, with fasting, and vigil, and reading, and reciting the offices, and all the other things, until at length, after the lapse of time, the life of contemplation in silence shall give thee the order which befitteth thy seclusion, and will add those things which are seemly, and will diminish those which are not. This is the meaning of that which was said by the holy man, ‘Sit in thy cell, and it shall teach thee everything.’ ”

671. The brethren said, “One of the old men used to say, ‘A man shall have no care, and he shall contemplate in silence, and shall cover up himself; three meditations shall teach purity.’ What is the meaning of these three words?” The old man said, “ ‘A man shall have no care’ means that he shall not care concerning the shortcomings of others, and that all his anxiety shall be concerning his own shortcomings. And, ‘He shall contemplate in silence’ means that he shall not speak even concerning matters of spiritual excellence if it will trouble any man or condemn him. And ‘He shall cover up himself’ meaneth that he shall not reveal his life and deeds, but as far as possible, he shall be unknown and unhonoured. Now by these things is established the purity of heart which seeth God in a revelation of light.”

672. The brethren said, “How is it possible for a monk to die every day for the love of Christ, even as the blessed Paul said, ‘I swear by your boasting, my brethren, that, in our Lord Jesus Christ, I die daily, and the world is dead unto me, and I am crucified unto the world, and the world is crucified unto me, and I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me’?” The old man said, “A man [can do this] if he contemplate in silence at all seasons, and perform the other works of the body, I mean fasting, and vigil, and the recital of the books of the Psalms, and prayers, and genuflexions, and groanings, and pain, and weeping, and tears, and sighs, and the reading of the Holy Scriptures. And he must especially take care concerning the works of the mind, that is, the constant remembrance of God, and meditation upon Him and His blessings, and upon His commandments and His threatenings; and his gaze must always be on our Lord, and his prayer must be without ceasing and without wandering, and the odiousness of the passions must be away from the heart, and he must suppress with keenness the thoughts of the devils which arise at their prompting. And he must possess that excellence which is the first and most important of all the spiritual virtues, and of all the labours of the ascetic life of the mind, that is to say, death in respect of all the anxieties and cares of this world. And a monk must have no care, and no anxiety, and he must not think about anything, or seek anything, or desire anything, or lust for anything, except for the time when he will attain to the perfect love of God in our Lord Jesus Christ. And he must fulfil at all times the command of the blessed Paul, and his admonition to us wherein he said, ‘Love ye your Lord, rejoice in your hope, pray without ceasing, be fervent in spirit, endure your tribulations, be not anxious about anything, cast all your care upon the Lord; and let all your prayers, and all your requests, and all your petitions be made known unto God, to Whom be glory for ever and ever! Amen.’ ”

673. The brethren said, “How can love be acquired by men of understanding?” The old man said, “True and pure love is the way of life, and the haven of promises, and the treasure of faith, and it sheweth [the way of] the kingdom, and it is the expositor of the judgement, and the preacher concerning what is hidden.”

674. The brethren said, “We do not know the power of the word.” The old man said, “If a man doth not love God he will not believe in Him, and His promises are not certain to him, and he feareth not His judgement, and he goeth not after Him; but, because love is not in him, so that he may flee from iniquity, and wait for the life which hath been promised, he is always performing the work of sin. And he doth this because His judgement is raised too far above his eyes. Therefore let us run after love, wherein the holy fathers were rich, for it is able to reward its nature and its God, and this is its praise.”

675. The brethren said, “In what way doth wisdom live in a man?” The old man said, “Now when a man hath gone forth to follow God with a sincere mind, grace taketh up its abode in him, and his life and deeds are strengthened in the Spirit, and he hath taken a hatred to the world, for he perceiveth that new spiritual life which is in the new man, and which is exalted above the impurity of human life, and in his mind he thinketh upon the humility of the life and works which are to come, and which are [more] excellent than those here.”

676. The brethren said, “By what is love made known?” The old man said, “By the fulfilment of work, and by spiritual meditation and by the knowledge of faith.”

677. The brethren said, “What are works?” The old man said, “The keeping of the commandments of God in the purity of the inner man, together with the [performance of] labours by the outer man.”

678. The brethren said, “Is every man who is destitute of works also destitute of love?” The old man said, “It is impossible for the man who is in God not to love and it is impossible that he who loveth should not work; and it is incredible that he who teacheth and doth not work is indeed a believer, for his tongue is the enemy of his actions, and although he speaketh life, he is in subjection unto death.”

679. The brethren said, “And is he who is in this state destitute of reward?” The old man said, “The man who speaketh the things of the spirit, and who performeth the things of the body is not destitute of reward, and that which he needeth is fulfilled for him, but he is deprived of the crown of light, because he desireth not that the rule of the spirit shall have dominion over him.”

680. The brethren said, “Fasting and prayer: what are they?” The old man said, “Fasting is the subjugation of the body, and prayer is converse with God, vigil is the war with Satan, abstinence is the being weaned from meats, standing up is the humility of the primitive man, genuflexion is the bowing down before the Judge, tears are the remembrance of sins, nakedness is our captivity through transagression, and [reciting the] service is constant supplication and the praising of God.”

681. The brethren said, “Are these things able to redeem the soul?” The old man said, “When the things which are within agree with the things which are without and the humility which is manifest appeareth in the hidden works which are within, in very truth a man is redeemed from the heaviness of the body.”

682. The brethren said, “And what is internal humility?” The old man said, “It is humility of love, peace, concord, purity, restfulness, gentleness, subjection, faith, remoteness from envy, [and it is] the soul which lacketh the fervour of anger, and is remote from the lust of arrogance, and is separated from vainglory, and is filled with patient endurance like the great deep, and whose motion is drawn after the knowledge of the spirit, and before whose eyes is depicted the departure from the body, and the great marvel of the Resurrection, and the call to judgement, which [shall come] after the quickening, and its standing before the awful throne of God, and the being redeemed.”

683. The brethren said, “Is it possible for a man to fast and not to be redeemed?” The old man said, “There is a fasting which is a matter of habit, and another which is of desire, and another which is of constraint, and another which is of the sight, and another which is of vainglory, and another of tribulation, and another of repentance, and another of spiritual love; and although each one of them is the same outside the mind, yet in the word of knowledge they are distinct. Now although the manner of each in respect of the body is the same, yet each should be undertaken with thorough purpose, and a man should journey straightly along the way of love, and should bear his burden with spiritual patience, and he should not rejoice in his honour.”

684. The brethren said, “Who is the true [monk]?” The old man said, “He who maketh his word manifest indeed, and endureth his pain patiently; with such a man new life is found, and the knowledge of the spirit dwelleth in him.”

685. The brethren said, “Who is he that liveth purely?” The old man said, “He who is free from the delights of the body, and who rejoiceth in the love of his neighbours in the love of God; for in proportion as need hath rule over the soul is spiritual repose produced [therein].”

686. The brethren said, “With what can we vanquish lust?” The old man said, “With the remembrance of the good things of the spirit; for, if the desire for the good things which are to come doth not abrogate the lust for the delights of this world, a man cannot overcome at all. Except the merchant’s ship be laden with manifold hope it will not be able to endure the storms, and will sail on the path of tribulation.”

687. The brethren said, “In what way doth a man go forth from the world?” The old man said, “He doeth this when he forsaketh the gratification of all his lust, and when, so far as it lieth in his power, he runneth to fulfil the commandments; the man who doth not do this will fall.”

688. The brethren said, “Through what did the men of old triumph over nature?” The old man said, “Through the fervour of their love which was above nature, and through the death of the man which is corruptible, and through contempt of arrogance, and through abatement of the belly, and through the fear of the judgement, and through the sure and certain promise; through the desire of these glorious things the Fathers acquired in the soul a spiritual body.”

689. The brethren said, “How can we vanquish the passions which afflict us, since they are placed in our nature?” The old man said, “Through your death to the world, for except a man burieth himself in the grave of continence the spiritual Adam can never be quickened in him. For when a dead man departeth from this temporary life, he hath no perception of the world, and all his senses are at rest and they are useless. Now if that which appertaineth to thy natural body thou dost forsake naturally, and thou dost not do the same voluntarily in respect of thine own person, thou wilt die; but if thy desire dieth through repentance, [thy] nature will cease from this temporary life in the death of the spirit, even as the natural emotions of the body ceased through its natural end.”

690. The brethren said, “To what extent is a man held to be worthy of revelations?” The old man said, “To the same extent as he is held to be worthy to cast off sin inwardly and outwardly. For when a man dieth through spiritual slaughter to all the conversation of this temporary life, and when he hath committed his life to the life which is after the quickening, Divine Grace alighteth upon him, and he is held to be worthy of divine revelations; for the impurity of the world is a dark covering to the soul, and it preventeth it from discerning spiritual meanings.”

691. The brethren said, “Can the man who loveth money befaithful to the promises?” The old man said, “If he believeth why doth he possess [anything]? Is our hope fixed upon gold? Or is the hand of the Lord too short to redeem? He gave us the Body of our Lord for happiness, and His holy Blood as a drink unto our redemption; and hath He kept back from us the loaf of bread and the apparel which grow old? He who loveth money hath a doubt in his mind concerning God, and he prepareth [the means of] life before God giveth them unto him; and, although in his words he rejoiceth in the promises, he maketh them to be a lie by his deeds.True is the word of our Lord, Who said, ‘It is as difficult for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God, as for a camel to go into the eye of a needle’ (St. Matthew 19:24); to possess both God and mammon in one abode is impossible. Now those who follow the ascetic life do not belong to the things which are seen.”

692. The brethren said, ‘Who is truly the man of ascetic excellence?” The old man said, ‘He who at all times crieth out that he is a sinner, and asketh mercy from the Lord, whose speech beareth the sense of discretion, whose feelings bear the excellence of works, who though silent yet speaketh, and who though speaking yet holdeth his peace, and whose acts and deeds bear good fruit to his temporary life and the manifestation of Christ.”

693. The brethren said, “Which is the way of life?” The old man said, “That whereby a man goeth forth from this world in his entrance into the other; 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. Now the true departure from this world is remoteness therefrom.”

694. A brother said, “What shall I do to this world when it troubleth me?” The old man said, “The world troubleth thee because the cares thereof are in thy mind, and love therefor is in thy body, and its delights are in thy heart. Let the world depart from thee, and tear out from thee all the roots (or branches) thereof, and lo, the war thereof will cease from thee. For as long as thy body seeketh [its] pleasures, and its lust is of the world, it is impossible for thee to live.”

695. The brethren said, “What is pure prayer?” The old man said, “That which is of few words and is abundant in deeds. For if [thy] actions be not more than thy petition, thy prayers are mere words wherein the seed of the hands is not; and if it be not thus, why do we ask and not receive, since the mercy of Grace aboundeth. The manner of the penitent is one thing, and the labour of the humble is another; the penitent are hirelings, but the humble are sons.”

696. The brethren said, “By what is the love of money produced?” The old man said, “From lust, for except a man lusteth he will not possess [money], and if he doth not possess [money] he will not lust. When a man lusteth he possesseth [money], and having acquired it he fulfilleth his lust; and having fulfilled his lust, he becometh greedy, and having become greedy he committeth fraud; and having committed fraud his possessions increase, and when his possessions have increased love becometh little in him. And when love hath diminished the remembrance of God is wanting in the heart, and the intelligence becometh darkened, and his power of discernment becometh blinded, and when the power of discernment hath become blinded, the power of distinguishing is darkened, and when the power of distinguishing hath become darkened, the soul goeth blind. And when the soul hath become blind goodness is rooted out therefrom, and wickedness entereth in, and sin hath dominion; and when sin hath obtained dominion the thought of God is blotted out, the passions of the body are roused up, and they seek for the means for working out their needs. And when they have obtained that which they seek it becometh necessary for much money to be gathered together, and when money hath multiplied the pleasure of the body is fulfilled, and a man eateth, and drinketh, and committeth adultery and fornication, and he lieth and acteth fraudulently, and transgresseth the covenant, and he destroyeth the Law, and despiseth the promises, and lust is fulfilled, and God is wroth. For if the lust for the things which are seen be hated in our sight, we shall not love money, but if we perform the lust of the flesh it is necessary to love money, because it belongeth to the flesh and not to the spirit, even as the Apostle said, ‘The flesh hurteth the spirit, and the spirit the flesh, and both are opponents each of other’ ” (Galatians 5:17).

697. The brethren said, “What kind of prayer is that which is not acceptable before God?” The old man said, “[The prayer for the] destruction of enemies. When we ask that evil things [may come] upon those who do harm to us, and for bodily health, and abundance of possessions, and fertility in respect of children, these requests are not acceptable before God. If God beareth with us, who are sinners and who offend Him, how much more is it right that we should bear each with the other? It is, then, not meet that we should ask for the things which concern the body, for the wisdom of God provideth everything [necessary].”

698. The brethren said, “What is purity of soul?” The old man said, “Remoteness from anger, and the error of remembrance of evil things, being weaned from a bitter disposition, friendliness towards our enemies, peace which is superior to troubling, and sincere love which is above the world; by means of these the hidden man is purified, and he putteth on Christ, and is redeemed.”

699. The brethren said, “What is envy?” The old man said, Hatred towards the virtues of others, and wickedness towards the good, and a bitter disposition towards the innocent, and anger against those who are prosperous in this world, and the concealment of the upright acts and deeds of the penitent, and vexation at the peace of the friends of God.”

700. The brethren said, “In what way ought we to pray before God?” The old man said, “For the repentance of sinners, and the finding of the lost, and the drawing nigh of those who are afar off, and friendliness towards those who do us harm, and love towards those who persecute us, and sorrowful care for those who provoke God to wrath. And if a man doeth these things truly and with a penitent mind, the sinners will often gain life, and the living soul will be redeemed. Now the prayer which our Lord delivered to us as to the needs of the body, is one which applieth to the whole community, and it was not uttered for the sake of those who are strangers to the world, and with whom the pleasures of the body are held in contempt. He in whose habitation (or life) the kingdom of God and His righteousness are found lacketh nothing, even when he asketh not.”

701. The brethren said, “What is remoteness from the world?” The old man said, “The thought which vanquisheth the love of the body, for if the body be not trodden down by the lust of patient endurance, a man cannot conquer in the fight.”

702. The brethren said, “Can the soul of a man who is held fast in the love of the things which are seen be pleasing unto God?” The old man said, “Who is able to live in chastity when the body is making demands upon him? Or, how can be found the love of our Lord in the soul which hath its abode with the things which are seen and are corruptible? No man can serve two masters, and the soul cannot please God with spiritual excellence so long as the remembrances of corruptible things are in its mind, for the mind of the flesh is not able to please God; except the world dieth out of the heart humility cannot live therein, and except the body be deprived of its lusts, the soul cannot be purified from thoughts.”

703. The brethren said, “Why is the mind disturbed at the meeting with females?” The old man said, “Because they are employed in the fulfilment of the lust of nature. When the gaze falleth upon the structure which [is intended for] the production of children, and for the pleasures of the body, the poison of olden time seizeth upon a man, and the law of his will becometh confused; now the will conquereth nature, not by the stirring up of the passions, but by the fulfilment of works. The humble by the power of our Lord conquer everything by their love through the patient endurance of the merit of our Lord.”

704. The brethren said, “Who is the mightier man? He who is remote from the world, or he who dwelleth therein?” The old man said, “The mighty man, wheresoever he dwelleth, conquereth whether he be in the world or out of it. Now the Fathers departed to the desert place which was free from noise and tumult, because they were afraid that so long as they abode in the body the passions which afflicted them would cleave unto them; but those who have completed the great strife of their contest in the world [have performed] an act of grace the power whereof hath worked, and still worketh, for the help and benefit of the community. And verily their crown shall be a great one, because into the disturbed and troubled sea of the world their spiritual ship, which was on its way to heaven along the straight path which was full of fear, hath not gone down.”

705. The brethren said, “If a man maketh himself a stranger to the world, is it helpful to his soul?” The old man said, “If it fulfilleth with praise it is helpful, and if it endureth tribulation in chastity, and rejoiceth in our Lord, it is beneficial, but it is not, if it doeth away the good seed and preventethit from producing beloved fruit unto God. If it beareth and is blessed, it hath a reward, but if it lack these things it becometh a wandering to the mind, and a sight which is profitless; but best of all these things is the tranquillity of the mind which is nigh unto God.”

706. The brethren said, “Since all the creatures which God hath made are holy, why were the Fathers in the habit of making the sign of the blessed Cross over such of them as they ate as food?” The old man said, “Verily, all God’s creatures are pure, through the Grace of Him that created them, yet, because sin obtained dominion, every one of them became polluted; then came the advent of our Lord and abrogated sin, and righteousness obtained dominion, and everything became sanctified, whether it was in the heaven or on the earth. But because the blessed Fathers knew the harmful disposition of Satan, who even by means of such things as are used as food carrieth on a war to our injury, they sealed their foods with the holy sign of the Great Cross, that they might bring to naught all the crafts of the Calumniator. For one of the old men said, ‘On one occasion, when I was lying down at night, I thirsted for water to drink. And there was near me a holy man who lived chastely, and he saw me take up a vessel of water 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 there fell from the vessel the Calumniator in the form of a flash of fire; and both he and I saw this, and we marvelled at the great power of the Redeemer, and at the wonderful sign of Hismerit.’ Another version of the story reads:—And one of the Fathers said, On one occasion I was lying down at night, and I thirsted for water to drink. And there was near me a certain widow, who led a chaste life, both when she was with her husband, and afterwards, and she said to me, ‘Wait, master, wait,’ and she made the sign of the Holy Cross over the vessel of water, and straightway the Calumniator fell from the vessel in the form of a flash of fire; and both she and I saw it, and we marvelled at the great power of our Redeemer, and at the wonderful sign of Hismerit. These things were indeed spoken by that holy mouth which was remote from falsehood. Therefore we must necessarily do this (i.e., make the sign of the Cross over our food) for the protection of our life. For against this holy woman who did these things, the enemy waged war openly, according to what I have learned from a certain saint, a chosen man of God, who heard the matter from her own mouth, and he spake thus:—The blessed woman spake unto me, saying, 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, If I am not to pray thus, how shall I pray? And the blessed woman said, Satan said unto me, Pray thus, and say, Glory be unto thee, O Mary, mother of Christ. Then I answered and said unto him, [There are] ashes in thine eyes, O Satan. Why should I forsake the Lord and adore the mother? And Satan disappeared. And the blessed man also said unto me, This same old woman said unto me:—On another occasion I went to church according to custom, and I knelt down and prayed, and then the Enemy came and made blind mine eyes, and I could not see, and I called to one of the women, and she led me to my house. After three days Satan departed from before mine eyes, and he began to go away from before me, and then I said unto him, There is something which I must make thee do. Go thou to the place where thou didst seize upon me; and we went to the church, both he and I, and I left him where he seized upon me. Then I went away a short distance, and when I turned and looked at him I saw that he was standing like a shadow; and I went on again, and then turned, and still I saw him. And I shut the door of the temple and went forth, and then I opened it again and went in, and I saw him still standing [there], and at that time his wiles ceased from me. Such were the great things which happened to that blessed old woman. For the monk must not boast himself over the man who liveth in the world, for there are mighty men in the world; for if such qualities are found in Eve, how much greater ones should be found in the Adam which is redeemed by Adam?”

“One of the Fathers said unto me, ‘One night whilst I was sleeping, the Enemy came and smote me, and said unto me, “Get thee into the world and cultivate righteousness, for why dost thou shut thyself up like a beast in caves?” And knowing the wickedness of the Enemy, who was looking at me with an evil eye, I made the sign of the Cross in his face, and he fled from me. Then he waited a few days, and came and smote me on the neck, and said unto me mockingly, “Now thou art a righteous man, rise up, and get thee into the world, that I may not destroy thee”; and having prayed, and made the sign of the Cross over my face, he departed from me. And a little while afterwards he came again, and sat upon my neck; then I made myself bold, and stood up, and made the sign of the Cross, the emblem of merit, before him, and again he disappeared, for he was unable to resist me. For all these things took place, and happened in very truth, and we may therefore know and understand that there is no rule of life in which God so much rejoiceth, or which is so terrible unto the devils, and unto all evil spirits, as the rule of humility, and penitence of mind, and the subjection of the body, and remoteness from the things which are seen. Whosoever despiseth these things will fall into the mire of the world; and whosoever holdeth in contempt the good riches of the fear of God, shall have his hope of the inheritance of the saints cut off, and of the delights of heaven, which never pass away and never end. May we all be held worthy of these through the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, the True God, to Whom, with His Father, and the Holy Spirit, be glory, now, and always, and for ever and ever! Amen.’ ”








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