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

CONCERNING Abbâ Paulus there were questions among the monks and anchorites who were living in the land of Egypt, and they asked who were the first monks who lived in the desert. And some of them remembered the saints of olden time, and said, “It hath been proved that the first to dwell in the desert were Saint Elijah the Prophet, and John the Baptist, and it is manifest that Elijah was immeasurably superior in ascetic excellence to the [other]monks, and, moreover, John was proclaimed in the womb to be a prophet before he was born.” Now there were many who contradicted this opinion and who asserted with firmness that Mâr Anthony was the first and the prince of them all, and also of the order [of monks]; but if we wish to learn the whole truth we shall discover that it was not Mâr Anthony who was the first [monk] that dwelt in the desert, but the blessed man Mâr Paulus. For I myself have seen the disciples of Mâr Anthony who buried him, and they it was who related unto us the history of the man Paulus the anchorite, the Theban, who was indeed the first [monk to live] in the desert; therefore we believe that it was not the blessed man [Anthony] who was the first to do this, as some men say, but Paulus, and for this reason I wish to narrate briefly the history of Paulus the anchorite, and how he began and how he ended his [career] in the days of Decius and Valerianus the persecutors, and [how] Cornelius made an end of the strife of his testimony for the sake of the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ in Rome.

Now this blessed man Paulus dwelt with his sister, who was the wife of a certain man; and their parents died and left them great riches when the blessed man Paulus was sixteen years of age. And he had been educated in the learning of the Greeks and the Egyptians, and he was meek of soul, and he loved God thoroughly. And when the persecution of the Christians waxed strong, he remained continually in one place, and he took care of himself at all seasons (or continually). Now the avarice which constraineth the race of the children of men to commit evil deeds did not cease from him, for his sister’s husband, instead of hiding him, endeavoured most strenuously to give him up [to the persecutors], and he neither had pity upon the tears of his wife nor did he fear the judgement of God; and he desisted not from this iniquitous conduct, but continued in his envy and sought always to give him up because he was a Christian. And the wise young man, having comprehended his guile and knowing that he was lying in wait for him, took to flight secretly, and he went to a certain high mountain which he found to be not what he desired, and he changed his place [of abode] on account of the violence (or necessity) of the persecution; but as he was living there, little by little he found out in the mountain a rock, wherein was a large cave, which was shut in with a stone, and having lifted up the stone he found within great repose, and he looked inside with great desire. And he discovered that the cave was clean, and that the dust of the ground also was fair, and he loved the place and dwelt there, and he gave thanks unto God Who had given it unto him for a dwelling-place; and he lived in that mountain all the days of his life, and his food and his raiment were made of the palm trees which were in the mountain. Now in order that no man may say, “How is this possible?” I take God and His holy angels to witness that we have seen many monks [living] in this fashion, and that they have brought their lives to an end in this way, and have not been afraid of Satan.

I must not, however, neglect the history of the blessed man Paulus. This holy man lived a heavenly life upon the earth in love to our Lord for one hundred and thirteen years; and Mâr Anthony, who was ninety years old at the time, was living in another desert. And Mâr Anthony on one occasion told me the following: “I once thought within myself that there was no man living beyond me in the desert, and on the night wherein I pondered upon these things in my mind, it was revealed unto me from God [by one] who said unto me, ‘Beyond thee [in the desert] there is a man who is more excellent than thou art, and it is meet that thou shouldst [go and] see him with all diligence, and with great joy.’ ” And when the morning had come, the blessed old man Mâr Anthony took the palm branch whereon he leaned his weight, and he began to walk in the desert as his mind directed, because he did not know the way; and when it was noon, although the heat of the sun was fierce and burning, the blessed old man did not turn aside from the way, but he said, “I believe that God will not withdraw [His] hands from me, but will shew me His servant concerning whom He hath sent me a revelation.”

And as he was thinking thus about him he suddenly saw a man who possessed two natures, one half of him being that of a man, and the other half being that of a horse; now the poets call this being a “centaur.” Then the blessed Anthony called unto him and said, “I, a man of God, say unto thee, ‘Where dost thou dwell here?’ ” And the creature returned him an answer in a barbarous language with words of impurity, and his mouth was full of fear; so the old man went on his journey seeking out the way. And as Anthony was marvelling [at this thing] the animal passed in front of him as if [it were going] to a broad field, and [Anthony knew that] it was Satan who had taken the form of the creature in order that he might terrify the blessed man, and he wondered at the similitude of the form which he had seen in the animal. And having passed on a little way further he saw another animal, which was smaller in stature than the first one, and he was standing on a rock, and he had horns upon his head and on his forehead; and when the blessed Anthony saw him he put on the helmet of faith and [took the] shield of righteousness, and he asked him, “Who art thou whom I see here?” And the creature answered and said unto him, “I am a mortal man and one of these who are in the desert, whom the heathen call ‘satyrs,’ and whom because of their error concerning them they worship as a god”; and the beast having spoken these words the old man Anthony went on his way, and his tears were flowing and they ran down upon the ground, but he rejoiced because of the glory of Christ, and because of the destruction of Satan, and he wondered within himself how he had been able to understand the words of the animal. Then he smote the ground with his staff and said, “Woe be to Alexandria! Woe be to the city of the heathen, wherein are gathered together all the devils of all creation!”

And Anthony went on his journey thinking anxiously [how] he could attain to the end thereof, and he wished to find the servant of God; and whilst he was meditating what he should do and where he should go, he observed on the flat surface of the desert the footprints of an animal which had passed over the spot that very day. Then he meditated within himself, saying, “It is impossible for our Lord to forsake me”; and he journeyed on his way during the night with his prayers in his mouth continually. And when the morning had come he saw a huge hyena, running with all its might up to the top of a mountain, and he followed in its footsteps, and having ascended the mountain he came nigh unto a cave, and saw the hyena going into it; and he looked into the cave and saw perfect love, that is to say, Mâr Paule, the old man. Then he cast away from him all fear and doubtful thoughts, and looking into the cave he saw that there was much light therein, and he approached the door of the cave, and knocked thereat with a small stone, but as soon as the blessed man Paule heard the sound of the knocking he rolled the stone [down] quickly and closed the entrance of the cave. Then Anthony fell upon his face before the door of the cave and besought him to let him come in, and said, “I am alone”; [and the blessed man Paule answered and said, “Why hast thou come?”] And Anthony said, “I know that I am not worthy to see thee, but since thou receivest wild beasts why dost thou hold the children of men in abhorrence? I have sought and have found [thee], and I knocked with confidence; open thou then the door unto me. And if this may not be I shall die here, and when thou seest my dead body do thou bury it.” And when with these words Anthony had taken up his position there the blessed man Paule answered from within and said unto him, “No man who is angry cometh [in here], and no man entreateth [for admission] and maketh accusations”; then he spake unto him words of gladness, and he opened unto him the door, and they met and embraced each other and kissed each other with holy kisses, and each man told his fellow his name.

Then after these things the blessed man Paule made Mâr Anthony sit by his side, and he said unto him, “Why didst thou cast upon thyself all this tribulation, and the great labour of seeking to see an old man whose body is altogether withered and emaciated? After a short time thou wilt see that I have become dust; but love overcometh all things. Tell me now what is the present condition of the race of the children of men, and whether they are still building houses in the ancient cities, and whether there are still kings in the world, and whether the governors of the world are still in subjection to the error of devils.” And having said these things unto Anthony the two of them looked and they saw a raven sitting on the branch of a tree, and straightway it stood up with great quietness upon the branch, and it had in its beak a whole loaf of bread which it came and laid down between them, whilst both men were looking on; and when the bird had departed they both marvelled. And the blessed Paule said unto Mâr Anthony, “Truly our Lord is merciful and pitiful in that He sendeth us a meal [in this way]. For behold, for fully sixty years I have been in the habit of receiving from this bird half a loaf of bread [daily], but at thy coming, behold, our Lord hath sent unto us a double portion of food because we are His servants.” Then having given thanks unto God, both men sat down at the table, and they disputed with each other who should first break the bread, and whilst they were thus disputing the night came on; thereupon the two men took the bread and spread out their hands, and brake the loaf in the Name of our Lord, and ate it, and having eaten they stood up the whole night in prayer.

Now when the morning had come Paule said unto Anthony, “Thou must know, O my brother Anthony, that I have been living in the desert for a long time past, and that it was our Lord Himself who revealed unto me what manner of man thou art; but, because the time of my rest hath come, and because that which I have been seeking, that is to say, that I should depart and be with our Lord, is about to overtake me [I could not go to see thee]. And now that my time hath come to an end, and, as I believe, a crown of righteousness hath been laid up for me, thou hast been sent by our Lord that thou mayest bury my body in the ground.” Now whilst the blessed man Paule was saying these things Mâr Anthony was weeping with many tears and heaving sighs, and he made supplication unto him, and said, “O my beloved one, leave thou me not here, but take me with thee whither thou goest.” And the blessed Paule answered and said unto him, “It is not meet that thou shouldst seek thine own [advantage], but that of thy neighbours, and therefore, O my beloved, I beseech thee, if it be not a thing which is too hard for thee, to go quickly to thy monastery, and to bring hither to me the cloak which Mâr Athanasius the Bishop gave thee.” Now he did not speak thus because he had need of any apparel, but because he wished to depart from his body whilst Mâr Anthony was absent.

And when Anthony heard concerning the Bishop and concerning his cloak, he marvelled within himself, and having looked upon the blessed Paule in our Lord Jesus, and bowed down before him, he prayed and set forth to go on his journey, and he approached and kissed him on his eyes and on his hands, and he made haste and went forth to depart to his monastery. And having made the journey and arrived at this monastery, his two disciples, who had been seeking him for a long time, met him, and they said unto him, “O father, where hast thou been these days?” And he answered and said unto them, “Woe be unto me! woe be unto me a sinner! For the name of ‘Christian’ which I bear is only a borrowed thing. This day have I seen Elijah and John in the desert, for verily I have seen Paule in Paradise, and he was holding converse with them”; and Mâr Anthony smote with his hand upon his breast, and he took the cloak and went from his disciples, who besought him to reveal unto them the whole matter. And he said unto them, “There is a time to be silent, and a time to speak”; so he departed and went forth on his way without taking any provision whatsoever with him. And he made haste to come to the place where the blessed man Paule was, for he desired earnestly to see him [again], and he was afraid lest whilst he was yet afar off Paule might deliver himself up unto our Lord. And he journeyed on his way the first day, but on the second day, at the time of the ninth hour, he saw along the road, in the air, a company of angels, and a multitude of the Prophets and of the Apostles, and Abbâ Paule, who was shining with light like the sun, was in their midst, and he went up with them into heaven. And immediately he saw them he fell upon his face on the ground, and he sighed and wept, and cried out, and said, “O fearer of God, why hast thou left me thus? And why didst thou not receive my salutation together with all [the toil of] this journey which I have made as swiftly as a bird?”

And Mâr Anthony went on his way and arrived at the cave, and he saw Abbâ Paule kneeling upon his knees, with his face gazing into heaven and his hands spread out; and seeing him thus Mâr Anthony thought within himself, and said, “Perhaps he is alive”; and he prayed fervently, and the blessed Paule also stood up and prayed with him. And when some time had elapsed, and he heard neither the sound[s] nor the sighs which are customary in prayer, he knew that it was only the body of Abbâ Paule which prayed; and he bowed down before God, in Whom everything liveth, and he placed the body in the middle of the cloak, and wrapped it in it, and he took it upon his shoulders; and though he sang Psalms, according to the custom of the monks, the blessed Anthony was greatly grieved because he had not remembered to bring with him a spade or some other instrument wherewith to dig a grave for the body. Then he meditated within himself and said, “What shall I do? If I go to my monastery and bring a spade I cannot possibly return here in less than four days”; and he said, “O Jesus Christ, let me also die with Thy beloved servant Paule.”

Now as he was saying these things, behold, two lions came running along together, and when he saw them his whole body smoked with fear; and when he had lifted up his mind to God and had looked at them again, they appeared to be doves flying through the air. And the lions drew nigh and stood near the body of the blessed Paule, and they wagged their tails at the blessed Anthony, and they crouched down before him in perfect tameness, and they rubbed their teeth together and purred so loudly that the blessed man knew that they wished to be blessed, and to be helped, and that they desired [to know] concerning the departure of the blessed Paule. And after they had acted thus, the lions began to dig [a grave], and they threw up the earth with their paws, and they made the hole in the ground deep enough, and wide enough, and long enough, according to the measure of the body; and they lowered their ears and their tails, and bowed down their heads before Abbâ Anthony, and they licked his hands and his feet, and he knew that they wished to be blessed. Then he gave thanks for the glory of God because that even the wild and savage beasts knew how to [help] the good and chosen men of God, and he spake thus:—“O Lord God, without Whose command not one leaf falleth to the ground, and against Whose Will not one bird droppeth into the snare, do Thou bless all of us.” And he brought his hand nigh unto the lions, and commanded them to depart; and when the two lions had gone away Anthony took the body and buried it in the customary way. Then, after one day, he took the tunic of Abbâ Paule, which was made of palm leaves sewn together, like a true inheritance and a thing which brought privilege, and departed to his monastery. And when he had arrived there he related unto the monks the whole matter in due order; and on the feast of unleavened bread and at Pentecost Saint Anthony used to put on the tunic of the blessed and holy man Paule, and he would pray with it upon him.

And I, Hieronymus the sinner, entreat all those who read this book to pray for me. [In the text here comes the following note by some editor of Palladius:]

Concerning these histories of Paule, and of the company of Mark (?), and of Macarius, there are some who say that they were compiled by Hieronymus because his name occurs at the end of them.

Here endeth the History of Mar Paule, the holy Man, the Firstborn of all the Desert Monks








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