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

THERE was a certain man whose name was Elijah who loved the virgins exceedingly, for there are souls which are thus inclined, and having compassion upon the order of virgins [and] women who lived celibate lives in Thebes, and in the cities which were [round about], and in the city of Atrêpe (near Akhmîm), and possessing many flocks and herds, he built a large nunnery, and he gathered together thereunto every woman who chose to adopt the garb of the nun, and placed them therein. And with ready will he took care to provide them with everything which was necessary for them, and he supplied everything required for their well-being, and he also made a garden for them, and he filled their every want with great zeal and care, for our Lord’s sake. And inasmuch as these women were gathered together from various places, they used to quarrel with each other continually, and because it was meet to keep them in order (now he had gathered together about three hundred), he was obliged to take means to pacify them; and he hearkened unto their affairs and arranged the disputes which broke out among them for the space of two years.

Now this man being young, that is to say being about thirty or forty years old, more or less, was vexed by the passion of lust, and for this reason he departed from that nunnery, and wandered about for two days in the desert, and he made entreaty and supplication unto God, saying, “O Lord, either kill me so that l may not see those who are in trouble and may not become afflicted thereby, or remove from me this passion, so that I may be able to provide for the women in everything.” And when the even tide had come he lay down and slept in the desert and, according to what he related, three angels came to him and took hold of him, saying, “Why didst thou go forth from the nunnery?” And he related unto them the matter and said unto them, “I was afraid lest I should do harm not only unto them, but unto mine own soul also.” The angels said unto him, “If now we make thee to be free from this passion wilt thou go and take care of the women in the nunnery?” And having promised that he would do this they required from him an oath, and the oath which he uttered was as follows; the angels said, “Swear an oath unto us,” and he said: “I swear by Him Who taketh care of me, that I will take care of them.” Then having laid hold of him by his hands and his feet, one of them took a razor and mutilated him, not indeed in very truth but only apparently and in a phantomlike manner, and he imagined in the vision that, as one might say, he had been cured of his malady. And next they asked him, “Feelest thou that thou hast been helped?” And he said unto them, “I am greatly relieved, and I feel sure that I have been set free from the pain and suffering, and that I have already been delivered therefrom.” Then the angels said unto him, “Depart and return.” And after five days, whilst the women who were in the nunnery were weeping because of what had taken place, and because he had forsaken them, and because the care which he had taken for their needs had come to an end, he entered into the monastery wherein they were; and he dwelt there from that time onward in the cells, in a place which was nigh unto them, and according to his power he ordered their lives for them. And he lived other forty years, and he said unto the fathers, “This passion of lust hath never since roused itself up in my mind”; now this act of grace happened to that holy man because of care which he exhibited in respect of that nunnery.








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