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

AND there was also another man whose name was Pachomius, who was seventy years old and who dwelt in that mountain which is called Scete; unto him I once went when lustful thoughts concerning women were afflicting me, and when my mind was dark and obscured by the thoughts of lust, and by the visions and heaviness of the nights, and when I was well nigh departing from the desert, for lust laid upon me many things [hard to bear]. Now I did not reveal unto my neighbours and unto the brethren who were living with me my tribulations, and not even unto my master Evagrius; but I went forth and I began to wander about in the desert, and I saw one of the old men who had grown old in the place—now they were all perfect fathers—and after this I saw this blessed old man Pachomius, and I found that he was superior to them all in his life, and deeds, and in his understanding. And I took courage to reveal unto him the strife of my mind, and he spake unto me thus: “Do not imagine that this is a strange matter in any way. This thing hath not happened unto thee through thine own negligence, and the place itself in which thou livest is a witness for thee, for it is restricted in the matter of things of every kind, and there is no woman therein; this lust hath fallen upon thee through [thy] strenuousness. For this warfare of lust and also of fornication is of a threefold [character]; sometimes it setteth our body against us when it is healthy and well fed, and at others lust itself, with the natural passion which is implanted in us [attacketh us], and at others the Evil One himself because of his envy. And I have watched many times, and I have found that it is even as I have said unto thee.” And he said unto me, “I, the old man whom thou seest, have lived in this cell for forty years, and I have taken the utmost care for my life and for the redemption of my soul, and even in this period of great old age, wherein thou seest that I am, I am greatly tormented by lust.”

And he assured me with an oath, saying, “When I was fifty years old lust placed itself [upon] me for twelve years, never going away from me either by day or by night, and I thought in my mind that God had forsaken me, and therefore (for to such an extent had lust gained dominion over me) I determined in my heart that I would either suffer death through dumb beasts, or that I should become a laughing-stock or a man condemned through the lust of the body. And I went forth and wandered round about in the desert, and I found a den of hyenas, and I laid myself down naked at the entrance thereof that they might come out and devour me. And when it was evening—as it is written, ‘He hath made the darkness, and it becometh night, wherein all the beasts of the forest do move (Psalm 104:20), and the lions roar to break [their prey]’—the hyenas, both male and female, came out, and they all sniffed at (or smelt) me, and licked my body from my head to my feet, and while I was thinking that they would eat me they went away from me; and there I remained the whole of that night, and they ate me not. And again I thought that God had had compassion upon me, and straightway I returned and came to my cell. And that devil of lust, having forborne with me a little, returned once again, and moreover he attacked me more fiercely than before, and he did so with such vigour that by reason of my affliction I well nigh cursed myself. Now, this devil of lust used to take the form of an Ethiopian damsel whom I saw in my early manhood gathering canes in the summer, and he came in her form and sat upon my knees, and he used to set me on fire with lust to such an extent that I imagined I was having intercourse with her, and when through the burning of my heart and the madness thereof, I gave her the cheek, straightway she would lift herself up from me and take to flight. And from the time when I touched her my hand was so polluted that for the space of two hours [afterwards] whensoever I brought my hand near me I was unable [to free it] from her foulness. But again I went forth because of my affliction, and I began to wander about in the desert, and I found a small asp, and I took it and placed its head upon the members of my body, and I squeezed the head of the asp so that it might bite me and I might die, and so find relief, but it bit me not. And after this I heard a voice which came to my ears and said unto me, ‘Depart, Pachomius, and be strong; I have allowed thee to be overcome in order that thou mightest not imagine that thou wast a mighty man and a man of perfection, and that thou hadst triumphed through thine own life and deeds, but that thou mightest know thine infirmity, and the feebleness of thy nature, and that thou mightest not rely upon thine asceticism but mightest confess the help of God and cry out to Him always.’ And having heard these words I returned to my cell, and I dwelt therein with great boldness of heart, and I never again had anxious care concerning this warfare of lust, but I continued in peace for the rest of my days after this warfare. Now, the devil of lust, seeing that I no longer meditated about the matter, never again approached me.” With these words about the striving against Satan the holy man Pachomius confirmed me, and he made me strong to play the man more and more, and to be mighty in the warfare against the devil of fornication, and he dismissed me and said unto me, “Be strong and mighty in our Lord.”








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