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

The copyist adds the note: “We have found [the story of] this wandering monk and recluse following [that of] the recluse John of Lycus.”

THERE was a certain distinguished wandering monk who (as have heard from the famous monks who dwelt by the side of the country of Antinoë) lived a life of great sanctity in the mountains, and many folks were helped by him both by word and deed. And the Enemy had envy of him, even as he hath of every [good] man, and he cast into his mind thoughts which appeared to be humble, saying, “It is not seemly for thee to be ministered unto and treated with honour by others, for thou shouldst minister unto thyself. Go therefore to the city and sell thy plaited baskets thyself, and buy whatsoever thou hast need of, and lay no burden upon any man.” Now the crafty one counselled him in this wise because he was envious of the assistance which he obtained from the silent contemplation and constant [prayer], and because he kept God in his mind, and he was laying nets for him, and was trying to snare him by every means in his power. And the monk, being convinced as it were by [a counsellor of] good, for he was not greatly skilled [in the knowledge] of the cunning and of the abundant wickedness of him that was lurking in ambush, went down from the mountain, and the brethren marvelled, because he was a wandering monk, who was well known and famous; and thus in a short time, through want of care and also through converse with women, he was caught in the toils and fell.

And he came to the river [Nile] in a desolate place (now there was with him the Enemy who had cast him down and who rejoiced because of his fall, and because many folk would be made to offend through hearing thereof); and because he had greatly grieved the Spirit of God, and the Angels, and the holy Fathers of the same class as himself, having become unlike any of those who in the cities and everywhere else had overcome [Satan]; and because he had forgotten that great might was nigh unto him [that fighteth] against the Enemy, and who truly hath his hope in the Lord, because, I say, he forgot that this help existed, he fell into error, and knew not how he was to be healed, and wished to throw himself into the river flood and die. And moreover, although his body was brought exceedingly low, through the suffering of his soul, it would have been in vain had not at length the mercy of God helped him not to die (which would have afforded perfect joy to the Enemy), [and it urged him] to depart again with weeping and bitter suffering of heart, and, as was meet, to make supplication to the compassion of God. And thus, having returned to his place and blocked up the window of his cell, he wept, as was right, after the manner of one who weepeth in a suitable manner over a dead person, and he reduced his body to emaciation by means of his fasting, and vigil, and grief, for the expectation of his repentance had not as yet come to him.

And on several occasions, when the brethren came to comfort him, and knocked at his door, because he had no excuse to make he would say, “Pray ye for me, O my brethren, for I have made a covenant to live a life of silent contemplation all my days, having everything of which I have need.” Then they would go away having no hope whatsoever for him; now he was a monk who was very precious in their sight. And from Pentecost, when the brethren were in the habit of relaxing their severe rules of life, and when they ate freely—now because of his fall that monk did not act thus—onwards, throughout the whole year until the feast of unleavened bread, he prayed with tears, and he vexed sorely the life of his flesh, and was crucified with Christ. But on the eve of the [day of] the Resurrection, at the rejoicing of the holy First Day of the week, he took a new lamp, and trimmed it ready for lighting, and he set it in a new vessel likewise, and covered it over, and being unable to stand up in prayer, he said, “O Thou Merciful One, Who desirest that the Barbarians and all the people who are without God should have knowledge of Thee, and should turn to Thee, and Who alone art the true Physician of souls, have mercy upon me, for I know that I have made Thee wroth not a little. I have obeyed the Enemy even to my death and, behold, I am a dead man. O Thou Who didst teach the children of men who were not merciful to shew mercy to each other, O have mercy upon me! For unto Thee nothing is impossible, even though I be brought down as as low as the dust in Sheol. But Thou art the Lord of Thy hosts, and Thou art He Who is good unto those whom Thou hast fashioned, and Thou art He who shall raise up the dead bodies [of those who] have no being, and Who shall make them to have being in the Day of Resurrection; answer Thou me because my heart and my body are sick, for I am overcome by the fear of Thee and am ready to perish, and I cannot live any longer. And, because as yet I have no confidence in [my] repentance, a twofold destruction have I in my despair. Show compassion upon me, O Merciful One, and kindle this lamp by Thy light, so that I by means thereof may receive the encouragement of Thy mercy, and may pass the remainder of my life which Thou wilt bestow upon me in the way which shall please Thee, and may never again as long as I live be unmindful of the fear of Thy Commandments.”

And he said these things with tears on his face, and he rose up to see if the lamp had been lighted, and he uncovered it, and saw that there was no light in it. Then he fell upon his face as he had done before, and he besought the Lord frequently, saying, “O Lord, Thou knowest that the strife hath taken place and that it is ended, and Thou wilt not require especially that I should be disgraced by crying out with the wicked, and that I should suffer torture for ever. Have mercy then upon me, and I will confess Thy goodness; I have been ashamed before the righteous angels, and if it were not that it would cause scandal, I would make my confession to the children of men. Therefore have compassion upon me, for from this time forward I will teach others that their hearts must not be outside Thy fear, even for a moment; and now I make supplication unto Thy goodness, O make me to live, and I entreat Thee [so to do], for I am about to die.” And the monk prayed in this manner three times, and then he was heard by God, for when he went back the fourth time [to see if the lamp had been lighted] he found it burning brightly; and he was strengthened with hope, and rejoiced, and wept abundantly, and he marvelled at Divine Grace, and he made prayer to the Lord about this also, saying, “Thou didst shew compassion upon the life of this world of him that is unworthy, and especially by the great and new sign [which Thou hast given]; yea, Lord, Thou dost always shew Thy compassion upon the miserable soul, and dost spare it.” And the monk continued [to give] simple thanks [until] the day dawned, and he rejoiced in the Lord, and forgot the food of the body; and he tended the light of the lamp every day, and poured oil therein, and he trimmed it from above, and kept it covered so that it should not be extinguished. And thus that man became like one who had risen in the resurrection of the righteous, and like the chaste man, and like the humble man in the Spirit of God [who obeyeth] readily, and [who giveth] gladly unto the Lord gratitude and thanks. And when he was about to yield up unto the Lord the soul which had been graciously given to him, he related the story gladly unto the brethren who happened to be there, that it might cause them fear, and he said, “Let that lamp be placed in [my] grave in commemoration of [my] repentance.” And we, who heard concerning the grace of God, have written down these things in order that men may be watchful in the Lord.








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