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

CONCERNING the blessed man Ammôn, he used to say: He became a monk in this wise: When he was a young man, and was about twenty-two years old, he was left an orphan by his parents. His father’s brother wanted to give him a wife, and because he was unable to resist the counsel of his uncle he was compelled by force to marry one, and to fasten the crown of bridegrooms upon his head, and to take his seat in the marriage chamber, and to fulfil everything according to the law of the marriage feast. Now, Ammôn submitted to everything outwardly, but after every one had gone forth having put Ammôn and his wife to bed in the marriage chamber, the blessed man rose up and shut the door and seated himself. And he called to the true and blessed woman his spouse, and said unto her, “Henceforth thou shalt be my lady and my sister; come therefore, and I will relate unto thee concerning a matter which is more excellent [than marriage]. The marriage which men contract is a perishable thing, but let us choose for ourselves the marriage which perisheth not, and the marriage feast which never endeth. Let us each sleep alone, for in this wise we shall please Christ; and let us guard the glory of our virginity unspotted, so that we may take our rest at the marriage feast which is incorruptible.” Then he took out a book from his bosom and read to the maiden [passages] which were uttered by the Apostles and by our Redeemer, and since she had no knowledge of the Scriptures he added unto their words from his own divine mind. And he read many passages unto her and talked much to her concerning virginity and purity, and at length, by the grace of Christ, she was persuaded. Then she answered and said unto him, “Master, I know well that a rule of life of purity is very much more excellent [than marriage]; therefore whatsoever pleaseth thee that do. And I also from this time forth will be persuaded [to do] whatsoever thou wishest to do.”

Then Ammôn said unto her, “I beg and entreat thee to let each of us from this time forth dwell alone”; but she would not agree to this, and said, “Let us live in the same house, and let each of us have a separate bed.” So they dwelt together holily in the same house for eighteen years. In the morning Ammôn used to go forth and pass the whole day in cultivating the balsam trees which he had in his garden; now the balsam tree is like unto the vine, and must be planted and pruned and cultivated, and it demandeth great attention—and in the evening he entered into his house, and recited his prayers, and then ate with her. And he also rose up to [say] the praises (or hymns) of the night, and as soon as the dawn had come he would depart to the garden. Now as they were doing these things they both removed themselves from passions, and attained unto impassibility, and the prayers of Abbâ Ammôn helped [his wife]. And at length the blessed woman said unto him, “Master, I have something to say unto thee, if thou wilt hearken unto me, and I am convinced that for God’s sake thou lovest me.” The blessed man said unto her, “Tell [me] what thou wishest [to say]”; and she said unto him, “It is not right (seeing that thou art a God-fearing man, and one who liveth a life of righteousness, and that thou hast also made me, outwardly, to yearn for this path [of life], and by the help of divine grace I have gotten purity), to live with me. It is not good that, for my sake, thou who dwellest with me in purity for our Lord’s sake, shouldst hide the spiritual excellence of thy philosophy; for it is not seemly that thy fair deeds should be hidden, and should not be known. Let thy dwelling be apart from me and [thus] thou shalt benefit many.” Then Ammon praised God, and said unto her, “O lady, this mind is beautiful, and if it be acceptable unto thee do thou remain and abide in this house in peace, and I will go and make another for myself.” And having gone forth from her Ammôn departed and entered into Mount Nitria, where as yet the monasteries were not numerous, indeed up to that time there were no monasteries at all there; and he built himself a habitation there, and dwelt therein for two and twenty years. And having attained unto the highest practice of the labours of the ascetic life he ended his days, that is to say, the holy man Ammôn went to his rest and slept when he was sixty-two years of age. Twice in the year he used to go and see his spouse; and he died in his virginity, and his wife likewise brought the years of her life to an end in purity.

Now the following wonderful thing is told concerning him by the blessed Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, in the book which he composed about the life and deeds of the blessed Anthony. Once when he was about to cross the river which is called “the Wolf” with Theodore his disciple, he was ashamed to take off his clothes [lest] he might see the nakedness of his person. And being doubtful in his mind (literally thoughts) how he should cross over wonder fell upon him, and through an angel he crossed the river without any [boat] whatsoever [on his part]. It was the same Ammôn who saw the blessed man Anthony, who lived and died in such wise that his soul was taken to heaven by angels, and it was he who passed over the waters by the might of the Holy Spirit. Now as concerning this river which is called “the Wolf,” I myself was once in great fear when I was crossing it in a boat, because it is filled with the overflow of the waters of the Nile.








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