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The Lausiac History Of Palladius by Palladius Of Galatia

[1] Forasmuch as many have left behind for their age many and divers writings concerning different epochs, some of them by an inspiration of heavenly God-given grace (writing) for the edification and safety of those who follow with loyal purpose the teachings of the Saviour, others with sycophantic and corrupt intention having indulged in mad follies in order to encourage such as desire vain-glory, others again, inspired by a certain madness and the influence of the demon who hates good, and in their pride and wrath planning the destruction of light-minded men and the soiling of the immaculate Catholic Church, having attacked the minds of the foolish to make them dislike the saintly life, [2] it seemed good to me also, your humble servant, reverencing the command of your magnanimity, O man most eager to learn, a command issued with a view to spiritual progress, to publish this book in narrative form for your benefit, (telling my story) from the beginning. (When I thus decided), it was, I suppose, my thirty-third year in the society of the brethren and the twentieth year of my episcopate, and the fifty-sixth of my whole life. You were asking for accounts of the fathers, both male and female (saints), both those whom I had seen and those about whom I had heard and those with whom I lived in the Egyptian desert and Libya, the Thebaid and Syene, near which last are the so-called Tabennesiots, and again in Mesopotamia, Palestine and Syria, and the districts of the West—Rome and Campania and thereabouts. [3] (My aim is) that you may have (in my book) for the benefit of your soul a solemn reminder, an unfailing cure for forgetfulness; and that you may drive away by its help all drowsiness proceeding from irrational lust, all indecision and pettiness in business affairs, all backwardness and pusillanimity in the domain of character, all resentment, worry, grief and irrational fear; and moreover the excitements of the world; and may with unfailing desire make progress in the purpose of piety, becoming a guide both to yourself, your companions, your subordinates, and the most religious Emperors. For by means of these meritorious works all lovers of Christ press on to be joined to God. Each day you will be expecting the departure of your soul, as it is written: [4] “It is good to depart and be with Christ,” and “Prepare thy works for thy departure and be ready in thy field.” For he that keeps death always in mind, that it will come of necessity and will not tarry, shall not greatly fall. You will neither take amiss the guidance of my directions, nor will you despise the uncouthness and inelegance of my style; for indeed it is not the work of divine teaching to speak with studied elegance, but to persuade the mind with considerations of truth, as it is written: “Open thy mouth to the word of God,” and again: “Miss not the discourse of the aged, for they also learned of their fathers.”

[5] I then, O man of God most eager to learn, following in part this precept, have been in contact with many of the saints. Putting aside considerations of prudence, I have made journeys of thirty days, yes and twice as long. (I say it) as before God, traversing on foot in my journeys all the land of the Romans, I welcomed all the hardship of the way so long as I might meet some man that loved God, that I might gain what I had not got. [6] For if Paul, who was so far in advance of me, surpassing me in manner of life, knowledge, conscience and faith, undertook the journey from Tarsus to Judæa to meet Peter, James and John; and if he tells of it with a kind of boastfulness, recounting his toils in order to stir to emulation those who live in sloth and laziness, saying: “I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas;” if he was not satisfied with the report of Peter’s virtue, but longed for an actual meeting face to face—how much more was I, the debtor who owed ten thousand talents, bound to do this, not for any good I might do them, but for my own benefit? [7] For indeed those who wrote the lives of the Fathers, Abraham and his successors, Moses, Elijah and John, told their tale, not to glorify them, but to benefit their readers.

Knowing these things then, Lausus, most loyal servant of Christ, and impressing them on yourself, be patient with my folly, (which is designed) to preserve the pious disposition of your mind; for it is naturally exposed to waves of evil, both visible and invisible, and can enjoy calm only with the help of continuous prayer and spiritual self-culture. [8] For many of the brethren, pluming themselves both on their labours and charities and boasting of their celibacy or virginity and putting their trust in meditation on the divine oracles and acts of zeal, have yet failed to attain impassivity. Through lack of discernment, under the pretext of piety, they have fallen victim to a disease (which manifests itself) in acts of idle curiosity, from which spring officious or even evil activities, such as drive away good activities, the mother of spiritual self-culture.

[9] Play the man then, I beseech you, and do not increase your wealth. This policy you have already adopted, since of your own accord you have lessened it by distributing to those in need owing to the supply of virtue which is thereby gained. Nor have you yielded to impulse and unreasonable premature decision and fettered your free choice with an oath to curry favour with men, as some have done who in a spirit of rivalry, that they may boast of not eating or drinking, have enslaved their free will by the constraint of an oath and have succumbed again miserably to the love of this world and accidie and pleasure and so have suffered the pangs of perjury. For if you partake reasonably and abstain reasonably you will never sin. [10] For reason, of all the emotions within us, is divine, banishing what is harmful and welcoming what is beneficial. “For the law is not made for a righteous man.” For to drink wine with reason is better than to drink water with pride. And, please, look on those who drink wine with reason as holy men and those who drink water without reason as profane men, and no longer blame or praise the material, but count happy or wretched the minds of those who use the material well or ill. Joseph drank wine in Egypt long ago, but his mind suffered no harm, for he kept his thoughts under control. [11] But Pythagoras, Diogenes and Plato drank water; so did the Manichæans and the rest of the band of soi-disant philosophers, and yet they reached such a pitch of vain-glory in their intemperance that they failed to know God and worshipped idols. The apostle Peter and his companions used wine to some extent, so that their Master, our Saviour, was himself reproached on account of their participation, by the Jews’ saying: “Why do not thy disciples fast as do the disciples of John?” Again insulting the disciples with reproaches they said: “Your Master eats and drinks with the publicans and sinners.” Clearly they would not have attacked them over bread and water. [12] And again, when they were unreasonably admiring water-drinking and blaming wine-drinking, the Saviour said: “John came in the way of righteousness, neither eating nor drinking”—obviously meat and wine, for apart from the other things he could not have lived—“and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a gluttonous man and a wine-bibber, and a friend of publicans and sinners”—because of his eating and drinking. What are we to do then? Let us follow neither those who blame nor those who praise, but let us either fast with John reasonably even if they say: “They have a devil,” or let us drink wine wisely with Jesus, if the body needs it, even if they say: “Behold men gluttonous and wine-bibbers.” [13] For in truth neither is eating nor refraining anything, but faith extending itself in love to works. For when faith accompanies every action, he that eateth and drinketh because of faith is uncondemned, “for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” But when any one of those who sin says he partakes in faith or is doing anything else with unreasonable self-confidence and corrupted conscience, the Saviour has given express orders, saying: “By their fruits ye shall know them.” But that the fruit of those who live with reason and understanding, as the divine Apostle says, “is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance,”—this is granted by all. [14] For Paul himself said: “The fruit of the spirit is” so-and-so. But because he who sets himself to get such fruit will not eat meat or drink wine unreasonably or without definite aim or out of season, nor will he dwell with an uneasy conscience, again the same Paul says: “Every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.” When the body is in health he abstains from fattening things, when it is weak or in pain or meets with griefs or misadventures, he will make use of foods or drinks as medicines to heal what grieves him, and he will abstain from all that harms the soul—anger, envy, vain-glory, accidie, detraction, and unreasonable suspicion—giving thanks to the Lord.

[15] Having then discussed the matter sufficiently above, I bring another exhortation to your desire of learning. Flee, as far as is in your power, encounters with men whose presence confers no benefit and who beautify their skin in unseemly fashion, even if they be orthodox—not to speak of heretics! They do you harm by their hypocrisy, even when they seem to be dragging out a great age with their grey hair and wrinkles. For, even supposing you come to no harm at their hands by reason of your noble character, you will suffer this lesser evil in becoming insolent and proud, and mocking at them, and this will do you harm. But go near a bright window and seek encounters with holy men and women, in order that by their help you may be able to see clearly also your own heart as it were a closely-written book, being able by comparison to discern your own slackness or neglect. [16] For the colour of their faces with the bloom of grey hairs and the arrangement of their clothes and the modesty of their language and the reverence of their conversation and the grace of their thoughts will strengthen you, even if you should happen to be in a mood of accidie. “For a man’s attire and his gait and the laugh of his teeth will proclaim what he is like,” as Wisdom says.

So now I begin my tales. I shall leave unnoticed neither those in the cities nor those in the villages or deserts. For the object of our inquiry is not the place where they have settled but the fashion of their plan of life.








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