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

THERE was a certain old man who used to live in the desert which is called Scete, and he had a disciple who lived with him; now this [latter] brother was adorned with the spiritual excellences of every kind which befit those who are in subjection to old men, and he was exceedingly conspicuous for his obedience, which was the greatest of all his virtues. And he was sent to the village continually by the old man to sell their work, and to bring back whatsoever was needed for their habitation, and that brother, without any compulsion whatsoever, performed every command which the old man gave him with zeal and diligence. Now when the enemy of righteousness, the Foe of the human race, and especially of the orders of the monks, that is to say, Satan, the opponent of all virtues and the hater of the upright life of the children of men, saw that this brother was overcoming and bringing to naught all his crafty designs by the might of his simple obedience, which was full of discretion, he made a plan to lay two snares for him in the path of his spiritual excellence, even as it is said concerning him in the Psalm, as it were by the mouth of those who cultivate spiritual excellence, and who walk in the way of righteousness, “In the way of my steps have they hidden snares for me” (Psalm 142:3). Now the two snares were these:—The first consisted in making that brother to pursue fornication, and the second was in making him to fall into disobedience; and the Enemy, in his cunning, expected that the brother would not only be caught by one of these, and so become involved in both, but also that deliverance from the one would be found to be the occasion for his falling into the other, for he saw that he was being sent continually to Egypt by his master [on the business] of the work of their hands and of the matter of their need.

And one day, when that brother was carrying on his shoulders something which he wished to sell, and was going about in the market of the village according to his wont, it happened that owing to the sight of a woman, who was a virgin, and who was continually coming in his way, and who bought from him some of the wares which he carried, the war of fornication rose up against him suddenly by the operation of the Evil One. Now when this thing had thus come to pass the evil cunning of the Devil did not depart from that discreet brother, but he meditated within himself and said, “Both matters are exceedingly difficult for me. Peradventure, if through some reason such as this which the Enemy hath prepared for me, I reject the command of the old man, and do not go up [to him], I shall always be in the habit [of thinking] that I have treated the command of the old man with contempt; and if I do go up [to him] I shall be oppressed for a very long time with the war of fornication.”

And when that brother had passed much time in tribulation, and in such thoughts as these, and in doubts of mind, and still did not know which course of action to choose and which to reject, he drew nigh unto a certain old man who dwelt close by them, and who was great and skilled in all [such matters], and made known his business unto him, and spake unto him thus: “Father, what shall I do, for the war of fornication hath risen up against me? My father sendeth me always to the village for that which we need, and every time I go to the village I am vexed with thoughts about fornication, through which I am thrown into a strife, and I know not what to do; if I obey my father, and go to the village, the war which is stirred up against me will become fiercer, and if I remain here and do not go I shall be a disobedient [disciple]. I beseech thee to give me the advice which shall be beneficial for me, and pray thou on my behalf, for I am greatly vexed.” And when the old man had heard these words, he answered and said unto him, “My son, if I were thou, I should, with God’s help, obey my father, [and should overcome the war of fornication].” Then that brother said unto him, “I beseech thee, O my lord, to perform an act of grace, and teach thou me the object of this conquest, and help me with thy prayers.” Then the old man said unto him, “Know, O my brother, that Satan is not so anxious to cast thee into fornication as he is to dismiss thee from obedience, and to make thee disobedient and rebellious, and he plotteth always with exceedingly great care to make thee thus; for Satan himself hath been acquainted with disobedience from the beginning, and he knoweth that it is the cause of every kind of condemnation and of wickedness to those who possess it. And, O my son, let it be certain to thee that, if he vanquish thee by means of it, thou wilt be, as it were, stripped henceforth of the help of the power of obedience, and of thy father’s prayers, whensoever he casteth thee into the passion of fornication, and he will be able to drag thee down into passions of all kinds easily. But if thou dost vanquish him first of all in the matter of obedience, and dost thyself abide therein undoubtingly, and dost believe in the prayers of thy father, God will make thee to prosper in every strife with a crown of righteousness, and He will give thee victory in every war with the Calumniator. For he, who for the sake of God acteth in obedience to his father, also acteth obediently unto God; now obedience unto God is the victory over all passions. Go therefore, O my son, and obey thy father faithfully and unhesitatingly, and when the war cometh upon thee say thus: ‘O God of my father, help me!’ ”

Now when the Adversary saw that that brother was armed with the wise and powerful words of the old man as with an impregnable coat of mail, and had prepared himself strenuously for the contest, he changed the method of attack which he had formerly employed, and instead of vexing that brother with thoughts about the woman as he had done at first, he left him, since he was prepared and was sufficiently strong to stand up against him, and went to the feeble woman who lacked both discernment and help—for it hath been his custom always to run to the weak and sluggish side of disciples, and to overcome the strenuous by means of it—and as he overcame Adam by means of Eve, and as he overcame other [saints] by means of other things, even so did he act towards this marvellous brother who, through this cunning, gained condemnation and shame, even as did Job, and Joseph, and others.

Now therefore when this brother according to custom had taken his work, and had readily gone up to Egypt, and had arrived at the village wherein he was wont to sell it, Satan stirred up that woman to go forth to meet him as it were by chance, and having seen that brother and being inflamed through the operation of Satan with the fire of love for him, she drew nigh unto him by means of some crafty device, and took him and brought him into her house, with the excuse that she was going to buy something from him; and after they had gone in, and she had shut the door upon them, she began to throw herself upon him. Then that brother, with faith wherein there was no doubt, cried out with a loud voice and said, “O God of my father, help me!” And immediately, by the agency of God, he found himself upon the road to Scete, and by the Divine help the Calumniator was put to shame, and the war of fornication ceased from that brother. And when he had come to the old man with whom he lived, and he had narrated to him the whole matter and what had happened, they gave thanks to God and glorified Him Who had hearkened unto the voice of His servants and had redeemed them out of the hand of their enemies, and had saved them from the snares of the Calumniator. May our Lord hide us beneath the wings of His mercifulness and [save] us from all the evil workings of the Calumniator! Amen.








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