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The Lausiac History Of Palladius by Palladius Of Galatia

[1] THIS book is a record of the virtuous asceticism and marvellous manner of life of those blessed and holy fathers, the monks and anchorites which inhabit the desert, (written) with a view of stirring to rivalry and imitation those who wish to realize the heavenly mode of life and desire to tread the road which leads to the kingdom of heaven. It contains also memoirs of aged women and illustrious God-inspired matrons, who with masculine and perfect mind have successfully accomplished the struggles of virtuous aceticism, (which may serve) as a model and object of desire for those women who long to wear the crown of continence and chastity.

[2] This is how the book came to be written. A man, admirable in every way, very learned, of peaceable disposition, religiously disposed and devout-minded, liberal towards those who lack the necessaries of life, in respect of high distinctions preferred above many men of rank owing to the excellence of his character, and with all this guarded continually by the power of the Divine Spirit—such is the man who commanded us to write, or rather, if one must tell the truth, aroused our slothful mind to the contemplation of better things, to imitate and attempt to rival the ascetic virtues of our holy and immortal spiritual fathers and all who have lived to please God with much mortification of the body. [3] And so, having described the lives of these invincible athletes, we have sent them to him, proclaiming the conspicuous virtues of each of these great persons. I am referring to Lausus, the best of men, who by the favour of God has been appointed guardian of our godly and religious empire; it is he who is inspired with this divine and spiritual passion.

[4] I then, who am clumsy in utterance and have but a superficial acquaintance with spiritual knowledge and am unworthy to draw up a list of the holy fathers of the spiritual life, fearing the infinite greatness of the task set me, so much above my capacity, found the command intolerable, requiring as it did so much worldly wisdom and spiritual understanding. Nevertheless, respecting in the first place the eager virtue of the man who urged us to obey the command, and considering the benefit accruing to the readers, and fearing also the danger of a refusal albeit with a reasonable excuse, I first commended the noble task to Providence and then applied myself diligently to it. Sustained, as if on wings, by the intercession of the holy fathers, I attended the contests of the arena. I have described in a kind of summary only the main contests and achievements of the noble athletes and great men—not only illustrious men who have realized the best manner of life, but also blessed and high-born women who have practised the highest life.

[5] I have been privileged to see with my own eyes the revered faces of some of these, but in the case of others, who had already been perfected in the arena of piety, I have learned their heavenly mode of life from inspired athletes of Christ. In the course of my journey on foot I visited many cities and very many villages, every cave and all the desert dwellings of monks, with all accuracy as befitted my pious intentions. Some things I wrote down after personal investigation, the rest I have heard from the holy fathers, and I have recorded in this book the combats of great men, and women more like men than nature would seem to allow, thanks to their hope in Christ. I now send the whole to you whose ears love divine oracles, to you, Lausus, who are the pride of excellent and God-beloved men, and the ornament of the most faithful and God-beloved empire, noble and Christ-loving servant of God. I have recorded to the best of my feeble powers the famous name of each of the athletes of Christ, male and female, describing a few short contests out of the many mighty ones engaged in by each, adding in most cases the family and city and place of residence.

[6] We have also told of men and women who have reached the highest stage of virtue, but owing to vainglory, as it is called, the mother of pride, have fallen into the lowest pit and abyss of hell, and the triumphs of asceticism, so earnestly desired and so strenuously fought for, acquired by them after long periods of time and many labours, have been dissipated in an instant by pride and self-conceit. But by the grace of our Saviour and the fore-knowledge of the holy fathers and the sympathy of spiritual affection they have been snatched from the nets of the devil and, helped by the prayers of the saints, have recovered their former life of virtue.

COPY OF A LETTER WRITTEN BY PALLADIUS THE BISHOP TO LAUSUS THE CHAMBERLAIN.

[1] I congratulate you on your intention. Indeed I am justified in beginning my letter with congratulation, because, when all men are gaping after vain things and building their edifice with stones from which they got no joy, you yourself want to be taught words of edification. For only the God of all is untaught, since He is self-originate and has none other before Him. But all other things are taught, since they are made and created. The first orders (of angels) have the supreme Trinity as teacher, the second learn from the first, the third from the second, and so successively in order until the last. For those who are superior in judgment and virtue teach those who are inferior in knowledge. [2] So then men who think they do not need teachers, or do not obey those who teach them in love, suffer from the disease of ignorance, the mother of arrogance. Their leaders on the road to destruction are those who have fallen from the heavenly life, the demons who fly in the air having fled from their teachers in heaven. For teaching does not consist in words and syllables—sometimes men possess these who are as vile as can be—but in meritorious acts of character, cheerfulness, intrepidity, bravery, good temper; add to these unfailing boldness, which generates words like a flame of fire. [3] For if this had not been so, the great Teacher would not have said to His disciples: “Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart.” He does not train the apostles with elegant language, but with care for character, distressing none save those who hate the word and hate teachers. For the soul that is being trained according to God’s purpose must be either learning faithfully what it does not know, or teaching clearly what it knows. But if it wants to do neither, though able to do them, then it is mad. For to be sated with teaching and unable to bear the word, for which the soul of him who loves God is always hungry, is the beginning of apostasy. Be strong then and of sound mind and play the man, and may God grant you to pursue closely the knowledge of Christ.








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