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The Lausiac History Of Palladius by Palladius Of Galatia

[1] BUT I did meet the other Macarius, the Alexandrian, a priest of the place called Cellia. I sojourned in this Cellia nine years. He survived for three years of my stay there. And some things I saw (for myself), some I heard from him, and some things again I heard from others. This then was the method of his asceticism. If ever he heard of any feat, he did the same thing, perfectly. For instance, having heard from some that the monks of Tabennisi all through Lent eat (only) food that has not been near the fire, he decided for seven years to eat nothing that had been through the fire, and except for raw vegetables, if any such were found, and moistened pulse he tasted nothing. [2] Having practised this virtue to perfection, he heard about another man, that he ate a pound of bread. And having broken up his ration-biscuit and put it into a vessel with a narrow mouth, he decided to eat just as much as his hand brought out. And he would tell the story thus in a joking manner: “I seized hold of a number of pieces, but I could not extract them all at once by reason of the narrowness of the opening, for like a tax-gatherer it would not let me.” So for three years he kept up this practice of asceticism, eating four or five ounces of bread and drinking as much water, and a pint of oil in the year.

[3] Here is another practice of his. He determined to dispense with sleep, and he told us how he did not go under a roof for twenty days, that he might conquer sleep, being burnt up by the sun’s heat and shrivelled up with cold by night. And he used to say this: “Unless I had soon gone under a roof and got some sleep, my brain would have so dried up as to drive me into delirium for ever after. And I conquered so far as depended on me, but I gave way so far as depended on my nature that had need of sleep.”

[4] As he sat early in the morning in his cell, a mosquito settled on his foot and stung him. And feeling the pain he squashed it with his hand after it was full of blood. So, accusing himself for having taken vengeance, he condemned himself to sit naked for six months in the marsh of Scete, which is in the great desert. The mosquitos there are like wasps, and even pierce the hides of wild boars. So then he was bitten all over and developed so many swellings that some thought he had elephantiasis. Returning to his cell after six months, he was recognized by his voice that it was Macarius himself.

[5] Once he desired to enter the garden-tomb of Jannes and Jambres, so he told us. But this garden-tomb had once belonged to the magicians who had great power long ago with Pharaoh. Forasmuch then as they had the power for long periods, they built their work with stones faced four-square, and made their tomb there, and stored away much gold. They also planted trees, for the place is rather damp, and they dug a well besides. [6] Since therefore the saint did not know the way, he followed the stars by a kind of guesswork, crossing the desert, as one does at sea. Taking a bundle of reeds he planted them one each mile as landmarks in order to find his way as he returned. So having travelled nearly nine days he approached the place. Then the demon, who always withstands the athletes of Christ, collected all the reeds and put them at his head as he slept about a mile from the garden-tomb. [7] So he arose and found the reeds, God having allowed this perhaps to try him further, that he might not trust in reeds, but in the pillar of cloud that led Israel forty years in the desert. He used to say: “Seventy demons came out from the garden-tomb to meet me, shouting and fluttering like crows against my face and saying: ‘What do you want, Macarius? What do you want, monk? Why have you come to our place? You can’t stay here.’ I told them,” he said, “ ‘Let me just go in and look round and go away.’ [8] So,” he said, “I went in and found a little brazen jar suspended and an iron chain against the well, rusted already by time, and some pomegranates with nothing inside because they had been dried up by the sun.” So then he turned back and went on his way for twenty days. But when the water which he was carrying failed him and also the loaves, he was in great distress. And when he was nearly collapsing there appeared to him a maiden, so he declared, wearing a pure white robe and holding a cruse dripping with water. [9] He said she was some distance, about a stade, away from him, and he went on for three days, gazing at her as she stood with the vessel and being unable to catch her up, as happens in dreams; but he lasted out sustained by the hope of drinking. After her appeared a herd of antelopes, one of which with a calf stopped—there are many in those regions. And he said that her udder was flowing with milk. So, creeping under her and sucking, he was satisfied. And the antelope went as far as his cell, giving him milk, but not allowing her own calf to suck.

[10] On another occasion, while digging a well near to some vegetable shoots, he was bitten by an asp. Now this beast is able to cause death. And having taken it with both hands he seized it by the jaws and pulled it in pieces, saying to it: “When God did not send you, how did you dare to come?”

Now he had several cells in the desert: one in Scete, the great interior desert, and one in the Libyan desert, and one at the so-called Cellia, and one on Mount Nitria. Some of these are without windows, and in these he was said to sit during Lent in darkness. Another was too narrow for him to stretch out his feet in it. Another, in which he met his visitors, was more spacious.

[11] He healed so great a crowd of demoniacs that they cannot be counted. When we were there a highborn maiden was brought from Thessalonica, paralyzed for many years. He rubbed her for twenty days with holy oil with his own hands, praying the while, and sent her back to her city restored to health. After she had gone she sent him many generous gifts.

[12] Having heard that the monks of Tabennisi had a splendid rule of life, he changed his clothes and put on the secular garments of a workman, and went a fifteen days’ journey to the Thebaid, travelling through the desert. And having come to the monastery of the Tabennesiots he asked for their archimandrite, Pachomius by name, a man of great reputation and possessing the gift of prophecy—though the story of Macarius had not been revealed to him. So meeting him he said: “I pray you, receive me into your monastery that I may become a monk.” [13] Pachomius said to him: “You have already reached old age, and you cannot be an ascetic. The brethren are ascetics and you cannot endure their labours. You will be offended and will depart, cursing them.” And he did not receive him either the first day or the second, till seven days had passed. But he persisted in waiting, fasting (all the time), and at last he said to him: “Receive me, father, and if I do not fast as they do and work, order me to be driven out.” He persuaded the brethren to admit him; now the total number (of the occupants) of the first monastery was 1,400 men and remains so up to this day. [14] Well, he entered. When a little time had passed, Lent came on and he saw each man practising different ways of asceticism—one eating in the evening only, another every two days, another every five, another again standing all night but sitting down by day. So having moistened palm-leaves in large numbers, he stood in a corner and until the forty days were completed and Easter had come, ate no bread and drank no water, neither knelt down nor reclined, and apart from a few cabbage leaves took nothing, and them only on Sunday, that he might appear to eat. [15] And if ever he went out in obedience to nature, he quickly came in again and took his stand, speaking to no one and not opening his mouth but standing in silence. And, apart from prayer in his heart and the palm-leaves in his hands, he was doing nothing. All the ascetics therefore, seeing this, raised a revolt against the superior, saying: “Where did you get this fleshless man from, to condemn us? Either drive him out, or know that we are all going.” Pachomius, therefore, having heard the details of his observance, prayed to God that the identity of the stranger might be revealed to him. [16] And it was revealed; and he took him by the hand and led him to the house of prayer, where the altar was, and said to him, “Here, good old man, you are Macarius and you hid it from me. For many years I have been longing to see you. I thank you for letting my children feel your fist, lest they should be proud of their ascetic achievements. Now go away to your own place, for you have edified us sufficiently. And pray for us.” Then he went away, as asked.

[17] On another occasion he told us this story: “Having perfected every kind of life that I desired, then I had another desire. I desired to keep my mind for five days only undistracted from (the contemplation of) God. And, having determined this, I barred the cell and enclosure, so as not to have to answer any man, and I took my stand, beginning at the second hour. So I gave this commandment to my mind: “Do not descend from heaven. There you have angels, archangels, the powers on high, the God of all; do not descend below heaven.” [18] And having lasted out two days and two nights, I exasperated the demon so that he became a flame of fire and burned up all the things in the cell, so that even the little mat on which I stood was consumed with fire and I thought I was being all burned up. Finally, stricken with fear, I left off on the third day, being unable to keep my mind free from distraction, but I descended to contemplation of the world, lest vanity should be imputed to me.”

[19] Once I visited this holy Macarius and found a village priest lying just outside his cell, whose head was all eaten away by the disease called cancer, and the actual bone appeared on the crown of his head. He had come to be healed and Macarius would not grant him an interview. So I besought him: “I pray you, pity him and give him his answer.” [20] And he said to me: “He does not deserve to be healed, for it has been sent him as a punishment. But if you want him to be healed, persuade him to give up taking services. For he was taking services, though living in fornication, and for this reason he is being punished and God is healing his soul.” So when I said this to the afflicted man he consented, and swore that he would no longer exercise his priesthood. Then he received him and said: “Do you believe that God is?” He said to him: “Yes.” [21] “Were you able to mock God?” “No,” he answered. He said: “If you recognize your sin and the chastening of God, on account of which you suffered this, reform yourself henceforward.” So he confessed his fault and gave a promise that he would sin no more nor take the service, but embrace the position of a layman. Then he laid his hands on him and in a few days he was cured and the hair grew and he went away healed.

[22] Before my eyes a young lad was brought to him possessed by an evil spirit. So, putting one hand on his head and the other on his heart, he prayed so much that he made him hang in mid-air. Then the boy swelled like a wine-skin and festered so that he became a mass of erysipelas. And having cried out suddenly, he produced water through all his senses, and calming down returned to his original size. So he anointed him with holy oil and handed him to his father, and having poured water upon him ordered that he should touch neither flesh nor wine for forty days. And so he healed him.

[23] One day vainglorious thoughts troubled him, driving him out from the cell and suggesting to him as if by a divine dispensation that he should visit the city of the Romans to cure the sick. For grace acted powerfully in him against (evil) spirits. And when for a long while he would not obey, but was being vehemently pressed, falling on the doorstep of his cell, he put his feet outside and said: “Drag me, demons, pull me. For I am not going with my feet. If you can take me, then I will go.” He swore to them: “Here I lie until evening. Unless you shake me, I will not listen to you.” [24] So, having lain there a long while, he got up, but when night came on they attacked him again, and having filled a two-bushel basket with sand and put it on his shoulders, he tramped about in the desert. Theosebius the Cosmetor, an Antiochian by race, met him and said to him: “What are you carrying, father? Give me the burden and don’t trouble yourself.” But he said to him: “I trouble my troubler. For he is insatiable and tempts me to go out.” So having tramped about for a long time he went into his cell, having punished his body.

[25] This holy Macarius told me the following—for he was a priest. “I noticed at the time of distributing the mysteries that it was never I which gave the oblation to Marcus the ascetic, but an angel used to give it him from the altar. I saw only the knuckle of the donor’s hand.” Now this Marcus was a young man, who learned by heart the Old and New Testaments, exceedingly meek and continent beyond all others.

[26] One day having leisure—Macarius then being in extreme old age—I went off and sat by his door, thinking him superhuman, seeing that he was so old, and listened to what he said and what he did. He was quite alone inside; being already a hundred years old and having lost his teeth, he was fighting with himself and the devil and saying: “What do you want, bad old man?. See, you have had oil and have taken some wine. What do you want more, you white-haired glutton?”—scolding himself. Then to the devil: “Do I owe you anything now? You won’t find anything. Go away from me.” And, as if humming to himself, he was saying: “Here, you white-haired glutton, how long shall I be with you?”

[27] Paphnutius his disciple told us, that one day a hyæna took her whelp, which was blind, and brought it to Macarius. And having knocked with her head at the door of the enclosure, she entered, Macarius sitting outside (his cell), and threw the young one down at his feet. And he took it and spat on its eyes and prayed, and immediately it recovered its sight. And its mother having suckled it took it and went away. [28] And on the next day she brought the saint the fleece of a large sheep. And the blessed Melania said this to me: “I got that fleece from Macarius as a gift to a visitor. And what marvel, if He who tamed the lions for Daniel, also made the hyæna intelligent?”

And he said, that from the day he was baptized he never spat on the ground, it being then sixty years from his baptism. [29] As to his bodily form, he was rather short, and beardless, having no hairs except on his lips and the tip of his chin. For owing to the excess of his asceticism the hairs of his beard did not even sprout.

One day, when I was suffering from accidie, I went to him and said: “Father, what shall I do? Since my thoughts afflict me saying, ‘You are making no progress, go away from here.’ ” And he said to me: “Tell them, ‘For Christ’s sake I am guarding the walls’ ”

I have told you these few stories out of many relating to the holy Macarius.

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