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The Lausiac History Of Palladius by Palladius Of Galatia

[1] A CERTAIN man named Chronius of the village called Phœnice, having measured off from his own village, which was near the desert, 15000 steps counted with his right foot, dug a well there after prayer; and having found very good water forty-two feet away, built himself there a little dwelling. And from the day that he installed himself in this abode he prayed to God that he might never return to an inhabited place. [2] But when a few years had passed he was counted worthy of the priesthood, a brotherhood of some 200 men having collected round him. Now this meritorious feature of his asceticism is told, that having officiated at the altar for sixty years, exercising his priesthood, he did not leave the desert and never ate bread that came from any source but the work of his own hands.

With him dwelt one Jacob, who belonged to the neighbourhood, surnamed the Lame, an exceedingly learned man. Now both were known to the blessed Antony. [3] Now one day they were joined by Paphnutius, surnamed Kephalas, who had the gift of knowledge of the divine Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, interpreting it all without having read the Scriptures, but he was so modest that his prophetic virtue was concealed. It is told of him that during eighty years he never wore two tunics together. The blessed Evagrius and Albanius and I when we met these men sought to know the causes of brothers falling away or backsliding or stumbling in the proper life. [4] For it happened in those days that Chaeremon the ascetic died in a sitting posture and was found dead on his chair holding his work in his hands. And it happened also that another brother while digging a well was swallowed up by the well; and another on his way down from Scete died from lack of water. Then again there was the story of Stephen, who fell into disgraceful profligacy, and of Eucarpius, and the story of Heron of Alexandria, and the story of Valens of Palestine, and the story of Ptolemy the Egyptian who lived in Scete. [5] We asked therefore what was the reason why the men who lived there in the desert were some of them deceived in their mind and others shattered by lust. So this was the answer that the most enlightened Paphnutius gave us, namely: “All things that happen are divided into two, what God approves and what He allows. As many things then as happen in accordance with virtue for the glory of God, these happen with His approval. But as many, on the contrary, as are fraught with loss and danger and are due to external crises or fallings away, these happen with God’s permission. [6] But the permission is given in a rational manner. For it is impossible that a man who thinks rightly and lives rightly should succumb to snares of shame or the deceit of demons. Consequently, all who seem to pursue virtue with a corrupt purpose, the vice of men-pleasing or perverse imagination, these also make false steps, for God deserts them for their benefit, in order that through their desertion they may perceive the difference that results from their change and correct either their intention or their conduct. [7] For at one time the will sins, when it acts with evil intent, at another time also the conduct, when it acts corruptly or in the wrong fashion. And this indeed often happens, that the vicious man with a corrupt purpose gives alms to girls in pursuance of an evil end, though he does an apparently good action by giving help to her who is an orphan, a solitary, or an ascetic. But it happens also that men give alms with a right purpose to the sick or aged or those who have lost money, but sparingly and with a grumble, and the intention is right but the action is unworthy of the intention; for it is necessary that the merciful man show mercy gladly and generously.” [8] They said also this: “There are good qualities in many souls, in some a natural goodness of thought, in others aptitude for asceticism. But whenever some action is not done or natural goodness not manifested for the sake of the actual good, and those who possess good qualities do not ascribe them to God the Giver of all good things, but to their own free will, natural goodness and capacity, then such men are deserted and are involved either in disgraceful conduct or experience and in shame, and by means of the consequent humiliation and shame gradually lose the pride felt in their pretended virtue. [9] For when the man who is puffed up with pride, pluming himself on the natural charm of his discourse, does not ascribe to God the natural charm or even the supply of knowledge, but to his own application or natural gifts, God withdraws from him the angel of foreknowledge. When this angel is removed, then overpowered by the adversary the man who plumes himself on his natural charm falls into licentiousness through his presumption, in order that, the witness of his self-control being withdrawn, the words spoken by such men may be no longer worthy of credit; while religious men shun the teaching which proceeds from such a mouth as if it were a fountain containing leeches, so that the Scripture is fulfilled: ‘But to the sinner said God, Why dost thou recount my judgments and takest my covenant in thy mouth?’ [10] For truly the souls of the vicious are like diverse fountains. The gluttonous and wine-lovers are like muddy fountains; the covetous and greedy like fountains with frogs; others, envious and haughty but with an aptitude for knowledge, are like fountains which cherish serpents, in which reason is always floating but no one likes to draw from them because of the bitterness of their character. This is why David demanded three things in his prayer, ‘goodness and discipline and knowledge.’ For without goodness knowledge is not good. [11] And if such a man corrects himself, putting away the cause of his abandonment, that is, pride, and recovers humility and recognizes his own measure, not exalting himself against anyone, and thanking God, then knowledge attested by proof returns to him. For spiritual words which do not have as an escort a sober and disciplined life are like ears of corn blasted by the wind; they have the outward appearance (of corn) but have been robbed of their nutritive value. [12] Therefore every fall, whether by the tongue, or by perception, or by action, or by the whole body, tends to produce abandonment in proportion to the presumption, though God spares those who are abandoned. For if, in the midst of their vice, the Lord will bear witness to their natural grace by providing them with eloquence, arrogance turns them into demons, puffed up with uncleanness.”

[13] And those men told us this too: “When you see a man irregular in his life but plausible in speech, remember the demon who conversed with Christ using the words of Scripture, and the witness which says: ‘Now the serpent was the most subtle of all the beasts on the earth.’ In his case intelligence has the rather resulted in harm, since no other virtue accompanied it. For the faithful and good man must think the thoughts which God gives and say what he thinks and do what he says. [14] For if the relationships of a man’s life do not accord with the truth of his words, he is, as Job says, like bread without salt which will in no case be eaten, or, if eaten, will make those who eat it ill. ‘Shall bread be eaten without salt?’ he says. ‘And is there any taste in vain words,’ which are not fulfilled by the witness of the works? Now these are the causes of the abandonings: in one case because of hidden virtue, that it may be revealed, as was Job’s, God speaking to him and saying: ‘Reject not My judgment, nor think that I have spoken to thee for any other reason than that thou mightest be shown to be righteous. [15] For thou wast known to Me who see secret things; but when thou wast unknown to men, people supposing that thou wast serving Me because of wealth, I brought on the disaster, I cut off the wealth, that I might show them thy philosophy of gratitude.’ In other cases it is to avert pride as with Paul. For Paul was abandoned, being tossed about in misfortunes and buffetings and divers afflictions, and he said: ‘There was given me a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted.’ [16] Lest perhaps in the midst of his marvellous works both the repose and the prosperity and the honour which accrued to him might cast him gaping with vanity into diabolical pride. The paralytic was abandoned because of sins, as Jesus says: ‘See, thou are made whole, sin no more.’ Judas was abandoned, because he loved money more than the word, wherefore also he hanged himself. Esau also was abandoned and fell into dissolute conduct, preferring the grossness of entrails to his father’s blessing. [17] So that considering all these things Paul said concerning some: ‘As they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up unto a reprobate mind, to do things which are not fitting.’ And concerning certain others who seem to have the knowledge of God with a corrupt mind: ‘Since knowing God, they glorified Him not as God, neither gave Him thanks, for this cause God gave them up unto vile passions.’ So that from these instances we know that it is impossible that any should fall into dissolute conduct unless he has first been abandoned by God’s Providence.”








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