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

CONCERNING the holy and immortal fathers, that is to say Macarius the Egyptian, and Macarius the Alexandrian, who were men to be feared and who were invincible athletes, and concerning the strife of their life and deeds, and conversation, it is exceedingly right and good that we should tell the story. Perhaps it will not be accepted by the unbelievers, and therefore I find it difficult to relate their history, and to set it down completely in writing, lest by so doing I should be accounted a liar; and that the Lord destroyeth those who speak falsehood the Holy Spirit maketh clearly manifest. Now, as I myself do not put to the lie the help of Christ, do not thou, O Lausus, thou believer in men, become an unbeliever in the triumphs of the holy fathers which are spoken of, but adorn thyself more and more with the deeds and conversation of these glorious men who were in very truth, even as they are called, blessed men.

The athlete of Christ, the first Macarius, was by race an Egyptian, and the second Macarius, although he was second to him in the matter of age, was nevertheless first in the opinion of the monks (or solitaries); and this man, whose name also was Macarius, which is interpreted “blessed,” was from the city of Alexandria, and he was [one] of those who sold dried fruit and wine.

In another manuscript I have found a different version [of the history of the two Macarii which I have used] in the preparation of [this] history, and I set this down here also; now it reads as follows:

And as concerning the two blessed men whose names were the same, inasmuch as their rule of life and conversation were of an exceedingly exalted character, perhaps many will not believe [what I write]. I, however, am afraid lest I may understate and belittle their triumphs in any way whatsoever, and lie concerning them, for it is written, “Thou wilt destroy those who speak falsehood” (Psalm 12:3). The Holy Spirit hath passed this sentence upon me, therefore, O beloved and faithful men, believe ye me. Now one of these two blessed men was an Egyptian by race, and the other was an Alexandrian who sold dried fruits. First of all I will tell the story of the ascetic excellences of Macarius the Egyptian, the whole of whose years were ninety; he was thirty years old when he went up to the desert, and [he] lived therein for sixty years. And he was given the gift of [performing] mighty deeds in such a remarkable manner that he was called by the fathers “the aged youth,” because straightway and quickly he ascended to the highest grade of ascetic excellence and gifts, and to the power of interpreting the Scriptures, and to spiritual foresight. And the gift of possessing power over devils was also given to him, and he was also esteemed worthy of the priesthood. With this blessed man there lived in the further (or inner) desert, which is called “Scete,” two disciples; one of these was his servant, for many folk were wont to come unto him to be healed, and the other remained always in a cell which was nigh unto Macarius. And when much time had passed by, Macarius looked and said unto him that ministered unto him (now his name was John, and he afterwards became the elder in the place of the blessed man), he answered, I say, and said unto him, “Hear me, O John, and receive the rebuke with which I rebuke thee. For thou art suffering temptation, and behold the spirit of the love of money (i.e., avarice) tempteth thee, for even so have I seen. And I know that if thou wilt listen unto me thy end in this place shall be praised, and no harm shall draw nigh unto thy habitation. But if thou wilt not hearken unto me, because of the love of money which moveth thee, the leprosy of Gehazi (2 Kings 5:27) shall come upon thee at the end.” And it came to pass some fifteen or twenty years after the death of the blessed man, John forgot his commandment, and because he used to steal from the poor, his body became so covered with leprosy that there was not in the whole of it one sound spot large enough for a man to lay his finger upon. Thus the prophecy of the blessed Macarius concerning John actually came to pass.

Now if we were to attempt to describe the food and drink of the holy man, we should do what is superfluous, because among the thoughtless monks who lived in that place there was not to be found any one thing which could lead to excess either in eating or drinking; first because of the poverty of the spot, and secondly because of the divine zeal which they display towards each other. But I may mention his sad and stern habits of self-denial in various other ways. And they relate concerning him that he was at all times in a state of wonder at some divine vision, and that he used to become like a drunken man by reason of some hidden vision, and that his mind was more often exalted unto God than it was concerned with the things which are in this world, and those which are under the heavens. And, as concerning the wonderful things which God wrought by his hands, it is not seemly that we should keep silence, and of him the following marvellous things are told.

A certain Egyptian loved another man’s wife, but since he was not able to incite her to love him and to make her yield to his will, he spake unto a certain magician, saying, “Make this woman to love me, or employ thy sorcery in some way so that her husband may hate her, and cast her out.” Now when the magician had received money not a little, he made use of his sorceries, and he made the woman to appear in the form of a mare; and when her husband went into his house from outside, and saw her, astonishment seized him [at the sight of] a mare lying upon his bed. Then he lifted up his voice in a sorrowful cry, and he wept tears, and heaved sighs; and he spake with her, but she made no reply unto him, and she answered him not a word. And having seen what had taken place, he went to the elder of the village (i.e., the Shêkh al-Balad), and told him concerning this matter, and brought him and took him in and shewed him what had happened. And for a space of three days he knew not what the matter was, for the mare neither ate dried grass like an animal, nor did she partake of bread like a daughter of man; and she did without food of either kind. Finally, however, in order that God might be glorified, and a miracle might also be made manifest at the hands of the blessed Macarius, and his spiritual perfection be made known, it entered into the mind of the man who was the woman’s husband to take her to the desert to the blessed Macarius. And having saddled her like a mare, and thrown over her a halter, like an animal, he led her away and departed to the desert.

And when the man arrived at the cell of the blessed Macarius, the brethren who were standing by the side of the cell of the blessed Macarius saw him, and they wanted to keep back the husband of the woman, and strove with him, saying, “Why hast thou brought this mare into the desert?” And the man said unto them, “That she may receive mercy, and be healed.” They said unto him, “What aileth her?” And he answered and said unto them, “She is a woman who hath been suddenly transformed into a mare, and behold, she hath eaten no food for three days.” Then the brethren went and told the blessed Macarius what the matter was, and when they came to inform him they found him standing inside [his cell] and praying for her, for God had already revealed this matter unto him, and he was praying for the woman. And the holy man Macarius answered and said unto his disciples: “Ye are mares which have the eyes of horses; but that mare is a woman. She hath not been changed from her nature of a woman except in the sight to those who have made a mistake; and that she appeareth as a mare is only an error of the sight of those who see her.” Then the blessed man took water and blessed it, and he threw it over her head and it ran down all over her body; and the blessed man prayed and straightway he made her to appear in the form of a woman to every man. Then he gave her some sacramental bread and made her to eat it before every man, and then he sent her away healed with her husband; and they departed from him rejoicing and praising God. And the blessed man exhorted the woman, and said unto her, “Be not at any time remote from the Church, and deprive not thyself of the Holy Mysteries, for all these things have happened unto thee because for five weeks thou didst not partake of the Offering.”

Let us now speak about his other excellences, and also of his sad and stern habits of self-denial in other particulars. Now because the large numbers of people who came to be blessed by him gave him much trouble, he thought out the following plan in his mind. He dug out a passage (or trench) in his cell which was about twenty measures [in width], and he made from it a tunnel of considerable length, [and it extended] from his cell to the distance of half a mile; at the place where the passage came to an end he made above the end of it a small cave. And when large numbers of people came to him and troubled him, he used to leave his cell secretly and pass along hidden by the tunnel and hide himself in the cave, where no one could find him. Now he used to do this whenever he wished to escape from the vain praise (or glory) of the children of men. And one of his most strenuous disciples told us, saying, “As he was going from his cell to the cave he used to recite four and twenty antiphons, and as he was coming back four and twenty also; and whenever he went from his cell to the church he used to pray four and twenty prayers during his passage [thither], and four and twenty as he was coming back.” And moreover, they say that he gave life to a dead man in order that he might convert a certain heathen who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, and this was spoken of throughout the desert.

Once a certain unmarried man who was vexed by an evil devil was brought unto Macarius, being carefully fettered by two other men, and his mother had caused him to be brought unto him. Now the devil used to act upon him in the following manner. After he had eaten three baskets of bread and drunk three bottles of water he used to vomit, and scatter the bread and water in the air in the form of smoky vapour, and in this wise his food and his drink were consumed in waste, even as anything which is cast into the fire is consumed. Now there are certain kinds of devils which are called “fiery,” for there are varieties among devils even as there are among men, in disposition if not in nature. And inasmuch as his mother had not that wherewith to satisfy him, he used to eat his own offal and drink his own water; and his mother besought the blessed man with tears on behalf of her son, and Macarius took him and prayed over him, and entreated God on his behalf. And a day or two after he had healed him of his trial, the blessed man cried unto the mother of the young man, and said unto her, “How much hast thou need of for the food of one day for him?” And she said unto him, “Ten pounds of bread.” Then he rebuked her and said, “Thou hast said too much.” And after seven days Macarius made the young man so that he needed to eat three pounds [only, which was sufficient for him] to work upon and live. Now this miracle God wrought by the hand of the blessed Macarius, whose soul now sojourneth with the angels. I never saw this man, for he died one year before I entered the desert.

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