Eastern Orthodox texts preserved

Desert Fathers Part 3

 

Chapter XLVII
POEMENIA

Poemenia, a servant of the Lord, once went to visit abba John. He did not speak to her but sent her a warning message not to turn aside to Alexandria when going down from the Thebaid, lest she be put to very severe trials. But either she simply ignored this or else forgot all about it, for she did go down towards Alexandria in order to see the city. As she was on the way near the town of Nicia some boats passed by in which she was offered a passage. But they were all fiercely attacked by some workmen, aggressive and destructive people living locally. They cut off the finger of one of the eunuchs and killed another. In their ignorance they threw the holy bishop Dionysius into the river, treated Poemenia to abusive curses and severely wounded all the other servants.

Chapter XLVIII
THE LIFE OF ABBA AMMON, AND HIS COMPANIONS

We also saw another man of the Thebaid called Ammon, the father of three thousand monks. They were called Tabennisiites and had an impressive way of living their lives. They all wore sheepskins with which they covered their faces when eating, leaning forward so that no one could see the person next to him. They practised silence so thoroughly that they seemed to be entirely alone, each one pursuing his own hidden order of life, only making an appearance to sit at table, where even there they tried to hide from each other. Some of them once or twice picked up some bread or an olive to eat, or whatever else was set out for them. When they had tasted from each dish they reckoned they had had enough. Some just quietly persevered in eating some bread, while only pretending to taste other things. Others tasted three only and abstained from the others. I admired the way in which each ate what was right for himself, aware of the benefit each one was gaining.

 

Chapter XLIX
ABBA BE 

We saw another old man called Be who excelled all others in gentleness. The brothers who lived near him said that he never used strong language, never lied about any one, never berated anyone, was never angry. He was always quiet and mild in manner as an angel, of great humility, counting himself as nothing. We asked him eagerly to give us a word of exhortation, but he could hardly bring himself to believe that he could teach us anything about gentleness.
When a hippopotamus ran wild in neighbouring country the farmers asked for his help. He stood near the river where he could see this enormous beast and said, "In the name of Jesus Christ I forbid you to do any further damage to this region." As if driven by an angel it completely disappeared. He also dealt with a crocodile in the same way.

Chapter L
ABBA THEONA 

Theona was another we saw. He lived in solitude not far from the city, a holy man who had shut himself up in his little cell and had practised silence for thirty years. He was held to be a prophet because of the many virtues he possessed. A great number of sick people went out to him every day, on whom he laid his hands through the window and sent them away healed. He seemed to have the face of an angel, with smiling eyes, totally full of grace. Not long ago some robbers broke in one night ready to kill him for the sake of the gold they imagined they would find in great quantity. But he prayed, and as a result they remained rooted to the spot in the doorway until morning.
When the usual morning crowd arrived, they would have burnt the robbers alive, but he just said one word to them, "Let them go in safety, otherwise the grace of healing will depart from me." They listened to what he said, they did not dare disobey, and the robbers went well away to some monasteries which were scattered about, where they changed their way of life and did penance for what they had done.
He was able to speak and write in three languages, Latin, Greek and Egyptian, according to what many people said and as we can testify ourselves. For when he realised that we were foreigners, he wrote on his tablets in Latin that he gave thanks to God for us.
His food was uncooked cereals. It was said that at night he went out and mingled with the wild beasts, giving them water out of his own supply. You could see all around his cell the tracks of the wild asses, oxen and goats in which he delighted. 

Chapter LI
ABBA ELIAS 

Another old man we saw was called Elias, who was a hundred and ten years old and lived in the desert which takes its name from Antinous, the chief city of the Thebaid. The spirit of the prophet Elijah was said to have fallen upon him. He was well known for having lived in that terrible desert for seventy years. Words are not adequate to describe the harshness of the mountain in that desert place where he lived, and from which he had never come down into the inhabited regions. There were a few footpaths by which people visited him, offering very little foothold, so jagged were the rocks they were built up with. He sat in a rocky cave, an awe-inspiring sight. His whole body trembled, a sign of his great age. He performed many signs daily, and always brought relief to the sick. The fathers who lived near him said that nobody could remember the time when he came to the mountain. In his old age he ate a three ounce loaf and three olives every evening, though in his youth he used to eat only once a week.


Chapter LII
THE LIFE OF ABBA APOLLO

We saw another holy man in the valleys of the Thebaid near Hermopolis, which is the place to which the Saviour came with holy Mary and Joseph, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah, 'Behold the Lord shall come into Egypt upon a swift cloud and the idols of Egypt shall shake before his presence and fall to the ground' (Isaiah 19.1) We saw there the very temple in which the idols fell to the ground on their faces when the Saviour entered the city. In  the deserts there we saw a man called Apollo who had a monastery in the mountains. He was the father of about five hundred monks, and was very well known and admired throughout the Thebaid. He did great things, the Lord endowed him with many powers and many signs and wonders were done through him. From boyhood he had used a strict discipline and he grew in grace with age. When he was eighty, he had gathered a great monastery of flawless men, who were all capable of performing signs.
He had left the world at the age of fifteen and spent forty years in solitude, developing all the virtues, when he seemed to hear the voice of the Lord saying, "Apollo, Apollo, through you I will confound the wisdom of the wise in Egypt and the prudence of the peoples. For my sake you will do away with the wise men of Babylon and pluck from their midst all their worship of demons. Now go to the place where they live, and you will bring forth for me a peculiar people eager for good works."
"Take pride away from me, O Lord," he replied, "lest if I be placed above a brotherhood I corrupt any good work that may be done."
Again he heard the divine voice. "Put your hand upon your neck, grasp what you find there and bury it in the sand."
As soon as he had done so he found that he had grasped a small Ethiopian, whom he buried in the sand as he cried out "I am the spirit of pride."
And again the voice came to him, "Go, What you have asked for you will be given." And he went immediately to the inhabited places (it was in the time of the tyrant Julian), and from there to the nearby desert.
He remained there on (the side of) the mountain, having occupied a small cave. This was how he worked: He said prayers throughout the whole twenty-four hours, a hundred at night, and the same number by day, with prostrations. His food had always been supplied in the same way; contrary to any reasonable expectation he was fed directly by God. In that desert place the angels brought him food. He was clothed in a simple tunic with a small linen head covering. These did not wear out while he remained in the desert which was not far away from inhabited places. He performed many signs and wonderful deeds in the power of the Spirit. No one could tell the exact number, there were so many of them, according to the old men who had had dealings with him. Some of them were men of very advanced stature (viri perfecti), and had many brothers under their care. He was famous and for ever being talked about, as if he was some new prophet or apostle for our generation, and as his fame spread, all the monks scattered about nearby  always used to come to him as to a father, freely opening their hearts to him. Some of them he guided towards contemplation, others he taught how  to actively cultivate the virtues, first of all illustrating by his own example what he was advocating by his words. He often showed them the way he disciplined his life, mingling with them only on Sundays, taking no bread, fruit or vegetables, none of the cooked dishes that people are accustomed to use, nothing except wild herbs.
During the reign of Julian he once heard that a brother had been conscripted into the army and chained up in prison. He visited him along with some brothers, urging him to remain strong and steadfast in adversity, and to hold his imminent danger in contempt. He warned him about a coming time of conflict, when his resolution would be sorely and suddenly tried. No sooner had he encouraged him with these words than the tribune arrived. Someone pointed the monks out to him, whereupon, yielding to some evil impulse, he closed the gates of the prison, shutting in Apollo and the monks who were with him as suitable to become soldiers in future. Having appointed a sufficient number of guards, he went home without even allowing them a hearing. In the middle of the night, an angel bearing a torch appeared to the guards, illuminating everyone in the prison, and making the guards fall down in a stupor. When they came to, they opened the doors of the prison and begged everyone to go, for they said that they would rather be put to death for doing that than ignore the liberty which was being offered by God to these people who were being wrongly detained. And when the tribune arrived in the morning with the magistrates, he saw to it that those prisoners should get right out of the city, for he said that his house had collapsed in an earthquake during the night and crushed the best of his slaves. At this they gave thanks to God and departed into the desert, where, as the Apostle puts it, they were all of one heart and mind.
He taught that one should daily develop in virtue, especially in the power of continually repelling the attacks of the devil through thoughts. For if you can crush the serpent's head its whole body dies. The Lord warns us that we should look out for the serpent's head, that is, that we should refuse entry right at the start to all evil and sordid thoughts, not just in order to drive obscene fantasies out of our minds but to overwhelm them by contrary virtues, and to let no other prize be more valued than this. For this is the sign that you have progressed in virtue when you are free from the power of all urges and desires. This is the highest of the gifts of Christ. But when God gives anyone miraculous powers let him not get proud as if he has no need for further progress, nor get carried away by the thought that he is honoured above other people, or draw attention to the graces that he has received, lest with a closed mind he deceives himself and is deprived of grace. His teaching was full of this most important doctrine, as we later often heard from him ourselves. But the things he did were greater, for his every petition was immediately granted by God. 
He was even granted visions. He had an elder brother who had also lived out his life in the desert and even surpassed him in the beauty of his life. He had lived with him in the desert for a long time. This brother he seemed to see sitting on the same sort of throne as the apostles, having left him a legacy in the shape of all his virtues. So he prayed to God that his own translation might be swift so that he might enjoy the peace of heaven with his brother. But it seemed that the Saviour said to him that he had to stay on earth for a while yet, in order that many might be brought to perfection, since there were many who would come to emulate his virtues. His faith would be responsible for a vast number of monks, a devoted army whose labours will give great glory to God. This is what he saw, and so it turned out, for many who had heard about him came to him from far and wide to become monks. Through his teaching and way of life, a great number totally renounced the world, so that a community of up to five hundred brothers came into being, living a common life, eating at a common table, all clothed in white. In them was fulfilled the Scripture, 'Rejoice, O desert without water, break forth and shout you have not given birth, for many are the children of the desert, more than the children of men (Isaiah 54.1).
That eloquent prophecy has indeed been fulfilled by the existence of the church gathered up out of all the nations, but shown up to perfection in this Egyptian desert, where more children of God can be seen than in the inhabited places. Where in the cities can you find as many flocks on the road to salvation as you can find in the deserts of Egypt? There are as many monks in the desert as there are ordinary people in the cities, and it seems to me that this also is a fulfilment of what the Apostle said, 'Where sin abounded, there grace abounded more abundantly' (Romans 5.20). For in Egypt there used to be a great deal of idolatrous worship, more than in any other country. Some worshipped dogs and monkeys, others garlic and onions, many humble vegetables they thought to be gods, according to what this same holy father told us as he explained the ignorance of former times.
"For since the people who lived here in former times," he said, "had tamed the ox for agricultural purposes, they made a god out of it. The same with the waters of the Nile, since it watered all the fields, making the land cultivated there more fertile than any other. All the other abominations, the dogs and the monkeys and the rest of the disgusting collection of animals and vegetables, they made cults out of because they had been saved by them in Pharaoh's time when he had been drowned in pursuit if the Israelites. Those who did not follow Pharaoh made gods out of whatever they had been occupied with at the time, for they said, "This is my god today, for it has been the reason that I did not perish with Pharaoh." So Apollo in his discourses taught us.
It is more important, however, to write about what he did than what he said. Now there were a number of heathen (gentiles) worshipping demons scattered about in various places fairly near at hand, and ten particular districts even closer. In one of the villages there was a great temple containing a very famous idol made of wood. It used to be carried about in a procession through various villages by disreputable priests in drunken revels with the crowds, as they celebrated the mysteries of the waters of the River. On one occasion, however, it so happened that Apollo was there with some of his brothers and when he saw the crowds throughout the region going mad in their devilish celebrations, he prostrated himself before the Saviour, with the result that all those people suddenly became rooted to the spot. They could not move out of the place, however much they pushed each other, but sweltered all day in the burning heat, unable to understand why this should have happened to them. The priests however told them that it was a certain Christian living nearby in the desert who was responsible, meaning Apollo. He would need to be approached, if not they would all be in great peril.
Meanwhile, people living at some distance had heard their shouts and weeping.
"What is this which has suddenly hit you?" they asked, as they came running up. "How did it happen?"
"We are not sure," they said, "but we suspect a certain person who will have to be appeased."
"Yes, we saw him going along with us," others said. And all begged that help be speedily brought to them.
They brought oxen and tried to move the idol, but it remained immovable, along with the priests. After exhausting all means of trying to move, they sent the neighbours on a delegation to Apollo promising to renounce their errors if they were freed. When Apollo, the man of God, heard this he immediately went down, prayed, and released them. With one accord they all came to him professing belief in the God and Saviour who could do such great things and consigned the idol to the fire. They were then enrolled in the catechumenate and added to the churches. Many of them since that day have been in monasteries right up till now. The fame of this happening spread everywhere, and so many believed in the Lord that soon no heathen (gentilis) could anywhere be found in those districts.
Not long after this, two villages began to fight with each other in a dispute over some fields. When Apollo heard about this he went down immediately to try and make peace between them. The aggressive side did not make an appearance, but refused, relying on a certain robber chief who was an outstanding man of war. Apollo went and confronted him in his refusal, saying, "If you make an appearance, my friend, I will pray to God for your sins to be forgiven." Hearing this he laid down his arms without hesitation, fell on his knees and begged for mercy. Peace was restored at his plea, and he ordered his men back to their own place.
When they had agreed to make peace and had gone away, their famous fighting leader followed Apollo, openly fulfilling what he had promised. Apollo took him back with him into the desert, taught him and encouraged him to be patient and steadfast of heart, for God was able to forgive. That night they both had a dream in which they saw themselves before the judgment seat of God. Both of them gazed on the Angels adoring God along with the saints. They both fell down with them and adored the Father. And they both heard the voice of God saying, "'What has light got to do with darkness? Or what part do the faithful have with the unfaithful?' (2 Corinthians 6.14-15). How is it that a murderer who is unworthy of such contemplation stands among the righteous? Come away, O man. To you it has been granted to be born again and abandon your former life."
They fervently told their companions of many other wonders they had seen and heard, which speech dare not describe nor ear dare hear. All were filled with wonder as they each described exactly the same vision. A murderer no longer, the former leader of the robbers remained with these disciplined men, amending his life right up to the time of his death, changed from a wolf into a simple and innocent lamb. In him was fulfilled the word of Isaiah the prophet, 'The wolf and lamb shall graze together, the lion and the ox shall both eat straw.' (Isaiah 65.25). Ethiopians also could be seen working with the monks, and surpassing many of them in virtue, and the Scripture was fulfilled in them also, 'Ethiopia shall hold out her hand to God.'  (Psalms 68.3).
On another occasion there were some heathen (gentiles) in a dispute with Christian farmers over their land. There was a large band of armed men among them, to whom Apollo went with the intention of making peace. The heathen battle-leader, a big, savage man, had no intention of cooperating. He swore positively that he would die rather than make peace.
"Be it unto you even as you have chosen," said Apollo. "No one will be killed before you. But after your death you will not be buried in the earth. You will fill the bellies of the wild beasts and vultures." And it so happened that these words came true almost immediately, since on both sides of the battle no one was killed except this battle-leader. They buried him in the sand, and the next morning they found his limbs torn to bits by hyenas and vultures. When they saw the miracle of how things had turned out exactly as he had said, they acknowledged that he was a prophet, and all believed in the Saviour.
Much earlier than this, the holy Apollo had just five brothers with him in his mountain cave. These were his first disciples after coming out of his solitude. When Easter had come and they had worshipped God, they prepared to eat what food they had. But all there was were a few dried loaves, and certain dried herbs.
"If we are faithful members of Christ's family, my sons, " Apollo said to them, "let each one of you ask God for what he would most like to eat." But with one accord they all entrusted that task to him, considering themselves to be unworthy of receiving such a great grace. With shining face he prayed, and they all said Amen. And that very evening there arrived at the cave some complete strangers, who said they had come from a long way away. They brought all sorts of things with them, things which nobody had ever heard of, things which did not grow in Egypt, garden fruits of all kinds, grapes and pomegranates, even some honeycomb and a jar of fresh milk, large nicolai, fresh warm foreign made loaves. The bearers of this food handed it all over as if from some great rich person and promptly went away again. When the monks had taken stock of all this food they found that there was enough to see them through to Pentecost, so that they all marvelled and said, "These things truly are sent by God."
One of the monks asked Apollo to pray for him as a father that he would be granted some kind of grace. Apollo prayed, and the monk was given the grace of humility and gentleness, so that they were all amazed at how gentle he had become. The brothers who were with him told us of these powers, and there were many other brothers to corroborate it.
Not long before this there had been a famine in the Thebaid. The people in the neighbouring regions heard that, contrary to all hope and reason, those who lived near the monks were eating daily. With one accord they came with their wives and children, seeking both food and blessing. Without any fear that the food supply might run out, Apollo gave to everyone who came sufficient food for one day. When the famine grew worse and there were only three large baskets of bread left, he ordered the baskets to be put in the middle of the place where the monks were to eat, and in the hearing of the monks and the crowds of people shouted aloud, "Can the hand of the Lord not keep these full? Thus says the Holy Spirit, 'The bread in these baskets will not fail until we have been fed to the full with new grain.'"
And those who were there have testified that the bread lasted four months. And the same thing happened with the grain and vegetables.
Then Satan appeared. "Who do you think you are? Elias? Or some other prophet or apostle, doing this?"
"What's the matter with you?" Apollo replied. "Weren't the apostles and prophets holy people who handed this tradition on to us? If God was with them, then why should he now have departed far off? God can always do these things and there is nothing that God cannot do. If God is good, why are you evil? Why should we also not speak of what we have seen, brothers going in to take bread to the tables, satisfying the appetites of five hundred people, and finding the baskets still full?"
It is right that we should also describe another miracle we saw which astonished us. When we went to visit him, we had been on the way for three days when the brothers met us, having seen us in the distance after having been told by Apollo we were coming. They hastened towards us on the road, singing psalms, as it is customary for monks to do. They first prostrated themselves, then embraced us, each one in turn.
"See now," they said, "these brothers our father told us about three days ago have arrived. He told us that in three days time there would be three brothers arriving from Jerusalem."

 

Chapter LII, Apollo (continued) Book VIII 
(Life of Copres begins further down page)

And some went on in front of us, some followed on behind, all singing psalms, until we got near to Apollo, who when he heard the psalmody came out to meet us, as he always did for every brother. When he saw us, he prostrated himself, embraced us, introduced himself and said some prayers. He washed our feet with his own hands and urged us to take some refreshment. He always did this for any brother who came to visit him. But those who were with him did not eat anything till after receiving the Eucharist of Christ, which they celebrated at the ninth hour.
Having eaten they sat listening to Apollo teaching them over a wide range of subjects (docentem omnia praecepta, lit. 'teaching all the precepts') until time for the first spell of sleep.
[The practice was to sleep for a while after Vespers before waking up again for the psalmody of the Night Office, Mattins, after which there was an opportunity for a 'second sleep' (Cassian, Institutes, book iii). Some monks evidently carried on psalmodising even during their sleep time.]
After that, some of them went back into solitude, reciting the Scriptures from memory for the rest of the night, others stayed on, praising God with fervent psalms until the next day. I saw with my own eyes how some had begun with the psalms of Vespers and kept up their singing until Mattins. There were many who only came down from the mountain at the ninth hour and went back again after the Eucharist, satisfied with that spiritual food until the next evening. Many of them kept this up for many days at a time. They could be seen to be really happy in their solitude, and unable to think of enjoying any other form of pleasure or relaxation on earth. And there was no one among them sad or gloomy, although if anyone did seem to have a bit of gloominess about him Apollo as a father would ask him why, and he would reveal the secrets of his heart.
"It does not do to be gloomy about your prospects of salvation," he would say, "for we are heirs of the kingdom of heaven. The heathen may be sad, the Jews may weep, sinners may be fearful, but the righteous can only rejoice. Those who are worried about earthly matters have only got earthly things in which it is possible for them to rejoice. But we who have been found worthy of being given such great hope, how can we fail to rejoice perpetually? Indeed it is the Apostle who urges us to rejoice always and give thanks in all things." (1Thessalonians 5.16,18). We cannot adequately describe the gracefulness of his speech, or the rest of his virtues, which we observed for ourselves and which others told us about. They are so miraculous they strike us dumb.
He talked to us a great deal about their discipline and way of life. In the matter of welcoming visitors, he often said how we ought to worship brothers on their arrival. "For it is not them you are worshipping," he said, "but God. You have seen your brother? You have seen the Lord your God. We learn this from Abraham. From Lot who welcomed angels, we learn that you should always offer brothers refreshment, and we learn that monks should receive the Sacrament daily, if at all possible. If you separate yourself from the Sacrament, God will separate himself from you. But if you partake devoutly, you devoutly receive the Saviour. 'Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood,' the Saviour said, 'remains in me and I in him.' (John 6.56) A monk should daily prepare himself for celebrating the saving passion with a pure heart, so that he is ready at all times to receive the heavenly Sacrament, especially since the remission of sins follows on from this.
"The general Catholic fast days should not be neglected except in cases of great need. For the Saviour was betrayed on Thursday and crucified on Friday. To neglect these days is to be identified with those who betrayed and crucified. But if a brother comes to you who really needs refreshment on a fast day give him a table by himself, but don't compel him to if he objects. We do have a tradition of living in common."
He was particularly scathing about those who went to great trouble to keep their hair trimmed. "Those people are simply drawing attention to themselves and trying to please others rather than disciplining their bodies with fasting and keeping their good deeds secret. That is what they don't do; instead they parade themselves in full view of everyone."
What need I say more? All his teaching was mirrored in the way he lived his life, which no one could adequately talk or write about. Many other things he said to each of us individually, often over the course of the whole week, until dismissing us with the words, "Be at peace among yourselves and stay together on the way."
He asked the brothers with him which of them would like to take us to visit some of the other fathers, then chose three men to go with us who were accomplished in word and deed and skilled in Greek Latin and Egyptian. He told them not to leave us until our desire to see the fathers was satisfied, although of course a whole lifetime would not suffice to see them all. He bade us farewell with a blessing, "May the Lord bless you out of Sion, that you may see the good of Jerusalem all your life long." (Psalms 128.5).
As we were walking through the desert in the middle of the day, we saw the tracks of a large beast, (draco, a dragon) as big as if a tree had been dragged through the sand. We were absolutely terrified at the sight. But the brothers who were guiding us urged us not to be afraid but to be of good courage and follow the beast's tracks.
"You will see how our faith will enable us to overcome the beast," they said. "We have killed many a beast and horned serpent in fulfilment of the Scripture, 'I have given you the power of treading down serpents and scorpions and over every power of the enemy,'" (Luke. 10.19).
We were not convinced, overcome as we were by great fear, and we begged them not to follow the tracks of the beast but to keep to the beaten path. But one of the brothers said farewell to us at that point and set off with great eagerness in pursuit of the beast. He found it not far away near a cave.
"The beast is in a cave," he shouted. "Come and see what is going to happen."
The other brothers urged us not to be afraid, and so we all began fearfully to go off to see the beast. But another brother suddenly ran up to us and took us by the hand into his own cell.
"You have never seen such a beast," he said, "and you would not be able to endure it, whereas I have often seen such beasts of up to fifteen cubits long. You stay here."
He then went off to the brother in front of the cave and suggested that he come away, which he was unwilling to do until he had done his best to kill the beast. But he was at last persuaded, and came back with him, mocking us for being of little faith.
We stayed with that brother, whose cell was about a mile away, until we had recovered sufficiently to continue.

Chapter LIII
THE LIFE OF ABBA AMUN

This brother also told us that he had been a disciple of another holy man of many virtues called Amun, who used to live in that region. Thieves often came and robbed him of bread and other food. Unable to put up with this any longer, he went out into the desert one day and brought back two wild beasts which he ordered to stay and keep guard over his door. When those murderers arrived as usual and saw this miracle, they gasped with astonishment and fell flat on their faces. Amun came out and found them dumb and half dead. He roused them up and told them what he thought of their misdeeds.
"Look! You are worse than these animals," he said. "They at least out of respect for God are obedient to my will. But you neither fear God nor have any respect for the religion of the Christians."
He took them into his cell, gave them a meal and urged them to change their way of life. They departed, and immediately became known as leading better lives than many others. Not long afterwards, they also had the reputation of being able to do similar miracles.
On another occasion there was a wild beast creating havoc in the region, killing so many cattle that the people living near the desert all came to Amun begging him to rid the place of this beast. But he sent them away, saying that there was nothing he could do to remedy their distress. But next morning he got up and went to the place where the beast usually passed by. When he had prostrated himself in prayer three times the beast appeared, breathing out heavy vapours with discordant noise, swollen up, hissing, totally repulsive in appearance.
"May you be subject to Jesus Christ, the son of the living God, who has power over all beasts," he said, turning towards the beast without a sign of fear. As soon as he had spoken the beast burst asunder, spewing out poison and blood from his mouth. When the villagers came back next day and saw this great miracle, their hearts sank within them. They were afraid to come too close to it even though it was dead, so merely piled up a lot of sand round it as the old man stood by.
There had been a boy tending his flocks who had seen a living wild beast and fainted with shock, lying there lifeless all alone all day. At evening time his friends found him barely breathing but beside himself in a sort of trance. They could not understand what had happened to him but they took him to Amun who prayed for him and anointed him with oil. The boy immediately came to his senses and told them why he had been struck down. It was this event which moved the old man to be converted to the idea of eliminating wild beasts entirely.

Chapter LIV
THE LIFE OF ABBA COPRES, A PRESBYTER.

There was a certain presbyter called Copres who had a cell in the desert, a holy man, nearly ninety, leader of about five hundred brothers. He was a man of many strengths, a physician to the sick who cured many, who drove out demons and performed many great deeds, some of which were done before our very eyes. After he had met us, greeted us, prayed with us and washed our feet, he asked us how we were getting on in the world. But we told him we would much rather he tell us about the virtues of the way of life he was leading and the gifts which God had given him and the way in which he was sharing in God's grace. Without showing any signs of being flattered by what we had asked, he quite simply told us about his life, and the life of those who had gone before him on whom his own life was modelled.
"There is nothing marvellous about me, my sons," he said, "compared with what was shown forth in the lives of our fathers."
And while he was in the midst of telling us about the good and virtuous deeds done by the fathers, one of our brothers began to get drowsy, as if he was not setting much store by what was being said. He suddenly saw in Copres' hands a beautiful book with golden letters and a man in white standing by who said, "Are you listening attentively, or are you going to sleep?" He gave a start, and as we eagerly listened, told us immediately in Latin what he had heard and seen.
While Copres was speaking, a peasant came towards us carrying a wicker basket full of sand, and stood waiting until Copres had finished speaking.
"What does this peasant with the sand want?" we asked.
"My sons," he replied, "it is not for me to glorify myself, not even in telling you of things done by our fathers, lest we become puffed up and lose our reward. However, to help you in the quest which has brought you from such a great distance, we won't deprive you of any possible benefit, but will tell you brothers here now of what the Saviour has done through us.
"Farming land near us owned by the peasants used to be so sterile that they were barely able to reap the same amount of grain as they had sown. Pests flourished in the new ears destroying the hope of harvest. We introduced them to the catechumenate and made Christians out of them, and they asked us to pray for the harvest.
"'If you have faith in God,' I said to them, 'even the sand of the desert will bring forth fruit for you.'
"They lost no time in filling their laps with the sand we walk upon and brought it to us asking us to bless it. I prayed that it might be done to them according to their faith, after which they sowed some of the sand in their fields along with the seed. The land then brought forth bumper harvests, better than anything else in Egypt. So they have been in the habit of doing this for all the years since they had this trouble.
"God also did a marvellous miracle through me in the presence of many people. Once when I went down into the city, I found a Manichaean had been leading the people astray. I failed in public to get him to change his teachings, so I turned to the people and said, 'Build up a funeral pile out in the open and let us both go up into the flames. Let the one who stays unharmed in the flames be the one who has the true faith.'
"No sooner said than the crowd built up a funeral pile and dragged us both towards the fire.
"'Each one ought to go in separately,' the Manichaean said. 'You were the one who suggested it. You should go first.'
"I signed myself in the name of Christ and walked into the flames. They divided on either side of me, and I suffered no harm even after having been in there for half an hour. The crowd shouted loudly when they saw this miracle and began to compel the Manichaean to go into the pyre, but he was terrified and refused. The people picked him up and threw him into the middle of it. Totally engulfed in flames he was eliminated from the city as the people cried, 'Burn this impostor alive!'
"As for me I was taken in procession into the church, preceded by the crowd singing praises."
"Once I happened on a certain temple where some of the people were sacrificing to their idols.
"'Since you are people with the gift of reason,' I said to them, 'why are you sacrificing to things totally lacking in reason? Are you even more devoid of reason than they?'
"Realising that I had said something that was absolutely right they believed on the Saviour and began to follow me.
"I once used to have a garden plot on a neighbouring farm, looked after by a certain poor man, in order to provide vegetables for brothers who came to stay with me. A certain heathen person broke in to steal the vegetables, and when he had loaded himself up with them he went away and tried to cook them, but for the space of three hours had no success. They stayed in the bottom of the pot in exactly the same state as when he had put them in, for the water just would not come to the boil. Gathering his wits together, he picked up the vegetables and brought them back to us, asking us to forgive his crime and make him a Christian, which we did. In that same hour we received some brothers as guests, so it was most opportune that the vegetables had been brought back to us. After we had eaten, we were doubly thankful to God, as much for the hospitality shown to the brothers as for the salvation of a soul."

Chapter LV
THE LIFE OF ABBA SURUS 

He (i.e. Copres, see chapter LIV) also told us about the abbas Surus, Isaiah and Paul, well known for their devout and disciplined lives, who unexpectedly met together on the banks of a river when they were on their way to visit the great Abba Anuph. They were still a three days journey away from their destination.
"Let us reveal to each other the way we lead our lives and how God has blessed us in our lives," they said.
"I ask as a gift from God," said Abba Surus, "that by the power of the spirit we get to our destination without being tired out." He was the only one of them to make this prayer, but immediately they found that a ship was ready and the wind was favourable, so that in a moment of time they had crossed the river and found themselves at their destination.

Chapter LVI
THE LIFE OF ABBA ISAIAH 

Isaiah in his turn said, "Would it not be a wonderful thing, my friends, if the man himself (i.e. Anuph) came to meet us and told us what the life of each one of us was like?"

Chapter LVII
THE LIFE OF ABBA PAUL

Paul in his turn said, "What if God revealed to us that he would take this man to himself after three days?" They had hardly gone on any distance before this man came to meet them and greeted them.
"Tell us how you have lived such a righteous life," said Paul, "for the day after tomorrow you go to God."

Chapter LVIII
THE LIFE OF ABBA ANUPH 

"Blessed be God," Anuph said to them, "who has warned me of your coming and revealed to me your way of life." He then went through all the good things each one of them had done before telling them of his own deeds.
"Since the time when I openly confessed the name of the Saviour in this world, there has no falsehood come out of my mouth. I have taken no human food but have been fed daily by an angel with food from heaven. There has been no other desire in my heart than desire for God. There is nothing on earth which God has hidden from me, he has shown me how to interpret all things. I do not sleep much, I get no rest at night but continue to seek God. There is always an angel with me warning me of the powers of this world. My lamp of meditation has never been extinguished. God has always answered my petitions. I have often seen numberless myriads of angels in the presence of God, with the choirs of the righteous, the company of martyrs, the ranks of the monks, all of them praising God. I saw Satan cast into the fire and punished with his angels and the righteous rejoicing in eternity."
Many other things he told them, and on the third day he yielded up his spirit. And they saw the angels and the choir of martyrs and heard their songs of praise as they took up his soul and bore it into heaven.

Chapter LIX
THE LIFE OF ABBA HELLEN 

There was another father called abba Hellen, who from an early age had lived a life of discipline. Time and again he would give quite fiery exhortations to the brothers who were with him, urging them not merely to be disciplined in their lives but to show results by increasing in virtue.
Once when he was by himself in the desert he was obsessed by a desire for some honey, when believe it or not he came across a honeycomb under a rock.
"Be off, you inordinate desire!" he cried. "For it is written 'Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfil the desires of the flesh'" (Galatians 5.16). And he left the honeycomb where it was and walked away.
After fasting three weeks in the desert, he found some fruits which had been scattered about, but he said, "I won't eat them, I won't even touch them, lest I shock my brothers, never mind do harm to my own soul. For it is written, 'Man does not live by bread alone.'" (Luke 4.4).
After fasting another week he fell into a heavy sleep and an angel came to him in a dream, saying, "Arise, take what you find, and eat." He got up, looked about him, and saw a spring which had made various plants grow in a circle all around it. He ate the fruits and drank the water, declaring that he had never tasted anything so delicious.
He found a small cave nearby and stayed there fasting for several days. When he needed food he prostrated himself and prayed, and immediately all kinds of food were placed before him, warm bread, olives and various kinds of fruit.
He would sometime visit the brothers to give them instruction, after which he would hasten back to the desert, taking with him anything he needed. He saw some donkeys feeding, and said, "In the name of Jesus Christ, one of you come and carry my parcels." And immediately one of them came. He put his sheepskin on it and sat on it, and arrived back at his cave after only one day. He left his bread and fruit outside in the sun, but when the wild beasts came to drink as usual at the spring they fell dead if they so much as touched any of it.
On another occasion he went to visit some monks on a Sunday and asked them why they had not celebrated the synaxis. They immediately replied that it was because the presbyter had not come.
[Synaxis A Vigil service consisting of psalms and readings, beginning on the Saturday night and culminating in the Holy Eucharist on Sunday morning.]
"I will go and get him," he said.
"You won't be able to cross the river," they replied. "It's too deep. Besides, there is an enormous beast of a crocodile there which has eaten many people."
Without delay he got up and went to the crossing point, where the crocodile took him on its back and carried him across to the other side of the river. When he found the presbyter at home he begged him not to neglect the brothers. The presbyter looked at Hellen's clothing, all patched and tattered.

 

Chapter LIX, Hellen (continued) Book VIII

(Apelle begins further down page)

 

"Your clothing bespeaks great beauty of soul, my brother," he said. And in admiration of his humility and frugality he accompanied him to the river. There was of course no ferryboat there, but Abba Hellen called out to the crocodile. It came up obediently and offered his back.

"Get on it with me," Hellen asked the presbyter. But he moved away, overcome by fear. Awestruck, he watched the beast carry Hellen across the river, as did the brethren living on the other side. He then lured the beast towards him, and said,

"It is better that you should die, rather than continue to be condemned for killing people." And the beast fell down and died.

He remained with these brothers for three days, teaching them and bringing out into the open all their secret thoughts. This person he declared to be tempted by fornication, that one by vainglory, another by gluttony, another by anger. One he declared to be a gentle person, another a peacemaker. He made clear the vices of the one group and the virtues of the other. As they listened they wonderingly agreed that what he said was true.

"Prepare some vegetables," he then said, "for there will be some more brothers coming to visit us today." While they were still in the process of preparing them, the brothers arrived and they all greeted one another.

One of the brothers asked to be allowed to come and live with him in the solitude of the desert.

"You would not be able to withstand the temptations of the demons," said Hellen.

"I could withstand anything," he said, in a rather aggrieved tone of voice.

So he took him with him and showed him a separate cave to live in. That night the demons came and first of all attacked him with filthy thoughts and then tried to suffocate him. But he ran and told Hellen immediately what was happening. Hellen came and signed the place with the cross (Lit. 'impressed a figure upon the place', cum loco figuram impressisset), and bade him rest secure.

When the supply of bread ran out, an angel in the shape of a brother brought him food.

On another occasion there were ten brothers travelling through the desert to visit him who had been fasting for seven days when he met them. He invited them to rest in his cave, and when they asked him for some food he said,

"I have nothing that I can offer you, but God is able to provide a meal in the desert."

They joined together in prayer and immediately a young man arrived in a boat and knocked at the door. They opened up to him and found that this young man was carrying a large basket of bread and olives. Thanking God they took and ate, and the young man immediately disappeared.

This and many other things Father Copres told us about. He treated us kindly and warmly, showing us into his garden where there were palms and other fruit bearing trees which he had planted himself in the desert, at the instigation of those farmers to whom he had said, "For those who have faith in God, the desert shall bring forth fruit."

"After I had been to see those who had sown seed in the desert and reaped a harvest I also did the same and followed him."

 

 

 

Chapter LX

THE LIFE OF ABBA APELLE

We also saw another presbyter in the more distant parts of the region called Apelle, a good man who used to be a coppersmith before being converted to the disciplined life. The devil once came to him in the shape of a woman while he was working his smithy for the monks. In his haste he picked up a red hot piece of metal from the fire and belaboured her face and body with it. The brothers heard her shrieking in his cell. From that time onwards he always picked up hot metal in his hand without being burnt. He greeted us kindly and warmly and told us about many famous men and friends of God who had been with him and some who still were.

 

Chapter LXI

THE LIFE OF ANOTHER JOHN

"There is in this desert," he said, "a brother called John, already quite advanced in age, who excels all the other monks in virtue. He is quite difficult to find for he wanders about from place to place in the desert. He stood for three years under a cliff face in perpetual prayer, without sitting down, and not sleeping except for what sleep he could snatch standing up. He ate nothing except the Eucharist which a presbyter brought to him on Sundays. There came a day when Satan changed himself into the likeness of a presbyter and came quickly to him claiming that he would like to bring him the Eucharist. But blessed John recognised him and said,

"'You father of all lies and deceit, enemy of all that is just, unceasing deceiver of Christian souls, will you also dare to insult the holy Sacraments?'

"'I may not have come anywhere near dragging you down and casting you into the flames,' he said, 'but there was one other of your brothers whom I corrupted whose mind I disturbed to the point of insanity. Many righteous people prayed for him a great deal but were not able to restore him to a sound mind.'

"Having said this the demon departed.

"His feet had become sore through standing so long and had begun to fester when an angel came and touched him, saying,

"'The real Christ will be your food and the real Holy Spirit will be your drink, but this spiritual food will be sufficient for you in the meantime so that you will not be given more than you can take (lit. 'lest being filled you vomit', ne repletus evomas). He then cured him and departed.

"After that, John wandered about in the desert, using wild herbs for food, but on Sundays he would always be in the same place to receive Communion. He begged a few palm leaves from the presbyter from which he made an animal harness. Anyone who was lame and seeking a cure from him was immediately healed the moment he mounted an ass and touched any harness which the holy man had made. Whenever he delivered any other kind of blessings to the sick, they were healed at once.

"Furthermore it was revealed to him that there was someone in one of the monasteries who was not living aright, and he wrote letters for the presbyter to deliver, specifying some who were lazy and others who were striving for virtue. What he said was always found to be true. He also wrote to the fathers pointing out which of them were lacking in care for the brothers and which of them were helping them as much as possible. He suggested suitable rewards and punishments accordingly. He urged others to move towards a state of perfection by relying not on what their five senses told them but on their own interior knowledge (lit. 'he urged them to transfer themselves from sensible things to those things which are perceived by intelligence' (admonebat ut a sensilibus se transferrent ad ea quae percipiuntur intelligentia)

"'It is time', he said, 'to spell out the purpose of such a life. For we ought not to remain childlike and infantile for ever. We should direct our thoughts into more perfect paths, develop in greatness of soul, seeking every possible virtue to the uttermost.'"

This and many other things Apelle told us about John. We haven't written them all down because they are so exceedingly miraculous that some people might not believe them, even though they are indeed true. We are quite convinced about these things, however, for we saw with our own eyes the many remarkable men who told us of them.

 

Chapter LXII

ABBA PAPHNUTIUS

We saw also the place where the anchorite Paphnutius lived, a great man famous for his virtues, who had died not long since in the region of Heracleotas in the Thebaid. Many people have said many things about him.

 

Chapter LXIII

TIBICINE  (= flautist)

 After living a disciplined life for a long time, Paphnutius asked God to show him whether there was anyone else among the holy people living an upright life who compared to him. An angel appeared to him and said, "There is a flautist in this region like you."

He hastily sought him out to find out how he lived and acquaint himself with everything he had done.

"The truth is," the flautist said, "that I am a sinner, a drunkard and a fornicator. It is not long since I stopped being a thief."

"But you must have done some things right," said Paphnutius, trying to examine him closely.

"I'm not aware of anything good in particular," said the flautist, "unless when I was a robber, I helped a virgin of Christ to escape from some robbers who were offering to molest her, and took her by night back to her home. There again, I once found a beautiful woman wandering about in the desert. She was weeping copiously, fleeing from bailiffs and other court officials because of her husband's failure to pay his taxes, for when I asked her why she was weeping all she would say was, 'Don't ask. Don't pry into my misery. Just have me as you servant and take me where you will. It is two years now since my husband was shut up in prison and beaten because he owed taxes to the extent of three hundred gold pieces. And my three lovely sons were sold into slavery - so I have fled, wandering from place to place. Here I am now wandering in the desert. It has often happened that I have been severely attacked, and for three days now in this desert I have had nothing to eat.'

"Well, I took pity on her," said the robber. "and took her back to my cave, gave her three hundred gold pieces and took her back to the city where her husband and children were freed from all disgrace and shame."

"I can't point to anything like that in my own life," said Paphnutius, "but you have doubtless heard that I have some reputation for living the disciplined life. I certainly do not spend my time in idleness. It was God who revealed to me that you in your deeds were by no means inferior to me. So, my brother, if you have any great longing for God at all do not rashly neglect your own soul."

Immediately, he threw away the flute he had in his hands and exchanged the music of lyric poetry for a melody of the spirit by following Paphnutius into the desert.

For three years he followed this way of life to the utmost of his ability, completing his life in hymns and prayers, after which he departed for the heavenly realms, resting in peace with choirs of angels, and numbered in the company of the just.

 

Chapter LXIV

PROTOCOMES  

As soon as Paphnutius committed to God that man who had striven after excellence to the best of his ability, he imposed upon himself an even greater and stricter rule of life than before. And he then asked God if there was anyone else who could compare with him. Again he heard a divine voice, saying, "There is a community leader (protocomes) in a neighbouring village who is as good as you."

Immediately he sought him out and knocked on his door. This man came out and offered him hospitality as usual, invited him in, washed his feet, set food before him, and urged him to eat. Paphnutius then began to ask him about himself.

"Tell me, my friend," he said, "about your way of life, for God has told me that you exceed many monks in virtue."

"No, I'm a sinner," he replied." I am not worthy to be compared with monks."

But Paphnutius urged him more insistently, until he replied, "I feel under no compulsion to tell you about the things I have done except in so far as you say that God has sent you, in which case I will tell you about myself. It is thirty years now since I separated from my wife. I lived with her for only three years, and she gave me three sons who still assist me in my business. I have never refused hospitality to anyone right up to the present day. There is no one among my associates who can boast of being more hospitable than me. I have always seen guests and beggars on their way with plenty of food; no one has ever left my door with empty hands. I have never passed by any poor beggar without giving him enough to satisfy his needs. In any quarrel I have never been prejudiced in favour of my own sons, no stolen goods have ever entered my house, there has never been a legal argument in which I have not acted as mediator and peacemaker, no one has ever accused my sons of behaving dishonestly, my flocks have never grazed anyone else's pasture, I have not given priority to sowing my own fields, but declared them common to all and simply gathered up what was left over. I have never permitted the poor to be oppressed by the power of the rich. I have done no injury to anyone in my life. I have never pronounced an unfair judgment against anyone. This is the way, as far as I am aware, of how I have been following the will of God."

When Paphnutius heard the deeds of this man, he kissed his forehead and said, "'The Lord bless thee out of Sion, that you may see the goods of Jerusalem all the days of your life.' (Psalms 128.5) In all these things you have done well. One thing remains to crown your virtues, and that is knowledge of the wisdom of God in every part of your being, which you cannot find without great labour, separating yourself from the world, taking up your cross and following the Saviour."

Upon hearing this, he immediately followed Paphnutius out to his mountain, without even letting his family say farewell. When they came to the Nile they found there was no boat, so Paphnutius told him to wade through, which nobody was doing at that particular time because the river was high. The water came up their waists, but after the crossing, Paphnutius set him up in a certain place.

[That is, following the usual practice, he would help him build a cell, show him how to weave mats and baskets and instruct him in psalmody and prayer.]

After leaving him he asked God that this man should be seen to excel all others of this kind. Not long afterwards he saw his soul taken up by the angels as they praised God saying, "'Blessed is he whom you have chosen and taken up on high. He will dwell in your courts'" (Psalm 65.4). And the cries of the just responded, saying, "'Great is the peace of those who love thy law and are not offended by it.' (Psalms 119.165)." And then he knew that the man was dead.

 

 

Chapter LXV

MERCATOR  

Abba Paphnutius continued to worship God in prayer and fast rigorously. He again asked God to show him someone else like him. And again the divine voice came to him, "You are like a merchant gathering fine pearls. But get on your feet without delay, for someone similar to yourself is coming to meet you."

He came down from the mountain and met a certain merchant (mercator) of Alexandria worth twenty thousand gold pieces, a devout lover of Christ, coming down the Nile from the upper Thebaid with a hundred ships, giving away all his goods and chattels to the poor. Along with his sons he came and offered ten bags of vegetables to Paphnutius.

"What is all this about, my friend?" asked Paphnutius.

"These are the profits of my business," he replied, "which are offered to God by way of a fair return."

"How is it then," said Paphnutius, "that you have not yet enjoyed a reputation like mine?"

"But that is what I am earnestly seeking," he replied.

"Well how much longer," asked Paphnutius, "are you going to go on in your worldly business without getting any nearer to a heavenly reward? When you have given all you possess to other people, you will then be able to take to yourself something infinitely more valuable, that is, to follow the Saviour, and indeed to enter his very presence not long hence."

Without any argument he told his sons to give the rest of his things to the poor. He himself went up into the mountain, embraced solitude in a place where two others had laboured before him, and gave himself up to prayer. It was not long afterwards that he left his body and entered the kingdom of heaven.

Having seen this person go before him into heaven he was ready to give up the ghost himself, as one who could labour no longer. And an angel came to him and said, "Approach hither now. Do you also, O blessed one, enter into the tabernacle of the Lord. See, the prophets are coming to welcome you into their choirs. You have not been told this would happen before lest you had become proud and stained your good record."

One day later, certain presbyters were led to him by a revelation from God. He told them all these things and then gave up his soul. And the presbyters praised God as they plainly saw him taken up among the saints and angels.

 

Chapter LXVI

THE LIFE OF ABBA APOLLONIUS

There was a certain monk in the Thebaid called Apollonius who shone with many virtues and worthy deeds. He had been blessed with the gift of teaching above many others famous for their virtues. At the time of the persecutions he inspired those who confessed Christ with the mind of Christ so that many of them became martyrs. At last he was himself arrested and imprisoned, where many of the more depraved among the gentiles came to revile him and attack him with curses and mockery.

 

Chapter LXVII

PHILEMON, AND THOSE WHO WERE MARTYRED WITH HIM.

There was a fluteplayer, a man with a bad reputation, among those who came to pour scorn upon Apollonius, declaring him to be a blasphemer, a fraud and cheat, an object of universal hatred and worthy of sudden death.

"May the Lord have mercy on you, my friend," replied Apollonius. "May he not hold against you as a sin what you have said."

On hearing this the fluteplayer, whose name was Philemon, was conscience stricken, so disconcerted was he by what Apollonius had said. He went immediately to the courtroom and stood before the judge in the presence of the people.

"You are acting unjustly," he said to the judge, "in punishing these religious and blameless men. Christians are neither evil speakers nor evil doers."

Hearing this, the judge thought at first that he was joking or speaking ironically, but when Philemon persisted he said. "You must be mad. The balance of your mind has suddenly been disturbed."

"I am not mad," he replied. "You are a most unjust judge. I am a Christian."

The judge and all the people tried hard to make him change his mind, with many persuasive arguments, but when he remained adamant, the judge condemned him to suffer the whole range of tortures.

Apollonius too was seized, grievously abused, and put on the rack for being a cheat. But he cried out, "I could wish that you and all those present would agree with my so-called error."

Hearing this the judge ordered them both to be consigned to the flames in the presence of all the people. With the flames already licking around him, the blessed Apollonius cried out for the judge and people to hear, "'Deliver us not, O Lord, into the power of the wicked, but show yourself openly to us'" (Psalm 74.19). And immediately a brilliant, rain-bearing cloud appeared, hiding the men from view and putting out the fire.

"There is none like the God of the Christians!" everyone in the crowd shouted out, including even the judge himself. Some spiteful person reported this to the prefect in Alexandria, who got together a band of vicious heavyweights to act as bouncers and security guards (protectores et apparitores) and sent them to arrest both Philemon and the judge. Apollonius and a number of the other confessors were also arrested. While they were all on the way to Alexandria, Apollonius was given the grace to begin preaching to their guards. They too were all conscience stricken and believed in the Saviour, with the result that they too were all with one accord taken into custody. When the prefect became convinced that nothing would change their minds, he ordered them all to be taken out to sea and thrown overboard. This they accepted as being their baptism.

When their fellow Christians found their bodies cast up on the shore, they made there one single shrine for them all, where many powerful signs are now worked. For this man was so full of grace that the Lord honoured him by answering whatever he asked for in his prayer. We saw it ourselves and prayed there, along with others who were deeply moved by this martyrs' shrine. We worshipped God and paid our respects to this holy place in the Thebaid.

Chapter LXVIII
THE LIFE OF ABBA DIOSCURUS, PRESBYTER.


We also saw another presbyter in the desert called Dioscurus, the father of a hundred monks. When anyone by the grace of God came to be with him, he would say to them: "See that you do not come to the Holy Sacrament if you have had fantasies about women during the night. None of you should have gone to sleep under the influence of visions and fantasies. It is a different matter if you have simply had a nocturnal emission of semen without any fantasies. They do not come to anyone by a deliberate act of will but involuntarily. They are a perfectly natural expulsion of superfluous matter, and there is nothing sinful about them. Visions and fantasies are something which are subject to your own free choice, and are symptomatic of a sick mind. It is incumbent upon a monk to transcend the laws of nature, to purify the body so that no weakness of the flesh be found in it, but rather to chastise the flesh until there is no superfluous matter to be found in it. Strive therefore to wear it down by frequent and severe fasting, so that we shall be less likely to be aroused by our appetites and desires. It is not right for a monk to be at the mercy of his mental desires. In this we are different from those in the world. Don't we often see such people abstaining from certain pleasures for health reasons, or some other such strange irrational impulse. How much more should a monk take care for the health of his mind and spirit.

Chapter LXIX
THE ANCHORITES OF NITRIA

We also visited Nitria where we saw many great anchorites, some native born, some foreign. They rivalled each other in virtue, living their lives with great zeal, each of them trying to outdo the others. Some of them were given to contemplation, others to action. When any of them saw us coming afar off, some would run to us with water, others would wash our feet, others our clothes, some would offer us food, others would share their contemplation and knowledge of God with us. Each one was eager to do whatever he could for us. And what can we say about their virtues? It is impossible to do justice to them.
They live in this desert place at great distances from each other, so that none can be easily seen, heard or recognised by his neighbour. They live in complete quietness, each one shut up by himself. They meet each other only on Saturdays and Sundays when they gather together in the church. Many therefore often go at least four days without even seeing anyone else, until they gather together. Some of them are so far apart from each other that they have to travel three or four miles to get to the meeting. They show a great deal of love among themselves, far more than other monks do, so that anyone seeking salvation in the company of so many like them is more than content to find that his own cell provides him with all the refreshment that he needs.

Chapter LXX
THE LIFE OF ABBA AMMON, AND THOSE WITH HIM.

We saw the father of those anchorites, a man called Ammon, who had a really splendid cell, with a large front room, a well and other necessary rooms. A brother wanting to save his soul came to him and asked him to find him a cell to live in.
"Stay here and don't go away till I have found you some little place," said Ammon, and leaving him in charge of everything, cell and all, he went and occupied another tiny little cell himself.
If a group of people came wanting to save their souls, he gathered the whole brotherhood together and organised some to bring building materials, some to fetch water, and in the space of one day new cells were ready. He summoned their future occupants to a welcome party in the church, and while they were all there rejoicing and relaxing, the brothers filled sheepskins and baskets with bread or other necessary things and left them in the new cells so that none of the newcomers would know who had given what, but found everything they needed when they came back to their cells at night. There were some who ate no bread or fruit but only wild intyba (herbs ?). There were some who did not sleep at night but sat or stood until dawn, persevering in prayer.

Chapter LXXI
THE LIFE OF ABBA ISODORE, AND THOSE WITH HIM

In the Thebaid we also visited the monastery of a certain Isodore, a great man, where there were a thousand monks. There were wells and gardens inside, providing everything necessary for the life, so that no one needed to go outside the monastery. There was a presbyter at the door who would not allow anyone out; nor allow anyone in unless he had an intention of staying there till death without going anywhere else. Some however who came in through the gate he offered hospitality in a small guesthouse, and having spoken kindly to them next morning sent them on their way in peace.
There were two presbyters who were the only ones to go out, in order to sell what the brothers had made and bring back what they needed for their work. The presbyter who kept the gate told me that those inside were so holy that that they were all able to do miracles. None of them ever fell ill before death, but when the time for their departure had come they told all the others before lying down and falling asleep

Chapter LXXII
THE LIFE OF ABBA AMMON, PRESBYTER

There is another place of solitude in Egypt, in very difficult country near the sea not far from the city of Diolcos, where many great anchorites lived. We met there a holy and very humble presbyter called Ammon who had visionary gifts. Once when offering the sacrifice to God, he saw an angel standing at the right hand of the altar taking note of the brothers who came seeking God's grace and writing their names in his book. If anyone was missing from the synaxis, he saw their names being crossed out, and within three days they were dead. Demons often tortured him so badly that he was unable to stand at the altar to make the offering, but an angel came and took him by the hand and immediately gave him strength so that he was able to stand firmly at the altar. The brothers were amazed at the sight of his torments.

Chapter LXXII
THE LIFE OF ABBA JOHN 


We saw someone else in Diolcos named John, the father of a monastery, who also was blessed with many graces. He had the clothing of Abraham and the beard of Aaron. He did many miracles and cures. Especially he cured many paralytics and those suffering from gout.

Chapter LXXIII
THE LIFE OF ABBA PITYRION, AND THOSE WITH HIM


We also saw in the Thebaid a high mountain overhanging the river, precipitous and fearsome. The monks lived there in caves. Their father was called Pityrion, who was one of Antony's disciples, and the third person to live in that place. He showed forth many virtues and was an adept at driving out spirits. In succeeding Antony and his disciple Ammon, he deservedly inherited their gifts. He gave a great deal of teaching to us and many others with us, discoursing on the accurate discernment of spirits. He said that there were some demons associated with psychological patterns (motus animi), who were able to turn our desires (affectiones) into evil paths.
"So, my sons," he said to us, "anyone wanting to expel demons must first get his desires under control. The measure of being able to expel demons is the measure of being able to control your desires. Little by little therefore, you must conquer your desires so that you can drive out the demons associated with them. The demon loves gluttony. Anyone who overcomes gluttony drives out the demon of gluttony."
He himself ate only twice a week, on Sundays and Thursdays. His meal was a little pulse without flour, which he had got so used to that he simply could not eat anything else.

Chapter LXXV
THE LIFE OF EULOGIUS, PRESBYTER

We saw another presbyter called Eulogius, who was given such a gift of knowledge when offering the gifts to God that he was able to read the minds of those monks who were drawing near. He frequently stopped monks from approaching the altar, saying, "How can you presume to approach the Holy Sacrament when your thoughts are so evil; you have been entertaining filthy thoughts of fornication last night. There is another who thinks that it doesn't matter whether you are a sinner or a righteous person in approaching the grace of God, and another who reasons that surely the mere fact of offering the gifts at the altar will sanctify him. Stay away from the Sacraments for a while, do penance that your sins may be forgiven and you will then be worthy of the communion of Christ. Unless you first clean up your thoughts, you cannot enter into the grace of Christ."

Chapter LXXVI
THE LIFE OF SERAPION, PRESBYTER .

In the Arsinoe area, we also saw a certain presbyter called Serapion, the father of many monasteries, making him the leader of a large brotherhood of about ten thousand monks. He administered an extensive charity on behalf of the brothers, in that at harvest time they all handed over to him the profits received from the sale of their grain. Each one was able to supply twelve artabas  (one artaba = approx 2 gallons), the equivalent of what we would call forty modii. He used this to help the poor, so that there was no one destitute in the surrounding region, and he even sent some to the poor in Alexandria. But throughout the whole of Egypt none of the fathers neglected this service, so that because of the labours of the brothers, they were able to send so many ships full of grain and clothing to Alexandria that there was scarcely any real poverty there.

Chapter LXXVII
THE LIFE OF ABBA POSIDONIUS


There are so many things about Posidonius of Thebes that it is difficult to tell of them all. He was very gentle, and very severe in his way of life, and there was an innocence about him such as I have never met in anyone else. I lived with him for a year in Bethlehem, in the place where Poemon had lived, and took note of all his virtues. Among other things, one day he told me the following:
"I lived in Porphyria for a whole year and saw no other human being for all that time, and therefore heard no sermons. I lived on wild herbs and ate very little bread except an occasional small portion. Once when I had completely run out of bread, I left my cave to go to a village, but having walked all day I covered no more than two miles. Looking about me I saw a horseman dressed in military uniform and wearing a helmet. I realised he was a soldier and I followed him to a cave where I found a container full of grapes both dried and newly picked. I accepted them joyfully and so returned to my own cave with two months food supply."
There is also this miracle which Posidonius did in Bethlehem. A pregnant woman was possessed of an unclean spirit which was tormenting her grievously when she came to give birth. Her husband, seeing her being attacked by a demon, came and asked that holy man to help. We went in to offer prayers, he prayed, then stood up, and after doing this twice the spirit was driven out. He stood up and said to us: "Keep praying. Although the spirit has been driven out, we need some sign to be quite sure." And as the demon went, he split the courtyard wall from top to bottom. The woman had not spoken for six years, but after the exorcism, she gave birth and began to speak.

Chapter LXXVIII
JEROME


From this holy Posidonius I also heard a word of prophecy about a certain Jerome. He was a presbyter who lived in this district, eloquently fluent in Latin writings and of a brilliant intellect, but so filled with a spirit of jealousy that his awareness of sound doctrine perished. Posidonius spent a lot of time with this man, and he said to me that . . .

Chapter LXXIX
PAULA

A noble woman who looked after him, would be delivered from his jealousy only by dying before he did. He divined that because of this man, no holy person would be able to live in that area, but that his jealousy would affect even his own brother. And so it turned out.

Chapter LXXX
OXYPERENTIUS


He drove the blessed Oxyperantius the Italian from this place…

Chapter LXXXI
PETER

And Peter, another Egyptian…

Chapter LXXXII
SIMEON

And Simeon. I knew all these men and they were admirable people.
Simeon told me about Posidonius, who was a most abstemious person who practised all the virtues. He ate no bread for the last forty years of his life and to the day of his death bore no grudge against any injuries done to him.
Such were the struggles and miracles of the famous Posidonius, such was his spirit of prophecy, the greatest of all his virtues. This is the end of the life of this blessed and outstanding man.

Chapter LXXXIII
THE LIFE OF SERAPION SINDONITES


Serapion Sindonites was so called because he never wore anything except a sindon (a simple linen garment). He possessed no property and was totally unskilled, for which reason he was thought to be totally impassibilis (indifferent to all kinds of physical discomfort) Although unable to read, he nevertheless learned the Scriptures by heart. Even though he had nothing and meditated on the Scriptures he was one who found it quite impossible to stay quietly in a cell, but this was not because he was led astray by worldly desires, but because he was drawn to an Apostolic life. He travelled the world over, embracing the most demanding form of poverty, and developed his powers of endurance to perfection. He was born with this kind of nature - for even though all people share one humanity there are many different kinds of nature (sunt enim naturarum, non substantiarum, differentiae).
The fathers relate that when he was approached by someone who wished to learn from him how to live the disciplined life, he went instead into the city and sold himself as a slave to some non-Christian (gentilibus) actors for twenty solidi. This money he hid in a secret place and did not spend it. He continued to serve these actors who had bought him, eating nothing but bread and water, and speaking constantly of what he learned from Holy Scriptures, until he converted them to Christianity and turned them away from the theatre. First it had been the husband after quite a long time, then the wife and then the whole family. The saying is that even while they were taking no notice of him, he was spiritually washing their feet.
Both of them were baptised. Both renounced the theatre. They embarked on a new life, honest and devout, and held their slave in great respect.
"Come, brother," they said, "we are going to give you your freedom, since you have liberated us from a sordid way of life."
"It is God who has done it all," he replied, "you have cooperated with him. And so you have saved your souls. Now I will tell you the hidden reason for what I have done. I was moved with compassion for you because of your false way of life. I am a free monk (liber exercitator) of Egypt, and it was in this cause that I sold myself to you and became your slave. Since it is God who has acted to bring your souls into safety, please take back the money you gave me, and let me go and bring help to someone else."
"But you are our lord and father. Please stay with us," they urged him again and again. But he would not be persuaded.
"Why not give the money to the poor - for it has been the cause of our salvation," they said.
"No, you give it to them, " he said. "It's yours, after all, I can't give somebody else's money to the poor."
"Well at least come back and visit us next year," they urged him. And so he departed from them.
In the course of his various wanderings, he came at last to Greece, and stayed for three days in Athens without anyone offering him any bread. As for money, or a bag, or a sheepskin, or a staff, he had none of these things. He was dressed only in his sindon. By the fourth day he was very hungry, for he had eaten nothing all this time. Fasting which is forced upon you is a very serious thing, especially when you would not have believed it possible. He went to the place where the leading citizens were accustomed to congregate and stood up on the citizens' platform.
"Men of Athens, please help," he cried, with much weeping and urgent shouting. Some of the leading citizens (lit. 'those who wore the pallium and birrus') came up to him.
"What is the matter with you?" they asked. "Where do you come from and what's wrong with you?"
"I am an Egyptian," he said, "a monk by profession. Absent from my own true homeland, I have fallen in with three moneylenders. I have paid the debt to two of them and they have gone away; there is nothing else they can bother me with. But there is one that is still with me."
"Where are they then?" they asked, as they looked around impatiently in order to pay them off. "Who is it that is bothering you? Point him out to us and we will come to your assistance."
"It is Avarice, Gluttony and Fornication that bother me," he replied. "I have been delivered from two of them - Avarice because I have no money or anything else, and Fornication because I do not indulge in the kind of luxurious living which gives rise to it. But I can't get away from Gluttony, for it is now four days since I have had anything to eat, and my stomach attacks me vigorously, seeking payment of a debt without which I shall not be able to live."
Realising that he was spinning them an allegorical tale some of those wise men then gave him a solidus, which he took into a bakery, picked up some bread, left the city and did not come back there again. They realised then that he was a man of great virtue and paid the miller the price of the bread so that they could have their shilling back again as a souvenir.

He travelled to a place near Lacedæmonia, where he heard that a principal citizen of that place was a Manichæan together with all his household, although he was a good man in every other way. So this best of monks sold himself to this man in the same way as he had done before to the actors. Within two years he had converted this man from his heresy together with his wife and his whole family and brought them into the Church. They regarded him so highly that they no longer treated him as a slave but held him in as high honour as a brother or a father. Together they all praised God. He gave them a great deal of encouragement before giving back to his master the price of his freedom and leaving them.
He then went aboard a ship about to sail for Rome. Some of the sailors thought he had already paid his fare, others assumed he had sufficient money to cover expenses, all thought someone else had seen to his baggage, and they made no objection to his presence, without really going into the matter very carefully. When they had set sail and were about fifty miles from Alexandria, the sailors had a meal about sunset, followed by the passengers. On the first day they noticed that he ate nothing but put it down to seasickness. The same thing happened on the second, third and fourth day. On the fifth day they noticed him sitting quietly while everyone was eating and said:
"You're not eating anything, friend?"
"That is because I haven't got anything to eat," he replied.
So they began to ask questions about who might have taken care of his baggage or taken any money for his fare, and realised that nobody had. Indeed he had no baggage to take care of.
"What do you mean by coming on board without any money?" they said angrily. "How are you going to pay your fare? How are you going to eat?"
"I don't possess a thing," he replied. "So you will have to take me back and leave me where you found me."
"No chance of that," they said, "now that we have got a favourable wind - not unless you could give us a hundred gold pieces. So we will just have to accept it, and put up with what we can't change."
So he stayed in the ship, and they fed him until they arrived at Rome. There he began to enquire where the greatest ascetics, either men or women, were to be found.

Chapter LXXXIV
THE LIFE OF ABBA DOMNIO


Among these was a certain Domnio, a disciple of Origen, a most strong and ascetic person. Rumour accredited him with many miracles. After his death, his bed cured the sick.

Chapter LXXXV
A SILENT VIRGIN

Serapion profited greatly from meeting this man, as he was an exemplary person, learned, wise in speech and of unblemished life. He asked him whether there were any other local spiritual athletes, either men or women, and was told about a certain virgin practising quietness and silence, who had been enclosed in a cell for twenty-five years without speaking to anyone. He went to the place where he had been told that she lived and spoke to the old woman who served her:
"Tell this virgin that I must needs meet her," he said.
"She has not met anyone for many years," the old woman replied
"Tell her that I have come to meet her for God has sent me," he said.
But even then, the old woman would not agree.
After he had persisted in his request for two or three days, however, he did at last meet her.
"Why do you stay put here?" he asked
"I don't stay put," she said. "I am continually on the move."
"Moving where?"
"Moving towards God."
"Are you alive then, or dead?"
"I trust in God that I am dead to the world, for those who live according to the flesh cannot come to God."
"You would more readily convince me that you were dead to the world if you did what I do."
"Well, command me, and anything I can do, I will."
"Anything is possible for one truly mortified, as long as it is not anything sinful, so come out of your seclusion and walk outside with me."
"I've not been out for twenty-five years, so why should I go out now?"
"Go on! Haven't you said you are dead to the world? In which case it is obvious that the world must be dead to you. If that is really true, and those who are dead have no feelings, it can't make any difference to you whether you go out or not."
So she did come out and went with him as far as the church.
"If you really want to convince me," he said to her in the church, "that you are dead to the world and indifferent to what people think of you, do what I do and I will then know that you are truly mortified. Take off all your outer clothing as I have done, carry it over your shoulder, and walk though the middle of the town with me in front of you, dressed as I am in nothing but this sindon."
"That would be a terrible thing to do. I would offend many people, and they could accuse me of being mad or possessed by a devil."
"Why should you worry even if they did call you mad or possessed by a devil? You are supposed to be dead to their opinions. The dead have no worries. They can't feel anything whether they are praised or disparaged."
"Think of something else for me to do. I can't claim to have arrived at that measure of mortification."
"Well then," said Serapion, who had great powers of endurance, "cease from boasting and pleasing yourself, as if you were more pious and mortified than anyone. Even I am more mortified than you are, for I do this without any shame or mental hesitation."
And so he took leave of her, having dented her pride and pointed her in the direction of humility.
There are many other great and illustrious deeds illustrating the endurance of this great and pre-eminently virtuous Teacher of Christ, but the purity of his life will be evident from the few things which I have written down. He died in the sixtieth year of his life and was buried in the desert.



Chapter LXXXVI
EVAGRIUS, A FAMOUS DEACON.


I cannot pass over Evagrius, a distinguished deacon who lived like an apostle; I feel bound to write something, to the glory of our good Saviour and the edification of anyone who might read it. So I give a full account of how he came to the monastic life and the worthy way in which he lived it. He died in the desert aged fifty-four, thus, in the words of Scripture, 'being made perfect in a short time he fulfilled a long time' (Wisdom 4.13). He was indeed a soul pleasing to God.
He was born at Ibora, in Pontus (near the Black Sea, c.346), the son of a presbyter, appointed as a lector by Saint Basil the bishop of Caesarea. After the death of the holy bishop Basil, he was ordained deacon by Basil's brother, Gregory, the Bishop of Nyssa, who had taken note of his abilities. Gregory was a most wise man, worthy of being compared to the apostles, with a very serene temperament, and quite brilliant in expounding doctrine. He took Evagrius with him to the Great Synod of Constantinople (382 AD), and relinquished him to the blessed bishop Nectarius, who appreciated his skill in the art of summing up arguments in all kinds of subjects. (omnium disserendi artis peritissimus). He gained a reputation as a young man in that great city for refuting all kinds of heresies in public debates.
It came to pass, however, that this man, honoured by the whole city for his upright life, became lustfully obsessed by a portrait of a woman, as he told us himself in later life when he had been freed from such obsessions. And the woman also, belonging to one of the leading families, became obsessed by him. But Evagrius feared God and feared his conscience also. He kept before his eyes the public disgrace that could come from sin, and how much pleasure the heretics would take from the sins of other people. He humbly begged God to take away from him the prospects afforded him by this woman, fed by lust as he was and held captive by mad desire. But however much he wished to escape, he had no power against the insidious pleasures which held him in chains.
But a short time after his prayer, and before his desires could be carried into effect, he had an angelic vision in which he saw a military commander seize him and bring him before the judgment seat, carry out the sentence of imprisonment by putting an iron collar around his neck and fixing iron chains to his hands, while those who had followed him previously could say nothing in his defence. Pricked by conscience he felt that he deserved these punishments, and supposed that the woman's husband had brought him to this judgment. His mind in a turmoil, he came to this conclusion since he had been involved in similar trials debating the crimes of other people. His fear and mental anguish was intense.
And then the angel of the initial vision became transformed in his eyes into a kind and brotherly friend who was astonished and saddened by the shame of his being chained up with forty other convicted criminals.
"Why are you being detained so ignominiously among criminals, my reverend deacon?" he asked.
"Truly, I don't know," he replied. "But I suspect that N….. who is a high-up officer has organised my arrest in a fit of zeal beyond all reason, and bribed the judge to impose the greatest possible penalty."
"Take the advice of a friend," said the angel, still in friendly guise. "It would be best for you not to stay in this city any longer."
"If you can see me freed from this calamity back in Constantinople," Evagrius replied, "I swear I would accept that punishment, knowing that I deserve a much greater."
"If that is the case I will bring the holy gospels and when you have sworn an oath on them that you will leave this city and take thought for your own salvation, I will free you from your imprisonment."
"Please do that, and I will gladly swear the oath. Only get me out from under this dark cloud."
The gospels were brought, the oath was demanded, and Evagrius swore:
"I will not stay in this city longer than one day in which I can get my things on to the ship."
The moment he had sworn the oath he awoke from the dream which had come upon him that night.
"Even though it is only in a dream that I have sworn this oath," he said as he got out of bed, "I have nevertheless sworn."
And he conveyed himself and everything he possessed by ship to Jerusalem, where he was accepted by the blessed Melania of Rome. But being of a lusty youthful age, his heart was  hardened by the devil again, like Pharaoh of old. He was full of doubt, of two contrary minds, though as yet he had not talked with anyone about it. The result was that he thought of changing back to secular dress again. In all this disturbance of mind, vainglory rapidly led to laziness, but the God who saves us from falling led him once more into a crisis, in that he first of felt feverish, then became seriously ill, so that he was incapacitated for the space of six months. He was unable to summon up any strength at all, and the doctors could not understand what was the matter with him and could offer no cure.
"I don't like this disease of yours," said the blessed Melania, "going on day after day. Tell me what is going on in your mind. Bodily illness is not the real thing, is it."
So he confessed what had happened to him in Constantinople.
"Promise me as God is your witness," she said, "that you will embrace the monastic life, and sinner though I am I will pray to God for you that you may be given food for your journey and find a purpose in life."
He agreed, she prayed, and after a few days he got much better. She herself then clothed him in the monastic habit, and he went off to a far country, that is, to Mount Nitria in Egypt. He lived there for two years and went into solitude in the third.
After fourteen years in the region known as the Cells, he was eating only a pound of bread a day and a pint of oil every three months - and he was a man who had been brought up in the lap of luxury. He composed a hundred essays (orationes), marking them down each year as the only price he could afford in exchange for what he ate. He was a most elegant and speedy writer. A month into his fifteenth year, he was found worthy of being granted the gifts of knowledge, wisdom and discernment of spirits. He wrote three books for monks called Antihrretica, that is, Refutations, outlining the means of fighting against the demons.
He told us that once when tormented by a demon of fornication he stood all night in a well, even though it was winter, in order to discipline his body with coldness. On another occasion, as he told us, when he was tormented by a spirit of blasphemy, he stayed outside for forty days, so that his body became like that of the wild beasts and broke out in scabs. And three demons dressed like clerics appeared to him. One of them accused him of being an Arian, the second of being a Eunomian, the third an Apollinarian, but he overcame them with a few words inspired by the spirit of wisdom.
One day the key of the church was mislaid, but he called on the name of Christ, made the sign of the cross on the crossbar, pushed it with his hand and it opened. It would be difficult to tell of all the beatings he had from demons and all the other torments they devised for him. He foretold to one of his disciples what would happen to him in eighteen years time, describing everything exactly as it was to happen (omnia ei praedicens in specie). He also said:
"Since the time I became a solitary I have not touched lettuce or the smallest particle of green vegetables, or anything fresh, fruit, grapes, lentils, meat, wine or anything cooked. All I have had is wild herbs and water." But in the sixteenth year, without cooking since beginning this kind of life, weakness of body and stomach persuaded him of the need for his flesh to take in some cooked food. For two years he ate some bread, though never any cooked vegetables, except some barley-groats and lentils. By these means this blessed man wore down his body but brought life to his soul through the Holy Spirit. He communicated in church at Epiphanytide.
This wholehearted athlete of Christ also told us when on his death bed that it was only for the last three years that he had not been bothered by the desires of the flesh. So even towards the end of a life rooted in virtue, after immense labours, unwavering purpose and sober unceasing prayer the malicious demon, the enemy of everything good, could still attack this immortal soul. If that is the case what must the lazy ones suffer from that wicked demon through their own negligence?
Somebody once brought him the news that his father was dead, and all he said to the messenger was: 'Don't blaspheme. My father lives for ever." He was, of course, talking about God.
Such was the way in which this amazing Evagrius lived his exacting and perfect life.



Chapter LXXXVII
THE LIFE OF ABBA PIOR 


There was an Egyptian called Pior who renounced the world and left his family home while still a young man, at which time he promised God that he would not set eyes on them again. Fifty years later his sister in her old age learnt from someone that he was still alive and she became totally obsessed with the desire to see him. She could not venture into the emptiness of the deserts by herself so she asked her local bishop to write to the fathers in the desert, asking them to send him to her so that she could see him. A great deal of pressure was brought to bear on him, so at last, obedient to the fathers, he decided to go, taking one other person with him.
He told the brother to approach his sister's door and stand outside. When he heard the door being knocked and his sister coming out to meet him, he shut his eyes and called out
"N……., my sister, I am Pior your brother. Here I am. Come, look, gaze as much as you like."
Convinced it was he, she praised God and did all she could to persuade him to come inside, but he simply said a prayer on the threshold and returned to his solitude, which for him was just as important as his own native land.
He is also credited with this miracle, that he dug down in the place where he had built his cell and found water, which was however bitter. But he stayed there till his death, content with the bitter water he had found, so that the ability of this generous man to put up with things became widely known. After his death many monks tried to live in his cell, but were not able to manage it, not even for so long as a year. It was a terrible place, bereft of all comfort.

Chapter LXXXVIII
THE LIFE OF ABBA MOSES OF LIBYA 

Moses of Libya was a most gentle man, renowned for his great charity. He had been found worthy of being given the gift of healing. He told us this story:
In the monastery once when I was quite young, I was digging a deep well, twenty feet deep. Eighty of us had been digging for three days and got to the usual water bearing level, but having seen it and gone into it for about a cubit's length we found no water. Greatly discouraged, we were thinking about giving up, and were in the middle of discussing it when Pior appeared out of the empty desert, dressed in his sheepskin. And this was at the hottest sixth hour of the day. After greeting us he asked,
"Why are you so downcast, you men of little faith? I knew yesterday that you were losing heart."
So saying he immediately put down a ladder into the well, said a prayer over them, took a rod and struck it three times.
"O God of our holy fathers," he said, "let not the work of your servants be a useless waste of time, but send them the gift of water."
And water immediately gushed forth, spraying over us.
"It is clear that this is the reason I have been sent to you," he said, after praying once more.
"Please stay and have a meal with us," we urged him.
"No, I can't do that," he replied. "I have finished doing all that I was sent to do."
Such is the admirable story of Pior, that famous pillar standing strong against all storms, and the reward of his virtue is that now, instead of his bitter-tasting water, he enjoys for ever a river of flowing sweetness in great exaltation of spirit.

Chapter LXXXIX
THE LIFE OF ABBA CHRONIUS


There was a certain man called Chronius who lived in the village of Phoenix on the edge of the desert. Counting out fifteen thousand steps on his right foot, he went out from his village, said a prayer and dug a well. He found good water at a depth of seven arms-lengths and there built himself a small hermitage (hospitiolum). From the day in which he thus began a monastic life, he prayed to God that he would never need to go back to the place where he used to live.
Not many years later he led a brotherhood of about two hundred men who had gathered around him, and it was then that he had the dignity of the presbyterate conferred upon him. In praise of his way of life it is said that for the whole of the sixty years that he served the altar in his priesthood he never left the desert and never ate bread that he had not earned with his own hands.

Chapter XC
THE LIFE OF ABBA JACOB

Jacob, known as 'Claudus' (i.e. 'lame'), from the same neighbourhood also lived with him. He was a man well known for the depth of his knowledge. Blessed Antony knew them both.

Chapter XCI
THE LIFE OF ABBA PAPHNUTIUS CEPHALA


Paphnutius Cephala also came to him, a marvellous man who had the gift of knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, both old and new testaments, interpreting them all even though he could not read. He was a modest man, who did not make any show of his prophetic gift. It is said of him that for over eighty years he never possessed two tunics at the same time. The blessed deacons Evagrius and Albinus came with me to visit him, and we asked him about the details of some who fell away and lapsed into scandalous living.

 

 

 

 

Chapter XCII

CHEREMON

In those days it happened that a certain Cheremon fell away and was found dead sitting in a chair, with his work in his hands.

 

Chapter XCIII

ANOTHER

There was another brother who was digging a well and was drowned in it.

 

Chapter XCIV

ANOTHER

There was another travelling from Scete who died of thirst.

 

Chapter XCV

STEPHEN, WHO LAPSED

 We remember also Stephen who lapsed into disgraceful over-indulgence, and Eucarpius, Heron of Alexandria, Valens of Palestine and Ptolemy of Egypt, all of whom were in Scete.

At the same time we asked why it was that some who lived in solitude became mentally unbalanced while others lapsed into over-indulgence. They gave us the following answer, Paphnutius among them, a man well known for his great knowledge.

"Whatever happens falls into two categories. Either it is pleasing to God or else it happens with his permission. Whatever is done virtuously to the glory of God is pleasing to God. Whatever is damnable, dangerous and leads to a fall is done with God's permission. It is given to those who fall either because of their limited intelligence or because of their unfaithfulness. Those who live devoutly and think correctly cannot fall into disgrace or be deceived by demons. Those who make a show of attempting to be virtuous in the sight of other human beings, while living a defective life full of arrogant thoughts are the ones who fall. God allows this to happen for their own benefit, in that when they feel how much their life has changed because of their fall, they will correct their rule of life and act accordingly.

"Sometimes what is intended goes wrong because it is misdirected, as when excessive gifts are given to young people with an evil and corrupting end in view, and even when the action seems morally justified, as in giving assistance to orphans or to monastic good works. For although it is a perfectly good thing to give alms to the sick, or the destitute, or the aged, it can be done grudgingly and sparingly. A good intention is thus translated into an unworthy act. Taking pity on the poor should always be done with joy and generosity.

"Many souls are given special gifts," he continued. "To some is given naturally pleasant personality, to others a capacity for asceticism, but they must be exercised disinterestedly and within the divine plan. If they do not ascribe their actions, their pleasant personality and their special gifts to God the giver of all good, but to their own free will and character and self-sufficiency, then they are abandoned by Providence, and fall into evil ways, falling victim to wickedness, depravity and disgrace.

"In this state of dereliction, through shame and humility they can somehow or other drive out little by little the arrogance which came upon them through doing what they thought was virtuous. They trust no longer in themselves, but by their own confession attribute all their benefits to God who is the giver of all things. There are those who are conceited, I say, carried away by their own pleasant personality. They don't ascribe to God their pleasant personality, nor the knowledge which comes with it, but think that it is either a natural gift or something which they have acquired by their own efforts. From them God withdraws the Angel who mediates the gift of providence.

"When this happens those who are obsessed with their own pleasant personality are overcome by the power of the adversary, and through their conceit fall into immoderate ways. Lack of moderation takes all credibility from anything they might say. Honest people reject any teaching that might come from such a source as they would a spring infested with leeches. And thus the Scripture is fulfilled which says, 'God says to the wicked "Why do you presume to talk about my justice or take my covenant in your mouth?"' (Psalms 50.16).

"Those who are imprisoned in vice are like various different kinds of springs. The gluttonous and winebibbers are like springs which are muddy; the greedy people always wanting more are like springs infested with frogs; the envious, who could be quite knowledgeable, are like springs where serpents drink. The light of reason is not always apparent in such people, so nobody wants to listen to them because their way of life is sour, their deeds have the smell of iniquity about them.

"David, taught by God, begs for three things, integrity, discipline and knowledge (the reference is to Psalm 119, probably verses 33-35). Without integrity, knowledge is useless. But if anyone like this reforms his ways and renounces the cause of his fall, namely his arrogance, by cultivating humility and by taking full knowledge of what he has been doing, then he can be turned back to God. He will no longer set himself up as a critic of every one else, but will give thanks to God, and this knowledge of himself will be his witness. Spiritual speeches which lack honesty and moderation in equal measure are like chaff blowing in the wind, which look like grains of wheat but which have lost all power to nourish. The measure of every fall from grace, whether in speech or feelings or acts, is the measure of the arrogance that goes with it, and is caused by being abandoned by God, who yet has mercy on those who are abandoned. But even if the Lord acknowledges the pleasant personality of such people, when cleverness of speech is added to their lack of moderation, their pride makes demons of them all and they soil themselves by becoming self-opinionated.

"When you come across someone who is obviously perverse," these holy men and best of fathers went on to say, "but who have great powers of persuasion, remember the demon in Scripture who spoke to Christ, and also the text which says, 'The serpent is the most ingenious of all the beasts of the earth' (Genesis 3.1). But his ingenuity did him no good since there was no other virtue to go with it. It behoves a good and faithful servant then to think the thoughts given him by God, to speak according as he thinks, and to perform the things that he says. If his life does not agree with his words, he is like bread without salt, as Job says, which cannot be eaten (Job 6.6). If it is eaten it makes the eater sick. Eating bread without salt is like the taste of unprofitable and empty words which are not proved in good works. There are many aspects to disaster. Very often it is the occasion of hidden virtue being brought to light, like the virtue of Job to whom God said, 'Do not reject my judgments. Do not think that my answers have had any other purpose but to prove your righteousness (Job 40.8). You are known to me who know all things that are hidden and who search the depths of human thought (Job 34.21-22). Those who do not really know you suspect that you worshipped me simply because you were rich. It is for this reason that I have brought you to your present state. I have taken your riches away to show them the depth of your wisdom and how you walk in grace.'

"Paul also speaks of avoiding pride. For he was given over to misfortunes and buffetings, and cast down by all sorts of afflictions, as he says, 'I was given a thorn in the flesh to buffet me lest I get conceited' (2Cor.12.7). Because of his miracles he could have taken things easy. With all the success in his dealings and the honour which he was accorded he could have succumbed to a diabolical and arrogant pride.

"There was a paralytic also, cast out because of his sins, to whom the Lord said, 'You have been made whole. Sin no more.' (John.5.14). Judas also fell because he loved money more than the word of life and hanged himself. (Acts.1.18). Esau also fell and lapsed into intemperance, in that he preferred a mess of pottage to his father's blessing. (Genesis.25.32). The blessed apostle Paul understood all these things. There were those of whom he said, 'They did not value the knowledge of God, so God gave them up to a reprobate mind to do things which are wrong.' (Romans 1.28). There were others of whom he said, 'They seemed to have a knowledge of God but their minds were corrupt and swollen with foolishness. They did not glorify God as God or give him thanks, so God gave them over to disgraceful passions'  (Romans 1.28)

From all this we can be certain that no one can fall into intemperance except he is abandoned by the providence of God. It is because of their negligence and carelessness that this has happened to those who have lapsed and fallen away.

 

Chapter XCVI

THE LIFE OF ABBA SOLOMON

 I lived for forty years as a citizen of Antinoe in the Thebaid region and during that time I got to know all the monasteries there. About two thousand men lived in that country, working with their hands and striving spiritually. There were anchorites among them who lived in caves in the rock faces, among whom was Solomon, a most gentle and well ordered man, who lived for fifty years in his cave, supporting himself by the work of his hands. He learned the whole of the Sacred Scriptures by heart.

 

Chapter XCVII

THE LIFE OF ABBA DOROTHEUS

Dorotheus was a presbyter who lived in a cave, a man of blameless life and of great goodness. He was worthy of being ordained to the presbyterate, and ministered to the brethren in the caves. On one occasion Melania the younger, granddaughter of Melania the great, whom I shall mention later, sent him five hundred solidi for him to share out among the brothers. He would only keep three of them, however, giving the rest to the anchorite Diocles, a man of the greatest perception, mentioned below.

"You are much wiser than I am, brother Diocles," he said, "and you can distribute these in a much more fair and faultless way than I could. You know better than I who deservedly needs help. These three solidi are enough for me."

 

Chapter XCVIII

THE LIFE OF ABBA DIOCLES

 This Diocles was educated at the Grammatica (i.e School of Rhetoric and Philosophy), and gave himself to the study of Philosophy, until at the age of twenty-eight, led by grace, he abandoned the liberal arts and turned to Christ and the philosophy of heaven. At thirty-five he went to a cave. He used to say to us that the mind of one whose thoughts depart from the contemplation of God becomes either demonic or bestial.

"How do you mean?" we asked him.

"The mind which departs from God," he replied, "of necessity is either captured by the demon of desire who drives you into lasciviousness, or by the malignant spirit of anger from which come all kinds of irrational impulses. Lasciviousness is bestial; anger is the movement of the devil."

"But how can a human mind be with God without intermission?" I asked.

"The soul is always with God whenever it is immersed in thoughts or deeds which are devoutly given to God's will," he replied.

 

Chapter XCIX

THE LIFE OF ABBA CAPITO

 Near to him lived Capito who had been a robber. For fifty years he lived in his cave about four miles from the town of Antinoe, and never once departed from it even as far as the river Nile.

"I can't stand crowds," he said. "And up till now the common adversary has stood back from me."

 

Chapter C

THE LIFE OF AN ANCHORITE WHO WAS DECEIVED

 Near them we also were aware of another anchorite who like them lived in a cave. He suffered from a sort of dreamlike frenzy of vainglory, feeding on air and chasing shadows. Anyone at all vulnerable to deception was easily deceived by him. And yet he kept a good bodily discipline, though perhaps that was just due to his age and circumstances, or even inspired by pride. It was however the vainglorious dissipation of his soul which corrupted him and eventually led to his abandoning of religious life.

 

Chapter CI

THE LIFE OF ABBA EPHRAEM, A DEACON

You have doubtless heard of Ephraem (in Vitae Patrum, Book I) who was a deacon in the church of Edessa (a Syrian city on the banks of the Euphrates). He was one of those who are worthy to be mentioned among the holy servants of Christ (died 373). After following diligently the way of the spirit without deviating from the right way, he was found worthy as a result of his theology of being given the gift of insight into natural things, a gift which leads to blessedness. He lived a life of quietness for many years building up those who came to him, until something occurred which made him leave his cell. For a great famine had struck the city of Edessa. Being full of compassion for those who were perishing from hunger he approached the rich people of the city.

"Why do you not bring aid to all these human beings who are perishing," he asked, "instead of letting your wealth moulder away to the detriment of your own souls?"

"We don't know anyone we can trust, " they said in excusing themselves, "to distribute bread to the needy. They would all be interested only in profiteering."

"What is your opinion of me?" he asked. Now there was no doubt that he was genuinely regarded very highly by all.

"We know that you are a man of God," they said.

"If you have formed that opinion of me," he said, "trust me in this matter. See, I am offering myself to take care of looking after people."

They gave him money, and he built an enclosed place surrounded by a wall, provided three hundred beds, arranged for medical treatment to those who were ill, brought relief to the hungry, buried the dead, cured those for whom there was still hope - in short from the money with which he was supplied he brought friendship and help in place of famine.

By the end of the year the crops were growing well again and everything returned to normal. So when there was nothing more for him to do, he went back to his cell. He died at the end of a month. God had given him in his last days this opportunity of crowning his life with glory. Besides, he left writings well worth studying which bear witness to his greatness.

 

Chapter CII

THE LIFE OF ABBA JULIAN

Someone in these parts told me that Julian was a man who practised very vigorously, who punished his flesh so much that he was just skin and bone. Towards the end of his life he was found worthy to receive the gift of being able to heal the sick.

 

 Chapter CIII

THE LIFE OF ABBA INNOCENT

 You have heard from many great people about Innocent the presbyter of Olivet. You will nonetheless hear more about him from me also, for I lived with him for three years and observed closely what might have escaped the notice of others. But indeed, whether it were I or they or ten other people it would be impossible to tell all the virtues of this man.

He was a transparently simple man. He used to have a high position in the court of the Emperor Constantius at the beginning of his reign. A married man, he renounced the world, even though he had a son called Paul, who served in the palace guards (militabat inter domesticos). This son committed fornication, and even though it was his own son Innocentius called down a curse upon him.

"Give him over into the power of a demon, O Lord," begged Innocentius, judging that it were better for him to have a demon to contend with rather than try to overcome his lust. And so it turned out. For right up to the present time he is in the Mount of Olives, waging war on and being harassed by a demon. And marvellous to relate, this father who heals others has had no pity on his own son who has been tormented all this time by a demon.

This Innocent was such a merciful person (I'm telling the truth, however much you may think I am making it up), that it was often whispered about among the brethren that he was giving alms to the needy. He was indeed a simple and innocent person. He had been granted great powers against the demons. There was a paralytic young man possessed of a demon who was brought to us, and when I saw him I would have quite frankly discouraged his mother and the other people with him, as I thought he was beyond curing. But Innocent came along and saw her standing there, crying and shouting because of her son's appalling disability. This extraordinary man was deeply moved and shed tears. He took the young man with him into the chapel (martyrium) which he had built himself, in which were the relics of John the Baptist. He prayed with him from the third hour through to the ninth, and took the young man back to his mother, cured both of his paralysis and his demonic possession all in the same day. The illness had caused his body to be so twisted about that when he slobbered the spit ran down his back.

Here is another sign that he did. There was an old woman pasturing the sheep in fields near to Lazarius who came to him weeping because she had lost one of them.

"Show me the place where you lost it," he said to her, giving her his full attention. She led him to the place near Lazarius, where he stood and prayed. The young men who had actually killed the sheep earlier were whispering among themselves nearby, but none of them owned up to it while the holy man was praying. A crow suddenly flew down on to the stolen carcase which was hidden among some vines, snatched up a morsel from it and flew off. The blessed man noticed it and so found the slaughtered body, whereupon the youths flung themselves at his feet and confessed to having killed the sheep. They were compelled to pay up a fair price for the carcase, and were so fiercely punished that they never dared do such a thing again.

 

Chapter CIV

THE LIFE OF ABBA ADOLIUS

In Jerusalem I knew another person called Adolius who came from Tarsus. From the time when he first came to Jerusalem, he entered upon a way of life which was rather unusual. It was a new routine which he thought out for himself, not one which followed the multitude. It was such a superhuman way of living that even the wicked demons were terrified by his austerity, and were frightened of coming near him. It was almost as if you could think he was a spirit and no man, such was his asceticism and vigilance. In Lent he ate only every fifth day, at other times every other day.

The extraordinary achievements due to his virtue were as follows. From Vespers until the time when the brothers met for prayers next day, he stood on the mount of Olives - that mount from which Jesus ascended into heaven - singing psalms, fasting and praying without intermission, without moving whether it rained or poured. At the accustomed time, he called the brothers to prayer by taking a mallet and knocking on their doors. At every part of the service he sang with them the psalms and one or two antiphons, prayed with them, and at last as day was approaching he retired to his cell. His clothing was often so wet that the brothers would divest him of them and give him others to wear. He rested until the third hour, then turned to his psalm singing again and concentrated on this until it was time for Vespers. This was the virtue shown by Adolius of Tarsus who lived out his life in Jerusalem and there entered into eternal rest and was buried.

 

Chapter CV
THE LIFE OF ABBA ABRAMIUS

There was a certain Egyptian called Abramius who lived a very hard and severe life in solitude. His mind became filled up with untimely delusions, so that he came into the church and started arguing with the presbyters.
"Christ himself has ordained me last night to the presbyterate," he said, "so take me into your fellowship."
The fathers took him out of his solitude into a more regular and ordinary sort of life, cured him of his pride, and led him to acknowledge his own weakness in being deceived by the demon of pride. By their holy prayers, he was restored to his former holiness of life.


Chapter CVI
THE LIFE OF ABBA ELPIDIUS


This Elpidius was a Cappadocian, and lived on Mount Luca, in the caves of the Amorites which had been built by those people fleeing from Joshua the son of Nun when he was laying waste the people of this foreign land. He was later honoured with the gift of the presbyterate to serve the monastery there. He was ordained by the excellent Timothy, a bishop of the Cappadocian region.
Elpidius lived in a cave and gave evidence of such discipline in his way of life that he overshadowed everyone else. For twenty-five years he ate only on Saturdays and Sundays and stood singing the whole night through. As bees seek out their queen, so many others followed him and populated that mountain, though you would find among them many different ways of life.
Elpidius (= "foot of God") lived up to his name on one occasion as a scorpion stung him when we were singing psalms with him one night. He lived with a sure hope and was willing to suffer for Christ's sake, so that he simply stamped on the scorpion without moving from where he stood. So great was his power of bearing pain that he took no account of the injury done him by the scorpion.
One day while still living in the mountain, one of the brothers gave him a bit of a twig, which the holy man stuck in the ground even though it was not the planting season. It grew so much and showed such vigorous life that it covered over the whole church.

Chapter CVII
THE LIFE OF ABBA AENESIUS


Along with this celebrated holy athlete of God was included the servant of God Aenesius, a man highly esteemed, and outstanding in his way of life.

Chapter CVIII
THE LIFE OF ABBA EUSTATHIUS


And his brother Eustathius was equal to him in honour, living out the battle of life with a keen and eager mind.
It was his example that Elpidius followed, punishing his body, ignoring the pain, so that his complete bone structure became damaged. In describing his virtues, his diligent disciples also recorded that for all of twenty-five years he never once looked toward the West, even though the mouth of his cave was situated on the top of the mountain. From the sixth hour when the sun was overhead, he never looked towards where it was going down into the West, and for twenty years, he never saw the stars which arise in the West. From the time that he went into the cave, this great patient athlete did not come down from the mountain until he was buried.
Such were the heavenly exploits of the victorious unconquered athlete Elpidius, who now rests in paradise along with many others like him.

Chapter CIX
THE LIFE OF ABBA SISINNIUS


There was a disciple of Elpidius called Sisinnius, a Cappadocian by race, a slave but a free man in faith. It is important for the glory of Christ to mention his origins, for it is Christ who exalts us from our origins, leading us to the truly blessed nobility which is indeed the Kingdom of Heaven. He spent a long time with the blessed Elpidius, a keen athlete in the way he trained himself in all the virtues. He learned the virtues of Elpidius for six or seven years, the fortitude of the way he laboured in his way of life, and then shut himself up in a tomb. He stayed there and prayed for three years, neither sitting down or lying down or going out. He was given power over the demons.
He has now gone back to his native land where he has been honoured with the gift of the presbyterate and has collected around him a company of both men and women. He bears witness to the virtue of developing the powers of endurance by the honesty of the way his life is lived, in that by practising strict continence he has expelled from himself both masculine avarice and feminine pliability, so fulfilling the Scripture, 'In Christ there is neither male nor female, bond nor free' (Galatians 3.28).
He was famed for his hospitality though possessing little, to the shame of the rich who shared little.



Chapter CX
THE LIFE OF ABBA GADDANA

I also knew an old Palestinian called Gaddana who for the whole of his life lived without a roof over his head near the river Jordan. When the Jews inspired by greed invaded with drawn sword the area around the Dead Sea, a great miracle was performed by this blessed hermit. For when a soldier lifted up his sword intending to kill Gaddana, the hand which held the sword withered and the soldier fell down insensible. Such was the protection given by God to the blessed Gaddana, which the blessed man enjoyed till the end of his life.



Chapter CXI
THE LIFE OF ABBA ELIAS


There was a highly respected monk called Elias living in a cave in the same area. His life was upright and above all religious. He lived his life in continence and prayer and had a ready welcome for all who came to him. One day several brothers arrived, making a stop with him on their journey, and he had run out of bread.
"I was very upset because I had no bread,'' he told us, swearing that what he had to say was true, "so I went into my cell in great perplexity of mind, wondering how I could possibly fulfil the duty of charity towards these arrivals, and I found that three loaves had just been put there, which I joyfully took and placed before them. Twenty of them satisfied their hunger and there was still one loaf left, which I found was enough for me for the next twenty-five days."
This was a gift from the Lord to the hospitable Elias, for whom the reward of his labours is laid up in the presence of the kindly Lord.

 


Chapter CXII
SABBATIUS

Sabbatius was a married man of Jericho, who was so friendly disposed towards monks that he would go the desert and the cells at night and leave outside every hermitage a portion of fruit and vegetables. This was all they needed, because those living this way of life in the Jordan ate no bread. This benefactor of celibate monks who saw to the filling of their larders came face to face with a lion one day when he was carrying some of the necessities of life to them. The lion had evil designs on him, an immense wild animal sent by the devil, the enemy of monks and their ministry, intent on destroying not only him but the source of the monks' food. He was about a mile away from where the monks lived when the lion saw him, stretched out his claws and threw him down. But he who bade the lions refrain from eating Daniel forbade this lion to devour this servant of those who served God, even though he was very hungry. He merely ate the donkey belonging to the man, and thus the donkey both bestowed life on him and satisfied the lion's hunger.



Chapter CXIII
THE LIFE OF THE PRESBYTER PHILOROMUS


We met the most devout presbyter and lover of God Philoromus in Galatia and stayed with him for a long time. He followed his way of life most strictly. He was the son of a slave woman though his father was free. But he gave such great and noble evidence of Christian virtue in his way of life that even the leading monks reckoned his life and the power of his virtues to be equal to that of the angels.
He renounced the world during the rule of that accursed Emperor Julian. Philoromos, that open-hearted Christian athlete, spoke his mind freely to that impious man, with the result that Julian ordered his servants to shave him and severely scourge him. He bore it bravely and magnanimously, and even giving thanks for it, as he himself told us.
He told us that to start off with he began a great battle against fornication and gluttony. Struggling against these tyrannous disorders he overcame them, like putting out a fierce fire with plenty of water, by striving for continence, by shutting himself up, by abstaining from meats and wheaten bread and all cooked dishes. He waged this war for eighteen years with great bravery and magnanimity, so that at the last, having conquered, he could sing a hymn of victory, 'I will praise you, O God, because you have sustained me and not allowed my enemies to triumph over me' (Psalms 30.1).
He persevered for forty years in the monastery, being attacked by the spirit of fornication from time to time.
"For thirty-two years," he told us, "I ate no fruit. But then I was attacked by a spirit of fearfulness, so that I daily felt afraid. So I enclosed myself for six years in a tomb, and by this means I won through, waging war through the power of endurance with the spirit who was endeavouring to enslave me. "
The blessed bishop Basil took a great interest in this outstanding man, admiring his austerity, his constancy, his diligent work. Up to the present day, aged eighty, he still keeps going at his weaving and his writing.
"From the time that I was brought into new life by water and the Spirit," this blessed man said, "right up to the present day, I have never eaten bread at someone else's expense, but only what I have provided with my own hands. And as God is my witness, I tell you I have given two hundred and fifty solidi out of my earnings to those handicapped and disabled who have not done anyone else any injury. I have journeyed on foot to Rome in order to pray at the shrine of the martyrs SS. Peter and Paul and have even got as far as Alexandria in fulfilment of a vow to venerate St. Mark. I have also been found worthy of twice being able to go to Jerusalem on my own two feet to venerate the holy places and I have paid the expenses myself.
"I do not remember," he said, to give us something to benefit from him by, "ever having departed from God in my soul."
Such were the struggles of the blessed Philoromus in which he won an unblemished victory, and to him is given the reward of his blessed labours, a crown of undying glory.

 


Chapter CXIV
THE LIFE OF THE BLESSED SEVERIANUS AND HIS WIFE

In Ancyra Galatia it so happened that I was able to speak with a certain nobleman called Severianus and his wife, although I did not have any great intimacy with them. They placed all their good hope in a future life, to the disappointment of their children. They had four sons and two daughters, but they disbursed all the revenues of their estates among the needy, making no settlement upon any of them except in marriage settlements.
"It will all be yours after we are dead," they said to the other children. "For as long as we are alive we shall save our surplus earnings and distribute them to churches, monasteries, guestmasters and to anyone who is needy. Their prayers will bring the reward of eternal life to us and you and our family in exchange for the labours of this present time."
They also displayed notable virtue during a time of great famine when everyone was feeling hungry, for they opened up their storehouses on many of their estates and gave to the poor, with the result that many who were then heretics came back to the true faith. It was their otherwise inexplicable kindness which persuaded heretics to come back into agreement with the true faith, giving thanks to God for their simplicity and immense generosity.
They had another admirable practice. What they wore was very old and unpretentious, they were sparing in what they ate to a degree almost impossible to describe. They were simply content with enough necessary to support life. A wonderful devotion towards God went along with this. They spent most of their time in the country, avoiding the city and its vices, lest the excitement and confusion of city life draw them away from a truly joyful life and they should fall away from the commandments of God. All the good deeds and upright life of these blessed people helped them to keep their eyes fixed on the eternal rewards prepared for them by the glory of God.



Chapter CXV
THE LIFE OF THE MONK ELEEMON

We met in this country a monk who had refused the offer of the presbyterate. He had decided this after a short spell of military service. After twenty years of living as a monk he began a different life in the service of the very holy bishop of that area. He was a kind and merciful person and he used to go about the city helping not only the needy but everyone, the guards, the hospitals, the beggars, rich and poor. He did good to everyone. If the rich were careless and lacking in pity, he spoke to them of mercy. He provided what was necessary for the needy. He reconciled those who were quarrelling. He clothed the naked. He supplied medicines to cure the sick.
As is usual in all big cities there was always a crowd of sick and disabled people on the steps of the church begging for their daily bread. Some of them were married, some not. It happened one day that the wife of one of them began to give birth - and it was wintertime. She began to cry out as she underwent intolerable pain, and the blessed man heard her as he was praying in the church. He immediately abandoned his accustomed prayers, went outside and saw what was happening. There seemed to be no one about who was able to help in this emergency so it was he who took upon himself the function of a midwife, not minding at all about the messiness of women in labour. In this most profound act of kindness he displayed as little concern as if he had been a woman.
The clothes that he wore could not have cost more than one obol. What he spent on food was even less. He owned hardly a single book - acts of mercy kept him away from reading. If any of the brothers gave him a book he promptly sold it and gave the money to the poor.
"Why are you selling this book?" some people would ask him.
"How could I possibly convince my master that I have thoroughly learned his teaching except by using his very teaching to put it into practice?" he would reply. He continued acting in this manner to such an extent that he left an undying memory of his name in the whole region round about. He is now given eternal joy in the kingdom of heaven, receiving a worthy reward for his blessed labours. He fed the hungry and clothed the naked and now enjoys all manner of delights as a reward for his good works.

 

Chapter CXVI
THE LIFE OF ABBA BISARION

There was a compassionate old man living in poverty called Bisarion who once came into a certain town and saw a naked beggar lying there dead, while he himself was wearing a tunic in the gospel tradition and a small cloak. He possessed nothing else besides this necessary covering and a small gospel which he carried under his arm. This reminded him of the danger of not being always obedient to the voice of God and also gave him advice on how to act. So admirable was this man's life, more beautiful than any other, that he was like an earthly angel, pursuing a really heavenly path.
When he saw the dead body, he immediately took off his cloak and spread it over him. After going on a little further he saw a beggar, completely naked. He stopped and reasoned thus with himself:
"Here am I who have renounced the world and yet I still have clothes to my back, yet this my brother is stiff with cold. If I were to see him die, I would be guilty of my neighbour's death. What should I do? Take off my tunic and divide it so as to give him half? Or rather give it whole to this person created in the image of God? But what use would it be to either of us cut in half? Besides," he kept on arguing, "is any one ever condemned for doing more than the commandments require?"
Straightaway this generous athlete briskly beckoned the beggar into a porchway and sent him off clothed while he himself remained there bare, covering himself with his hands and squatting down with bended knees, keeping nothing save the gospel under his arm which made him rich. He was providentially recognised by an irenarch [a sort of local peacekeeper or constable], passing by on his own business.
"Look there," he said to his companion. "Isn't that abba Bisarion?"
"Indeed it is" was the reply. The irenarch got down from his horse.
"Who has stripped you naked?" he asked.
"This," he replied, taking the gospel out from under his arm.
The irenarch took off his own cloak and clothed this perfect soldier of Christ in it. He accepted it as a sort of little monastic habit and quietly slipped away from view, unwilling to be praised by someone who had brought his way of life out into the open, but looking rather for that honour which comes from keeping good deeds secret.
Having fulfilled exactly all the gospel precepts, and with no worldly considerations any longer in his mind, he yet went on to an even more perfect obedience to the demands of God. For having seen a poor person in passing through the forum he thought for a little while and then went and sold his gospel. A few days later his disciple Dulas was with him and asked,
"Abba, what have you done with your little gospel?"
The old man calmly replied with a beautiful saying, apt and deeply wise.
"Don't look so sad, brother," he said, "for I do believe that I have sold it in obedience to that word which bids me 'sell what you have and give to the poor'". (Mark 10.21, Luke 18.22)
There are many other things done by this great and virtuous father, with whom may we also be found worthy to have a share through Christ's grace. Amen

 

Chapter CXVII
THE LIFE OF THE BLESSED MELANIA


I have thought it necessary to mention in this book some strong and virtuous women to whom God has given rewards equal to those of the men who have lived virtuously, and who have been awarded the crown due to all those who please him. Their gentleness and tenderness should not be used as an excuse for labelling them as unenterprising, or lacking in the strength needed for the battle to develop a virtuous and honourable life. And I met many pious and religious women, and even more virgins and widows of great virtue, among whom was the most blessed Melania of Rome, the daughter of the consul Marcellus, and the wife of a man in a very important position whose name I cannot remember.

When she was widowed at the age of twenty-two, she was found worthy of being filled with the love of God. She found someone who would take care of her children, and without telling anyone (for this was forbidden at that time under the Emperor Valens), took with her what luggage she could and took ship for Alexandria, together with some servants and maids. There she realised her assets (suas res vendidisset) into small gold pieces (aurum minutum) and went into Mount Nitria where she met the holy fathers Pambo, Arsisius, Serapion the great, Paphnutius of Scete, bishop Isodore the Confessor of Hermipolis, and Dioscuros. She travelled around among them for about six months, visiting all the holy people in the desert.

Afterwards Augustus of Alexandria exiled to Diocaesarea in Palestine Isidore, Pissimius, Adelphius, Paphnutius, Pambo, Ammonius 'Parotius' or 'one-eared', together with twelve bishops, presbyters, clerics and anchorites to the number of a hundred and twenthy-six. Melania followed them there, and defrayed out of her own money the expense of supplying the necessities of them all. I visited the holy Pissinius, Isodore, Paphnutius and Ammonius, and they told me that she was then prohibited from exercising this ministry, but she bravely dressed herself as a slave and continued to take some food to one of them. When the consul of Palestine heard of this, he arrested her in the hope of terrorising her and filling his own purse. He threw her into prison, unaware that she was a free woman. But she soon disabused him of this idea.

"I am the daughter of Marcellus and was married to a man in a very important position," she said, "but I am now the handmaid of Christ. Don't be misled by the way I am dressed; I am perfectly at liberty to dress otherwise should I so wish. You can't terrorise me or take any of my money without unwittingly getting yourself into real trouble, which is why I am telling you who I am."

Against stupid men it is sometimes necessary to act with a strong mind, like a hound or a bird of prey, and swoop down on their self importance. The judge believed her and apologised most obsequiously, and gave orders that she be allowed to visit the holy men without any hindrance.

 

Chapter CXVIII

THE LIFE OF THE PRESBYTER RUFFINUS

When the exiles were allowed back home, Melania built a monastery in Jerusalem where she lived for twenty-seven years with a convent of fifty virgins.

With her was the most noble and capable Ruffinus who was of a like mind with her. He was from Aquileia in Italy and was later found worthy of being ordained presbyter. You could not have found a more learned or more gentle man anywhere. So for twenty-seven years, they welcomed all those coming to Jerusalem on pilgrimage (voti causa, 'for the sake of a vow'), bishops, monks, virgins, married people, private citizens and those in public life, and they provided for them all at their own expense. They also took care of about four hundred men leading a monastic life who were followers of the schismatic Paul [of Samosata, a notable heretic of that time], and also heretics among the Pneumatomachi who played down the divinity of the Holy Spirit. They persuaded them to come back into the Church. Without causing any offence to anybody, they transformed the lot of the local clergy by gifts of food, and indeed brought help to everyone from whatever part of the world they came.

I have already talked briefly above about the wonderful holy woman Melania. I would also add a few words about her other gifts, especially what I can remember of her virtues. I could not begin to describe the generosity of this most religious woman. By her labours she has woven a blessed garment of incorruptibility, and by her almsgiving an unfading crown of glory for her own head, which she now wears since departing to the Lord, faithful to the end. Time fails me to say what I know, as I begin to tell of the deeds of this blessed woman.

Completely filled with love of God she expended so much material goods on the needy that I think that the bonfire could not be constructed big enough to consume them all. It is not only I who can say this but everyone from Persia to Britain and the distant isles. From East to West, from North to South, all benefited from the generous almsgiving of this immortal woman. For thirty-seven years she carried out this work of hospitality, using her money to help with the expenses of churches, monasteries, guesthouses and prisons. Let me say once and for all she never failed to share some portion of her wealth with everyone who came to her. She was supported by her family, especially her son, and by her stewards who administered her income as if they were providing oil to produce a shining light. Indeed, by lighting a flame of such burning brilliance she illuminated everyone by the generosity of her almsgiving.

And even as she persevered in her work of hospitality, it was not only an earthly reputation she was seeking. Not even the needs of her son could distract her from her love of solitude. Indeed, she did not make any distinction between the needs of her only son and her love of Christ. By her prayers, this young man became deeply imbued with Christian teaching which showed itself in the exemplary way he lived his life. He made a brilliant and distinguished marriage and was showered with worldly honours. He had two sons who were a living witness to how good his marriage was.

Many years later news came to her that a granddaughter of hers in Rome had married but wished to renounce the world in order to avoid falling into false teaching or heresies or an evil life. Although an old woman of sixty, she immediately took ship from Caesarea and after twenty days arrived at Rome.

There she converted to Christ her niece Avita's husband Aproniamus, and initiated him into the catechumenate. He was a gentilis (= member of the same gens or clan), a most blessed and lovely man of the highest reputation. She persuaded them to live in continence. She persuaded her granddaughter Melania and her husband Pinianus likewise, together with her daughter-in-law Albina to sell all they had and leave Rome with her and enter the haven of a tranquil and virtuous life. This plunged her into a bitterly fierce controversy with the order of Senators and their wives who were totally against the idea of anyone giving up to others their family shrines.

"My children," the handmaid of the Lord then said, "it is written that the last days will be upon us in forty years time. Why should you cheerfully want to stay any longer amidst the vanities of this life? The days of the Antichrist may soon be upon us when you will no longer be able to enjoy your possessions or the customs of your ancestors."

These words freed their minds and she was able to lead them into a monastic life. She gave a course of instruction to the younger son, Publicola, and took him to Sicily. She sold the rest of her possessions and took the money with her to Jerusalem, where she shared it all out. After forty days, she died serenely in a good old age. Her memory is venerated for the abundance of the legacy which she left to the monastery at Jerusalem and its upkeep.

After all those whom Melania had introduced to the catechumenate had left Rome a sudden barbarian attack fell upon the city, as had been prophesied. The bronze statues were ripped out of the forum, which was defiled by all manner of barbarian degradation. The Rome which for twelve hundred years had been the most beautiful and sought after of cities lay in ruins. It was a desert. As the Sibyl had said, it was now no longer Rome but Ru-me, that is, a village. Then all those who, without very much hesitation, had joined the catechumenate praised their God who had drawn them from unbelief into a changed life. Whereas all the other families were reduced to slavery, their family alone were saved as a sacrifice to the Lord because of the zeal of the blessed Melania. Along with those who turned with them towards salvation, they were protected from the punishment which fell upon the others.

 

Chapter CXIX

THE LIFE OF MELANIA THE YOUNGER

Since I have promised to tell the story of Melania's granddaughter, I must redeem my promise. It would not be right to have mentioned the life of a younger Melania and pass over in silence the great virtues of this granddaughter of Melania the great, who surpassed many prudent and proficient people much older than herself.

Her parents then gave her in marriage without her consent to one of the leading men in the city of Rome, when she was still very young in years but old in piety and wisdom. Tales of her grandmother had so inspired her that she had not really wanted to get married at all. She gave birth to two sons but they both died. This so turned her against marriage that she complained to her husband, Pinianus the son of Severus.

"I know you are my lord and my whole life lies in your power, but if you want to continue living with me let it be in continence. As a young man you may find that hard to bear, but you have all my property for your own use. Just leave my body free that I may fulfil the longing which God has given me to be the inheritor of the virtue given by God to my grandmother, whose name I bear. If God has wished us to continue living in this world and enjoy the things of this world he would not have taken away our sons so prematurely."

They argued about this for a long time, until God at last had pity on the young man and inspired him with a religious eagerness to turn his back on all the material goods of this world. Thus was fulfilled what was written by the Apostle, 'Wife, how do you know that you won't save your husband?' (1 Cor.7.16).

She had been married at the age of thirteen and had lived with him for seven years, so she was twenty when she renounced the world. The first thing she did was to dedicate all her silken outer garments to the service of the altar (which is what the venerable Olympias did - see Chapter CXLIV). The rest of her clothing she cut up to make various other pieces of church linen. Her silver and gold she entrusted to the care of a certain Paul who was a presbyter-monk of Dalmatia. He took it by sea to the East, distributing ten thousand solidi to Egypt and the Thebaid, ten thousand to Antioch and the regions roundabout, fifteen thousand to Palestine. She gave money in person to churches in the West, and also to monasteries, guesthouses and the poor. She freed eight thousand of her slaves if they so desired; the rest who did not want freedom she left with her brother. She distributed the proceeds of the sale of her possessions in Spain, Aquitania, Tarraconensis and Gaul, but kept what she owned in Sicily, Campania and Africa in order to help monasteries and the needy. These are the wise things that Melania the younger did first of all. Her attitude towards money was one of great maturity.

The way of life she developed was as follows: She ate only every second day, though at the beginning it was only every fifth day. She was the means of bringing many of her maids into the way of salvation, turning them into athletes of God. She kindled a divine ardour in many of her relations, so that they sought God in the same religious way as she did.

Such was the life of Melania the younger, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Chapter CXX

ALBINA

Melania had her mother Albina with her who lived in much the same sort of way. She also had given away her own money. They lived in the country, sometimes in Sicily, sometimes in Campania, with fifteen eunuchs, virgins and maids.

 

Chapter CXXI

PINIANUS

 Pinianus likewise, her former husband, is now of one mind with her in striving to acquire the virtues. He has thirty monks with him and studies the Holy Scriptures. He works in the garden as well as giving conferences. These monks honoured us greatly when we came to Rome to visit blessed John the bishop, giving us hospitality, providing us with food for our journey, and offering a picture of the life of our Lord Jesus Christ and of the way this best kind of life is lived.

 

Chapter CXXII

PAMMACHIUS

One of his relations was a man of the proconsular class called Pammachius, who after renouncing the world lived this best of lives. He gave part of his wealth away while still alive, and at his death left the rest to the poor.

 

Chapter CXXIII

MACARIUS

 There was another called Macarius, formerly Vicarius.

 

 

 

Chapter CXXIV

CONSTANTIUS

Constantius also, who had been assistant to the prefects of Italy, was one of these eminent and learned men, who achieved the heights of piety and religion. I believe they are still at present alive, living the best kind of life imaginable, looking for the life of bliss and the avoidance of destruction.

 

Chapter CXXV

PAULA OF ROME

Paula of Rome was one of this company, the mother of Toxotius and the wife of N….She was very highly advanced in a spiritual way of life, but Jerome of Dalmatia was a great hindrance to her. For she could have been a leader over many, not to say everyone, as she was very skilled and knowledgeable about leading the life of virtue. But for sheer envy Jerome prevented her, drawing her into his own sphere of influence.

 

Chapter CXXVI

EUSTOCHIUM

Her daughter Eustochium also lives the life. I have not met her but she is said to be a most chaste woman with a convent of fifty virgins.

 

Chapter CXXVII

VENEREA

I did meet Venerea, however, the daughter of Ballomecus of the imperial court. She gave away enough to break the back of a camel and so freed herself from the wounds which can be caused by material goods.

 

Chapter CXXVIII

THEODORA

Theodora, the daughter of a tribune was another. She gave away so much of her possessions that when she died she was receiving alms, not giving them.

 

Chapter CXXIX

USIA

In the monastery of Hesycha, near the sea, I met a woman called Usia, who had lived an exemplary life for a very long time.

 

 

 

Chapter CXXX

ADOLIA

Her sister Adolia also lived a life of virtue, not in order to demonstrate the dignity of such a life, but to demonstrate with the exercise of all her strength that she lived in zeal for God.

 

Chapter CXXXI

BASIANILLA

I also knew Basianilla, the daughter of an army officer called Candianus. She sought after acquiring the virtues with a devout and eager mind, battling keenly from day to day.

 

Chapter CXXXII

PHOTINA

Photina was an exemplary virgin, the daughter of Theoctistus, a presbyter in Laodicea.

 

Chapter CXXXIII

ASELLA

In Rome I also met Asella, a most exemplary virgin of God, who lived to an unblemished and gentle old age in the monastery. She also conducted a school where I met several men and women whom she had recently inducted into the catechumenate.

 

Chapter CXXXIV

AVITA

I met also the blessed Avita, deserving of God, and also her husband Apronianus and daughter Eunonia. In all things they were pleasing to God, having been openly converted from a careless and voluptuous life to a life which was exemplary and continent. It was granted to them to fall asleep in Christ freed from all sin, having battled their way to perfection in unremitting struggles, held in precious memory by those from whom they have departed.

 

Chapter CXXXV

MAGNA

In the country of Ancyra there were many other virgins, up to about ten thousand of them, who lived disciplined lives and fought to develop all the virtues, women who were famous and well known everywhere for their ascetic customs, and the zeal with which they waged the heavenly battle. Among them all, the crown of devotion was held by Magna, a woman of probity and integrity.

I am not sure whether to class her as a virgin or a widow, for after her mother forcibly joined her to a husband, she contrived to avoid violation and retain her virginity intact, so her family says. She would put her husband off with various excuses for delay, and plead various bodily infirmities. Her husband died not very long into the marriage and left her the sole heir. She offered herself to God entirely, exchanging the concerns of this world for the concerns of God, and this she did for the rest of her life. Justice was her watchword in ruling her household, taking great care to order all things with due orderliness. She was very strict in her dealings with the community, so that even the most highly esteemed bishops stood in awe of her outstanding religious devotion.

She possessed far more material goods than were necessary, but scorned them by living in poverty. Her surplus wealth she entrusted to stewards who distributed alms to monasteries, hostels for the homeless (ptochotrophiis, those who care for beggars), guesthouses, churches, the poor, travellers, bishops, orphans, widows and anyone in need. She never ceased to nourish a hidden life of devotion both in herself and in her faithful slaves, attending church without fail, especially in the night vigils, conducting herself virtuously in everything for the hope she had of the true eternal life.

 


Chapter CXXXVI
THE VIRGIN WHO SHELTERED BISHOP ATHANASIUS.

I happened to come across this virgin in Alexandria when she was about seventy years old. All the local clergy could testify to the fact that when she was a very attractive young girl of about twenty, anyone seeking to be celibate kept away from her, because she was so beautiful that people might have suspected there was something going on.
Now at that time, the Arians were stirring up trouble for Athanasius the bishop of Alexandria. They not only slandered him but also accused him of various wicked crimes before Eusebius, who was then the governor under the emperor Constantius. He knew how biased that court could be in its judgment and also how useless it would be to try and escape from it by hiding with relations or friends or fellow-clergy or household slaves. When the officers of the governor suddenly appeared at the bishop's house looking for him in the middle of the night, he put on slaves' clothing and fled to no one else but this same virgin. She was naturally astonished and very frightened.
"I am being accused of terrible crimes by the Arians," said Athanasius, "and I have decided to fly rather than be publicly condemned and drag into the same condemnation anyone who might have sheltered me. God has revealed to me this night that I cannot possible be safe with anyone else except you."
Being totally on the Lord's side, her fear was cast out and exchanged for joy. With willing and eager heart, she concealed that holy bishop for six years, for as long as Constantius lived. She washed his feet and emptied his chamber pot and provided for all his needs, making sure that he had plenty of books. For all those six years nobody in Alexandria knew where that blessed bishop was.
When he heard the news that the emperor Constantius was dead, he dressed himself in his accustomed vestments and appeared in church one night. All who saw him were overcome with amazement, as if they were looking at someone who had risen from the dead. His friends were all asking him about the hiding place that nobody knew of or had been able to find.
"I did not flee to any of you," the blessed Athanasius said to his friends and relations, "so that you would truly be able to swear to your own ignorance in the event of your being interrogated. Instead, I sought refuge with one upon whom no suspicion could possibly rest, because of her beauty and youth. Two good things have resulted, one of which is her own salvation. For I have been able to give her some guidance, as well as providing for my own reputation and security."

 

Chapter CXXXVII
THE LIFE OF AMMA TALIDA


In the state of Antinoe there was a monastery of twelve women, among whom I met Amma Talida who had been living the life for eighty years, so her sisters told me. There were sixty younger women with her who all held her in such great respect that there was no key to the main gate as there was in other monasteries. They were held there simply by love.
When I went in to see her and sat down, she came in and sat down beside me. She was so liberated from any kind of emotional instability that with great freedom and trustfulness she even put her hand on my shoulder.


Chapter CXXXVIII
THE LIFE OF AMMA TAOR


There was a disciple of Talida's in this monastery called Taor, who had been there for thirty years, so those who knew her told me. She would never wear new clothes, or a cloak or shoes.
"I don't need them," she would say. "That way no one can compel me to go out."
So when everyone else went to church on Sunday for Communion she stayed at home dressed in rags, hard at work. She was so dazzlingly attractive that even the most resolute might easily have been led astray by her beauty had she not had such a marvellous gift of self-denial that she was able in all honesty to turn away lustful eyes into reverence and respect.


Chapter CXXXIX
THE VIRGIN WHO RENOUNCED THE WORLD


There was another virgin who lived near me, following a strict religious rule, but whose face I never had seen. They say that she had never been outside since she first began this kind of life. When she had lived with her own mother for sixty years like this, the time came for her to leave this world. She saw in a vision Colluthus who had been named a martyr and who used to live locally.
"Today you are to go to the Lord," he said, "and you will see all the Saints. Come then, and dine today with us in the martyrs' chapel."
Next morning when she awoke and got dressed, she packed some bread and olives and a few herbs into a basket and went out for the first time in all those years. She went into the chapel and prayed all by herself the whole time up until the ninth hour when she sat down and prayed directly to the martyr.
"Bless this food, O holy Colluthus" she asked, "and guide me along the way by your prayers."
After she had eaten her food and prayed for some time more, she went home at about sunset and handed to her mother her book on the prophet Amos by Clement Stromoteus.
"See that the exiled bishop gets this," she said, "and pray for me, for today I go to my Lord."
She died that same night. She had not suffered a long illness, her reason was unimpaired. She prepared for her burial herself and commended her spirit into the hands of God.



Chapter CXL
A VIRGIN WHO LAPSED AND DID PENANCE.

There was a certain virgin who had lived the disciplined life with two others for nine or ten years when she was led astray by one of the cantors and began a shameful affair with him. She conceived and gave birth to a child, with deepest compunction in her soul and the most intense hatred for him who had deceived her. She imposed a most severe penance on herself, being willing to die from hunger should she persevere in it.
"O almighty God," she prayed in tears, "you who bear all our sins and the infinite wickedness of the whole world, who do not will the death of sinners or those who fall into ruin (Ezekiel 33.11), but have mercy on every creature, it is your will that all should be saved  (1Tim.2.4). If it is your will that I who am perishing should be saved, pour out on me your loving kindness and show me your wonderful works. Command that this fruit of my iniquity be taken away and gathered up. It was conceived in lust and born in sin. This all makes me want either to hang myself or throw myself over a cliff."
Her prayer was heard and answered, for the child she bore died not long afterwards. Ever since that time she had nothing to do with the man who enslaved her, but with great determination gave herself totally to maintaining her chastity. For the next thirty years, she dedicated herself to caring for the sick, the lame and the wounded, making such acceptable reparation to God that it was revealed to a certain presbyter that she was more pleasing to God in her penitence than ever she had been in her virginity.
I write this so that we do not condemn those who have grievously sinned and sincerely do penance from the heart. This blessed woman was one who forced herself to pour out her heart to the Lord in humility of life, and she is not least among those constrained by penitence.



Chapter CXLI
THE DAUGHTER OF A PRESBYTER WHO FALSELY ACCUSED A LECTOR (A MINOR CLERICAL ORDER), AND THE LECTOR EUSTATHIUS


There was a presbyter's daughter in Caesarea of Palestine who fell from grace and was urged by her seducer to implicate a certain lector. She was persuaded, and did put the blame on him, for when she was questioned by her father about her swelling waistline she named Eustathius. The presbyter was very upset and took the matter to the bishop, who, upon hearing this, summoned the lector to appear before a council of the priests. Questioned about the matter by the bishop the lector would not confess, for what could he say seeing that he had not done anything?
"You unfortunate and unclean person," said the bishop, in a distressed and stern tone of voice. "Won't you confess your fault?"
"Oh, please," replied the lector. "I've told you how it is. I have had nothing to do with the matter. I am totally free of blame. This thing had never even entered my head. But if you want to hear me tell a lie, then yes, I did it."
Hearing this, the bishop deposed him from the office of lector.
"My lord bishop," he said, falling at his feet, "seeing that you think I am guilty, in spite of what I have said, I am now stripped of my ecclesiastical position, and unworthy to be one of your holiness's clerics. Order that she be given to me as a wife from now on, for I am no longer a cleric any more than she is a virgin."
When the bishop and the presbyter heard this, the father handed the girl over to the lector, trusting that the young man was kindly affectioned towards her, and that in any case it would be impossible to keep them apart. Accepting her from the bishop and her father, he comforted her, led her away and took her to a monastery of women. He begged the one in charge of this brotherhood to care for her until she gave birth.
Having left her in the monastery, the lector went away and shut himself in a primitive cell, taking upon himself a life of the greatest asceticism, approaching the Lord with a contrite heart and with many tears and groans.
"You know my deeds, O Lord," he prayed. "You know everything. Nothing is hidden from you. There is no secret place where anyone may hide from your all-seeing power. You see all things before they even happen. You alone see into the depths of the mind. Every mental idea is discerned by you as if open to view. And since you know all hearts exactly, you judge justly. You bring help to those who are unjustly condemned. You cannot be wrong. You exonerate those who are oppressed by slander. Injustice is abhorrent to you. Yours is every weight going into the scales of justice, for light unapproachable is yours for ever, and every human deed is done in your sight. Just and unchangeable judgment belongs to you. Pronounce therefore your judgment on me."
As the young man went on praying purposefully and fasting diligently the young woman's birth pangs began. The just judgment of God began at that very hour, for that slanderer suffered the most bitter and intolerable pains, huge groan after groan, unspeakable birth pangs. Terrible visions of the punishments of hell beset this miserable wretch, and still the infant because of its great size would not come forth from the womb.
The first day and the second day came and went and still she suffered unbearable pains. The third day and the fourth day followed and her pains were more grievous than many births put together. The fifth, sixth and seventh were darker still, and the unhappy woman plumbed the depths of misery. In all this time she had eaten nothing and not had a moment's sleep. But after the hard heart of this false accuser had been so grievously given up to such severe torments and groans of agony, after all that, she was at last conquered by God. Into the midst of her groaning she brought to light things which had been hidden and confessed.
"Alas, what a wretch I am!" she sadly exclaimed. "I have brought myself into grievous danger of perishing. I have committed two serious sins, not only fornication but also slander. To the loss of my virginity, I have added defamation of character. It was somebody else who led me into sin, but I accused the lector."
Hearing this, the virgins of the monastery immediately told her father. But he was frightened of being implicated in the slander, and was reluctant to believe what was being told him, so did nothing for two days. Meanwhile the wretched woman continued to be afflicted with grievous pains, hovering between life and death. While he did nothing, the eighth and ninth days struck her down into the deep darkness of unrelieved semi-consciousness. The convent realised she had stopped crying, and hastened to tell the bishop that this was now the ninth day and that she had confessed to accusing the lector unjustly, and that she was unable to give birth as a punishment for her calumny.
When the bishop had heard what the virgins had to say he sent two deacons to the lector to tell him everything and beg for his prayers that the miserable woman might be released from her plight. But the lector gave no answer and would not even open the door. From the day that he had gone into this cell he had not ventured out, but had carried on with his regular routine of fasting, and pouring out his prayers to God.
The father then changed his mind and took pity on his daughter. He went to the bishop and asked that prayers be said for her in church. But even when prayers had been said to the Lord by everyone she still was not released from her plight. The prayers to God of him who had been calumniated were preventing the prayers of the others from being heard. So the bishop himself went to the lector's cell, but he still would not come out. After the bishop had been outside for some time, with the lector inside, he ordered the door to be taken off. He went in and found the young man prostrate on the floor, praying without ceasing.
"Brother Eustathius, lector," the bishop said, "by the providence of God the calumny against you has been revealed and your prayers have been heard. Now have pity on her who sinned against you and who is suffering torments worse than being whipped. Have pity on the wretched woman. Rise up and loose what you have bound. She is suffering because of your prayers. Beg the Lord to allow her to give birth."
The lector and the bishop prayed fervently together and at once the poor woman was freed from her plight. The child was born. They all prayed that her sin should be forgiven through the prayers of that righteous man, whom from then on they famously held in as much honour as they would a martyr. Freed from the cloud hanging over him he attained to the highest possible level of the virtuous life which he had begun, so that he was found worthy of being granted spiritual gifts.
We have written about these things lest anyone else who slanders should be embroiled in the snares of the enemy and suffer intolerable bodily pains such as I have described that befell this false accuser. Even after having been liberated from the body there is the danger of the pains of eternal torment from which there can be no respite. For God has nothing but anger for anyone who slanders. But let him who is unjustly accused bear it calmly and charitably, praying that all will be revealed and that God's judgment will be just, exactly like Eustathius who was crowned by Christ. Such a man is to be praised and had in honour and given an eternal crown. Let us also learn from this the unconquerable power of prayer, strengthening the faithful, bringing mercy to sinners, moving and turning the creator of all, crowning those who act righteously, and granting the kingdom of heaven to those who persevere.



Chapter CXLII
THE LIFE OF HOLY SILVANIA


At that time it happened that when we were sailing from Aelia in Egypt we had with us the blessed virgin Silvania, the sister of Ruffinus, the former governor.


Chapter CXLIII
IUBINUS

We also had with us Iubinus, at that time a deacon, but now the devout and learned bishop of the church in Ascalon. The heat was terribly severe, and when we went ashore at Pelusius, it so happened that Iubinus took a basin, washed his hands and feet in very cold water, spread his cloak on the ground and lay down. When Silvania noticed this, like a good mother correcting her own son, she admonished Iubinus for his softness.
"What are you thinking of," she said, "to pamper your miserable flesh like this, at your age, when the blood still courses freely in your veins? Are you not frightened of being condemned for this? Believe me, believe me, I am sixty years old, and apart from washing my hands before Communion, no water has touched my feet or my face or any part of my body, even when I have been ill. Even when urged by the doctor to take a bath, I have not allowed my mind to give in to the flesh. Nor have I ever used soft chairs or been carried in a litter."
She was very learned, filled with such a love of learning that she would burn the midnight oil reading all the commentaries of the ancient writers, all of Origen's three hundred thousand lines, Gregory, Stephen, Pierus and Basil, two hundred and fifty thousand lines of other famous men of outstanding virtue. She did not merely skim lightly through them, but devoured each book carefully seven or eight times, in order to be carried away on high by the grace of their words, in good hope of becoming like a spiritual bird flying away to Christ and receiving from him everlasting rewards.


Chapter CXLIV
OLYMPIAS

Olympias followed in Silvania's footsteps by seeking after all the divine virtues of the spiritual life. She was someone to be revered for her integrity. With steadfast zeal she kept to the paths which lead to heaven, following the precepts of the divine Scriptures in everything.
According to the flesh, she was the daughter of a nobleman (comes) called Seleucus, but according to the spirit a true daughter of God. Her grandfather was Ablavius, one of the governing classes (praefecti), and for a few days she was married to Nebridius, one of the governing class of the city of Constantinople, although to tell the truth she was the wife of nobody. She is said to have slept alone as a virgin - effectively living with only the divine word as companion. Her husband was a completely humble man who sympathised with her and provided her with all her needs.
She shared her immense wealth with everyone, completely undiscriminating about whom she might help. Town, country or desert - no one escaped the generosity of this famous virgin. She helped build churches in place of shrines where sacrifices were made; she supported monasteries and coenobia and pilgrim hospices and guardhouses and exiles - in a word, she gave alms to all the corners of the earth.
[A 'monastery' might consist of only one cell or many. A 'coenobium' was a community of many monks.] 
This blessed woman more than anyone else attained to the greatest heights of humility. There was no false glory in her life, she had no guile, she wore no make-up, she was physically fit, not given to boasting, with a mind free from arrogance, a peaceful heart, keeping sleepless vigils, not a meddlesome spirit, of immense charity, more than you could possibly grasp, wearing cheap and ugly clothing, completely continent, her thoughts always rightly ordered, her eternal hope always in God, her almsgiving beyond reckoning, chief among all humble people, beset by many temptations from the one who of his own will is totally evil and without one shred of goodness, that is, the devil, who frequently attacked her. Floods of tears were a constant part of her life of compunction, her human nature completely subject to God, devoutly obedient to the holy bishops, respecting the presbyterate, honouring the other clerics, maintaining discipline, caring for virgins, helping the widows, comforting the bereaved, protecting the aged, visiting the sick, taking pity on sinners and leading those who have strayed back into the right path, showing compassion to all but especially the poor, bringing many deserted wives into the catechumenate, even helping them by providing them with food. She spread a reputation for generosity about her throughout her whole life.
She restored from slavery to freedom an innumerable crowd of slaves, fitting them out as splendidly as any of the nobility. To tell the absolute truth, they were a great deal better clothed than this holy woman. It would not be possible to find cheaper clothing than this woman wore. Even people dressed in rags would scorn this holy woman's clothing. So great was her meekness that she quite surpassed her own servants in simplicity of life. Her neighbours never had anything to complain about in this woman who was a living embodiment of Christ himself.

All her leisure time (vita non vitalis) was given up to compunction accompanied frequently by floods of tears. This noble woman would rather the summer heat dry up her own household water supply than that her eyes fixed on Christ should fail to pour forth tears. What else can I say? For the more I turn my mind to the story of her struggles and virtues, her rocklike solidity, the more I find that my words are nowhere near doing justice to the facts. And don't let anyone think that I have gathered up all this splendid and magnificent material by seeking for information at second hand about this most chaste Olympias. She was a precious vessel filled with the Holy Spirit and I witnessed with my own eyes her blessed and angelic life. I was her spiritual friend, more familiar to her than all her relations. It was I who distributed much of her money at her directions.

There is no more to say about her but that she was down to earth, subject to the governors, obedient to the powers that be, respectful to the presbyterate, holding all the clergy in honour, valiant for truth having been found worthy to suffer various unjust accusations. The faithful in Constantinople regard her as a Confessor, and venerate her almost as they would Christ's mother, for she was tried and tested in all the struggles she endured for God's sake. For these things she has been given the blessing of glory after her death. Crowned in eternity she lives in splendour, dwelling in everlasting mansions with saints like unto her, where no ruin or evil may have place, receiving from Christ the due reward of her faithfulness and good works.

 

Chapter CXLV

CANDIDA

 After Olympias there was the blessed Candida, living for the Lord in the same way. She was the wife of Trajan, an army officer, and had become a person of the highest integrity. She gave suitable alms to the churches, venerated the bishops for their privilege of administering the Sacraments of Christ, and gladly honoured all the Christian clergy. She gave her own daughter, the fruit of her womb, to Christ as a dedicated virgin. Later she followed in her daughter's footsteps. She was temperate, chaste and generous with her money.

I saw how this wonderful woman toiled and travailed all night making bread for the altar with her own hands to use up her bodily energy.

"Fasting isn't enough for me," she said. "I take part in this laborious vigil as well, in order to break down the Esau in me, that is, to weaken my lascivious desires."

She abstained from eating all living creatures, except that on feast days, and only then, she might eat some fish with oil and vegetables. At all other times she was content with dry bread and oxycratum [a mixture of vinegar, warm water and eggs]. After this austere life, this blessed woman fell asleep into blessed rest, and now enjoys those eternal good things prepared for those who love the life of striving after virtue.

 

Chapter CXLVI

GELASIA

 Gelasia, the daughter of a tribune, is worthy of being esteemed among the greatest. Inspired by the zeal of that good woman, Candida, she also entered into the way of truth and took on the yoke of virginity. Her greatest virtue was that she never let the sun go down upon her wrath, towards slaves, maids or anyone. This blessed woman did not walk in the way of those who never forget injuries done to them. That leads to eternal death. She avoided this snare of the devil, hatred and rancour. She wanted sins to be eternally forgiven, so she overlooked the smallest peccadilloes in the hope that she would be forgiven for even the greatest.

 

Chapter CXLVII

JULIANA

Juliana was a most learned and faithful virgin in Caesarea of Cappadocia. She took the writer Origen in when he was escaping from the persecutions of the state. She hid him for two years, supporting him from her own income and with her own personal ministry. I discovered this while I also was being hidden by Juliana. It was in an ancient book of verses belonging to Juliana, which had been written in by Origen's own hand, though he himself used to say that he had been taken in by Symmachus the Jewish interpreter.

I have thought it right to put on record the virtues of these women as being not incompatible with the virtues of monastic life. We can be enlightened by all sorts of different circumstances, if we will.

 

Chapter CXLVIII

A NOBLE WOMAN WHO RETAINED HER VIRGINITY

In another ancient book written by Hippolytus, who knew the apostles, I found the following story:

There was a certain noble and very beautiful virgin in Corinth who was living the life of discipline. She was accused of being someone who had cursed the policies of the Emperor and his statues, and was brought before someone who was a persecuting judge at that time. Filled with the lust that always threatens danger to women, her accusers who were brothel keepers brought her in all her beauty to this corrupt judge. He was a man who not only had little inclination to listen impartially (equinis auribus, lit.'with the ears of a horse'), but was of an habitually lustful cast of mind. He accepted their accusations when she was brought before him and became even more powerfully governed by lust. He showed this brave woman of God all the instruments of torture, and when this did not persuade her to submit to him he proceeded to use some of these instruments against her. But this could not persuade her to do what he wanted either, for by no means would she deny Christ. Instead then of handing her over to be crucified by the torturers, inflamed with cruelty he sent this chaste and temperate woman to the brothel.

"Take this woman," he said to the owner, "and I want three solidi a day for what you can get out of her."

The owner needed to profit from this wicked deed, so he immediately offered her to anyone who wanted her in that factory of disgraceful obscenity. Those who habitually lusted after women came flocking around to this wicked factory of destruction when they heard about her, offering the usual price for their intended wicked act. But this most upright woman, whom we should venerate above all others, resorted to a little deception.

"I have got an ulcer in my private parts," she said, "which gives off a rather horrible smell. I'm afraid you would reject me and revile me because of this ulcer. Give me a few days and then perhaps you can do what you want with me."

By this means the blessed woman persuaded those lusting after her to desist. Her fervent prayers were pleasing to God and he had mercy on her for her compunction. God who knows all our thoughts was with her, and he provided for her salvation in proportion to the whole-hearted care she had taken to preserve her chastity.

 

Chapter CXLIX

MAGISTRIANUS

There was a young man called Magistrianus, of handsome appearance and devout frame of mind, to whom God had given a burning spiritual zeal that was more important to him than death. Pretending a lustful desire he went to the brothel after dark, went in and gave the owner five solidi.

"Let me be with this girl tonight," he said. Together they went into a private room.

"Take my clothes," he said, "and save yourself. Put on my tunic, shoes, cloak, and all the rest of my male garments, and when you go out muffle yourself up in the cloak."

She did as she was bid, signed herself with the cross and went out from that place completely unpolluted and incorrupt. She was freed by the grace of Christ and the sacrifice of this young man, who by his own blood saved her from a horrible fate.

The affair came to light the following day and Magistranius was brought before an exceedingly wrathful judge. Having interrogated this bold athlete of Christ and got all the details out of him, he ordered him to be thrown to the beasts, thus covering with confusion even the evil-minded demon. For he thought that by this punishment he was subjecting the young man to disgrace, whereas in reality he was the cause of a two-fold witness to Christ. For not only had the young man fought bravely for the honour of his own soul, but by his labours he had given that blessed woman the means to persevere. For this double honour Christ in his kindness found him worthy to be given a double crown.

 

Chapter CL

THE SENATOR'S WIFE

I have thought of another story which it would be a shame to omit. There was a gang leader [insurrector] who was in the habit of having pornographic sessions [consuetudo stupri] with many different kinds of people. He took it into his head to try this on with Christians. But they would rather die than take part in such shamelessness. He took a fancy to the wife of a government senator in a certain town he came to.

"Have her, by all means," said the senator, paralysed with fear.

Armed men came to get her.

"Just give me a few moments to put on my make-up as usual," she said.

She went into her bedroom, took a sword, and drove it into her stomach.

Hear this and blush, all you virgins who profess that Christ is your spouse and turn from him to lechery! May God grant that each one of us may serve the cause of virginity and shout in joy with the Psalmist, 'Let me fear you that my flesh may be subdued' (Psalms 119.120). St Paul said, 'I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me,' (Galatians 2.20), and let it be agreed that as you thoughtfully say to yourselves, 'My cousin (patruelus) is mine and I am his' (Song of Songs 6.3) you interpret 'cousin' sometimes as meaning 'brother' and sometimes 'spouse', to avoid any suspicion of carnality. If you understand the meaning to be 'husband' and 'bride', it is the spiritual union with the Father which is intended.

We visited many other fathers and monks throughout the whole of Egypt who did many signs and displayed many virtues. There are so many we can't record them all, but we give a selection on behalf of the many. What can we say about the Upper Thebaid beyond Syene, where there are an infinite number of praiseworthy monks? We believe that there is no one who has undertaken that kind of life who has not begun to live in a superhuman sort of way. Raising people from the dead and walking on water like Peter are commonplace occurrences. They do everything in our time that the Saviour did through the holy apostles.

We were not bold enough to go beyond the river Lycos because of the great danger of being attacked by robbers. But even visiting the fathers we have mentioned was not without danger, and it was very difficult getting to see those holy women. We had to suffer a great deal and go through many dangerous places in order to visit them. 'Seven times our lives were in danger and on the eighth time we suffered no evil for the Lord was with us.' (Job 5.19)

Once we walked for five days through the desert almost perishing for lack of food and water.

Again, we had to walk through dreadful prickly thorn marshes, which cut up our feet. This was exceedingly painful, besides which we were almost dead with cold.

Thirdly, we got stuck in mud up to our loins with no seeming way of escape and we shouted aloud the words of the blessed David, 'Save me, O Lord, for the waters are come in even unto my soul. I am stuck in a deep bog where there is no solid ground. Save me from the mire lest I am stuck for ever' (Psalms 69.1 & 14).

Fourthly we had to wade for four days through deep waters and half submerged doorways when the Nile was in flood. We cried out, 'Let not the stormy waters overpower me nor the deep swallow me up.' (Psalms 69.15).

Fifthly, we fell among thieves on the sea coast as we were coming in towards Diolcos. They followed us for ten miles trying to catch us until we had hardly any breath left.

Sixthly, while sailing on the Nile we were overturned and nearly drowned.

Seventhly, when we were in the marshes of Mareotis where the papyrus comes from, we were cast upon a small desert island. We remained there out in the open for three days and nights in heavy rain and cold. It was Epiphanytide.

It is almost superfluous to mention the eighth time, though it does have its points. It happened when we were crossing a certain part of Nitria, where there was a large hollow place in which a number of crocodiles had been left behind after the floods had receded. We went to have a closer look at three of them near the edge of the hollow, We thought that they were dead but they immediately charged us. We cried out loudly to the Lord, 'Christ save us!', and the beasts threw themselves back into the water as if turned away by an angel. We continued with our long journey through Nitria, meditating on the words of Job where he says, ''Seven times our lives were in danger and on the eighth time we suffered no evil for the Lord was with us.' (Job 5.19)

We give thanks to God who has defended us in such great dangers and shown us such marvellous things.

 

Chapter CLI

THE LIFE OF THE BROTHER WHO TRAVELLED WITH PALLADIUS

 I will finish by saying something about the brother who came with me from his youth up to the present day. I have known him for a long time. He was never greedy about his food. He was not distressed by fasting, for he was one who had conquered his emotions. There was never a trace of avarice in him, he was content always with the present moment, he dressed simply, rejoiced when spoken ill of, willing to undergo danger for the sake of his friends, more knowledgeable about the wiles of the demons than thousands of others.

One day the devil tried to make a pact with him.

"Make peace with me," the devil said, "and sin just once, and I will give you whatever you ask for in this life, whether status or riches."

And again, he fought with him and trampled him underfoot for fourteen nights, so he told me.

"Stop worshipping Christ, and I will leave you alone," he said.

"I will worship him all the more," he replied, "and glorify him in many more places. I will pray more often, since worshipping him bodes evil for you."

He stayed for a while in a hundred and six countries, and journeyed through many more. He had never known a woman, not even in dreams, except when fighting the demon of fornication during sleep. I know that an angel brought him food three times when he was hungry. Once when he was in the far desert without a crumb to eat, he found three freshly cooked bread rolls in a sheepskin, bread and wine on another occasion. And once a voice came to him, saying,

"I know you are short of food. Go to that man called N..... and he will give you some bread and oil."

So he went to this person.

"Are you the monk in question?" he was asked.

"I am," he replied.

"The head of the family has told me to give you thirty rolls of bread and twelve measures of oil."

There are other sides to his nature which I can describe and glory in. I have known him shed tears over those who had to work very hard for hardly any reward; he would share with them whatever he had apart from selling himself into slavery. I have known him shed tears over those who have fallen into serious sin, and I have seen his tears move sinners to repentance. He once said to me, 'I have begged God that no one, especially if they are rich and respectable, need ever find me such an object of pity that they felt obliged to provide me with the necessities of life.'

For myself it is sufficient that I have been found worthy to commit to writing all I could remember. It could not have been done without the help of God who inspired you to encourage me to write this book of the lives of the holy and blessed Fathers.

And you, Lausus, most faithful and venerable servant of Christ, my most dear and closest friend, as you read this book, may you find it is an aid to your immortal soul in the resurrection of the just. May you cherish the way of life followed by these famous athletes, their labours, and the manner in which they endured the pains of living in such an austere way. Use these things as an example for yourself, sustained by an imperishable good hope, realising how short are the days that have already passed by, and pray for me as you keep yourself free from evil and maintain your integrity, as I know you have done consistently from the time of the consulate of Tatian right up to the present day. Your personal character has now been rewarded by being given the post of the Emperor's) personal private secretary (praepositum pii cubiculi). Although you have been given such a high dignity, with all the many great dangers which come with such great power, you have not acted otherwise than the fear of God demands.

"All these things I will give you if you fall down and worship me," (Matthew 4.9) is what the man dedicated to God hears the devil say. But the Lord gives him the grace to be able to say, "Get thee behind me."

Do you, therefore, walk in the same path. Care not for riches or the fragile glory of this present world. Strive after the immortal life of heaven, the eternal kingdom, the everlasting glory, and those hidden good things which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, and which have not entered into the human heart, which God has stored up for us along with the holy patriarchs and prophets, the apostles and martyrs and those whose memory we have celebrated in this book through the grace of our Saviour Jesus Christ, to whom be glory with the Father and the Holy Spirit, unto the ages of ages. Amen.

 

End of Book VIII

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

De Vitis Patrum, Book IX

By Theodoretus, bishop of Cyrus

Translated into Latin by Gentianus Hervetus

Prologue

It is a beautiful thing indeed to read about the battles of those exemplary men who famously strove to acquire virtues. Such feasts for the eyes are of great benefit to us, for to understand them is to realise they are worthy of emulation. They stand out as examples to be embraced and imitated, compelling the readers to measure up to them. Those who know the stories of such great and virtuous deeds can bring no greater gift than this to the ears of those who have never heard of them. Some say that these stories are for the ears of the faithful only, but from hearing comes faith, (Romans 10.17) as long as the narrators are trusted to be telling the truth.
Just as the tongue and the palate can be relied upon to make a judgment and form an opinion on bitterness or sweetness or other such qualities, so the power of understanding speech is committed to the ear, which knows how to distinguish between things beneficial and things harmful. And as long as these useful narratives remain whole and incorrupt in the memory, and if a veil of darkness does not scatter them, causing them to vanish from the mind, it might seem to be superfluous to write them down, for whatever benefit there is in them can be conveyed to others fairly easily. But it seems to me that in time, as the body declines towards old age and death, great and virtuous deeds fall into oblivion, and the memory of them is lost. So therefore, let no one rebuke us for being eager to write down the way that devout men, lovers of God, lived their lives.
Those to whom is entrusted the care of our bodies prepare medicines to fight against disease and bring help to those who are suffering - just so do those who busy themselves in writing these stories provide wholesome medicines, so that things which were threatened with oblivion may kept in mind. Poets and writers quite normally celebrate the brave and famous things done in war, playwrights in their tragedies offer to the public calamitous events which would otherwise have remained hidden, some of the others produce works of comedy and suchlike trivial affairs, so should we then allow oblivion to be the fate of those men who in their mortal passionate flesh achieved passionlessness by striving after a nature which was not of this world? What punishments should we not deservedly incur if instead of remembering those deeds worthy of admiration we neglect them as being of nothing worth? If the memory of those who in old times strove after the highest teachings of the saints has been preserved not in speech or writing but in lifelike pictures and statues which express all their virtues, what blame would deservedly be given to us if we did not pay due honour to their outstanding lives in writing also? The athletes and contortionists who compete at the Olympics are honoured with statues, even the charioteers in the races are given the same distinction. Not only this, but there are men and women - as well as effeminate people whose gender is uncertain - who delight in making spectacles of themselves, who get themselves into the record books, forever striving to keep their fame alive for as long as possible, even though the memory of them is not beneficial to the soul but debilitating. So then, those worthy of admiration are honoured by one sort of picture, those who can only bring harm by another. And since death brings destruction to every mortal nature, they think that by producing judiciously coloured pictures of themselves their fame will last longer than a long life.
We, however, shall be writing about lives governed by a love of wisdom ['philosophia'], ways of life directed towards the heavenly, worthy of imitation. We shall not be describing bodily features and faces, nor shall we be offering anything from anyone who speaks from ignorance, but we shall be outlining the working of souls which is not normally open to view, and we shall lay bare hidden battles and conflicts which are not outwardly apparent.
This was the armour with which Paul, the general of his army and leader in battle, clothed his troops: 'Put on', he said, 'the armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day and having done all, to stand.' And again, 'Stand therefore with your loins girded about with truth, wearing the breastplate of justice, your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace, at all times taking up the shield of faith, with which you may quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And put on the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.' (Ephesians 6.13-17). And having clothed them in this armour he sent them forth to battle. The nature of the enemy is incorporeal, difficult to discern, obscurely invasive, secretly insidious, suddenly attacking when least expected. Our general gave the same instructions to his troops, saying, 'Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the world and the darkness of this age, against the spirits of wickedness in high places.' This band of saints had a great number of enemies like that; each one of them was surrounded by many powerful enemies (not that they all attacked at once - some of them attacked now one lot, now another), so their victory was all the more famous when their adversaries fled. And when they had been put to flight and scattered, the flag of victory could be raised without any possible objection from anybody.
It was not mortal human nature, full of countless contradictions, which won them that victory, but the divine grace which filled their souls. For they burned with love for the divine beauty, and were resolved to do all things and suffer all things for the sake of him whom they loved. With a strong and generous spirit they bore the attacks of their own contradictions and agitations, they repulsed the violence of the devil with the sort of javelin which in apostolic terms consists of 'punishing the body and bringing it into subjection' (1 Corinthians 9.27). They quenched the fires of anger, they compelled raging greed to be still; by fasting and staying quietly at home they settled their troubled states of mind and banished all exaggerated flights of fancy, and compelled their vile bodies into harmony with their souls, thus winning the battle against their inborn nature. Once peace had been established in all these things, they were able to expel the whole crowd of adversaries, for they had no inner thoughts of which the devils might take advantage. Deprived of any help which the human senses might give them the demons were unable to carry on their war. For the devil makes use of our senses as his weapons; if we ignore the sights that dazzle and the tempting sounds we hear, if our sense of feeling is not titillated by luxurious softness, if our minds give no admittance to depraved devices, then their labour is in vain who prepare assaults against us.
No enemy can capture a city built on a hill, fortified with strong defences and surrounded by deep ditches, for as long as no one inside helps the enemy by opening the gates. Just so, it is not possible for the demons, who wage war from outside us, to overcome a soul surrounded by divine grace, unless some slothfulness of thought opens some window in our senses which allows the enemy to enter in. Those whose praises we are celebrating learned this from opening the divine scriptures to hear God saying through the Prophet. 'Death has come up through the windows' (Jeremiah 9.21). So for them the laws of God served as bolts and bars to prevent their senses from straying, and they entrusted the keys to the rational mind; so that unless the mind gave the command, the tongue and lips did not open, nor was the eye permitted to range abroad; and the mind shut the door to all foolish and worthless voices as soon as they were heard approaching with threatening and vicious sounds. Only such voices as the mind approved of were allowed in. And thus they taught that the sense of smell should not hanker after sweet perfumes whose inbuilt nature was softening and relaxing. They taught that the stomach should not be fully satisfied but be fed of practical necessity not for pleasure, and never given more than what was sufficient to keep them from death by starvation. Likewise they defeated the sweet tyranny of sleep; they escaped from being the slaves of their eyelids, and for servitude substituted domination, in that they made use of sleep not when sleep overcame them but when they briefly summoned sleep in order to satisfy the needs of nature.
So then, having taken care to guard the gates and walls and bring harmony to their inner thoughts, they could laugh at the invading adversaries outside, who were unable to get in by force because the grace of God overruled them, nor was any traitor to be found who was willing to let them in. Even though these enemies were by nature hidden from sight, they still had no power over a visible body subject to the needs of nature. For the mind, the governing charioteer of this body, skilfully and harmoniously holding the reins, directed the horses accurately and well; it continuously plucked the strings of the senses, producing elegant and agreeable harmony in every part; by its skill in handling the rudder it withstood the pounding of the waves and broke the force of the winds.
These men therefore entered into life through countless labours, they subdued the body by hardships and sweat, they knew no laughter or relaxation, their whole life was one of tears and mourning, they reckoned their fasts as Sybaritic delights, their protracted vigils as the sweetest of slumbers, the hard ground as the gentlest of bedding, a life of praying and singing psalms as the greatest and most inexhaustible of pleasures. Who can fail to admire these men who embraced every kind of virtue? Who will not praise and celebrate their worthiness? I know indeed that no speeches can adequately portray their virtues; nevertheless we can but try.
They had an eager longing for their love of true wisdom to be perfected, but it would not nevertheless be right to neglect the praise of lesser lights. So I shall not assign one common measure of praise to all in what I write, for the gifts God gave them were varied, as the blessed Paul taught: 'To some is given by the Spirit a word of wisdom, to others a word of knowledge by the same Spirit, to others faith by the same Spirit, to others gifts of healing by the same Spirit, to others the working of miracles, to others prophecy, to others the gift of tongues, to others the interpretation of tongues.' (1 Corinthians 12. 8-10). And in order to show the origin of them all, he adds, 'But at work in all these is one and the same Spirit, dividing to each one separately how he will.' Since therefore the gifts they have been given are all different, it is right that I should make a separate story out of each one of them. I shall not itemise every single thing that they did, for a whole lifetime would be needed to do that, but to illustrate their manner of life I shall tell of a few things that each one has done. Having outlined just a few things illustrating the character and shape of the life of each one, I shall then go on to the next.
I shall not try to put into writing the history of every holy person who ever existed, and not even those whose fame we know to have been universally acknowledged, for it is not possible that one man could write about everyone. I shall describe only the lives of those who were like lights shining in the East sending out their rays to the ends of the earth. But let my storytelling issue in prayer; judge it not by the laws of eulogising, but gather from it a few things that are true. This is a religious history, or description of monastic discipline (call it what you will, as long as you do not give less credence to the stories because you read of things which are beyond your own capabilities). And I beg whosoever lights upon it not to weigh its virtues up against what they themselves are capable of, but to recognise clearly that it is God from on high who measures out the gifts of the most holy Spirit on the souls of the devout, and more abundantly to those who are closer to perfection. I say this for the benefit of those who are not yet fully initiated into the mysteries of divine things. It is the priests of the inner sanctum of the Spirit who know the glory of the Spirit and recognise the miracles which he performs among human beings through the ministrations of human beings, drawing the unbelieving towards the knowledge of God. It is clear that whoever does not believe the things which I am about to relate would not believe what Moses did either, or what Joshua did, or Elijah or Elisha, and holds as fables the deeds of the holy apostles. But if they do accept those things to be true, let them also give credence to these things. For the grace that worked in them is the same grace which enabled these others to do what they did. Grace is eternal, and chooses those who are worthy of it, passing over some, but pouring out over others the fulness of its working.
I witnessed myself many of the things I shall tell about, and what I did not witness myself I heard from those who did, men who loved virtue and were found worthy to be their witnesses and profit from their teachings. Matthew and John are first and foremost among the Evangelists, for they actually saw the Lord's miracles, but Luke and Mark are also trustworthy gospel writers. They were taught by those who were from the beginning 'witnesses and ministers of the Word', (Luke 1.2) passing on accurate knowledge of what the Lord suffered and did, and what he constantly taught. And so although the blessed Luke did not actually see the Lord, he made it quite clear in the beginning of his gospel that he was telling of those things which had been delivered unto him. So then we also, if we have listened to someone who did not actually see what he is talking about but learnt about it from someone else, are able to give no less credence to him and to Mark than we do to Matthew and John. The narrative of one as well as the other is worthy of belief for they learned from those who were there.
We therefore shall tell of some things which we actually saw, and other things trusting in the stories of those who did see, and who emulated them in their own lives. But I shall go into a bit more detail when I want to be convincing about the truth of what I am saying. And so, here I begin my story.


Chapter I
JACOBUS of Nisibis


Moses the divine lawgiver, who laid bare the bottom of the sea, caused water to flow in the barren desert and did many other miracles, wrote down the deeds of those saints who were of old. He was not prompted by the wisdom of the Egyptians, but by the splendour of grace given him from above. For unless he had been inspired by the all-knowing divine Spirit, how could he have learned about the virtues of Abel, Enoch's love of righteousness, the devout priesthood of Melchisedech, the calling of Abraham, and his faith, his courage, his meticulous attention to the duties of hospitality, the sacrifice of his son for the benefit of the world, and the whole catalogue of all the other deeds which he performed? I likewise need help in this present work, trying as I am to describe the lives of those holy people who shone both in our own times and in the times a little before us, and whom I would wish to portray as examples for those who would wish to emulate them. I beg your prayers for this, and so I begin my tale.
Nisibis is a state on the borders between the Romans and the Persians. At one time it was subject to the Romans and paid taxes to them. This is where the great Jacobus came from to embrace the quietness of a solitary life. He chose the peaks of the highest mountains as his abode. In summer and autumn he frequented the woods, with only the sky for a roof over his head; in the winter he made use of a cave, which gave him some sort of shelter. His food was not such as is laboriously sown and cultivated, but what grew naturally; he gathered the fruits which grew of their own accord on the trees of the woods, and edible herbs which served him as vegetables. He ate them raw, providing his body with sufficient to preserve life. He found it quite unnecessary for his clothing to be of wool; he used instead the prickly hair of goatskins, from which he made a tunic and simple cloak.
By afflicting his body thus, he was able to feed his body with spiritual food, by contemplation he purified the faculty of thought, wherein as in a clear mirror of the divine Spirit, with open face looking to the glory of God, he was transformed into the same image from glory unto glory, as by the spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3.18). Hence, his trust in God which came from God increased daily, and asking from God only what it was right to ask, he immediately received what he asked for. As a result he was able to see the future prophetically, and by the grace of the most holy Spirit received the power of doing miracles. I shall tell of some of them, and make known the brightness of his apostolic splendour to those who were previously unaware.
An insane attraction to idols was flourishing among people at that time, the cult of worshipping inanimate statues was being promoted, and many neglected the worship of God. Anyone who did not wish to join in their drunkenness was held in contempt, but those given above all to the pursuit of virtue saw things as they really were, and mocked the senselessness of idols while worshipping the maker of the universe.
He had travelled into Persia at that time in order to see the new signs of true religion there, and what was equally important, to bring them some pastoral care. He happened to be passing by a pond where some girls were washing clothes by pounding them with their feet. Far from showing the respect due to him not only as a stranger but as one wearing the habit with modesty and dignity, the girls shamelessly cast burning looks and impudent glances at the holy man, nor did they cover their heads or let fall the garments which they had tucked up round their waists.
This made the man of God angry, and he called down a curse upon the pond, choosing this opportune moment to make manifest the power of God, and by performing a miracle to drive out wickedness. The pond immediately dried up. He also cursed the girls and punished their youthful impudence by turning their hair prematurely grey. The lesson he drew from this was that the changed colour of their hair was like what had recently happened to the trees, which were now crowned with autumn leaves. The girls watched the waters drying up and stared at each other's heads. They knew these sudden changes were their punishment, and they fled back to the town to tell of what had happened. The townspeople ran out and soon met up with the great Jacobus, whom they begged to restrain his anger and remove the punishment. Jacobus did not keep them waiting long, but prayed to God and commanded the waters to flow once more. They immediately began to gush up out of the depths again, obedient to the holy man's command. Having made that request they then begged that the colour of the girls' hair should be restored. He granted this even though the girls had not returned, for he sought them out and lifted the punishment from them. This was a lesson to them that they should in future be temperate and well disciplined, and remember always how divine power had been shown forth on them.
Such was the miracle of this latter-day Moses, performed not by striking with a rod, but by making the sign of the cross. Quite apart from the miracle I am astonished at his gentleness. For unlike the great Elisha he did not hand those impudent girls into the power of savage bears, (2 Kings 2.24), but shamed them by means of a fairly harmless punishment, and at the same time taught them to be respectful and restrained. I say this, not to condemn the prophet for savagery (far be it from me to be so presumptuous!), but to demonstrate how Jacobus possessed the same sort of power, but used it in a manner compatible with the New Testament and the greatness of Christ.
On another occasion he was present when a Persian judge handed down a judgment which was manifestly unjust, so Jacobus laid a curse on a large rock nearby, ordering it to be broken into fragments, showing by this how worthless the judgment was. All those present were terrified at seeing the stone shattered into a thousand pieces, and it was such a shock to the judge himself that he overturned his previous judgment and issued a just one. In this likewise Jacobus was imitating the Lord, who when wishing to show that he was going cheerfully to his passion of his own free will, refrained from punishing his persecutors but showed that he had power to do so by withering the fig tree (Matthew 21.19). In imitation of such clemency Jacobus did not punish the judge, but by destroying the rock induced him to judge justly.
His deeds became known, and made him so loved and respected by all that he was elevated to the bishopric of his own country. So through no desire of his own he was thrust into a very exalted way of life and social position. But he did not wear any different clothing or change his diet; his circumstances may have changed but his rule of life was not modified in the slightest. His labours increased, and were much greater than they were before. He was already fasting, sleeping on the ground and wearing rough clothing; to these labours were added the care of the poor, the widows and the orphans, and he also opposed those who dealt unjustly while supporting those who had suffered injustice. But what a task it would be to enlighten all those who are unaware of the benefits received by those he cared for! His great distinction is that he went about his work as one who above all feared and loved him who was the master of his sheep.
The greater his acts of kindness grew in number, so much the greater was the grace given to him by the most holy Spirit. On one occasion he was travelling through some village or town (I'm not quite sure where), when some poor people approached him carrying one of their number who they said was dead. They humbly begged him for money to pay for his burial, but he simply prayed to God to forgive him the sins he had committed in life and count him worthy to be admitted into the company of the just. At the very moment when these words were being spoken, the soul departed from the man pretending to be dead, while Jacobus gave them money for a shroud.
As soon as this admirable man had gone a little further on his way the perpetrators of this deed told the recumbent form to get up. Receiving no response they suddenly realised that what they had been pretending had come true, the playacting had become real. They rushed back to Jacobus and threw themselves at his feet, protesting that it was poverty which had driven them to do what they had rashly done. They humbly begged him to pardon their transgression and restore the dead man to life. And in imitation of the mercy of the Lord, he did offer prayers and perform a miracle, so that as life had been taken through prayer even so life through prayer was restored.
This all seems to have certain similarities to the miracle performed by the great Peter, who handed over to death those thieves and liars, Ananias and Saphiras (Acts 5,1-10), for Jacobus also brought death to him who murdered truth and traded in lies. But whereas Peter inflicted the punishment having become aware of the theft by the Spirit, Jacobus knew nothing of what those men were trying to achieve, but simply offered the prayers which brought about the pretender's death. The divine Apostle did nothing to snatch back the dead from their fate, because he needed to inculcate some fear before he could begin to preach salvation. Jacobus, overflowing with apostolic grace, brought about an opportune punishment, but also later remitted the punishment, for the need here was to bring enlightenment to the offenders.

But we need to move on to other matters which should be briefly mentioned. After Arius created uproar and confusion in Egypt, the great Emperor Constantine gathered all the leaders of the churches together at Nicaea. Arius was the father and instigator of curse and blasphemy against the only begotten Son and the most holy Spirit, whereas Constantine was like a Zorobabel to our flock (Zorobabel brought the universal captivity of the righteous back from exile and rebuilt the holy temple which had been razed to the ground [Ezra 3.2].) The great Jacobus was also among those who came to Nicaea, determined to stand up for revealed truth like the brave army-leader he was, for Nisibis at that time was a Roman dependency. When the gathering was over and everyone returned home, he too came back like a brave man who had won a victory, rejoicing that true devotion had prevailed.

Some time after this, that great and highly regarded Emperor departed this life acknowledged by all to be a saint [lit. with crowns of piety], and his sons inherited the rulership of the world. But Sapores, the king of the Persians, had no respect for Constantine's sons, deeming them to be nowhere near as powerful as their father, and he sent a great army of cavalry and infantry, together with a great number of elephants, to war against Nisibis.

He deployed his army to besiege the city and completely surrounded it. He brought his siege engines forward, built towers and dug ditches, barricaded the space between them with hurdles built out of branches, and ordered his soldiers to build mounds so that his towers would rival those of the city. He then placed his archers in them, ordering them to direct their fire on those manning the battlements. He ordered others to dig below and undermine the walls. But all these plans were of no effect and a waste of time, for they were all brought to naught by the prayers of Jacobus, that divine man. At last, however, Sapores came to a bold decision [lit. forbade weakness] and, confident that the numbers of his men were like a river in flood, built earthworks and constructed retaining barriers so that he was able to divert a real river of great quantity which he directed against the fortifications. It proved to be a most mighty device, for the walls were unable to withstand this attack and were struck with such force that at that point they began to crumble from beneath. A great shout went up from the besieging army, for now the city was on the point of being taken. They did not fully realise, however, the wall of defence which the citizens of that city still possessed.

For a time they deferred entering the city, unable to approach it because of the waters. They moved back some distance and thinking that their labours were almost over, they relaxed and took thought for their horses. But those who lived in the city turned to prayer, with the great Jacobus as their intercessor. Every able-bodied person worked as hard as they possibly could to rebuild, not worrying about whether the structure would be pretty and pleasing, but piling everything up at random, stones and bricks and whatever anyone could carry, to such effect that in the space of one night they had built high enough to prevent an attack by cavalry, and by infantry unless using ladders. They then all begged the man of God to show himself on the walls and hurl the weapon of cursing at the enemy. In response to their request he went up, and as he looked out over the multitude of them he begged God to send a cloud of mosquitoes and gnats upon them. Even as he spoke God responded, answering the prayer of Jacobus as he did the prayer of Moses. Men were pierced by these spears from God, horses and elephants broke their chains, bolted and scattered hither and thither, unable to bear the stings.

The wicked king realised that all his stratagems had failed; the flooding with water had achieved nothing, for the wall which had been destroyed had been rebuilt. His whole army was worn out by their labours and was under the curse of God, plagued by the snares of God. He saw the man of God walking upon the walls and thought it must have been the Emperor who had been in charge of all the work, for Jacobus seemed to be dressed in purple and crowned with a diadem. He was therefore enraged with those who had urged him into this battle, deceiving him by telling him that the Emperor would not be there. He condemned them to execution, dismissed the army and returned to his own kingdom as quickly as possible.

These miracles are in no way inferior to those which God performed through Hezekiah (2 Kings 19.35) - even greater, it seems to me, in that the city was not taken even though the walls had been undermined. But what I admire even more than that is that when he had recourse to cursing he did not call down thunder and lightning from heaven as the great Elijah did when each captain of fifty with his fifty men advanced towards him (2 Kings I.14). For Jacobus had understood what the Lord said to James and John when they wanted to do this: 'You do not know what manner of spirit you are of' (Luke 9. 55). So he did not ask for the earth to swallow them up, or that they should be consumed by fire, but just that they should be plagued by insects. Knowing the power of God he understood that discipleship had to be developed into the true way of worshipping God. Great indeed was the trust which this divine man had in God, great was the grace given him from above. His face was ever turned heavenwards, and having grown daily in the knowledge of God he at last laid down his life with great glory and departed from our midst.

Some time later, this city was handed over from its then rulers to the kingdom of Persia. Those who used to live there had to leave, but they took with them the body of their prince and defender, grieving and scarcely able to bear having to be exiled, yet singing and celebrating the power of this great conqueror. For if he had lived they would have had but a small chance of falling into the hands of the barbarians.

I have now come to the end of my account of this divine man, and so move on to another story, praying that his blessing may follow me.

 

Chapter II

JULIANUS SABAS

 Julianus lived in the region formerly known as the land of the Persians, but latterly of the Ofroeni, where he set up a little dwelling-place in which to follow the monastic life. The local people honoured him with the name Sabas, which means presbyter in Greek, or senis in Latin. On one side, to the West, his cell was bounded by the banks of the River Euphrates; on the other, towards the rising sun, lay the border of the Roman Empire. Assyria conquered the Persians, and the western border of the kingdom of the Persians was called Adiabenis by those who came after. In this country there were many great and populous cities, and a great part of the country was inhabited. But there was also a great deal of uninhabited desert.

This divine man went to the furthest parts of this solitary place and found a naturally formed cave, which although not very beautiful or commodious, nevertheless provided some barely sufficient shelter for those who came to him. He was perfectly happy to live here, reckoning it to be more magnificent than kingdoms glittering with gold and silver. He settled in there, eating only once a week, his food, bread made from barley, and that of the bran only, his only relish salt, his drink the purest water which flowed from a natural spring [lit. drink however the most pure, waters of floods by themselves natural], which he did not use to excess but only according to a predetermined measure.

But he enjoyed the unmeasured delights of an unlimited banquet in the shape of singing the psalms of David, and having constant converse with God. He made use of them constantly, he could never get enough of them, he was always full of them, he was forever crying, 'How sweet are your words to my tongue, more than honey and honeycomb to my mouth' (Psalms 119.103). And again he heard these words of the blessed David, 'The judgments of the Lord are true, justified in themselves, more to be desired than gold and many precious stones, sweeter than honey and the honeycomb' (Psalms 19.10-11). And again, 'Delight in the Lord and he will give you your heart's desire.' And again, 'Let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord.'And 'Let my heart rejoice that it might fear your name'. And, 'Taste and see how gracious the Lord is.' And, 'My soul thirsts for the living God.' And 'My soul longs after you' .And he grafted into himself the love which inspired the writer of all these words.

This is how the great David by his songs taught him that he would build up many companions who would rival him in the love they showed for God. His hope for this was not in vain. For not this man only but countless others were thus pierced by the love of God. He was consumed by such a great fire of love, he was so intoxicated by desire, that he ceased to have any care for anything of this earth. He dreamed only of his beloved by night and sought only the sight of him by day. And many people heard about his exceptional quest for wisdom [philosophia], and came to him from far and near. As his fame spread everywhere abroad, so they ran to him begging to benefit from his training. The came to him as to a master trainer, to be a family of children who would live on after him. Just as singing birds are used in hunting to call others of the same breed in order to catch them in nets, so do human beings chase after other human beings, sometimes for the purpose of destroying them, but sometimes in order to be saved. So very soon there were ten others with him, then twice and even three times more than that. Although there were so many of them the cave accommodated them all. They learned from the old man how to care little for the comfort of the body, they dressed alike as children of the same family, sustained by barley bread and salt.

Later on they collected wild herbs and mixed them in dolia  [i.e. large globular water jars] with a sufficient amount of salt brine, to be used as remedies for those who were ill. The place where these herbs were stored was extremely damp and it eventually happened that they followed their natural inclination to develop mould and rot, for the cave was very damp in every part of it. So the brothers asked the old man if he would let them build a little shelter big enough to take the vessels containing these remedies. At first he was very unwilling to accede to their request, but was eventually persuaded by St Paul not to seek his own (1 Corinthians 13.5) but to make concessions and accommodate himself to the humble. He therefore specified the measurements to which a small shelter might be built and left the cave to offer up his usual prayers to God. (For he was accustomed to go off into the desert, often for 50 stadia [= 5.7 miles approx] but sometimes for twice as far, to cut himself off from all human company, retire into himself and there to meet and converse with God and gaze upon his divine and ineffable beauty.)

As soon as they had time, the men whom the old man had considered capable of seeing to this matter began to build a little shed of a size compatible with what it was to be used for, but bigger than they had been told. And on the tenth day, like Moses coming down from the mountain and from such contemplation as cannot be expressed in words, the old man saw this building, much bigger than he had allowed.

"I fear," he said, "that you men may be so attached to earthly buildings that you lose the heavenly. For the earthly are but for a time and are of use to us for but a moment, whereas the heavenly are for ever and cannot come to an end." And this he said to lead his group of people into a knowledge of the more perfect way, while yet bearing in mind the voice of the apostle saying, 'I seek not after what is profitable for myself but for many, that they may be saved.' (1 Corinthians 10.33)

He also taught them how to offer heartfelt hymnody to God in common. Two of them should go off together into the desert at dawn; one of them should prostrate himself to give the Lord due adoration, the other should stand and sing fifteen of the psalms of David. This done they should change places; one of them to get up and sing, the other to prostrate himself and adore. And they should continue doing this attentively from morning till the evening. Before sunset they should rest for a little while in the cave, some here, some there, but all should then come together from wherever they are in the cave to offer the vespertide hymns to God together. The old man was accustomed to choose one of the juniors to share the duties of leading the prayers.

One of his more assiduous followers was a man of Persia, a big man with a beautiful body, but whose soul was even more beautiful still. His name was Jacobus, who continued to shine with every virtue after Julianus' death. He was famous and respected not only in Persia but also in the Syrian monasteries or schools of philosophy, where he ended his life at the age, it is said, of a hundred and four. He often accompanied Julianus, that great old man, into the desert, but was always kept at a distance. The master did not allow anyone to come too close to him lest some possible occasion of disagreement arise between them, for conversation takes the mind away from the contemplation of God.

One day as Jacobus was following on behind him, he saw an enormous wild beast [draco] in the path ahead. He looked at it wondering whether he dared go on any further. At first fear urged him to avoid the beast, but then he summoned up his courage. He bent down and picked up a stone, which he threw, but found that the beast stayed still, unable to move at all. He realised that the beast was dead and wondered whether that was not the old man's doing. They continued on their routine, and when they had finished their routine of prayer and singing the old man sat down for a time of quiet, telling Jacobus also to be silent for a little while, which he did until the old man with a smile began some gentle conversation. Jacob then asked for enlightenment upon a point about which he was ignorant.

"You may ask, if you wish," the old man said.

"As I was coming along the path," said Jacobus, "I saw an enormous wild beast lying there. I was very frightened at first, thinking it was alive, but then I saw that it was dead, and I was able to keep on going in safety. Tell me, father, who killed it? You had been ahead of me, and no one else had passed by."

"Stop being inquisitive about such things. You won't be any the better off for knowing the answer."

But Jacobus is to be admired for abating not one whit in his desire to know the truth. The old man tried for quite a while to keep his counsel but in the end could not bear to keep his companion in suspense any longer.

"Well, I will tell you, if you really want to know," he said at last, "but only on one condition, that you tell nobody else as long as I am alive. For anything which might encourage pride and arrogance should always be kept secret. But after I have departed this life I shall be free from such spiritual temptations, so I would not entirely forbid you to reveal it, at least as a proof of the power of divine grace. So then you should know that this beast met me as I walked along the path, looking as if it was going to devour me, but I called upon Jesus and made the sign of the cross at him, completely free from fear. Immediately I saw the beast fall to the ground, and with a commonly used prayer of praise for the Saviour I jumped over him." And having spoken thus he returned to the cave.

On another occasion there was a nobly born young man, rather delicately brought up, whose confidence in his own willing eagerness of spirit was not matched by his physical strength, for he begged the old man to let him be his companion as he journeyed into the desert, not merely for the one-day visit that everyone did, but for the longer journey which often lasted for eight to ten days. This man was the famous Asterius. The divine old man discouraged the youth, pointing out that the desert was scorching hot and waterless, but he persisted in begging for his request to be granted.

His pleadings eventually persuaded the old man, and he did indeed follow the old man out. He was quite vigorous at first, but when the first day, the second day and then the third day had passed, he began to feel dried up by the rays of the sun, and to suffer continually from thirst. (It was summertime, and of course the flames of the sun are even stronger at the height of summer.) At first he felt ashamed to admit to suffering any discomfort, turning over in his mind what the old man had said to him beforehand. At last however he gave in, and in a state of near collapse begged the old man to have pity on him. But the old man simply reminded him of what he had already said, and told him to go back home.

"But I don't know the way back to the cave," said the youth. "And even if I did I couldn't manage it. My strength has almost vanished because of thirst."

The old man then took pity on the young man's condition, realising how weak his body was. He prostrated himself and prayed to the Lord. He watered the ground with hot tears and begged for the young man's safety. And he who answers the prayers and fulfils the desires of those who fear him took the teardrops falling on the sand and turned them into a fountain of water. The young man was revived by this flowing water and the old man urged him to keep on going. The spring is still there to this day, a witness to the Mosaic power of the old man's prayer. For just as Moses of old struck the bare rock with his rod and produced an abundant flow of water sufficient to satisfy the thirst of thousands of people (Exodus 17.6), so did this man produce a flowing fountain by watering the driest of sand with his tears, not for the sake of many thousands, but to satisfy the thirst of one single youth. Inspired by divine grace he foresaw the future perfection of this youth, who many years later, spurred on by divine grace to lead many others into the same state of grace, built a monastic school of excellence near Gendarum, the city next in size to Antioch. Here, he attracted to himself many other athletic lovers of wisdom.

One of those drawn to him was the great Acacius, an outstanding man in my view, and justly famous. He was exceptional in his monastic life, and shone with such splendid virtues that he was held worthy to be made a bishop and given pastoral care of Berhoea. During the fifty-eight years he cared for his flock, he never relaxed his monastic routine, but combined the best qualities both monastic and secular. In his monasticism he continued in the search for perfection, in his civil life he administered the affairs of a large household, thus combining things which in themselves were very different from each other.

Asterius also strove to practise this kind of virtue. He had such a great affection for the great old man Julianus that he would visit him sometimes twice a year sometimes thrice. He would come with three or four beasts of burden laden with dried figs for the community (sodalibus), and put together two measures of them which he carried on his own shoulders, enough to last the old man a year. He called himself a camel-driver, and so he was. And he carried this load not just for a mile or two, but for a seven day's journey. Once when the old man saw him struggling along, loaded up with dried figs on his shoulders he said that he should stop bringing this food to him.

"It is not right that you should undergo all this labour," Julianus said, "so that I can profit in luxury from your sweat."

"I won't unload anything at all," said Asterius, "unless you agree to take a share in this food that I have brought."

"I'll do as you ask," he said. "Only please put that burden down as soon as possible."

In this he was like the chief of the apostles who demurred at first when the Lord offered to wash his feet, loudly asserting that that would never happen (John 13.8). But then as soon as he was told that unless he agreed he would be parted from fellowship with the Lord, he begged that the Lord would wash not only his feet but also his hands and his head. Likewise, this divine man was worried that he should enjoy the fruit of someone else's labour, but recognizing the burning eagerness of his disciple's soul, he abandoned his objections in favour of accepting his ministry.

People who take pleasure in other people being blamed, and who have learned only how to laugh at all things honest, may well say that this story was not worth remembering. But I think it is a profitable story, and have included it in the account of this man's miracles not only to show how his piety was typical of all great men, but also to demonstrate what an attractive and reasonable man he was.  For his great virtues were of such a kind that he considered himself to be unworthy of even the slightest honour, so he therefore rebuffed [Asterius' offering] as being quite inappropriate. But later he accepted him, to signify his support for those who do such things.

It was obvious that the more he tried to distance himself from everyone, the more his reputation attracted people who were lovers of all things wholesome and honest. So he escaped with some of his closer companions to Mt Sinai, without going into any of the towns or villages, but by journeying through the trackless desert. They carried their food with them on their shoulders, bread and salt in fact, and also a flask, a wooden ladle, and a sponge on the end of a line, so that if they came to a deep well, they would be able to lower the sponge, and squeeze it out into the ladle from which they drank. After many days' journeying they came at last to the long looked-for mountain, where they praised the Lord and remained for quite a long time, taking pleasure in the solitude and enjoying great peace of mind. On that rocky place where Moses, chief of prophets, was found worthy to see God (in so far as it is possible for anyone to see God), he built a church and consecrated a holy altar, which remain to this day. This done, he returned to his own place.

At this time his namesake, the wicked Emperor Julian, was threatening to destroy the Christians root and branch. He came into Persia, and those who thought as he did confidently expected to witness his return [in safety], but Julianus began to pray to God with great zeal and burning desire, which he kept up for ten days, until he heard a voice saying that that accursed and filthy pig had been removed. But he did not stop praying; he joyfully continued by turning his prayer into a song of thanksgiving to the gentle Saviour of his own people who were opposed to this powerful enemy. He had long been gentle and forbearing towards this wicked man, but at last his gentleness and tolerance of his crimes turned to anger, and brought down upon him the punishment he deserved.

When he had finished his prayer, he returned to his companions, and it was obvious to them that he was in a tranquil and happy frame of mind, for the cheerfulness of his heart showed in the happiness of his face. They who knew him so well were astonished at this unwonted sight, for whereas he was usually solemn of countenance now he was seen to be smiling. They asked him what he was so happy about and he replied, "The present time, my brothers, is one of joy, for the wicked has been cast down, as Isaiah says (Isaiah 24.21), and the aggression he began has met with its just reward. He who defied the God who made and preserved him has been justly destroyed by the power of him who is the source of power. So I am gladdened to see the churches rejoicing which he had oppressed, and to know that the demons now infest him who used to seek their help, and no help now can he find." This was how he foresaw the fall of the wicked.

Valens took up the reins of Roman power after Julian, departed from the truth of the gospel and decided to impose the erroneous teaching of Arius. A great campaign against the Church began, the leaders were everywhere driven into exile, and replaced by hostile plunderers. I won't go into the whole course of that tragedy at present, but omit everything except just one event which plainly shows how the grace of the divine Spirit flourished in that old man.

Now the great Meletius had been driven out of the church of Antioch, the pastoral care of which it was believed had been given him by the God of all. People of the same opinion as himself, professing belief in the one essence of the Trinity, together with some of the clergy, were also expelled from the holy churches. They came to a hollow in the mountains to celebrate the holy mysteries. They made the river bank an oratory, which at one time had been an army training ground in front of the northern gate. But the enemy would not permit these pious people to gather together all in one place, and infiltrated them with lying adherents of theirs who spread rumours among them that Julianus himself was in communion with those who held to this false teaching.

Now Flavianus and Diodorus, those blessed divine men, had the honour of being the priestly leaders of the people. Together with Aphraates, whose life I intend to give you an account of, if God wills, they persuaded the great Acacius (whom I have already mentioned) to make an approach to the illustrious Asterius, his teacher and, of course, the disciple of Julianus. Their aim was to go as quickly as possible to Julianus, that splendid example of devotion and upholder of gospel teaching, to beg him to put aside his predilection for solitude and come to the aid of the thousands of people in danger from false teaching, in the hope that his arrival would be the means of extinguishing the flames of Arianism. Acacius hastened on his way, taking with him as requested the great Asterius, and came to Julianus.

"Tell me, father," he said after greeting him, "what are your reasons for all these great labours that you gladly undergo?"

"The worship of God," he replied, "is more precious to me than body and soul and life itself, than everything to do with life. So I try, as far as I am able, to serve him free from all stain and please him in all things."

"Let me put it to you," said Acacius, "that there is a way in which you can serve him even more greatly than you do at present. I shall not be giving you any logical argument, but simply put to you what I learn from the Lord's own teaching. For he asked Peter if he loved him more than the others (John.21.15), and then heard Peter say (what he knew already): 'Lord, you know that I love you.' The Lord then showed him what he must do to serve him even more. 'If you love me then' he said, 'feed my sheep, feed my lambs.' This also is what you must do, father. For the sheep are in great danger from the wolves, and he whom you love so greatly also loves the sheep. It is right for lovers to do things which, when done, are pleasing to the beloved. Moreover, if you by your silence negligently allow the truth to be vigorously attacked, and do nothing to prevent the followers of truth being led astray, there is a great danger that all their many great achievements will be brought to naught. Your great name should be brought to the support of them in their persecution. For the leaders of the Arian abominations boastfully assert that you are on their side."

On hearing this, the old man cautioned them that although silence was to be cherished in its due context, nevertheless he would not steer clear of the noise of the city. And he set off to Antioch. After journeying through the desert for two or three days they came at nightfall to a farmhouse belonging to a rich woman. When she heard this holy band of people coming, she ran out to ask their blessing, fell at their feet and begged that they should refresh themselves at her house. The old man agreed, even though he had not enjoyed such accommodation for the previous forty years. While this admirable woman was emulating the hospitality of Sarah (Genesis 18.6), and ministering to the needs of these holy men, her only son aged seven fell into the well in the darkness of the evening. As might be expected he cried out loudly, but when his mother heard she bade everyone not to worry about it but put a lid on the well while she carried on with her ministrations. She put the meal before the holy men, and the old man bade her to bring her son to receive a blessing. She said he was not feeling well, but the old man persisted that he should be brought in. At last the woman told him what had happened. The old man immediately left the table, ran to the well and lifted the lid. Having called for a light to be brought he could see the boy sitting on the surface of the water and splashing the water about childishly with his hand, thinking that it was all a game, when really he ought to have been dead. Ropes were brought and let down to him so that he could be lifted up out of the well, and at once he ran to the feet of the old man.

"I could see you below me in the water," he said, "lifting me up and preventing me from sinking."

What a reward the woman received from the blessed man for her hospitality!

I won't say any more about what happened on their journey, but when they arrived at Antioch, people came running towards him from everywhere wanting to see the man of God, each of them seeking a cure for their ills. He was living in a cave on the side of the mountain where the divine apostle Paul is said to have lived in hiding. But no sooner had they realised that he was the man they were looking for than he was struck down by a violent fever. When the great Acacius saw how ill he was and then looked at the vast crowd of people who had gathered, he wondered whether they would all be worried about catching a disease from one who they hoped would be able to heal them.

"Don't worry," the old man said, "God will give me health if health is what is necessary."

Having said this, he straightaway turned to prayer, according to his custom, kneeling and touching the ground with his forehead. He begged God to restore him to health if that would be of benefit to those who had gathered there. He had barely finished his prayer when he began to sweat profusely, which extinguished the flames of his fever.

When he had freed many people from all kinds of diseases, he then went to a convent of religious, and as he was going through the gate a beggar who could only walk by dragging himself along on his buttocks stretched out his hand and touched the old man's cloak. By faith his illness left him, and he jumped up and ran about just as well as he could before he was disabled, imitating the lame man whom Peter and John had healed. (Acts 3.8). This deed caused the whole population to gather together; the army training ground was crowded out. The liars and deceivers were covered in shame, while the followers of truth rejoiced with tranquil minds. And from here, those who had come seeking healing carried the light of truth back to their own homes. A man who held one of the most important public offices, that of signalling the beginning of each day, then sent Julianus a message asking him to come and heal him urgently of an illness. He went without delay, poured out his prayers to God and with a courteous word delivered him from his illness, adjuring him to give all his thanks to God.

After doing this and other such deeds he decided to go back to the monastic observances of his cell. As he was travelling through Cyrus (about two days' journey from Antioch), he turned aside to the church of the blessed martyr Dionysius. The people there were outstanding in the true and proper religion and worship of God, and they begged for protection from a calamity which had been foretold and which they were daily expecting. The people there were well known to be of the orthodox [recta] religion and true worship of God, but they could foresee that a disaster was about to come upon them and they were asking him to help them avert it. For they said that Asterius, who had joined the heretical faction, had succeeded in becoming bishop. He was well versed in the art of clever but false argument, was a vigorous advocate for erroneous teaching and was mounting vicious attacks on the truth.

"We fear," they said, "that many of the more simple among us may be deceived by the way he hides his lies beneath many layers of eloquence, and throws out a web of syllogisms like a net. This is the reason why those opposed to him have called for help."

"Don't worry," said the old man. "Join with us in beseeching God, and mingle some bodily mortification and eloquence into your prayers."

They all engaged in prayer, and on the eve of a popular feast day when that enemy of truth and defender of falsehood was planning to make a speech, he suffered a stroke, sent by God. Over the course of the day his condition worsened till he departed this life, doubtless hearing a voice saying, 'You fool, this day your life is required of you (Luke 12.20), and you will be ensnared in the coils and traps that you have prepared for others.' A similar tale is told of Balaam, who when summoned by the wicked Balak to utter curses against the people of God prophesied that he would instead be killed by the right hand of Israel (Numbers 24.17). So likewise Asterius, thinking to propagate his deceitful opinions among the people of God, by the God of the people was deprived of his life. This deliverance was granted to Cyrus through prayer.

It was the great Acacius who told me all these events which I have related, to my mind a truly divine story. He was acutely aware of everything that Julianus did.

He went away from there and returned to his companions, living among them for some time before moving on gladly and willingly to a trouble-free life of old age. As one who had prayed for passionlessness in this life he was looking forward to immortality of the body. But I shall now turn from him to someone else, standing in prayer and begging that all who read this tale will by their prayers obtain for me a blessing from heaven.

 

Chapter III

MARCIANUS

 So glorious was his life, how can I possibly have enough time to do justice to that celebrated Marcianus? For he along with Elijah and John and the like are to be reckoned among those who wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being in want, afflicted, tormented, of whom the world was not worthy, wandering in deserts, in mountains, in caves and in hidden places of the earth (Hebrews 11.37).

His native land was that Cyrus which we were writing about earlier. Later he lived in the desert. He has now departed from both native land and desert and has his dwelling in heaven. His native land gave birth to him, the desert nourished him and gave him the victory, and heaven accepted him as a crowned king who had held as naught his exalted family rank. For he came from a noble family of royal splendour, among whom he prospered, nature's handiwork having given him a magnificent bodily appearance and a mind adorned with the marks of genius. But he transferred all his love towards God and everything to do with him.

He cherished all God's commandments, he laid hold on the lifeline offered by solitude, and built himself a little shelter, barely big enough for his bodily needs, which he surrounded with a wall. There he purposefully shut himself up, cut off from all human intercourse, conversing however with the God of all, and listening for his sweet voice. For as he practised divine eloquence so he reckoned to hear the divine voice. He conversed with God in prayer and supplications, and although always enjoying great delights was always thirsting for more [lit. never accepted satiety]. For he listened to what the great David sang about in his psalms: 'He who meditates on the law of the Lord day and night is like a tree planted by the waterside, which shall bring forth its fruit in due season and its leaves shall not wither' (Psalms 1.3). He longed for this fruit and joyfully embraced the work. His psalmody led on to prayer, and prayer led on to psalmody, and both led on to reading the wisdom of the divines. He ate nothing but bread, which he measured out exactly; and the amount he allowed himself would scarcely have satisfied a newly-weaned child. They say that he divided a pound of bread into four portions which he shared out over four days, one part to each day. His daily meal was at eventide. He never fully satisfied either his hunger or his thirst; he allowed his body only sufficient to support life. He used to say that to take food only after many days fasting meant that the work of God could not be properly performed during the time of fasting, and that when the time came to eat, a greater amount than usual was taken, weighing down the stomach, and making the mind less vigilant. So that it was better to eat daily, but never to satisfy the appetite fully. True fasting consists in perpetual deprivation. This divine man always kept to this regimen, and although he had a large body, and was the tallest and most handsome of all the men of his time, he survived on that small ration of food.

After some time he accepted two attendants, Eusebius who inherited his holy shelter, and Agapetus who introduced all these angelic rules into Apamea. There is a large and densely populated town there called Nicerte, where he established two schools of wisdom [gymnasia philosophiae], one of which is named after him, the other after the greatly admired Simeon who was a shining light of wisdom there for a space of fifty years. At the present day there are more than forty men living there, athletes striving after virtue, and lovers of the religion and worship of the one true God, and who are scaling the heights of heaven by their labours. Agapetus and Simeon were the legislators of this republic, establishing the laws which they had learnt from the great Marcianus. It would be difficult to enumerate the many settlements, founded in pursuit of the virtues, and governed by these same laws and institutions, which these two founded. But the founder of all these later ones was that divine Marcianus, for he who sows the goodliest seed may rightly be recognised as the author of the good fruits that spring from it.

At first, as I have said, he willingly lived alone in his prison, and when he admitted those other two, they did not live in the same cell, for it was hardly big enough for him alone, it was so small. It needed a great effort for him both to stand up and lie down, for when he stood his head and neck touched the roof, and he could not stretch out his legs when lying down because the length of the cell did not match the length of his body. So he let them build another shelter and told them to live there and pray and sing hymns and read the wisdom of the divines by themselves. When even more wanted to share in this profitable way of life, he ordered another dwelling to be erected further off and bade those live in it who would. Eusebius was their leader, handing on the teaching of the great Marcianus. But when the divine Agapetus had become well trained and established, he went back home, as I have said, and sowed the seed which he had been given by that divine Marcianus. However, he became so well known and famous that he was held to be worthy of pontifical honour. Pastoral care was committed to his charge, the care of his native land was entrusted to his faithfulness.
Eusebius however, that admirable man, leader of a gathered flock, undertook the role of teacher, and alone was allowed the honour of visiting Marcianus as often as he wished, to consult him on whatever he wanted. One night he was bold enough to approach Marcianus' window, because he wanted to know what he was doing, and as he bent down to peer in, he saw a light of supernal beauty shining round the head of his guide, a light not caused by human hand but by God, teaching him how to understand the divine eloquence of the sacred Scriptures. For he was holding a book in his hand, searching for the most holy treasures of the will of God. This sight filled the admirable Eusebius with enormous awe and fear as he was being taught how grace was poured out upon this minister of God, and witnessed the good will of God towards his servants. 
Once while the great Marcianus was praying just outside his door, a reptile [draco] crawled over the eastern wall and looked down from the top of the wall on Marcianus. It was hissing, and looked most horrible as it threatened to attack. Eusebius was standing some way off, terrified by this sight. Suspecting that his teacher was not aware of the beast, he shouted out a warning, and begged him to flee. But Marcianus rebuked him and told him not to be afraid, (for to be afraid was a most injurious defect). Then he made the sign of the cross with his finger, and blew with his mouth at the beast, and poured out upon it all the enmity of the ages. It sizzled up immediately at Marcianus' breath as if scorched by fire, and was blown into fragments like sparks among the stubble. See now how this servant of goodwill was imitating the Lord. For when the Lord was at sea in the disciples' boat, he saw how anxious and troubled they were, and did not still the tempest before he had rebuked the disciples for their little faith (Matthew 8.26). Following this example, the admirable Marcianus first quelled his disciple's fear, then punished the beast. Such was the wisdom of the great Marcianus, and his performing of miracles and faithfulness towards God. But although he was honoured with such grace as to be able to perform great miracles, he tried always to conceal his power, ever wary of the tricks of that plunderer of virtue who might subtly sow the vice of arrogance in an endeavour to snatch away the harvest gathered with so much labour. But although he wanted to hide the graces given him, miracles flowed forth from him unbidden; the splendour of his deeds rightly shone out, and laid bare his hidden powers.
Sometimes, something like this happened:
There was a man of honourable estate, a military commander, whose daughter had for a long time been raving in her speech, driven mad by the attack of an evil demon. This man had already had some contact with the great Marcianus, and came out into the desert hoping that in view of his former acquaintance he would be permitted to meet him and ask for help. But it was a false hope. He was prevented from getting an interview by the old man who at that time had been given the task of serving Marcianus. So he asked this servant if he would just take a small flask of oil and put it outside the door of Marcianus' little cell. The servant repeatedly said he would not do it, and the request was just as often repeated, until at last he gave way. But when the great Marcianus heard a little noise outside, he asked who it was, where did he come from and what did he want. And the servant suppressed the truth, and simply said he had come to see whether Marcianus wanted anything. He had scarcely uttered the words before Marcianus sent him away.
Next morning the girl's father asked if he could have the flask of oil back. In some trepidation the servant went as quietly as possible, and tried to reach out his hand and pick up the flask without being heard. But Marcianus once again asked him what he wanted. But when he gave the same reply as he had given the evening before, the man of God would not accept it, seeing that it was quite unusual for him to come as often as that. He demanded to be told the truth. Realising that it was impossible to deceive someone so full of grace, the servant in fear and trembling told him who it was who had been seeking help because of this tragic disease, and showed him the flask. Marcianus was angry, because it stood to reason that he was unwilling to display his power.
"If I hear of anything like this again," he threatened, "going against my usual customs as you are, I shall take your ministry away from you." (For anyone who knew how to make money out of it, that would be a great loss.) He then dismissed him, telling him to return the flask to the owner. And he also issued commands: and the demon who was four days' journey away bellowed because of the power of those commands. For  Marcianus was acting like a judge in Berhoea, and using some of his lictors against the demon. That wicked wretch was expelled, and the girl delivered completely from what was possessing her. The girl's father was informed about this as he returned. For while still a few miles from the city, a servant sent from the girl's mother came running towards him and told him that a miracle had occurred about four days earlier. Taking account of the time, he calculated that that was exactly when the old man had given him back the flask. It occurs to me to wonder what this great man might not have done if he had really set his mind to doing miracles. If such glory shone out when he was trying to conceal the powers that he had been given, what miracles might he not have done if really tried!
When he finally allowed people to visit him, on the day after celebrating the sacred passion and resurrection of the Lord, all were very eager to see him. The leading bishops gathered around him, the great Flavianus, whose faith was believed to have saved Antioch, the divine Acacius whom we mentioned earlier, Eusebius the bishop of Chalcedon, and Isodorus who at that time had charge of Cyrus, all of whom were men of great renown. Theodotus also joined them, he who held the reins of the church of Hierapolis, famous for his monastic discipline and gentleness. Many from among the judiciary also came, burning with faithful zeal. As they were all sitting around silently, waiting to hear his sacred voice, he also sat there for quite some time without saying anything, 'slow to speak, but swift to hear' (James 1.19). At last one of those sitting around spoke up. Marcianus knew him well for he had come to Marcianus for spiritual guidance, and was well known in other ways for his authority and worthiness.
"Father," he said, "all these divine fathers are hopefully thirsting for the sweet streams of your teaching. Please do not dam up the rivers of your kindness, but favour all those here with something of benefit to us."
He sighed deeply and then spoke.
"The God of all", he said, "speaks to us daily through his creation, and through the divine Scriptures he teaches what we need, and forewarns us; he alarms with threats of punishment, and encourages us by his promises; and yet we do not profit by them."
What was the purpose of Marcianus speaking like this, not only forbearing to be of use to others but also losing the benefits that others could have given him? He did it to encourage the other fathers to speak; but I feel it would be superfluous to bring what they said into my narrative. When they had all stood up to pray, they wanted to lay hands on Marcianus to ordain him to the priesthood, but they were apprehensive of doing so. They all urged each other to do it, but none of them was willing. And so they all departed.
I would like to add another story to the above, as an illustration of his divine prudence. A certain Avitus had gone into the desert earlier than Marcianus, and built a hut in which to carry out his monastic exercises. He had begun his labours at an earlier time than the great Marcianus, a lover of wisdom, and well trained in a hard ascetic life. When he heard of the virtues of Marcianus who was being talked about everywhere, he thought that such an example was very beneficial in the cause of silence and restfulness and set out to visit this attractive man. When the great Marcianus knew he had come he opened his door and welcomed him in, giving instructions to the admirable Eusebius to prepare some lentils and vegetables for him to eat. After they had satisfied their desire to have a conversation and learned about each other's virtues, they said the office of Nones together. Eusebius then brought in some bread for their meal.
"Come now, my most dear friend," the great Marcianus said to the divine Avitus, " Let us share this meal together."
"Indeed," said Avitus, "I don't know whether I have ever eaten before Vespers, and sometimes I go two or three days without eating at all."
"But for my sake," said the great Marcianus, "let your custom be relaxed today, for I have rather a weak body and I cannot wait until Vespers." But these words had no effect whatsoever on the admirable Avitus. Marcianus sighed and went on to say:
"I am vexed in spirit and take it very hard that you have gone to such trouble to come and see a man whom you thought to be such a hard worker and lover of wisdom only to be disappointed of your hope and find a petty innkeeper living in delicate luxury."
Avitus was cut to the quick.
"I would rather eat flesh," he said, "than to hear you say such things."
"Well, my friend," said the great Marcianus, "I too follow the same life as you do, and embrace the same code of behaviour, and prefer work to idleness, and fasting to feasting, and do not usually eat till nightfall, but we know that charity is more important than fasting. Charity is prescribed by divine law, fasting is for us to make our own decision about. We must hold that the divine laws are more important for us."
And so they discussed these things among themselves, and took a little food, and praised God, and spent three days together before taking their leave of each other, knowing that they were united in spirit. How can anyone not admire the wisdom that governed everything this man did? He knew when it was a time for fasting and when for fraternal charity, he understood how one virtue differed from another, and which one should give way to the other and gain the victory in any given set of circumstances.
There is something else I can tell you to illustrate his perfect grasp of things divine. His sister came to visit him from their native land, bringing her son with her who was a leading citizen of the city of Cyrus. They brought an abundance of gifts for him to enjoy. He refused to see his sister, but seeing that it was at the time which he had definitely set aside for meeting people, he did admit the son, who begged him to accept the gifts they had brought.
"How many monasteries have you visited on the way," he asked, "and how much of what you bring have you shared out with them?"
"Nothing," he replied.
"Well, you can go, and take your gifts with you. I have no need of any of them, and even if I did need them I would not accept them, for you are doing this kindness simply because I am a relation of yours, and not with any intention of godly piety and service. You would not have singled me out for these gifts had you not had no care whatsoever for the general need."
And so he sent away his sister and her son, having given instructions that nothing which they had brought should be accepted from them. To act thus is of course contrary to nature, but he had been completely converted to a heavenly style of living. What more convincing evidence could there be brought that he was a worthy follower of God, conformed to the voice of God himself, who said 'For whosoever does not renounce father and mother, and sisters and brothers and wife and children is not worthy of me.' (Matthew 10.37)? If someone who renounces not is unworthy, someone who does renounce, especially in such exact and demanding terms, must obviously be considered worthy indeed.
Even more than this I admire how completely perfected he was in the matter of divine teaching. For he abhorred the infamies of Arius, who at that time was in the ascendant because of the power of the Emperor. He detested also the madness of Apollinaris and strenuously opposed those who agreed with Sabellius that the three persons or hypostases were not individually distinct. He brought strong arguments to bear on the people called 'Euchitae', who, wearing monastic habits, were infected with Manichaeism. And he was so zealous for ecclesiastical regulations that he could undertake a justifiable dispute even against a man who was a greatly respected divine. For there was a certain Abraham in that desert, with silvered hair but even more silvery in prudence, well known for every virtue, and continually pouring forth fruitful tears of compunction. Endowed with a certain simplicity he had from the beginning kept up the earlier celebration of Easter. Unaware, it seems, of what the Nicaean fathers had decreed on this matter, he was happily keeping to the old custom. There were many others at that time who were unwittingly doing the same. But the great Marcianus brought many arguments to bear as he attempted to persuade Abraham (for so he was called by those who lived in that region) to come into agreement with the Church. When he continued to be disobedient, Marcianus excommunicated him. But as time went on that divine man threw off that stain on his character, and fell into line with the customs of the Church in celebrating this feast, singing 'Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord' (Psalms 119.1). Such was the effect of the great Marcianus' teaching.
There were many people building oratories in various places: Alypius, his sister's son, in Cyrus, Zenobia, a famous one in Chalcedon, which was noted for its power and very rich. And there were quite a few others who were competing with each other in making plans to snatch that illustrious athlete's body, once he had obtained the victory [i.e. 'died']. When the man of God got to know about that, he made the admirable Eusebius swear a terrifying oath that he would bury him in a place where nobody except the two companions who were living with him, would discover where his grave was until many years later. The admirable Eusebius fulfilled this oath to the letter. For when the end of this remarkable, victorious life came at last, and the chorus of Angels had translated his divine and sacred soul to the heavenly regions, Eusebius did not announce his death until with two companions he had dug a grave, put the body in it, and smoothed out the earth above it. For more than fifty years, many people came searching for his body, but his grave remained undiscovered.
Now one of the oratories which I just mentioned, dedicated to the apostles, received the relics of some other martyrs, thereby signifying that they were inheritors of the teaching and worship of those martyrs. The sole survivor of the three who buried Marcianus then revealed the place where he was buried, and the members of the oratory placed the remains of his precious body in a stone coffin which they had prepared two years earlier.
The admirable Eusebius had long been emulating the virtues of Marcianus, and never ceased disciplining his body. He carried around on his body a hundred and twenty Roman pounds of iron, then added on first another fifty which belonged to the divine Agapetus, then eighty belonging to the great Marcianus. He had an oratory in a hollow, from which the waters of a lake had been drained. He carried on this way of life for three years.
I have digressed into talking about these things because I wanted to show how great and how many were the deeds meticulously and virtuously carried out, of which Marcianus was the instigator and inspiration. The fruit resulting from his love of wisdom was also recognised by that splendid man Basil, who much later built a monastery at Seleucobelum, a city in Syria. He was famous for all kinds of virtues, but especially for those things most pleasing to God, namely the possession of charity and the godly work of hospitality. But who could count up, without boasting, how many workmen there were who 'handled rightly the word of truth', as the apostle puts it? (2 Timothy 2.15). For the moment I shall pass over many who were worthy of praise, lest they make this story too long. I shall just make mention of one only:
There was one whom they called Sabinus who used to come to Marcianus regularly. He used to subject his body to many labours. He never ate bread, nor anything which usually went with it; his sole food was flour mixed with water. His custom was to mix enough for a month, and it became mouldy and stank. By this diet, he wanted to weaken the desires of the flesh, and make sure that the stench of the food saved him from taking any pleasure in it. [lit. enjoyment grew weaker through the stench of the food). This was his regime when on his own, but when any of his companions visited him, he would with complete simplicity and lack of fuss eat whatever it was they brought with them.
As an example of how blessed he was by God's grace, a certain woman of Antioch, very influential because of her wealth and family, came to him begging his help for her daughter who was vexed with a demon.
"I saw in a dream," she said, "someone telling me to come here so that the prayers of the top person of the monastery might heal my child."
"The top person of the monastery," said the gatekeeper, "is not in the habit of talking with women."
But the woman persisted, weeping and howling and making a very loud noise until the prior [praefectus] came out.
"This is not the man," she said. "It was someone else that was shown to me in my dream, someone with a ruddy face and hard patches of skin on his knees."
Then they knew who it was she was looking for, and they persuaded him to come out and see the woman. No sooner had she recognised his face than the evil demon went out of the girl with a loud cry. Such were the marvellous deeds done by the disciples of Marcianus' disciples; so many flowers did this best of gardeners propagate everywhere.
But here I must bring this story to an end, and I beg and pray that all these disciples may plead for me, and bring me help from heaven.


Chapter IV
EUSEBIUS

In the tales that I have written so far I have shown how the sterile desert has brought forth fruits unto God, fruits ripe and beautiful, pleasing to him who made them grow, splendid and greatly to be sought after by people who are wise. Lest anyone should think that such virtue is circumscribed by place and that only the desert is suitable for bringing forth such a harvest, let us now go on to treat prayerfully of places which are inhabited and show that such places provide no impediment to developing a love of wisdom.
There is a high mountain to the east of Antioch and to the west of Berhoea, which is higher than all the other mountains nearby. The very top of it is shaped like a crown, called thus because of its height. People living nearby call it  that is, vertex [= 'whirlpool, summit or crown']. At the highest point there was once a temple to the demons, held in greatest honour by the local people. But underneath it, to the South, a plain opens up, or rather, a valley, bounded on each side by gentle slopes. These slopes which are cut through on each side from south to North to provide footpaths, spread out to a road which can be ridden along on horseback. Country houses both large and small have been built here, near the mountains on each side. Hard by the edge of the highest part of the mountain there is a large, well populated village. The local people call it Teleda. Higher up still on the side of the mountain is a mountain valley, not very steep but gently sloping, facing the plain and the south wind.
Here a certain Ammianus built a school for lovers of wisdom [i.e, a monastery]. He was a man well known for his many virtues and surpassed all others in modesty, and sufficient proof of that lies in that he often had recourse to the great Eusebius in order to provide satisfactory teaching material not only for his fellows but for twice as many others as well. He begged and prayed that Eusebius would consent to be helper, trainer and schoolmaster for this establishment which he had founded.
Now Eusebius lived twenty-five miles away, shut up in his tiny little dwelling which did not even have any windows. It was Marcianus who had inspired him to this pitch of endeavour, Marcianus who had nurtured him, Marcianus the faithful servant of God, given the same name (1 Chronicles 6.49) as the Lord honoured the great Moses with. And once Marcianus had tasted for himself the divine love, he did not want to be the only one to enjoy such good things but caused many others to become his companions in this love. He attracted Eusebius to him and also his brother who accompanied him. For he thought it would be unreasonable to encourage people to be virtuous who were not related, if he did not treat brothers the same. He drew both of them into his little household, and trained them in living according to the gospel. But their training was interrupted when the brother fell ill, and death followed soon after. A few days after his brother had departed, the great Eusebius came completely to terms with the fact that his life had ended, and remained with Marcianus throughout his life, speaking to no one, hidden from public view, totally enclosed. He continued to embrace this life after Marcianus' death, until the admirable Ammianus came to him with many persuasive arguments.
"Tell me, O best of men," said Ammianus, "Whom do you think you are pleasing by following this laborious, mean and squalid lifestyle?"
"God," replied Eusebius, speaking to him as an equal, "for God is the lawgiver and guide to all virtue."

"If you love God," said Ammianus, "I will show you a way whereby you may burn with love even more, and serve him whom you love. For it seems to me that all your care and industry is directed towards yourself, and lays you open to the charge of too great a self-love. But the divine law bids us love our neighbour. This is the essence of the true gift of charity, however many works you undertake to perform (Romans 13.9-10). And Paul calls this the fulfilment of the law (Galatians 5.14).  Indeed the Lord himself in the sacred Gospel urged Peter, who professed to love him more than the others, to feed his sheep (John 21.15). And he rebukes those who do not do this, saying through the Prophet, 'You shepherds, is it not yourselves you are feeding, not the sheep?' (Ezekiel 34.2). It was on that account that he commanded the great Elijah to turn from the life of solitude and go among the ungodly (1 Kings 18.1), and following Elijah, he sent John, famous for so many works, to the banks of the Jordan, where he baptised and preached (Matthew 3.1). So then seeing that you too are an ardent lover of God who made you, bring on many others to be lovers of God along with you, for this would be greatly pleasing to the family of God. Moreover he also called Ezekiel to be a watchman and to testify to the wicked (Ezekiel 3.17); Jonah he commanded to hasten to Nineveh, and when he refused took him there under duress."
This and similar arguments softened the divine man's resistance. He abandoned his prison of his own accord, and Ammianus led him out and took him away and entrusted to him the care of his fellow-monks. I don't know which to admire more, the self effacing nature of the one, or the obedience of the other and the fact that he was willing to be persuaded. The one forbore the leadership, preferring rather to be among those who obeyed, avoiding the dangers of high position; the great Eusebius, who had turned away from mixing with the multitude, gave that up, and, conquered by the demands of charity, accepted the oversight of the flock and guided their common life. He did not need to make use of long speeches in his teaching; his look was often enough sufficient to restore quickly even the laziest to the path of virtue, for those who knew him say that he was always of a grave countenance, able to strike fear into those who confronted him.
He himself took food only every third or fourth day, but those living with him he bade to eat every other day. He urged everyone to pray assiduously to God and to fill every minute with this work. The set offices should be said in common, and in the intervening spaces of the day, each one should pray to God and seek for salvation, whether under the shade of some tree, or near some rock or wherever they might be, either standing up or lying down. And he taught that each part of the body should be trained to do only such things as were according to reason. To make this more obvious to everyone I shall just mention one story about him:
He and the admirable Ammianus would sit on a rock, and one would read out stories from the divine gospels while the other would explain the meaning of some of the more difficult bits. On one occasion Eusebius' attention was distracted by gazing at some farmers working in a field below. When Ammianus had read a portion of the gospel and asked for his comments, Eusebius asked him to read it again.
"It's obvious," said Ammianus, " that you have been so taken up with looking at the ploughmen that you have not heard a word I have said." 
From that time onwards he made a rule for his eyes that they should not gaze out over the fields, or enjoy the beauty of the heavens and the sight of the starry skies, but keep them directed to a narrow path, traditionally of only a handbreadth's width, which would be conducive to prayer. From then on he did not allow himself to stray from this path, and they say that he lived according to this law for the next forty years. In order to force himself to keep to this intention, he constructed an iron chain to put round his neck in addition to the chain which he already wore round his loins, so that weighed down by them he would carefully keep his eyes always directed to the ground. This was the punishment he inflicted on himself for gazing at those farmers.
Many more things besides were told me by those who knew him and understood his way of life. That great old Acacius whom I have mentioned before also told me that when he saw how curved his back was he asked him what was the point of never allowing himself to look at the sky or look out over the fields, and never to deviate from this narrow way.
"I started these things up against the machinations of the evil enemy," he replied. "I was trying to distract his attention towards things of lesser importance in order to prevent him from making war against me in the big things, such as trying to rob me of temperance and justice, stirring up anger in me, making me burn with lust, making me arrogant and swell with pride and anything else he might devise against my soul. For if he had conquered me in these lesser things it would not have caused me any great harm, but if he had been conquered it would have made him look the more ridiculous for not having been able to come out on top even in matters so trifling. I realised that this type of warfare was less dangerous, for I would not have been seriously damaged if I slipped up slightly. So I transferred to this type of warfare, as I would not be very greatly damaged if I did slip up and look at the fields or the sky; he could not strike me down or destroy me in such matters, there are not any death dealing weapons in them, lacking any sharp iron points as they do."
The great Acacius assured me he had heard Eusebius say all this, to the admiration of his wisdom, warlike virtue and experience. Therefore he repeated it to anyone who wanted to learn about such things, as being something admirable and worthy of being committed to memory.
His reputation spread into all parts and attracted many lovers of virtue to him, especially Agrippa and Jacobus Persa, outstanding leaders of the flock, divine men who succeeded the old man Julianus whose story we have told above. After Julianus came to the end of this life and passed to the life above, they hastened to the great Eusebius, rightly considering it better to be ruled than to rule in a position of superiority.
In what I have already said about Jacobus I briefly summed up his virtues, but now I shall show more plainly how great was his love of wisdom. For as the divine Eusebius was on the point of leaving this world, he asked Jacobus to take on the leadership of the flock. But he refused this responsibility, and unable to satisfy those who wanted him to take it on, went to another flock, preferring to be fed rather than to feed, and came thus to the end of his life after many years.
It was Agrippa who took this leadership on, a man adorned with many good qualities, especially purity of soul by means of which he eagerly sought after the vision of divine beauty and burned with the fire of love. His cheeks were perpetually furrowed by tears. After feeding that chosen, divine flock for many years he departed this life, and the divine David took on the leadership. I myself was able to profit from his personality.
He was a man who truly followed the injunction of the Apostle to 'mortify his members which were on earth' (Colossians 3.5). He had benefited so much from the teaching of the great Eusebius that he lived for forty-five years in the monastery without any outbursts of anger in all that time. Even after he had taken on the leadership no one ever saw him in a state of agitation, even though there were many things that might have upset him. A hundred and fifty men were nurtured by his skill. Some, helped by his excellent and unsurpassed virtue, were able to imitate him in 'having his conversation in heaven' (Philippians 3.20). Others took wings for the first time and were taught how to rise above the world and fly. But if it became obvious that out of the many who were taught such divine things some were failing (for it is hardly possible that those attempting this life should always be faultless), that divine man remained completely unmoved; nothing that happened could make him lose his temper. I know this not merely by hearsay but from experience. I had long desired to visit this community, and when I did so with several other pilgrims who followed the same way of life as I did, we stayed a whole week with this divine man and never saw his expression change once. He was never either convulsed with mirth or bowed down by sorrow. His eyes likewise were never sometimes screwed up and savage, sometimes twinkling, but maintained unwaveringly a serene and straightforward expression.
I think I have said enough to demonstrate his tranquillity of soul, and some might think that nothing ever moved him at all. So I must needs tell you something which happened while we were there. That divine man was having a session with us expounding on the love of wisdom, and considering the question of what was the highest form of living the evangelical life, when the presentation of his opinions was interrupted by one Publius, a Roman by race, a man of impeccable morals, endowed with the honour of the priesthood and holding the second highest position in that hierarchy [illius praefecturae secundas partes obtinens]. He spoke forcefully against the divine David, saying that his mildness was a common scandal, and that his clemency was disastrous for everyone, and that his idea of the highest form of the love of wisdom was not good sense [modestia] but madness [amentia]. But David's composure was rock-like. He listened to the argument, was not in the least bit injured by such words, which by their very nature are designed to cause injury. The expression on his face did not change, he did not refuse to continue with the conference, but answered his opponent with a calm voice and gentle words which gave outward expression to his serenity of soul. He spoke as one who could bring healing to whoever wanted it. Along with those who came with me, I speak, as you can see, as one who thinks healing was needed.
How could anyone have shown greater gentleness of spirit? As one of the highest rank he put up with insults from one of the second rank in the presence of many guests who heard these insults, and yet was not subject to any angry outburst or upset which might have overcome the equanimity of even the greatest and highest spiritual virtue. The divine Apostle himself, when dealing with the weakness of human nature, controlled though it should be by laws appropriate to that nature, said 'Be angry and sin not; let not the sun go down upon your wrath' (Ephesians 4.26 & Psalms 4.4). For he knew that it is part of our nature to be moved by anger even when we do not want to be, and that the law does not help us in making difficult decisions which we might not even be able to carry out. He allowed a whole day in which to be moved by the natural storms of anger, expecting it be constrained by reason, to be held in as with a bridle, and not allowed to be given its full expression. But this divine man contended with the law as laid down and 'leapt over the wall' (Psalms 18.29). Not content with allowing his anger to last till evening, he did not allow himself to be angry at all. Such was the result of having been taught by the great Eusebius.
I saw many others in that house who loved and emulated his love of wisdom, some in the flower of youth, others in extreme old age. Even those who had got to the age of ninety were reluctant to modify their laborious way of life, but maintained with great credit the disciplines of their youth, praising God day and night, and performing their sacred duties, surviving on unattractive food taken every two days.
To prevent this story becoming unduly prolonged let me omit some who do not really deserve to be passed over, but are worthy of being praised and celebrated. I will just mention one more who lived in that divine place, a man called Amman who hailed from the tribe of Ishmael. He had not, however, been driven out from the house of Abraham as had he from whom his tribe is named (Genesis 16.11), but shared in the inheritance of his father Isaac, or rather, he had taken the kingdom of heaven by storm (Matthew 11.12). He had persevered in the practice of monastic discipline under someone called Marosas, whose life in the desert gave them both an excellent opportunity to develop. Marosas gave up acting as superior to others, and with Amman came to this monastery [sc. Eusebius' monastery], where he lived for but a short while with diligent discipline and outstanding distinction before departing this life. Amman however lived for another thirty-eight years. His enthusiasm for the work was as great as if he had only just begun. Day by day he never wore shoes. In wintertime he would sit in the shade, in the heat of summer he would sit in the sun, and would endure the scorching fire of it as if it were the gentlest of Zephyr breezes. He did not allow himself to drink any water, he did not even eat the sort of food which was used by others who abstained from water (for they used to eat food which was well soaked in water), but ate the same food as everyone else. Eating such small quantities, sufficient to give him a reasonable amount of energy, he deemed water to be superfluous. His loins were bound with heavy iron chains, he rarely sat down, night and day he either stood or knelt, offering the Lord the sacrifice of prayer. He never reclined [sc. at meals], and no one night or day ever saw him lying down completely. And indeed, when he was made leader of the choir, did he not apply himself to this labour with prompt and eager attention, giving an example of his love of wisdom to those under him?
This is what those outstanding warriors were like whom the divine Eusebius, as their schoolmaster and trainer, was able to offer to the Lord. He produced many more like that, and sent them as teachers to other monasteries, where they filled those sacred landscapes with spiritual meadows, giving off a sweet scented odour. So although this house of monastic training was originally in the East, it seems to have become an embryonic love of wisdom, coming to birth in the West and South, as if forming a choir of stars encircling the moon, giving praise to their Creator, some in Greek, some in the language of the place where they lived. But I am attempting things beyond my capabilities in my desire to portray all the noble deeds which sprang from that divine soul.
So I put a stop to this narrative and turn to another, confident of the benefits to be gained as I beg to share in blessings from these great men.


Chapter V
PUBLIUS


At that same time there was a certain Publius who was very comely to look upon, and blessed with a soul appropriate for such a body, or rather, giving proof in the body of the admirable qualities of his soul. He was of a senatorial family, born in Zeugma, a city associated with Xerxes, whose fame is everywhere known. Xerxes while fighting in a Grecian war and wanting to send his army across the River Euphrates gathered a great number of ships, joined them together and thus made a bridge over the river. He called the place Zeugma, that is, 'Bridge', and the city takes its name from that.
Coming from such a city and born into such a family, Publius took possession of a site high up about thirty miles from the city, where he built himself a little dwelling place, and then sold everything left to him by his father: house, possessions, flocks, clothing, vessels both of silver and bronze, and everything else there was. In accordance with the divine law he shared it all out among the needy and freed himself from all worldly cares, taking upon himself one single care only, to serve him who had called him. Night and day he turned things over in his mind, planning and devising means of growing in this service, with the result that he daily took on more and more. Each day became fuller and more intense, which he found to be sweet and pleasurable, though never enough to satisfy him completely. No one ever saw him idle at any time during the day. If he wasn't praying he was psalmodising, if not psalmodising he was praying, both of these things alternating with the reading of the divine scriptures. Besides this, he saw to the needs of visitors who came to him and carried out other necessary tasks. As he went on in this kind of life, he became an example of virtue to anyone who had a mind to follow him, and like a singing bird he enticed into his saving net many others like him.
Right from the beginning, however, he did not let anyone share his dwelling place, but built little huts for them at a suitable distance nearby. He bade each person who came to him to live by himself, constantly visiting them, and keeping a sharp eye out lest anyone should be changing this custom. They say also that he took with him a pair of scales and carefully weighed out the bread, and if he found anyone with more of it than he should, he would be very angry and call them gluttons. He taught that they should never eat and drink to satiety, but take only so much as was necessary to sustain the life of the body. And if ever he found anyone using flour instead of bran, he labelled them accursed as if they had been enjoying Sybaritic delights. And at night he would appear unexpectedly outside the door and if he found anyone to be awake and praising God he went away again, but if he found anyone asleep he would bang on the door and give him a tongue-lashing, telling him he was taking far more care of his body than he needed.
This was a great labour for him, and on this account some of those who were of the same mind and opinion as he made a suggestion that he should build one house for all of them. They urged that those who were scattered about could be much more closely and carefully governed, and he would be freed from a considerable burden of care. The plan was approved by this most wise man. He gathered them all together, pulling down their small huts and building one house for the whole company, so that they could live together and encourage each other. While one strove to be gentle, another might season his gentleness with zeal; one who could demonstrate the value of keeping vigil might also take on the discipline of fasting.
"In this way," he said, "each of us may make up for what is lacking in the others, and strive towards the perfecting of our virtues."
In the same way, while one sold bread in the market place of the city, another sold vegetables, one had clothes to sell, another made shoes. Each one contributed to the smoothness of the life by seeing to the needs of the other. Someone who had clothes to spare could receive shoes in exchange, another who needed vegetables could buy them with bread. We all of us need to share our best attributes with each other.
They all fought the ascetic battle using the same language, praising God in Greek. But when some of those using the local language were smitten with a desire to take part in this organised life, they came in a body to ask that they might also be admitted to the community and benefit from their teaching. Their request was granted, and mindful of the saying of the Lord, 'Go and teach all nations' (Matthew 28.19), he built another house next to the first for them to live in. He then built a chapel and divided them into two choirs, but bade them offer the morning and evening prayers together at the same time at the beginning and end of each day, each section using their own language, but singing the psalms alternately. This arrangement continued up to the present day. The passing of time, which often tends to bring changes, in fact brought no alteration, for those who later came to be in charge never took it into their heads to make any changes in what Publius had laid down. And this stayed the same throughout not just two or three but many changes of leadership.
When Publius finally won the victory and passed on to realms free from all strife, the leadership went to Theotecnus who spoke Greek and Aphthonius who spoke Syrian, both of whom were of such virtue as to be living icons or statues. But in dealing with those who were already there as well as those who came in from outside, neither of them would claim that Publius' death meant that they were putting themselves forward as express copies of the sort of life he had lived. Theotecnus did not live very long, and his leadership passed to Theodotus. Aphthonius however lasted for a long time, caring for the flock and ruling according to the laws already laid down. Theodotus came from Armenia, and when he saw how the monastic life was ordered, he became the first of those who were ruled by the great Theotecnus, after whose death, as I have said, he took on the leadership. He was such an adornment to this position that he almost eclipsed the fame of those who had gone before.
The Love of God so filled his being and wounded him with fiery darts, that day and night he poured forth tears of compunction. He was so full of spiritual grace that when he was praying everyone else who was present fell silent, in order to listen only to his sacred words, reckoning that just to listen to him was a good prayer. Who could be so obstinate as not to be won over by those genuine words so sincerely uttered, softening all disobedience and hardness of heart and leading towards the service of God? He daily increased his labours, opening his treasures full of such good things. After feeding the flock for twenty-five years, he was gathered to his fathers in a good old age, as the Scriptures put it (Genesis 25.8), having taken up the reins from Theotecnus, whose nephew he was, although a brother in the way he behaved.
After the divine Aphthonius had presided over the choir for forty years he was made a bishop [sedem accepit pontificalem], but he did not change his monastic habit, nor his woven tunic, nor his goatskin cloak, and he kept to the same diet as he had always been used to. And although he had accepted this great pastoral responsibility he by no means neglected his own flock. He frequently came back to them, now settling a quarrel which had arisen among them, now consoling someone who had suffered an injury, now giving spiritual teaching to his companions. And he shared in all the common tasks: sewing, cleansing lentils, washing the harvested grain, and all the other things of that sort. He was a great ornament to the pontificate, and when he departed to the gate of heaven it was with a full load of virtues.
And what should I say about Theotecnus, and Gregory who followed him! The latter from his youth up gathered to himself all kinds of virtues, exceeding all his predecessors in glory, and even to this day he continues to labour in his extreme old age, just as if he were still in the flower of youth. Throughout his life he steadfastly refused to eat fruit, and would not even accept sour wine or dried grapes, and drank no milk either fresh or in the form of cheese. For this was the way in which the great Publius had decided to live. They approved of using olive oil at Pentecost, but refused it at other times.
These are the things I have learnt about the great Publius, some by hearsay, and some from the disciples of his that I met. In these disciples I recognised the teacher, in these athletes I learned about the trainer.
I think it would be a shame to have remained silent about a man of such value to the world. I have told his story for those who have never heard of him, so that I can enable them to derive benefit from it, and also that I might prepare a memorial for myself. For I have taken to heart what the Lord said: 'Whoever confesses me before men, him shall I also confess before my father in heaven' (Matthew 10.32), and I am in no doubt that since I have made the memory of them known among men they also will remember me before the God of all.


Chapter VI
SIMEON PRISCUS 

 If anyone were to think of leaving Simeon out, and consigning the memory of his wisdom (philosophia) to oblivion, they could well be accused of being vindictive and envious of his merits. Such a person would be seen as unwilling to praise things worthy of praise, unwilling to promote goals worthy of being sought after. But it is not so much that I am afraid of being so accused, as from a simple desire to sing this man's praises, that I am describing the sort of life that he lived. 

He lived the solitary life for a very long time in a small cave, with no human companionship, preferring to live completely alone. He communed steadfastly with the God of all. The labour of growing edible greens for his food took up a lot of his time. He was so copiously endowed with grace from on high that he was able to tame even the fiercest and boldest of wild beasts, and this power was manifested not only to the faithful but even to unbelieving Jews.
For some of that race were making a business journey in foreign parts to a fortress outside the bounds of our empire when a severe rainstorm occurred. They missed the pathway, not being able to see either before or behind, and wandered about in the desert with no sign of any village, shelter or fellow traveller. Cast out into this vast country, as if negotiating the waves of the rolling seas, they suddenly espied a place of refuge in the shape of Simeon's cave, together with Simeon himself, ill-kempt and unwashed, with a scanty cloak of goatskin hanging from his shoulders. When he saw them he greeted them (he was a kindly man), and asked them how it was they were passing by that way. They told him what had happened and asked him the way to the fortress.
"If you wait for a while," he replied, "I shall soon be able to give you some guides to take you where you want to go."
They relaxed, glad of the rest, and were sitting down, when two lions appeared, not with fierce and savage looks, but with the submissive looks of those who acknowledge the presence of a master. Simeon made signs to them, directing them to take his guests back to the path from which they had strayed.
Let no one think that this is a fairy tale, even though it is those who are commonly held to be the enemies of truth who are here bearing witness to the truth. They benefited from Simeon's act, and sang his praises everywhere. The great Jacobus himself told me that he was there when they were talking of this miracle to the blessed Maronus. Can anyone not be deservedly held to be even more faithless than the Jews, if he does not believe Jews bearing witness to Christian miracles? If those who are hostile towards us can be convinced by the rays of truth, surely those who are kindly disposed towards us, fellow citizens in the faith, may believe even enemies when they bear witness to the power of grace.
Simeon became so famous because of his miracles that many of the neighbouring barbarians were attracted towards him (the desert dwellers there gloried in being of the tribe of Ishmael). But his love of silence led him to desert his cave and travel through many pathways till he arrived at the mountain called Amanus. This is the place which was formerly known for the unreasoning worship of many gods, but he performed many miracles of all kinds, and planted the seeds of the devout and true religion which is now practised there.
It would be an immense labour to tell of everything about him, and probably beyond my powers. But I shall have mentioned one example to show the shape and character of his apostolic and prophetic miracle-working, leaving the rest to the imagination of those readers who accept the power of this man's grace.
It was summer, and harvest time, and bundles of corn were being carried into the threshing floors. And there was one man, not content with the fruits of his own labours, who coveted those of his neighbour and stole some bundles of corn in his desire to increase his own stores. But divine judgment fell immediately upon this theft, for a bolt of lightning fell upon his threshing floor and set fire to it. This miserable man then rushed off to the man of God, who had pitched his tent not far from the village, and told him of the calamity which had befallen him without mentioning the theft. But when Simeon urged him to tell the truth, he confessed his crime, for the very circumstances of the case proclaimed his guilt. That divine man then decreed that he would not be punished if he made amends.
"If you," he said, "will return the bundles of corn to the man you stole it from, the fire sent from God will be put out."
And as soon as he ran back and returned the stolen sheaves to their rightful owner, the fire was extinguished without the need of any water, but simply by the prayers and intercessions of that divine old man.  This event not only filled the local inhabitants with awe but the whole city as well - that's Antioch I am talking about (for the farm fell under the jurisdiction of that city) - and it made them gravitate towards him, one seeking to be liberated from a rabid demon, another seeking relief from a fever, others seeking medicines for whatever it was they were being plagued with. And he allowed the rivers of his grace to flow abundantly over those who lived there. But in his unabated love for silence he decided to go to Mount Sinai.
There were many people who also shared his love of wisdom, and when they got to know about his travels, they decided to join him. After a journey of many days they had got as far as the desert of Sodom, when they saw in the distance a man lifting up his hands high above his head. They thought at first it was a deceit of the devil, so they prayed with deep concentration of the mind. When they looked again and saw the same thing they hurried towards the place, but found a hole such as wolves make when they are seeking to construct a den to hide in, but there was no sign of any person outside it. For when the man holding up his hands had heard the sound of their footsteps he had hidden himself inside it. Simeon stopped outside and called upon him to show himself if he was really human and not a deceiving demon who had taken human shape.
"For we also," he said, "follow the monastic way of life and are seekers after silence, travelling through this desert in the hope of adoring the God of all in Mount Sinai, where he appeared to his servant Moses and delivered to him the tables of the law. Not that we think that God is circumscribed by considerations of place, for we hear him saying, 'I fill the heavens and the earth, saith the Lord, and all that the circle of the earth contains, and those who live in them in number as the locusts' (Jeremiah 23.24 & 46.23). It is just that those who earnestly love God not only desire to seek out those people whom God loves, but also those places which were favourable and pleasant for them when they came there, and in which they dwelt."
When he had finished saying this, and much else along the same lines, the person hiding in the cave came out. He was of wild appearance, with scruffy hair, lined face, dried up and wizened in every member of his body. He was dressed in unsightly garments made of palm leaves woven together. He greeted them and gave them a word of peace, and then asked them who they were, where they had come from and where they were going. The leader replied to this request by asking him in his turn who he was, and where he had come from and where he was going, and why he was living like this.
"I had the same desire as you have," he replied, "to go where you are all going. And to share this life with me I took a companion who thought as I did and had the same intention of being watchful and disciplined. And we swore an oath together that not even death should part us. But it has come to pass that he has come to the end of his earthly pilgrimage in this place. Bound by my oath I have dug out a tomb for him as far as I am able and buried his body in it. Because I have made this sepulchre for him, I have also dug out one for myself, and hope to end my days here, offering to the Lord the accustomed prayers. I feed on figs, which are brought to me by a certain brother at the behest of him who cares for all."
As he was speaking, a lion appeared in the distance. All except the old man were frightened to death, but when he noticed it, he went forward and motioned to the animal to go away, but it came closer, bringing with it a bunch of dates. It then departed as it had been told to do, lay down some distance away and went to sleep. They all shared in the dates, said some prayers and psalms together, and at the end of this morning office he let them go, stupefied by the strangeness of what they had witnessed.
If there should be anyone who does not believe this story, let him call to mind the life of the renowned Elijah, and the ministry of the ravens who brought him bread in the morning and meat in the evening (1 Kings 17.6). It is, after all, a simple matter for the ruler of the universe to use any possible means of providing for the needs of his own. Likewise he preserved Jonah for three days and three nights in the belly of the whale (Jonah 1.17), caused the lions to shut their mouths before Daniel in the lions' den (Daniel 6.16), and in the same manner changed the power of the fire so that those in the midst of it were illuminated, while those outside it were burnt. (Daniel 3.21-22). But really it should not be necessary for me to bring forward arguments to prove the power of God.
Simeon eventually arrived at the mountain where Moses was found worthy to see God (or rather, saw as much of God as human nature is capable of), and they say that he knelt there determined not to rise till he had heard the voice of God giving him a blessing. After staying in this position for a week, having taken no food, he heard a voice commanding him to pick up what had been put before him and to eat it with a keen and eager mind. He reached out his hand and found three apples and ate them as he had been told. His strength returned to him, and with a joyful spirit, as you might expect, he called out to his companions, and came back to them jubilantly, as one who had heard the divine voice and eaten food given him by God.
He then constructed two places for the purpose of training people in the love of wisdom, the first at the top of the mountain (the place we have already mentioned), the other one further down at the foot of the mountain. He gathered together in each one athletes in pursuit of virtue, for whom he was trainer and coach. He taught them how to attack the enemy, and strengthened those who were struggling, bidding them be of good heart, not lazy and weak. He treated his own disciples with great discretion, but was bold of spirit towards the enemy. Thus teaching, living, doing miracles, displaying his glory in all kinds of ways, he at length came to the end of his labours in this life, and passed over to that life which is free from strife and decay, leaving behind him a glory which can never be overshadowed and a memory which remains in perpetuity. My blessed and thrice blessed mother received a blessing from him while he was still alive and has often told me many things about him.
And I pray that I may benefit from the intercessions which he is able to make for me. I know I shall have them, and that he will surely present my petitions to God, showing forth the compassion of God himself. 


Chapter VII
PALLADIUS


Palladius, the subject of many a discourse, was in his time Simeon's equal. His way of life was similar, he was well known as being one of the same kind [notus et familiaris]. They say that many people came to him one after another, and that they in turn derived great benefit from him, and that they spurred one another on in inspiring a zeal for God. He lived alone in a small dwelling, not far from a fairly large village called Iemme, with quite a numerous population. I need hardly say that he practised great restraint in what he ate; he fasted and lived abstemiously, with vigils and perpetual prayer. He committed himself to the same kind of yoke as the blessed Simeon. I thought it would be well worthwhile to tell the story of a great miracle that he wrought both with his voice and his gestures, and which is still celebrated to this very day.
In Iemme there was a very busy market which attracted merchants from all directions and a numberless crowd of people. There was one merchant who decided one night to go home, taking with him the money for the things he had sold. But somebody had noticed how much money he had gathered, and in a murderous and hateful frame of mind, banished sleep from his eyes and watched vindictively to see when the merchant would set out. He decided to go just after cockcrow, as being a safe time, but the thief went on before him, and hid in an ideal place for an ambush. He suddenly jumped out and killed him with one blow. To this wicked deed he added another, for, having stolen the money, he threw the corpse down at Palladius' door.
When daylight came, the crime was discovered and all the market was talking about it. They came in a body and broke the divine Palladius' door down, demanding that he pay the penalty for the murder, and one of the people in this mob was in fact the man who had done the murder. But although surrounded by such a crowd of people, Palladius simply gazed up at the sky, and projected his mind into the heavens, praying to God that he would refute such a scandalous lie and reveal the hidden truth. After his prayer he took the hand of the recumbent corpse and said,
"Speak, man. Who has inflicted this fatal blow? Show us who has committed this dreadful deed and free the innocent from this false calumny."
This exhortation produced results. For the dead man sat up, looked round at all those present, and pointed at the murderer. A great shout arose from the crowd, astonished at this miracle which had brought the intended false accusation to naught. They grabbed hold of that wicked man, and found blood on his sword, and also the money which had been the motive for the deed. If the divine Palladius had ever been worthy of admiration before, this deed makes him even more admirable. And let this miracle be quite enough to demonstrate the confidence that the man had in God.
He was the same kind of person as the admirable Abraham who built Paratomon, for he shed the splendour of his virtues abroad into every land. The miracles performed after his death bear witness to the beauty of his life, for the cures of all kinds of diseases flow from his tomb right up until the present day. The testimonies of those who have through faith abundantly enjoyed them are innumerable. I have dedicated my power of speech to maintaining the memory of them. May his aid also be given to me.

 

Chapter VIII
APHRAATES


Whether you are Greek or barbarian or any other nationality, it is obvious that human nature is one and the same everywhere, and that anyone can be turned towards a love of wisdom. A sufficient example of this is to be found in Aphraates without looking any further. For he was born and brought up in Persia, an uncivilised nation, but in spite of his parentage and the laws under which he was educated, he arrived at such a peak of virtue as to overshadow even those born of devout parents and nourished in the true faith from an early age. He was the first of that contemptible family, influential and well known though they were, to imitate his ancestors the Magi by coming to worship the Lord. Sickened by the impiety of his own nation he preferred a foreign land to his own. He came to Edessa, a great city enjoying a great number of people of deep devotion. Just outside the city he built a small dwelling for a hermitage and devoted himself to the development of his spirituality, like the best of farmers weeding out the thorns of vice at their roots, cultivating the crop, and offering the ripened fruits of the Gospel to the Lord.
From there he went to Antioch, which was then in the grip of a tempestuous heresy, and learned something of the Greek language in a school of philosophy outside the city. He attended as many lectures in divinity as possible, and using a mixture of Greek and his own barbarian language he gave birth to a multitude of ingenious and brilliant orations, which flowed from his acceptance of the grace of the divine Spirit. Was there ever anyone who could better this unlearned, barbarian voice from among those who peddled their own eloquence, arrogantly disputing in a high flown and decorative language, childishly glorying in their flood of syllogisms? He met their reasonings with reasoning, and overturned the arguments of the philosophers with an eloquence divine, claiming with Paul that though 'rude in speech he was not in knowledge' (2 Corinthians 11.6). In the words of the Apostle he never ceased refuting them, 'casting down every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought into the obedience of Christ' (2 Corinthians 10.5).
Magistrates could be seen coming to him, military men, people learning a way of life from him, and - let me say it once for all - civilians and soldiers, learned and illiterate, rich and poor, some who accepted in silence what was offered them and some who asked pertinent questions and talked a lot. And although he took such labour upon himself he would not allow anyone else to come and live with him; he preferred doing all his own work to accepting assistance and service from others. People gathered together wanting to speak with him, and when they appeared at his door, he opened up to them himself, and as they were leaving, he saw them out and bade them farewell. He took no payment from anyone, no bread, no sweets, no clothing; all his personal needs were seen to by one person only whom he knew very well. Even in extreme old age he was accustomed to eating nothing till after sunset, and then vegetables only.
There is a story that Anthemius, who later became prefect and consul, had been to Persia when serving as a legate, and brought to Aphraates a tunic woven in Persia.
"I know how dear each person's native land is," he said, "and how much they appreciate anything that has been produced there, so I have brought this tunic for you from your native land. I beg you will accept it and give me your blessing."
He bade Anthemius to put the tunic down on one of the benches, and took part in several different conversations before replying.
"I am rather troubled in spirit," he said, "and find myself in two minds."
"Why is that?" asked Anthemius.
"I have always settled for having one person only to live with me," he said. "I made this rule for myself and won't have two people with me. After having had one person with me who suited me very well, a fellow countryman came to me asking me to let him live with me. This bothered me. I couldn't put up with two. I was delighted to see my fellow countryman, as a fellow countryman, but I thought it would be seriously wrong to get rid of the man I already had and who suited me very well."
"Quite right, father," said Anthemius. "You could not possibly drive out someone who had served you for such a long time, even if he had not been well-suited, and take in someone whose character you had not tested, simply because he was of the same nationality as yourself."
"In the same way," said Aphraates, "much as I appreciate your kindness, I cannot accept your tunic. I could not abide having two of them, and I am delighted that your opinion is the same as mine, that the one who has served me for such a long time is the better."
With these mollifying words he escaped the attentions of Anthemius, showing a miraculously shrewd cleverness in doing so, and made sure that no one would argue with him about that tunic.
I have told this story to highlight two points at once. Firstly that he would have one person only to see to his personal needs, and secondly to illustrate his ingenuity in getting the would-be donor of the gift to provide from his own mouth the reason for refusing it. But I shall tell you an even greater thing than this and other things of that sort.
After Julian, the enemy of God, had paid the penalty for his wickedness in the lands of the barbarians, there was peace for a while among the ranks of the pious while Jovinianus was Emperor of Rome, but he only reigned for a short while. After he came to the end of his life [AD 364], he was succeeded by Valens, at a time when terrible hurricanes and storms were ravaging the Mediterranean, causing extremely high seas and many shipwrecks. The dismissal of many of those in positions of authority, however, caused an even greater storm. For the Emperor sent into exile anyone who defied him by practising the one and only true religion. His wickedness and irreverence knew no bounds. He expelled and scattered abroad the company of the faithful like a gigantic wild animal attacking and scattering the flock. He not only drove them out from all the churches but from the mountainsides and riverbanks and the military training fields. He altered the character of those places forever where with his iron hand he happened to direct his wrath. The people all rested secure in Scythia and other barbarian places, and in Thrace from the Danube to Propontis. He would give them a hearing with his ears twitching, as the saying goes, but against his own kith and kin, celebrated for their religious devotion, he brought arms to bear.
The people of God wept for the misfortunes fallen upon them, singing the song of David: 'By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept when we remembered thee, O Sion' (Psalms 137.1). But they did not find the next verse of the psalms suitable for them ['We hanged our harps upon the willows thereof'], for Aphraates, Flavianus and Diodorus refused to hang up the harp of their teaching on the willow trees, and would not sing: 'How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?' (Psalms 137.4). On the mountains and on the plains, in the city and in the suburbs, indoors and out of doors, they sang the Lord's song with all their heart. They learned from David what to sing: 'The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof, the circle of the world and all that live therein' (Psalms 24.1). And again from the same Prophet: 'Bless the Lord, all you works of his, in every place of his dominion' (Psalms 103.22). They heard also the divine Paul bidding the men 'to pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands free from anger and controversy' (1 Timothy 2.8). Furthermore, the Lord himself in speaking with the Samaritan woman made it clearer still: 'Amen, I say to you, woman, that the hour is coming, and now is, that not in this place, not even in Jerusalem, but throughout the whole world they shall worship the Father' (John 4.21)

Acting on this, they bore witness without ceasing, at home and in the market place, or, as the apostle says, 'publicly and from house to house' (Acts 20.20), and just like the most outstanding Emperors, provided ammunition for their own people and discredited their adversaries. And the great Flavianus and the divine Theodorus, who were held in high honour in the second most important see, did likewise. What they did was certainly admirable and praiseworthy. Nevertheless they acted as officially appointed generals of an army, subject to army rules, whereas Aphraates in his great wisdom entered into battle of his own free will. Schooled in quietness, living in solitude, secure from the threat of hostile attack, he nevertheless saw quietness as being a valid option only when circumstances permitted, and chose not to remain in sheltered isolation when he saw how savage the war had become. So he became a leading light in the ranks of the faithful, pursuing the battle by his way of life, his oratory and his miracles, all that without coming to harm himself. 
Now the Emperor (who was foolish in all sorts of ways) had come to understand that Aphraates was in the habit of going to the military training fields where the company of those who joined in the true worship of the Trinity used to meet. Someone pointed Aphraates out to him walking on the banks of the river in full view of the Emperor, who asked him what he thought he was up to.
"I am on my way to pray for the world and the Empire," he replied.
"If you profess to be living the monastic life, how is it that you have abandoned your silence and quietness to wander about freely in public?"
"Tell me, O Emperor," he said, speaking in parables in imitation of the Lord, "if I were an enclosed virgin and I saw someone setting fire to the family home, what would you advise me to do? Just watch the flames, and the burning house, and sit there with no thought for the house being burnt? If I did that I would perish in the flames as well. But if you were to say that I should make haste and fetch water, and run up and down putting out the flames, then don't reproach me, O Emperor, for doing the same sort of thing. I who profess the monastic life am compelled to act in the same way as you would advise the enclosed virgin. You reproach me for abandoning my quietness. Rather direct your reproaches at yourself for setting fire to the household of God, and not at me for trying to put the fire out. You have admitted yourself that it is right to try and save the family home from burning, but God is a truer and closer father than any father on earth. That is obvious, even to anyone who has not been fully instructed in matters divine. I have not done anything unreasonable, O Emperor, or contrary to my rule, by meeting with the followers of the true religion, and cherishing them, and providing them with heavenly food."
To these words the Emperor could not but give consent, as to a speech for the defence which was just.
Now one particular person began to declaim loudly against the divine man in public places, threatening to kill him. He was one of that tribe who are neither man nor woman, who had been deprived of the ability to achieve fatherhood, and who therefore was favoured by the Emperor as someone to whom he could speak confidentially. It was not long, however, before he paid the penalty for his malice. For when the Emperor decided to take a bath, this wretch went to make sure that the bathwater was the right temperature, and in a fit of folly jumped into it, unaware that the water was very hot indeed. There was no one else about, for he had come all by himself to get the bath ready, so there he stayed, cooked and done for! Some time passed by and the Emperor sent someone after him, who reported back to him that he was nowhere to be found. Many more joined in the searching through all the bathrooms and eventually found the one in which he was lying lifeless.
There was great consternation, everybody wept. Some drained the water out of the bath, others lifted the miserable man's body out. The Emperor, and all those who were opposing the true faith, were filled with fear as a result of this, for the rumour spread through the whole city that the unfortunate man had suffered this fate because of his opposition to Aphraates. Everyone was singing the praises of the God of Aphraates. Those who were against him were demanding that at the very least the man of God should be sent into exile. But the Emperor, even though terrified, avoided those who tried to persuade him of this, for he had a great respect for the man.
Later he had occasion to experience his power from another quarter. For he had a favourite horse, a thoroughbred, a well trained horse for riding, who fell ill, much to the Emperor's grief. The horse was constipated, and those who had skill in this field were summoned to try and effect a cure. But when the illness remained unbeaten the Emperor was greatly troubled, as was also the stable boy who had charge of the horse. This boy was devout and of a firm faith, and he brought the horse to Aphraates in the middle of the day, identified himself as one of the faithful, explained what the trouble was and begged Aphraates to effect a cure by his prayers. Without delay Aphraates prayed to God and ordered water to be drawn from the well. He signed it with the saving cross and ordered that it be given to the horse who drank of it even more deeply than usual. Then he invoked the blessing of God upon some oil and anointed the horse's stomach. At the touch of his hands the illness was immediately cured. The stable boy rejoicingly took the horse back to the stable.
That evening the Emperor came to the stable at his usual time and asked him how the horse was faring. He told him he was cured, and brought the horse out in obvious good health, neighing and prancing and stretching out his fine neck.
"How did this cure come about?" the Emperor asked.
The boy hesitated  to answer, for he was afraid to reveal who the doctor was, knowing that the Emperor was in dispute with him, but at last he could not avoid telling him how the cure came about.
"I am absolutely astonished," said the Emperor, "and I must confess that he really is a remarkable man."
Nevertheless he did not abate the mad tirades which he furiously issued against the Only begotten Son right up to the time when at last he was committed to the barbaric rite of cremation, a funeral rite beneath the dignity of even a slave or a beggar. But the divine Aphraates throughout all those stormy times gave constant proof of his virtue, and when peace was restored carried on exactly as he had done before. He did many other miracles besides, of which I will mention one or two.
There was a certain noblewoman, yoked in matrimony to a totally unreasonable husband, who came to that blessed man, weeping over her distressing situation. For she told him that her husband was completely engrossed in keeping company with a concubine because of magic spells which had been uttered, and that he held in contempt his legally wedded wife. She said all this standing outside the porch. This was his usual custom in dealing with women, none of whom were ever admitted inside. He took pity on the weeping woman, and aborted the effect of the incantation by his prayers, for he blessed with godly prayer a small portion of oil that she had brought with her, and told her to anoint her husband with it. After the woman had done this she drew her husband's love back to her, and he chose to sleep legally rather than illegally.
The story is also told about him during a time when locusts suddenly invaded the region and consumed everything as if by fire, standing crops, trees, meadows and groves. One of the faithful approached him who possessed a farm which provided food for himself and his wife and children and the rest of the household, and which was the subject of an imperial tax. Again, he showed compassion in a manner similar to that of the Lord; he asked for a congius of water [about six pints] to be brought to him. His petitioner brought the water and Aphraates then laid his hand on it, and prayed that God might imbue it with his divine power. After the prayer he instructed the man to sprinkle it around the boundaries of the estate. He did so, and it was as if a defensive palisade had been placed around the boundaries of his fields, sacrosanct and inviolable, for the crawling mass of locusts, flying about everywhere like an army, drew back, fearful of the blessing which had been poured out on the fields, restrained as if by a physical barrier, preventing them from going any further.
What need to say anything further about the deeds of this blessed soul? I have said quite sufficient to demonstrate the splendour of the grace that was in him. 
I saw him myself and received a blessing from his holy right hand, for my mother had taken me there with her while I was still a youth at the time when he was near to death. He opened his door and showed his favour to her by giving her a blessing and a short homily, then he took me inside and bestowed on me the grace of his prayers. I still enjoy that blessing, believing as I do that he lives with the choirs of Angels, closer to the Love of God than ever before. Before, his faithfulness was kept within bounds by his mortal flesh, in order to avoid the sin of arrogance. Now, having laid aside the fight against all turbulence of spirit, like an athlete enjoying the fruits of victory, his faithfulness and freedom of conversation may be used on behalf of all who suffer. I pray therefore that I may continue to be aided by his prayers.


Chapter IX
PETER


We understand he was a Gaul from Western Europe. But we know also that they originated from those in Asia around the Euxine Sea. From this stock blessed Peter came, indeed three times and four times blessed. For they say that he was brought up by his parents until he was seven, when he then dedicated his whole life to the struggle in the search for wisdom. He is said to have died at the age of ninety-nine.
Who can adequately praise this man who battled victoriously for ninety-two years, night and day? What tongue is sufficient to describe his glorious and virtuous deeds, in childhood, youth, middle age and extreme old age? Who can tell the extent of his sufferings? Who can count the struggles he endured over such a long time? What power of speech can do justice to the seeds he sowed and the sheaves he reaped? Who is endowed with such a brilliant mind as to be able to comprehend all the benefits and dividends accruing from such an outstanding investment? I know that the effect of his deeds is as vast as the ocean, and I fear to undertake this account of his history, lest my words fail me. So I shall walk as one on the seashore in front of the sea, describing and marvelling at what is done on the continent, but leaving the depths to him who searches the deep and hidden things. (Daniel 2.22 & 1 Corinthians 2.10)
He lived first in Galatia, but left there in order to see Palestine, where he viewed the places of the saving Passion, and worshipped there the God he served, not as though God might be circumscribed by place (for he knew that the nature of God has no limits), but simply to feast his eyes on the sights which he had long desired to see. It was not just the mental faculty with which he gazed; quite apart from sight, he enjoyed nourishment for his spirit by faith. It is natural for those courting a lover to take pleasure not only in her face but also to think with great joy about her house, her clothes, her shoes. It is with love for the bridegroom such as this that the bride sings in the Song of Songs: 'Like an apple tree among the trees of the woods, so is my beloved among the sons of men. With great desire I sat under his shade, and his fruit was sweet in my mouth' (Song of Songs 2.3). This divine man was not doing anything strange or unusual in seeking this same kind of love for the bridegroom, for he was using the same words as the bride: 'I am wounded by love' (Songs of Songs 2.5). Since he longed to gaze, as it were, under the shadow of the bridegroom, he went off to those places whence flow the waters of salvation for humankind.
Having enjoyed what he had longed for, he went to Antioch, where having seen the devout religion of the city, he preferred it even though it was not his native land. Rather than being a citizen of his own country among his own family, he preferred those who thought like him and who were of the company of the faithful and bore the same yoke of devotion and religion. Although he decided to stay there he did not pitch a tent, or construct a shelter, or build a small house. He spent all his time there in an uncomfortable tomb. A platform here was set before him to which was attached a ladder inviting those who would to climb up it. He remained enclosed there for a long time, drinking tepid water and eating nothing but bread, and that not every day. He did not touch it one day but took it the next.
A certain madman came to him raging furiously, in the grip of a most malignant demon, whom he cured by prayer, freeing him from the demon's anger. Unwilling to leave, he begged to become Peter's servant, in exchange for his cure, and Peter let him stay and live with him. I knew Daniel (for that was his name) and remember the miracle, and I saw how he paid for his cure, and I listened to what he said about me, which was that I too would become part of this wonderful ministry. But that divine man would not agree to that, mindful of the love which my parents had for me. But he regularly fed me on my knees with grapes and bread. For my mother bade me enjoy this blessing since she too had experienced his spiritual grace.
This is how she came to know about him. She had developed a disease in one of her eyes, resistant to all medical knowledge. There was nothing in the writings of old time or of those who came later which had not been used against the disease. She had tried everything to no effect, when a friend of the family came and told her about the divine man and the miracle he had done.
"When my wife had the same illness as this," he said, "he cured her with prayer and the sign of the cross."
She went to the divine man immediately after hearing this, wearing her usual earrings and bracelets and necklets and a few more golden ornaments about her person, not to mention a multi-coloured dress of fine silk. She had not yet set out on a search for perfection, though she was well on in years, a mature woman behaving like an adolescent. When this chief of men had taken all that in, overflowing with love he brought healing to her primary problem in these words (I repeat them exactly, I shall not change one word of what this holy man said):
"Tell me, my daughter, suppose there was a painter well skilled in his art, who painted a picture according to the laws of his art and put it on view for anyone to see, and then someone came along with very rudimentary knowledge and rashly decided to paint over it without asking anyone, holding of no account a picture painted with skill, and added extra lines to the eyelashes and eyebrows, and made the skin look whiter, and put red colouring on the cheeks, wouldn't you expect the original painter to be rightfully furious because his artistry had been treated with insults and contempt, and altered unskilfully by someone who had no right to do so?
"Therefore you should believe that the universal workman, the Creator and decorator of our own nature, has a right to be angry, when you accuse of poor quality that nature and wisdom which is beyond the power of human description. You would not have added red and white and black colouring unless you have thought the original was lacking in some way. By thinking to improve the body by these means, you are accusing the creator of reckless negligence. You need to understand that he has the power of reacting to your own will in just proportion. For as David says, 'The Lord does all things according to his will' (Psalms 115.3 & 135.6) He it is who takes thought for everything that will be of benefit for all; he is not the author of anything leading to damnation. So then, don't deface the image of God, don't try and add things which in his wisdom he did not give you, don't imagine that this false appearance is beautiful. All it does is suggest to anyone who looks at you that modesty has gone out the door."
She was really a lovely woman in every way, and as she listened to this she was caught up in Peter's net (for he was in the habit of going fishing in the same way as he whose name he bore). She fell at his feet, and cried, and begged him to cure her eye.
"But I am only a human being with the same nature as you," he said, "carrying a great burden of sin which deprives me of any influence with God."
"I shan't leave you," she said, weeping and begging, "till you have restored me to health."
"God is our only healer," he said, "and he hears the prayers of those who believe in him. He will hear now also, not as a favour to me but as he looks upon your faith. So if your faith is sincere and true and free from all doubt, and if you earnestly desire the doctors and medicines sent by God to be effective, take now to yourself this medicine."
So saying he laid his hand upon her eye, made the sign of the cross, and the disease was cured.
When she got home she washed herself in the medicine he had given her, by divesting herself of all her ornaments, and beginning to live according to the rules the doctor ordered. No more multicoloured dresses, no more fancy earrings and necklaces. And this even though she was still quite a young woman, in her twenty-third year, not even yet a mother, for it was seven years after this that I was born, her first and only son. What great fruit she gained from the great Peter's teaching! It was a double cure. She was seeking medicine for the body, but he prepared for her a wholesome condition for the soul. Such were the sort of things he said, and such was the potency of his prayer.
On another occasion she took him a certain steward, grievously vexed with a demon, in the hope that he would be able to help. The divine man prayed, and then charged the demon to tell him how it was that it had power over this creature of God. It stood there like a murderer or burglar or highway robber standing before the judge, ordered to own up to what he had done, and it felt so pressurised that quite unusually it was compelled to tell the truth.
"The master of this steward fell ill in Heliopolis," it said, "and his wife who was sitting with him in his illness, told her servant maids about the life of the monks who were following the life of wisdom (philosobantur) at Antioch, and what power they had against the demons. Now these servant maids had been made by me into insane demoniacs, but this steward, dressed up in a goatskin as a monk, was brought in to exorcise them in a monastic manner. I was standing nearby all this time, and, unable to put up with what they were saying about the monks, I resolved to test the power they were boasting about. So I left the servant maids and entered into this steward, to see whether I could be driven out by monks. And now I have learned the truth, I need no further test. For at your command I now depart."
And as it said this it fled, and the steward was liberated.
My maternal grandmother took one of her farm workers to this monk who was able to drive out evil, asking for his help.
"Where do you come from," he asked, "and who has given you power over this creature of God? "
There was no reply. Peter fell on his knees and prayed to God that he might show the power of the servants of God by bringing down a curse on this demon. He stood upright, but there was still no reply. And this went on until the ninth hour. He poured out more prayer to God even more earnestly, until at last he arose and spoke to the demon.
"It is not Peter who commands you, but Peter's God." he said. "Answer! Whose power is it that drives you?"
Notwithstanding the shamelessness of this pernicious demon, it was overawed by the gentle authority of this holy man.
"I come from Mount Amanus," it cried in a loud voice, "and when I saw this worker drawing water from the well and drinking it I resolved to make him my dwelling place."
"Depart!" said the man of God. "It is he who was crucified for the sake of the whole world who gives you this command."
It heard, and fled. Freed from its fury, the worker was restored to my grandmother.
I could tell you any amount of similar stories about this blessed soul, but I shall omit most of them for fear of the scorn it might provoke among ignorant people so wrapped up in themselves that they simply would not believe in this man's miracles. But I shall just relate one or two more before passing on to another athlete of the Lord.
There was a certain dissolute man, a former army commander, who numbered among his household a very attractive, unmarried girl. This girl left her mother and family and joined a community of women living an ascetic life. For women also enter into battle like men, striving to become perfect in virtue. When the commander learned of her flight, he had the girl's mother imprisoned and whipped, vowing never to let her go free until she had revealed where the house of religious women was. In a furious frenzy he seized the girl and brought her back to his house, intending, wretched man, to have his will with her. But just as Sarah, Abraham's wife, kept her modesty untarnished in the face of the many great temptations of Pharaoh, (Genesis 12.17), just as the Sodomites were struck with blindness when they tried to indecently assault the angels who were guests in Lot's house (Genesis 19.11), so also was he who was making an attempt upon the girl's virtue struck with blindness. When he went into her bedroom, the Lord took care of her. She slipped past him, for he was unable to see her, and she hastily escaped back to the house of religious women. This coarse man realised that he was unable to subdue her who had chosen God for a bridegroom, and was compelled to restrain himself, and make no further attempt on her whom he had captured, but who had escaped.
But after a short time she fell ill with the grievous disease of cancer, suffering increasing pain from a swelling in her breast. When the pain got excessively severe she called on the great Peter, and she testified that when his holy voice fell upon her ears all her pain was taken away, and she was unable to feel any trace of illness. She was often able to get help from him when she visited him. From that time to this, her pains receded. But having given this testimony, and poured forth praise for her victory, she followed it by departing from this life.
Again, he snatched my mother from the hands of death, when, at my grandmother's request, he came to her when she was mortally ill after giving birth to me. I have been told that she was despaired of by the doctors, the family all weeping in expectation of the end, as she just lay there with her eyes closed, suffering with a violent fever, not recognising anybody at all. But Peter came to her, worthy of being called an apostle, with an apostle's grace.

"Peace be with you, my daughter", he said. (This was his usual salutation.) I was told that she then opened her eyes, looked at him fixedly, and returned his blessing. The women around were all weeping, a mixture of joy and anxiety making them cry out aloud. The divine man urged them to join in prayer with him. For he said that Tabitha was restored to health in the same way, with the widows weeping as the great Peter offered to God their tears (Acts 9.39). They did as he had asked, and prayed as requested, and as the prayer came to an end so did her fever. Her body was suddenly bathed in sweat, her temperature subsided and she began to look better. God even now in our times performs such miracles through his devoted servants.
The touch of his clothing also worked in the same way as that of the most divine Paul. For I can tell you, without any exaggeration, but knowing that I speak the truth, that he divided his girdle in two (it was long and broad, woven of thick linen); he kept half for his own loins, and the rest he wound round me. My mother often laid it on me when I was ill, and on my father also, in order to drive away any illness. It was often used as a health giving medicine. Many of our friends also got to know about this girdle and made use of it as a cure for illness, and so Peter's grace worked in many places. There was one person who borrowed it and did not give it back, showing gross ingratitude to those who had been helping him. And so we lost this great gift.
Peter himself shone with glory and illuminated Antioch with his rays of brightness, until at length he was taken up from the battle, in expectation of receiving the crown laid up for those who overcome. I received his blessing while he was yet with us, and I pray that I may receive it even now, as I bring his tale to an end.


Chapter X
THEODOSIUS


Rosus is a town on the right hand side of Cilicia as you look at it from the Cilician Sea. To the North and East of Rosus there is a high mountain, spread out over a wide area, forested, a home for wild beasts. The great and widely celebrated Theodosius found a grove in this mountain facing the sea, and built himself a little shelter where he embraced as a solitary the evangelical way of life. He came originally from Antioch, a distinguished member of a famous family, but he left his home and relations and all his possessions, in order, as the gospel says, to 'buy the pearl of great price' (Matthew 13.46). To anyone who has seen his disciples and companions, it would be superfluous to say anything about his abstinence from food, his sleeping on the ground and his rough clothing, for they all mirror his way of living. He carried out these disciplines conscientiously, providing an example to his followers. He also wore an iron yoke on his neck and iron bracelets on his wrists as well as having his loins girded with iron. His hair was untidy and unwashed, and stretched down to his feet and even longer, so that he had to tie it up to his middle.
By the assiduous practice of prayer and hymnody he subdued the passions of avarice and anger and arrogance and other spiritual diseases. He piled labour upon labour, not only doing the manual work of weaving baskets in osier wickerwork, but also converting some of the woodland into a little bit of cultivated ground, where he sowed seed which produced sufficient food for himself.
As time went on, his fame spread abroad to such an extent that many people from many different places gathered around him, wanting to share his dwelling place, and his labours, and indeed his whole enterprise. He accepted them all and trained them in that way of life. Some could be seen manufacturing sails, some sheepskin cloaks, others wickerwork baskets, others tilling the soil. Because it was near the sea, they built a small boat  for transport, which they used to bring in any necessary materials, and carry out the products of those who lived there. They were mindful of the words of the apostle, 'Working night and day lest we be a burden to any of you' (2 Thessalonians 3.8), and 'These hands have supplied what I need' (Acts 20.34). He worked himself and urged on his companions that spiritual labour and bodily labour were two sides of the same coin.
"Those who live in the world," he said, "work hard to support wives and children, and pay taxes and commissions, and offer to God their first fruits, and alleviate the needs of beggars according to their ability; it would be absurd therefore if we did not provide for our needs by our own labour, however cheap and sparing our food and however inferior our clothing, but sat here with folded arms enjoying the fruits of someone else's labour."
With these and similar words he encouraged their manual work and the regular performance of the divine offices, the periods of time running seamlessly into each other. They took great care of guests, deputing men to provide for their needs who were gentle and kindly and experienced in taking thought for others. He himself oversaw and directed everything, to ensure that each person should do his duty within the rules laid down.
So famous and widely known became the fame of his doings, that sailors a thousand miles away would call upon the God of Theodosius when they were in danger, and by calling upon him could lessen the power of the storm. Even the bold and cruel brigands who were laying waste a great part of the East were afraid of him. Is there anyone in our habitable world who has not heard of the things that were being done at that time by those who used to be called 'Solymi', but are now known as Isauri'? They spared neither town nor village, they tortured their captives and consigned them to the flames; but they feared the wisdom for which Theodosius was famed, and from him they demanded nothing but food while at the same time begging him to pray for them. They left his monastery unharmed, and this not once but even twice.
But the leaders of the church were frightened that these barbarians sent from the devil might take this great luminary prisoner because of their greed. For it could quite easily happen that a great deal of money might be demanded as his ransom from all those who valued things divine. So they persuaded him to go to Antioch. (The barbarians had already taken two church leaders prisoner, and only allowed them to go back to where they had come from after being paid fourteen thousand gold pieces for each one.) In Antioch he lived in a house which he found near the river, and continued to attract the attention of those who had a nose for people like him.
I have got so carried away by my story that I have almost forgotten to tell you about a miracle which the divine man performed. Many will see it as having been something incredible, but the evidence of it is still there to this very day, still talked about as proof of the grace and confidence which this admirable man enjoyed in the sight of God.
There was a steep rocky face overhanging the monastery that he had built, completely dry, without a trace of any moisture. He carved out a channel capable of carrying water from the top of the rock right down to the monastery. Full of confidence towards God, and believing without possibility of denial that God looked favourably on him, he ascended to the top of what is now an aqueduct with a faith that brooked not the slightest doubt. Here, before the brothers had got out of bed to say their usual prayers, he prayed to God, trusting in him who 'fulfils the desires of those who fear him' (Psalms 145.19), and struck the rock with the staff he had with him. The rock was shattered, water gushed out like a river, flowing down in the aqueduct to the monastery, supplying abundantly enough water for all their needs, with what was left over flowing on down to the sea. It works to this day, proof of how Theodosius enjoyed the same grace as Moses (Exodus 17.6). This alone should be sufficient to show the favour which this man had in the eyes of God.
He lived at Antioch for only a short time before passing over to the choirs of Angels. His holy body was carried through the midst of the city, decorated on its bier with what looked like golden crowns. All the leading men were present, and those of the administration who had placed great trust in his faith. There was great discussion and contention about who should carry the coffin, in the hope of gathering great blessings and benefits from it. The funeral procession carried him to the shrine of the holy martyrs, since he had been a companion of Julianus in his victory, and renowned for his athletic piety. He rests in the same place as the divine and blessed Aphraates.
The admirable Helladius took over the leadership of the monastery. He had been there continuously for sixty years. He then was elected to be the spiritual leader of Cilicia, but abated nothing of his former way of life. He simply added the daily responsibilities of  the pontificate to the labours he was already undergoing.
After him the blessed Romulus, who had sat at Helladius' feet, was made leader of this great flock.
The monastery is there to this present day, pursuing its regular life. It is near the village called in Syriac Maratus.
And so I bring this story to an end, praying that Theodosius may give me a blessing.


Chapter XI
ROMANUS


The great Theodosius began in Antioch and lived his ascetic life in the mountains near Rosus, before returning to Antioch where his life ended. The divine Romanus, was born in Rosus where he had his early education, but he first began to strive after virtue at Antioch, pitching his tent outside the city boundaries on the side of the mountain, and in this little dwelling place he lived out his whole life. Right up to extreme old age he made no use of either fire or lantern. His food was bread and salt, his drink a flowing spring. His hair was like that of Theodosius, as were the items of iron which he wore.
He displayed great simplicity of life, and gave evidence of the splendour of divine grace in his gentleness and self-control. For 'to whom shall I look,' he said, 'if not to those who are meek and quiet and tremble at my words?' (Isaiah 66.2) He also said to his disciples, 'Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart and you will find rest unto your souls' (Matthew 11.29) And again, 'Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth' (Matthew 5.5). He was as well favoured a man as Moses the Lawgiver, for 'Moses', he said, 'was the most meek of all men that are upon the earth' (Numbers 12.3). And the most Holy Spirit testifies of the prophet David: 'Remember David, O Lord, and all his meekness' (Psalms 132.1). And concerning the patriarch Jacob we learn that 'he had not been accustomed to living in a house' (Genesis 25.27). All these virtues he collected like a bee from the meadows of divine Scripture, and converted them into the honey of true wisdom.
His virtues overflowed most happily into other people, for in his gentle, sweet voice he urged all who came to him to love the brethren in harmony and peace. By his looks alone he persuaded many to become lovers of things divine. Who could not greatly admire this remarkable man in view of his bodily labours, his flowing hair, the iron weights he carried about his person, his hair shirt, and his custom of eating only sufficient to prevent him dying of hunger?
Grace poured into him in proportion to the greatness and number of his labours, persuading everyone to admire and honour him. He cured many deep-rooted diseases, and brought it to pass that many sterile women bore children. He gave ample evidence of being filled with the power of the divine spirit, but he described himself as a needy beggar. However many people kept on coming to him, he helped them all by speech and example all the days of his life.
When at length he departed and was translated into the angelic choirs, he left behind him a memory that did not go down into the grave with him, but which grows and flowers and produces seeds and which cannot be uprooted, but which remains forever for the assistance of all who will. Praying that I too may obtain his blessing, I now move on to narrate the doings of some of the other athletes, to the best of my ability.

 


Chapter XII
ZENO

Not many people know about the admirable Zeno, but those who do know him cannot praise his worthiness enough. He gave up great riches in his native land of Pontus, in order to drink at the fountains of Basil the Great, as he is called, who lived nearby, pouring out the waters of life to the whole Cappadocian region, and bringing forth admirable fruit thereby. Zeno had been a member of the Emperor Valens' swift courier service, from which he resigned after Valens was taken from our midst.
From living at court he went to live as a solitary in a tomb (of which there were many in the mountains) not far from Antioch. There he began to purify his soul, continually rebuking it by the practice of contemplation, seeking the vision of God, finding in his heart a way of ascending to God (Psalms 84.5), longing to possess the wings of a dove that he might fly off and be at rest (Psalms 55.6). This was the reason that he had no bed, no lantern, no hearth, no storage jar, no oil flask, no chest, no books or anything else; he was clothed in old rags, his shoes had no buckles, and their leather soles were torn and worn to shreds. One of his family brought him what food he needed, which consisted of one loaf which he made to last two days. He carried water himself from some distance away. Someone who realised what a burden it was to carry this water offered to lighten his load. He refused immediately, maintaining that he could not bring himself to drink water brought to him by some else. Unable to make Zeno change his mind he nevertheless gave him some pots of water, which he left in the doorway. But Zeno poured the water out and let it run away, before going back to the spring again, thus confirming what he had said.
Later on, I climbed up the mountain myself in order to see him, and I came across him carrying the water pots in his hands. I asked where was the cell of that admirable man, Zeno, but he replied that he knew no monk of that name. But from the graciousness of his speech I realised who he was, and I followed him. When I got inside his dwelling I saw a bed of straw, and a rush mat laid over the stones, providing a minimum amount of comfort for anyone seated on it. I had a long conversation with him on the subject of true wisdom, and when it was time for me to return home I asked him to speed me on my way with a blessing, but he would not agree to that, saying that it would be fairer for each of us to pray for each other. He said that he was just a private citizen, whereas I belonged to the army - for I was at that time a Reader for the people of God. I replied that I was very young and immature (I had only just begun to produce a little down on my cheeks), and that I would not feel able to come back again if I were obliged to say the prayers. In the end in response to my many requests, he did offer intercession to God, but made many excuses for doing so, saying that he was only doing it for love's sake and out of a sense of obedience. But I had, however, heard him praying as I was approaching earlier.
Who could adequately pay tribute to the deep love of wisdom, the modesty and self-control, of this old man? (For he had then been following a monastic discipline for forty years.) Who could find sufficient words of praise to acknowledge the magnitude of his achievements? He possessed a great wealth of virtue, while living in extreme material poverty, but he worshipped on Sundays in the church of God with God's people, listening to sermons and sharing in the mystical banquet, but returning afterwards to his dwelling which had no lock or key, no one to guard it. Possessing nothing but one rush mat he was immune from evildoers, who nevertheless held him to be sacrosanct anyway. He would borrow one book from his family, and having read it would return it in exchange for another. But although he had no locks or bars he was protected by grace from above, as we clearly learned from our own experience. For the Isauri treacherously captured the citadel by night, and in the morning advanced up the mountain, cruelly threatening the many men and women living the monastic life. But the divine man, sensing this disaster, prayed to God and they were all struck blind, so that having found the way in, they could not see where to go next. And he bore witness to having clearly seen three youths driving out the whole crowd of them. God had openly poured forth his grace.
I think I have said sufficient to show what sort of a life this divine man led and how filled he was with divine grace. But I must add just one more thing. He was worried and distressed that he still possessed property and had not sold it and distributed it according to the evangelical precept. The reason for this was that his brothers were still very young. The money and other goods they all owned in common, but he was unwilling to return home in order to divide it up and he feared to sell his share of the estate to anyone, lest the buyers greedily cheat his brothers and humiliate them. He put off doing anything about it for a long time as he turned it over in his mind, but when eventually he sold everything to someone he knew he was able to give away the greater part of it. But then he fell ill, which compelled him to take counsel about the rest of it. So he approached the leader of the church in Antioch, the great Alexander who was a splendid example of true religion and virtue, and an exact and accurate image of a true lover of wisdom.
"I would like you, " he said, "O divine leader, to act as steward of these moneys, sharing them out in virtue of your divine office according to your best judgment. I have distributed most of it myself as seemed best to me. I would like you to distribute the rest in a similar manner. Since I am like to be called out of this life, I appoint you as the one to share it all out, for you are the pontiff, and you exercise your pontificate justly in accordance with the laws."
He handed over his money as if it had been required of him by God. He lived for forty years after this, and then like an Olympic victor he departed from his enclosed place, covered in glory not only by men but also by Angels.
I beg that he will intercede for me before God, and continue my tale in another direction.


Chapter XIII
MACEDONIUS

Macedonius was called krithophalos,  that is, 'barley-eater', and he was known as this throughout Phoenicia and Syria and Cilicia. The name was given him because of the food that he ate. People near and far knew about him, some because they had seen his miracles, others because they had heard their fame being celebrated. Not everyone knew everything about him, some knew this, some knew that, but what they knew they deservedly wondered at. I know more about this divine outstanding man than others (for I had heard many things which led me to go to him and be with him for quite some time), and I shall tell you a few things as far as I am able. I am putting him in this position in my narrative, after telling you of many other people, not because he was inferior in virtue to the others (for he was indeed the equal of the greatest and best), but because he lived a long life which did not come to an end until long after the others whose tale I have told.
He made the top of a mountain his palace and arena, but never always in the same spot. He did not stay long in one place before going on to another. This was not because of any dislike for any particular place, but because he was forever fleeing from the crowds of people who followed him and gathered about him. Forty-five years he lived like this, with no tent, not even a hut, content with a deep cleft in the rock, for which reason he was also known as Gubba. This name when translated from the Syrian into Greek means lakkos, that is, 'hollow'. When he got to be a bit older, he gave in to people's urging and built a hut for himself. Later, in response to his followers' entreaties, he made use of little cottages, which did not belong to him, but to others. Twenty-five years he lived in hut and cottage, making a total of seventy years during which he lived his life of constant struggle.
He ate no bread, but only clear barley, and drank only the water it was steeped in. For a long time it was my mother who supplied him with this food. She was a follower of his. Once when she was suffering an illness, he heard that she was refusing to eat the sort of food which would be best for her in her illness (for she too had embraced a monastic discipline), and he advised that she should do what her doctors ordered, and consider that food not to be a luxury but a medicine, taken because it was necessary.
"You know perfectly well," he said, "that I have eaten only barley for forty years, but when I was ill the other day I told the person living with me to bake some bread and bring it to me. For it occurred to me that if I were to die, I would have to explain to the just judge of the universe why I had fled from the battlefield and spoiled my work of serving him. For if a little bit of food could save me from death and let me live a little longer to work and discipline myself, gathering the rewards that go with it, I decided that it was better to avoid dying from hunger than stick to my rigid rule. With some apprehension, therefore, I 'kicked against the pricks' of my thoughts (Acts 26.14), and ordered bread to be brought, and when brought I ate it. And now I ask you to show me barley no longer, but bread."
It was from what he said here, that we learned beyond any possibility of someone else's lies that he had eaten only barley for the last forty years. And that in itself should be sufficient to show how strenuously and laboriously he worked in his monastic discipline.
There are other things we can tell you as proof of his integrity and simplicity of life. After the great Flavian was consecrated to the pastoral care of the great flock of God he soon heard about Macedonius, that man of great virtue, and ordered him to be carried off from his mountaintop as if some accusation had been laid against him. In the course of offering the mystical sacrifice, he caused Macedonius to be brought up to the altar and ordained him to the priesthood. He was entirely ignorant of what was actually happening, and when someone enlightened him after the end of the service, he railed against them all at first with many hard words and reproaches. Then he took his staff (for he walked about leaning on a staff because of his great age), and complained to the pontiff and those who were with him. He feared that ordination would mean he had to leave his mountaintop and change his preferred manner of life. But none of the bishop's entourage could calm his anger.
When Sunday came round again at the end of the week, the great Flavianus sent messengers inviting him to share the celebration with him.
"Haven't you done enough," he said "that you want to ordain me as presbyter all over again?"
When they told him that he could not be ordained twice, he still would not give way, and refused to attend right up to the moment when those around him told him that it was time.
I am aware that many may find this story not particularly edifying, but I have included it because I do think it worthy of being recorded insofar as it shows his simplicity of mind and purity of heart. To such as these the Lord promised the kingdom of heaven: 'Amen, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.' (Matthew 18.3). So you must realise that in trying to sum up in a general way his manner and character, I am portraying him as he really was.
There was a certain military commander who in pursuit of his pastime of hunting came up into the mountain with his dogs and soldiers and all the paraphernalia of the hunt. He caught sight of Macedonius in the distance and his followers told him who it was. He immediately jumped off his horse and went up to speak to him
"Is there anything lacking in what I do?" he asked. Macedonius replied with another question.
"What have you come up here for?"
"To hunt," he said.
"I am a hunter too," he said. "I hunt for my God. I hope to capture him. I long to contemplate him, and I shall never cease from this beautiful quest."
The commander acknowleged that what he had heard deserved respect, and so departed.
There was a certain city which a demon inspired to run riot and deface the statues of the Emperor. As a result of this, some of the top military commanders came to the city with orders to put the citizens to the sword. Macedonius came down from the mountain and accosted the commanders in the market place. When they learned who he was they jumped off their horses, and embraced his hands and knees and wished him well.
"Tell your Emperor," he said, " that I am human with the same nature as those who have offered him injury, and although it is part of that nature to show anger, the anger he has used in this case is quite immoderate. To revenge what has been done to the images of himself, he proposes to kill the images of God. Does the destruction of bronze statues merit the death of human bodies? It is a simple and quick matter to refashion bronze statues, but can he, for all that he is the Emperor, bring back to life any bodies he has killed?"
He said all this in the Syrian tongue, but when they had heard an interpreter translating it into Greek they trembled, and signified their intention of passing the message on to the Emperor.
Now I am sure that you must all agree that these words came from the grace of the divine Spirit. How else could he have spoken in the way he did, a man of no learning, who had spent his life on the top of a mountain, completely simple in spirit, who had in no way been trained in divine eloquence? Now that I have made clear his spiritual wisdom, and how faithfully he adhered to the principles of justice (for he trusted in justice with the strength of a lion), I shall pass on to his miracles.
The wife of a certain wealthy nobleman was afflicted with a grievous eating disorder. Some said that this disease was the work of a vexatious demon, others that it was simply physical weakness, but whether this or that, the fact is that she was eating thirty chickens a day. She was simply unable to restrain her appetite, but kept on asking for more. Her whole life was directed towards this end, until her family, in pity for her, begged the help of that divine man. He came and prayed. With his right hand he made the saving sign over some water, which he then commanded her to drink. Her illness was cured, her immoderate appetite was restrained, and from then on she ate only a small portion of chicken per day. Such was the disease, such the cure.
When a certain girl took to her bed vexed by an evil demon, her father hastened to the divine man, praying and crying and begging that he cure his daughter. He prayed and ordered the demon to leave the girl, but it replied that it was not there of its own will but at the command of a powerful magician. It also told him the name of the one who was behind it and said that his desire to possess the girl was his motivation. Hearing this did nothing to lessen the father's anger for he thought that his daughter could not be cured. So he went to the highest judge of all, the one who presided over the whole panel of judges, made his accusation and described the whole affair.
The accused man denied everything when brought to trial and declared that the accusation was slanderous. But he could not bring forward anybody to testify on his behalf except the very demon that was bound by the incantation, so he begged the judge to have recourse to that divine man and hear his testimony. The judge said that it would not be right and proper for him to hear the case in a monastery, so the girl's father said he would bring Macedonius down to the court, hastened up to him, managed to persuade him, and brought him back.
The judge moved out of the judgment seat; he became a spectator and not a judge. It was Macedonius who took on the function of being a judge, exercising his own inner authority. He ordered the demon to lay aside its usual mendacity and tell the whole truth about the tragedy. Vanquished by the greatest possible superior power, the demon named the man who had bound it with magic spells, and also the maid who had administered a potion to the girl. It went on to admit to other things it had done at the commands of others, burning a house, killing a beast of burden, putting a curse on somebody. The man of God then ordered it to be silent and depart at once from the girl and from the city. In obedience to the law of God the demon did what it was told and fled far off.
So the divine man freed the girl from her demonic possession, exonerated the poor wretch who had been accused, and enabled the judge to abandon the death sentence which he had been considering. These events should be enough to demonstrate the abundance of divine power which had been given to him, but I still have yet more to tell.
There was a woman called Assyria from a noble family, very wealthy, who became so mentally disturbed that she no longer recognised her own family and refused to take either food or drink. In the course of time she began to rave; some said she was possessed by a demon, the doctors said it was mental illness. After every possible remedy had been tried and had not brought her any relief, her husband, whose name was Abrodianus, a magistrate held in high honour, went to that divine fountainhead Macedonius, told him of his wife's illness, and begged him to effect a cure. The divine man agreed, came to the house and with great zeal offered urgent prayer to God. After praying he asked for some water, made the sacred sign over it, and asked her to drink it. The doctors protested that to drink cold water would only make the illness worse, but he drove the whole lot of them out, and offered the water to the woman. As soon as she had drunk it she came to herself, completely free from all illness. She recognised the divine man, asked him to give her his right hand and moved it to her mouth to shower it with kisses. From that time on she was completely sane.
The kind of life that Macedonius led began to spread through the mountains. One very dark night when snow was falling, a shepherd came looking for his wandering sheep near the place where the man of God was. He relates that he saw him surrounded in flames with two men in white garments stoking the fire. He quickly realised that the man of God was enjoying assistance from God.
He was no less gifted in respect of prophecy. A leading citizen came to him once, a man well known for his devotion and true religion, and said that he was very worried about certain goods which were being transported to him by sea from the capital city. It was now fifty days since they left port and he had heard nothing from them.
"One ship," said Macedonius immediately, "has perished, but the other one will arrive tomorrow at the port of Seleucuia."
He listened to what Macedonius had to say, and experience later proved the truth of what he had heard.
Whatever else I might miss out, I must tell you about things to do with me. My mother had lived with my father for thirteen years without being blessed with any children, for she was sterile, naturally unfruitful. She did not grieve excessively about this, for she was well instructed in the ways of God and believed that it must be for her benefit. Nevertheless, while bearing patiently her sorrow of not having children, wherever she went she asked the servants of God to pray that children be given her from God. Some promised to do so, but urged her to be content with the will of God. Macedonius said quite plainly that he would pray to the Creator of the universe, and promised that his prayer would be heard. But when three years went by and the promise had not been fulfilled, my father went to see him and reminded him of his promise. He was asked to send his wife to see him. When she came, the divine man told her that he would pray and that she would have the gift of a son, and that he must be dedicated to the giver of the gift. She was living her life seeking salvation for her soul and deliverance from the pains of eternal death.
"God will give you a son over and above that," said Macedonius, "for he is generous and bountiful and rewards twofold those who pray to him in sincerity and truth."
My mother went home blessed by that promise. And in the fourth year she conceived and her womb was quickened, and she hastened to the man of God and blessed him profusely.
But in the fifth month of her pregnancy she found herself in danger of having a miscarriage. She was too ill to go anywhere herself, so she sent a message to this new Elijah (cf. 2 Kings 4.16) to remind him of how she wished to have children and of what he had promised. He saw the messenger coming and knew why, for the Lord had revealed to him in a dream both the illness and the remedy. So he came, leaning on his staff, and gave his usual blessing of peace when he entered the house.
"Be of good cheer and fear not," he said then. "The giver of the gift will not deprive you of the gift, so long as you do not fail to keep faith with what has been agreed between you. For you have promised to give back to him the gift he will give you by consecrating him to the sacred ministry."
"That is what I choose and promise," said my mother, "though my thoughts are more on seeking the survival of this half-formed foetus than on the education of a son apart from God."
The divine man took water and blessed it.
"Drink this water," he said, " and be assured of the help of God."
She drank it as he had asked, and the danger of miscarriage passed. Such were the miracles of our own Elijah.
I often benefited from his blessing and teaching.
"My son," he would say, "your birth was brought about through much hard work. I spent many nights beseeching God that your parents would ensure that you would live up to the name given you when you were born. See that you live a diligent life as befitting one who had been dedicated by promises made before you were born. What is dedicated to God and is separate from the world is universally venerated, so it follows that you must not give room to thoughts of evil, but think and do only such things as are pleasing to God, the fount of all virtue."
The divine man often gave me lessons, and I learned to remember what he told me and that I was a gift from God. I won't go into details about everything he taught me, but I pray that through his prayers the assistance of God may be always with me, and that I may continue to follow his precepts for what remains of my life. I trust that what I have said is sufficient to show what his life was like and how his labours drew down the grace of God upon him.
His departure from this world was marked by honours worthy of his laborious life, for not only all the citizens and people from far and wide were there, but a number of important government officials, to whom was entrusted the task of carrying his sacred coffin on their shoulders. They carried it to the shrine of the sacred martyrs, renowned for their victories, where his sacred body, blest by God, was laid to rest along with the divine Aphraate and Theodosius. His glory is still with us and cannot be extinguished. But now I put an end to this tale, knowing what a beautiful inspiration can be drawn from his story.


Chapter XIV
MAESYMAS


We know of many other shining lights of devotion and true religion in the city of Antioch, the great Severus, Peter the Egyptian, Eutyches, Cyril, Moses and Malchus, and many others who walked this same path. But if I tried to describe the deeds of them all, all the time there is would not be sufficient. Besides, to read about an excessive number of them would be far too much for many people. But great praise is due to those who have been written about, as also indeed to those whose life we can only guess at. They are to be imitated, they bring great benefits. I, however, shall wander through the meadows of Cyrus [near Antioch], and describe the beauties of the fragrant and beautiful flowers to be found there, to the best of my ability.
In former times there was one Maesymas who displayed every kind of virtue. He was a country dweller whose first language was Syrian. When the quality of his life became known, he was entrusted with the pastoral care of the village. He offered the sacrifice, and cared for the flock of God, and said and did all that the law of God required. They say he never had a new tunic or mantle, but mended tears in them with patches of old rags, and this was his way right up to the end of his life. He happily cared for the poor, and travellers; his doors were open to all who came. He is said to have had two dolia [large storage jars], one filled with grain, the other with oil. From these he supplied all the wants of the needy, for the blessing given to the widow of Sarepta (1 Kings 17, 9&14) was granted also to those two dolia.
The Lord hears the prayers of all who call upon him, and the sharing out of his water supply brought forth a harvest from the seeds of his hospitality, insofar as a plentiful supply was granted in response to the zeal of his spirit.
From the God of all he received the grace of doing miracles. I will mention one or two of them, but pass over the rest in order to hasten on to other people.
There was a faithful woman of noble family whose son of tender years became ill. She had several doctors come to see him, but when they had tried every remedy they could with no result, they despaired, and declared that he was near to death. But the woman had hope of better things, and in imitation of the Shunamite woman (2 Kings 4.24) she ordered that a litter should be harnessed to her mules. She and the boy both arrived at the house of that divine man, showing her grief in weeping, and begging for his help. He took the boy and laid him at the foot of the altar and prostrated himself in prayer for healing both of body and soul. His prayer was accepted, and the boy was restored to his mother whole. I was told this story by her who witnessed the miracle and obtained healing for her son.
The ruler of the village was one Latoius, who was one of the chief senators of Antioch. He was totally godless, and demanded excessive dues from the local farmers. The divine man counselled clemency, and preached to him of the virtue of mercy, but he was obdurate, unwilling to suffer the loss of anything which could have been got for him. When it was time for him to go and collect his taxes, his chariot was got ready, he got into it and ordered the driver to set the horses going. They pulled with all their force, endeavouring vigorously to make the vehicle move, until it was noticed that the wheels of the chariot were tied up with iron chains and pieces of lead. When even a team of farm workers were unable to move the vehicle, one of Latoius' company realised why this was happening, and told him that the old priest had put a curse on him, and that he would have to placate him and get him to change his mind.
He jumped out of his chariot and came as a suppliant to him whom he had previously spurned. He fell at his feet, embraced him, dirty old clothes and all, and begged him to abate his anger. He listened to his plea, and offered his prayers to God. The chains on the wheels were loosened which before were firmly fixed, and the chariot was able to move as normal.
Many other things like this could be told about this outstanding divine person. But the chief lesson to be learnt by those who would pronounce otherwise, is that there is no reason why living in towns or villages should be a spiritual disadvantage. For this man shows that anyone who like him takes charge of the worship of God in the midst of crowds of people is equally able to achieve the heights of virtue. Would that I also, aided by their prayers, might be lifted up to at least some small share in their virtues.


Chapter XV
ACEPSIMAS


Acepsimas was a contemporary of Maesymas, and his fame was widely spread throughout the East. For sixty years he was enclosed within his little dwelling, seeing and speaking to no one. He looked inwards where he might seek the vision of God, and this was all his delight, as the prophet said: 'Delight in the Lord and pray to him, and he will grant you all the petitions of your heart' (Psalms 37.4). He received the food brought to him through a sort of narrow gap in the bank around his cell, which was not straight in front of the cell so that he would not be directly opposite anyone who might be trying to catch sight of him. It went at an angle, and so constructed that it was in the shape of a curve. The food brought to him was lentils soaked in water, and once a week he would go out at night and draw up from a nearby well as much water as he needed.
A shepherd tending his sheep once saw him in the distance moving through the darkness and thought he was a wolf, for he was bent over with all that he was carrying. The shepherd picked up his sling, intending to throw a stone at him, but found that he was unable to move his hand in order to throw the stone, until the divine man had finished drawing his water and returned on the way home. He then realised his ignorance, and next morning he went to the little house where Acepsimas was training himself in virtues, and in a loud voice described what had happened and begged for pardon. He was forgiven for his sin, not by hearing any voice, but by the sight of Acepsimas' hand moving in a gesture of absolution.
Another person, with an ill-mannered curiosity and a desire of discovering what Acepsimas was doing all the time, climbed up into a plane tree beside the passageway, and immediately suffered the penalty of his audacity. For he became paralysed in a kneeling position from the middle of his body down to his feet, which made his wickedness very obvious. But Acepsimas, having first cut down the plane tree, indicated that all would be well. He had the tree cut down so that no one else could do the same thing and suffer a similar fate, but the rescue of the kneeling person followed the cutting down of the tree. Such was the strength of character and tolerance of this divine man. Through his struggles, however, he enjoyed  much grace.
Not long before he departed this life, he predicted that his end would come in about fifty days' time, and he allowed inside all who wanted to see him. The bishop came to see him and urged him to accept the yoke of the presbyterate.
"I know, father," said the bishop, "how exalted is your way of life, as compared with my own poverty, but to me has been entrusted the pontificate, and it is by virtue of that that I lay hands on anyone to ordain them, not by any virtue of mine. So accept the gift of priesthood through the laying on my right hand and the grace supplied by the most holy Spirit."
"Seeing that I am about to depart this life in a few more days," replied Acepsimas, "I won't argue with your decision. But if I had been going to live much longer, I would have fled from the grave and serious burden of priesthood, in fear of how I might be required to give an account of what had been entrusted to me. However, I've only got a few more days to go, so for the space of what time is left to me I gladly submit to your wishes."
And at once with no further prompting he knelt down in expectation of the grace of the Spirit, which would be administered to him by the laying on of hands. He lived only a few days as a priest, and then exchanged a life of burdensome responsibility for a life freed from senility and care.
There was a contention among the people about who should take possession of his body, everybody wanting to take it to their own villages. But the contention was silenced when someone revealed an oath concerning the holy man.
"This holy man," he said, "made me swear an oath that he would be buried right here."
So it is that even in death the true citizens of heaven manage to preserve their asceticism and simplicity. While they were alive it never occurred to them that anything would turn them into important characters, while in death they had no desire for human honour, for all their love was directed towards the bridegroom. It is the same thing with women who have the virtue of modesty. They desire to be loved and praised only by their husbands; they have no time for the praises of anyone else. And the husband for that reason declares how outstanding and beautiful she is, even if she does not want this, and so she shares in his glory in overflowing abundance. When anyone seeking God petitions heaven for anything he receives much more besides; his petitions are answered in overflowing measure. This is the rule he gives us in the Gospel: 'Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his justice and all these things shall be added to you' (Luke 12.31). And again: 'He who leaves father, mother, brother and children for the sake of my gospel will receive a hundredfold in this life and in the world to come life everlasting' (Matthew 19.29). Acepsimas followed these precepts in word and deed.
And in word and deed he is present with us as our teacher. We rely on his prayers to watch over us as we strive to attain the reward of our heavenly calling which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Chapter XVI
MARO 
 

Maro is my next subject, for he also was an adornment to the divine choir of saints. Having embraced a life dedicated to God, he took possession of a mountaintop which used to be venerated by the pagans, and where there was a shrine to the demons. He consecrated it to God and went to live there, pitching a small tent inside it, which, however, he rarely used. He not only exercised himself in the usual labours, but thought up others as well, building up a great store of wisdom. His whole life of struggle measured out the grace which sprang from his labours. God in his liberal generosity gave him the gift of healing, so that his fame spread everywhere and people came from all parts to find from experience that his reputation was genuine. For they saw fevers extinguished by the dew of his blessing, trembling fits stilled and demons put to flight and various diseases of all kinds cured by his one universal remedy. Doctors supply medicines suitable for each kind of illness, but the prayer of the saints is the common remedy for all diseases.
He not only treated sicknesses of the body but also illnesses associated with the soul; curing avarice in one case, anger in another, to one person advocating the virtue of self-control, to another the exercising of justice, condemning intemperance in this person, stirring up the laziness of that person. By the use of this husbandry he brought forth many shoots of wisdom, and cultivated for God the garden which now flourishes in the region of Cyrus. This garden was originally the work of the great Jacobus, to whom may be applied the words of the prophet: 'He shall be multiplied as the cedars of Lebanon' (Psalms 92.12), and indeed all the other individual people whom I shall mention, God willing.
He kept on giving all his care to this divine agriculture of making both bodies and souls grow, until after a brief illness, in the course of which he suffered the weakness of nature with bravery of spirit, he departed this life.
A fierce dispute broke out over his body among people round about. But among all the villages nearby, one with a greater population poured out en masse and drove all the others off. They seized the much-desired treasure of his body and built a large shrine for it. They are aware of the benefit they draw from it, which they continue to enjoy to this day, honouring that outstanding victor with a publicly celebrated feast.
But we also enjoy his blessing, even at a distance. The memory of him is for us a sufficient monument.


Chapter XVII
ABRAAMES


It would not be right to pass over the admirable Abraames on the pretext that after his monastic life, it was the pontifical see of which he became the ornament. Indeed he is all the more worthy of being commemorated by name for the simple reason that he did not change his way of life even though he had been compelled to change the circumstances in which his life was lived. For he carried over with him the burden of his monastic exercises, and lived all the rest of his life in maintaining his monastic labours in the midst of his pontifical responsibilities. He was one more fruitful product springing from the region of Cyrus. Here he was born and educated and began to put together a collection of monastic virtues. Those who lived with him say that he so subdued his body by fasting and keeping vigil standing up that he could remain completely motionless for extremely long periods. By divine providence he was liberated from that kind of helplessness, so that by divine grace he could undergo more serious testing.
He went to Lebanon, where he had heard there was a village covered in a cloud of godlessness. He changed his monastic appearance for the disguise of a merchant. He and his companions carried wicker baskets in which to put the nuts which they proposed to buy (for this was the chief product of this village). He leased a house and agreed a certain price with the owners, after which they stayed there quietly for two or three days. Then little by little they began to sing the divine offices, but in a very quiet voice.
But their psalmody was heard by someone who declaimed against it in a loud voice, and everyone came running to the spot, a crowd of men and women and children. They broke down the door, they climbed on the roof, and between them made such a pile of rubbish that Abraames and his companions were almost buried and suffocated. There was nothing they could do or say except pray to God. The older people of the village then prevailed upon the rest of them to cease from this madness. Through the open doors they pulled Abraames and his companions out of the rubbish and told them to get out of the village. But then the debt collectors turned up demanding payment of their rent. They tied some of them up, the others they abused and beat with rods.
But that divine man took no account of the things that were being done to them, and in imitation of the Lord on the cross had compassion on them, urging them to use self-control and clemency in making their demands. They demanded sureties, and Abraames said he himself would be the surety and promised to provide a hundred pieces of gold within the next few days. And then the dignity of the man aroused such admiration that those who had been most fierce against them began to ask pardon of these men who were so brave. They even asked that he would become the ruler of the village, for at present they were simply farmers and householders with no one in charge.
He went to the city, Emesa by name, and borrowed a hundred gold pieces from some people whom he knew, then returned to the village and fulfilled his promise. When they saw how conscientious he was, they repeated their request even more vigorously. He promised that he would agree if they in their turn would promise to build a church. They asked him to come with them immediately and took the blessed man to a suitable site. Someone else suggested another place, others somewhere different, but at last they agreed on the best situation. Foundations were laid, and it was not very long before they were able to put the roof on. Once it was finished he said they ought to have a priest. They replied that they would not have anyone else to be their priest except himself. They begged him to be their father and pastor. And so he submitted to being given the grace of priesthood. He lived there for three years, instructing them beautifully in the things of God, until he had ensured that one from among their number could take charge instead of him, after which he returned to his monastic dwelling.
My story would become too long if I were to include everything about him, but I must make mention of the fact that he became bishop of Carrae, since in this he was quite outstanding. Carrae had been a city submerged in the most ungodly dissoluteness, given to drunken, demonic orgies. But it showed itself worthy of his husbandry, for it accepted his fiery teaching and was rescued from its former thorn bushes, and began to bring forth a fruitful harvest of the Spirit, offering to God its sheaves of ripened grain. This harvesting was not accomplished without hard work on the part of the divine man. He undertook countless labours, and, imitating the art of those who prescribe medicine for the body, he used sweet persuasiveness in some cases, but in others bitter medicines, and in some cases he used burning and cutting tactics in order to bring about good health. The brilliance of his life and discipline lent support to his teachings. People were enlightened by these things, and listened to what he said and freely accepted what he did.
During all the time that he was bishop he never ate bread, he never drank water, he had no use for a bed, and never lit a fire. They said forty psalms antiphonally at night and double that number of prayers in between. For the rest of the night he sat, and allowed his eyelids to rest a little. Moses, who saw God, said that man should not live by bread alone (Deuteronomy 8.3), and the Lord in his turn kept this in mind when he rejected the temptations of the devil (Matthew 4.4). There is no place in Scripture, however, which says that it is possible to do without water; even the great Elijah drank water from the stream, and when he visited the widow at Sarepta he bade her bring water and bread (1 Kings 17.6-11). But this admirable man, during the whole time of his pontificate, ate no bread or cooked vegetables, and drank no water which those learned in such matters reckon to be the most important of the elements because of its usefulness. Lettuce, watercress and parsley served him for food and drink, demonstrating that the skills of millers and cooks were for him superfluous. In the autumn he also ate a little fruit. But he never ate before Vespers. At the same time as treating his body to such rigours, he was indefatigable in caring for others. He was always ready to give hospitality to all comers; he would offer them the best bread which he had chosen himself and fragrant wines, and fish and vegetables, and everything else that goes with them. He would even sit with guests at noonday, offering each one of them a helping of what was set before them, giving each one a cup and bidding them drink, imitating him whose name he shared, that patriarch who prepared food for his guests but ate nothing himself (Genesis 18.8).
Sometimes he sat in judgment between those who were in legal disputes with each other, some he persuaded to be reconciled, the one with the other, with others he was more forceful when they seemed unwilling to accept his gentle and benign suggestions. No person in the wrong could ever by his own audacity ever gain a victory over the person in the right, because he always took the part of the one in the right who had suffered some injury, making sure that his case was unassailable, and impossible for the troublemaker to overcome. He was just like the best of doctors, who always inhibit the humours which are too active, and ensure a balance between all the faculties.
The Emperor himself wanted to see him, for he had heard that Abraames could always discern what was good and what was bad. He visited him and greeted him and embraced him, and declared that his country-style garments were more elegant than his own purple. A group of noble ladies also shook his hand and bowed to him [lit. 'seized his hands and knees'], and asked questions of this man who could not even understand the Greek language. This is a measure of how his way of life was held to be worthy of honour and respect by rulers and all kinds of people.
Is it not true that after God's lovers and followers have died they acquire an even greater glory? This can be borne out in many cases, but especially in the case of those who were associated with this divine man. For when the Emperor heard about his death, he proposed that his body should be put into a sacred shrine, but then he realised that it would be right and proper to give the body of the shepherd into the care of his flock. The Emperor himself, therefore, led the funeral procession, followed by a chorus of noble ladies and everyone over whom he had ruled, all the people, military and civilian, together with the government officials. The city of Antioch and those associated with it gave him great respect, until he arrived at the great river Euphrates. But then on the riverbank people from the city all crowded together, both citizens and visitors, together with people from the country and even some from neighbouring lands, eager to get a blessing. The bier was protected by many lictors beating back those who were trying to denude the body in order to take away a rag of his clothing. On all sides could be heard some singing psalms, some weeping, a woman here mourning him as leader, another there as one who had provided spiritual nourishment, another as pastor and judge, a man weeping because he had lost a father, another a helper and healer. And so they committed that holy and sacred body to the tomb amid a vast cry of praises and tears.
For myself I admire him because after having to change the circumstances of his life he did not change his way of life. When he was a bishop, he did not lapse into a relaxed and careless way of life, but even increased the rigour of his monastic exercises. I judge his place in history to be monastic, and I have taken nothing away from that holy company which was precious to him. I also desire his blessing.


Chapter XVIII
EUSEBIUS


To the holy men I have already mentioned I must now add the great Eusebius, who died not so very long ago. Even when he got quite old he gave just as much time as usual to his labours, and his labours were matched by his virtues. The rewards which he generated were manifold, the magnitude of his benefits are a measure of the struggles in which he won the victory. In the beginning he entrusted the development of his faith to others, and where they led he followed. Those divine men were athletes in the exercises of virtue, and when he had spent some time with them, and well and truly acquired the knowledge of how to seek for wisdom, he embraced a solitary life and went to live on the side of a mountain near a large village called Asicha. He dug a ditch and built a dry-stone wall, and spent the rest of his life in the open air, subduing his body, clothed in skins, subsisting on chickpeas and beans soaked in water. Sometimes however he did wear garments woven from reed grass as a protection for the weakness of his body.
When he got so old that he had lost most of his teeth, he still made no alterations to either his diet or his dwelling. Freezing in the winter, burning in the summer, he bore all the vagaries of the weather with fortitude. His face was lined and his limbs were shrunken. His body was so wasted away by all his labours that he could not even keep a girdle from falling away from his loins. There was nothing that would stop it; his hips and buttocks were so thin that a girdle just slipped downwards. So he fixed the girdle to his tunic, thinking by this means to make it stay in position.
He could not abide a lot of conversation. For when he was caught up in contemplation of the divine, he was reluctant to tear his mind away, but even though given primarily to this deep love, he did allow some people whom he knew to remove the barriers to his door and come in. After giving them the benefit of his divine teaching, he would beg them to replace the barriers as they went away. There came a time when he felt he had had enough of that, and wanted to avoid even the minimum of human company, so he blocked up the approach to his cell completely, by piling up as many stones as possible into the entrance. But he left a gap through which he could talk to his friends without being seen, and though which he was able to receive his meagre supply of food.
I was the only one to whom he then did not deny the benefit of his conversation, in that sweet voice of his so pleasing to God. In fact he would often keep me with him discussing heavenly matters, when I wanted to get away. But many people still came to him wanting his blessing. He could not bear crowds, however, so in spite of his age, and with no consideration at all for his physical weakness, he climbed over the ditch and bank, which even a strong and healthy person would have found difficult to do, and went to a nearby monastery where he built himself a ditch and bank in the angle of a wall, and continued in his usual labours.
The superior of this monastery said that he brought an end to seven weeks of fasting by eating only fifteen figs. He came to the end of his earthly strife when he had lived more than ninety years. His bodily weakness it would be impossible to describe, but it was overcome by his keenness of mind. His love of God made everything easy and straightforward for him. In the midst of his labours he came to the winning post of his race, the end of his struggles in sight, longing for his crown.
I ask that I may know of the benefit of his intercession coming hither now, even though he is in heaven above. For I do believe that he lives even now in a more intimate relationship with God.



Chapter XIX
SALAMANUS

I believe I would be failing in my duty if I were not to leave for posterity an account of the life of the admirable Salamanus. I shall rescue him from oblivion by giving a short summary of his life.
There is a village on the western bank of the river Euphrates called Capersana, where he was born. In embracing a life of silence he found a small dwelling with no door or windows near the village on the other side of the river, where he shut himself up. He dug his garden once a year, from which he obtained a year's supply of food, but spoke to nobody. He persevered in this not just for a brief period but for many years. When the bishop of the city within whose jurisdiction the village lay heard about him he visited him with the intention of bestowing upon him the gift of priesthood. He entered the little house by making a gap in the bank, laid his hands upon him and said the prayers, and explained to him several times over the meaning of the grace that had been bestowed on him. He got no word in reply from Salamanus, before he went away leaving Salamanus to build up the ditch and bank again.
Not much later people who lived in the village from which he came crossed over the river by night, came into his house and carried him back to his own village. He made no protest or resistance. They built him a little house like the one on the eastern bank and forthwith installed him it. And still he kept complete silence in all their doings with him. After a few days the people of the village on the opposite bank came by night, entered his house and carried him off without his making any objection, or contention that he should stay where he was. But nor did he go back eagerly and happily, either. The point is that he had decided that he was completely dead to the world, illustrating what the Apostle had said: 'I am crucified with Christ. I live, but not I, it is Christ who lives in me. And the life that I now live in Christ, is lived in the living faith in the son of God who loves me and gave himself for me' (Galatians 2.20). That is what he was like. And that should be enough to show what the whole course of his life was like.
And now, in the hope of a blessing from him, I shall pass on to someone else.


Chapter XX
MARIS

There is a village in Homer which we know by the name of Netis. The divine Maris built a little dwelling near there and lived enclosed in it for thirty-seven years. Being so close to a mountain this house was very damp; in winter time the moisture dripped off the walls. Villagers and farm workers alike knew how harmful this was to the body, and how many diseases it gave rise to, but none of that could persuade that sacred exemplar to move house. He stayed there with fortitude and without interruption till his life's end.
Even in his early life he had laboured to acquire the virtues, especially chastity of body and soul; he told me quite plainly himself that his body remained as whole and incorrupt as when it came from his mother's womb. When he was a young man celebrating the feasts of the martyrs, the people were charmed by the beauty of his singing voice. He was often called upon to sing the psalms, and he was physically very beautiful. And yet the beauty of his soul never came to any kind of harm in spite of the beauty of his body, the purity of his voice, or the crowds of people who approached him with their many requests. He lived exactly like all those who are enclosed, developing the care of his own soul. He increased in virtue in proportion to the labours which he underwent.
I often used to see him. His door was always open to me. He would welcome me whenever I came and would talk with me freely at great length on the search for wisdom.
Moreover he lived in complete simplicity. He detested any variation in his routines. He much preferred to live with want than with an overabundant supply. Even at the age of ninety he still wore a shirt of goat's hair. When at length he wanted to be present at the offering of the spiritual and mystical sacrifice, he asked that the offering of the divine gift be brought to him. I was very happy to agree to that. I ordered the sacred vessels to be brought (the village was not all that far away), and using the hands of the deacons as an altar I offered the saving sacrifice. He took part with the greatest of spiritual pleasure, asserting that he had seen heaven, and that never before had he experienced such joy.
Having experienced his immense love towards me I would have thought it a great injury to him not to praise him now he is dead, and hold up his love of wisdom to others as an exceptional way to follow. I now pray that I shall always enjoy his help, and bring this story to an end.


Chapter XXI
JACOBUS

I have given an account of the struggles of those athletes of virtue who have won the victory. I shall now turn to the way of life of those who even now are engaged in labour, who are suffering the trials of the battle, winning brilliant and very famous victories while yet with us, and striving to outdo with their labours those who have gone before us. I shall endeavour to keep their memory alive for the benefit of those who are coming after. The way of life of the saints who shone in their times is of enormous benefit to those who come after. May their stories be of benefit to those who come after us. 
I shall take my cue from Jacobus the Great [see Chapter I], who was the first of all the others, both in order of time and in the amount of work he did. And the admirable things done by those who emulated him are beyond dispute. I don't know how it comes about that of those who are dead and those who are still with us, the name that stands out is Jacobus. Indeed in writing about these lives I began with that divine Jacobus who put to flight the Persian army with his prayers. When they attacked the walls around the city he prevented the city from being taken and put to flight the enemy by calling down on them a plague of mosquitoes and gnats. And he who by chance bears the same name is like him in his way of life, and takes pride of place among those of that athletic company who are alive now, not simply because he has the same name, but because he emulates him in virtue and has himself become an exemplar of those who search for wisdom.
He lived for some time with the incomparable Maro, and absorbed his divine teaching, but soon outshone his teacher by even greater works. He sheltered within the walls of a former pagan temple, where he constructed a tent out of skins which he used as protection against the rain and snow. He was able to make use of the tent, the temple and the shelter of the walls, but the only roof he had was the sky. All the winds of heaven beat down upon him; now he was soaked by the rain, now frozen by ice and snow, now scorched and burnt by the rays of the sun, always enduring all these things with fortitude, as if wrestling with the body of someone else, striving to subdue the nature of that body by the power of his mind. Clad in this mortal and vulnerable [passibile] body, he lived a life beyond suffering [impassibile], concentrating on the spiritual life dwelling in his flesh [vitam incorpoream in corpore], and therefore able to proclaim with St Paul: 'We walk in the flesh but we do not fight according to the flesh, for our weapons are not of the flesh but of the power of God for the destruction of our defences, destroying the thoughts and every other high thing which vaunt themselves against the knowledge of God, but rather taking captive the whole mind into obedience towards God' (2 Corinthians 10.4-5). He fought these supernatural battles by attending to every least detail of everything he did. Shut up in his narrow dwelling, freeing his mind from the tumult of external affairs, fixing his mind securely on the memory of God, he thus contrived to move towards perfect and absolute virtue.
After working hard for a while and getting used to the idea that such works were good for him, he began to enter into more severe testings. For he moved on to this mountain thirty miles from the city, where his reputation as someone to be venerated began to grow. Whereas before he had been unknown and quite unproductive, now he was believed to have received such blessings that the topsoil was almost all gone because the crowds of people who came to him were in the habit of carrying off handfuls of it as holy relics. All who came to him could see that he lived there with no cave, no tent, no shelter, no ditch and bank, no protective hedge around him, but in full view of everyone he prayed or stood in silence, then sat, then stood, in sickness or in health, so that it was plain to all who saw him that he had conquered all his natural impulses. Nor would anybody, however freely brought up, find it easy to discharge their bodily waste in the presence of other people unless they were exercised in the very highest way of life. And I say this not as having learnt it from anyone else, for I saw him myself.
Fourteen years ago he fell seriously ill. It affected him like everyone else who is provided with a mortal body. It was a time of fierce summer heat, and the rays of the sun burnt even more fiercely, for the winds had died down and the air was absolutely still. His illness was caused by a superfluity of yellow bile, which pressed down on his intestine and infected it. Then I saw how great was his patience. For a great number of villagers had gathered in order to meet this glorious man, but he just sat there not quite sure what to do: whether to obey the force of nature which was compelling him to go apart, or whether consideration for the people should lead him to stay where he was in the same state and difficulty. Realising his dilemma I urged the people to go away; some needed a lot of encouragement to do so, some less, but in the end I had to order them solemnly on my authority as a priest. The divine man, however, even before they had all gone, was overcome by the force of nature, but he remained perfectly unworried. It was nightfall before they were compelled to go home.
The next day when I went to him the heat was even greater than before, and his fever was being fed and increased by this exterior heat, so pretending to have a headache I told him I could hardly bear the force of the sun's rays, and begged him to let me have some kind of shelter. He took three long reeds and fixed two woven blankets to them, thus providing some shade.
"Go in under that," he said.
"It would not be right, father," I said, "for a strong young man like me to take advantage of such a shelter while you are suffering such a violent fever. It is you who could do with the shelter, but you sit there suffering the full force of the sun. If you want me to enjoy the shade come and keep me company in this little tent, for I would like to stay with you but the force of the sun's rays prevents me."
He yielded to my request at these words, and accepted the remedy I had planned for him. When we were enjoying the shade together, I spoke to him again.
"I think I shall have to lie down," I said. "My buttocks can't put up with sitting down for long without becoming sore."
"Well, lie down then," he said.
"I don't think I could allow myself to lie down if you stayed sitting up," I said. "So if you want me to take advantage of that relief, let us lie down together, father. Then I shan't have to blush because I am the only one lying down."
By these words I undermined his resistance  and got him to rest himself by lying down. I used those deceiving words only because he was ill, in the hope of lifting his spirits. I put my hand inside his clothing in order to rub his back, and found that he was carrying a considerable weight of iron hanging from his neck and loins. There were also other circular chains hanging from his neck, two in front and two behind, at an angle from the lower chains, so that where the two circles met they formed a letter X. He also had some chains from his elbows down to his hands. At the sight of these burdens weighing many talents, I begged him to give his body some respite.
"You can't go on wearing these voluntary burdens at the same time as bearing this involuntary illness," I said. "Let the fever fulfil for now the same function as the iron. When the fever is gone then you might return to imposing on the body the labour of carrying the iron."
He agreed to this as well, taking them off to an accompaniment of many short prayers. But then, after a few more days of illness he began to get better.
Later on, he fell into a much more serious illness, and many people gathered from various different places in the hope of being able to carry off his body. When news of this reached the city, soldiers and civilians all came rushing out, the soldiers armed with their military weapons, the civilians with any other weapon they could find. They drew up in an ordered line of battle, throwing spears and hurling stones, not deliberately wounding but trying to instil fear. Having driven them off they put that athlete of famous victories on to a litter and brought him into the city. He was completely unaware of what they were doing; nor had he been conscious when the people were coming after relics. They came to the church of the prophets and put his litter in the monastery next door.
Somebody came to Berhoea, which is where I was then, to tell me about everything that had happened, and he told me Jacobus was dead. I hastened away and journeyed all night until at dawn I met up with him at last. He did not speak, nor was he aware of anyone about him. I spoke to him and prayed for his good health in the name of the great Acacius. At once he opened his eyes and asked what had happened to him and how long I had been there. When I replied to him he closed his eyes again.
Towards evening on the third day he asked where he was, and when we told him he became quite agitated, and asked to be taken back to his mountain immediately. Since I was wanting to stay with him for good and serve him, I ordered the litter to be brought for him to be taken back to where he wanted to be. Then I witnessed how completely alien to this beloved leader of mine was any ambition or desire for glory. For next day I offered him some broth made from barley- groats to build up his strength a little. He refused to take it, for he never ate anything hot as he had forbidden himself the use of fire. When he refused I spoke to him.
"Do this for our sake, father," I said, "for we are united in wanting nothing but your good health. For you are not only set before us as an example, but you aid us through your prayers and mediate the goodness of God to us. If you find it difficult to accept something which you are not used to, try and put up with it all the same, father. For this also is a part of the search for wisdom. In taking thought for your food while in good health, you have conquered any inordinate appetites. Now that you don't seem to want anything, show some flexibility by having something to eat."
As I was speaking, the man of God, Polychronius arrived, and he backed me up in what I was saying. He said that he would be willing to try some first, even though it was still morning, and he was one who often went for a week before taking any food. Jacobus was convinced by what we were saying, and did drink a bowlful of the broth, though he did so with eyes screwed up, as one does when drinking something bitter.
He was unable to walk because of his weakness, but we persuaded him to wash his feet, and I think that the result of this task was that our eyes were opened further into the way of his wisdom. One of those who were ministering to him wanted to put a screen round the bath to shield him from view
"Why are you putting a screen round the bath?" he asked.
"So that you won't be seen by those coming to visit you," was the reply.
"God forbid, my son," he said, "that you should conceal from men what is open to the God of all. Him alone do I wish to serve, I care nothing for human glory. What use is it to me if they should think that there is more due to my hard works and practices than to God himself? They will not give me any reward for my labours, it is God from whom comes all."
Who can refrain from admiring both his teaching and the mind which produced them, so far above any thought of human glory?
I remember something else that happened once. It was long past vesper time, and he was sitting with his plate in front of him eating his lentils steeped in water, which was his usual food, when he saw in the distance someone coming. It was the man from the city in charge of collecting military taxes. Jacobus did not put his food down, but continued to eat as usual. He had a vision which led him to believe that his visitor was a demon, whom he therefore berated as an enemy. But he kept on eating his lentils to show that he was not afraid. The visitor begged for mercy, even while still being vigorously cursed.
"I am only human," he said, "and I swear on oath that I have just left the city before vespers to get here now at this time."
"Well, be of good heart, then and stop looking so frightened. Come, be my guest and share my meal, as long as you will go away again when asked."
And he gave him his right hand and offered him some lentils. It was in acts like this that he drove from his heart any trace of vainglory.
I hardly need mention how he was able to bear all kinds of testings. Sometimes he would lie prone, buried under a snowfall of three days and nights, praying to God, but unwilling to be seen in anything other than the rags which he customarily wore. Sometimes his neighbours had to dig him out with shovels and mattocks from the snow which was covering him, and then wake him up and get him moving again. Labours like this brought him gifts of divine grace which everyone wished to have a share in. His blessing drove out many fevers, many illnesses ceased and totally disappeared, many demons were put to flight, and water which he had blessed was a powerful remedy.
Is there anyone who has not heard about the boy whom he raised from the dead by prayer? His parents lived in one of the city's suburbs and had had many children who had all died an early death. When this last son was born the father ran to the man of God praying that he might have a long life and promising to dedicate him to God should he live. But when he was four years old the boy died. The father was absent at the time, but as he came back he saw the boy's body being carried out, and snatched him up out of the litter.
"I have to fulfil my promise," he said, "and give him to the man of God even though he is dead."
He carried him away and laid him down before those holy feet, repeating what he had earlier said to the bearers of the litter. The divine man placed the body before him, bent his knees and lay prone, praying to the God of the living and the dead. In the evening the boy uttered a cry and called for his father. The divine man knew that God had heard his prayers and restored the boy to life, and he worshipped him who listens to those who fear him and hears their prayers. He finished his prayers and returned the boy to his father. I am a witness to this; I heard the father telling the tale. He told this apostolic miracle to many others knowing that the more people who heard it, the more it would be passed on to others.
Later on I also enjoyed his help. I will mention one or two things, which I think it would be ungenerous of me to pass over in silence, without sharing the benefit of them.
That accursed Marcion was planting many thornbushes of false doctrine about in the region of Cyrus at this time, and I was trying to pluck them out by the roots, and it was causing me a lot of hard work as I used every device I possibly could. There were those in my flock who ought to have loved me but who poured scorn on anything I might say prophetically; I was praying, but they were returning evil for good and hatred in exchange for my love. They were using powerful magic, relying on the aid of malignant demons, but not trying to wage war by way of visions. For a demon bent on destruction came to me by night and simply shouted in the Syrian language.
"Why are you fighting with Marcion?  What have you taken up arms against him for? What harm has he ever done you? Give up your warfare. Stop being so malevolent. Discover the advantages of peace. You must know that I have dug a defensive ditch around you, to prevent me from seeing the chorus of martyrs and the great Jacob protecting you."
"Did you hear that?" I said to one of our company sleeping next to me.
"Yes, indeed," he said. "I heard everything. And I got up and looked around to see if I could find out who was talking. And then for your sake I stopped, because I thought you were asleep."
So then we both got up and looked around, but we could not see anyone moving, and we could no longer hear anyone talking. The others living with us had also heard what was said.
We understood that the "chorus of martyrs" referred to a flask hanging near my bed, which contained oil which had been collected from many martyrs, and which was a source of blessing. And around my shoulders was the short cloak which had belonged to the great Jacob. For me it was more powerful than any adamantine lock. I tried to go into the village, and found that there were many forces preventing me from going in. I sent a message to my 'Isaiah', begging him to give me his divine help.
" Be of good heart," was his reply. "All those encumbrances like spider webs have been wiped out. I have had a revelation from the Lord tonight, not in a dream, but in actual fact. For when I had begun singing the psalms I saw a large serpent in the place where you are, breathing out a kind of fire in front of it, stretching from the West to the East, flying through the air. When I had completed three prayers I saw it turn and form itself into a circle, with its tail in its mouth. When I had come to the end of the eighth prayer I saw it split in two and disappear in a cloud of smoke."
That was his vision. We saw how it worked out in practice. For in the morning, at the command of the chief of demons, there appeared those who were of the Marcion sect (though now they belong to the apostolic band), stretching out from the West, with their swords bared against us. At the third hour of the day, on a sudden impulse, they seemed to be concerned only with the safety of their own skins, like a serpent with its tail in its mouth, and at the eighth hour they scattered, leaving us free to go into the village. There we found a serpent made out of brass which they had been worshipping. When they had taken up arms against the maker and creator of the universe, they had begun to make a cult out of this dreadful serpent as being the enemy of God. This tale shows the blessings I received from this venerable chief among men.
Now that my tale has entered the realms of divine revelation, well then, I shall tell you what I heard from his own lips - lips which cannot tell a lie. He did not tell me these things from any desire to boast (for his divine soul was not remotely sullied by any vice), but simply because the usefulness of it compelled him to disclose what he would much rather have kept secret. I was humbly begging him to pray to the God of all to provide me with a harvest free from weeds and liberate me completely from the seeds of heresy. For the errors of the abominable Marcion vexed me greatly, and were becoming very strong.
"You don't need me or anyone else to intercede for you," he said in answer to my plea, "when you have the glorious John Baptist, precursor of the Word, offering prayers for you without ceasing. "
"But I have faith in your prayers," I said, "just as much as in the prayers of other holy apostles and prophets whose relics we have recently been given."
"Be of good heart," he said. "All you need are the prayers of John the Baptist."
But I would not be silenced, and kept on questioning him more closely.
"Why John the Baptist, particularly?" I asked.
"How I would love to embrace and kiss his adorable relics," he said.
"I won't bring them to you," I said, "unless you promise to tell me what you see."
And he promised, and next day I brought to him what he wanted. He sent everyone away and spoke to me alone.
"It was you who accepted these relics to be the defenders of our city when they came here from Phoenicia and Palestine, accompanied by a choir singing psalms, but it did occur to me to wonder whether they really were relics of the Baptist or of some other martyr with the same name. Next day I was standing to sing the psalms when I saw a figure dressed in white who spoke to me:
"'Brother Jacobus, why did you not come out to meet us?'
"'Who are you?' I asked.
"'We came recently from Phoenicia and Palestine, and everyone welcomed us eagerly, pastor and people, citizens and country dwellers. You were the only one who did not take part in the welcome, and what's more you sowed doubts in the minds of other people.'
"'I may not have been present with you and the others. but I do honour you and I worship the God of all.'
"He came again the next day at the same time.
"'Look, brother Jacobus,' he said, 'at the figure standing nearby, dressed in clothing as white as snow.'
"This figure was wearing vestments and gesturing as if he was baptising, and I divined it was John the Baptist.
"'Yes, it is John the Baptist, as you realised,' he said. 'And when you went to the village that night to confront those traitors, you had prayed that I should offer earnest prayers to God, and I spent all night beseeching the Lord.'
"Then I heard a voice saying, 'Fear not, Jacobus, it is indeed John the Baptist praying for you all night to the God of all. If the audacity of the devil had not been put to flight by his intercessions, there would have been a great slaughter.'"
Having told me this he then urged that I should be the only one to know about it, and that I was not to tell anyone else. But because it is such a beneficial story I have told many people, and now I even write it down. 
He also said that he had seen the patriarch Joseph, his hair and beard grey, shining brightly in his old age, famed as the greatest in virtue among the saints.
"When I named him as the greatest among those who were with him in procession," said Jacobus, "he himself said he was the least."
He also told me about the great number of various kinds of attacks made on him by the demons.
"On my first encounter with these beings," he said, "I saw a naked shape like an Ethiopian, shooting flames out of his eyes. As I looked at him I was terrified, but turned immediately to prayer. And during the whole time he appeared to me I was completely unable to take any food. After seven or eight days I was still fasting, until at last I felt able to despise his filthy insults. I sat down and took some food. He was infuriated by the strength of my spirit, and threatened to beat me with rods.
"'If that is what the God of all allows you to do', I said, 'strike, and I will gladly accept the blow as coming from God. But if it is not permitted to you, stop persecuting the soldiers of Christ immediately.'
"At this he fled. But he continued to keep on attacking me secretly. For there was someone who brought me water twice a week, and the demon met him disguised as me, took the water from him and then poured it out. After this had happened not just twice but thrice I was suffering grievously from thirst. I asked my usual water carrier why he had not brought me any water for the last fifteen days, and he told me he had brought it three or four times and I had taken it from him.
"'And where was I, when I took it from you,' I asked.
"And he named the spot.
"'Even if you see me coming to meet you a thousand times', I said, 'don't hand the water pot over except in this place that you see me now.'
"After these open and irritating attacks, he tried some other methods as well. He shouted loudly at me by night.
"'I will make you stink so foully, and inflict such slanderous reputation on you that nobody will want to come near you,'
"'Thank you very much,' I said. 'You have unwittingly bestowed a great benefit on me, for you have seen to it that I shall be all the more occupied with the remembrance of God. The more leisure time I have the more time I can spend in perpetual contemplation of the divine beauty.'

"A few days later as I was saying my midday office, I saw two women coming down the mountain. Contrary to my usual custom I was apprehensive about their approach, and thought I had better throw stones at them, but then I remembered the threats of that accursed demon. For I understood that this would have led to the 'slanderous reputation' he was talking about. So I shouted out in a loud voice that even if they should wrap themselves around my shoulders, I would not throw stones at them but simply give myself to prayer. They just vanished when I said that; my words had put an end to that showpiece of a vision."
He told me also about something which happened at the time when that pernicious band of robbers were descending on us out of Isauria, plundering and laying waste many parts of the East. He was very frightened, not that he might be killed (for he had no great love for his body), but that he might be taken captive, led into slavery and forced to witness scenes of godless wickedness. When the devil sensed his fear (for he had often been observing him, and this had come to his attention), he imitated at night the ululation of women.
"And I seemed to hear," he said, "the noise of a great army approaching, setting the village on fire. I immediately parted my hair, half to the right and half to the left, and drew it all down to my chest, so that my neck would be more easily exposed to the sword and I would be liberated from this abominable spectacle by one swift stroke. This went on all night; I was expecting to be attacked at any minute, but when daylight came and I asked some visitors what they had heard about the Isauri, they said they had not heard anything about them for days. So then I knew that it had all been a vision from the devil".
At other times he would take on the appearance of a vigorous and sprightly youth, devastatingly beautiful, with lovely blond hair, who would come to him smiling playfully.
"I was very angry," he said, "and I rejected him and cursed him. But he just stayed there, seductively giggling and talking and inviting me to have a good time. I was even more annoyed still.
"'How is it,' I asked, 'that you can wander about through the whole world, practising these deceptions on everybody?'
"'It's not me alone' he replied. 'There are thousands of us scattered about the world, who play about with a serious intent, for by this playfulness we intend to bring the whole human race down to perdition.'
"'You,' I said, 'be off. It is Christ who commands you, he who drove the whole herd of swine into the deep' (Matthew 8.32). He heard, and vanished, unable to bear the power of the name of the Lord, nor strong enough to bear the wisdom of his servants."
There is a great deal more I could tell you, but I am unwilling to write too much about it, lest the sheer amount of it provoke unbelief in the minds of the weaker brethren. For those who know this divine man, nothing that is said about him could appear incredible, because the virtue that they see in him authenticates what they have heard about him. But when it is only the written word which brings these stories to posterity, we must needs temper our story in line with the weakness of those who listen, for the ear is much more liable to incredulity than the eye.
Others were putting up a large building for him in the neighbouring village, not many miles away. And I set aside a small area in this building in honour of the victories of the glorious martyrs. When Jacobus heard about this he told me that his own body should be buried in the mountain. But I told him that for someone who took no thought for the needs of this present life he was out of order in worrying about where he should be buried. I saw that he took this to heart, and I nodded my agreement, and caused a small cell to be divided off. When I saw that the rock was broken up by hoarfrost, I asked if he would allow this cell to be made into a small dwelling. He agreed, the walls were completed and we put a roof on it.
"I don't want this to be known as Jacobus' tomb," he said. "I want this building to commemorate the victories of the glorious martyrs. Let me be put like some stranger in a separate tomb, although as one held worthy to be put near them."
He not only said this but made sure that it would be carried out. For he collected relics of a great number of prophets, apostles and martyrs, and placed them all in one shrine, so that he would remain in the company of the saints, and rise with them, and be found worthy of the contemplation of God.
That should be sufficient to show how modest he was. He who had gathered together such great riches in the midst of extreme poverty, desired to travel like a poor pilgrim in the midst of rich merchants. The labours of my beloved leader, the number of his contests, the divine graces that he received, the number of times he drank the victor's cup and was crowned with many crowns must by this be sufficiently depicted.
Some people find fault with his severe and difficult customs, and find it hard to understand why he delighted so much in solitude and silence. I shall now say a few things about that as I bring my story to an end. As I have already said, he lived in full view of everyone, surrounded by no ditch and bank, with no hut or tent for covering. There were no locked doors confronting anyone who came to him. They all had immediate access to him and could say to him whatever they wanted. Others who loved this way of searching for wisdom did have locked doors in their enjoyment of silence, but they differed in their measure of enclosure, and in how often and for how long they decided to open their doors, and how much time they wished to spend in divine contemplation. Jacobus was not like any of those.
But he did object if anyone bothered him during his times of prayer. They would usually back off if he protested to them, and he would then resume his prayers. If they persisted in bothering him more than once or twice, he would get very angry and speak to them very sharply. I remonstrated with him once about this.
"These people are naturally very upset," I said, "when you drive them away without having the benefit of your blessing. Since many of them have journeyed here for many days for that very purpose wouldn't it be better if they did not go away in an indignant frame of mind, but filled with joy in their hearts, and therefore more likely to be able to enlighten the ignorance of others, by giving them friendly accounts of this way of life?"
"I did not come to this mountain," he replied, "for the sake of anybody else except myself. I am so full of the most vicious sins, that my need for medicine is overwhelming. Therefore I lay siege to the mercy of God that he may provide me with the medicine for my vices. Wouldn't it be reprehensible and stupid of me to interrupt my course of prayer to hold converse with humans? If I were the servant of another human being, of the same nature as myself, and instead of serving him by bringing him his food and drink at the appointed time, I were to go into a long conversation with my fellow servants, would I not be rightly liable to be beaten? Or if I were to come before the magistrate to make a formal complaint about some injury I had received, and then interrupted my speech in the middle of it in order to talk with someone else who was there, wouldn't you agree that the magistrate would not put up with that, and would not give me the help I needed, but whip me out of court? It is right and proper that a servant in his master's presence and a plaintiff in the presence of the judge should behave themselves correctly. But I am coming before God the eternal Lord, the most just Judge, and King of the universe; shouldn't I behave in a similar manner, and not turn away to my fellow servants and carry on a long conversation with them, when I should be praying?"
All this that I heard I passed on to those who were annoyed with him. It seemed to me that what he had said was good and even beautiful. To make a further point, it is characteristic of someone in love to have no feelings for anyone except the person whom they love and admire, and dream about at night, and long to see again soon. So it seems to me that if someone desires to be given to contemplation, it would be very hard that he should be hindered from fulfilling his search for that most excellent beauty which is all his desire.
We have not written this as a formal eulogy, for we have tried to be as brief as possible lest we bore the reader with our prolixity. Even if somebody wishes to add more to this story and bring forward many other famous deeds to add to what has already been written, and to write them down, nevertheless I think it right to stop here. May the outcome of his godly struggles bring the reward that those struggles deserve, may the rest of his life be consonant with what has gone before, may he may be victorious at the winning post, and sustain and suffuse us with his prayers, so that we too may be strengthened and bring about many victories for those who have learned about them from us, and that we may all be victors as we pass out of this life.


Chapter XXII
THALASSIUS  AND LIMNAEUS

Helimna is a village near us which formerly offered its soil to the seeds of that ungodly Marcion, but which now enjoys the agriculture of the gospel. To the North there is a hill, neither too steep or too gentle, where that admirable man, Thalassius, built a monastery. He was a man adorned with many good qualities, but excelled everyone else in simplicity of life, gentleness and self-control. I say this, not only because of what I have heard, but because I have seen it for myself. I have often visited him, and had gratifying conversation with him.
In this place he trained Limnaeus, whose praises are now sung by all. He came to this monastery while still a youth and initiated into their beautiful way of searching for wisdom. He soon realised that language could be dangerous, and opted for total silence, even while still so young; for a long time he went without speaking to anyone. After imbibing as much as possible of the divine teaching of the older man, he had become the living image of all his virtues, after which he went to Maro, whom we have already mentioned. He went there at the same time as the divine Jacobus. After learning a great deal from Maro, and emulating him in his life under God, he took possession of the top of another mountain hanging over a village called Targalla. Here he lives to this day, with no cottage, no tent, no hut, simply surrounded by a wall which he built out of stones. There is just one little opening in this wall, carefully blocked-up by clay, which he never clears away for visitors, although he does allow me to clear it away in order to visit him. That is why many people come from all directions if they know that I am going to visit him, hoping that they will also be able to go in with me. Usually when people come to him he speaks to them through another small opening and gives them his blessing. To many of them his blessing brings healing. He calls himself our servant, and heals diseases, expels demons and follows the apostles in performing miracles.
He not only brought healing to those who came to him; time and time again he brought healing to his own body. Quite some time ago he suffered a severe digestive disorder. Only those who have experienced this illness can fully know how severe are the griping pains they suffer, but just to observe them is also to know how they twist and turn in a frenzy, turning this way and that way, repeatedly stretching and contracting their feet, they sit down, get up again and walk about, sometimes finding that sitting in a bath gives them some relief. But why go on enumerating all these symptoms when they are quite generally known? When Limnaeus was in the throes of this illness, suffering so many intense pains, he would not accept the help of any medicine, would not make use of a bed, but lay down on a board on the bare ground, and was cured only by prayer and the sign of the cross, and in the midst of his suffering he dulled the pain by the repetition of the holy name.
Later, while walking about one night, he trod on a viper. The viper in defence fixed its teeth in his foot. Limnaeus moved his hand down towards his foot in order to massage it, and the viper bit his hand. He then tried to use his left hand to protect himself and the viper bit that as well. He had more than ten bites before the viper was satisfied and went away to seek its own den. He was in considerable pain as a result of all this, but even so he would not use any medicines, but trusted solely to the medicine of faith, the sign of the cross, prayer and the invocation of God. I can only suppose that the God of all allowed this beast to attack his sacred body so that the ability of his divine soul to bear suffering might be made manifest to all. And that of course was the remedy used by the brave and generous Job, who was more than willing to be tossed about by the greatest storms of all kinds, as long as he could demonstrate to everyone the wisdom of his master. We would not otherwise have known either the bravery of the one or the long-suffering of the other, unless a space for throwing all kinds of weapons at them had been allowed to the enemy of godliness.
I think I have said enough to show his long-suffering. But I will also add something about his clemency and kindness. For he gathered up many blind people and beggars, and built little dwelling places for them both to the East and to the West, where he bade them live and praise God. He urged his visitors to supply their food and other necessities. He however remained enclosed in the midst of them, encouraging both his visitors and the blind and the beggars in singing psalms, to make their regular praising of God to be heard. Such was his kindness to people of that sort. He and the great Jacobus both spent the same amount of time in this godly battle They completed thirty-eight years.



Chapter XXIII
JOHANNES, MOSES, ANTIOCHUS, ANTONIUS

Johannes also took up this kind of life, a man famous above all for his gentleness and kindness. He occupied a rather rugged cliff, exposed to the storms coming from the North, where he has already lived for twenty-five years, buffeted by the winds of heaven. For the rest, there is no need for me to itemise his food, his clothing and his iron weights, for they are all similar to what I have already described. He was above other human beings in this, that he would not accept any comforting solace from anybody, as the following incident demonstrates. For someone kindly planted an almond seedling to provide him with his only bit of greenery, so that as it grew into a tree he could enjoy its shade and feast his eyes, but he ordered that it should be taken out to avoid having to take any pleasure in it.
Moses also embraced this way of life, living on the top of a high mountain overhanging the village of Rome.
And Antiochus, an older man, who built a small enclosure in a very remote mountain.
And Antonius, who even in old age rivalled the deeds of those much younger.
They all had the same sort of clothing and food, the same reputation, the same order of fixed prayers, labouring night and day. Neither length of service, nor old age nor natural weakness is able to diminish their powers of fortitude, which continue to flourish and keep alive their desire to keep working. This difficult life of striving for virtue is embraced by many other athletes in the mountains and fields of God. It would be difficult to number them all and describe the life of each one.
I have said sufficient to be of use to those who wish to benefit from it, and I will now turn to another kind of story, praying that I too may share in their blessings.


Chapter XXIV
ZEBINAS AND POLYCHRONIUS


Even to the present day, those who have seen Zebinas count themselves fortunate. For they say that even in extreme old age he carried out the same routine right up to the end. He did not allow the heavy weight of age to take anything away from the struggles of his youth. They say that his tirelessness in prayer exceeded that of any other human being of that time. He would pray far into the night; he never could have enough of it but was always eagerly desiring more. Even when engaging with those who came to see him he was not able to force himself to drag his thoughts away fully from the things of heaven, but as soon they had gone, he would renew his prayer as if there was hardly anything which separated him from the God of all. When old age would not longer allow him to stand continuously without doing himself an injury he used a staff for support. He would lean on it, praying and praising God. Although above all he had a deep love of hospitality, he would ask many of those who came to see him to wait until evening. Many feared that they might have to wait there all night and made a pretext that they had other business to attend to and excused themselves from sharing in his labour of prayer.
The great Maro was one of his admirers, and he always suggested to those who came to see him that they should go to Zebinas for a blessing. He called him his father and teacher, and an example of every virtue. He wanted them to be buried in the same tomb, but those who snatched away his body and buried him in the place which I have described prevented that [see Chapter XVI]. He died before the divine Zebinas in a neighbouring village called Cirtica, but Zebinas accepted what happened to his body and built a great shrine over his tomb, which brought many healings of different kinds to those who visited it in faith. So now all the martyrs who strove against the Persians are together under the same roof, and are honoured with great celebrations every year.
The great Polychronius sat at the feet of Zebinas. Even the most divine Jacobus said that he had been given a hair shirt by Zebinas. I never saw him myself, for he died before I was born, but in the marvellous way that Polychronius lived I could see that Zebinas lived again, not that he was like a wax tablet taking the impression and character of whatever shape the writer makes upon it, but I pass on what I saw myself and what was said about him by those who were with him. For he was consumed by the same desire for God, rising far above earthly things. His mind was untrammelled by his body, carried upwards through the air and the aether, higher than the heavens. He was perpetually caught up in the contemplation of God, and it was impossible for him to drag his mind away from that. Even when talking with those who came to see him, his mind was fixed on things above.
He stood keeping vigil all night through, and this is how I learnt about it. For when I saw that he was suffering from old age and bodily weakness, and taking no care of his body, I began more and more to urge him to agree to take two companions to live with him and look after him. And he did ask for two men of obvious virtue to come from another monastery. And I persuaded these admirable men to put the care of the divine man before everything else. They had not lived with him for very long before they wanted to leave, because they could not cope with staying up all night. I remonstrated with the divine man that he should temper his labours to the weakness of his body.
"I did not compel them," he replied, "to stand resolutely with me all night, but I repeatedly urged them to go to bed. But they asked how could they possibly go to bed, being in good health and the prime of life as they were, when they saw someone else despising his bodily weakness adopting such a laborious stance."
Thus I learnt about the nocturnal labours of that venerable chief among men. And in due course those companions also developed so greatly in virtue that they too adopted the same way of life as the great man.
And Moses, too (that was the name of one of them) remains to this present day, loyal to Polychronius his father and teacher, giving clear and perfect expression to the virtues which shone forth from that sacred soul.
Damianus (the name of the other one) went to a village not far away called Niara and found a little dwelling where he lives now, carrying on with the same sort of life. Those who have known them both say that as they look at Damianus it is like looking at the blessed Polychronius clothed in another body. They both had the same simplicity, gentleness and self-control, the same placid way of talking, the same sweetness in conversation, the same vigilance of spirit and knowledge of God, the same ordering of work and vigils and food, and the same divine law of poverty and owning nothing. Apart from one bowl containing lentils steeped in water there was nothing else inside his dwelling. He owed such a great debt to the customs of the great Polychronius.
However, let me leave the disciple and return to the teacher; it is from the source that the flowing streams arise. Along with the other vices he cast out from his soul the desire for admiration, and trod underfoot the tyranny of empty fame by trying to conceal the full extent of his labours. So he rejected the idea of wearing iron weights lest he incur some spiritual damage if it led to his soul becoming inflamed by arrogance. But he asked for a heavy oak tree root to be brought to him as if he wanted it for some other purpose, and then placed it on his shoulders at night time when he prayed. If anyone came and knocked on his door he hid it. Someone who saw this told me about it and in trying to see how heavy it was I found that I could scarcely lift it up with both hands. He caught me doing so and told me to put it down, but I asked him to let me take it away, hoping to lighten his load. But when I saw that he carried it quite easily I yielded to his desire for the victory.
Grace divine flowed from his labours, and many miracles from his prayers. When a grievous drought was afflicting the human race and calling forth many prayers, a number of priests came to see him. Among them was one who was in charge of the food supply for all the villages of the Antiochene region. He asked the seniors present to persuade Polychronius to lay hands on the vessel he used for oil. They replied that he would not do that, but he kept on asking and begged Polychronius himself, who at last did spread out his hands over the oil vessel. It immediately began to overflow with oil, so that two or three others of those present held out their hands, and their vessels were filled likewise.
But although he radiated divine grace, and was full of wonderful acts of kindness, and deeds done with power, daily scattering about him the fruits of his search for wisdom, he still remained modest and discreet. He embraced the feet of each one who came to him, bowing his forehead down to the ground, whether they were soldiers, workmen or farmers.
I will tell you something else to illustrate his simplicity and discretion. When a certain good man belonging to the prefect class came to Cyrus, he asked me to show him some of these great athletes. I took him to several people and then to Polychronius. I told him that the man with me was a prefect, and one who loved justice and fairness, whereupon the divine man stretched out his hands and embraced both his feet. 
"Will you grant me a petition I would like to make to you?" he asked.

The prefect was embarrassed and begged him to get up, at the same time promising to agree to his request, thinking that he probably wanted to ask a favour for someone over whom he had jurisdiction.
"Since you have made a promise," said the divine man, "and confirmed it with an oath, please offer fervent and vigorous prayer to God for me."
The prefect beat his forehead and begged to be released from his oath, as somebody who was not worthy to offer prayers for him to God. How can any amount of talking praise him enough to do justice to his wisdom and modesty and discretion?
Various different illnesses might attack him but had no effect on his zeal for the labours he undertook. His routine was exactly the same however many illnesses he suffered. It was only after a long argument with him soon after building his little dwelling that we succeeded in introducing a little heating into it, for his body was freezing cold. Many people offered him money, or left it behind with him as they went out, but he refused always to accept any of it. Instead  he asked them to share it out to others. Later, the great Jacobus gave him a cloak which someone had given him, but he sent it back, saying it was too thick and elegant. He always wore the plainest and cheapest clothing. He rated so highly the poverty in which to seek the kingdom of heaven that often he did not even have enough food. I know I have often been there to seek his blessing and found that all he had was two figs. The honey of his words was highly sought after by those who came to see him, and was highly pleasant and full of joy for those who heard. I have never known anyone except the shallow and sarcastic who have ever been able to find fault with him. Everyone praises him and celebrates him, and when they come to see him are always reluctant to leave.


Chapter XXV
ASCLEPIUS AND JACOBUS, HERMITS


Asclepius was of this same category, and emulated his style of life ten miles away. He had similar food and clothing and habits of self-control, charity towards brothers and guests, gentleness and kindness, and conversation with God, extreme poverty and an abundance of virtues, the fruits of his search for wisdom, and all the other things which I have told you concerning Polychronius, that chief of men. They say that when he was numbered among the brothers living in community, he embraced the monastic, ordered life, and never did anything wrong in spite of being in the midst of such a crowd of people. So then, he conducted himself so well in both lives, that is, the community life and the solitary life, that he is worthy of a double crown.
Later, many others followed his path of virtue. Not just our own state but neighbouring states and countries too are full of such seekers after wisdom. The divine Jacobus is one of them, enclosed in a little dwelling just outside a village called Duzan. Even towards the end of his life (he is ninety years old), he still lives alone within his ditch and rampart, shaped in a curve. He gives answers to people but will not allow himself to be seen, except that twice he has told me to break through the wall and come in, which was a great honour for me, to have him show me such good will.
People who are still living at this time do not need my writings; they can go and witness his search for wisdom for themselves if they want to. But what I have written should be sufficient for those who come after and who did not actually see him to be able to grasp the nature of his way of life. So I leave him now, and say no more, but asking the blessing of his prayers, go on to talk about someone else.


Chapter XXVI
SIMEON STYLITES

Every subject of the Roman Empire knows of the famous Simeon, the great wonder of the world. The Persians know of him as well, as do the Indians and Ethiopians; in fact his fame has spread even as far as the Nomads of Scythia, where they have learnt about his diligence and way of life. Let me say at once that if I did not have so many witnesses, I would hesitate to describe his battles, which are greater than it is possible to tell, lest posterity should hold them as mere fables destitute of all truth. For they are greater than you would think possible for human nature, and human beings, of course, are apt to judge of what they hear according to the limits of human nature. And if what they hear exceeds those limits, those who are not partakers of the divine mysteries judge it to be false. But the earth and sea are full of godly members of the true religion, well instructed in divine matters, who are aware of the grace of the holy Spirit and are so far from disbelieving what I am about to narrate that their faith will become even greater, and they will readily accept my tale with keen interest. It is on that basis that I will begin by describing how he was worthy of a vocation from above.
He was born in a village called Sefa on the border between our country and Cilicia, where his parents taught him to keep sheep. In this respect he was in the good company of the patriarch Jacob, the disciplined Joseph, the legislator Moses, the king and prophet David, and all those other divine men like them. Once when it had been snowing heavily the sheep had to be kept inside, and in this period of rest from active shepherding he went to church with his parents. His own holy tongue told me this next bit. For he said that he heard the voice of the gospel saying 'blessed are they who weep and mourn, wretched are they who mock, blessed are the pure in heart', and the rest of this passage. (Matthew 5.4ff). He asked one of those present what one should do to follow all these things, and was told about the solitary life and its high way of searching for wisdom.
He said that after receiving these seeds of the divine word, fruitfully planted in the deepest furrow of his heart, he went to a nearby shrine of the holy martyrs, bent his knees and touched the ground with his forehead, and prayed to him who 'wills all people to be saved' (1 Timothy 2.4), begging that he might be led into the perfect way of godliness and true religion. Not long after this he was sleeping peacefully when he had a dream.
"I seemed to be digging foundations," he said, "and I heard someone standing nearby telling me that I must dig much deeper. When I had dug deeper as he asked, I tried to have a rest, but he told me to keep on digging and not to cease from my labour. This happened three or four times, until at last he told me I was deep enough. He then told me to build but use no labour, for the labour had ceased, and the future building would appear without labour."
Future events proved this prediction to be true, for what happened was beyond the power of human nature.
When he awoke he went to a nearby house of monks. He stayed there for two years, seized by a deep desire to become perfect in virtue, then went to the village of Teleda, which we have already mentioned, where the great and divine men Ammianus and Eusebius had built their monastic dwelling. But he did not join them; he went instead to another house which was an offshoot, a training ground in the search for wisdom built by Eusebonas and Abiton after they had been sufficiently instructed by Eusebius. These two spent their whole life in harmony with each other in mind and deed. They were like one soul in two bodies, and had many others with them who were gripped by a love for this kind of life.
After they had departed this life, Heliodorus was in charge. He was greatly admired by his companions. At the age of sixty-five he had lived an enclosed life for sixty-two years, for his parents had looked after him for only three years before he entered this community, so that he had never set eyes on many things in this world. He used to say that he did not know what pigs looked like, or cockerels or other such animals. I often saw him, and I admired his simplicity of life and likewise valued his marvellous purity of soul.
That outstanding athlete of godliness, Simeon, fought the battle among them for ten years. There were eighty of them, but he overshadowed them all. Whereas the others ate every second day, he fasted for the whole week, which those superior to him by no means approved of. They argued with him, saying that he was upsetting the regular order of things, though nothing that they said made him change his mind, or succeeded in putting checks upon his spiritual zeal.
The present superior of this community told me that Simeon once made a rope out of palm leaves, which are the most sharp and prickly things, and wound it round his loins, not outwardly but next to his skin, and pulled it so tight that wherever it touched him he became quite ulcerous. After wearing it for ten days the ulcers began to bleed, and someone who noticed this asked him why he was bleeding. He said it was nothing, but his companion forcefully put his hand inside his clothing and discovered the reason. He reported it to the superior, who scolded him and entreated him and emphasised the cruelty of it, and managed to persuade him to desist only with great difficulty. Later on, when it was discovered that he was doing other things of this sort he was expelled from the monastery, lest others who did not have such bodily endurance should try to emulate him, to their great detriment.
He went to a more solitary place on the mountain where he found a very deep gully, without any water supply, into which he lowered himself down and began to offer to God his hymns of praise. Meanwhile the seniors in the monastery began to suffer a few pangs of conscience, and they sent two of the brothers out to find him and bring him back. They wandered over the mountain telling the shepherds what he looked like and how he was dressed and asking them if they had seen him. The shepherds pointed out the gully, and when they saw it they cried out in astonishment, and they had to get a rope in order to draw him out after a great deal of trouble, as it was a place much easier to get into than to get out of. 
He stayed with them for a while longer before going to the village of Tellanessus, near Antioch, where he took possession of the mountaintop where he now lives. He found a little dwelling there in which he spent three years completely enclosed.
And then in an attempt to augment his store of virtue, he decided to fast completely for forty days like those divine men Moses and Elijah. He tried to persuade the admirable Bassus, who administered many communities in his capacity of leader among the ranks of the priesthood, to block up with clay the entrance to his dwelling, leaving nothing behind inside. Bassus objected that a self-inflicted death should by no means be accounted a virtue, but rather was a crime first and foremost.
"All right, father," said Simeon, "leave me ten loaves, and a jar of water, and if I see that my body is in need of some nourishment I will take some of it."
It was done as he asked. The food was brought in, and the entrance was blocked up with clay. At the end of the forty days, that admirable man of God, Bassus, came and removed the clay, went inside, and found the same number of loaves as before, the jar still full of water, and Simeon himself lying down, scarcely breathing, unable to speak or move. He found a sponge and moistened and washed his mouth with it, after which he brought him the elements of the divine Sacrament. Strengthened by this, he revived, and took a little food, some lettuce and watercress, which he ate a little at a time, and managed to swallow.
The great Bassus was astonished, and came back to tell his own flock of this great miracle. He had more than two hundred companions, who were allowed to possess neither a beast of burden nor a mill. They were not allowed to accept gold from anyone, not go out at all to buy what was necessary, but stayed in, content with what food was given them by divine grace. They maintain that rule to this day, and however much they may increase in numbers, they do not transgress against the rule they have been given. But let me return to the great Simeon.
From that time right up to the present day, that is, for twenty-eight years, he has practised fasting for forty days. For the first few days he would stand to praise God, but by keeping at it and as the time went by he had to modify that labour. Weakness of body would not permit him to keep standing. Then he would have to sit to say the divine office, and in the last few days he would lie down. And as little by little his natural forces got weaker and weaker, he had no option but to lie there half dead. But after he went up onto his column he never once thought of coming down and devised a means of remaining there standing. For he set up a large beam of timber on top of his column and fastened himself to it with ropes, and spent the whole forty days like that. From that time onwards his superiors tolerated what he was doing and accepted that he did not need any help. He stood for the whole forty days, taking no food, but with the liveliness of his soul strengthened by divine grace.
As we have said, he spent three years in that little dwelling before coming to the top of that mountain which has since been so famously celebrated. He caused a fence to be built around the place, and took a chain of twenty cubits length, one end of which he fixed to a large stone, and the other to his ankle, so that even if he wanted to, it was impossible for him to go beyond the limit he had set. There he stayed, seeking the vision of heaven, drawing strength from the contemplation of those things which are above the heavens, the flight of his mind in no way impeded by his chains of iron.
But later that admirable man Meletius was given the episcopal care of the city of Antioch and the region roundabout, a judicious man, famous for his prudence and adorned with unusual brilliance. He declared that Simeon's chain was superfluous, for it was quite enough that the mind should impose upon the body the limitation imposed by the chain. So in obedience to the bishop he agreed to cease using the chain. A smith was called and instructed to remove it. Now there was a piece of leather next to his shinbone sewn together round the chain for bodily protection, and when of necessity that was cut apart, they say that they found twenty great insects hiding in its folds. Meletius himself attested that that was what he saw. I have mentioned this to demonstrate what great fortitude this man had, for he could easily have turned back the leather and destroyed the insects. But he preferred to put up with their fierce bites, and aspire to higher things by enduring the small things.
His fame spread through all the region roundabout, and people came from near and far, some bringing with them people with paralysis, some seeking healing of their own illnesses, others asking to become monks, for what naturally they found hard to accept they willingly accepted from him. When all these people had obtained what they had asked for, they went away rejoicing, telling every one about the benefits they had received, and sending back many more to seek for the same sort of things. All these people coming from everywhere were like rivers flowing down every road, and they gathered together in that place like a human ocean filling up with streams from all directions. There was a flood of people not only locally but there were Ishmaelites, and Persians and Armenians and Iberes, and Homerites, and others from further away still. Many came even from the far West, Spaniards and Britons, and Gauls. It is hardly necessary to add that they came also from Italy; they say that at Rome, by far the greatest city, he was so eulogised in sermons that people placed little images of him in all their porches and doorways, to make themselves safe through his protection.
People without number kept on coming to him, trying to touch him in order to receive a blessing from his clothing of skins. At first he just thought it was ridiculous and unnecessary for such high honour to be paid to him, but eventually he found that he could hardly bear all the extra vexation it caused. So he organised that column to stand on, at first ordering it to be of six cubits, then twelve, and later twenty, and finally thirty-six which is what it is today. It was part of his desire to fly away into the heavens and free himself from things of the earth.
I don't believe that the building of this column is contrary to the divine plan, and I urge those who delight in pouring scorn on it to hold their tongue and not let it wag so thoughtlessly. They should rather remember that the Lord has arranged many things like that for the benefit of the slothful. He ordered Isaiah to walk naked and barefoot (Isaiah 20.2), Jeremiah to put a girdle about his loins as a prophetic act for the benefit of the unbelieving (Jeremiah 13.1), and later to put yokes of wood and steel on his neck (Jeremiah 27.2). He ordered Hosea to take back his fornicating wife and show his love for that fornicating and adulterous woman (Hosea 1.2), and Ezekiel to lie on his right side for forty days, and then on his left side for a hundred and fifty days (Ezekiel 4.5-6), to dig through the walls, to go forth as of one going into captivity, and even to take a sharp blade to shave his head, and divide his hair into four parts, giving some to these people and some to those, so that no one would be able to count them completely. The Ruler of the universe ordered all these things to be done in order to bring to their senses those who did not obey his word or listen to the prophets, convincing them by these extraordinary spectacles, and making them pay heed to the oracles of God. Who would not be utterly astonished at the sight of the divine man going naked? Who would not wonder why he was doing that? Who would not want to know how a prophet could allow a fornicating woman to live with him?
But the God of all ordered each one of these things to be done because of his great concern for those who were living disgracefully and slothfully. And so he provided this wonderful new spectacle [of Simeon on his column], drawing everybody to come and see it for its sheer novelty and wonder, making sure that those who came would get a lesson they could believe in. The novelty of the spectacle was in itself a pledge of true teaching, and anyone who came to see it went away having learnt something of the nature of God. For just as human kings from time to time change the images on their coins, putting a lion on some, stars on another, Angels on another, making the gold more valuable because of the image stamped upon it, so does the high King of the universe add to the godliness of the true religion many new ways of living, as if imprinting pictures and seals, not just for the sake of those who are of the household of the faith, but to encourage the tongues of all those who suffer under the disease of unbelief to turn towards the praise of God.
It was not just words that persuaded them of this, but the sight of the column itself, which itself spoke volumes. This simple fact of a man standing on a column enlightened countless thousands of Ishmaelites who had been slaves to a blind ungodliness. For just like a very bright candle placed on a lamp stand, he shed his rays all about like the sun, and, as I have said, he saw the Iberes, the Persians and the Armenians all coming to receive divine Baptism. The Ishmaelites also came in crowds, two or three hundred at a time, sometimes even a thousand, shouting their rejection of the errors of their forefathers. In the face of that great source of light, they utterly did away with the idols they used to worship, and denounced the orgies of Venus, for they accepted that this was the worship of demons, as Simeon repeated from on high time after time. They received the divine Sacraments, and accepted the rules which that divine tongue laid down. They gave their assent to the rites of the fathers, and renounced the barbaric cult of asses and camels. I saw and heard all this myself, as they condemned the ungodliness of their native land and accepted the teaching of the gospels.
I once got into a very dangerous situation, for Simeon suggested to them that they should come to me for a priestly blessing, from which he said they would receive a great benefit. When this great mass of barbarians came rushing towards me a little later, some of them dragged me forwards, some backwards, some sideways. Those on the outskirts of the crowd pushed in, stretching out their hands to touch my beard or seize my garments, so that truly I would have been suffocated by the way they crowded around so violently, if Simeon had not shouted out for them all to move away. Such was the kind of power, ridiculed by the spiteful, which flowed from that column, as Simeon radiated the light of the knowledge of God into the minds of the barbarians.
There is another thing which I saw happening like this: one tribe of people present begged him to say a prayer and give a blessing to their leader, but the people of another tribe which was there objected, saying that he ought not to bless the leader of that tribe but give a blessing to the leader of their own tribe, for the other leader was a tyrant, whereas their own was absolutely just. The argument was so great and barbarous that they eventually began to attack each other. I stepped in with a prolonged appeal, and tried to persuade them to desist, on the grounds that the divine man was perfectly able to give a blessing to both of them. But some still continued to complain that the others should not be included, and the others still tried to prevent a blessing being given to their opponents. It was not until Simeon scolded them from above, likening them to baying dogs, that the quarrel subsided. I tell you this to show how deeply their belief had taken hold of their minds, for they would not have quarrelled among themselves if they had not believed in the great power of his blessing.
I saw another greatly celebrated miracle. The leader of one of the Saracen tribes came to ask help for one of his company whose limbs had been stricken with paralysis when they were in the great fortress of Callinicus in the course of their journey. The paralysed man was brought forward, Simeon asked him if he would renounce the ungodliness of his people, he freely consented and did what he was asked. Simeon asked him if he believed in the Father, the only-begotten Son and holy Spirit, and he replied that he did.
"By your belief in these names," said Simeon, "arise!"
He got up, and immediately offered to carry the leader of his tribe back to his tent on his own shoulders. The leader agreed, and they departed. All those present lifted up their voices in praise to God. It was in imitation of the Lord who ordered the paralysed man to pick up his bed that he did this (Matthew 9.6). Let no one call this action some sort of arbitrary power. For his own voice tells us, 'whosoever believes in me shall do the same works as I do, and even greater' (John 14.12). And we have seen the fulfilment of this promise. For whereas there were no miracles done by the Lord's shadow, yet the mere shadow of the great Peter broke the power of death, healed the sick and drove out demons (Acts 5.15). The Lord did miracles through his disciples, and now likewise the divine Simeon did many miracles by the use of the divine name. 

There was another miracle that he did, hardly less wonderful than the other. Among those who had come to believe in the saving name of the Lord Christ was an Ishmaelite from a quite well known place who made a vow to God, with the divine man as witness, that he would abstain from that time onwards from eating the flesh of any living creature. Somehow or other there came an occasion when he transgressed against his promise, and attempted to eat something that had been killed. But God wished to rebuke him and make him change his mind, in honour of his servant who had been a witness of the promise which had now been transgressed, so he turned the flesh of the chicken to stone. Even if he had wanted to, he was no longer able to eat it. How could he indeed, when the flesh which he wanted to eat had been turned to stone? This barbarian was stupefied by this amazing and unbelievable sight, and went to the holy man as quickly as possible, bringing his hidden sin into the light of day, confessing his transgression in the hearing of all, and seeking pardon of God for his offence, and the assistance of the holy man that by his all-powerful prayers he might loose him from the chains of his sin. There were many who witnessed this miracle, for they saw about his person some of the chicken bone turned into stone.

I not only witnessed miracles, I also heard him predicting the future. Two years before it happened he predicted a drought and consequent harvest failure, together with the famine and pestilence that went with it. He said he had seen a great rod lifted up against the human race, with whips attached to punish them. At another time he said there would be a plague of locusts, but that they would not cause a great deal of harm as the divine mercy would be poured out in response to prayer. Thirty days later a numberless multitude of them descended on us, such as to block out the rays of the sun and overshadow us all. We all saw this plainly and clearly. But only the animals' pasture suffered any loss; human food took no harm whatsoever.

And also when I was in a dispute with somebody he told me that the dispute would come to an end fifteen days before experience proved the truth of his prediction.

He also saw two rods coming down from the heavens, one falling in the East and the other in the West. The divine man interpreted these as incursions against Roman rule by the Persians and the Scythians, and he explained the vision to those who were present with him, and with many tears and earnest prayers he turned aside those blows which were threatening the world. For the Persians were already armed and ready to attack the Romans, when with the will of God against them they were hindered right from the beginning, torn apart by their own internal arguments. I know of a whole lot more incidents like this, but I pass over them to avoid being accused of prolixity. What I have told you is sufficient to establish the spiritual vision his mind was capable of.

He was so highly thought of by the king of Persia, that he sent envoys to Simeon, wanting to know about his life and miracles. It is also said that the queen of Persia asked that he might bless some oil for her, which she accepted as a very valuable gift. All the king's court attendants were very excited when they heard about this, in spite of hearing calumnies about him from the learned magicians. They asked innumerable questions about him, and having learnt as much as they could, made the name of that divine man even more widely known. Crowds of other people approached the muleteers, the servants and the soldiers, offering money to be given a share in the blessed oil.

The queen of the Ishmaelites was sterile but longed for children. She sent someone of dignity and authority to him to ask that she might become a mother. He made his petition, she gave birth as she had desired, and the king took the child and brought him to the divine old man (for women were not allowed to approach him), and asked if this had happened because of his blessing.

"No, it was your act that did it," said Simeon. "I simply poured out with tears the seed of prayer. It was your seed that resulted in the harvest when you drew down the shower of divine grace through prayer."

But why should I attempt to measure the depth of the Atlantic ocean? Human beings cannot measure it, just as the deeds he did daily defy the telling of them. He stood night and day in full view of all. He had no doors, he could be approached from all directions, providing a novel and wonderful sight for everybody, now standing for a long time, now bending frequently to offer adoration to God. Many of those present counted his adorations; somebody who was with me once counted up to twelve hundred and fifty-four before he made a mistake and lost count. As a result of so much bending he was able to move his forehead very close to his toes. For since his stomach took food only once a week, and that only a small amount, about as much as sharing in the divine Sacraments, it meant that his back could bend very easily. They say that as a result of standing on one leg he developed an ulcer which exuded matter, but nothing that happened to him impeded his way of life. He endured with a brave and generous heart both voluntary and involuntary sufferings, triumphing over them all by the devotion of his soul.

On one occasion he was compelled to show this ulcer to somebody. What happened was this: a good man, highly thought of in the ministry of Christ visited him from Arabena .

"Tell me the truth," he said, "what sort of a man is it who changes his life as you have done. Are you really human, or are you an incorporeal spirit?"

The bystanders were annoyed at his interrogation and told him to hold his tongue, but Simeon answered him.

"Why are you interrogating me like this?" he asked.

"Because I hear it commonly said that you neither eat nor sleep, but both are necessary for human beings. No one clothed in human nature can live without food and sleep."

"Get a ladder and come up here," said Simeon.

And as soon as his hand appeared over the top of the ladder he lifted the hem of his long robe and guided the hand to his feet, where the man saw not only Simeon's feet but also that grievous ulcer. He was amazed at the size of it. Simeon also told him how he was nourished, and when the man came back down the ladder, he came to me and told me all about it.

On public feast days he demonstrated another example of his powers of endurance. From the setting of the sun till the time when it once more approached the western horizon he stood with his hands raised in prayer, sleepless, bearing the labour of it without difficulty. In all his labours, notwithstanding the magnitude of all the deeds he performed, he was gifted with a modesty and self-control which made him the most dignified of all human beings. To go with his modesty, he made it easy for people to approach him, for he was pleasantly friendly, and gave equal attention to all who spoke to him, whether they were workmen, beggars or agricultural workers. He was given the gift of teaching by a generous and bountiful God. Twice daily he gave little homilies, pouring the water of life into the ears of his audience. He spoke quite beautifully, showing the discipline of a divine spirit, urging them to look upwards and open their wings, leaving the world far behind, to seek for the vision of the expected kingdom, to stand in fear of the punishment of hell, to despise the things of the earth and to look for the world to come. He could also be seen acting as a judge, whose verdicts were always right and proper.

It was always after the ninth hour that he did things of that nature. The whole night, and the day up to the ninth hour he gave to perpetual prayer. First of all at the ninth hour he would preach to those present, then he would listen to individual requests, curing some, giving judgments to others among whom there was some dispute. At sunset he would begin to turn towards the Lord. But along with all these things he did not fail in care and forethought for the holy churches, now confronting the ungodliness of the pagans, now confuting the impudence of the Jews, now vanquishing and putting to flight the hordes of heretics, and, what is more, writing letters to the Emperor about them. He would write also to community leaders and magistrates, inciting them to zeal for the Lord, and sometimes to the chief pastors of the churches, urging them to take greater care for their flock.

By describing to you these few raindrops I hope to have given readers some idea of a life-giving shower of rain, or what it is like to taste the sweetest honey. But there are a great deal more things than these to be sung about and celebrated. However, I did not promise to write down everything, but just a few things in his life to show his style and character. Let others write much more about him as they will.

He lived for a long time after this, with many miracles and labours, in the heat of the sun, in the ice of winter, buffeted by the gales, in the weakness of his human nature, remaining alone invincible out of all who ever were, until at last it behoved him to be with Christ and receive the crown for his immense labours, confirming to unbelievers by his death that he was but human. Even after death he remained immoveable, for although his soul had gone to heaven his body was not allowed to fall, but stayed upright on his battlefield, an unconquered athlete, none of his members willing to touch the earth, proclaiming the victory of the athlete of Christ even in his death.

His cures of various diseases, his miracles, the power of his holy work are all just as much celebrated now in various holy reliquaries, as they were at the time, but above all now in that monument to his high virtue and daily strife, that great and celebrated column, proclaiming, I say, Simeon's righteousness and praise.

I hope that I may share in his holy intercessions, that I may persevere in holy labours, and I pray to God who provides for us all, the God who is the splendour of devotion and true religion, to govern my life, and shape me into the mould of the gospel.

 

 

Chapter XXVII

BARADATUS

The common enemy of human beings has many paths of vice through which he strives to lead to perdition the whole human race, whereas the followers of the true religion think up many different ladders whereby they may ascend to heaven. Some strive together in communities, of which there is a countless number, to enjoy the crown incorruptible by ascending to heaven together. Others choose the monastic [i.e solitary] life aiming to speak with God alone and enjoying no human consolation. Their victories are publicly renowned. Some of these praise God living in tents, some in huts, some choose life in caves and caverns. But there are many others among those we have mentioned who have decided not to use either cavern, tent, cave or hut, but to commit their bodies to the open air, enduring all conditions, the most rock-hard ice equally with the burning rays of the sun. Among them again there are various modes of living. Some always stand, some divide their time between standing and sitting, some shut themselves in behind fences, fleeing from human company, others use none of these devices, but are available for all who want to see them. It is as one of this latter sort that I now need to describe the life of the admirable Baradatus, for he found quite different ways of showing endurance.

At first he enclosed himself for quite a long time in a little dwelling, enjoying solitary contemplation. From there he went to a cliff face, where he built for himself a small box-like structure, which was in no way conformed to the dimensions of a human body, but in which he had to live bent double, for neither its depth nor its length was of a convenient size. Nor was it of a single wooden surface, but constructed more like the latticework of an open window letting in the light. So he was not protected from the force of the rain nor was there any shade from the heat of the sun, both of which had as free entry there as to anywhere else under the sun. But he was concerned with overcoming only in those matters concerned with the work of being enclosed.

Having spent a long time like this, he at last came out in response to the entreaties of Theodoret, the bishop of Antioch. But he still stood diligently lifting up his hands in praise to the God of all, his whole body hidden beneath a tunic of skins. Only around his nose and mouth was there an opening left for the entry of the spirit as he breathed, using the air common to all, without which human nature is not able to survive. He endured all this work in a body which was not very robust, but liable to ill health because of various ailments. But he was fervent and eager of spirit, he burned with the love of God, compelling him to labour even though he should not really have been capable of labouring.

He was gifted with wisdom and intelligence, seeking always the best things and responding to them. The force of his reasoning ability was often better and more compelling than those who read the labyrinthine books of Aristotle. Although he reached a high level of competence in this ability, he did not let his spirit be carried away by arrogance, which he simply ordered to creep away downwards around the side of the mountain. So his mind did not take a great deal of harm from any kind of bursting burning insolence. And that sums up his character.

It was given to him to travel in his pilgrimage to the very furthest limits, that is, to the glory of those who have obtained the victory, a cause of joy to all the faithful. May it be granted to me, that supported by their prayers, I may be found not far from that high peak, where ascending little by little I may find fulfilment in the joy of the contemplation which is theirs.

 

 

Chapter XXVIII

THALELAEUS

I will not keep silent about Thalelaeus, who offers us the sight of many miracles. I not only heard about him from others, but saw him myself, an undeniably marvellous sight. He built his little hut on a mound about twenty miles from Gabala, a small but very elegant city. There was a temple on this mound dedicated to demons, to whom were offered many sacrifices by the ungodly of old times, it is said, as they sought to propitiate by their worship the cruelty of those wretched and accursed spirits. They caused a great deal of harm to many people, not only those who lived there but to neighbouring people as well. And not only to human beings, but to asses and mules and oxen and sheep, not that they waged war against animals but that they used them to prepare traps for human beings.

When they saw him coming they tried very hard to frighten him, but had no success because he was fortified against them by faith and carried the war to them by grace. Filled with rage and madness, they attacked some trees which were planted there, for the mound had a number of flourishing figs and olives. They say that more than fifty of them were suddenly torn up. I heard this from several farmers nearby, who had formerly been bound under the yoke of ungodliness, but had now received the light of the knowledge of God through the teaching and miracles of Thalelaeus. When the pernicious and wretched demons failed to terrify this athlete seeking for wisdom, they prepared some other tricks against him. At night they would howl and flash lights in an effort to terrify him and send him mad. But he laughed at all their insults, until at last they were forced to leave him alone and flee.

He constructed two separate wheels of two cubits diameter, without spokes, and then using wedges and nails joined them together with boards in such a way as to form a barrel. He took three large beams to form a tripod which he fixed in the ground in the open air, and suspended the barrel in it by a rope tied round the boards. The space which he had inside was of two cubits high and one cubit depth. Sitting in it, or rather suspended in it, he spent ten years without a break. Since he had a very large body, when sitting down he could not keep his neck erect, but always sat in a curved position, with his knees against his face.

When I visited him I found him drawing inspiration from reading the Gospels. I asked him a few questions, wanting to know why he had started to live in this way. He spoke in Greek, for he came from Cilix.

"Liable to sin in many ways as I am," he said, "and believing in the threatened punishments which hang over me, I thought out this way of life so that by punishing my body with some fairly hard penalties I might escape from the enormous size of the punishment to come. These punishments are involuntary, more severe not only in quantity but in quality. Punishments of the involuntary sort are very bitter. But voluntary punishments, even if very laborious, are much less grievous, because they are undertaken of one's own free will; they are not a labour which has been violently forced upon one. And if by means of these small penances I can diminish the punishment I deserve, it is a great gain for me."

I could not but admire the ingenuity of what he told me. He had not only broken out of the fenced enclosure which he had already made, but had thought up different ways of waging war. It was not just that he battled in this particular way, but that he understood the reasons for it and was able to teach others about it.

His followers say that many miracles were performed through his prayers. He cared not only for humans but also for camels, asses and mules. A whole community of people who had formerly been imprisoned in ungodliness were thus enabled to renounce the errors of their forefathers and accept the splendour of the divine light. With their help he destroyed the temple of the demons and built a great shrine to the victory of the glorious martyrs, proclaiming that those gods who were falsely called gods were dead.

May it be granted through their prayers that when battle is consummated in victory, we may be aided by both Thalelaeus and the martyrs to embrace more diligently the struggle of the search for wisdom.

 

Chapter XXIX

MARANA AND CYRA

 Having written about the lives of the best and most outstanding men, I think I should mention the valuable work of women who have striven no less valiantly, if not more so. They are indeed more worthy of being praised, for in spite of being physically weaker, they display the same diligence of spirit as the men in liberating the human race from the disgrace which was inflicted on our first parent. I will now write about Marana and Cyra, who surpassed all the others in enduring the strife.

They were born of a prominent family in Berhoea, and educated in a manner befitting their status. But despising all that, they occupied a narrow gully outside the city, and once inside blocked up the entrance with stones and clay. They wished their servants also to share in this kind of life, so they built a separate dwelling outside their enclosure for them to live in. The two women had a small window through which they could see what the others were doing, and they regularly urged them to prayer and to rise up to the love of God. They themselves had no house or even a hut, but of their own free will lived in the open air. There was a small hatch in their doorway through which they received such food as was necessary, and through which they conversed with any women who came to see them. The season of Pentecost was assigned to these conversations, at other times they preserved silence. It was only Marana who spoke to visitors, Cyra never heard any human voices at all. They wore iron about their persons, which was so heavy that Cyra, who was the weaker physically, was bent down under its weight, to the extent that she could barely stand upright. They wore long veils which trailed behind them, entirely covering their feet, and were tied down to their girdles in front to cover their faces, necks, breasts and hands.

I often was allowed in through their door to visit them. They ordered their door to be opened to me in deference to the dignity of the priesthood. I saw that the weight of iron they carried was more than many a brave and strong man would be able to carry. By making a forceful request I was able to see them removed, but after I had gone they put them back on again, a collar around the neck, chains around their loins, hands and feet also similarly weighed down. They lived like this not just for ten or even twenty years, but for forty-two. In their striving over such a long period they always felt as if they were just beginning their battle, and they found joy in their labours. They had grasped hold of the beauty of their bridegroom, which made all their labour easy, and urged them on to the goal of their struggle, for they found their delight in it, and earned the crown of victory. The forces of rain and snow and the heat of the sun caused them neither sorrow nor suffering, but they rejoiced in spirit because of these seeming hindrances. And they emulated Moses in his fasting. Three times a year they went without food for forty days except for a very small amount. Three times a year they emulated the way Daniel abstained from food, fasting for three weeks. (Daniel 10.2)

They once fulfilled a wish to see the holy places of the passion of Christ, and on the way to Jerusalem they ate nothing, and even after they had arrived they did not eat until they had completed their adoration. On the way back they also fasted, and it is a journey of not less than twenty days.

When they wanted to visit the shrine to the victory of the wonderful Thecla in Isauria, so that they might fuel the flames of their love towards God in every possible place, they went and came back fasting in exactly the same way. Their love towards God made them celebrate with a sort of divine passion, the divine love they had for their bridegroom increased their enthusiasm.

And these two ornaments of the female sex by living such lives have become examples to others, and have been crowned by the Lord with the crown of victory. I hope what I have written may be found useful, and having begged for their blessing, I pass on to write about someone else.

 

 Chapter XXX

DOMNINA

In emulating the life of the divine Maro, whom I have already written about, the admirable Domnina built a small hut in the garden of her mother's house. She made it out of reeds. With floods of tears she not only watered her cheeks but also the garment made of hair with which she covered her body. Around cock-crow she would go to the nearby church, along with other men and women, to offer praise to the God of all. She did this not only at the beginning of each day but at the end, setting an example to others by her conviction that a place consecrated to God was more suitable for worship than any other. By doing this she exerted a widespread influence, as well as persuading her mother and brothers that they should give themselves to this discipline.

Her food was lentils soaked in water. She undertook such labours that her body was dried up and only half alive. A lightweight skin garment, almost as thin as piece of paper, was what she threw over her slender bones, from which the flesh and fat was all wasted away because of her labours. She would not look at the faces of anyone who came to see her, whether they were men or women, nor would she show her face for anyone else to see. She was almost entirely concealed beneath her garment, and she would bend forward almost down to her knees when speaking in a very small, indistinct voice. Often, when she took my right hand and turned her eyes towards it, it was thoroughly soaked by the time she let it go before shaking the tears off her own hand.
What can I say in praise of the great works she undertook in her search for wisdom, her weeping, her lamenting, her groaning as if she were in the depths of poverty. The force of her love for God brought forth her tears, ignited her desire for divine contemplation, goaded her with pangs of remorse, and urged her onwards to her future departure from this earth.
But however much she was occupied night and day in such exercises, she did not overlook her concern for other schools of virtue, but encouraged the development of the most pre-eminent athletes, both those whom I have written about and those I have not. She took thought also for those who came to visit her, getting some of them to live near the pastor of the community, while she herself supplied all their necessities. She also persuaded her mother and brothers to gain a blessing by subsidising this venture. She even provided me with bread and fruit and steeped lentils when I came to this district (it is in the southern part of our region).
I have carried on my writings as far as this in an endeavour to describe all these kinds of virtue, since it behoves us to have examples offered us of lives which can be imitated, such as Domnina and the others whom I have mentioned. There are many other women, some of whom have embraced the solitary life, some who have chosen to live with groups of between two and five hundred or more, and a few who dine together, but who sleep on rush mats outside the institution, turning their hands to spinning, and consecrating their tongues to psalmody. There are countless schools of wisdom like this, not only in this region but indeed throughout all the East. Palestine, Egypt, Asia, Pontus and the whole of Europe are full of them. Christ the Lord holds virginity in great respect, and fertilises the natural flowers that are born of virginity, gently anointing them, and offering to the Creator flowers that will not fade away. He makes no distinction between male and female, nor allows any differences in their search for wisdom; there is a difference of bodies but not of souls. In Christ Jesus, as the Apostle says, there is neither male nor female (Galatians 3.28). There is one faith for both women and men, 'there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, on God and father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in us all' (Ephesians 4.5). The lifelong battle promises one kingdom of heaven to the victors, this is the reward for all who take up the struggle.
So, as I have said, there are many establishments of godliness both for men and for women not only among us, but also in the whole of Syria. Palestine and Cilicia, and in the land between the two rivers. They say that in Egypt there are more than five thousand men who have functioning monasteries, where they praise God and celebrate him with psalmody, not only providing for their own necessary food  by the work of their hands, but also providing hospitality, and giving alms to the needy.
But neither I nor all the writers in the world could possibly tell it all, and I think that it is unnecessary for everything possible to be recorded. Such a desire springs from those to whom the opportunity of fame has not been given. What has already been written is quite sufficient to set forth what is needed by those who are seeking for guidance.
So we have described a diverse selection of lives, both of men and of women, so that old men, young men and women might have set before them examples of the search for wisdom, and let each individual person choose the life story which most nearly gives expression to what is in their own heart, and make of that life a rule and benchmark for their own life. Let them imagine what their chosen example was like, let them imitate his eyes, his nose, his cheeks, his forehead, his head and the hairs of his beard, the way he sits and the way he stands, even the expression of his eyes whether they are happy and keen, or severe and angry. This is what everyone who reads these writings must do if they wish to imitate any particular life and make it their own. Carpenters mark their boards in red and cut off what they do not need, until they can see that their boards correspond to what is in their plans. In the same way, anyone wishing to imitate the life of another should set a plan before himself, cut off his superfluous vices, and develop the virtues in which he is lacking. This is the only reason we have undertaken these writings, in the hope of being of some use to anyone who will.
I beg all my readers to take pleasure without any effort in the labours of others, and to add their prayers to those labours. And I pray to those whose lives I have written that they do not forget me, living as I do far from their spiritual choirs, but draw me after them, raise me to the heights of virtue and make me a member of their choir, so that not only I may praise the riches of others, but that I may also have the opportunity of giving praise, glorifying in deed and word and thought the Saviour of all, to whom with the Father and the holy Spirit be glory now and for ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

End of Book IX

 

 

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De Vitis Patrum, Book X

By John Moschus

Translated into Latin by Ambrosius Camaldulensis



In Praise of the Author
This "Book of the Meadow", or Life of the Saints, was written by John, surnamed Moschus, of blessed memory. He was a presbyter and monk, and began his life of renunciation in the monastery of our holy father Theodosius, abbot and archimandrite of all the cenobia and monasteries of Jerusalem. Its subject is the virtues of the God-loving fathers, and other accounts of great benefit to the soul, that is, the words of the holy and righteous Christ-loving fathers and brothers. He lived for quite some time with the holy fathers who lived in the desert near the sacred Jordan, and gathered together [accounts of] their virtues, which he then included in this book. He lived for a while in the so-called "New" monastery, built by our great and holy Father Saba and his disciples, which remains with us to this day. When he heard of the tyranny with which the Persians were oppressing the Romans after the murder of the Emperor Mauritius [died 602] and his children, he left the New monastery and went to the region of Great Antioch. Here he found the heathen in control, and moved on again to Alexandria from where he travelled through all the deserts roundabout. (He had previously been sent to Egypt for administrative purposes at the beginning of [the reign of] the Emperor Tiberius II [578-582]). He travelled as far as Oasis and visited the Fathers who were there in the neighbouring deserts. Here he heard that the holy places had been occupied and Romans were panic-stricken, whereupon he left Alexandria and took ship for the great city of Rome along with his beloved disciple Sophronius. They documented several islands in the course of their journey.
This blessed man was so gifted by the Lord that he would put into writing whatever he heard or saw of the lives of outstanding men, and the deeds of power they performed. This plan was put into action when he was at Rome. For knowing that the time of his departure was at hand, he wrote this book, not in the order in which he had seen them or heard of them, but linked together in writing according to the relationship of one to another, whether heard or seen.
When he was about to leave this troubled world, and pass to the world of rest and tranquillity, at the urging of his beloved disciple he gave him this book containing the lives and deeds, acceptable to God, of the holy fathers. He charged him also not to leave his remains at Rome, but to put them in a wooden coffin and try as far as possible to take them to Mount Sinai and bury them there with the holy fathers. If he should be prevented from doing this by ravaging barbarian bands, then he was to take them to the monastery of the holy Theodosius, where he began his renunciation of the world.
In obeying this command his beloved disciple and his fellow disciples (for there were twelve of them), carried John's body away, following the example of the great Joseph, who along with his brothers took Israel from Egypt to the land of his fathers, as Israel had bidden them.
He got as far as Ascalon when he learned that he could go no further towards Mount Sinai because of hostile attacks by the Agareni, so he took blessed John's remains to Jerusalem at the beginning of the octave of the Indiction. [September 1. The beginning of the Byzantine year.] There he sought out Georgius, the presbyter-ruler of the monastery of our holy father Theodosius, and told him all that John had urged upon him. Together with the brothers who came with him, and all the brothers of the monastery who were then in the city, he discharged his duties towards the blessed John by burying him next to the holy fathers buried there in the cemetery of the holy Theodosius as he had been bidden. He himself passed the rest of his life in that same monastery.
This cemetery is in a cave where a story (not in the Gospel) tells us that the Magi rested after tricking Herod by avoiding him as they returned to their own country. In this cave our holy father Theodosius waged his spiritual battles and was granted the gift of casting out demons not only for the space of this short life, but also after his death, even to this day, to the glory and praise of Christ our true God and Saviour, to whom be glory unto the ages of ages. Amen

 

 

Prologue of John Moschus

To his beloved in Christ Sophronius Sophista


It is obvious to all, my beloved son, that the meadows present their most beautiful appearance in Springtime, with its pleasing variety of flowers of every sort, demanding the attention of all who gaze, impossible to ignore, beneficial in all sorts of ways, for they delight the eyes and give pleasure to the sense of smell.  Part of this meadow indeed flourishes with the colour of roses, part grows white with lilies, easily attracting the attention of the onlooker away from the colour of the roses. Other parts shimmer with the colour of violets, copying in their own colour the imperial purple. The profusion of various differing sights and fragrances of countless flowers everywhere gratify the senses. Think of this present work like this, Sophronius, my holy and most faithful son, since you will find in it the virtues of the holy men who have enlightened our time "planted by the running waters", as the Psalmist says (Psalms 1.3). And though all of them are acceptable to God and of great grace, yet each one of them is distinguished by some particular grace more than the others, so that out of this great variety of virtues arises a charming picture of pleasing beauty. Out of these flowers I have picked the most beautiful, and woven a corona for you out of this imperishable and everlasting meadow, my most faithful son, which I offer to you, and through you to everyone.
For this reason it seems good to call this present work a Meadow, for the delight, comfort and usefulness which those who read may take from it. It is not only right belief and meditation on divine truth which lead to a life and morals of integrity, but also the examples of other people, and written accounts of their virtuous lives. Therefore I have undertaken this task trusting in the Lord, beloved son, and hoping that it will commend itself to your charity. Just as a bee seeks out only what is useful and true so I have I described the lives of the holy fathers that souls may be enlightened.



Chapter I
The life of the holy old man JOHN and the Cave of Sapsa

There was an old man called John in the monastery of Eustorgius whom the holy Elias, Archbishop of Jerusalem, wanted to put in charge of all the monasteries in Jerusalem. John demurred, saying that he was wanting to travel to Mt. Sinai in order to pray there. The Archbishop urged him to be made an abbot first before going off to wherever he wanted. The old man still would not agree, but at last the bishop let him go on the strength of a promise that John would accept this responsibility on his return. He thanked the Archbishop and began his journey to Mount Sinai, taking his disciple with him. They crossed the Jordan and had hardly taken one more step when the old man began to feel stiff and shortly afterwards became feverish. The fever increased to such an extent that he was unable to walk, so they went into a little cave that they found, in order to rest. The fever got so bad that after staying in the cave for three days, he was still unable to move. The old man then had a dream in which he saw someone standing next to him saying: "Tell me, old man, where are you going?"
"To Mount Sinai", he replied.
"No, I beg you, don't go," came the answer.
The old man would not agree, and the vision faded, but his fever got even worse.  The next night the same person appeared and said "Why do you persist in being punished like this old man? Listen to me and stop trying to go anywhere."
"Who are you," said the old man
"I am John the Baptist," came the reply, "and I warn you, don't go anywhere, for this narrow cave is greater than Mount Sinai. For the Lord Jesus quite often used to come into this cave when he was visiting me. Promise me that you will stay here and I will restore your health."
Hearing this, the old man freely promised that he would stay in that same cave. His health was immediately restored and there he spent the rest of his life. He made that cave into a church and gathered other brothers about him. The name of that place is Sapsa, and it is watered by the nearby brook Cherith to which Elias was sent in the time of drought from the other side of Jordan.



Chapter II
The life of an OLD MAN who fed lions in his own cave


In this same area of Sapsa there lived another old man of such virtue that he welcomed lions into his cave and fed them by hand, so full of divine grace was that man of God.



Chapter III
The life of CONON, a presbyter of the monastery of Penthucula.

When we visited abba Athanasius in the monastery of our holy father Saba, he told us of an Alexandrian presbyter called Conon who was in charge of Baptisms. The fathers had decreed that the high quality of his character made him worthy of baptising those who came seeking for it. So he anointed with the holy Chrism and baptised those who came. But whenever he had to anoint a woman, he became so agitated that he wanted to leave the monastery. While battling with this thought, the holy John Baptist appeared to him, saying: "Endure, and persevere and I will lift this burden from you."
One day an attractive young Persian woman came to be baptised who was so beautiful that the presbyter could not bring himself to anoint her bare flesh with oil. When Archbishop Peter heard that the girl had already been there two days, he was exceedingly angry with the old man, and even wanted to delegate this ministry to a deaconess, but refrained from doing so as he did not want to be seen to be doing anything contrary to the canons. But Conon the presbyter took his cloak and went, saying that he would not remain any longer in that place. He had got as far as the hills, when behold, the holy John Baptist met him in the way and spoke to him gently, saying: "Go back to your monastery and I will lift this battle from you."
"I certainly will not go back," replied abba Conon indignantly. "You have so often made these promises and not fulfilled them."
Then the holy John made him sit down and take off his clothes. He made the sign of the cross three times on his navel and said: "Believe me, presbyter Conon, I had been hoping that you would have been able to receive a reward because of this battle. As it is, however, look, I have taken this battle away from you, but you have forfeited any reward."
The presbyter returned to the cenobium, to take up once more his baptismal ministry. The next day he anointed and baptised the young woman, hardly even noticing that she was, in fact, a woman. He continued the ministry of baptism for another twelve years in such tranquillity of mind and body that he never experienced any excitement of the flesh, nor consciously thought of anyone specifically as a woman. And so in peace he lived out his days.


Chapter IV
The life of abba LEONTIUS.

Abba Leontius was the superior of the coenobium of our holy father Theodosius. He told us the following story:
After fleeing from the infidels, the monks suffered persecution in a new monastery called a Laura. I went thither and stayed in the same Laura. One Sunday I went to church to receive the sacred mysteries and as I entered, I saw an Angel standing at the right hand of the altar. Terrified, I returned to my cell. And a voice came to me from heaven saying: "That altar has been made holy. Therefore I am commanded to remain with it for ever."



Chapter V
A story about three monks told by abba POLYCHRONIUS


Abba Polychronius a presbyter of this same Laura, told me the following story:
When I was in the monastery of Turrius near the Jordan I noticed that one of the brothers was very lax in fulfilling his Sunday duties. But a little while afterwards I noticed that he was fulfilling them with great zeal and devotion.
"You are doing well, now, brother," I said, "curing your own sickness."
"Father, I have but a short time to live", he said.
And in three days he was dead.

A brother in the same monastery of Turrius died, and the steward (dispensator) asked me to do him a kindness and help him carry his effects (vasa) to his office. As we did so I noticed him weeping.
"Why are you weeping so, abba," I asked.
"Today we are carrying my brother's things," he said. "But in two days' time others will be carrying mine."
On the third day this brother rested in peace, as he had predicted. The Lord had established in him a sure hope. 



Chapter VI
Another story of POLYCHRONIUS


Abba Polychronius the presbyter also told this story of the time when he was in the monastery of abba Constantinus, the superior of the monastery of St Mary the Birthgiver of God, known as the New Monastery.
A certain brother who died in the guesthouse at Jericho was being taken back by the brothers to be buried at the Turrius monastery. As soon as they began their journey with the body a star appeared over the head of the deceased as a companion for the journey, and did not disappear until they put him in the grave.

 


Chapter VII
The life of a certain OLD MAN, who refused to be made abbot in the monastery of Turrius


There was another old man in this same monastery of Turrius of such great and obvious virtue that the fathers of that monastery wished to make him their abbot.
"I am not worthy of such an honour", the old man said. "Take no notice of me. Just leave me to weep for my sins. I have no ability in the cure of souls. That is the business of such great and outstanding fathers as Antony, Pachomius and the holy Theodore."
The brothers would not accept this and urged him every single day.
"Let me pray about it for three days," he said at last, overwhelmed by their incessant arguments, "and whatever the Lord tells me to do I will do it."
This was on Good Friday. By the morning of Easter Day he rested in peace.


Chapter VIII
The life of abba MYROGENES, who had dropsy.


In the same monastery of Turrius there was an old man called Myrogenes, who because of the great austerity of his life had developed dropsy. To the old men who came to visit him he always said: "Pray for me, fathers, lest one becomes dropsical inside. As for me, in this disease I pray to God daily that I may endure."
When Archbishop Eustochius of Jerusalem heard about him, he decided to send him a few things which might be needed, but he refused to accept any of them. The only message he sent to the archbishop was: "Pray for me, father, that I may be spared crucifixion for eternity."


Chapter IX
The wonderful charity of a certain holy FATHER


In this same monastery of Turrius there was an old man who was a great lover of almsgiving, even to the extent of holy nakedness. For one day a beggar came to his cell seeking alms. The old man had nothing to give him but one loaf which he offered to the beggar.
"It's not bread I want but clothing," said the beggar.
The old man wanted to help him so he took him by the hand and led him inside his cell. The beggar could not see anything inside but what the old man stood up in, but driven by his virtuous nature the old man opened the only moneybag he had by taking off everything he wore, saying: "Take these, good sir, and I will seek elsewhere for what I need."


Chapter X
The life of BARNABAS, the anchorite.

There was an anchorite in the holy caves of Jordan called Barnabas. As he went down one day to drink at the Jordan he got a thorn in his foot. He left it there, bearing always pain in his foot. He would not let any doctor see it, so that eventually it festered, and he had to go down to the monastery at Turrius where he accepted a cell. Daily the festering in his foot got worse, but those who came to see him said that the more he suffered outwardly the stronger he became in spirit.
After abba Barnabas left his cave to go to Turrius, another anchorite went into this cave and as he entered he saw an angel standing by the altar which Barnabas had built and consecrated.
"What is your purpose here?" he asked the angel.
"God has entrusted it to me because it has become holy," replied the angel.


Chapter XI
The life of abba AGIODULUS

Abba Peter, a presbyter of the monastery of our holy father Saba, told us this story about Abba Agiodulus:
When he was superior of the monastery of the blessed Gerasimus it so happened that one of the brothers who lived there died. The old man was unaware of this until the prior sounded the signal, the brothers lifted the body and at last he saw the body in the middle of the church. He was then greatly upset, because he had not been able to pay his respects to him before departing from this world. He went up to the bier whereon the deceased was lying and said: "Rise, brother, and give me the kiss of peace." He straightway rose up and kissed the old man.
"Sleep now," the old man then said, "until your resurrection by Christ the Son of God."
This same abba Agiodulus was once passing by the banks of the Jordan and began thinking and wondering what had happened to the stones which Joshua had set in the middle of the Jordan for those whom he was leading through it (Joshua 4.9). And as he was thinking, suddenly the waters divided this way and that, and he saw the twelve stones. He prostrated himself on the ground, gave thanks to the Lord and went his way.


Chapter XII
A saying of abba OLYMPIUS

"Give me a word," a brother asked abba Olympius, a presbyter of the monastery of St Gerasimus.
"Have no dealings with heretics," he said, "guard your tongue and your stomach, and wherever you go say constantly: 'I am a stranger and a pilgrim'"


Chapter XIII
The life of abba MARK, the anchorite.


Abba Mark the anchorite, who lived near the monastery of Penthucula for sixty-three years, had the ability to fast for a whole week, so that many thought he was not made of flesh and blood at all. He worked day and night, but gave everything [he earned] to the poor. He accepted nothing from anyone. Some faithful men heard of him and came offering him blessed bread (agape).
"I can't accept that," he said. "These hands of mine provide food for me and all who come to me."


Chapter XIV
The BROTHER who was attacked by the spirit of fornication and became leprous.

Abba Polychronius also told us about a brother living in the coenobium of Penthucula who was very careful of himself, and continent. But once when he was attacked by the spirit of fornication, he found that he was not able to fight against it, so he left the monastery and went to Jericho where he satisfied his desires. Soon afterwards, as he was going in to a harlot's house, he found that he was covered in leprosy. He returned immediately to the monastery, giving thanks to God and saying: "God has stricken me with this chastisement that my soul might be saved." And he gave great glory to God.


Chapter XV
A miraculous deed of abba CONON

It was said of abba Conon that one day as he was going to Betamarim, he met some Jews who wished to kill him and ran towards him with drawn swords. As they approached, waving  their swords at him, their hands suddenly became motionless, suspended on high. The old man said a prayer, freed their hands and sent them on their way, giving thanks to God.


Chapter XVI
A story which abba NICHOLAUS told about himself and his companions.

There was an old man called Nicholaus living in the monastery of abba Peter near the holy Jordan who told us the following story:
Once when I was in Raythum three of us were sent on a journey to the Thebaid. In going through the desert we took a wrong path and found ourselves in the middle of a vast sandy expanse. Our water supply ran out after a few days and we were parched with thirst. Fainting from thirst and the heat we were not able to go any further, but having come across some tamarisk trees in the desert we each threw ourselves down in the shade of the trees, expecting to die of our thirst. Stretched out in the shade I fell into an ecstasy and saw a fishpond full of flowing water, and two men standing beside a wooden vessel on the edge of the pond.
"Be kind to me, sir," I asked one of them, "and let me have a little bit of water, for I am fainting away."
He refused.
"Give him some," the other said.
"No, let us not give him any," was the reply, "for he is lazy and doesn't look after himself."
"Even if he is lazy and negligent," said the other, "let us give him some for hospitality's sake."
And then they did give to me and my companions.
As soon as we had drunk we felt our strength reviving and travelled for three more days without drinking anything until we arrived at a populated area.



Chapter XVII
The life of the old man MACNUS.

They say that the old man Macnus of the monastery of abba Peter lived fifty years in his cave, drinking no wine and eating only bread made from bran. But every week he communicated three times.

 

Chapter XVIII
The life of another OLD MAN in the monastery of Laura, who slept among lions.

Abba Polychronius the presbyter told us about another old man in the Laura of abba Peter who quite often went off and wandered about on the banks of the Jordan, and if he came across a lion's den he would sleep there. One day he picked up two lions' cubs in his cloak and brought them into the church.
"If we were keeping the commandments of our Lord Jesus Christ", he said to the brothers, "these animals should really be frightened of us. But because of the sin which affects us all, we seem bound to be frightened of them."
The brothers went back to their cells greatly impressed by this magnificent deed.


Chapter XIX
A story that abba ELIAS told about himself

Abba Elias told us that at one time he was living in a cave near the monastery of the Eunuchs in the holy Jordan region in order to avoid being in communion with Archbishop Macarius of Jerusalem.
"One day at about the sixth hour," he said, "with a boiling heat beating down from above (it was during the month of August), there was a knock on the door of his cave. I went out to find a woman there and I asked her what she wanted. She said that she was following the same kind of life as me and that her cave was about a mile away, and she pointed towards the south.
"'I have been wandering about in this desert,' she said, 'and I am fainting with thirst because of this terrible heat. It would be kind of you, father, if you could let me have a little water.'
"I fetched my water jar, gave her a drink and sent her on her way. But after she had gone, the devil began to attack me, putting lustful thoughts about her into my head. I was overcome, my burning desire was more than I could bear, and I picked up my walking stick and went out after her, in that heat which was so fierce that the stones were red hot, determined to fulfil my evil desires. But when I was still about two hundred yards from her cave, still burning with the heat of lust, I suddenly went into a trance and I was dragged down into a hole which opened up in the earth. I could see a putrid corpse lying there, decaying with an incredibly powerful stink, and I saw a man in sober garments pointing to it and saying: 'Look, this is how man, woman and child end up, enjoy them how you will, and however great your lust for them. Think how your sin would deprive you of the kingdom of heaven. How pitiable the human state! (Vae humanae miseriae) To forfeit the reward of all your labour for the sake of one hour of pleasure.'
"I fell to the ground, overcome by the exceedingly great stink. But this awe-inspiring man who had appeared to me came and lifted me up. And I returned to my cell, thanking God."


Chapter XX
The conversion of a certain SOLDIER through a miracle which God performed in him, and his profitable life.


One of the fathers told us what a certain soldier had told him during the war waged in Africa by the Romans against the Mauritanians. Beaten by the barbarians, many were killed. He himself was chased by a barbarian who shook his spear with the intention of killing him. Realising this he prayed to God: "Lord God, who appeared to your handmaiden Thecla and delivered her from the hands of the ungodly, save me also in my need. If I am rescued from this bitter death, I will go into the desert and live the solitary life."
He turned around and there was not a barbarian in sight. He went immediately to the Laura of Cupatha and remained there in a cave for thirty-five years, thanking God for his protection.


Chapter XXI
The death of an ANCHORITE and his murderer

Abba Gerontius, the prior of the monastery of our holy father Euthymius, told Sophronius Sophista and me the following story:
"Once when three of us were walking up into the mountains on the other side of the Dead Sea, another anchorite came walking along by the seashore. It so happened that some Saracens met him as they travelled through those regions, and after they had passed him, one of them turned back and cut off the anchorite's head. We could see all this from a distance as we were climbing the mountain. As we were weeping and mourning for the death of the anchorite, we suddenly saw a bird swooping down from above, which picked the Saracen up, carried him up high and dropped him to the ground, causing his death."



 

 

Chapter XXII
The life of another old man called CONON

There was another old man called Conon, a Cilician, in the coenobium of our holy father Theodosius. For thirty years he kept to a way of life which was to eat bread and water only once a week and to pray without ceasing. He never went outside the church.


Chapter XXIII
The life of the monk THEODULUS

We saw another old man in the same monastery called Theodulus who had once been a soldier. He fasted every day and never slept lying down.


Chapter XXIV
The life of an OLD MAN living in the cells of Cuziba.

There was an old man living in the cells of Cuziba, about whom the seniors of the place told us the following.
When he was living in his own village, if he knew of anyone who failed through laziness to cultivate his field, it was his custom to take seed and go by night without the owner's knowledge to sow the field for the poor. When he went to the desert and lived in the cells of Cuziba he carried out similar works of mercy. He would go along the road from Jordan to the holy City carrying bread and water, and if ever he saw anyone flagging from weariness he would carry their load even up as far as the Mount of Olives. He would then do the same for others on the road back to Jericho. You could have seen the old man sometimes carrying a large load sweating under the burden, sometimes carrying a small child on his shoulders, or even two quite often. He never rested. He would repair the shoes of either men or women, carrying with him everything needed for that. He gave others some of his water to drink, to others he gave bread. To anyone lacking clothing he gave the cloak off his back. It was lovely to see this old man working every day of his life. And if he found anyone dead on the road he would say the usual psalms and prayers over them and bury them.



Chapter XXV
A BROTHER of the monastery  of Cuziba, and the words of the sacred offering, also of the abbot JOHN

There was a brother in the coenobium of Cuziba who had learned the words and ceremonial of the sacred offering. We were told about him by that Abbot Gregory who had once been a member of the palace guard watching over the Prince. One day this brother was sent to fetch the bread and wine (benedictiones), and as he was returning to the monastery he uttered the words of the sacred offering [i.e. "Canon of the Mass", or "Prayer of Consecration"] as if he were singing some ritual formula (quasi versus aliquos caneret). The deacon placed this bread and wine on the altar, but when abba John the presbyter offered it (he who afterwards was bishop of Caesarea Palestine) he did not perceive the usual descent of the Holy Spirit. He was very upset and wondered whether the Holy Spirit had turned away from him because of some mental sin. He returned to the sacristy weeping, and fell flat on his face. But an angel of the Lord appeared to him saying: "The brother who fetched the offerings (oblationes) said the words of the sacred offering over them as he was on his way, which was the reason for them being already sanctified and perfected." From then on the superior decreed that no one should learn the words of the sacred offering unless he were ordained for this purpose, nor should anyone say them anywhere or at any time apart from a consecrated place.



Chapter XXVI
The life of brother THEOPHANES and his marvellous vision, and of communicating with heretics.

There was an old man of great merit in God's eyes called Cyriacus, who belonged to the laura of Calamon near the River Jordan. A pilgrim brother called Theophanes from the region of Dora came to him for counsel about his thoughts of fornication. The old man encouraged and instructed him with advice about modesty and chastity, which greatly edified the brother.
"Truly, father," he said, "if it weren't that in my part of the country I am in communion with the Nestorians, I would love to stay with you."
When the old man heard the name of Nestor, he was so overcome with fear that this brother would be damned that he fell down and prayed, and begged him to abandon this most evil and pernicious heresy and return to the holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
"There is no hope of being saved unless we truly feel and believe that Holy Mary is the birthgiver (genetrix) of God," he said, "and this is true."
"That's all very well, father," said the brother, "but all the heretics say the same, that unless we are in communion with them we cannot be saved. Unfortunately I don't know what to do. So pray to God for me that I may be quite certain which is the true faith."
The old man was delighted to hear what the brother was saying.
"Come and sit in my cave," he said, "and put your whole trust in God that he will reveal to you of his mercy what is the true faith."
He left the brother in his own cave and went out by the Dead Sea, praying to God for the brother. About the ninth hour of the next day the brother saw someone of truly awesome appearance standing next to him.
"Come, and see the truth," he said, and led him to a dark and stinking place throwing up flames of fire, and in the flames he saw Nestorius, Eutyches, Apollinaris, Dioscuros, Severus, Arius, Origen and others like them.
"This is the place prepared for the heretics, blasphemers, and those who follow their teachings," he said to the brother. "So then, if you like the look of this place persist in your teachings, but if you would prefer to avoid this punishment, return to the holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, as the old man told you. For I tell you, even if a person practises all the virtues there are, unless he believes rightly he will be crucified in this place."
At these words the brother came to himself. He went back to the old man and told him all that he had seen, and returned to the communion of the holy Catholic Church. He stayed with the old man, and after four years with him he rested in peace.

 

 

Chapter XXVII

The life of a PRESBYTER of the village of Mardandos

 

About ten miles from the town of Aegina in Cilicia there is a village called Mardandos, in which there is a church dedicated to St. John Baptist. An old presbyter  presided here, a man of great virtues and worthiness before God. One day the villagers came to the bishop with a complaint about the old man.

"Take this old man away from us, for he troubles us greatly," they said.

"What is he doing to you?" asked the bishop.

"He comes on Sundays to celebrate Mass sometimes at the third hour, sometimes at the ninth, whichever seems to suit him. And he does not stick strictly to the solemn order prescribed for the sacred oblation."

The bishop acted on this information to call the presbyter to an interview.

"Why are you, a man in authority, acting like this? You surely can't be ignorant of the statutes of holy Church?"

"Well of course you are quite right in what you say in order to get at the truth. But truly, I never know what I am going to do. On Sundays, after the night office, I sit down near the holy altar, and for as long as I cannot discern the Holy Spirit overshadowing the altar I do not begin the sacred celebration of the Mass. But when I am aware that the Holy Spirit has come, then I carry out my sacred duties."

The bishop was overcome with admiration for the old man's integrity. He summoned the villagers, explained everything to their satisfaction, and set their minds at rest.

Abba Julius the Stylite, by way of a greeting to this same old man, sent him a piece of cloth rolled up with three coals of fire inside it. The old man got the message and sent the abba in return the same piece of rolled up cloth full of water.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter XXVIII

A miraculous deed of abba JULIANUS THE STYLITE

 

Abba Cyriacus, the disciple of the aforesaid Julianus the Stylite told us the following story;

My father and brother and I heard of the fame of abba Julianus and left our own region in order to visit him. Now I was suffering from an unhealthy condition which nobody had been able to cure, but when I came to him the old man prayed and cured me on the spot. We all renounced the world and stayed with him, and the old man put my father in charge of the grain supply. One day my father went to abba Julius and said that there wasn't any grain left.

"Go and gather whatever you can find, brother, and grind it for today," said the old man from the top of his column, "and God will take care of our tomorrow."

This command really upset him (for he knew that he had not given out any food at all), so he just went back to his cell. But an urgent message was sent to him from the old man, telling him to come to him at once and he did so but with a very bad grace.

"Brother Conon," said the old man, "go and prepare food for the brothers, using whatever you shall find."

In spite of his anger he took the keys of the grain store and went off thinking he would be able to serve up nothing but the dust of the earth. But when he unbarred the door and tried to open it, he was unable to do so because the storehouse was completely full of grain. Terrified by what he saw, he prostrated himself before the old man, seeking pardon.

 

 

Chapter XXIX

A miracle of the most holy EUCHARIST

 

About thirty miles from the city of Aegina in Cilicia there were two stylites about six miles away from each other. One of them belonged to the holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. The other, even though he had been on his column for much longer, followed the wicked teachings of Severian, and in various heretical ways was in the habit of denouncing his Catholic colleague. However, inspired by God, the Catholic asked that a particle of the other's Communion might be sent to him. Overcome with joy, he thought that he had converted the Catholic, and sent it immediately, without hesitation. The Catholic took this particle sent to him by the heretical follower of Severian and put it into a pot of boiling water, where it very soon disintegrated. Then he took the holy Communion of the Catholic church and threw it in. The boiling pot became cool immediately, and the holy Communion remained whole and unblemished. He carefully kept it, and showed it to us when we visited him.

 

 

 

Chapter XXX

The Life of  ISODORE  a monk of Melitinensis, and another miracle of the most holy EUCHARIST

 

Dade is the trading centre of Cyprus. There is a monastery there called Philoxene. When we visited it we met a monk from Melitinensis called Isodore. We noticed that he was weeping and groaning unceasingly. People kept on asking him to quieten down a little and moderate his weeping, but he would not.

"I am a greater sinner," he said, "than anyone else since the beginning of time"

"Surely no one is without sin," we said to him, "but God alone."

"Truly, brothers," he replied, "I have never found any sinner like me in the whole human race, no greater sin than mine. And if you really want to know that I am telling the truth, listen to what my sin was, and please pray for me.

"I was a married man when I lived in the world, and we both held to the teachings of Severian. I came home one day to find that my wife was not there, and I was told that she had gone to a woman neighbour who was of the Catholic faith and religion in order to receive Communion. I ran quickly to try and stop her, but when I got to the house I found that she had already communicated. I was mad with rage, and seized her by the throat and made her vomit up the sacred Communion. I picked up the holy particle and threw it away into a dungheap. Shortly afterwards I noticed that that holy Communion had taken on a brilliantly shining appearance. After two days, without a word of a lie, I saw a sort of a half-clothed Ethiopian man (virum quasi Aethiopem semicinctiis vestitum) who said to me: 'You and I are both condemned to an identical punishment.'

"'Who are you, then,' I asked

"'I am the one who struck the face of him who made us all, the Lord Jesus Christ, during his passion.'

"And this is why I am incapable of moderating my weeping."

 

 

Chapter XXXI

The conversion and life of MARY the prostitute

 

Two old men were travelling from Aega to Tharsus when they stopped for refreshment at a small cottage (stabulum, which also carries the meaning of 'brothel'). In the providence of God they found there three young men who had with them a prostitute. The old men settled themselves down apart and one of them got out his holy Gospel and began to read [aloud]. And, would you believe it, the prostitute left the young men when she saw the old man reading, and came and sat down next to him.

"You've got a cheek, you wretch," said the old man, waving her away, "to dare to come and sit by us."

"Don't, I beg you, father," she said, "don't look down on me, or drive me away. I know I am full of every kind of sin, but the Lord and Saviour of all, Christ our God, did not reject the prostitute who came to him."

"Yes, but that prostitute did not remain a prostitute," the old man said.

"I put my trust in the Son of the living God," she said, "that from this day onwards I won't keep on with this sinful way of life either."

She left the three young men and everything that she had, and followed those two old men. They took her to a monastery near the city of Aega. I saw her when she was an old woman of great wisdom, and learned all these things from her own mouth. Her name was Mary.

 

 

Chapter XXXII

The conversion and life of BABYLAS  the mime, and also his concubines  COMETA & NICOSA

 

There was a certain mime in Cilician Tarsus called Babylas and with him were two concubines, one called Cometa, the other Nicosa. They lived in a very self-indulgent style, doing whatever the demons might put into their minds. One day, however, by divine providence they went into a church and heard the gospel being read, where it says: Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 3.2). Conscience-stricken, he wept with horror, crying out against his miserable self for the sins he had done. He ran out of the church and called to his two companions

"You know how self-indulgently I have lived with you," he said. "I have not been fonder of either of you more than the other, so everything I have belongs to both of you. Take all I have and divide it equally between you, for as of now I renounce the world to be a monk."

With one accord they both burst into tears.

"We have shared with you this life of pleasure to the endangering of our souls," they said. "Now that you are going to do this thing pleasing to God, are you going to send us away and do it all by yourself? No, certainly not. We shall share with you in the good things as well."

And so the mime enclosed himself in one of the towers of the city, and the two women sold everything, gave to the poor, took the habit of religion, and secured for themselves a little cell near the tower, where they too were enclosed. I met this man myself, and was greatly edified by him. He is exceptionally gentle, humble and merciful. Let those who read profit from what I have written.

 

 

Chapter XXXIII

The life of the holy bishop THEODOTUS

 

One of the Fathers told us about a bishop called Theodotus in the holy city, a man of great kind-heartedness. One feast day he sent dinner invitations to some of his clerics. There was one of them who did not want to go and ignored the invitation. The bishop said nothing. But next time he went to him in person and begged him to come and share the common table.

There is another story about this same bishop Theodotus to show how gentle and humble he was. Once when going on a journey with one of his clerics, he was being carried in a litter, whereas the cleric was riding a horse.

"Let's change over," said the patriarch to the cleric. "You get into the litter and I will ride the horse."

The cleric would not hear of it, declaring it would be shameful to put himself above the bishop and ride in a litter while the bishop had to ride the horse. But the holy and humble Theodotus would not give up until he had persuaded the cleric that there could be no possible harm in it, and eventually persuaded him to agree.

 

 

Chapter XXXIV

The life of the godly ALEXANDER, patriarch of Jerusalem

 

There was another patriarch called Alexander in that same city who was very devout and kind of heart. One of his notaries stole some gold and fled in fear to the Thebaid in Egypt, where he fell into the hands of brigands while wandering about, and was led captive to a very distant part of Egypt. When Alexander found out about this he paid eighty-five numismas to ransom him from captivity, and continued to treat him kindly and lovingly once he had returned. One of the citizens of that city promptly remarked that there was nothing more profitable than to sin against Alexander.

 

 

Chapter XXXV

The life of ELIAS, archbishop of Jerusalem, and of FLAVIAN, patriarch of  Antioch

 

Abba Polychronius said that the holy Elias, archbishop of Jerusalem, drank no wine, just as if he were a monk. And even when he had been made Patriarch he kept to the same rule.

The story is told of this same archbishop Elias and also of Flavian the archbishop of Antioch that the Emperor Anastasius [430-518] drove them both into exile because (they adhered to the doctrines) of the Council of Chalcedon [451. Anastasius was a Monophysite.] Elias was sent to Haila [in Egypt] and Flavian to Petra [near the Red Sea]. On one particular day both of them had the same presentiment.

"Today Anastasius is dead," they each said to themselves. "Let us both go too, and be judged along with him." And after two days they both departed to the Lord.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter XXXVI

The life of EPHRAEM patriarch of Antioch and how he converted a Stylite monk from the wicked Severian heresy.

 

One of the fathers told us about Ephraem the holy patriarch of Antioch, who was extremely zealous and fervent for the faith. When he heard about that Stylite near Hierapolis who was a Severian heretic, he went to see him to try and turn him away from that wickedness. The godly Ephraem began to argue with him and beg him to accept the apostolic see and return to communion with the holy apostolic Church.

"I will not have anything at all to do with the Synod," the Stylite replied.

"What would it take to convince you, in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that the holy Catholic Church is free from all stain of heretical wickedness?" the holy Ephraem asked.

"Let's light a fire", said the Stylite, in order to frighten the patriarch, "and walk into it together, and let the one unharmed by the flames be the orthodox one, and the one who should be followed."

"It would be more fitting, my son," said the holy Ephraem, "for you to comply with your father, without making any further demands. Indeed, what you have asked is beyond the powers of my unfortunate person. Nevertheless I will do it, trusting in the Son of God, the author of your salvation. Bring me some wood," he added to those standing by, and when the wood had been brought he lit it in front of the column.

"Come down now," said the patriarch," and let us go into it together, as you demanded." But he refused, stunned by the patriarch's determination.

"Wasn't it you who made this stipulation?" asked the patriarch. "Why are you now not willing to do it?" And he took off the patriarchal stole he was wearing, and drew near to the flames.

"O Lord Jesus Christ our God," he prayed. "who alone was worthy of being made flesh, and was born of our holy Lady Mary, ever Virgin, Birthgiver of God, let your truth be made known to us." And he threw the stole into the middle of flames. The fire kept on burning for three hours, the wood had all been consumed, and the stole was retrieved from the fire unharmed, showing no signs of ever having been in the fire.

In the face of what had happened, the Stylite no longer had any doubts about the truth. He anathematised Severian and his heresy, returned to the holy Catholic Church, received communion from the hands of the holy Ephraem, and gave God the glory.

 

 

Chapter XXXVII

The life of a BISHOP, who left his cathedral and came to the holy city, where he served God in disguise in the building trade

 

One of the fathers told us about a certain bishop who left his bishopric and went to the holy city, where he dressed as a workman and served God in the building trade. Now there was at that time a compassionate man given to good works called Ephremius, an Eastern overseer, who was engaged in repairing the public buildings which had been damaged by an earthquake. One day Ephremius had a vision in which he saw a bishop lying asleep, with a column of fire stretching from his head right up to the heavens. This happened not once, not twice, but many times over, and Ephremius was stupefied, for the vision was amazing, even terrifying. He wondered what it all might mean, not recognising him as that hired labourer with untidy hair and dirty clothes, looking like the lowest of the low, slaving away with no relaxation, worn out with toil and of a totally repulsive appearance. However, Ephremius summoned this workman and asked him who he was, trying to worm his name out of him and the country he came from.

"I am just one of the poor of this city," he replied. "I have no independent income, so I do what work I can and God feeds me as a result of my labours."

"Believe me," said Ephremius, divinely inspired, "I will not let you go until you have told me the whole truth about yourself."

"Promise me something then," he said, realising that he was cornered, with nowhere to hide. "Say nothing to anyone about me for as long as I remain alive, and I will tell you everything, except my name." And the overseer swore not to reveal anything for as long as the man was alive.

"I am a bishop," he then said, "and I have left my bishopric to come here. Nobody knows where I am. But I chastise my body with hard work and earn a bit of bread for myself. But as for you, give as much alms as you can. One of these days God will promote you to the apostolic see of this city, so that you may feed this people whom Christ our God has saved with his own blood. Give yourself to almsgiving, as I have said. Stand firm and contend for the true faith, for sacrifices such as these are pleasing to God," (and as he had prophesied so it came to pass.)

The godly Ephremius glorified God as he listened.

"How many hidden servants of God there are, known only to himself", he said.

 

 

Chapter XXXVIII

The death of ANASTASIUS, the godless emperor.

 

One of the faithful told us about the Emperor Anastasius, who exiled to Gaitan in Pontus, the patriarchs of Constantinople Euphemius and Macedonius, because they accepted the [teachings of] the holy synod of Chalcedon. This emperor saw in a dream a magnificent person dressed in a white garment standing in front of him, reading from what was written in a book that he was carrying. He pulled out five pages with the emperor's name written on them.

"Behold, because of your perfidy I destroy fourteen", he said. And he tore them up.

And after two days, during a great storm of thunder and lightning, petrified with fear, he gave up his spirit in great agony. This was because of what he had wickedly done to the holy Church of Christ our God by exiling its pastors.

 

 

Chapter XXXIX

The life of a monk belonging to the monastery of abbot SEVERIANUS, and how a country girl wisely repulsed him, and prevented him from sinning with her.

 

After I had arrived at Antioch I heard one of the presbyters of that church telling this story -

Patriarch Anastasius told us about a monk of Abbot Severianus' monastery, who was sent on an errand to the region of Elutheropoleos, where he broke his journey and stayed for a while at the home of one of the faithful whose wife was dead but who had an only daughter. The devil, who is forever attacking human beings, put evil thoughts into that brother's mind, and his attack took the form of making the brother seek for an opportunity to assault the daughter. The devil not only tempted him but provided him with the opportunity, for the girl's father left on a journey to Ascalon on some necessary business, whereupon the brother, knowing that that there was no one in the house but himself and the girl, tried to take her by force.

"Calm down," she said, when she realised that he was all excited and rushing headlong into an evil deed. "There is all day and tomorrow before my father will be back. But just listen first to what I have to say. God knows I will do whatever you want."

And then she began to talk to him along these lines:
"How long have you been in the monastery, brother?"
"Seventeen years", he said.
"Have you ever had a woman?" she asked.
"No," he said.
"And do you really want to undo the labour of all those years for the sake of one single hour? How many tears have you shed in the struggle to keep your flesh pure and unstained for Christ our Lord? And do you want all that labour to go for nothing for the sake of a brief pleasure? In any case, if I should listen to you and you should sin with me, have you got the wherewithal to take me in and provide for me? "
"No."
"Truly, I'm telling no lies, if you overcome me you will be the cause of many evils."
"How?"
"In the first place, you will lose your soul, and in the second place my life will be required at your hands. For in the name of him who said 'Don't make me a liar' (1 John.1.10), I swear to you that if you overcome me I shall immediately hang myself, and you will be found guilty of murder, and you will be judged as a murderer. So, before you become the cause of so much evil, go back to your monastery in peace, and pray for me."
The brother came to his senses, had second thoughts, and went back to his monastery straight away. He prostrated himself in front of the abbot, and asked for pardon. And he begged that never again might he go outside the monastery. He spent three months in deep heartfelt contrition, after which he passed away to the Lord.


Chapter XL
The life of COSMAS, the eunuch

A story told us by abba Basileus, a presbyter of Bicantium -
When I was at Theopolis with patriarch Gregory, abba Cosmas visited us, a eunuch from the Laura of Pharan. He was an outstandingly religious man, extremely zealous in upholding the true faith and teachings, well versed in the knowledge of the divine Scriptures. He had hardly been there for more than a few days when he died, and the patriarch ordered his precious relics to be buried in his own monastery next to a certain bishop. I went there one day to pay my respects to the tomb of the old man, and found a poor man lying on the tomb asking alms of those going in to the church. When he caught sight of me he prostrated himself three times as he prayed to the old man.
"Abba", he said to me, "this old man whom you buried these two months past was assuredly a very great person."
"How do you know that?" I asked
" Well, sir," he replied, "I was paralysed for twelve years but God cured me through him. And whenever I am in trouble he comes to me and brings me consolation and peace. And here's another miracle of his: from the day in which you buried him until now, I hear him crying out each night to the bishop [buried next to him] 'Don't touch me, you heretic. Don't come near me, you enemy of the holy Catholic Church of God.' Hearing this cry from the one who healed me, I went to the patriarch and told him everything exactly as it had happened, and begged him to lift the body of the old man from the place where it was and bury it elsewhere.
"'Believe me, my son,' said abba Gregory the patriarch, 'abba Cosmas cannot come to any harm from any heretic. All this has come to pass so that we should take note of the old man's virtue and zeal for the faith. As he was in this life so he is now that he is laid to rest. And he lets us know his opinion about the bishop, lest we should think that he had been orthodox and Catholic.'"
  Abba Basileus also told us about a time when he was visiting this same old man in the Laura of Pharan.
"I was wondering, the other day," the old man said to Basileus, "what the Lord meant when he said to his disciples 'Let him sell his coat and buy a sword' (Luke 22.36) and when the disciples said 'Here are two swords' he said 'It is enough' (Luke 22.38). I was quite perplexed by these sayings and could not understand what they meant. I was so fixated on them that I left my cell even in the midday heat to go to the Laura of Turrius in order to question abba Theophilus on the subject. As I was going through the desert near Calamon I saw an enormous reptile coming down the hill towards Calamon. He was so big that as he moved, his back curved up like an arched vault, and he left footprints behind him in the earth even deeper. But I passed over these footprints unharmed, and I realised that the devil was trying to put a stop to my enquiry. The prayers of the old man had come to my aid. So I managed to get to Abba Theophilus and told him of my worries.
"'The two swords signify the two kinds of life, active and contemplative,' said Theophilus. 'He who has both of these will achieve perfection.'"
I myself visited this same abba Cosmas when he was in the Laura of Pharan, and I stayed there for twelve years. He was talking to me once for my soul's health and mentioned something from the sayings of holy Athanasius, archbishop of Alexandria.
"If you come across something from the works of Athanasius," he said, "and you haven't got any paper with you to write it down on, write it on your clothing." This was typical of how great was the zeal which this old man had for our holy fathers and teachers.
This abba Cosmas was also said to have remained standing from first Vespers through the night till Sunday morning, singing psalms and reading, both in his cell and in church, never sitting down once, until at last when the services were complete, he would sit and read the Gospels until the [last] Collect was said.

Chapter XLI
The life of abba PAUL, from Nazarbus

We saw another old man in this Laura, an abba called Paul, a holy and most gentle man devoted to God, and of great abstinence. I don't remember ever having met anyone who was so blessed with the gift of tears and the power of giving comfort. Tears were always dripping from his eyes. This holy old man completed fifty years living in solitude without speaking, content with the [daily] portion of bread given him by the church. He came from Nazarbus.


Chapter XLII
The life of abba ANAXANONTES, the servant of God.

We met abba Anaxanontes in the same place, a tenderhearted and most abstemious man, who lived in his own cell a solitary life of such strictness that he would make twenty small pieces of bread (oblationen minutorum viginti) last for four days. Indeed, sometimes that would be all he would eat for a whole week. Towards the end of his life, this venerable man contracted an illness of the stomach and bowel, so we took him to the house for the sick in the holy city which was under the direction of the patriarch. We were with him one day when abba Conon, the prior of the Laura of our holy father Saba, sent to him six coins and a linen cloth containing the Blessed Sacrament (sudarium unam habens benedictionem) and a message to say that he also was ill and asked pardon for not coming personally. The old man accepted the Sacrament but sent the coins back.
"If God wishes me to continue in this life, father," he said, "I already have ten coins. When I have spent them I will let you know, and then you can send me these other ones. However, as you will soon know, father, in two days I shall be dead"
And so it came to pass.
We took him back to the Laura of Pharan and buried him there. He was a blessed man. He shared a cell with the blessed Eutochius, and when they were both dead their hermitage came to an end.



Chapter XLIII
The horrid death of the ungodly THALELAEUS, archbishop of Thessalonica.

There was an archbishop of Thessalonica called Thalelaeus, who feared neither God nor the judgment in store for him. Having no respect for Christian dogma and caring nothing for his priestly honour and dignity, he was a wolf instead of a shepherd. Denying the holy and consubstantial Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, he disgracefully worshipped idols. The rulers of the church at that time condemned him unanimously, and drove him from his see. But it was not long before this worthless, wicked and totally godless man wanted to get his priestly dignity back. So in accordance with the saying of Solomon that all things obey money (Ecles.10.19), he went back to his own city of Constantinople where there were Princes who were willing to 'justify the wicked for reward and take away the righteousness of the righteous' (Isaiah 5.23). But God does not desert his holy Church. As Thalelaeus defied the Apostolic canons by refusing to accept the sentence passed upon him, so God condemned him. For on the day when Thalelaeus in magnificent dress was going to the Emperors so that they might issue an order that he should be reinstated, it so happened that he had a stomach upset and answered a call of nature by going to his private latrine in order to empty his bowels. When he had not emerged after two or three hours some of his assistants went in to tell him that it was time for him to leave, and found the unfortunate man upside down in the pit, with his feet sticking up in the air. When those associates of the ungodly Arius pulled him out, they found that the enemy of God had been snuffed out in a horrible and eternal death.
He had been trusting in the help of Princes in the hope of tyrannically infiltrating the Church of God. But an angel of great and marvellous counsel, the angel of the holy Church of God, scattered away into oblivion those interior passions of his which had given birth to such nefarious wickedness. He relied on the help of Princes in the hope of bringing to pass things even worse than they were before. The man had no intention of walking in the way of righteousness, he had dealings with a demon of impurity, and occasioned harm to the Church of God. But the ruling angel of the Church of Thessalonica, together with the powerful Martyr Demetrius, prevented this unprofitable servant, and left him in the place where he was found, hanging by his feet pierced by nails, giving proof of the judgment whereby he was punished, and how fearful a thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10.31)



Chapter XLIV
The life of an old MONK who lived near the city of Antinoe, and how he prayed for the dead.

When we visited the Thebaid, an old man told us about a monk of great virtue who had lived in a cell outside Antinoe for seventy years. He had ten disciples one of whom was very lazy. The old man frequently corrected him and warned him.
"Brother have a care for your soul", he would say. "You will have to die, and unless you amend your ways you will fall into the place of punishment."
But the brother continued to be disobedient and took no notice of what the old man said. After a while the brother did die, and the old man grieved greatly, knowing that the brother had died in a state of great carelessness and laziness.
"O Lord Jesus Christ, our true God" he prayed, "Reveal to me the state of that brother's soul." And in a deep trance he saw a river of fire, and a great crowd of people in that fire, and the brother immersed up to the neck in the midst of them.
" Haven't I begged you to avoid this punishment, my son", the old man said, "by taking thought for the health of your soul?"
"I give thanks to God, father," he replied, "that at least my head is at peace. It is thanks to your prayers that I am standing on the head of a bishop!"


Chapter XLV
The life of an anchorite MONK on the Mount of Olives, and his veneration of an icon of MARY, the most holy birthgiver of God.

Abba Theodorus Aeliotes told us about an anchorite on the Mount of Olives, a great (spiritual) athlete, battling strenuously with the spirit of fornication.
"Why can't you leave me alone?" he cried with a loud moan one day when the demon was attacking him particularly strongly. "You've been with me all my life. Get away from me!"
The demon suddenly appeared visibly before him.
"Swear to me," he said, "that you won't tell anyone what I am about to say to you, and I won't bother you any further."
"By him who lives in the high heavens," he replied, "I swear not to tell anyone what you say to me."
"Stop venerating this icon," the demon said, "and then I will stop attacking you."
Now this icon consisted of a lifelike painting of our holy lady Mary the birthgiver of God carrying our Lord Jesus Christ.
"Give me time to think about this," said the anchorite.
The next day he let this same abba Theodorus know about it. He told him everything that had happened. Theodorus was at that time living in the Laura of Pharan.
"It was very wrong of you, dear abba," the old man said to the anchorite, "to swear an oath to the demon. Nevertheless you have done the right thing in telling me about it. What you need to do now is to make sure you have no truck with any dealings in that realm, lest you renounce the worship of God, our Lord Jesus Christ and his Mother." He went on to say a great deal more to strengthen and comfort him before leaving him in his cell.
The demon appeared to the anchorite once more.
"What's this, you wicked old man?" he said. "Didn't you swear to me that you would not tell anybody? So why have you told all to that person who visited you? I'm telling you, you will be condemned as a perjurer in the day of judgment."
"I know that I have sworn an oath and broken it," the anchorite replied, "but that oath sworn in the name of my God and Creator I have broken in order that I should not be obedient to you. But as for you, the prime source of false counsel and perjury, you will not be able to escape the punishment prepared for you." 

 



Chapter XLVI
The wonderful vision of abba CYRIACUS of the Laura of Calamon, and the two books of the ungodly Nestorius.

We visited abba Cyriacus, a presbyter of the Laura of Calamon near the River Jordan, who told us the following tale -
One day I saw in a dream a woman dressed in purple whose looks immediately inspired trust, and with her two venerable men of dazzling appearance. And I knew that the woman was our Lady, the holy birthgiver of God, and the two men with her John the Baptist and John the Evangelist. I went outside and begged them to come in and offer prayer in my cell, but they would not. I stayed like that for a long time, begging and praying, 'Let not the humble be turned away with confusion' (Psalms74.21), and many other such prayers. When she saw me persisting in prayer and repeating the same request, she replied to me quite severely:
"You have an enemy of mine in your cell, and you still want me to come in?" she said. Upon which she disappeared.
I earnestly began to accuse myself and examine my conscience as to whether I had allowed some sin against her to enter my mind, for there was no one else in my cell. Only me. I argued away mentally for a long time but could not find any way in which I could have sinned against her. I could see that this was making me very depressed so I went and picked up a book, hoping that reading might drive away my mournful thoughts. The book I picked up was one I had borrowed from the blessed Isychius, a presbyter of the church of Jerusalem, but as I turned the book over I noticed that two treatises of the ungodly Nestorius were written at the end of it. I immediately recognised that this was the enemy spoken of by our Lady, the birthgiver of God, Mary ever virgin. I immediately got up and took the book back to the person who had lent it to me.
"Take you book back, brother," I said to him, "for it has not done me as much good as it has harm."
He wanted to know what harm it had done, so I told him the whole of what happened, whereupon he became so inflamed with zeal for God that he immediately tore the two Nestorian treatises out of the volume and consigned them to the fire.
"There shall no enemy of our Lady the holy birthgiver of God, Mary ever virgin, remain in my house" he said.


Chapter XLVII
The miracle of the HOLY BIRTHGIVER OF GOD against Gaianus the mime, who blasphemed against her in the theatre.

Heliopolis is a city in Phoenician Lebanon, where a certain mime called Gaianus put on a blasphemous show for the people, blaspheming especially against the holy birthgiver of God.
"What harm have I done to you?" asked the holy birthgiver of God, who appeared to him one day. "Why are you insulting me and blaspheming against me in front of so many people?"
However he made no attempt to amend his ways, but blasphemed all the more. The holy birthgiver of God appeared to him again and reproved him.
"Stop, I beg you," she said, "stop doing your own soul so much harm."
But his blasphemy became even worse. She appeared to him a third time, with much the same reproof. Again he refused to repent, again he uttered more blasphemies. She appeared to him again during his midday nap, saying nothing, but pointing to his feet and his hands. When he woke up he found that his feet and his hands were crippled. And this unfortunate man, lying there crippled, admitted to everyone the reason for his condition and how it had happened to him, and that the crucifying punishment for his blasphemies had been nothing but merciful.


Chapter XLVIII
Another miracle of the HOLY BIRTHGIVER OF GOD in which Cosmiana, the wife of the patrician Germanus, was persuaded to return from the Severian heresy to the true faith of Christ.

Anastasius the presbyter told us this story. He was the guardian of the holy tomb from which our Lord and God Jesus Christ rose from the dead. One Sunday evening, he was approached by Cosmiana, the wife of the patrician Germanus, asking to be allowed to venerate alone the holy and life-giving memorial to our Lord Jesus Christ. But when she approached the sacred shrine, our Lady the holy birthgiver of God appeared visibly to her accompanied by several other women.
"You are not one of us," she said. "How dare you enter here? You may not go in. You are not one of us." She was an adherent of that brainless Severian heresy, but she implored insistently that she might be found worthy of entering in.
"Believe me, woman," said the holy birthgiver of God, "you shall not enter here unless you are in communion with us."
When she realised that it was because she was a heretic she was not allowed to enter, and that entry would continue to be forbidden unless she returned to the holy Catholic and apostolic Church of Christ our God and Lord, she immediately summoned a deacon who brought the holy chalices from which she received the holy body and precious blood of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ. And then without any let or hindrance she was counted worthy of adoring the holy and venerable tomb of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

Chapter XLIX

The wonderful vision of a Palestinian GENERAL and how he also was compelled to renounce the aforesaid heresy and communicate in the Church of Christ.

 

This same presbyter Anastasius told us how Gevemer, a Palestinian general, once came to venerate the holy resurrection of Christ our Lord. As he began to go into the holy shrine he saw a goat charging towards him, threatening him with his horns. He took fright and hastily turned back. The guardian of the holy cross, Azarias, was startled, as were the lictors with him.

"What's the matter, sir?" they said. "What's wrong? Why are you not going in?"

"Why have you allowed that goat in there?" he replied.

Astonished, they inspected the holy shrine but found nothing.

"Go on in," they said. "There's nothing like that in there."

Again he began to go in, and again he saw the goat rushing towards him preventing his entry. He did this several times, he being the only one to see the goat while the others saw nothing.

"Believe me, sir," said the guardian of the holy cross, "there must be something in your soul which prevents you worshipping at this holy, venerable and life-giving shrine of our Saviour. I urge you, confess your sin to the Lord. He has been showing you this miraculous sight because he is clement and merciful and desires your forgiveness."

"Indeed, I am guilty of many great sins," he said in tears. And he prostrated himself face downwards, remaining there for a long time weeping and confessing to the Lord. But when at last he got up and tried to go in, again the goat prevented him.

"There must be something else preventing you," said the guardian.

" Could it be, perhaps," asked the general, "that I am prevented from going in because I am not a member of the holy Catholic Church, but belong to the communion of Severianus?" Then he asked the guardian to bring him the holy and life-giving mysteries of Christ our God. The holy chalice was brought, he made his communion, he went in and adored unhindered, seeing nothing of what had previously prevented him.

 

 

Chapter L

The vision of abba GEORGE the anchorite, and what he said.

 

Scythopolis is the second city of Palestine, and there we met abba Anastasius who told us about abba George the anchorite as follows:

I am the one who has been put in charge of the clappers used to call the brothers together, and one night when I arose to sound the signal I heard the old man weeping, and went out to him to ask him what the matter was and why he was weeping like that. He answered me not at all. Once more I asked him to tell me why he was weeping.

"Why shouldn't I weep," he said, groaning and sighing from the bottom of his heart, "when our Lord Jesus Christ refuses to change his mind towards us. For I seemed to be standing before someone sitting on a lofty throne, with thousands of people praying in front of him and begging him for something. But he remained unmoved by their prayers. Then a woman clothed in purple came near and fell down before him, begging him as her son to relent for her sake. But he remained inexorable nevertheless. This is why I am weeping and moaning, for I am afraid of what is to come."

Abba George was telling me this at dawn on a Thursday (Quinta illuscencente feria coenae Domini). Next day, that is on the Friday (parasceve), at the ninth hour, a big earthquake caused severe damage to a city on the coast of Phoenicia.

This same abba Anastasius told us how abba George a little while later was standing at the window when he began to weep copiously.

"Woe betide us, brother," he said, "for we have no sorrow for sin but live in negligence, and I am afraid for the time when the Lord takes us and we stand before the gates to be judged."

And the next day fire appeared in the heavens.

 

 

Chapter LI

The life of JULIAN, an old man of the monastery of the Egyptians

 

Anazarbus is the second city of the province of the Cilicians. About twelve miles distant from it is a monastery known as "of the Egyptians". The fathers of that place told us that five years previously an old man called Julian had died, who had lived for seventy years in a very narrow cavern, with no possessions in this world except a cloak, a blanket, a wooden bowl and a book.

They also told us this about him, that for the whole of his life he lit no lamp, for the light of heaven so shone upon him during the night that he was able to read quite clearly.

 

 

Chapter LII

The saying of abba ELIAS, a solitary.

 

A certain brother went to abba Elias, a solitary in the coenobium of our ancient father Saba, and asked him for a word.

"In the days of our fathers," the old man said to the brother, "there were three virtues which the monks loved and strove after, detachment from material things, gentleness and continence. Nowadays there is greed, bitterness and impudence. Apply to yourself whichever of these pleases you."

 

 

Chapter LIII

The life of the old man CYRIACUS, of the monastery of St Saba

 

Abba Stephen told us about an old man called Cyriacus who lived in the monastery of our holy father Saba. He came down one day from Mount Tuthela and having stayed for a while beside the Dead Sea began to go back to his cell. It was so hot that the old man was nearly fainting, but he stretched out his hands to the heavens and said, "O Lord you know that I am so thirsty that I can hardly walk", and at once a cloud surrounded him and stayed with him until he had reached his cell, about twelve miles away.

This same abba Stephen also told us that some of the old man's family came to see him one day and when they got near to the place asked where his cell was. After some people directed them they went to the cell and knocked on the door. When he recognised them the old man prayed to God that they need not see him, and opening the door he ran out so quickly that they hardly even caught a glimpse of him. He ran out into the desert and refused to return until he was satisfied that they had gone away.

 

 

Chapter LIV

The life of the monks of SCYTHIA, and of the old man AMMONIUS.

 

After this we travelled to Terenuthis and met abba Theodore of Alexandria.

"My sons," he said to us, "just as the old men foretold, the monks of Scythia have lost a great deal of the great charity, abstinence and discretion which, believe me, they used to have. I saw how the old men there would not take any food unless visitors came to see them. One of these old men called Ammonius lived near me. I knew what his customs were, so I used to visit him every Saturday so that he would take some food during my visit. It was their general rule, that whenever anyone visited any of them, they would ask the visitors to pray, and during the prayers they would prepare the food and afterwards all dine together."

 

 

Chapter LV

The life of a certain OLD MAN dwelling in Scythia and abba IRENAEUS.

 

Abba Irenaeus told us about an old man living in Scythia who one night saw the devil providing hoes and mattocks and baskets for the brothers.

"Why these?" the old man asked the devil.

"I'm preparing a distraction for the brothers, " the devil replied, "so that they will busy themselves with these and neglect to pray and glorify God."

Abba Irenaeus also told us that when the barbarians invaded Scythia he left there and went to the Gaza region, where he accepted a cell in the monastery.

"The abbot there gave me a book to read," he said, "containing the deeds of the old men. As soon as I opened the book my eyes fell upon a passage in which a brother came to an old man and asked him to pray for him.

"'As long as you were one of us' the old man said, "We prayed for you. But now that you have gone off on your own we pray for you no longer.'

"When I had read this passage, I closed the book and said to myself. 'Woe betide you, Irenaeus, for you have gone off on your own and the fathers are no longer praying for you.' I took the book back to the abbot straight away and came back here. So, my sons, that's how I came to be here."

 

 

Chapter LVI

The life of JOHN, the disciple of a great old man who lived in the town of Caparasima

 

There is a region of Phoenicia called Ptolemais, in which there is a village called Caparasima. In this village there was a great old man who had a disciple called John, who had a great reputation as well, especially for his obedience. One day the old man sent him off on an errand, giving him a bit of bread to sustain him on the way. John went off and carried out the errand, then came back to the monastery and gave back the bread to the old man.

"My son," said the old man as he gazed at the bread,  "why have you not eaten the bread I gave you?"

"Forgive me, father," he said, as he prostrated himself before the old man, "but you gave me no blessing when you sent me off, and you did not tell me the bread was to be eaten, so I didn't touch it."

The old man was amazed at the brother's discretion, and gave him a blessing.

After the old man's death this brother fasted forty days and a voice from heaven came to him saying, "If you lay hands on anyone sick they will be cured." The next morning, by divine providence, there came a man and to him bringing his wife with him who was suffering from cancer of the breast. The man asked him to cure his wife.

"I am a sinner," said the brother," and unworthy to do such things."

But the man persisted in begging him to agree to have pity on his wife. At last he did lay hands on her, and made the sign of the cross on her breast, whereupon she was immediately cured. From that time on God did many other signs through him, not only during his own lifetime, but even after his death.

 

 

Chapter LVII

The death of SIMEON the Stylite, and abba JULIANUS, also a Stylite.

 

Simeon the Stylite was about forty miles from the city of Aegis in Cilicia; he was struck by lightning and died. Now abba Julianus also was a Stylite, and quite contrary to his usual practice and at an unusual time he told his disciples to put some incense in the thurible.

"What for?" they asked him. They begged him to explain.

"Because my brother Simeon has just now been knocked over by lightning and is dead," he said, "and look, his soul is going, leaping up with exultation."

 

 

Chapter LVIII

Another story about JULIANUS.

 

Abba Stephen Trichinas, superior of the monastery of our holy father Saba, told us this also about abba Julianus the Stylite -

Not far from the place where he lived, a lion had appeared which had become accustomed to killing numbers of the local population as well as foreigners. So one day he called his disciple Pancras to him.

"Go about two miles south from here and you will find the lion lying down. Say to him, 'Julianus humbly asks you in the name of Jesus Christ, the son of the living God, to go away from this province.'"

The brother went, found the lion lying down, spoke the words of the old man to him, and the lion immediately went away.

 

 

Chapter LIX

The life of THALALEUS  of Cilicia.

 

Abba Peter, a presbyter of the same monastery, told us about abba Thalaleus of Cilicia who spent sixty years in the monastic life weeping continuously. He was always saying that our time here is given to us for penitence, and we will be held to account if we neglect it.

 

 

Chapter LX

The extraordinary deed of the HOLY VIRGIN by means of which her adolescent admirer was conscience-stricken and became a monk

 

When we were in Alexandria one of the faithful told us the following story -

There was a holy virgin living a solitary life in her own home who worked very hard at her own salvation. She regularly gave herself to fasts and vigils, and gave alms freely. But the devil who hates everything good found the virtues of this woman so insufferable that he prepared a campaign against her by stirring up in a certain young man a devilish lust for her. He haunted the space outside her house. When the woman tried to leave the house in order to go to church and pray, this young man harassed her with lustful and impure looks. He would not let her pass with subjecting her to seductive propositions and shameless suggestions, so that in the end the aggressive behaviour of this young man prevented her from leaving her house at all.

One day the woman sent her servant out to the young man

"My mistress wants you," she said. "Come inside."

He went in, delighted, eager for the shameful deed, to where she was sitting on the bed.

"Sit down," she said. "Tell me please brother, why do you harass me so grievously that I can't go out of my own house?"

"Truly, I love you very much," he said, "and whenever I look at you I am totally inflamed with desire."

"What can you see so beautiful in me that you should love me so?"

"It's your eyes. That's what has led me on."

When the woman realised that it was her eyes which had led him on she took a distaff and gouged her eyes out.

When it sank in to the young man that she had actually gouged her own eyes out, he was conscience stricken and went off to Scythia to become a monk.

 

 

Chapter LXI

The life of abba LEONTIUS  of Cilicia.

 

Some of the fathers used to say of abba Leontius of Cilicia that he had a great devotion to our Lady, the holy birthgiver of God, and for forty years he was to be seen in a church dedicated to her. He had a wonderfully grave presence which he preserved at all times.

They described how he dealt with any beggars who came to him. If they were blind, he would put some money into their hands, but if they were not, he would put the money at the base of a column, or on a bench, or on the steps of the sanctuary, for the beggars to pick up. If any one asked him why he did not simply put the money into their hands, he would reply, "Forgive me father, but it is not me giving the alms, but my Lady the holy birthgiver of God, who provides food for both them and me."

 

 

Chapter LXII

The life of abba STEPHEN, a presbyter of the monastery of the Aeliotes.

 

One of the old men said of abba Stephen, a presbyter of the monastery of the Aeliotes, that the devil would trouble his thoughts as he sat in his cell saying "Leave this place. You are not doing any good here." He would reply, "I am not listening to you. I know who you are. It is not possible for anyone to be deceived by you for Christ the son of the living God himself is your adversary."

 

 

 

Chapter LXIII

The same.

 

It was also said of him that when he was sitting in his cell reading, the devil appeared to him visibly and said, "Leave this place. You are not doing any good here."

"If you want me to go," he said to the demon, "make this chair I am sitting in move about."

Now the chair he was sitting in was of wicker-work, and the devil made it move about all over the cell.

"In spite of your speed and cleverness," he replied as he observed the devil's tricks, "I have no intention of going away." He prayed, and the devil disappeared.

 

 

Chapter LXIV

The same.

 

Three old men visited abba Stephen the presbyter, and while they kept on talking about what might be of benefit to the soul Stephen said nothing.

"You are not saying anything, father," they said to him. "We are visiting you because we hoped to hear something helpful."

"Forgive me," he said, "but up to now I had not taken much notice of what you were talking about. However I will share with you this thought that I have: day and night I gaze upon nothing other than Jesus Christ hanging on the cross."

They were greatly edified on hearing this and so went on their way.

 

 

Chapter LXV

The same.

 

Abba Johannes Molybas told us another story about that blessed and venerable old man, the presbyter Stephen.

He became ill with a disease of the liver which resulted in that holy soul of his departing from the body. During his illness the doctors had ordered him to eat meat. He had a brother living in the world who was very religious and lived a godly life, but when he visited Stephen and saw him eating meat he was scandalised, and very sorrowful to think that from a life of great abstinence and continence he had lowered himself in his last hours to eating meat.

Later he fell into an ecstasy and someone appeared to him who said, "Why are you so scandalised by this presbyter simply because you saw him eating meat? Don't you realise that he was compelled to this by necessity, and did it purely through obedience? You had no business being scandalised, and if you want to know your brother's merits and glory, turn round and look behind you."

He turned round and saw Stephen crucified with the Lord.
"See the glory your brother has been given," said the voice in the apparition. "Therefore glorify him who glorifies them who truly love him."


Chapter LXVI
The life of abba THEODOSIUS, solitary.

Abba Antonius, the superior of the monastery of the Aeliotes which he had built himself, told us that abba Theodosius had told him this story about himself -
Before I entered the solitary life I once fell into an ecstasy and saw a man whose brilliance outshone the brightness of the sun.
"Come," he said, taking my hand. "Your lot is to strive and fight."
And he led me into an infinitely large theatre which I saw was full of men in white robes on one side and in black on the other. He thrust me into the theatre, and I saw an enormous Ethiopian whose terrifying head reached up to the clouds.
"This is he whom you must fight with," said the man who had appeared to me.
Terrified by the appearance of this enormous person, I began to tremble with fear, and pleaded with the splendid youth who had brought me in.
"What mortal man in all his weakness would be able to strive with him?" I said. "The whole human race rolled into one would not be able to prevail against him!"
"Nevertheless you must fight against him," said the dazzling youth. "Go for him with all speed and confidence, and once you have started, I shall be with you in support, and will give you the crown of victory."
I began the contest, we fought together, and the dazzling judge gave me the crown. And the large, shadowy crowd of Ethiopians fled howling, while those clothed in white who remained gave praise to him who had been my helper and given me a famous  victory.


Chapter LXVII
The same

Abba Cyriacus, Theodosius' disciple, told us that this solitary had lived for thirty years in solitude, eating every two days, keeping perpetual silence, speaking to no one. He used signs rather than words if he needed to communicate. I witnessed this myself, for I stayed in the monastery of the Aeliotes for ten years.


Chapter LXVIII
The same

When Abramius, the superior of New St. Mary heard that Theodosius had no cloak to wear in winter, he bought one for him. While he was asleep, some time after receiving it (for the old man slept in his cell), some robbers came and pulled it off him and carried it away with them. But even after this deed he still said nothing.


Chapter LXIX
The life of abba PALLADIUS, and the old Thessalonican anchorite called DAVID.

Before Sophronius Sophista renounced the world, he and I once visited abba Palladius in Alexandria, a holy man and true servant of God whose monastery was in Thelazomenos. Both of us asked him to give us some teaching (verbum aedificationis), and he began immediately:
"My little children," he said, "the time is short, so let us strive for a little while and labour to enjoy the deathless benefits of eternity. Look to the martyrs, those heavenly fighters, and see how they overcame in all things with strength and bravery. It was a previous age which recognised them but they live forever in our memories, and we can hardly admire their endurance enough. Everyone who hears of them is astonished at how great was the patience of the blessed martyrs, more than human nature would have thought possible. Some of them had their eyes torn out, some their legs broken, some their hands cut off, others their feet. Some were suddenly thrown into the fire and suffered crucifying agony as they slowly burned. It is certain that the ocean depths were the resting place of some, the rivers others. Others were thrown alive into the teeth of wild beasts like malefactors and criminals, suffering various terrible agonies before death as they became the animals' food. There were many other kinds of torments, defying description, thought up for the warriors of God at the suggestion of the demon enemy of the human race, livid with spite towards those very martyrs. O how bravely they endured! How great the faith with which they fought, overcoming the weakness of the body by their spiritual strength! They counted their present labours as nothing compared to the more excellent and splendid rewards which were their hope. All these things truly showed how wonderfully firm their faith was, through and through. Labouring a little while here they now enjoy the greatest bliss in eternity. This indeed was why they bravely bore the horrible punishments inflicted on their bodies at the instigation of our enemy the devil.
"So then, if we endure tribulation, and overcome by the grace of God, we shall be found lovers of God. For God is with us, fighting and conquering in us, soothing our toil and sweat for the sake of his own honour. Therefore, my little children, knowing what works and expectations the times demand of us let us become worthy through quietness and silence. In this time granted to us we must make use of the eminently good work of penitence, that we may be found worthy of the temple of God, and we shall be rewarded with no mean or short-lived honour in the world to come."
He also said, "Let us always be mindful of him who had no where to lay his head." (Matthew 8.20). And again, "Since Paul the Apostle says tribulation brings forth patience (Romans 5.3), let us ensure that our minds are open to the kingdom of heaven." And again, "'Little children, love not the world nor the things that are in the world.'" (1 John.2.15)
And again, he said, "Let us keep watch over our thoughts, for that is the medicine of salvation."
We asked abba Palladius if he would increase our awareness by telling us in what sort of way would thoughts be expected to develop in the monastic state, and he told us about an old man from Thessalonica:
"In my home area there was an anchorite from Mesopotamia called David about three miles outside the city walls. He was a man adorned with many virtues, merciful and abstemious, and had been enclosed in his cell for eighty years. For fear of the barbarians there were soldiers keeping watch on the city walls every night, and those who were looking out in the direction of the anchorite's cell noticed one night that it seemed as if fire could be seen through the windows of his cell. The soldiers thought that barbarians must have set fire to the old man's cell, but in the morning, the soldiers went down and were astonished to find the old man quite unharmed and no signs of fire in the cell. They were amazed to see the same appearance of fire on the night following, and not only the next night but frequently afterwards so that it became known to the whole city. Many people watched nightly on the city walls in the hope of seeing this fire, which continued right up to the day of the old man's death. Having seen this miracle myself not once, not twice, but many times, I said to myself, 'If God shows such glory to his servants in this life, how much more do you think he will show in the life to come, when "their faces shall shine forth as the sun"' (Matthew 14.43)? This was the spur which made me take the monastic habit, my little children, and choosing this way of life."


Chapter LXX
The life of the anchorite monk ADDAS of Mesopotamia.

The old man also told us that after this abba David, there was another monk called Addas, also a Mesopotamian, who built himself an anchorage in a great plane tree in another part of the region. He made a window in it through which he was able to talk to visitors. When the barbarians came and laid waste the whole province they happened to come by his place. As soon as one of them spied the old man he drew his sword in order to kill him, but having lifted up his hand to strike he was unable to bring it down, remaining motionless with his hand hanging in the air. When the other barbarians saw this they were amazed and begged the old man to cure their companion. The old man did pray, the man was released, and so he dismissed them in peace.



Chapter LXXI
The beautiful words of a MURDERER to a monk who was following him on the way to his execution.

This same abbot Palladius told us of someone arrested and found guilty of murder in Arsinoe, a city of the Thebaid. After being tortured for some time he was at last sentenced to be beheaded. He was taken out of the city for six miles to the place where he had committed the murder and a monk followed on behind him in order to witness the execution.
"Haven't you got a cell and manual work to attend to?" said the condemned man when he saw the monk.
"Forgive me, brother," said the monk, "but yes, I do have a cell and work to do."
"Well, why aren't you sitting in your cell and weeping for your own sins, then?"
"You are right, brother. I am very neglectful of my duties, and find myself unable to summon up any compunction in my heart. That is why I have come to watch you die, in the hope that thereby I might find compunction."
"Go with the Lord, brother", said the guilty man, "and sit in your cell and give thanks to our Saviour Jesus Christ. Since he was made human and died for us sinners, human beings no longer suffer eternal death."


Chapter LXXII
A story of abbot PALLADIUS about an elderly murderer who falsely accused a young man of the crime.

Abbot Palladius also told us this story about an elderly layman who had committed murder and was held in custody by the magistrate in Alexandria. After being tortured he accused someone else of being his accomplice in the crime, a young man about twenty years old. They were both subjected to many tortures, the older man accusing the younger of being with him when the crime was done, and the younger denying it vigorously, swearing that his conscience was clear of the murder, and that he had not been with the older man at all. After the torture, they were sentenced to be suspended [with hands outstretched] from a wooden yoke. They were taken five miles outside the city to the place where it was customary for those guilty of this kind of crime to be punished.
Now there was a ruined temple of Saturn about three hundred metres (uno stadio) from the place. When the soldiers and spectators arrived there, they intended to string up the young man first, but he threw himself on the ground and pleaded with the soldiers:
"In the name of the Lord, please grant me the favour of being hung up facing the East, so that I may look towards Him when I am hanging there."
"What do you mean?" the soldiers asked?
"Truly, sirs," replied the young man, "miserable though I am, it is only seven months since I received holy Baptism and became a Christian."
Hearing this the soldiers were moved to tears for the young man. But the older man, snorting with rage, said to the soldiers:
"In the name of Serapis let me be able to turn my face towards Saturn." 
Hearing this blasphemy the soldiers left the young man and began to string up the old man first. When he had been well and truly suspended from the wooden yoke, behold, an Augustal official came rushing in.
"Don't kill the young man," he said to the soldiers. "Take him back [to the courtroom]."
The soldiers and everyone there were delighted. They took him back to the courtroom, where the Augustalis acquitted him. The young man contrary to all expectation was saved, and he went away and became a monk.
We have written this down not only for our own benefit but for the benefit of the readers, that we may be convinced that the Lord knows how to deliver the faithful in their tribulations.


Chapter LXXIII
The life of JOHN, an Alexandrian soldier
This same abbot Palladius also told us this story. 

 

There was a soldier in Alexandria called John who followed this rule of life: He would stay in the monastery every day from the morning up till the ninth hour, sitting alone in front of St Peter's steps, wearing a tunic (cilicium), weaving baskets, totally silent, speaking to no one. He was praying as he sat and worked with his hands, but the only words which he softly sang were Save me, O Lord, I pray, from my secret sins. Let me not be confounded. Having spoken he was then silent for about an hour, when he repeated this same verse again, so that he repeated it seven times altogether during the day, and did not say anything else. At the ninth hour, he took off his tunic and put on his military uniform (militarem habitum) and his weapons (indumen-ta), and so hastened back to his own barracks (signa, lit. 'standards' carried at the head of the legion). I stayed there myself for eight years and was greatly edified by his silence and way of life.


Chapter LXXIV
A reliable statement from PALLADIUS, on the subject of heresy

The old man caught us one day and said to us: "Believe me, my little children, the only reason for schisms and heresies coming in to the Church is that we do not love God and each other with our whole heart."


Chapter LXXV
A miracle done by OUR LADY to the wife and daughter of a man of the faith who was accustomed to giving hospitality to monks.

When we visited Palladius on another day, he told us the following story:
There was a man of the faith in Alexandria, very devout and generous, accustomed to giving monks hospitality. He had a wife, very humble, who fasted daily, and also a young daughter about six years old. He was a businessman, and one day he had to go on a journey to Constantinople, leaving his wife, daughter and one servant at home. As he was about to take ship, his wife asked him who would be their protector in his absence.
"Our Lady the holy birthgiver of God," her husband replied.
One day when the wife was sitting working, her daughter being with her, the servant hatched a plot to kill both the lady and her daughter, seize whatever he could and flee. Taking a knife from the kitchen he went towards the triclinium where they both were. When he got to the door he was suddenly stricken with blindness, nor could he either go in to the triclinium or return to the kitchen. He stayed like that for about an hour, trying in vain to go in, and at last began to call out to the lady
"Please, can you come here!" he cried
"No, you come here, rather," she said, seeing him standing in the doorway shouting out rather than coming in, unaware that he was blind.
The servant again began to beg her to come to him, but she positively refused.
"Well, send your daughter to me, "he begged.
"Certainly not," she said. "If there is something you want, you come here."
The servant realised that there was nothing that could be done, turned the knife upon himself and fell to the floor. The lady screamed when she realised what he had done, and neighbours immediately rushed in. Some praetorian officials also arrived and finding the servant still alive, learned everything, and glorified the Lord who had saved both mother and daughter.

Chapter LXXVI
The drowning of MARY, a woman who was a sinner.

Palladius also told us this story:
A certain sea captain once told me about a voyage of his when he had several male and female passengers aboard. Out on the high seas other ships seemed to be sailing well under a favourable wind, some to Constantinople, some to Alexandria, some to other places, but he could make no progress at all.
"We stayed put for about fifteen days," he said, "unable to move from where we were. We became very depressed and desperate, not knowing whatever could be causing this. As captain responsible for the care of the ship and everyone in her, I began to pray about it to God. And indeed on a certain day a voice came to me saying: 'Get rid of Mary and you will sail well.' 'What did that mean', I thought, 'and who is Mary?' And as I turned this over in my mind the voice came again, saying: 'I tell you, get rid of Mary and you will be all right.'
"'O Mary!' I shouted over and over again, wondering what this was all about and not knowing who Mary was. But Mary herself heard me from where she was sitting and said: 'Did you want me, sir?'
"'Could you come here, please,' I said. She got up to come straight away, and when she had got to me I took her aside.
"'Mary, my sister,' I said, 'Are you able to see if it is my sins which are responsible for the plight you are all in? '
"'In fact, Captain,' she said, with a deep groan, 'it is I who am the sinner.'
"'Why, what have you done, woman?' I asked.
"'Woe is me', she said. 'There is no sin in the book which I have not been guilty of. And it is because of my sins that you have all been brought into this present danger.'
"And then the woman told me all about herself.
"'I'm a miserable wretch, Captain,' she said. 'I had a husband with whom I had two sons, but when one of them was nine and the other five, my husband died and I was a widow. But there was a soldier living near me whom I would have quite liked to have as a husband, and I gave him some signals to that effect (misique ad ipsum quosdam). But he wouldn't because he said he did not want a wife who had two children by another man. But I was carried away with desire for him, and seeing that he would not have me because of my children, I killed them both and then went to him and said "See now, I no longer have any children". When he learned what I had done with the children he said: "As the Lord lives in heaven, I certainly will not have you!" So I fled, in fear that he would tell and I should be executed.'
"Even though I had heard this out of her own mouth, I was unwilling to throw her overboard, and tried to put off coming to a decision.
"'Look,' I said, 'I will go down into a lifeboat, and if the ship then begins to move we will know that it was my sins which were impeding her.' I called for the coxswain and said, 'Lower the boat'. But once I was in the boat, neither the ship nor the boat still made any movement. Coming back aboard again I said to the woman, 'Now you get down into the boat'. The moment she got into it the boat turned round five times and went straight to the bottom, carrying her with it. And after this the ship made such good progress that in three and a half days' sailing we made up for the fifteen days we had lost."


Chapter LXXVII
The story of three poor BLIND MEN, and how they came by their blindness.

My respected master Sophronius and I went once to the house of Stephanus the philosopher to benefit from his teaching. It was about the middle of the day and he lived near the church of the holy birthgiver of God known as the Dorothea, which our blessed father Eulogius had built near the great Tetrapylum. When we knocked at the philosopher's door, a maid opened up to us who said that he was asleep and we would have to wait a while.

"Let's go to the Tetrapylum and wait there," I said to Sophronius. It was a place held in great reverence in Alexandria, for it is said that Alexander, the founder of the city, brought the bones of the prophet Jeremiah out of Egypt and reburied them there. When we got there, about noon, we found no one inside except three blind men. Without making a noise we sat down near these three men to read our books. They were having a long conversation with each other.
"How did you come to be blind?" one of them asked the other.
"In my youth I was a sailor," he replied, "and while sailing from Africa on the high seas I suddenly became blind, and could not see where I was going for the whiteness in my eyes. And how did you become blind?" he asked the other.
"I worked in glass production of various kinds," he said, "the fire damaged both my eyes, and I became blind."
Having questioned each other they both then turned to the third.
"Tell us how you also became blind," they asked.
"When I was young," he replied, "I hated work, I rejected it, I was just a layabout (luxuriosus). But I had nothing to live on so I took to stealing. I had committed many crimes, when one day I was standing in a certain place where I noticed a very richly dressed corpse being carried by. I followed the funeral procession to see where it would be laid. They went behind St John ['s church], and laid the body in a tomb. They said the funeral prayers and departed. As soon as I was sure they had all gone, I went in to the tomb and pulled off all the rich clothing, leaving nothing but a linen cloth. As I was on my way out of the tomb, loaded up with many bundles, a wicked thought said to me, 'Take the linen cloth as well, it is such a good one.' Alas, I went back and took the linen cloth also, leaving the body quite naked. The dead man suddenly sat up before my very eyes, thrust out his hands towards me and gouged out my eyes. Terrified, I dropped everything, and found my way out of the tomb with great danger and difficulty. So now, I have told you how I too became blind."
My respected master Sophronius nodded to me when we had heard this tale, and we stole away.
"Abba John," he said, "we really have no need for any further study today. We have already been educated quite enough."
I have told this tale that you also might be educated: there is no ill doer who may hide from God. And we heard this tale from the very person it happened to.


Chapter LXXVIII
The astonishing miracle of a dead GIRL, who seized a grave-robber and would not let him go until he had promised to become a monk.

Abba Johannes, the father of the monastery of Gigantum, told us a similar story from the time when he had been at Theopolis:
It is not so long ago that I had a visit from a certain young man.
"Help me, for the love of God," he said, with many tears and convulsive sighs. "I need to do penance."
I could see that he was very penitent and deeply sad.
"Tell me the reason why you are so filled with compunction," I said. "Don't hold anything back, for God is surely able to help you."
"Abba," he said, "I am truly a great sinner."
"Believe me," I said, "Just as there are a great many different kinds of wounds, so there are many different kinds of medicine. If you wish to be cured, tell me truly what you have done, so that I can give you a penance which is suitable. For there is one sort of cure for fornication, another for murder, another for avarice, another for lying, another for anger. No need to go through the rest of the vices for you, but there are various remedies for all the vices of the soul just as there are various remedies for all the bodily ailments."
But he could do nothing but groan even more and strike his breast with tears and convulsive sighs. Such was his distress and sorrow that his heart failed him and he was quite unable to say a single word. I tried to concentrate his mind on his desperate grief and his unbearable sins, unable as he was to describe his disaster, or what had happened to him or what he had done.
"Listen to me, my son." I said, "Put a little order into your thoughts and describe to me what you have done. Then perhaps our Lord may be able to offer you some help. For of his ineffable mercy and boundless compassion he has suffered all things for our salvation. He was a friend of publicans and welcomed the harlot who came to him. He accepted the robber, and was called the friend of sinners. He will gather you into his hands also, my son, as you turn to him in penitence. 'For he desires not the death of a sinner, but rather that he turn from his wickedness and live'". (Ezekiel 33.11).
Then he made an effort to control his tears and sighs a little.
"I am a sink of iniquity, father," he said "fit neither for earth or heaven. Two days ago I heard that a young girl belonging to one of the richest families of this city had died, and was being buried with many costly garments in a tomb outside the city. From force of a most wicked habit I went by night to the tomb, went in and set about robbing her. I took everything she wore off her, not even sparing her loincloth, which I also removed, leaving her naked as the day she was born. I had begun to leave the tomb when she suddenly sat up in front of me, stretched out her left hand and seized my right and said 'You most wicked man, aren't you ashamed to have stripped me bare? Have you no fear of God and the reward of everlasting damnation? Ought you not at the very least to have had respect for the dead? And if you are a Christian, do you think it would have been right for me to stand naked before Christ? Have you no respect for the female sex? Was it not this sex which gave you birth? Have you not violated your own mother in what you have done to me? You wretched man, what shall you plead before the tremendous judgment seat of Christ when faced with this crime you have perpetrated on me. While I was alive no stranger ever so much as saw my face, but now I am dead and buried you have stripped me and seen my naked body. O, to what depths of human misery have you descended! How will you be able to hold out your hands to receive the holy and precious body of our Lord Jesus Christ? What will be in your heart?'
"I was totally overcome by panic and horror as I witnessed and heard all this.
"'Let me go,' I finally managed to say with fear and trembling, 'and I won't ever do this again.'
"'Certainly not,' she said. 'You came in here of your own free will, but you shall not go out again just as you please. This place will be a tomb for both of us, and don't think that you will die quickly. You will suffer here for many days before you painfully deliver up your wicked soul.'
"I wept and begged her to let me go for the sake of Almighty God, promising and swearing an oath that I would never do such a wicked and shameful thing ever again. And at last after my floods of tears and sighs she gave me her reply.
"'If you wish to live and be freed from my grasp you must promise me that if I let you go you must not only refrain from such wicked and profane deeds in future, but resolve immediately to renounce the world and become a monk, and serve Christ in penitence for the evil you have done.'
"I swore.
"'In the name of God who will receive my soul,' I said, 'I will not merely do what you say, but after leaving here I will never go back home but go with all speed to a monastery.'
"'Put my clothes back on,' the girl then said, 'and leave me in the same state as you found me.'
"I did so, she stretched herself out, and lay there, dead."
With this tale from the young man fresh in my ears I comforted and encouraged him, urging him to penitence and continence. I tonsured him, gave him the monastic habit and enclosed him in a mountain cave, where I left him giving heartfelt thanks to God and struggling manfully for the salvation of his soul.


Chapter LXXIX
The great and astonishing miracle of the most holy EUCHARIST, in the time of Dionysius the bishop of Seleucia.

When we came to Seleucia we called on abbot Theodore, the bishop of that city. He told us the following story:
This is something that happened under my predecessor, Dionysius of holy memory, bishop of this city. There was a businessman in the city, very rich, and very religious, though a heretic, for he was a follower of Severus. [465-538, Monophysite Patriarch of Antioch]. He had a servant who was a faithful communicant of the holy and apostolic Church, and according to the custom of that province on Maundy Thursday (die Sancto Coenae Dominicae) he received Communion, wrapped it in a fair linen cloth and put it in a safe. It so happened, however, that after Easter this man of faith was sent to Constantinople on business and gave the key of the safe to his master, forgetting that he had left the holy Communion in it.
The master opened the safe one day and found the linen cloth with the holy particles of Communion wrapped up in it. He was worried about this and did not quite know what to do with them. He was reluctant to consume them, seeing that they were of the holy Catholic Church, whereas he was a follower of Severus. So he put them back in the safe, thinking that his servant would consume them when he came back.
But when Maundy Thursday came and the servant had still not come back, he thought that perhaps he should burn them, rather than keep them there for a second year. But when he opened the safe he found that the holy particles had germinated, producing stalks and ears of corn. He was overcome with fear and trembling, picked up the holy particles, and together with his whole household shouting Kyrie eleison ran to the holy church, and to the most holy and venerable bishop Dionysius. This great and terrible miracle, exceeding anything that might be thought or reasoned about, or invented, was witnessed not by one or two or three or even several more, but by the whole church, citizens and peasants, natives and visitors, travellers by land and sea, men and women, old men and children, young men and seniors, masters and servants, rich and poor, princes and subjects, wise and foolish, virgins and monks, widows and married women, rulers and ruled. They too shouted Kyrie eleison, though some praised God in other ways, but all truly gave thanks to God for his ineffable miracles. And many who believed because of the miracle were added to the holy Catholic and apostolic Church.


 

Chapter LXXX
The spring which was granted by God to the brothers of the monastery at Scopulus through the prayers  of their abbot  THEODOSIUS.

We arrived at the monastery of abbot Theodosius at Scopulus, which is a mountain between Seleucia and Rosus Cilicia. The fathers showed us round the monastery, which is about an arrow's flight in length, and pointed out to us a copious and beautiful spring.
"This spring, brothers," they said, "is not natural, but was granted to us by divine favour. For our holy father Theodosius fasted greatly and poured out many tears, and with many prayers and prostrations obtained from God the gift of this water for our use and consolation. Before this spring our fathers often went thirsty, but God who listens to the needs of those who fear him of his infinite bounty gave us the blessing of this water through the prayers of our holy father.
"And yet two years ago some of the brothers asked the father of the monastery to build a bath house in the monastery. The abbot did not really like the idea, but pandered to their weakness and agreed. The bath house was duly built in the monastery, and after it had been used only once, that great and lovely spring, gift of God, dried up. And to tell you the truth as Christians, we fasted and said many prayers and made many prostrations that we might have the spring back again, but without success. A whole year went by without any water in the spring, leaving us in great difficulty. But as soon as our kind and gentle father pulled down the bathhouse, God gave us back the water."


Chapter LXXXI
The well which was filled with water when a picture of abba THEODOSIUS was lowered into it.

These same fathers told us the following story:
There is a woman of the faith in the Apamaean region who dug a well not so long ago. It cost her quite a lot of money, requiring a lot of labour, but when it had been dug to a great depth and no water was found, she was very upset and distressed because of all the labour and expense. However a woman appeared to this worried woman in her dreams, saying, "Send to Scopulus and get a picture of abba Theodosius. Through him God will provide your water." The next day the woman sent two men to get a picture of the holy man. When it was lowered into the well, the water immediately began to flow so that the well was soon half full. They gave us some of this same water to drink, and we drank and glorified God.


Chapter LXXXII


The life of JOHN, an old man of the monastery of Scopulus.

We were able to meet with John, an old man in this same monastery. The fathers of the place told us that he was a very great Christian, a terrible foe of demons. He was able to cure immediately anyone who came to him possessed of an evil spirit.


Chapter LXXXIII
More about JOHN

The fathers of the place also told us the following:
About twenty-four miles away from the monastery there is an industrial complex (emporium) on a promontory called Narrow. A certain sea captain worked here and built a ship of about two hundred and seventy thousand litres cubic capacity [thirty thousand modii, corn measures or pecks, about 2 gallons each]. With a large team of workmen (he employed about three hundred of them) he tried for two weeks to launch the ship but could not get it to move anywhere near the sea, for it had been bewitched by some very evil people. The captain was in great anguish and despair and did not know what to do. But by the providence of God, John was travelling in these parts. The captain saw him, and recognised him as a holy man.
"Pray for this ship, abba," he begged, "we can't launch it because of magic arts."
"Go home and prepare a meal for me," the old man said, "and God will come to your aid." But he was only saying this in order to get the captain home.
As soon as he had gone the old man went alone to the ship, prostrated himself three times, prayed to God and made the sign of the cross over the ship three times in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Then he went to the captain's home.
"Go back to your ship and launch it into the sea," he said.
The captain believed the old man's word. He went back with just a few people to help drag it, and the ship was soon launched into the sea.


Chapter LXXXIV
The life and death of an ANCHORITE, a servant of God in the same monastery.

The fathers of this same monastery also told us this story:
There was an anchorite in these mountains, greatly beloved of God, who led a solitary life for many years. Without anyone being aware of it he died in a narrow little cave; we all thought he had gone to another part of the desert. But he appeared one night in a dream to our present good father, abba Julian, best of pastors.
"Take some people with you," he said, "and come and bring me back from the place where I am lying in Mount Cervus."
So our father took some of us with him up the mountain he had named. We searched for several hours but could not find the anchorite's remains, for the entrance of the cave was hidden at that time by snow and brushwood.
"Let us go down again, my sons", said our superior, when we were unable to find the anchorite. We were just about to go when, behold, a goat appeared and stopped a little way away from us, and then began to dig in the earth with its hoofs.
"Believe me, my sons," he said, when he saw the goat, "this is where the servant of God is buried." So we dug and found his body incorrupt, which we took down to the monastery and buried with honour.


Chapter LXXXV
How wheat in this same monastery was spoiled by germination when almsgiving was stopped.

Another tale they told us:
It was the custom on Maundy Thursday for all the orphans and poor people of the district to come here and receive half a pint (medium sextertium) of wheat, thirteen pieces of blessed bread, a pint of wine, and half a pint of honey. Three years ago there was a great shortage of wheat. In this district you could only buy twelve pints of it for one unit of currency (numisma).
During Lent some of the fathers approached the abbot.
"Let's not give the customary wheat to the poor, father," they said, "lest the monastery suffers, for wheat is in such short supply."
"Let us not break with the blessing of our father Theodosius," the abbot replied, "Look, this is the old man's mandate. It ill behoves us to transgress it. Surely he himself will look after us."
But the brothers persisted in their opinion.
"He will not be able to make up for what we might be able to give, " they said.
The abbot was very sad but allowed them to do what they wanted. So the usual blessings did not take place that Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.
Later, the person in charge of the storehouse opened the doors and found that all the wheat in it had germinated, so that we had to throw it into the sea.
"He who brings to naught the wishes of our father," said the abbot, "must suffer the consequences, and reap the reward of disobedience. We would have given away fifty pecks, pleased our father Theodosius by our obedience, and given some help to our brothers among the poor. As it is, we have lost about a thousand pecks of wheat. What have we gained, my sons? How much harm have we done to ourselves? We have done two things wrong. First, we ignored the mandates of our father; second, we have trusted not in God but in our storehouse. Let us learn from this, brothers, that it is God who rules the whole human race, and also that our holy father Theodosius cares unseen for us his sons."

 

 



 

Chapter LXXXVI
Another ANCHORITE from the same monastery, who died immediately after receiving holy Communion

Abba Egiarius told us this story:
I left Aega after the solemnity when the winter had become a bit more severe, and came to the monastery of Scopulus. This is what happened when I was there. There was an anchorite living a solitary life in those parts who used to come on Sundays to receive the sacred mysteries. Only once did he cause scandal when for five weeks he stayed away, not coming to the monastery as was his usual custom, which distressed the brothers of the monastery very much. But on the Sunday when I was there, he did turn up. The brothers of the monastery were glad to see him, prostrated themselves and asked pardon, as he likewise prostrated himself and asked pardon of them, so restoring charity all round. Then when the anchorite had received the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ he went to the middle of the church and fell down dead, even though he had previously shown no sign of any illness. The fathers of the monastery realised that the anchorite had foreseen the day of his death, which is why he had come so that he might pass to the Lord having nothing against anyone.

 

 

 

 

Chapter LXXXVII
How the body of the anchorite JOHN, called the Humble, was found

We visited a certain village six miles from Rosus where two old men who were not monks (saeculares) gave us hospitality in a church which they had founded themselves. This village was at the foot of a mountain. In the church they showed us a marble monument which read: 'Christians, a great anchorite lies in this monument.'
"Do you know where he comes from?" we asked them.
"Seven years ago," they said, "all of us who live in this village noticed a light on the top of the mountain like a burning fire, and we wondered who could have lit it. After observing this for several days we went up there one day but could find no traces of any fire - no fire, and no sign of anything having been burnt. But the following night we saw the fire again. For three months we kept on seeing it. At last one night we took some of the villagers, armed in case of wild beasts, and went up the mountain to where the light appeared, and stayed near it until daylight. When morning had fully come, we could see a small cave in the place where we had seen the light. We went in, and found an anchorite, dead. He was wearing cilicium and pallium (tunic and mantle) and held a silver cross in his hands. We also found a parchment with this written on it: I AM JOHN THE HUMBLE, DIED ON THE DAY OF THE FIFTEENTH INDICTION, by which we calculated that he had been dead for seven years, though his body was as whole as if he had just died that day. We brought him down to the church and buried him with honour.


Chapter LXXXVIII
The life of abba THOMAS apocrisarius of the coenobium of Apamia and the miracle of his dead body.

When we visited Theopolis, one of the presbyters of that church told us about abba Thomas, who was the apocrisarius (business manager, bursar, cellarer) of the coenobium in Apamia. This old man came once on business to Theopolis, and after staying there for a while, he died in Daphne, in the church of St Euphemia. The clergy there buried him as a stranger in the strangers' burial ground, and the next day they buried a woman whom they put on top of him. This was about the second hour; but at the sixth hour the earth threw her up. The caretakers of the place were astonished when they saw what had happened, but towards evening reburied her in the same grave. Next day they found her on top of the grave, so they took the body and put in another tomb. A few days later they buried another woman on top of abba Thomas, the clerics of that place not being aware that Thomas would not allow anyone to be buried on top of him. And again, the earth threw her up. At last they realised that the old man would not allow a woman to be buried on top of him, and they went and reported this to the Lord patriarch. He arranged that the whole city should go to Daphne with candles, and carry the remains of the old man into the city while singing psalms. They put the body of this holy man in the cemetery where the bodies of many of the martyrs had been laid and built a small oratory over him.



Chapter LXXXIX
The body of a holy ANCHORITE found on Mount Amanus

While we were at Theopolis, one of the fathers told us that one day he had had to go over Mt Amanus, where he came across a cave. He went in and found an anchorite on bended knees, with his hands stretched up in the air, and his hair reaching down to the floor. Thinking he was alive, he prostrated himself in front of him.
"Pray for me, father," he said. Getting no reply he got up and went a bit closer, to greet him and embrace him, but as soon as he touched him he realised he was dead. He left him and went out, and had not gone very far before he saw another cave. He went in and found an old man there.
"Welcome, brother," said this old man. "Did you go into the other cave?"
"I did indeed," he replied.
"You didn't take anything away from there?"
"No".
"It is absolutely true, brother, that it is fifteen years since he died, and he looks as if he had been dead no longer than hour."
The old man made a prayer for him, and the visitor went on his way glorifying God.


Chapter XC
The death of two ANCHORITES on Mount Phterigius.

There were two anchorites on Mount Phterigius above Rosus near the river Piape, not far from the monastery of Theopolis in Scopulus. One of these was an old man, the other was a young man, the elder's disciple. The old man died and his disciple prayed and buried him on the mountain. After a few days, the disciple went down the mountain to where there was some habitation and found a man working in a field.
"Do me a kindness, brother," said the disciple, "bring your spade and hoe and come with me."
The farm worker followed him immediately, and when they got up the mountain the disciple showed him the old man's grave.
"Dig here," he said.
When he had dug a grave the disciple stood in prayer and embraced the man
"Pray for me, brother," he said, and went down into the grave where he stretched himself out on the body of the old man and immediately gave up his spirit.
The man covered the grave over again giving thanks to God. He had gone down the mountain again for no more than a stone's throw when he said to himself, "Surely I ought to ask a blessing from these holy men," but when he turned back, the grave was nowhere to be found.


Chapter XCI
The life of abba GREGORIUS the anchorite, and his disciple THALELAEUS

One of the fathers told us about abba Gregorius who went about naked in the desert for thirty-five years.
It was said about him that when he was in the mountains above the monastery of abba Theodosius in Scopulus he had a disciple who died. Not having any tools to dig the earth and bury his disciple, the old man went down the mountain to the sea, where he found a ship putting in to shore. He asked the captain and crew to go with him up the mountain to bury the brother. They willingly granted the old man's request, gathered up the necessary tools, went up the mountain and dug a grave to bury the brother in. One of the sailors called Thalelaeus was so overcome by compunction because of the old man's virtues that he begged to be allowed to stay with him.
"You would not be able to put up with the hard labour of penitence," the old man said.
"I'm quite sure I could" (ita sane tolerare possum), he replied.
So he stayed with the old man for a year, working very hard at the holy exercises. At the end of the year he prostrated himself before the old man.
"Pray for me, father," he said. "Through your prayers God has taken away from me all the difficulty. I no longer get tired, I am no longer bothered by inclement weather, neither summer heat nor winter cold, but remain absolutely peaceful."
The old man gave him his blessing, and after a further two years and a half, brother Thalelaeus, foreseeing his own death, made a request to the old man.
"I beg you, take me to Jerusalem so that I can adore the holy Cross and the holy resurrection of Christ my Lord and God, for the Lord is about to take me to himself at this time."
So the old man took him with him to the holy city. They worshipped at the venerable holy places and went down to bathe in the holy Jordan. Three days afterwards brother Thalelaeus slept in the Lord and the old man buried him in the monastery of Cupatha. Abba Gregorius the anchorite died a little while after, and the fathers of that monastery buried him in the church.


Chapter XCII
The life of brother GREGORIUS  of Cappadocia and how the body of PETER, a solitary of the holy Jordan, was found.

The following tale was told to us, that is to brother Sophronius Sophista and me, by our father abbot Gregorius, the archimandrite of the monastery of our holy father Theodosius, in the desert near the holy city of Christ our Lord.
I had a brother here called Gregory of Cappadocia, who worked however in Phaselus (a subsidiary cell of brothers?) Now one day when the brothers were making bread, brother Gregorius lit the fire under the oven, but having lit it could not find anything to clean it with, for the brothers had hidden the cloth by way of teasing him. So he went into the oven and cleaned it out using his own clothing, and was not in the least bit harmed by the fire. But when I heard about it, I rebuked the brothers for putting him to the test like that.
Our father abbot Gregorius also told us that once when brother Gregorius was feeding the pigs in Phaselus, two lions came after the pigs, but he picked up a stick and drove them back to the holy Jordan.
The same father told us that when he was beginning to build the church of St Quiricus in Phaselus and digging out the foundations, he had a dream about a monk of very ascetic appearance, carrying a palm, and with a meagre robe of woven rushes draped over his shoulders (gerens in humeris parvulum colobium de psiathio).
"Tell me, abba Gregorius," he said in a most gentle tone of voice, "is it right that after so many labours, so much abstinence, you have left me out of the church you are building?"
"Far be it from me to do so," he replied, in deference to the voice and appearance of the man.
"But that is exactly what you have done."
"Who then are you, sir?"
"I am Peter, a solitary of the holy Jordan."
Next morning abba Gregorius hastened to dig in various places around the church until he found a body lying there identical to what he had seen in his dream. When the church was built, he put a splendid tomb in the right hand side of the church and put the body in it.


Chapter XCIII
The life of abba SISINIUS who renounced his episcopate, and his disciple.

Our father Gregorius also told us the following:
"I went once to visit abba Sisinius. He it was who renounced his episcopate for the sake of Christ and went to live a solitary life near the fortress of Bethabara, about six miles from the holy Jordan. When I got there, I knocked at the door, which after a very long time was answered by his disciple.
"'The fact is,' he said, 'that the old man is very ill, dying. But he has prayed God that he might not die until he heard that you had arrived in this district.'
"For I had been on my way to the most religious Emperor Tiberius in Constantinople, on business for the cenobium. The disciple went to tell the old man of my arrival, and returned after a long delay.
"'Go in, father,' he said.
"When we went in, however, we found that the old man had fallen asleep in peace. And I realised that as soon as he knew that it was I who had been knocking on the door, he had passed over to the Lord. I embraced him, and this dead man said in a soft and gentle voice, 'Welcome, my abbot,' and again fell asleep. I made his death known locally so that they might come and bury him, and when they had come and were digging a grave, the disciple said to them:
"'Do me a kindness, and make it a little wider, big enough for two.' And when the grave was dug, he lay down upon a rush mat and rested in peace. So we buried them both together, the old man and his disciple."


Chapter XCIV
The life of abba JULIANUS  bishop of Bostrensis

Our father archimandrite Gregorius also told us about abba Julianus the bishop of Bostrensis.
When he left the cenobium to be made bishop of Bostrensis, some people in that city who hated the name of Christ decided to poison him. They bribed the servant who administered the wine, and gave him some poison to put in the cup when he brought it to the bishop. The servant did as he had been directed, and brought the poisoned chalice to the bishop. The holy man took it, but by divine providence realised there was treachery. He said nothing to the servant, but put the cup down in front of him and sent for all the city fathers, among whom were the ones who had instigated this treachery.
"If you thought to poison this humble Julianus," this blessed man said in a most gentle voice, not wishing to actually name those responsible, "look, I drink this poisoned cup in the presence of you all." He made the sign of the cross three times over the cup, saying "In nomine Patris et Filii, et Spiritus sancti I drink this cup." And he drank it all in the presence of them all, and was quite unharmed. When they saw this, they prostrated themselves and sought pardon.


Chapter XCV
The life of PATRICIUS, an old man of the monastery of Scopulus

There was a very old man indeed in the coenobium of our holy father Theodosius, (he said he was a hundred and thirty). He came from Sebaste, his name was Patricius and he was of a very quiet and peaceful disposition. The fathers told us that he had come from the monastery of Abazanus where he had been prior, but had relinquished that position, fearing that he was in danger of Judgment, for he said that only great men ought to be shepherds of the sheep who had the gift of reason. He came here in order to live under obedience, judging that to be more favourable to [the salvation of] his soul.


Chapter XCV
More about the same, and also about JULIANUS, a blind Arab.

There was another old man, a blind Arab called Julianus, who at one time was scandalised by Macarius the archbishop of Jerusalem and refused to be in communion with him. Abba Julianus decided one day to send a message to abbot Simeon in the miraculous mountain (this mountain was about nine miles away from Theopolis).
"I am blind," he said, "and cannot see where I am going. I have no one to help me, but I can no longer remain in communion with Macarius. Tell me what I should do, father, about this brother who is a fornicator and that other person bound to him with an oath."
"Don't leave," abba Simeon replied to abba Julianus, "and don't separate yourself from holy Church. But take note of this, my brother, when anyone falls into heresy, there is a great old man in your coenobium called Patricius, who stays near the west wall of the church opposite the sanctuary, in last place behind everyone else, and he says that he makes a holy offering of prayer for everyone. And they do say that his prayer is very holy indeed."


Chapter XCVII
The life and death of two BROTHERS  who vowed never to be separated from each other

Abba John Rutilus the anchorite said that he had heard from abba Stephen the Moabite that there were two brothers in the coenobium of the holy abba Theodosius, that great leader of monks, who vowed to each other never in life or in death to be separated from each other. They were an example to everyone in the coenobium until one of them was overwhelmed by sexual temptation.
"Let me go away, brother," he said, "for I am obsessed with thoughts of sex and cannot get rid of them. I want to return to the world."
"No, don't, I beg you," said his brother, "don't throw away the fruits of all your labour."
"Either let me go, or else you come with me, for I must satisfy my desires."
But the brother did not want to part from him, so he went with him into the city. The first brother went for some entertainment with a prostitute, the other remained standing outside, pouring dust upon his head and beating his breast, until his brother had finished his evil deed and come back out of the brothel. 
"Just what have you gained from your sin, brother?" he asked. "What harm have you done to yourself? Let's go back to the coenobium."
"I can't go back to the desert. You go back. I must stay in the world."
He begged and begged with no success. His brother refused to go back with him to the desert, so they both stayed in the world together, doing manual labour for a living.
Now at this time Abba Abraham, who later became bishop of Ephesus, and who had recently built in Constantinople a monastery known as 'Abraham's', was building his own monastery, which became known as 'Byzantium'. These two runaway brothers were working on the site, labouring for the stonemasons. When they got their wages, one brother went day by day into the city and spent his money in riotous living (luxuria), the other fasted and prayed and did his work quietly without talking to anyone. When the other workmen saw him neither eating or speaking, but always as if wrapped in thought, they told the holy abba Abraham about him and the way he was carrying on. That truly great Abraham called him to his cell.
"Where do you come from, brother," he asked, "and what exactly are you up to?"
The brother told him everything from beginning to end, and why he was putting up with all this for the sake of his brother.
"Perhaps God will accept my tribulations for the salvation of my brother," he said.
"God has given you your brother's soul," said Abraham as he let him go.
And as he left the cell, behold, his brother came rushing up to him.
"Brother, take me back to the desert so that I may save my soul," he said.
He immediately embraced him, and they went off to a cave near the holy Jordan, where they enclosed themselves. After a short time during which the brother who had been overcome by temptation made great strides in spirit towards God, he passed away to the Lord. The remaining brother stayed in that cave in fulfilment of his vow, until such time as he died himself.


Chapter XCVIII
More about the remaining brother.

After the death of his brother, an old man from the monastery of Calamon came to see him.
"Tell me, brother," he said, "In all the time of your solitary life and your spiritual exercises what did you get out of it?"
"Go away and come back in ten days, " he replied, "and I will tell you."
So the old man went away and came back in ten days only to find that the brother had passed to the Lord. But he also found a potsherd on which was scratched 'Forgive me, father, but when I was saying the opus dei and the prescribed psalms I never let my mind dwell on earthly things'.

 


Chapter XCIX
The life of  ANTONIUS, an old man of the monastery of Scopulus.

The fathers of the monastery of our holy father Theodosius also told us the following:
"It is some years now since a certain old man called Antonius died. He gave great attention to fasting during his lifetime and lived at a distance in a place called Cotulas. One day in the desert there were some Saracens coming towards him, and one of them saw him and drew his sword meaning to kill him. When he saw the Saracen coming towards him however, he looked up to heaven and said, "Lord Jesus Christ, your will be done". And the ground immediately opened up and swallowed the Saracen, so the old man was saved and went back to the monastery glorifying God.


Chapter C.
The Life of PETER,  a monk of Ponticus

The fathers of this place also told us that there was a monk from Ponticus there called Peter who was adorned with many splendid virtues. Theodore the bishop of Rosus told us that Peter one day met him at the monastery of Turrius, where he was staying at that time.
"Do me a favour, brother Theodore," he said, "come with me to Mount Sinai which I have made a vow to visit."
"All right, let's go," he said, although he did not really want to.
"Come, brother Theodore," he said, after they had crossed the Jordan, "let us pray that neither of us will eat anything until we get to Mount Sinai."
"Truly, father, I would not be able to do that," he said. But the old man prostrated himself and prayed and did in fact eat nothing until they got to Sinai, where he first of all partook of the sacred mysteries before taking food. In the same way, as they travelled from Sinai to visit the holy Menas [assistant to the archbishop] at Alexandria the old man ate nothing. There again he communicated first before eating. From there they came back to the holy city, and the old man ate nothing on the way. In this holy place where Christ our God rose from the dead he eagerly received the most holy mysteries, and then took food. So in this long and difficult journey the old man ate only three times, once on Sinai, once in Alexandria, and once in the holy city.


Chapter CI
The Life of  PARDUS,  a monk of Rome

The fathers of this monastery also told us about another old man who had recently died, called Pardus, who came from Rome. When he was a young man, he had been a muleteer, and once when he had gone to Jericho with his mules, he was resting in a hostelry when one of his mules kicked a little boy and killed him while Pardus wasn't looking. Abba Pardus was terribly upset by this and went to Arnon where he became an anchorite, and kept on grieving incessantly.
"I have committed murder," he would say, " and in the day of judgment it is as a murderer that I shall be condemned."
Now there was a lion there near the river. Every day Pardus would go to the lion's den, teasing and provoking the lion, hoping that it would come out and devour him, but the lion never did him the slightest harm. The old man began to realise that he was not going to have any success.
"I shall lie down on the track which the lion takes to the river," he said to himself, "so that when he goes down to drink, he will make a meal of me."
The lion came out soon after he had lain down, and as if endowed with the gift of reason, he quite peacefully jumped over the old man and did him no harm at all. By this the old man was persuaded that God had forgiven him his sins. He came back to the monastery again and lived in great abstinence, edifying everyone by the example of his lifestyle until the day he died.


Chapter CII
The account of  SOPHRONIUS SOPHISTA, of what happened to him while on a journey.

Abbot John the scholar, abbot Quiricus and several other fathers and myself were all with Sophronius one day when in response to a question he said:
"I was walking along this road when a number of dancing young people formed a ring around me singing: 'Welcome, Sophronius! Sophronius is king!'"


Chapter CIII
The life and virtues of abba STRATIGIUS.

The fathers of the monastery said of abba Stratigius, who also was a father of this famous monastery of our holy father Theodosius, that he was possessed of three virtues to a greater extent than any other of the monks of our time - fasting, vigils, ceaseless striving (iuge opus)


Chapter CIV
The life of abba NONNUS, who was a presbyter

While we were in the coenobium of our holy father Theodosius, the abbot Theodosius who was bishop of Capitulias told us about abba Nonnus the presbyter.
"One night before the signal had been given for the night office I was lying in my bed when I heard a gentle voice saying, Kyrie Eleison. After this had been repeated fifty times I wanted to see who it was that was saying this. And looking through the window of my cell, I saw an old man in the church bending his knees to make prostrations. There was a star shining over his head enabling me to see that it was Nonnus."
Another of the old men in this coenobium told us the following about abba Nonnus:
"One night before the signal was given I left my cell to go to the church, and I saw the old man standing outside the church praying, with his hands stretched out to the heavens. And his fingers shone like lamps of fire. I was badly shaken, and went away."

 

 

 




Chapter CV
The life of the holy old man CHRISTOPHORUS, who was a Roman.

When we were in Alexandria we went to visit abba Theodore, who was at St Sophia near the Lighthouse, who told us the following story:
I first renounced the world when I was in the coenobium of our holy father Theodosius, in the desert near the holy city of Christ our God. I met there a great old man called Christophorus, who was a Roman, before whom one day I prostrated myself
"Do me a favour, father," I said, "and tell me how you went on when you were young."
After being asked again and again, the old man eventually realised that I was enquiring for the good of my own soul, and agreed to my requests.
"I was full of great zeal, my son," he said, "when I first renounced the world, and embraced the monastic life with great eagerness. During the day I took part in the regular times of psalmody, and at night went down into the cave where the holy Theodosius and the other holy fathers were accustomed to pray. I went down the eighteen steps into the cave one at a time, prostrating myself a hundred times on each one. When I got down there I stayed until the signal was given, then went to the synaxis with the fathers. I did this work for eleven years without a break, with many fasts, continence, obedience and with nothing apart from the barest essentials.
"Then one night as I was going down according to my usual custom, doing all my usual acts of reverence, I got to the floor of the cave and fell into an ecstasy, and saw the floor of the cave full of candles, some of which were lit and some not. I saw two men wearing cloaks on top of white habits tending to the candles.
"'Why have you put these candles here,' I asked, preventing us from coming in to pray?'
"'The candles belong to the fathers,' they said.
"'Then why are some alight and some not?' I asked.
"'There are some who want their candles lit and some who don't,' they said.
"'Tell me, please,'  I said, 'is my candle lit or not?'
"'Pray, and we will light it,' they said.
"'I pray constantly,' I said. 'What more can I do?'
"As I said this I came to my senses, and looking round, could see nobody.
"'Christophorus,' I said to myself, 'there is much greater labour for you to do yet.'
"Next morning I left the monastery and travelled to Mount Sinai, taking nothing with me but the clothes I stood up in. I worked there for fifty years at the end of which a voice came to me:
"'Christophorus, Christophorus, go back to your own coenobium where you strove so valiantly, and there you will be gathered to your fathers.'
And soon after he had told me all this, his holy soul rested in peace.

Theodore also passed on to us the following story, which abba Christophorus had told him:
"One day I went in to the holy city in order to venerate the holy cross. After I had done so and was going out, I saw a brother in the doorway of the chapel of the holy cross. I also saw two crows impudently flying around in front of his face, flapping their wings in his eyes and preventing him from going in. I knew at once that these were demons.
"'Tell me, brother,' I said, 'Why are you standing in the middle of the doorway without going in?'
"'Forgive me, father,' he said, 'but it's my thoughts. One of them says: go in and adore the precious cross, the other says: no, just go away make baskets, and come back to worship another day.'
"Hearing this, I took him by the hand and led him in to the chapel, and immediately the crows flew off. I got him to adore the holy Cross and the holy resurrection of Christ our God, and sent him away in peace."
The old man told me these things, said Theodore, because he saw that I was burdened with a lot of tasks to perform and neglectful of my prayer.
.


Chapter CVI
The story of abba THEODORE, about the monk from Syria, who was a Severian.

Abba Theodore also told us the following:
There is a guest house here near the Lighthouse between St Sophia and St Faustus and the man in charge invited me one day to go and stay there for a few days. So I went, and found that one of the guests there was a monk from Syria who had nothing except his tunic and mantle and a few loaves of bread. He was standing in a corner, saying psalms day and night, and speaking to no one. When Sunday came I approached him.
"Come with me, brother, to St Sophia," I said, "so that you can communicate in the holy and venerable mysteries."
"No, I am not coming," he said.
"Please, why not?"
"I am a follower of Severianus, and I don't communicate in the Church."
On being told that he would not communicate in the holy and apostolic Church, and yet being aware that he seemed to have an excellent way of life full of virtues, I went away grieving to my cell and shut the door. I prostrated myself before God for three days and prayed with many tears.
"Christ our God and Ruler," I prayed, "who of thy immense and ineffable mercy turned from heaven and came down for our salvation, who became flesh of our holy Lady, Mary ever virgin and birthgiver of our God, show me who has the right and proper belief, us who belong to the holy Church, or those who follow Severianus."
On the third day a disembodied voice came to me.
"Go, Theodore, and you will see his faith."
So next day I went and sat near him, waiting to see something to explain the meaning of what the voice had said. As God is my witness, my son, I saw a dove as black as soot as if it had flown down the chimney, dirty and bedraggled. And I realised that his faith was just like this sooty and disgusting bird that I could see.
This holy soul truly told us all this with many tears and sighs.


Chapter CVII
The life of abba GERASIMUS.

About a mile away from the Jordan there is a monastery known as abba Gerasimus' monastery. When we visited it the old men living there told us about abba Gerasimus.
One day as he was walking by the banks of the Jordan he met a lion in the way, roaring loudly. He was holding in the air one swollen paw covered in bloody matter, caused by a sharp sliver of reed embedded in it. When the lion saw the old man he stood still and held out the wounded paw with the reed in it, as if weeping and asking to be cured. When the old man realised the plight the lion was in he took the lion's paw, probed the wound and drew out the reed along with a quantity of pus, carefully cleaned the wound and bandaged it and sent the lion on his way. But when the lion realised he had been cured, he refused to desert the old man but followed him everywhere like a disciple following a master. The old man was amazed at the gratitude which a wild beast was capable of, and looked after it from then on, feeding it on bread and soaked vegetables.
Now this monastery had an ass, which they used for carrying water from the Jordan to supply the brothers' needs. And it became the old man's custom to let the lion guard the ass while it was grazing. The lion would go with the ass down to the banks of the Jordan and watch it while it grazed. One day, however, the lion wandered off for quite a distance, just when a camel driver from Arabia came along, saw the ass, caught it and took it away with him. Finding the ass missing the lion returned to the monastery and hung his head, obviously grief-stricken, before abba. Gerasimus, who thought that the lion must have eaten the ass.
"Where is the ass?" he said.
But the lion, just as human being might do, looked away and said nothing.
"Well the Lord be blessed if you haven't eaten it!" said the abba. "So everything that the ass used to do you will have to do from now on."
So the lion henceforth had to carry a harness containing four amphorae in which he carried water for the monastery.
One day a soldier came to the old man to ask his blessing. When he saw the lion carrying water and learned the reason for it, he took pity on the lion, and offered the old men three numismas to buy another ass for this task, so that there would be no need for the lion to do it. Soon after this transaction was completed and the lion relieved of his burden, the camel driver who had stolen the ass came back carrying wheat for sale in the holy city and he still had the ass with him. As he was crossing the Jordan he met the lion, and as soon as he had seen it he let the camels go and fled. But the lion recognised the ass, ran up to it and took the ass's halter in his mouth just as he used to do. He joyfully led the ass and three camels back to the old man, roaring loudly, because he had found the ass which was lost. So the old man who had thought that the lion had swallowed the ass now learned that the lion had suffered a great injustice. He called the lion "Jordan", and he never left the old man but continued to live in the monastery with the brothers for more than five years.
In the providence of God the lion was not in the monastery when the old man passed to the Lord and was buried. But a little while after the lion came into the monastery and abba Sabbatius, Gerasimus' disciple, noticed the lion looking for the old man.
"Jordan," said Sabbatius, " our father has left us both orphans and passed to the Lord. Try and get used to it, and come and take some food."
But the lion would not eat, and kept on looking about this way and that way, searching for the old man, roaring loudly, unable to bear the old man's absence. Abba Sabbatius and the other old men stroked his neck and told him over and over again that the old man had passed to the Lord and had left us, but whatever they said they were unable to lessen his grief or his roaring. The more they tried to cherish and console him by their words, the greater his grief, the louder he roared and lamented, showing in his voice, his face and his eyes his distress at not seeing the old man.
"Come with me, seeing that you don't believe us," said abba Sabbatius to him at last, "and I will show you where our old man has been laid." So he led the lion to where the old man was buried, about five paces outside the church.
"This is where our old man is buried," said abba Sabbatius to the lion, as he stood above abba Gerasimus' grave. And Abba Sabbatius prostrated himself over the old man's grave. The lion understood what was said to him, and when he saw abba Sabbatius prostrate on the grave, weeping, he too lay down, striking head forcefully on the ground and roaring. And suddenly, there he died, on the old man's grave.
Now all this happened not that a lion should be thought to have a rational soul, but because God wishes those who glorify him to do so not only in this life but also after death, and to show us what kind of dependence the beasts had upon the first man, before he was disobedient to the command and was expelled from the paradise of delights.


Chapter CVIII
The life of a PRESBYTER, who was a virgin, and also his WIFE, a virgin likewise.

In the island of Samus, there is a coenobium known as Charixenus' monastery, and there we met the prior, abba Isodore, a man of great virtue, of great charity towards everyone, notable for his simplicity and humility, who we know was made bishop of that region a little later. This is what he told us:
About eight miles from the city there is a village with a church, in which there is a rather wonderful presbyter. In spite of his protests, his parents compelled him to take a wife, although he did not want to. He was still a young man and legitimately married to a wife, but not only did he refrain from the enticing delights of passion, but also persuaded his wife to live chastely and modestly. They both learned the psalter by heart, and sang the psalms together in the church, keeping their virginity to the end.
One day a false accusation was made to the bishop against this presbyter, and the bishop, who was unaware of his way of life, had him taken out of the village into the prison in which clerics who had erred were locked up and given remedial treatment. On the first Sunday on which he was in prison a most beautiful youth appeared to him.
"Come, sir presbyter," said the youth, "go into the church and offer the holy oblation."
"I can't. I'm locked up," he replied.
"I will unlock the prison. Come, follow me."
And he unlocked the doors and went out in front of him. Once they were out, he walked to the village, a mile distant.
When daylight came, the governor of the prison went to see his prisoner, and when he saw he wasn't there he ran to the bishop.
"The presbyter has escaped," he said, "even though the key has never left my possession."
The bishop guessed where he might have fled to, sent one of his servants off.
"Go and see if the presbyter has gone back to his own village," he said. "But don't speak to him for the time being."
The servant went off and found that the presbyter was in the church offering the holy oblation. He went back to the bishop and told him that that was where the presbyter was, and that he was making the offering. The bishop became more and more angry and swore that next day he would deprive the presbyter of his office in total disgrace.
But the following night the same figure appeared to the presbyter as before.
"Come," he said, "let us go back to the place in the city where the bishop locked you up."
And  he took the presbyter with him and led him back to be locked up in the prison, without the governor being aware of it. The next day the bishop learned from the governor that the presbyter had come back into custody without his knowledge. The bishop sent and enquired from the presbyter how it was that he had got out of the prison and got back in again without the governor being aware of it.
"A very beautiful and well dressed young man," he said, "on the staff of your episcopate, so he said, opened the doors for me and walked before me for the mile to my village early on the Sunday morning, and came to bring me back the night after."
The bishop summoned all his staff, but the presbyter recognised none of them. Then the bishop knew that it was an angel of God who had done  all this, so that the virtue of the presbyter should no longer be hidden, but that all should learn from it and glorify God who glorifies those who glorify him. Greatly edified, the bishop let him go in peace, but with many harsh words for those who had accused him unjustly.


Chapter CIX
The life of abba GEORGIUS, who never became agitated.

Abba Theodosius, a gentle and humble man who was bishop of Capitoliadis, was a disciple of abba Georgius, one of the fathers of the monastery of abba Theodosius. Theodosius watched him for the space of twelve years to see whether Georgius would ever become agitated about anything, but he never once saw him at all upset, no matter how much in all that time there was any idleness, negligence, decadence or disobedience going on.
"For who governed his eyes," he said, "like our holy father Georgius? Or who closed the doorways of his ears like this blessed man? Who bridled his tongue like this father of ours?  What shining light ever illuminated the earth as our father lit up the hearts of us all?"

Chapter CX
The sayings of a certain outstanding holy OLD MAN, an Egyptian.

My friend Sophronius and I went to a monastery eighteen miles from Alexandria to see a man of great virtue, an Egyptian.
"Give us a word, father," I said, "by which we may live, for my friend Sophronius has a desire to renounce the world."
"You do well, my son," he said, "to renounce the world and save your soul. So remain in the cell you have chosen, soberly and watchfully, keeping silent and restful, and praying without ceasing. Continue to hope in God, my sons, that he will send you the knowledge of himself which may illuminate your souls."
Again he said: "Flee from human company, my sons, if you wish to be saved. People today never cease trying to manipulate others, and to go around every possible city and region in order to gather for themselves the rewards of avarice and empty fame, and fill their souls with vanity."
Again he said: "Let us flee now, my sons, for the time is drawing near."
Again he said: "Alas, alas, how much we weep, how much we do penance, for the fact that we are not willing to repent!"
Again he said: "When we are praised we don't know how to accept it with humility, when we are reviled, we can't put up with it. Something happens to make us feel pleased with ourselves, something else fills us with misery, but you never gain any lasting good from either self-congratulation or misery.
Again he said: "Our great and wonderful fathers gave nourishment to many; I am unable to take care of a single sheep, but am subject to the bites of wild beasts."
Again he said: "This is how the demons work: They tempt a soul into sin, then cast him into despair in order to destroy him utterly. They are forever saying to the soul. 'When you are dead, won't your name perish forever?' But if you keep your soul in sobriety, you will on the contrary cry out, saying, 'I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.' (Psalms 118.17). This greatly provokes the demons and they cry out, 'Flee into the mountains like a sparrow' (Psalms 11.1), but our reply to this is, 'But he is my God, my Saviour and my defence, therefore I shall not be moved' (Psalms 62.6)"
Again he said: "Be the doorkeeper of your own heart, forbidding entry to strange thoughts. Always ask, 'Are you one of ours or do you belong to the enemy?'"


Chapter CXI
The deeds of a certain BALD MAN, dressed in sacking

When my friend Sophronius and I were in Alexandria, we were going one day to the church of Theodosius when we met a bald man in the village, dressed in a sack coming down to his knees. He gave the appearance of being stupid or mentally lacking.
"Give me some money," abba Sophronius said to me, "and we will test the virtue of this man coming towards us."
So I offered him five nummi which he took and gave to this simpleton, who took it saying nothing. As we followed him discreetly, he turned off from the road and lifted up to heaven his right hand holding the money. He then prostrated himself before God, put the money down on the ground and went his way.



Chapter CXII
The life and death of LEO, a Cappadocian monk.

When that man of faith, Tiberius Caesar, was emperor, we went up to Oasis, where we met a monk called Leo, a man of Cappadocia highly versed in divine matters. Many people had told us many admirable things about him. And certainly, after we had had some intimate conversation with him and experienced the holiness of this great man, we were wonderfully edified, especially by his humility and silence, the meagreness of his possessions and the charity which he showed towards everyone.
But this venerable old man used to say, "Believe me, my sons, I have the power to be a king (regnare habeo)."
"No, you believe us, abba Leo," we would say, "no one from Cappadocia has ever become a king. This thought of yours is out of order."
"It is true, my sons," he repeated, "that I do have the power to be a king." And no one could move him from this position.
Now during the invasion of the Mazices, after they had plundered and laid waste the whole province, they arrived at Oasis, killed some of the monks and took most of them captive. Among them were abba Johannes (he was lector of the great church of Constantinople), abba Eustathius of Rome, and abba Theodorus of Cilicia. The three of them were rather infirm.
"If you take me to the city," said abba Johannes to the barbarians, after they had bound him, "I will ensure that the bishop will give you twenty-four numismas for us."
They agreed, and one of the barbarians led him to the city so that he could see the bishop. Abba Leo and several other fathers were in the city, and for that reason had not been attacked. So Johannes went in to the bishop and asked for the ransom of twenty-four numismas, but the bishop found that he could not scrape together more than eight. He offered these eight to the barbarian, but he would not accept them.
"Either you give me the twenty-four numismas or I keep the monk," he said.
So they had no option but to hand abba Johannes, weeping and sighing, back to the barbarian, who took him back to the camp.
But after three days abba Leo took the eight numismas and went out to the desert place where the barbarians were.
"Why don't you take me, along with these eight numismas," he said, "and let these three men go. They are very frail and would not get very far through the desert. It would kill them, and you would have gained nothing. Whereas I am perfectly healthy and would be able to give you service."
And the barbarians agreed to take Leo and the eight numismas and to let the three men go. Abba Leo went with them to their own place, and when he got to be past the age of being able to serve them, they beheaded him. And so abba Leo fulfilled the Scripture, 'Greater love hath no man than that he lay down his life for his friends' (John 15.13). Then at last we understood what he had meant when he said, "regnare habeo", for indeed, he who lays down his life for his friends does indeed reign as a king.



Chapter CXIII
The advice of abba JOHANNES DE PETRA.

I took my companion Sophronius with me to abba Johannes of Petra.
"Speak a word to us, " we asked him.
"Love stripping yourself of all possessions," he said, "and love self-control. Believe me when I tell you that when I was a young man in Scete, one of the old men was suffering from his spleen, so four of the monasteries in that place were asked if they could supply a little bit of vinegar, but none of them had any. That was what their poverty, asceticism and self-control was like (paupertas, nuditas et continentia).
Chapter CXIV
The life of abba DANIEL of Egypt.


A holy man told us the following about abba Daniel of Egypt.
This old man went up to Therenutis once to sell his work, where a young man made him a request.
"For the Love of God, sir (senior)," he said, "come to my house and pray for my wife who is sterile."
The old man agreed to his request, went home with him and prayed over his wife. By the will of God the woman conceived, and there were those who did not fear God who began to spread scandalous rumours about him.
"It was the husband who was the infertile one," they said. "The woman was impregnated by that old man."
This rumour came to the ears of the old man, and he wrote a letter to the husband.
"Let me know when your wife gives birth," he wrote.
So when the woman gave birth, the young man sent word to the old man, saying, "God and your prayers, father, have caused my wife to give birth."
So abba Daniel went to visit the young man.
"Prepare a meal," he said, "and invite your friends and relations."
When they had all dined, the old man took the baby into his arms.
"Who is your father, my child?" he asked the infant.
"This man" said the infant, pointing at the young man. And this little infant was only twenty-five days old.

Chapter CXV
The advice of abba JOHANNES of Cilicia

Abba Johannes of Cilicia, the prior of Raythum, said to the brothers:
"My sons, just as you have fled from the world, fly also from the sins of the flesh.
And again he said: "Let us imitate our fathers who lived in this place in silence and such great austerity of life."
And again he said, "Let us not pollute this place, my sons, which our fathers cleansed of demons."
And again he said, "This place is for monks, not businessmen."
And again he said, "I found some old men here who lived for seventy years in this place living on nothing but herbs and dates."
And again he said, "I have lived here seventy-six years, withstanding many evil and horrible attacks from the demons."

Chapter CXVI
The BROTHER who was falsely accused of stealing a numisma

When we were in Raythum, abba Andreas Messenius told us the following story.
When I was a young man, I went with my abbot from Raythum to Palestine where we stayed with a certain old man. This old man had one numisma which he had put down somewhere and then forgotten where he had put it, and accused me of stealing it.
"Brother Andreas has stolen my numisma," he said to the fathers of that place.
As soon as my abbot heard about this he summoned me.
"Tell me, Andreas," he said, "Did you steal the old man's numisma?"
"I'm sorry, father," I said, "but I did not."
Now I had a cloak which I went away and sold for one numisma, which I took back to the old man and prostrated myself before him.
"Forgive me, father," I said, "for Satan deceived me and I did steal your numisma" Now there was a layman standing by.
But the old man said, "Don't worry, my son. I have lost nothing."
"For the Lord's sake, father," I said, prostrating myself again, "take the numisma. Here it is. And pray for me. For Satan entered into me and I stole the coin and caused you all this trouble."
"But, my son, I have not lost anything" he said for the second time.
Then the layman, seeing that I could not understand this said, "The fact is, brother, that when I arrived here yesterday evening I found this old man weeping, and prostrating himself and asking forgiveness in great distress.
"For pity's sake," I said, whatever is the matter?"
"I have grossly slandered my brother," he said, "accusing him of stealing a numisma, but look, I have found it."
And the old man was greatly edified by the fact that even though I had not stolen the numisma, I had offered to give him another, saying that I had indeed stolen it.


Chapter CXVII
A brother possessed by a demon, healed by abba ANDREAS.

A brother possessed by a demon went to abba Simeon Stylites on his wonderful pillar begging him to pray for him and cast out the demon.
"Where do you live?" asked Simeon
"In Raythum," he replied.
"I am astonished," said the old man, "that you have gone to the enormous trouble of making this long journey to come and see me, a sinful man, when you have so many great fathers in your own monastery. Go back and ask abba Andreas to pray for you. He will cure you."
So the brother went back to Raythum, and prostrated himself before abba Andreas, as Simeon had said.
"Pray for me, father," he said.
"Abba Simeon can take the credit for any cure," said abba Andreas as he offered a prayer. The brother was immediately cleansed and gave thanks to God.


Chapter CXVIII
The life of MENAS, a monk deacon in Raythum

Abbot Sergius of Raythum told us the story of a certain deacon brother called Menas.
Menas once had to go out on an errand but went back to secular life. We don't know what happened to him there except that he abandoned his monastic habit and became a secular. Quite some time after, he journeyed to Theopolis, and on the way back to Seleucia, he saw in the distance the monastery of the holy abba Simeon Stylites.
"I'll go and have a look at this great Simeon," he said to himself. "I've never seen him before."
As he drew near to the pillar, Abba Simeon saw him and by divine inspiration knew that he was a monk and an ordained deacon. He called his servant to him.
"Bring me some scissors," he said. And they brought them.
"Blessed be God, tonsure that man," he said, pointing out the brother from among the crowd standing around the pillar.
He was awestruck by the old man's words and seized by great fear, but he submitted to the tonsure saying nothing, aware that God had revealed to the old man who he was.
When he had been tonsured, Simeon said. "Say a prayer, deacon", which he did.
"Go back to Raythum, from where you came" Simeon then said.
" I am afraid that the fathers' frowns will be more than I can bear," he said.
"Believe me my son," said Simeon, "you need not fear. The fathers will take you back with joyful faces and grateful hearts. They will be full of joy and exaltation that you have turned again. And know this, my son, God will perform a sign in you, to convince you that his immense and ineffable goodness has forgiven you your sin."
So he went back to Raythum where the fathers welcomed him with open arms and reinstated him in his holy office. And one Sunday while he was administering the holy and life-giving blood of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, suddenly one of his eyes went blind. And the fathers knew by this sign that God had pardoned his sin, according to the word of the great Simeon.


Chapter CXIX
A demon dressed as a monk visits the cell of a certain old man in Raythum.

When we visited abba Eusebius, a presbyter of the monastery of Raythum, he told us of how a demon dressed as a monk knocked on the door of an old man's cell.
"Offer a prayer," said the old man when he opened the door.
"Now and always and unto the ages of ages, Amen," said the demon.
"Offer a prayer," the old man repeated.
"Now and always and unto the ages of ages, Amen," the demon said again.
"Offer a prayer and say, 'Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and always and unto the ages of ages, Amen.'"
As soon as the old man had said this, the demon vanished as if driven back by fire.


Chapter CXX
Three MONKS, found dead by Pharanite fishermen

Fishermen from Pharan told us the following story.
One day we crossed the Red Sea to Buchrin, and after we had caught some fish we turned back and came to Pereleus. We wanted to cross over to Raythum, but were held up for ninety days by contrary winds and stormy seas. Walking about in the great desert, however, we found the bodies of three anchorites under a rock, dressed in tunics and with their sheepskin cloaks placed nearby. We gathered them up and took them to the ship and immediately the sea calmed and the contrary winds became favourable. We crossed over with a following wind and came to Raythum where the fathers buried them with the ancient fathers.

 

 

Chapter CXXI

The life and death of GREGORIUS, of Byzantium and of GREGORIUS of Pharan, his disciple.

 

The fathers of this place told us about Gregorius of Byzantium and his disciple Gregorius of Pharan, who lived on an island in the Red Sea. The island had no water supply, but they carried water for their use from the mainland. They had a raft which they went out in to get water. One day they left the raft in the sea moored to a large stone, and at night time a huge wave broke the rope and the raft was lost. These fathers were left without any means of getting water. Eight months later some monks from Raythum came and found them both dead. And on the wall of their inner chamber were found written the following words: ABBA GREGORIUS OF PHARAN DIED HAVING GONE TWENTY-EIGHT DAYS WITHOUT WATER. I HAVE GONE THIRTY-SEVEN DAYS WITHOUT DRINKING. We found that both their bodies were incorrupt, and took them to be buried in Raythum.

 

 

Chapter CXXII

Two monks who came naked into church for Communion, unnoticed by anyone except abba    STEPHEN.

 

When we visited abba Stephen the Cappadocian in Mount Sinai he told us the following story:

Some years ago when I was in Raythum I was in Church on Maundy Thursday, and after the offering of the sacred oblation with all the fathers present, I saw two anchorites come in. They were naked, but none of the fathers noticed their nakedness except me. When they had received the body and blood of the Lord, they went out of the church and were about to go away. I went out as well, however, and prostrated myself before them.

"Do me a kindness," I said, "and take me with you," so they knew that I had seen them naked.

"No, stay where you are and be at peace," they said.

I begged them once more to take me with them.

"You can't come with us, " they said, "stay where you are. The place where you are is a good place."

But they did say a prayer with me, and then as I watched they walked on the water of the Red Sea and crossed over to the other side.

 

 

Chapter CXXIII

The life of abba ZOZIMUS, of Cilicia.

 

We travelled to where abba Zozimus was staying on Mount Sinai. He it was who had renounced the episcopate and retired to his cell. He was a man of great abstinence, and he old us this story:

When I was a young man, I left Sinai and went to Ammoniaca with the intention of staying there, and I found an old man dressed in a monastic tunic (colobium de sibino). As soon as he saw me and before I could greet him he said, "Why have you come here Zozimus? You can't stay here. Go away."

"Please tell me, father," I said, realising that he knew me, and prostrating myself, "How is it that you know who I am?"

"Two days ago a man appeared to me and said, 'Look, a monk called Zozimus is about to visit you. Don't let him stay with you. It is my will to entrust the church of Babylon in Egypt to him."

The old man fell silent and left me, walking off about a stone's throw. He spent the next two hours in prayer then came back to me and kissed me on the cheek.

"Beloved son," he said, "you are very welcome, for God has led you here in order to commit my body to the earth."

"How many years have you been here, abba?" I asked.

"I have completed forty-five years." And his countenance appeared to me as if lit up by fire. "Peace be with you, my son, and pray for me."

And saying this he gathered himself together and fell asleep. I dug a grave and buried him, and two days later I departed, glorifying God.

 

 

Chapter CXXIV

Another story of this man.

 

This old man also told us the following :

About twenty years ago I took my disciple Johannes with me to Porphyrites, intending to settle there. Having arrived, we found two anchorites there and stayed near them. One of them called Paul was from Galatia, the other called Theodorus was from Malta and had been at the monastery of abbot Euthymius. They both wore clothing made from oxhide (ex pellibus bubalorum). I stayed there for nearly two years; we were all about four hundred metres (duobus stadiis) apart from each other. One day my disciple John sat down on a serpent which stung him so that he died, with blood pouring out of him profusely. In great anguish I went to the anchorites, who saw me coming, in great agitation and affliction. They called out to me before I had said anything to them at all;

"What's the matter, abba Zozimus?" they said, "Is your brother dead?"

"He is indeed dead", I said.

They came with me and saw where he was lying on the ground.

"Don't be so sad, abba Zozimus," they said. "Divine help is at hand."

They called out to the brother. "Brother Johannes, arise, your old man has need of you."

And immediately the brother got up from the earth. They carried out a search for the beast, and when they had found it they broke it in two.

"Abba Zozimus," they then said to me, "Go back to Sinai, for the Lord wishes to entrust the church of Babylon to your care."

We went back immediately. A few days after we had got back, the abbot sent me and two others to serve (under the patriarch of) Alexandria. The most blessed Apollinaris of Alexandria made all three of us bishops, one to Heliopolis, one to Leontopoleos, and me to Babylon.

 

Chapter CXXV

The lovely deed of abba SERGIUS the anchorite.

 

One of the fathers at Sinai told us about abba Sergius the anchorite.

When he was at Sinai, he was put in charge of the burdones (beasts of burden). On a journey one day they suddenly saw a lion on the pathway. Drivers and beasts (burdonarii burdonesque) took fright and fled. But abba Sergius took a eulogia (?sacred text) from his wallet and offered it to the lion

"Accept this eulogia of the fathers," he said, "and go back so that we can proceed."

The lion took the eulogia and departed.

 

 

Chapter CXXVI

The splendid response of abba ORENTUS of Mount Sinai.

 

The holy fathers of that place told us about abba Orentus, who came in to church one Sunday wearing a coarse woollen cloak inside out, so that outwardly it presented a most ugly sight. As he stood in choir some of the officials (dispensatores) approached him.

"Why have you come into church with your cloak inside out," they said to him, "shaming us in front of the strangers who are with us?"

"You have turned Sinai inside out," he replied, "without anyone saying anything to you, and yet you are asking me why I have turned my cloak inside out. Get away with you, put right what you have turned inside out and I will put right what I have turned inside out."

 

 

Chapter CXXVII

The life of abba GEORGIUS of holy Mount Sinai and of an OLD WOMAN from Phrygian Galatia.

 

Amma (abbatissa) Damiana, a solitary, the mother of Athenogenus, the bishop of Petra, told us about a certain abbot in the holy Mount Sinai called Georgius, a man of great virtue and abstinence. One Holy Saturday this Georgius as he sat in his cell, conceived a great desire to celebrate Easter Day in the holy city, and to receive the holy mysteries in the church of the holy Resurrection of Christ our God. He spent the whole day turning this thought over in his prayers. When the evening was well advanced, his disciple came to him.

"Father," he said, "give the word for us to go to the synaxis."

"You go," said the old man, "and when it is time for holy Communion come and tell me and then I'll come."

But when it came time for holy Communion in the church of the holy Resurrection, he found himself there near the blessed archbishop Peter, who gave him holy Communion along with the other presbyters. The Archbishop noticed him and turned to Menas, his syncellus or assistant.

"When did the abbot of Mount Sinai arrive?" he asked.

"I didn't notice him throughout all the time of your prayers. I have only just seen him now."

"Go and tell him not to go away. I would like him to come and take food with me."

And he took this message to the old man.

"God's will be done," said Georgius.

When the service came to an end, he worshipped at the holy shrine and found himself back in his cell. And his disciple was knocking on the door saying, "Come and receive Communion, father." So the old man went into the church with his disciple and once more received the holy mysteries

Meanwhile Peter the archbishop was saddened that he had not been obeyed, and when the solemnities were over, he sent a message to abba Photinus, the bishop of Pharan and to the fathers of Sinai that Georgius should be sent to him. When the messenger had arrived and delivered the letter, the old man sent to the patriarch three presbyters, that great man, abba Stephen of Cappadocia, whom we have mentioned above, abbot Zozimus whom we have also mentioned, and Dulcitius of Rome. They carried a letter from the old man:

"Far be it from me, my most holy lord, to hold your Angel (i.e. 'messenger') in contempt, but your beatitude should know that in six months time both you and I will pass over to Christ our Lord and God, and then I shall give you all due veneration."

The presbyters also told him that it was very many years since he was last in Palestine. They also brought a letter from the bishop of Pharan who likewise confirmed that for nearly seventy years he had not been away from Sinai. The holy and most gentle Peter then summoned all the bishops and clerics who had been there as witnesses, who said:

"We all saw him and greeted him with a holy kiss."

After six months were up, the old man and the patriarch both rested in peace, just as the old man had prophesied.

 

Here is another story amma Damiana told us:

One Good Friday, before I was enclosed (as an anchoress), I went to (the church of) Saints Cosmas and Damian and spent the whole night there. Late during the night, an old woman from Phrygian Galatia came in and gave everyone in the church two small coins (minuta). This was at the time when a niece of mine, and of the most faithful Emperor Mauritius, had come to pray in the holy city and had stayed there for the whole year, and I had taken her with me to Saints Cosmas and Damian, so that we were in church together.

"Look," I said, "here comes this old woman who gives everyone two small coins." (For she had often given them to me.) "Don't be proud. Take them."

"Must I accept hand-outs?" she said indignantly.

"Just take them. She is a holy woman of great virtue. She fasts all week, and whatever profit is left over from her work, she distributes to those in church. She is an eighty-year-old widow. So take the two coins and give them to someone else, so long as you don't spurn this old woman's sacrificial offering."

As we were talking together, the old woman came by, giving out the coins. She gave them to me without saying anything, but as she gave them to my niece she said, "Take these and buy food."

After she had gone, we realised that God had revealed to her that I had told my niece to accept the coins and give them to the poor. So she sent one of her servants out to buy some lupini (?small buns) with the two coins and ate them. And she took God to witness that they tasted as sweet as homey, so that she was amazed and glorified God who gives such graces to his servants.

 

 

Chapter CXXVIII

The life of ADELPHIUS bishop of Arabessus, and blessed JOHN CHRYSOSTOM

 

We went to visit abba Athanasius in the monastery of our holy father Saba. He told us that he had heard the following story being told by Athenogenus, the bishop of Petra, the son of amma Damiana:

My aunt (avia mea) Joanna had a brother called Adelphius, bishop of Arabessus. She herself was abbess of a monastery of women. This bishop went out one day to visit his sister in her monastery. As he went in to the courtyard (atrium) of the monastery, he saw a sister possessed of a demon lying on the pavement. The bishop called out to his sister:

"Doesn't it worry you that this sister is being troubled and besmirched like this? You surely must know that as abbess you have authority over all your sisters?"

"What can I do against a demon?" she replied.

"What do you think you have been doing all these years?" replied the bishop, who then made a prayer and cleansed that sister of the demon.

 

Athanasius also passed on to us this story just as bishop Adelphius' venerable sister Joanna had told it.

When the most holy bishop of Constantinople, John Chrysostom, was exiled to Cucusum, he came to stay in our house, which was the means of giving us a great trust in God and love for him.

"When the most blessed John died in exile," my brother Adelphius said, "I was incredibly sad that such a great man, famous throughout the world, a shining light of the Church of God, should die in exile from his throne. So I begged God with many tears to reveal to me his present state, whether he had been numbered among the patriarchs. I prayed for a long time and was carried up into an ecstasy, and I saw a magnificent man holding out his hand to me and leading me into a most glorious and illustrious place where he showed me all the doctors of the church. I looked around everywhere, to see if I could find him whom I sought, my greatly beloved John. But after showing me all of them and identifying each one by name, he led me outside, still holding me by the hand. I followed him sadly, because I had not seen blessed John among the fathers and leaders of the Church. But as I was going out the doorkeeper stopped me.

"'What is the matter? Why are you sad?' he said. 'Nobody who ever comes in here goes out sad.'

"'The cause of my sadness,' I said, 'is that I did not see my beloved bishop John of Constantinople among all the other doctors.'

"'Do you mean John chief among penitents?'

"'Yes, him.'

"'Nobody alive in the flesh can see him. For he is right there by the throne of the Lord.'"

 

 

Chapter CXXIX

The life of a STYLITE

 

Abba Athanasius also told us that he had heard abba Athenogenus, the bishop of Petra, talking about a certain Stylite who lived in his region. Everyone who came to him had to speak to him from below as he had no ladder. If any brother ever said to him that he wanted to reveal his secret thoughts he would tell them in a gentle voice to come to the step of the column and he would go to a different place on the column where they could converse with each other, though the Stylite was always above and the brother below. But nobody else who was there was able to hear what they were saying.

Abba Athenogenus also said that there were two lay people very close to each other who were in the habit of visiting the Stylite together over many years. Neither of them ever went without the other. But it so happened one day that one of them came by himself without the other's knowledge. He knocked at the Stylite's door for many hours, but the old man would not open to him, so that eventually he gave up and went away. On his way back he met his friend who was also on his way to see the Stylite, so they joined up again and came back together. But when they knocked at the door the old man ordered that the one who had come last should go in alone. He went in, and asked the old man to let his companion in too. But the old man said that he was not able to receive him. For quite some time he refused all his pleading and perseverance, but said at last; "It is God who has turned him away. That is why I cannot receive him." And he died two days after they had returned home.

 

 

Chapter CXXX

The teachings of ATHANASIUS and his wonderful vision

 

Abba Athanasius said: "Our fathers practised continence and poverty and detachment from all things up to the time of their death. But we have stuffed our stomachs and moneybags full."

He also said: "Our fathers made it their business to avoid distractions to the soul. But in our days we have them aplenty, as well as our manual work"

Abba Athanasius also told us this about himself:

"I was wondering once about what was worth striving for and what was not. And I went into an ecstasy, and someone came to me and told me to follow him. He led me into a place full of light and glory and set me in front of a doorway, the like of which it is beyond my power to describe, for we could hear inside a countless multitude praising God. We knocked on the door and someone inside heard us and called out:

"'What do you want?'

"'We want to come in,' said my guide.

"'No one who lives carelessly can enter here. But if you want to come in, go back and strive to be able to count all the vanities of the earth as nothing worth.'"

 

 

Chapter CXXXI

The life of abba ZACHAEUS of holy Sion

 

Procopius, a learned man (scholasticus) from Porphyrites, told us about abba Zachaeus:

My two sons fell ill in Caesarea, where there was a widespread epidemic. I was very worried about my sons that they might die, and I did not know what to do.

"Even if I send for them," I said to myself, "and bring them back here, it is still not possible to escape the wrath of God. But if I leave them there, they may die and I shan't see them again."

Unable to make up my mind I said, "I will go to abba Zachaeus and do what he says."

So I went to holy Sion, which is where he had always lived, but could not find him. I went into the courtyard of (the church of) holy Mary the birthgiver of God, and found him standing in a corner of the courtyard, where I told him about my sons. He heard me out, and then turning to the East he lifted up his eyes to heaven, saying nothing for the next two hours, until at last he turned towards me.

"Have faith and don't worry," he said, "Your sons will not die from this disease."

And it turned out as the old man said. As I have said, it was Procopius, a learned man, who told us this.

 

 

Chapter CXXXII
More of the same.

We visited abba Cyprian, nicknamed Cuculas, whose monastery was outside the gate of Caesarea, and this is what he told us:
When that savage and horrible epidemic laid waste this city, I shut myself up in my cell and prayed to God to have mercy on us and turn away the threat of his wrath, and there came a voice to me saying, "Abba Zacchaeus is the mediator of this grace."

Chapter CXXXIII
A holy MONK who rendered a Saracen hunter immobile for two days.

One of the heathen Saracens living in Clysmus told us the following story:
I once went to abba Antony's mountain with the intention of hunting him down and I saw from afar this monk sitting on the side of the mountain, holding a book and reading from it. I went up towards him, intending to strike him down, perhaps even to kill him. When I got near to him he held out his right hand towards me and said, "Stop!" And for two days and two nights I stayed there unable to move from the place where I was.
"For the sake of the God whom you worship," I said at last, "let me go."
"Go in peace," he said, and at last I was able to move from the place where I was.


Chapter CXXXIV
The life of THEODORE the anchorite.

There was an anchorite near the holy Jordan called Theodore. One day he came to my cell.
"Can you do me a kindness, abba John?" he asked. "I wonder if you could find a book for me containing the whole of the New Testament."
After a search I found out that abba Petrus had one, he who was afterwards bishop of Chalcedon. I went to see him and he showed it to me. It was on parchment, (in membranis), very beautiful.
"How much is it worth?" I asked.
"Three numismata," he replied. "Are you wanting to buy it? Or is it for someone else?"
"In actual fact, (crede mihi), father, it is an anchorite who wants it."
"If it is an anchorite who wants it, let him have it for nothing. And take these three numismata as well. If he is pleased with the book let him keep it, but if not, well, you have three numismata. Buy something else for him, whatever you like."
So I took the book to the anchorite who accepted it and went off back to the desert. After about two months he came back to my cell.
"Look, abba, John," he said, "I am very troubled in my mind about having this book without paying for it."
"Don't worry about it," I said. "Abba Petrus has plenty of money and he is a very kind man. Just be glad for it."
"No, I can't rest until I have paid for it."
"Have you got the money to pay for it?"
"No, but lend me something to wear." For he was naked.
So I gave him a tunic and cloak, and he went off to get work on the reservoir that Johannes the patriarch of Jerusalem was constructing in Sigma, where he earned a wage of nine minuta a day. He used to come to me in the monastery of the Aeliotes, where after having worked all day he ate only nine lupini.
Eventually out of his wage of nine minuta he saved up three numismata.
"Take the money, and the book, back to its owner," he said. "Give him the money if he is willing to take it, but if not, give him back the book."
I carried this message back to abba Petrus, who did not want to accept either the money or the book. But I persuaded him to take the money, lest he be seen to despise the anchorite's hard work.
In the end he did accept it, and I hastened to return the book to the anchorite who went back to the desert with great joy.


Chapter CXXXV
Five VIRGINS who decided to leave the monastery and were attacked by a demon.

My brother Sophronius and I visited the monastery of the Eunuchs near the holy Jordan where Abba Nicholaus, a presbyter of that monastery, told us the following:
In my region (he was from Lycia), there is a monastery of about forty virgins. Five of the virgins in this monastery agreed among themselves to get out of the monastery one night and get themselves a man. So they agreed on a night, and when all the nuns were asleep they got dressed and went out. Immediately all five were attacked by a demon. They went no further out of the monastery but confessed their sin and gave thanks to God, saying,
"Thanks be to God, the giver of all good gifts, who allowed this attack on us lest our souls perish."


Chapter CXXXVI
The kindness of abba SISINIUS, towards a Saracen woman.

Abbot Johannes, a presbyter, of that same monastery related to us what abba Sisinius had told us about himself.
One day I was singing Terce in my cave near the holy Jordan, when a Saracen woman came into the cave, placed herself near me and began taking her clothes off. I did not allow that to disturb me, but went on to finish my psalmody in all peacefulness and the fear of God.
"Sit down so that I can talk to you," I then said to her, "and then I shall do what you decide."
Once she had sat down I continued speaking to her.
"Are you a Christian or a gentile? "I asked.
"Christian," she said.
"And don't you know that those who fornicate will be punished?"
"Yes, I know full well."
"Well, why do it then?"
"Because I'm hungry."
"Don't commit fornication," I said, "Come to me every day, and as God provides, I will give you food."
From then on she came to me daily and for as long as I stayed at that place I shared with her whatever food God sent me.

Chapter CXXXVII
Abbot Johannes' story about abba CALLINICUS.

This same abbot Johannes told us this story:
When I was a young man, I had a great desire to visit the most well known and greatest of the fathers, so that they might bless me and instruct me. Once I had heard about that great abba Callinicus who was enclosed in the monastery of abba Saba, I asked one of the brothers who knew him to introduce me to him. Once we had got there somebody was standing at the old man's window talking with him for what seemed like hours, so that I was beginning to think he would never see me and that he would not want to see me anyway. But at last he moved away and allowed me to go up and greet the old man and be blessed by him.
"Pray for this your servant also, father," said my companion, "for he is among the finest of those who come here."
"I know him already, my son," said the old man, for twenty days ago as I was going down to the holy Jordan he met me on the way asking me to pray for him.
"'And what is your name?' I asked him.
"'Johannes.' he said.
"That's how I know him."
So by this I knew that at the very moment when I had been making up my mind to go and see him, God had revealed my name to him and who I was.


Chapter CXXXVIII
Abba SERGIUS, the anchorite, and the foreign monk who was baptised.

This same old man told us the following story:
When abba Sergius was in Roban, after he had left Sinai, he sent a young monk to us at this monastery for us to baptise him. I asked how it was that only now he was to be baptised, and Abba Sergius' servant said: "At the time when abba Sergius came to us wanting to stay with us in the desert, he sent this young man to us to be prepared for becoming a monk. I questioned him closely lest he commit himself to this way of life in too much of a hurry and without due testing. But when I was satisfied of  his commitment, I took him to the old man. When he saw him, before anything could be said, he took me aside:
"What does this brother want?" he asked
"He wants to stay with us."
"Take it from me, brother, he is not baptised. Take him to the monastery of the Eunuchs and get him baptised in the holy Jordan."
Astonished at what he had said, I questioned the brother about who he was and where he came from. He said he came from the West, his parents were pagans, and he did not know whether he had been baptised or not. So then we instructed him in the catechism, got him baptised in the Jordan, and he remained in the monastery, giving thanks to God.

Chapter CXXXIX
The prediction abba Sergius made about GRE- GORIUS, the prior of the monastery of Pharan

Abba Sergius the anchorite had a disciple called Sergius Armenius who told us that abba Gregorius had asked him again and again to introduce him to the old man. So there came a day when he did take Gregorius to meet the old man, who lived near the Dead Sea. As soon as abba Sergius saw him he greeted him warmly, brought water and washed his feet, spent the whole day talking to him about the spiritual development of the soul, and did not let him go until the next day.
"Do you know, father," I said after Gregorius had gone, "I am scandalised that I have brought great numbers of bishops, presbyters and other people to you, but you have never washed the feet of any of them except abba Gregorius."
"My son," he said, "What abba Gregorius had done I know not, but what I do know is that today I saw a patriarch coming into my cave, for I saw him wearing the pallium and carrying the book of the Gospels."
This came true, for six years later we witnessed abba Gregorius, by the providence of God, being made patriarch of Theopolis as the old man had predicted.


 

 

 

Chapter CXL
The life of that same GREGORIUS, patriarch of Theopolis.

One of the old men said of this patriarch Gregorius of Theopolis that of all his virtues the greatest were almsgiving, forgetfulness of injuries, and the gift of tears. He had the greatest compassion for sinners. And we often had proof of these things.


Chapter CXLI
The wise reply of abba OLYMPIUS.

A brother once came to abba Olympius in the monastery of abba Gerasimus near the Jordan.
"Abba," he said, "How do you manage to put up with excessive heat and all these insects as you sit in your cave?"
"My son," he replied, "I suffer these now, so that I may be delivered from future torment. I suffer from the insects now, that I may avoid the worm that does not die. I endure this heat now in fear of the punishment of eternal fire. For these things are temporal, those are eternal."



Chapter CXLII
Another wise reply, from abba ALEXANDER


There was another brother who came to abba Alexander, the superior of the monastery of abba Gerasimus.
"Abba," he said, "I want to leave this place where I live, for I am weighed down with depression (accedia) and weariness of mind."
"That, my brother," said abba Alexander, "is a sign that you do not keep either the kingdom of heaven or the torments of eternity in the forefront of your mind. If you were thinking earnestly of these things in your cell you would not be experiencing any depression."


Chapter CXLIII
The life of  DAVID, the robber chief, after he became a monk.

When we were in the city of Antinoe in the Thebaid, we visited the sage Phibanon, who, much to our benefit, told us about a certain robber called David. He had robbed a great number of people in the region of Hermopolis, many of whom he killed; his crimes were without number. There was no one who could be compared to him for the cruelty of his deed; he was the most famous of all.
One day as he returned with about thirty of his companions from committing his robberies, he suddenly became conscience stricken for the wickednesses he had committed, and leaving his companions he went to a monastery and knocked at the door.
"What do you want?" asked the doorkeeper.
"I want to be a monk," said the robber chief.
The doorkeeper went in and told the abbot, who came out and noticed that the robber chief was already fairly well advanced in age.
"You could not live here," said the abbot, "for the brothers have to put up with very hard work and severe abstinence. You have been used to a very different way of life and would hardly be able to endure the privations of a monastery."
" Just take me in, so that I can do all those things."
"You would not be able to put up with it," said the abbot, persisting in his refusal.
"You should know that I am David, the robber chief, and I have come hither to do penance for my sins. But if you don't accept me, I swear by him who dwells in heaven that I will go back to my former way of life, gather together my companions and come and kill the lot of you, and destroy this monastery."
This threat was enough to make the abbot take him in, tonsure him and give him the habit. This novice then began to fight the spiritual battle like a veteran, and outshone everyone else in the monastery by his abstinence and obedience and the practice of humility. All the monks, of whom there were about seventy,  admired him and looked to him as an example of holiness and every kind of virtue.
Then one day as he sat in his cell, an angel of the Lord was sent to him.
"David, David," said the angel, "God has wiped out your sins, and from now on you will be a miracle worker."
"I can hardly believe," he replied, "that God in such a short time can have forgiven all my sins which are greater and more in number than the sands of the sea."
"The priest Zechariah did not believe me either," said the angel, "when I promised he would have a son (Luke 1.18), and I did not spare him but bound his tongue to teach him not to be sceptical about what I was saying to him. Nor shall I spare you. From now on you will be dumb." David prostrated himself on the ground.
"I spoke when I was in the world," he said, "doing my wicked deeds and spilling human blood, but now I only want to serve God and offer him praise, so will you then bind my tongue so that I cannot speak?"
"You will speak in fulfilling the prescribed psalmody," said the angel, "but other than that you will be dumb."
And so it came to pass. God did many signs through him. He could speak to sing the psalms, but not a word could he say at any other time.
The man who told us this affirmed that he had seen this man, and he glorified God.


Chapter CXLIV
The teachings of one of the OLD MEN who were in the Cells.

This is what one of the old brothers in the Cells said:
Let us not hanker after the fleshpots of Egypt subjecting us to the pernicious tyranny of Pharaoh.
Again he said: Would that people put as much effort into seeking what is best as they do into following the ways of evil. They eagerly frequent public stage-shows and frivolous pornographic displays; they become avaricious, boastful and dishonourable. Would that they would channel that effort into seeking after righteousness. We should never be forgetful of the high regard God has for us and what power we have over the demons.
Again the old man said: There is nothing greater than God, nothing equal to him, and nothing which is not infinitely smaller. So what can be more powerful or blessed than having God as our helper?
Again he said: God is everywhere, and hastens to the help of those who are striving in devotion and spiritual warfare. He does not honour those who merely profess to be holy, but those who prove it by what they do. If God is there how can anyone be betrayed or come to any harm?
Again he said: The strength of a person does not come naturally, but lies in the pursuit of perfection and the help of God. Let us take good care of our souls, my sons, as much as we do our bodies.
Once more the old man spoke: Let us bind to ourselves the remedies for the soul – devotion, justice, humility, submission. Christ our God, the great healer of souls, is at hand and wills our cure. So let us not neglect or despise him.
Once more he spoke: God wishes us to be sober and frugal. But we wretches have allowed ourselves to be led astray into amusements and pleasures.
Again the old man said: Let us commend ourselves to God, as St Paul said, as those who are alive from the dead (Romans 6.13), not looking to the past, but forgetting what has gone before and pressing towards the mark for the prize of our high calling (Phil.3.13-14)
"Why is it that I am always passing judgment on my brothers?" one of the brothers asked the old man.
"It is because you do not know your own self," he replied. "If you knew yourself you would be blind to the vices of your brothers."

 


Chapter CXLV
The life of the blessed GENNADIUS, the patriarch of Constantinople and of his lector, Charisius.

We went to the cenobium called Salama, nine miles distant from Alexandria, and met two old presbyters there who told us that they were presbyters of the church of Constantinople. They told us about the blessed Gennadius, patriarch of Constantinople who was of a most gentle nature, pure of body, very abstemious.
They told us how he had been greatly troubled by a scandalous cleric called Charisius whom he summoned to an interview in an attempt to get him to amend his ways. But the man gave no signs of any improvement, so he ordered him to be whipped, as the paternal care of the church required. Neither admonishment nor whipping, however, produced any change for the better. (He indulged in magical practices and even in murder.)
Now Charisius was a lector in the church of the holy martyr Eleutherius, so the bishop called upon an apocrisarius (one who had the power of discernment of spirits) to pray to the blessed martyr, saying, "Holy Eleutherius of God, your servant Charisius is a great sinner. Either reform him or else kill him."
The apocrisarius went in to the oratory, stood before the altar, and stretched out his hands towards the martyr's tomb.
"Patriarch Gennadius brings a message to you, Eleutherius, O holy martyr of Christ, through me a sinner, that your servant has committed many sins. Either reform him or else kill him."
Next day Charisius that worker of wickedness was indeed found to be dead, and all were astonished and glorified God.


Chapter CXLVI
The vision of EULOGIUS, the patriarch of Alexandria

While we were in this same coenobium abbot Menas, the father of the monastery, talked to us about Eulogius the holy patriarch of Alexandria:
One night when he was celebrating matins and lauds in the Episcopal oratory, he noticed Julianus the archdeacon standing near him. He was annoyed at this sight, because Julianus had dared to come in without having been announced, but he said nothing. The psalms finished, he prostrated himself on the floor, and as he did this the person who appeared to be Julianus did the same. After the prayer Eulogius got up, but Julianus remained lying on the floor. The bishop turned towards him.
"Why don't you get up?" he asked.
"Unless you give me a hand to lift me up", was the reply, "I can't do it."
Eulogius stretched out his hand out to help him up and continued with the psalmody. But as he turned round a little while later he saw no one there. So when matins and lauds were over he called for his chaplain (cubicularius).
"Why didn't you tell me the archdeacon was coming in? He came in to me this night without being announced"
But the chaplain said that he had not seen anyone at all coming in. The patriarch did not believe him
"Call the doorkeeper," he said, and the doorkeeper arrived.
"Didn't Julianus the archdeacon come in here?" he asked. The doorkeeper swore that no one had either come in or out, and the bishop could say no more.
When morning was come the archdeacon came up to pray.
"Why don't you keep to the rules, archdeacon Julianus," said the bishop. "You came in here last night without being announced."
"For Heaven's sake (per orationes domini mei)," said the archdeacon, "I did not come up here last night, nor have I left my house at all apart from just now."
Then the great Eulogius realised that the person he had seen was Julianus the holy martyr, urging him to repair his shrine which for a long time had been neglected, falling apart, and almost becoming a ruin. And for the love which he had for the martyr, Eulogius speedily stretched out his hand and rebuilt the shrine, dedicating it anew, and furnishing it with all kinds of decorations, as befitted the shrine of a sacred martyr. 


Chapter CXLVII
The vision of EULOGIUS, the patriarch of Alexandria about Leo, Roman Pope

Abbot Menas, the father of the monastery, told us that he had heard abbot Eulogius the patriarch of Alexandria telling the following story:
When I went to Constantinople, I enjoyed the fellowship of Sir (dominus) Gregory, the archdeacon of Rome, an exceptionally great man, who told me a story about the most holy and blessed Leo, Roman Pontifex. He said that it had been recorded in the Roman church that when Leo had written to the holy Flavianus, the bishop of Constantinople, his letter against the heretics Eutyches and Nestor, he had placed it on the tomb of Peter the prince of apostles, accompanied by prayers and vigils and fasts.
"If I have all too humanly written with insufficient care or even missed anything out," he prayed to the chief of the apostles, "do you correct it, for to you was given this see and this church by our Lord God and Saviour, Jesus Christ."
After forty days the Apostle appeared to him as he prayed.
"I have read, and made corrections," he said.
He took the letter from the tomb of the blessed Peter, opened it, and found it corrected by the apostle's own hand.


Chapter CXLVIII
The vision of Theodorus bishop of Darna concerning the most blessed LEO.

Theodorus the most holy bishop of the city of Darna in Libya told us the following:
When I was chaplain to the holy pope Eulogius, I saw in a dream a man of most worshipful appearance and aristocratic demeanour.
"Announce my arrival to the holy pope Eulogius," he said.
"Who is it who is asking to be announced?" I said.
"I am Leo, the Roman pontifex," he said.
So I went in and announced him.
"The most holy and blessed pope Leo, who occupies the see of Rome, wishes to speak with you."
On hearing this, pope Eulogius got up and ran quickly to meet him. They greeted each other, said the prayers and sat down.
"Do you know why I have come to see you?" the divine and exalted Leo said to the holy Eulogius.
"No"
"I have come to thank you for the magnificently orthodox (rite) reply you wrote to my brother Flavianus, the patriarch of Constantinople. You have enlarged upon the meaning of my own declaration, and brought to naught the prayers of the heretics. Be well assured, brother, that you have given your divine labours and studies not only to me, but even to Peter the supreme chief of the apostles, and also to him who above all others is of the truth, Christ our God."
I witnessed this vision not once only but twice and thrice. This threefold apparition reassured me and I ran to tell the holy pope Eulogius about it. When he had heard it he wept and lifted up his hands to heaven
"I give you thanks, Christ our God and master," He said, "for that you have seen fit to let me be a herald of your truth, unworthy though I am, and in your most high and ineffable kindness, through the prayers of your servants Peter and Leo, you have stooped to accept the two mites of my own modest and insignificant endeavours.


Chapter CXLIX
The most astonishing story which Amos the Patriarch of Jerusalem related about LEO, the Roman pontifex.

When abbot Ammos went down to Jerusalem and was made patriarch, all the fathers of the desert monasteries went down to pay their respects (adorare) to him, among whom were my abbot and I. This is what he had to say to us:
"Pray for me, my fathers, for a great and heavy burden is laid upon me. The dignity of this priesthood fills me with terror above measure. Peter and Paul and their like may well be able to rule over rational souls, but I am but a miserable sinner. More than anything else I fear the burden of my ordination, for I have found it written that the blessed and angelic Pope Leo, who presided over the Roman Church, kept up a vigil of prayer for forty days at the tomb of the apostle Peter, beseeching him to intercede before God for his sins to be forgiven. At the end of the forty days the apostle Peter appeared to him.
"'I have prayed for you,' he said, 'and all your sins are forgiven, except for what pertains to your sacred office. This alone you will be required to answer for, whether you have done well or perchance done otherwise.'"


Chapter CL
The life and holiness of the BISHOP of the town of Rumellum

This is what abbot Theodorus of Rome told us:
Far from the city of Rome there is a small town called Rumellum, and in this little town there was a bishop of great virtue and merit. One day certain citizens of that town went to the blessed Agapetus, pastor of Rome, with an accusation against their bishop of using the sacred vessels to dine from. Although this was all he had to go on, the Pontifex was aghast, and sent two of his clerics to arrest the bishop and walk him back to Rome, where he was immediately imprisoned. The third day of his imprisonment was a Sunday. And when the Pope was still in bed as Sunday was dawning, he saw in a dream someone standing in front of him.
"On this Sunday it is not for you to offer the saving Sacrifice, nor for any other of the bishops in this city except for that one bishop that you have put in prison. I desire that he should make the offering today."
The Pope awoke, and wondered doubtfully about the vision he had seen.
"Such terrible accusations I have listened to about him, and he to make the offering?"
A second time ,the voice of the vision came to him.
"I have told you, the bishop in your prison is the only one who may make the offering."
He still hesitated, until the message was repeated for a third time. The Pontifex hastily stirred himself into action, summoned the bishop before him and interrogated him.
"What sort of a man are you?" he asked
"I am a sinner," he replied and would not say any more. The Pope could see that he could not be persuaded to say anything else.
"Today you must make the offering," he said.
So the bishop stood in front of the holy altar, with the Pope beside him and the deacons standing about them, and began the holy solemnity of the Mass. And when he came to the prayer of oblation he did not finish it, but began it again a second time, then a third, and then a fourth. Everyone by this time had become very unhappy about the delay.
"What is this all about?" said the Pontifex. "You have said the prayer for the fourth time without getting to the end of it."
"Forgive me, holy father, "replied the bishop. "But I have not discerned the usual descent of the Holy Spirit, which is why I have not completed the prayer. But let that deacon standing nearby carrying the fan be removed. I have no authority to remove him myself."
The divine Agapetus commanded the deacon to go, and immediately both bishop and Pope discerned that the holy Spirit had come. And the canopy over the altar came down of its own accord and hid from view the Pope, the bishop, and all the deacons around the holy altar for the space of about three hours.
By this miracle the venerable Agapetus then recognised the holiness of this bishop, and regretted the suffering he had caused him because of what he now knew to have been a false calumny. From then onwards he determined never to act hastily on any accusation, but to proceed to a mature and considered judgment after great deliberation.


Chapter CLI
The story which abba John of Persia told about the blessed Pope GREGORY bishop of the city of Rome.

We visited abba John of Persia who told us the following story about the great and blessed Gregory, bishop of Rome:
I went to Rome in order to worship at the tomb of the holy apostles Peter and Paul, and I was standing one day in the middle of the city when I heard that Pope Gregory was about to come by that way, so I determined to reverence him. As the Pope came towards me he saw that I was coming forward to reverence him, and as God is my witness, brothers, he prostrated himself on the ground before me, and would not get up till he saw that I had got up first. Then he greeted me with great humility and gave me three numismata with his own hand, bidding me to give them wherever I thought necessary. So I glorified God who had given this man such humility and pity and charity towards all.


Chapter CLII
The life and sayings of MARCELLUS of Scete, abbot of the monastery of Monidion.

We visited abbot Marcellus of Scete in his monastery of Monidion, where this man of authority (senior), wishing to be of benefit to us, told us the following:
When I lived in my own country (he was from Apamia), there was a charioteer there called Phileremus. On the day when he had been beaten, his supporters turned against him.
"Phileremus does not win the crown in this city!" they chanted.
Later on I came to Scete [the desert of the monks] and whenever I was tempted to go back to my own country and town I said to myself: "Phileremus does not win the crown in this city!" And thanks be to God this thought kept me there for thirty years, until such time as the barbarians came and laid Scete to waste, taking me prisoner and selling me in Pentapolis.
Abbot Marcellus also told us the following story about himself, as if he were talking about some other old man in Scete:
One night he got up as usual in order to sing psalms and he had scarcely begun when he was disturbed by a piercing sound like a trumpet of war.
"Where is this trumpet sound coming from, making such a terrible noise?" he said to himself. "There are no soldiers here, and we are far from the field of battle."
And as he turned these questions over in his mind, he heard the voice of a demon standing near him.
"Oh yes, there is war," it said. "So if you don't want to fight and do battle, go back to sleep and you won't be attacked."
Again the old man said:
"Believe me, my sons, there is nothing like perpetual meditation on the psalms to turn the demons and Satan, the author of their perdition, against us, or to upset, annoy, irritate, wound, cast down and dishearten them. The whole of Scripture is for our benefit and is a serious annoyance to the demons, but no part of it as much as the psalms. For if one section of the people is singing the praises of the Emperor, those who are not joining in do not get upset about it. But if they turn to insulting and threatening behaviour against those who don't join in, then they should expect retaliation. Similarly, the demons do not get as upset by other parts of Scripture as they do by the psalms. For when we meditate on the psalms, we partly pray for ourselves as we praise God, and partly we hurl curses at the demons. That is, we are praying for ourselves, when we say. 'Have mercy upon me, O God, after your great goodness, and according to the multitude of your mercies wipe out my offences' (Psalm 51.1); or again, 'Cast me not away from your sight, and do not take your holy spirit away from me'; or again, 'Cast me not away in my old age; when my powers are failing, do not abandon me' (Psalm 71.19). But we are harassing the demons when we say 'Let God arise and let his enemies be scattered, and let those that hate him flee before his face' (Psalm 68.1); or again, 'I saw the ungodly proud and exalted among the cedars of Lebanon; I passed by and lo, they were no more, I sought them and their place could not be found' (Psalm37.35-36); or again, 'Let their swords enter into their own hearts'; or again, 'He opened a pit and dug it, and he is fallen into the hole he made. His mischief shall be turned upon his own head, and his iniquity shall descend upon his own crown'" (Psalm 7.15).
Again the old man said: "Believe what I am telling you, my sons: for anyone who renounces the world and takes up the monastic life there is great praise and honour and glory, for the things of the spirit (intellectualia) are greater than the things of the flesh (sensibilia). By the same token, for the monk who abandons the habit there is nothing but confusion and ignominy, even though he were to be made Emperor."
Again he said: "In the beginning man was made in the image of God, but after he fell away from God he was in the image of the beasts."
Once more he spoke: "Just as our nature is prone to disordered desires, brothers, so does the purposeful yoke of abstinence tame them."
Again the old man said: "Make proof of the good life by experience, without any fear of that being invalid."
Once more he spoke: "Don't be surprised that although you are human you are capable of becoming an Angel. Glory on a par with the Angels is set before us, even as we are promised nothing but agony as we strive towards it."
Again the old man said: "Nothing draws monks towards friendship with God like the beauty and truth of chastity, which is pleasing to God, as the holy and divine Spirit testifies through the blessed Paul. Chastity encourages you to persevere with integrity in waiting ever upon the Lord without distraction." (1 Cor.7.35)
Again he said: "My sons, let us leave marriage and the procreation of children to those who are intent upon the things of the earth and desire what the present offers without a thought of the future life. They do not strive to acquire eternal goods and cannot tear themselves away from temporal and transient things."
Again he said: "Let us make haste to take flight from a carnal way of life, just as carnal Israel took flight from the slavery of Egypt."
Once more he spoke: "We have the most beautiful and pre-eminent gifts of God set before us, my brothers, in exchange for the harmful pleasures of the world."
Again the old man said: "Let us flee from avarice the mother of all evil."


Chapter CLIII
The reply of a MONK of the monastery of Raythum to his brother in the world.

There were two brothers living in the world in Constantinople, very religious, and very strict in fasting. One of them renounced the world, went to Raythum and became a monk. After a while the other brother came to Raythum to pay his monastic brother a visit. In the course of his stay he saw this brother taking food at the ninth hour.
"Brother," he said, scandalised, "when you were in the world you never ate before sunset."
"Quite so," the monk replied, "but when I was in the world my ears fed me, for I gained enormous nourishment from the vain praise and glory given me by men, which made the labour of fasting easier to bear."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter CLIV

The life of THEODORE, a secular man, but a man of God.

 

Abbot Jordan, the solitary, said that with two other anchorites he had visited abba Nicholaus near the river Betasimus (between holy Elpidium and the monastery known as the Strangers, where he lived in a cave). We found that there was a secular with him. We were asking abba Nicholaus about how to save our souls, but he turned to the secular:

"You say something to us on that subject," he said.

"What could I say that would be of any benefit to you?" he said. "I wish that I could even say something of benefit to myself."

"Nevertheless, say something," the old man said.

"For twenty-two years I have never eaten before sunset, except on Saturdays and Sundays, "he said. "I used to work in the household of a very rich, wicked and avaricious man. I was with him for fifteen years, working night and day, for a pittance which he did not part with willingly. Through all those years he bullied me mercilessly. But I said to myself, 'Theodore, if you put up with this man for the wages he is paying you, he will be preparing you for the kingdom of heaven. Moreover I have kept my body pure from women to this very day."

Hearing this, we were greatly edified.

 

 

 

Chapter CLV

The story of abbot JORDAN about the three Saracens who killed each other,

 

Abbot Jordan also passed on to us the following story which abba Nicholaus had told him:

During the time of the most faithful emperor Mauritius, Namanes, the leader of the Saracen people, was going about plundering in the area where I was, near Arnon and Aidon. I happened to see three Saracens who had with them an extremely handsome youth of about twenty years, whom they had taken prisoner and bound. When this young man saw me he began to weep and begged me to rescue him from them, so I did beg the Saracens to release him.

"We are not going to release him," one of the Saracens replied in Greek.

"Take me and let him go," I said, "for he is not able to endure this affliction."

"We are not going to release him," he repeated.

"Will you not take a ransom for him?" I asked, making a third attempt. "Give him to me, and I will pay you whatever you ask."

"We can't give him to you, for we have promised our priest that we would give him anyone we found of outstanding beauty, to be offered up in sacrifice. Now go away, for if you hinder us for much longer your head will roll on the ground."

So then I prostrated myself on the ground.

"Christ our God and Saviour save your servant," I prayed.

And immediately the three Saracens were possessed by devils, and they drew their swords and killed each other. I took the young man with me to my cave and comforted him. He refused to leave me, but renounced the world and lived with me for seven years in the monastic habit, until he fell asleep.

 

 

Chapter CLVI

The reply of a certain OLD MAN to two philosophers.

 

Two philosophers once came to an old man and asked him for some edifying conversation, but the old man  said nothing.

"Haven't you got anything to say to us, father?" they asked.

"I know that you are enthusiastic about fine words," he replied, "But I say that you philosophers are not enthusiastic about truth. How long will it take you to learn to speak as if you did not know how to speak? What your philosophy needs is to meditate perpetually on death and to become accustomed to silence and stillness."

 

 

 

 

Chapter CLVII

The story of two MONKS of the monastery of the Syrians in Subenorum, about the dog who showed a brother the way.

 

Sophronius Sophista and I went to the monastery of Calamon near the Jordan, where Alexander was the abbot, and met there two monks of the monastery of Subenorum in Syria. This is what they told us:

Ten days ago a pilgrimage organiser (?susceptor peregrinorum) arrived at Subiba Besorum, asking for alms and giving a blessing (eulogia). He made a request to the abbot of the monastery.

"It would be a great favour if you could send to the nearby monastery of the Syrians for them to come and receive the blessing, and also pass the message on to the monastery of Charembe so that they too can come."

So the abbot sent a brother to the abbot of the Syrians in Subenorum.

"Come to the monastery of Besorum," he said to the abbot, "and send a message to the monastery of Charembe, so that they can come too."

"I'm sorry, brother," said the abbot, "but I have no one I can send. Could you be so kind as to go there yourself and tell them?"

"I've never been there before," he said, "and I don't know the way."

So then the old man spoke to his little dog:

"Go with this brother to the monastery of Charembe with the message he wants to give them."

So the dog went off with the brother until they stood at the monastery door.

And those who told us this story showed us the very dog, which they still had with them.

 

 

Chapter CLVIII

The ass which served the monastery of Mardes

 

There is a very high mountain near the Dead Sea called Mardes, where anchorites dwelt. Their garden was about six miles away at the bottom of the mountain on the shores of the Dead Sea, so they kept a paid gardener there. Whenever they wanted to send to the garden for olives they saddled their ass and gave him a command:

"Go down to the gardener and bring back olives."

The ass immediately went down to the garden by itself, stood outside the gate and kicked it. At once, the gardener came out and loaded it up with olives and sent it off with its burden. The ass can be seen day by day, going up and down, serving the needs of the old men alone, and paying heed to nobody else.

 

 

 

 

Chapter CLIX

The life of SOPHRONIUS, the solitary, and the teachings of MENAS, the superior of the coenobium of Severianus.

 

Abbot Menas, the superior of the coenobium of Severianus said that abba Sophronius, the solitary, lived naked near the Dead Sea for almost seventy years, his only food being herbs.

And he also said this about him: that he once heard him saying, "I have prayed to the Lord that the demons may not come anywhere near my cave. And I have seen them coming, standing almost three miles away, and not daring to come any closer."

Abbot Menas would also say to the brothers of the coenobium, "Let us flee from the conversation of the world, my sons, which is very dangerous for young monks."

Again the old man said: "People of every age should embrace penances, young and old alike, that they may earn the reward of enjoying eternal life with glory and praise, the young because in the flower of youth when concupiscence holds sway they have put their necks under the yoke of chastity, the old because by reason of their long life they have been able to turn an inveterate inclination to evil towards better things."

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter CLX

How a demon appeared to a certain OLD MAN in the shape of the blackest of boys.

 

Abbot Paul, the superior of the coenobium of abbot Theognotus, told us that an old man had told him the following:

I was in my cell one day, working with my hands (I was weaving a basket and repeating psalms), when I saw a little Ethiopian boy come in through the window, stop in front of me and begin doing acrobatics.

"Aren't I a great acrobat?" he asked. I kept on saying psalms and did not reply.

"Don't you find my acrobatics pleasing?" he said.

But again I did not reply.

"I suppose you think you are doing great things, you evil old man. But I'm telling you, you have been making mistakes in the sixty-fifth, sixty-sixth, and sixty-seventh psalms."

I got up and prostrated myself before God and worshipped him, and the demon vanished.

 

 

Chapter CLXI

The life of abbot ISAAC, and how a demon also appeared to him in the shape of a young man.

 

There is a mountain about six miles distant from Lycos, a city of the Thebaid, where some of the monks live in caves, others in cells. We went there and met abba Isaac, a Theban, who told us the following:

Fifty years ago I was making a mosquito net when I made a mistake in my work and I could not find out where it was, let alone repair it. I spent the whole day utterly defeated, unable to discover what I had done wrong. I was almost in despair, when I saw a young man come in through the window.

""You've made a mistake," he said, "but give me your work and I will put it right."

"Get out," I said. "You'll not get me to do that."

"But you will be damned if you do your work badly"

"No call for you to worry about that."

"But I am just sorry for you because your work is lost."

"Both you and he who sent you have come here with evil intent."

"No, it is you have drawn me here, and you are mine."

"What do you mean?

"For the last three Sundays you have communicated while harbouring uncharitable thoughts towards your neighbour."

"You're lying"

"I'm not lying. You are angry with him because he is so slow (propter lenticulam). And I am the one in charge of anger and the memory of insults. So, therefore, you are mine."

At this, I left my cell immediately, went to my brother, prostrated myself before him and begged his forgiveness, whereupon we were reconciled. When I returned to my cell I found that the demon had destroyed the mosquito net completely and also the rush mat on which I prayed, so envious of our charity had he become.

 

 

Chapter CLXII

The reply of abba THEODORE of Pentapolitanus on the question of relaxing the rule of abstinence from wine.

 

Fifteen miles from Alexandria there is the monastery of Calamon, between the Eighteenth monastery and Maphora. Sophista Sophronius was with us and we interviewed abbot Theodore of Pentapolitanus.

"When any of us go visiting someone, father," we asked, "or when anyone comes to visit us, is it a good thing to relax the rule of abstaining from wine?"

"No" replied this senior monk.

"How is it then that the ancient fathers used to relax this rule?"

"The ancient fathers, great and strong as they were, knew how to relax and then tighten up again. For our generation, my sons, it is not safe to relax and then tighten up, for if we once relax our rule of abstinence, we would be incapable of returning to the austerity of our religious life."

 

 

 

 

Chapter CLXIII

The life of abba PAUL of Helladicus.

 

Abbot Alexander, father of the monastery of Calamon, told us the following;

When I was with Paul of Helladicus one day in his cave, somebody knocked at the door. Paul opened the door and went out with some bread and steeped chickpeas for the visitor to eat. I supposed it was some pilgrim, but when I looked out the window I saw it was a lion.

"Why are you giving him food, father?" I asked. "What's the reason?"

"I warned him never to harm anyone, neither man nor beast, but that he should come to me daily and I would give him his food. He has been doing this for seven months now, twice a day, and I feed him."

I visited him again a few days later to buy a wine jar from him (for making them was his work)

"How are you, father," I said. "And how's the lion?"

"Not good," he said.

"How's that?"

"Yesterday he came here for his food and I saw that there was blood all over his chin. 'What's this?' I said. 'You have been disobedient and eaten flesh. God bless me! I am not going on feeding you. You are taking the fathers' food, and all the time you are eating flesh! Away with you!' But he seemed reluctant to go. So I took a thin rope, folded it into three, and gave him three sharp blows with it, after which he did go."

 

Chapter CLXIV

The reply of VICTOR the solitary to the monk who was timid

 

A brother came to abba Victor, a solitary in the monastery of Elusa with a question

"What should I do, father, for I am troubled with timidity of mind?"

"It is a sickness of the soul. The weaker your eyes are, the greater effort you have to make to enjoy what light there is. If your eyes are healthy, less effort is needed. In just the same way, if your soul is fearful, temptations appear bigger than they really are and disturb you immoderately. But if your soul is healthy, temptations are more easily endured."

 

The life of a robber whose name was CYRIACUS

 

One of the faithful told us about a robber called Cyriacus who used to carry out his robberies round about Emmaus in Nicopolis. He was so violent and cruel that he was known as "the wolf". He had a band of robbers with him who were a mixture of Christians, Hebrews and Samaritans.

One Holy Week a group of people from the Nicopolitan district went up to the holy city to have their infant children baptised. Once the ceremony was over they were making their way back home to celebrate the holy day of Resurrection when the robbers stopped them, their leader not being with them. The men all ran away and escaped, but the robbers, all of them Hebrews and Samaritans, threw the newly baptised infants on to the ground, seized the women and raped them.

As the men fled, they met the leader of the robbers, who asked them why they were running. When they had told him what had happened, he took them with him back to his companions, where he found the infants still lying on the ground. When he had learned who was responsible for the atrocity, he cut their heads off and gave the children back to the men. (They could not take the women back for they had been defiled.) So the leader of the robbers saved the men and children and conducted them back home.

Some time later the leader of the robbers was captured and spent the next ten years in prison. None of the magistrates ordered his execution, but eventually he was granted a pardon.

"It is due to those infants that I escaped a bitter death," he always used to say. "For I often used to see them in my dreams saying to me: 'Don't be afraid. We will make excuses for you.'"

I spoke with him myself at a later date, as also did Johannes, the presbyter of the monastery of the Eunuchs. And he himself confirmed the story, giving glory to God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter CLXVI

The life of a ROBBER turned monk, who later, having taken back his secular clothes, was beheaded.

 

A story from abbot Sabbatius:

When I was in the monastery of abbot Firminus a robber arrived and spoke to abbot Zozimus Cilices.

" I am guilty of many murders," he said, "and I beg you for the love of God make me a monk, so that now at last I may give up crime."

So the old man instructed him, made him a monk and gave him the holy habit. After a while he spoke to the robber and said:

"Believe me my son, you had better not live here, for if the governor hears about you he will have you arrested and executed. You are also at risk from any of your enemies. Take my advice and let me take you to the coenobium of abbot Dorotheus near Gaza and Maiuma." So he went, and after having been there nine years and learnt the psalter and all the details of monastic observance, he went back to the monastery of Firminus and said to abbot Zozimus:

"Take pity on me, father. Give me back my secular clothes and take back my monastic habit.

"Why my son?" he said in dismay.

"As you know, father, I have spent nine years in the coenobium, fasted according to my ability, lived chastely, and have been disciplined in silence and in the fear of God. I know that of his infinite goodness, God has forgiven me many of my sins, but I am constantly aware of a little boy standing in front of me saying: 'Why did you kill me?' I see him in my dreams, in church, when I go to Communion, and when I am in the refectory. There is never a moment when he gives me any peace. So, father, I wish to go, and give myself up to death for this little boy. For I am guilty of having killed this little boy, for no reason, for nothing."

So he took back his secular clothes and departed. As soon as he got to Diospolis in these clothes he was arrested and executed the next day.

 

 

Chapter CLXVII

The life and death of abba POEMEN, solitary

 

Abbot Agathonicus, the superior of the fortified coenobium of our holy father Saba, told the following story:

I went one day to Ruba to visit abba Poemen the solitary. After I had found him and revealed to him my thoughts he left me alone in a cave. It was winter, very cold at night, and I suffered terribly from the freezing conditions. In the morning the old man greeted me.

"How has it been, my son?" he asked.

"I'm sorry, father, but I have had a dreadful night because of the cold."

"My son, I did not feel the cold at all."

This astonished me, for he was almost naked.

"Do please tell me how it is that you felt nothing of this extremely bitter cold."

"A lion came and slept near me to keep me warm. Nevertheless, I tell you, brother, that I really deserve to be devoured by wild beasts."
"Tell me why, I beg you!"
"In our home province," (for we were both from Galatia) "where I was once a shepherd, I refused to give hospitality to a passing pilgrim, and he was devoured by dogs. I could have kept him safe, but I didn't, and sent him on his way where he was torn to pieces. So I am only too aware that I ought to die the same sort of death."
And so it came to pass. Three years later he was torn to pieces by wild beasts, as he prophesied.


Chapter CLXVIII
The sayings of ALEXANDER, one of the old men.

Here is what abba Alexander said to the brothers:
"Our fathers embraced the desert and toil. We, however, prefer cities and relaxation."
Again the old man said: "In our fathers' time these were the virtues which flourished: nakedness and humility; in us there is nothing but avarice and pride to be found."
Once more he said: "Our fathers never washed their faces, but we frequent the public baths and watering places."
Again the old man said: "Alas, my sons, we have lost the angelic way of life."
Abba Vincentius his disciple said to him, "Indeed, father, we are weak."
"Why do you say we are weak, Vincentius? Our bodies are as strong as Olympic athletes, believe me. It is our souls which are weak."
Again he said: "We are very good at eating and drinking well and also dressing well. We don't understand how to abstain or humiliate ourselves."
Once more he said: "Woe to you, Alexander, woe to you! Great will be your confusion when all the others will receive the crown of glory."


Chapter CLXIX
The life of a blind OLD MAN in the monastery of Abbot Siscus

There was an old man who was blind living in the monastery of abbot Siscus in Scete. His cell was about a mile away from the well, but he never permitted anyone to fetch his water for him. Instead, he made a rope and fixed one end of it to the well and the other to his cell. The rope lay on the ground and when he wanted water he walked along the rope. Whenever the wind stirred up the sand and buried the rope, he held it in his hand and uncovered it, and again laid it on the ground and walked along it. When one of the brothers asked the old man to let him carry the water, he replied: "My son, I have been drawing water in this way for twenty-two years, and would you now rob me of this my labour?"
Chapter CLXX
The life of a holy WOMAN, who died in the desert

From the monastery of Sampson, about twenty miles from Jerusalem, two fathers once went on pilgrimage to Mount Sinai. This is what they told us when they came back:
When we were on our way back from worshipping in the holy mountain, it happened that we took a wrong path and wandered completely alone in the desert for several days. At last, however we saw that we were walking towards a narrow cave in the distance. We could see a small pool of water, with grass growing round it, and signs of human habitation.
"There must surely be a servant of God in this place," we said to each other.
When we went in, we could not see anybody but we could hear someone crying. After a further search we found a sort of a bed with someone lying on it. We came nearer and asked this servant of God to speak to us. When we got no reply we went nearer and lifted him up, only to find that though the body was still warm the soul had departed to the Lord. So we realised that he had died the moment we entered the cave. So we dug a grave in the cave, and one of us took off the cloak he was wearing to wrap his body in. As we lifted the body out of the place, it was lying to prepare it for burial in the usual way we discovered it was a woman, and we glorified God. We said the prayers for the dead over her and buried her.
Chapter CLXXI
The life of two remarkable men, THEODORE the philosopher, and ZOILUS the lector

There were two remarkable men of great virtue in Alexandria, Theodore the philosopher, and Zoilus the lector. We were very friendly with both of them, the former because of his discipline and learning, the latter because we came from the same country and shared a similar education. Abba Theodore possessed nothing except a travelling cloak and a few books. He slept either in the lecture hall [scabellum, prop. part of the stage machinery of a theatre] or in whatever church he went into. In the end he renounced the world in the coenobium of Salcime where he lived out his life to a glorious end. Zoilus the lector showed just as much a preference for poverty. He also possessed nothing but a travelling cloak and a few books. He spent his time in copying books. When he died, he was buried in the monastery of abbot Palladius.
One of the fathers went to Cosmas the scholar to question him about these two men, Theodore the philosopher and Zoilus the lector.
"Which of these two was the greater in the way he laboured in his spiritual exercises?" he asked.
"There was nothing to choose between them in the matters of food, shelter and clothing, rejection of anything superfluous, nakedness, humility and frugality. Theodore the philosopher went barefoot and was foolish enough to damage his eyesight in learning both the old and new Testaments by heart. But he had the consolation of having brothers, a following of friends who were associated with him in working and teaching. On the other hand not only is Zoilus to be praised for his hospitality, but also worthy of commendation is his solitude, his immense capacity for work, and his custody of the tongue. But he had no following of friends and associates and no business dealings. Completely unconcerned with any worldly affairs, he allowed himself no respite or amusements, and was beholden to nobody in his personal requirements - he cooked for himself, washed his own clothes - never took pleasure in reading simply for its own sake, was always ready to accommodate himself to others, lived completely free from frivolity, sadness, extravagance of any sort, and was unmoved by any discomfort caused by the unending attentions of insects, in spite of the sparseness of his clothing. He found considerably more refreshment in the very work itself than in being idle, for he had the liberty of carrying on night and day just as he wished. For although the extent of his labours set bounds to this liberty, yet it also kept to a minimum any involvement in worldly matters, apart from the occasional business meeting.
"To each one therefore his own reward, commensurate with his own labours and the measure of his resurrected life, that is, his purity of mind and spirit, his service, his fear of God, his charity, his compunction, his labouring in psalmody and prayer, and the virtues hidden to men but laid open to God."
Chapter CLXXII
The life of the aforesaid COSMAS the scholar

On the subject of this Master Cosmas the scholar, many have said one thing, others another, many more many other things. We have looked at them all and diligently assessed them, and chosen to write down only those things which make for useful reading. He was a humble man, compassionate, abstinent, virginal, quiet, equable, sociable, friend of strangers, lover of the poor. This marvellous man was an immense help to us, not only because of his character, but also his teaching and the fact that he had a greater supply of books than anyone else in Alexandria, which he freely and gladly lent to anyone who asked. He had no other possessions. In the whole of his house you could see nothing but books, a reading desk, a small couch and a table. He let everyone come in and read and ask whatever they wanted. I used to visit him every day, and it is absolutely true that I never found him doing anything except reading, or writing commentaries against the Jews. He had a great zeal for converting that nation to the truth, so that he often sent me to Hebrew people in order to contend with them by means of his writings. He never willingly went outside his own home himself.
I went one day to this Master Cosmas the scholar, and since I had great confidence in him I asked him a question:
"Be kind to me," I said, "and tell me how long you have been pursuing this way of life."
He stayed silent, and would not reply, so I asked him again.
"Tell me, for the Lord's sake."
He still kept silence for a little while, then said:
"Thirty-three years."
And hearing this I glorified God.
I questioned him again when I visited him on another occasion.
"Do me an even greater kindness, " I said, "in the knowledge that I am only asking for the benefit of my own soul. I beg you, tell me, in all this long time you have been living in this way, how have you arrived at such quietness and continence?"
"How ever can a secular man gain any virtue at all, living always in his own home as he does?"
"Tell me, for the Lord's sake, so that I may profit from it."
At last, in the face of so much urging from me, he said:
"Forgive me, but I have been led by three things: Not to swear, not to lie, and not to mock."


Chapter CLXXIII
The wonderful deed of THEODORE the anchorite, who by his prayers turned sea water into fresh.

There was an anchorite in the Jordan district called Theodore, an eunuch, who, needing to travel to Constantinople, boarded a ship. The ship was delayed so long in the sea that the water failed, and sailors and passengers alike were in great distress and anxiety. The anchorite stood up and lifted up his hands to the God of heaven who saves our souls from death, offered a prayer and made the sign of the cross over the sea:
."Blessed be God," he said to the sailors, "Drink as much of the water as you need."
They filled all their vessels with fresh water from the sea, and all of them glorified God.


Chapter CLXXIV
The wonderful deed of a SEA CAPTAIN, a religious man, who prayed to the Lord for rain.

This is what abba Gregorius the anchorite told us.
When I boarded ship to leave Byzantium there was also a scribe and his wife on board going on pilgrimage to the holy city. The captain was a very religious man, who fasted strictly. In the course of the voyage, the servants of the scribe wasted so much water that we were very short of it, with the journey only half way through. We suffered great privation. It was a pitiable sight to see women, children and infants burning with thirst, lying around half dead. We had been suffering this for three days when the scribe decided he could put up with it no longer, and drawing his sword he made as if to kill the captain and crew.
"This suffering of ours is all their fault," he cried, "because they did not load enough water."
"No, don't do it," I begged the scribe. "Let us rather pray to Jesus Christ, our true God, who does great and marvellous things without number. Look at the captain. You can see that he has been spending his time fasting and praying these three days."
The scribe was pacified, and on the fourth day at about the sixth hour the captain stood up and cried with such a loud voice: "Glory to you, Christ our God!" that his voice filled us with wonder.
"Spread out canvas sheets," he ordered the sailors, and no sooner had they obeyed than a cloud overshadowed us and poured out such quantities of rain that there was sufficient collected to fill all our containers. It was a great and awesome miracle, for the ship sailed on with the cloud following us, and the rain falling nowhere else save on the ship.



Chapter CLXXV
The story of the Emperor ZENO, a man much given to almsgiving.

One of the fathers told us about a woman whose daughter the Emperor Zeno had grievously wronged. This woman spent a lot of time in the church of our holy Lady the birthgiver of God crying and weeping.
"Grant me a judgment against the Emperor Zeno," she would pray.
After carrying on like this for quite some time, the holy birthgiver of God appeared to her.
"Believe me, woman, I have often been minded to give you vengeance, but his generosity overrides me." For he was indeed a very compassionate man and gave many alms.



Chapter CLXXVI
The beautiful story of abba ANDREAS about ten men on a journey, among whom was a young Hebrew.

While we were in Alexandria, Andreas Octavusdecimus told us this story:
As a young man I was a very undisciplined trouble-maker. Once there were nine others beside myself who were in danger of being arrested because of our rioting, so we fled to Palestine. There was one of our number who was a student (? industrius), and another who was a Jew. While passing through the desert, the Jew became mortally ill. As God's my witness we were in great distress about him and did not know what we could do for him. However as is usual among a band of confederates we did not desert him; each one of us carried him to the limit of each one's ability, hoping to get him to some city or market town rather than let him die in the desert. But lack of food and the severity of his fever, together with the devastating effect of thirst and the heat of the sun, brought his failing strength to the brink of death. We could carry him no longer, and with many tears we decided to leave him in the desert, fearing for our own death. In great distress we put him down on the sand, and when he saw that we were about to leave him he began to plead with us.
"In the name of God who made heaven and earth, the God who spreads out the heavens, who came down for the salvation of human kind, who is judge of the living and the dead, please don't let me die a Jew, but have some Christian pity for me and baptise me, so that I may pass from this life as a Christian and go to God."
"To tell you the truth," we said, "we can't do that, for we are only laymen, and that is the work for bishops and presbyters. In any case we haven't any water."
But he went on appealing to us as before and tearfully pleaded anew.
"You are Christians. Don't deprive me of a share in that divinely gracious gift."
As we were wavering in great perplexity, the student was inspired by God.
""Lift him up and take his clothes off, " he said, and when with great difficulty we had done so, he filled both his hands with sand and poured it over his head three times, saying "Theodore is Baptised in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit". And at the name of the one, holy, consubstantial and adorable Trinity we all said: "Amen". And as God is my witness, brothers, Christ our God immediately strengthened and healed him, so that not a trace of his former illness or any kind of suffering remained. Healthy and strong, he completed the rest of the journey through the desert with rosy cheeks and great energy, running on in front of us. In amazement at such a sudden change we all praised and glorified the ineffable majesty and benevolence of Christ our God.
When we got to Ascalon, we took him to the blessed and holy Dionysius, the bishop of that city and told him what had happened to our brother on the way. The holy and admirable Dionysius was astonished at being told of such a new and unheard of miracle, and called all the clergy together to tell them the whole matter and decide whether pouring of sand over this brother should be considered a true Baptism or not. Some said it ought to be because of the unheard of greatness of the miracle; others disagreed.
"No," they said, "because Gregory the Theologian has already listed the various forms which Baptism might take, saying: 'Firstly Moses baptised in water, in the cloud and in the sea. Secondly, John baptised, not as a Jewish Baptism, but with water and repentance. Thirdly Jesus baptised, but with the Holy Spirit, and that was the perfect Baptism. I also recognise a fourth - that is, in the blood of martyrdom, and a fifth, the Baptism of tears.' So much for Gregory; with which of these, therefore," they asked, "was this person baptised, that we may confirm there to have been a genuine Baptism? Especially in view of what the Lord said to Nicodemus: 'Except you are baptised with water and the Spirit, you cannot enter into the kingdom of God.'" (John 3.5)
"What then?" others said. "It is not written that the apostles were baptised. Did they not enter the kingdom of God?"
"They were baptised," argued others on the contrary. "For Clement Stromateus notes in Hypotyposeon 5 that Christ is said to have baptised Peter only, but Peter baptised Andrew, and James and John, and they baptised the rest of them."
These arguments and many others having been aired, it seemed good to the blessed Dionysius to send the brother to the Jordan to be baptised there, and the student he ordained to the diaconate.


Chapter CLXXVII
The unhappy death of A MONK of Egypt who wanted to live in the cell of Evagrius the heretic

While we were staying in [the monastery of] Nonnum in Alexandria, abbot Johannes Cilix told us the following:
A monk visiting us from Egypt told us that a brother from a distant country once came to the Cells asking to live there, and prostrated himself before the presbyter, begging that he might be allowed to live in the cell of Evagrius.
"You can't live there," said the presbyter, taking a step backwards. "My son, there is a most fierce demon there who seduced Evagrius, robbed him of the true faith and filled him up with wicked teachings. He does not allow anyone to stay alive there."
"Nevertheless if I am to stay in this place," he persisted, "it is in that cell that I shall die."
The presbyter at last was persuaded.
"On your own head be it," he said. "Go, and take that cell."
The brother stayed in the cell for a week, and when Sunday came he appeared in church, much to the relief of the presbyter who was very worried about him.
On the next Sunday he did not appear in the church. When the presbyter missed him he sent two brothers to find out why he had not come. When they got to the cell they went inside and found that the brother had strangled himself with a fine rope.


Chapter CLXXVIII
The life of an OLD MAN of the coenobium of Scholars, a man of simplicity.

Abbot Gregorius, presbyter of the coenobium of Scholars, told us that there was a great old man there, extremely disciplined, who was nevertheless somewhat simple when it came to matters of faith. Whatever was being discussed, he was apt to make dreadful blunders. One day an angel of God appeared to him.
"Tell me, old man," the angel said, "When you die how do you want to be buried, like the monks of Egypt or the monks of Jerusalem?"
"I don't know," he said.
"Think about it," said the angel. "Weigh up the arguments. And in three weeks time I will come back and hear what you have to say."
The old man went to another monk and told him what the Angel had said to him. He was struck dumb at what he was told, but eventually looked hard at him and, inspired by God, asked him:
"Where do you receive the holy mysteries?"
"Wherever I can," he said.

"You must never receive Communion anywhere but in the holy Catholic and apostolic Church," he said, "where the four holy synods are accepted. That is, Nicaea, where there were three hundred and eighteen fathers, Constantinople, a hundred and fifty, first council of Ephesus, two hundred, and Chalcedon, six hundred and thirty. When the Angel comes back, tell him that you wish to be buried according to the rites of Jerusalem."
After three weeks the Angel came back
"Well, old man, have you thought?"
"Jerusalem," he said.
"Good, good," said the Angel. And immediately the old man gave up his spirit.
All this happened lest he lose the fruit of all his labours and be condemned with the heretics.


Chapter CLXXIX
The life of a HOLY WOMAN from the holy city.

We visited abba John Rutilus, the anchorite, who told us a story he had heard from John the Moabite:
There was a certain holy woman in the holy city, very religious, who walked in the will of God. The devil was envious of this virgin, and instilled in the heart of a certain young man an impure and diabolical passion for her. This wonderful virgin discerned the devil's wickedness and was troubled lest the young man lose his soul, so she took a blanket, and a few loaves [hard loaves to be prepared by steeping in water] and went to the desert, hoping not only that her departure would free the young man from his temptation and be the salvation of him, but also that she would find security in solitude and grow in merit.
A long time afterwards, lest her excellent way of life remain unknown, by the dispensation of God an anchorite saw her one day in the desert near Jordan.
"What are you doing in this desert, mother?" he asked.
"Forgive me, father," she said, wishing that he would go away, "but I seem to have lost my way. For the love of God, be so kind as to direct me."
"Believe me, mother, you haven't lost your way," he said, inspired by God to discern what she was. "You have no need of a known path. Now you know that to tell lies is of the devil, so tell me the truth about why you have come here."
"Forgive me, abba," she said, "but there was a youth who was in danger of perdition because of me, so I fled to the desert, thinking it better to die here rather than be a stumbling block to anyone, as the Apostle says (2 Cor.6.3, 1 Cor.8.9)"
"How long have you been here, then?"
"Seventeen years, by the grace of Christ."
"And how have you survived"
"See this blanket and these few loaves. They came into the desert with me, and God has shown such kindness towards me in my lowliness that they have been sufficient for me ever since, and have not grown any less. And you should know this, too, father, that God's benevolence has so protected me for these seventeen years that no man has ever seen me except you today, though I have been able to see them all."
The anchorite listened and glorified God.


Chapter CLXXX
The life of JOHANNES the anchorite, who lived in a cave near the town of Sochus

We heard about abba Johannes the anchorite from the most holy Dionysius, presbyter of the holy church of Ascalon and guardian of the sacred vessels. To illustrate how great he was in his generation, and to tell of his superlative merits in the eyes of God, he told us the following story:
The old man lived in a cave near the town of Sochus, about twenty miles from Jerusalem. He was a man greatly given to venerating the martyrs, and would travel sometimes to Ephesus for St John, sometimes to Euchaita for St Theodore, sometimes to St Thecla in Seleucia Isauria, sometimes to St Sergius in Saraphas, now to this saint, now to that.
Now he had in his cave an image of our immaculate Lady, the birthgiver of God, Mary ever virgin, carrying in her arms Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour, and whenever he decided to go away - whether to the empty desert, or Jerusalem to adore the holy cross and other holy places, or to pray at Mt Sinai, or to martyrs at great distances from Jerusalem - he would as an invariable rule take a candle, light it, and stand in prayer beseeching God to watch over his journey. Then fixing his gaze on the image, he would say:
"Holy Lady, birthgiver of God, I am about to go on a long journey which will take many days. Do you take care of this your candle, tend it so that it may not be extinguished during this venture of mine, for I take this journey trusting in your help."
His prayer concluded, he would go off on his journey, and when it was over, sometimes after a month, sometimes after two or three months, or even five or six months, he would come back to find the candle still burning without diminution, just as he had asked at the beginning of his journey. Never did he find this candle had gone out of its own accord, whether rising from sleep, or returning from pilgrimage, or coming back to the cave from the desert.


Chapter CLXXXI
More of the same

The venerable presbyter Dionysius also told us the following story about abba Johannes:
One day the old man was walking near the village of Sochus where he had his cave, when he saw a large lion coming towards him out of the countryside. He was on a footpath between thorn hedges, so narrow that it would barely allow a single person unencumbered by any burden to pass through it. The old man and lion could see each other approaching, but the old man did not turn back to let the lion through, nor could the lion turn round because of the narrowness of the path, nor would it have been in the least bit possible for them to pass each other. The lion saw that the servant of God was intending to keep on going, he could not go back himself, so he stood up on his hind legs and by the weight and strength of his body pushed back the hedge on the old man's left to make a space sufficient for this righteous man to pass by without difficulty, brushing against him as he did so. When the old man had gone by, the lion extricated himself from the hedge and continued his own journey.
Another brother said that when he visited abba Johannes, he found that his cave was completely bare.
"How can you live here without any of the necessaries of life?" he asked.
"My son," he replied, "this cave is a market place of the spirit. It gives and it takes."


Chapter CLXXXII
The life of abba ALEXANDER of Cilicia, who when near to death was attacked by a demon.

About two miles away from the holy town of Bethlehem, there is the monastery of St Sergius, called Xeropotamus. Abbot Eugenius was in charge, a very devout man, who later was made bishop of Hermopolis in the lands of the Thebaid in Egypt. When we visited him he told us the following story about abba Alexander of Cilicia:
Towards the end of Alexander's life in the caves near the holy Jordan, he accepted Eugenius into his monastery. For almost the last three months of his life he was bedridden. Ten days before he passed to the Lord, he was attacked by a demon
"Wretch!" he said to the demon, "you have come to me in the evening of my life. Not very bold, is it, for here I am, confined to bed and unable to move. It just shows up your own weakness, you most miserable of creatures. If you were really powerful and capable, you should have approached me fifty or sixty years ago, when strengthened by Christ I would have shown up your own weakness, defied your boasting, and broken that rigid and inflexible neck of yours. Now, however, it is not weakness I am constrained by, but simple infirmity. But I thank my God to whom I am hastening that after so many years of labour and weariness I shall be able to show him the injuries I have suffered from you, now that you have attacked me so grievously at the hour of my death."
Much more in the same strain he said hour by hour, until at last on the tenth day he quietly gave up his spirit in peace to the Lord Christ.


Chapter CLXXXIII
The wonderful deed of an old Egyptian man named DAVID.

Abba Theodore of Cilicia told us the following story:
When I was living in Scete there was an old Egyptian man there called David who went out one day to take part in the harvesting. This was the custom in Scete, to go to the farms to help in the harvesting. So the old man went to a farm where he worked for a wage in the employ of a farmer. As he was reaping at about the seventh hour it became so hot that he went and sat down in a little hut, where the farmer came by and saw him.
"Why aren't you reaping, old man?" he said angrily. "Don't you realise I am paying your wages?"
"Yes, of course I do. But this excessive heat is causing the grains of wheat to fall out of the ears, and I don't expect any improvement until this heat passes. I would not want you to suffer any loss."
"Get up and work, even if they all catch fire."
"You don't care if they all catch fire?"
"Not at all", he said in a fury.
So the old man got up,and suddenly the whole field was in flames. The farmer ran to some of the other old men who were working in another part of the field.
"Come with me," he cried, "and beg that old man to pray, that the fire may be extinguished!"
So they came and prostrated themselves before him.
"But he was the one who said 'Let it catch fire'" said David. Nevertheless he went and stood between the part that was on fire and the part that wasn't on fire. He prayed. And immediately the fire was extinguished. So the remaining part of the field was saved.


Chapter CLXXXIV
The life of abbot JOHN THE EUNUCH, and also a young MONK who decided not to drink any water, and also an OLD MAN deeply dedicated to prayer.

While we were in Nonnum in Alexandria, we decided that we would benefit from a visit to the monastery of abba John the Eunuch. We met this old man who had been wearing the monastic habit for eighty years. We have never met anyone to match the depth of his kind-heartedness, not only to human beings but also to brute animals. So what did he do? Nothing other than to call together all the dogs in the monastery every morning and give them their food. He would also put out flour for the smaller ants and grains of wheat for the big ones. He moistened bread and spread it out on the roofs for the birds to eat. Not only was this his invariable rule, but nothing else was beneath his notice for as long as he lived in the monastery, neither door nor window, nor spetlum (? stone glazed windows), nor candle, nor writing tablet - to cut a long story short, there was nothing in the monastery which he was not aware of. Besides, he could not keep anything in his own possession for one hour, neither book, nor money, nor extra clothing, but would give it all away to the poor; he was concerned only with the future life.
They also told us another story about him to illustrate his kind-heartedness and compassion. A farmer came to him one day wanting to borrow a numma. Seeing he did not have one (indeed he never had any money), he went straight away and borrowed the money from the monastery and gave it to the farmer who promised to pay it back after a month.
When two years had gone by and the farmer had still not paid it back, he summoned him and asked him to pay the money back.
"God knows I haven't got it," he said
"Well let me tell you that I know a method whereby you can pay me back."
"Tell me what it is and I will do it," he said, thinking that the old man would commandeer something.
"As the opportunity arises, when you have nothing else to do, come here to me and make thirty genuflexions before me and I will give you one silver coin."
He willingly agreed, and whenever he had some free time from his work, he would go to the abbot and do his agreed number of prayers, after which the abbot would give him a silver coin and also something to eat and drink as well as giving him some food to take away for his family. When he had done this twenty four times, i.e. the value of one golden nummum, he gave it back to the abbot, who sent him away with his blessings.
Abbot John the Eunuch also told us the following story:
When we visited the coenobium of abbot Apollo in the Thebaid, we met there a young brother who had with him his natural father who was also one of the monks. The young man had decided that for the rest of his life he would not drink water, wine or any other sort of liquid. He ate kitchen-garden greens to quench his thirst. He also had the job of cooking bread.
After persevering in this style of abstinence for three years he fell grievously ill and was near to death. Burning with fever and suffering from an immense thirst, he was urged by everyone to take a little liquid, but he would not by any means agree. So the abbot called for a doctor and urged him to try all reasonable means of getting the sick man to submit. When the doctor saw the brother in such dire straits, he began to urge him to take some liquid but he still would not agree.
"Bring me a large tub," the doctor said to the abbot.
He brought it, and the doctor filled it with four large amphorae of warm water, and immersed the man in it up to his waist for an hour.
The abbot was present while this was happening, and he told us that after the man was lifted out of the water, the doctor took a measurement and found that the greater part of the water had been absorbed.
See what force continent monks will bring to bear on themselves, depriving themselves of the necessities of life in order to obtain an eternal reward.
He also told us that in the same coenobium, he saw a brother who used a large plank as a prayer mat. The places where he put his hands and knees were hollowed out to a depth of about four inches because of the frequency of his genuflexions.

Chapter CLXXXV
The life of a faithful WOMAN, who by an admirable display of wisdom converted her pagan husband to the faith

When we were in the island of Samus, we met the respected Maria, who worked among the poor. She was the mother of Sir Paul, who was being prepared for baptism [domnus Paulus candidatus]. She told us the following story:
When I was in the city of Nisibis, there was a Christian woman who had a pagan husband. They were quite poor, though they did have fifty numismata.
"Let's hand this money over to a usurer," the husband said one day to his wife, "to get some interest on them. We have been keeping them as some sort of status symbol, but they are decreasing in value."
"If you want to give them to a usurer," said this good wife, "let's give them to the usurer who is the God of the Christians."
"And where can we find this God of the Christians to give them to him?"
"I'll show you. And if you agree, it's not just that you won't lose anything, but he will give you interest and double your capital."
"Let's go then. Show him to me and we will give to him."
So she led her husband to the holy church, which had five large doorways. As she took him into the portico she showed him the poor:
"The God of the Christians will accept anything you give to them," she said, "for they all belong to him."
So he quite happily began to give his money to them, after which they went home.
Three months later he found himself embarrassed by not having anything to meet necessary expenditure.
"Wife," he said, "as far as I can see, the God of the Christians is not going to give us anything as he ought to do, and now we are embarrassed for lack of money."
"He will give. Go back to the place where you gave the money and you will soon be shown how."
He hurried back to the holy church, to the place where he had given his money to the poor, walked all around it, but saw no one who could repay what he was owed except a fresh lot of poor people sitting there. As he was wondering to whom he could say anything, or from whom he could expect payment, he looked down at the floor near his feet and saw one of the numismata which he himself had given to the poor. He bent down and picked it up and went home.
"Well I've been to the church," he said to his wife, "and believe me, wife, I did not see the God of the Christians as you said I should, and no one gave me anything, except that I noticed this numismata where I had earlier been giving them to the poor."
"He who rules the world by the unseen power of his hand has shown this to you," this wonderful woman said. "Now, husband, go and buy something for us to eat today; tomorrow he will provide for us again."
So he went and bought some bread and wine and fish and brought them back home to his wife. As she began to clean the fish and gut it, she found in its stomach to her amazement a very beautiful stone, although she did not know what it was. She plucked it out and showed it to her husband.
"Look at this stone which I have found in the fish."
He too was astonished at its beauty, though not knowing what it was.
After they had eaten, he said to his wife:
"Give me the stone and I will go and sell it. Perchance I may be able to get something for it."
As I have said, he did not know what it was, he was so simple and ignorant. So he took the stone and went to a moneychanger who bought and sold such things, and found him on the point of shutting up shop and going home (for it was evening on the same day).
"Would you be willing to buy this stone?" he asked.
"How much do you want for it?"
"Give me what you think."
"Will you take five numismata for it?"
The seller thought that he was being made fun of.
"All that great amount of money for it?" he said
The buyer thought he was being sarcastic.
"Well, take ten for it."
The seller said nothing, still thinking he was being made fun of.
"Take twenty," said the buyer.
Again the seller said nothing.
The buyer went to thirty, then forty, then fifty, by which time the seller began to realise that the stone was worth a great deal more than he had thought. The buyer eventually got up to three hundred, which he held out to the seller. He accepted it, handed over the stone and went happily back to his wife.
"However much did you get for it?" she asked when she saw his joyful face. She thought he must have sold it for five or ten mites at most. He showed her the three hundred numismata  and gave them to her.
"All that is what I sold it for," he said.
"See what the God of the Christians is like," she said, in admiration of the boundless mercy and goodness of God. "How good! How bountiful! How inexhaustible his riches! Look! he hasn't just given you back the fifty numismata you lent him, but in hardly any time at all has restored it sixtyfold. You must now know that there is no other god in heaven or earth save him alone."
This miracle had such an effect on him, and so convinced him of the truth through his own experience, that he quickly became a Christian, and glorified God and our Saviour Christ with the Father and the holy Spirit, giving abundant thanks for the wisdom of his wife, though whom a true knowledge of God had in truth been granted to him.

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter CLXXXVI

The life of MOSCHUS, a merchant of Tyre

 

We visited abbot Eustachius, superior of the cenobium of abba Saba, who repeated to us the story which Moschus, a merchant, had told him when he was at Tyre:

When I was in business, I once went off to the baths at the end of the day and on the way encountered a woman standing in the gloom. I spoke to her and she consented to come with me. Much to the joy of the devil, I did not go and bathe but went straight home to a meal, which I entreated her to share with me. However, she would not taste a thing. When at last we got up and went to the bedroom, and I made as if to embrace her, she tearfully cried out with a loud voice.

"Alas, what a wretch I am!" she cried.

I asked her in some agitation why she was crying.

"My husband is a speculator", she said, crying even more bitterly, "and all his property and the property of others was lost in a shipwreck. For that, he has been imprisoned and I have got nothing, not even enough to take him a bit of bread. So because of my extreme poverty I decided to sell my body, just so I could find a bit of bread to take to him. For all we had has been lost."

"How much does he owe?" I asked her.

"Five pounds of gold," she said.

So I gave her the gold and said:

"See, by the grace of God I have not touched you. Settle the debt with this gold, redeem your husband, and pray for me."

Some time later a false accusation was laid against me to the Emperor that I had mismanaged his business affairs. So he gave an order that all my assets were to be confiscated, and that I was to be stripped and dragged through Constantinople to the prison. I had been there quite some time, with only one tunic to wear apart from my underwear (? camisia), when I was told that the Emperor had decided to put me to death. I wept in despair for my life. Crying and sobbing, sleep at length overcame me, and I saw that woman whose husband had been in prison.

""What is wrong, Sir Moschus?" she said. "Why are you imprisoned?"

"I am the victim of a false accusation, and I think the Emperor has decided to put me to death."

"Would you like me to speak to the Emperor for you, to ask for your freedom?"

"Surely he doesn't know you?"

"Ah, but he does."

When I awoke I was not quite sure what it meant. But she appeared to me a second and a third time, saying:

"Don't be afraid. Tomorrow I will see you are set free."

At daybreak, on the order of the Emperor I was taken into the palace. As I went in, he looked at me in my dirty and ragged tunic and said:

"I have decided to have mercy on you. Go, and amend your ways."

And I saw that same woman standing at the Emperor's right hand.

"Be strong and fear not," she said.

And the Emperor ordered everything to be given back to me, adding some more goods besides, and restored me to my previous state, in the same position as I had before.

That same night the woman appeared to me again.

"You know who I am?" she said. "I am that same woman on whom you had pity, and for the love of God did not touch my body. See, I have freed you from danger. See the mercy of God, that through me on whom you had mercy, mercy has been shown to you, as if to say, 'In that you have done this to me I have magnified my mercy upon you.'"

 

 

Chapter CLXXXVII

The teaching of abbot JOHANNES of Cyzicus on how to acquire virtue.

 

When going up one day to the holy mount of Olives from the holy Gethsemane, we came across the monastery of abbot Abraham, the superior of which was abbot Johannes of Cyzicus. We questioned him about how one could acquire virtue.

"Anyone who desires to acquire virtue," he said, "must first of all hate the contrary vice. Otherwise he can acquire nothing. So if you would cultivate mourning (luctus) you must hate facetiousness (risus). If you wish to be humble you must always abhor pride. If you wishes to be abstemious you must hate gluttony. If you wish to be chaste detest lust. Naked, fly from worldly goods. Anyone who would be compassionate must beware of avarice. Anyone who longs for the desert, should avoid cities. If you would find peace hate presumptuousness. Anyone who would be a pilgrim should hate drawing attention to himself. Anyone who desires to keep anger in check should fly from much socialising. If you wish to endure insults, detest cursing. Anyone wishing to be undistracted should remain in solitude. Anyone wishing to bridle his tongue should prevent his ears from hearing many things. Anyone with a constant desire to fear God should love affliction and poverty.

 

 

Chapter CLXXXVIII

The life of two BROTHERS who were moneychangers in Syria.

 

Abbot Theodore, the superior of an ancient monastery told us the following story:

There were two brothers in Constantinople who were moneychangers. The elder of them said to the younger:

"Let's go back to Syria and take possession of our paternal home."

"Why should we both undertake this task?" said the younger. "You go, and I will stay here, or else I will go and you stay here."

They came to an agreement that the younger should go. A short time after he had gone, the one who stayed in Constantinople saw in a dream a most handsome old man of very commanding presence who said:

"Did you know that your brother is fornicating with a vagabond's wife?"

He woke up very distressed, and troubled in mind.

"Is his lapse my fault" he wondered, "for letting him go off by himself?"

He saw the same person a second time, saying:

"Don't you know that your brother is ruining himself with this vagabond's wife?"

And again he was very distressed. And a third time he saw the same person, saying this time:

"Don't you know that your brother has abandoned his lawful wife and united himself to this vagabond's wife?"

So from Constantinople he wrote to his brother telling him to drop everything and come back. When he got the letter, the younger brother did drop everything and went back to his brother. Hardly had he greeted him when he took him into the church and in sorrow began to accuse him.

"Do you call this acceptable behaviour, brother, to commit adultery with a vagabond's wife?"

The younger brother swore by almighty God that he had not committed adultery or been with any woman apart from his lawful wife.

"Well is there some other even more serious sin that you have done," he asked.

"Truly I am not conscious of having done anything wrong - unless it is that I went to Communion with some monks of the Severian teaching that I found in our village. I didn't know there was anything wrong in that. I am not aware of anything else I have done."

Then the elder brother realised what it meant when he was told that his brother had committed fornication. For he had abandoned the holy Catholic and apostolic Church, and by ruining himself in the unauthorised heresies of Severian, a vagabond indeed, he had contaminated the nobility of the true faith.

 

 

Chapter CLXXXIX

The life of a WOMAN, who kept the faith for her businessman husband, and God came to the aid of both.

 

When we were in the guesthouse at Ascalon, abba Eusebius, a presbyter, told us of a ship-owning business man who lost all his property and that of others, though he himself escaped from the shipwreck. When he came back to Ascalon, his creditors seized him, threw him into prison and took possession of everything in his house, even his wife's clothing. She was greatly distressed, and worried that in her poverty she was unable to provide any food for her husband. She was sitting in tears in the prison one day when a rather important looking man came in giving alms to the prisoners. When he saw this free woman sitting with her husband, he fell in love with her, for she was very beautiful, and told her to leave the prison and come with him. She thought that he was going to give her something, so she freely did as she was told.

"What is the problem?" he asked, when he had taken her home. "Why were you in the prison?"

She told him all.

"If I pay his debts, will you sleep with me tonight?"

"Sir, I have heard what the Apostle said," she said, with a mixture of charm and modesty, "that a woman has not power over her own body, but the husband (1Cor.7.4). Let me therefore go and ask my husband, and I will do whatever he says."

So she went and told him everything. Now he was a most conscientious man, with a very deep affection for his wife, and he was not immediately carried away by the hope and desire of getting out of prison, but rather groaned and wept.

"Go back, wife, and tell the man you refuse," he said, "for I put my trust in our Lord Jesus Christ, who will not finally abandon us."  

So she went back to the man and said:

"I have asked my husband and he is not willing,"

Now at this time there was also a robber in the prison who had been there since before the businessman had been arrested. He had observed everything and heard what the man and his wife had been saying to each other.

"See what a sad case they are in," he said, stifling a groan. "Liberty could have been important to them. They could have accepted the money and been freed. But they valued chastity more than money. They refused the prospect of a normal life, rather than let her chastity be violated. And what shall I do, miserable wretch that I am, who have never thought about God and am a murderer to boot."

He called them over to the window of the cell in which he was confined.

"I am a robber and murderer," he said to them "and soon the judge will be visiting here and he will order my execution for murder. I have been listening to your praiseworthy decision and been struck with compunction. So, go and dig in a certain place in this city and take the money you find there. When you have settled the debt you will find there is something left over for yourselves. And pray for me that I may find mercy."

A few days later the judge did indeed arrive in the city and ordered the robber to be led out and decapitated.

"If you like, husband," the wife said the next day, "I will go to the place the robber said. Perhaps he was speaking the truth."

"Do what you think best," he said.

That evening she took a small spade, went to the place, and dug. There she found a jar. She picked it up and hurried away. Before long she had discreetly paid off all the debts to the creditors and to others from money that had been borrowed.

All debts having been met, she was able to free her husband from prison. And the man who told us this story added: "See how God multiplies his mercy upon those who keep the commandments of our Lord Jesus Christ."

 

 

Chapter CXC

The miracle of the wood given to abba BROCHA the Egyptian

 

Athanasius of Antioch told us this story of abba Brocha the Egyptian:

When Brocha came from Egypt to Seleucia near Antioch, he went out of the city into a desert place to build there a small cell for himself. Having completed it all but the roof he went into the city and called on one of the leading citizens of Seleucia and Antioch, one Anatolius Curvus, whom he found sitting outside the front door of his house.

"Do me a kindness," he said, "and let me have a little wood to roof my cell with."

Anatolius was very annoyed, and pointed out to Brocha a large piece of timber lying in front of the house big enough to have been made into a mast for a very large merchant ship (arbor navis onerariae quinquaginta millium)

"See that piece of wood?" he said. "You can take that away with you."

"Bless you," said abba Brocha. "I will carry it home."

"God bless you, too," said Anatolius, still furious.

Brocha took hold of the timber, lifted it up from the ground all by himself, put it on his shoulders and went off with it to his cell. Struck dumb with amazement by this magnificent and stupendous miracle which had just been done, he generously gave Brocha even more timber, sufficient not only to construct a roof, as he had asked, but to cater for many other useful needs.

 

 

Chapter CXCI

The balanced life of the holy JOHN Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople

 

The holy John, archbishop of Constantinople, was given the name Chrysostom (golden-mouthed) because of the wonderfully accurate purity of his teaching and the splendid beauty of his eloquence. It was said of him that from the time of his saving Baptism onwards, he never swore an oath, nor compelled anyone else to swear an oath, never lied, never cursed anybody, never slandered or made fun of anybody.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter CXCII

The story of a certain MONK of the monastery of the divine Pope Gregory, how he was restored from excommunication after his death.

 

A holy presbyter from Rome called Peter told us a story about the most blessed Gregory, Bishop of that city. During his time of being Pontifex Maximus, he greatly edified a monastery of men by giving them a rule that they should not possess any money, not even a single obolus. Now, one of the brothers of the monastery made a request to his brother living in the world.

"I have not got a tunic. Do me a favour and buy me one."

"Here are three numismata," the brother replied. "Take them and buy what you like with them".

Another monk saw that this brother had three numismata in his possession, and went and told the abbot, who in his turn reported it to the most holy Pope Gregory. Gregory's reaction was to order that the transgressor of the monastery's rules should be excommunicated.

Not long afterwards this excommunicated brother died without Pope Gregory being aware of it. Two or three days later, when the abbot went and told him, he was very distressed that the brother had departed this world before being absolved from the penalty of excommunication. He wrote a prayer in the form of a letter and gave it to one of the archdeacons with instructions to read it out loud over the brother's grave. By this letter he absolved the dead from the bonds of excommunication. The archdeacon went as he was told and read this short pronouncement over the brother's grave.

That night the abbot saw the dead brother.

"Are you not dead then brother?" he asked.

"Indeed, I am."

"And where have you been up till today?"

"Truly, sir, yesterday I was in prison, but as of yesterday I have been freed."

And everyone was made aware that at the very time when the archdeacon had read the words of absolution over the brother he was released from excommunication and his soul was freed from judgment and damnation.

 

 

Chapter CXCIII

The wonderfully charitable deed of the holy abbot APOLLINARIIS, Patriarch of Alexandria, towards a rich young man reduced to poverty.

 

We were told that the holy abbot Apollinaris, patriarch of Alexandria, was an exceptionally merciful man, overflowing with compassion, and this story about him confirms it.

There was a young man in Alexandria who was the son of one of the leading citizens famous for his dignity and wealth. On the death of his parents, he was left with extensive assets both in gold and in shipping concerns. Unfortunately he did not manage his affairs to the best advantage, and losing everything was reduced to extreme poverty. It was not as if he had wasted his patrimony in riotous living, as many rich people have the habit of doing, but that shipwrecks and various other failures had caused his downfall. So from the heights of opulence he became one of the poorest, as the Psalmist says, 'They ascend to the heavens, and descend into the abyss' (Psalms 107.26). This young man once far above being worried by money, was now brought low and in need.

The blessed Apollinaris heard about this and saw how much misery and poverty the young man had fallen into. He took pity on his situation, his parents having been so well endowed, and would gladly have helped him by supplying him with food, but felt that that would be somewhat embarrassing. But his heartstrings were touched every time he saw him, with his mean clothing and sallow face showing how poverty-stricken he was. While the pontifex was worrying about all this one day, by divine inspiration he hit upon a marvellous plan, typical of the great and holy man he was.

He summoned the Nomicus, or treasurer of the holy church.

"Can you do something for me very secretly, Master Treasurer," he asked.

"I trust in the Son of God, sir, that I shall tell nobody of whatever instructions you may give me, nor shall anyone learn from me whatever you may share with me, your servant."

"Go then, and write out a bond for fifty pounds of gold which the holy church owes to Macarius the father of this wretched youth. Fix a signature to it, and conditions, and rates of interest and bring it back to me."

With all speed the treasurer immediately did as the pontifex had asked, and brought the bond back to him. But since the young man's father had been dead ten years, the paper on which the bond was written looked rather too new.

"Come, Sir Treasurer," said the pontifex, "bury this bond in the wheat or barley bin for a few days, and then bring it back to me."

On the day appointed he brought back the bond, which looked rather ancient after what he had done to it, and gave it to the pontifex.

"Now, Sir Treasurer, go to the young man and say to him. 'What will you give me if I hand over to you a bond for a considerable sum of money which is owed to you?' But see that you do not accept more than three numismata for giving him the bond."

"Truly, my lord, if you were to say, I would not accept anything."

"No, I want you to take three numismata."

So he went to the young man as he had been told.

"Would you give me three numismata if I were to show you something of great value to yourself?" he asked.

He promised he would.

"Five or six days ago," the treasurer pretended, "while turning out some ecclesiastical files, I found this bond, and I remembered that your father Macarius, who trusted me, had handed it over to me on some occasion. It has been with me since he died. I had completely forgotten about it, and had never thought of handing it back to him."
"This person who owes the money," said the young man, "is he wealthy?"
"Yes, indeed he is, and well-intentioned. You will be able to recover the debt from him without any trouble."
"God knows I haven't any money at present, but if I get back what is mine I will give you what you asked and even more than three numismata."
And then the treasurer gave him the bond for fifty golden pounds.
He took it and hurried to the pontifex, and prostrating himself before him gave him the bond. He looked at it, read it, and then pretended to be very upset.
"Where have you been all this time?" he said. "Your father has been dead for ten years. Get away, I'm not going to meet this now."
"Truly, my lord, it has not been in my possession. Your treasurer has had it and I knew nothing about it. But may God have mercy upon him for giving it back to me now, saying that he had found it among his papers at home."
"Well, I'll think about it. Leave the bond with me and give me some time."
After a week he returned to the bishop to plead with him.
"Why have you waited so long before presenting this bond?" he asked, making as if to be unwilling to give him any money.
"God knows, my lord, that I haven't got enough to feed my family. If you have any inspiration from God, have mercy on me."
Then the holy Apollinaris pretended that this prayer had persuaded him.
"All right, I will give you the whole sum. All I ask, brother, is that you don't ask the holy church for any interest on it."
"I will do whatever you want or command. If you wish to take something out of the principal, do so."
"No, no. It is enough that you forego the interest."
And so he handed over the fifty pounds of gold, and let him go, reminding him again not to ask for interest.
Such was the work of that great Apollinaris, such was his holy trickery and compassion. And by means of his holy blessing, God looked with such favour on the young man that he emerged from poverty and was restored to his former state and position, and excelled in good works and wealth even more than his parents, and especially grew in great strength of soul.

 

 

 

 



Chapter CXCIV
The rebuke given by an OLD MAN  of Scete to a monk who went into a tavern.

An old man from Scete once went into Alexandria to sell his wares and saw a young monk going into a brothel. The old man was greatly distressed and waited outside for the young man to come out. As soon as he did, the old man took the younger by the hand and took him apart.
"Don't you realise, brother, that you are wearing the angelic habit? Is this just youthful ignorance on your part? Don't you know how many are the snares of the enemy? Are you not aware of the many dangers lying in wait for monks in cities, through the eyes, the ears, and in various other shapes and disguises. And yet you have gone boldly into a brothel, hearing things you should not want to hear, and seeing harmful things in the company of shameless men and women. Please don't, my son, don't act like this, but fly to the desert where with God's help you may be saved."
"Go on, old man," the younger man replied. "All God asks for is purity of heart."
"Glory to God," the old man said, lifting up his hands to the heavens. "Here have I spent fifty-five years in Scete and I have not yet got purity of heart. And yet this man possesses purity of heart even in the midst of a tavern. God keep you, my brother, and let me not be confounded of my hope."

Chapter CXCV
The life of EVAGRIUS the philosopher, converted to the faith of Christ by Synesius, bishop of Cyrene.

When we were at Alexandria, Leontius of Apamia, a most faithful and religious man, arrived from Pentapolis, for he had been living for many years in Cyrene. This was in the days of Eulogius, the holy patriarch of Alexandria, who later became bishop of that same city of Cyrene. In the course of some friendly conversation with us, Leontius told us the following story.
In the time of the most blessed Theophilus, patriarch of Alexandria, the bishop of Cyrene was a philosopher called Synesius. When he came to Cyrene, he met up with a philosopher called Evagrius, who had been a companion of his when studying the liberal arts. He was a dearly beloved friend, although a pagan, much given to the worship of idols. Bishop Synesius did everything he could to convert him from idols to the worship of Christ. He took an immense amount of trouble upon himself in this matter, for the great love that he had for him of old. Evagrius put up with this treatment rather grudgingly, for he had no desire to accept Synesius' teaching. But the bishop, for the great affection which he had for him refused to become tired of trying, continued daily to urge him and teach him and persuade him to believe in Christ and receive his Sacraments. Evagrius replied to his persistent teaching.
"Truly, my lord bishop, among other things which I can't stand about Christians is the fact that they say that this world will come to an end, and all the people from the very beginning will rise with their bodies, to be clothed in immortal and incorruptible flesh and live for ever, and will be rewarded according to their works. Compassion on the poor will be rewarded by God, for those who share their money with the poor and needy will find treasure in heaven, and will be returned a hundredfold in the regeneration to eternal life bestowed on them by Christ. Everything they say seems to me to be a ridiculous deception, a fable."
But Synesius asserted that everything in Christianity was true, there was nothing false or contrary to truth, and he cited many documents to try and persuade him.
And at last he did succeed in converting Evagrius, and he baptised him and his sons and his whole household. Furthermore, not long after the baptism he gave three hundred pounds of gold to the bishop for distribution to the poor.
"Take this gold and give it to the poor," he said, "and write me a bond, so that Christ may honour it in the next life."
He took the gold and gladly gave him the bond he had asked for.
Some years later this philosopher became mortally ill. On the point of death he gave instructions to his sons.
"When you are arranging my funeral, put this document in my hands and bury it with me."
On his death the sons did exactly as they had been requested and buried the bond with him. The third day after the burial, he appeared to bishop Synesius as he was sleeping at night.
"Come to the tomb where I am buried", he said, " and take back your bond. Satisfaction has been made. I have had the debt repaid, and lest you should have any doubt about this, I have receipted it with my own hand."
Now the bishop did not know that the bond had been buried with him, but next morning he summoned the man's sons.
"Did you, by any chance, inter anything in the tomb with your father?"
"Nothing, apart from the usual grave clothes," they replied, thinking that the bishop must have been talking about coins.
"No document at all buried with him?"
They still did not know that he was talking about a bond as such.
"Oh yes, my lord," they said, "he did give us some document or other when he was dying and told us to bury him with the document in his hands, but not to let anyone know."
Then the bishop told them of the dream he had had that night, and he took them to the tomb, along with some clerics and leading citizens. They opened the tomb and found the philosopher lying there, still with the bond in the bishop's handwriting clutched in his hand. But something had been added to it in the philosopher's handwriting:
"I, Evagrius, philosopher, bid you, my most holy lord bishop Synesius, greeting. I have received payment for the debt herein written by your hand, and have no further claim against you for the money which I gave you, and through you to Christ our God and Saviour."
All those present were absolutely amazed at what they were reading and for the next few hours did not stop crying Kyrie Eleison, glorifying the God who does wonderful things, and gives his servants such great proofs of how he keeps his promises.
This same lord Leontius declared that the bond receipted by the philosopher had been preserved right up to the present day, and was kept in the sacristy of the church of that holy Cyrenian, and whenever a new sacristan was installed, he was charged to take care of it with all diligence along with all the other holy vessels, and finally to hand it over whole and undamaged to his successor.


Chapter CXCVI
The miracle which happened to the CHILDREN  of Apamia, when in play they repeated the words of the prayer of consecration.

Gregorius, the bishop of an African province, was a most faithful man, a lover of monks and the poor, always rejoicing in everything that was good. He told us the following story from his home town of Thorax in the province of Apamia, the second province of Syria:
There is a farm about forty miles from the city called Gonagus, where the children used to feed the cattle out in the fields. As children will, they enjoyed playing games, and as they were playing one of them said to the others:
"Let's celebrate Mass, and offer the sacrifice and receive communion, just as the presbyter does in the holy church."
They all thought it was a great idea, and decided on one of them being the ordained presbyter, and two other boys the ministers. They were out in a level area where they were able to choose a large rock to serve as an altar, on which they placed some bread and an earthenware vessel containing wine. The one acting as a presbyter stood in the middle, with the two ministers one on each side of him. The 'presbyter' said the words of the holy oblation, and the other two stirred the air by using the scarves [fasciolae, 'small bandages'] they wore as fans. The 'presbyter' was familiar with the words of consecration because it was the custom in church for boys to serve at the altar and they were the first after the presbyters to receive the communion of the holy and worshipful mysteries of Christ our God. Since it was the custom in some places for the presbyter to say the prayers of the holy sacrifice out loud, the boys had learnt them from hearing them so often as they stood nearby.
When all had been done according to the custom of the church up to the breaking of the bread and communion, fire fell from heaven on to the altar and burnt everything up, so that nothing remained, neither stone nor anything that had been placed on it. This happened so suddenly that the boys all fell to the ground in fright, and remained there for a long time, half dead, speechless, not able to get up. When they did not return home at the usual time (for they just lay terror-struck on the ground), their parents came out from the village to find out why. When they found all the boys lying insensible on the ground, unaware of anything around them, they cried out to them but received no answer. They picked them up and carried them home, each his own son, while they could do nothing but gaze on the boys as they continued in this kind of trance. They were completely dumbfounded, not having the faintest idea of the reason for their unconscious state, and having no way of being able to find out. For however often they flung their questions at them all day long they could not get an answer, and so could not understand what had happened.
A whole day and night passed by before the boys little by little began to come to themselves. They related everything that had been done and what had happened to them, and they took their parents and all the local inhabitants out to show them the place in which the miracle had occurred, and pointed out to them the traces left of the fire that had fallen from heaven.
As they gradually took in what had happened and became convinced by the signs left behind, they ran back to the city and told the bishop everything. He was overwhelmed by how great this unusual miracle was, and hastened out with all his clerical staff to interview the boys. Having heard what they had to say and inspected the traces of celestial fire, he put all the boys into a monastery. Over the place itself he built a very extensive monastery, putting the holy altar of the church on the very spot where the fire had fallen. 
That most faithful man, lord Gregory, told us that he had seen one of the boys himself and knew that he was a monk in the monastery where the miracle had occurred. And Gregory, that venerable man, bore witness to this great and truly divine, stupendous miracle that had happened in our own time.


Chapter CXCVII
The story told by RUFFINUS about the holy Athanasius and his childhood companions.

Ruffinus, the ecclesiastical historian, tells a similar story from an earlier age about children at play. The most holy Athanasius, bishop of the great city of Alexandria, was a famous champion of the truth and an unparalleled teacher for the whole world, and in his account of the childhood of Athanasius, Ruffinus describes how his future elevation to the episcopate was divinely prefigured:
In writing down a few things about the men of old, it seemed right to me to gather together the memories of their contemporaries about how they lived from their youth up, and how they developed. So we go back to the time when the most holy Alexander (he who condemned the ungodly Arius) presided over the church after Achilles, as the holy Peter, archbishop and martyr, had predicted. One day when Alexander was standing on a small rise looking out to sea, he saw some boys playing on the shore as boys will. They were acting out ecclesiastical rituals, one of them pretending to be a bishop. He watched them for some time, and could see that they were trying out some of the greatest and most sacred mysteries. Disturbed by this, he called his clergy and having showed them what he had seen, he told them to go and get all the boys and bring them to him. As they stood before him he questioned them about what their game was, what they had been doing and exactly how they had done it. At first they were frightened, and, just like boys, denied everything. But gradually they laid it all bare from beginning to end, and admitted that they had been baptising catechumens at the hands of Athanasius whom they had chosen to be bishop. He then thoroughly interrogated them about which ones had been baptised, how they had done it, what had been the questions and what the responses. He realised that everything had been done in accordance with the rituals of our religion, and having discussed the matter with his clerics, he declared that since all had been solemnly done by question and answer, there would be no need to baptise them again, as they had carried out everything that the priests usually did. Next, he called their parents together, and calling on God as his witness he enrolled Athanasius in the church, to be instructed there along with all those who [in play] had been his priests and deacons.
After a short while, Athanasius was able to read and write perfectly [a Notario perfecte instructus esset], and was fairly proficient in Grammar. He was like a bond deposited in good faith by God, and his parents therefore handed him over as destined for the priesthood. From then on he was nurtured like Samuel in the temple, and whenever Alexander in his old age visited his bishops, Athanasius followed him wearing the vestment (amictus) of priesthood, which in Hebrew is the Ephod.
The battles of Athanasius against the heretics in the church were so many and so famous that you would have thought that these words of scripture had been written especially for him: 'I will show him how much he must suffer for my sake' (Acts 9.16). For the whole world conspired to persecute him, kings of the earth and the nations were moved, and kingdoms and armies gathered against him. But he relied on the power of divine wisdom, where it says: 'Though a host should stand against me, yet shall my heart not be afraid. If war rise up against me, even in this I will not lose hope.' (Psalms. 27.3). He achieved so many great things that I cannot be persuaded there have ever been any greater. One can only be struck dumb by the multitude of his deeds. The mind falls into confusion in trying to decide what to write down about him, what to leave out. So we just call to mind a few things. His reputation will tell of everything else, it will tell how even in small things truth was paramount for him, and nothing can be added to truth.

Chapter CXCVIII
The reply of the holy ATHANASIUS, bishop of Alexandria, as to whether anyone can be baptised without faith.

After the aforesaid holy Athanasius became bishop of Alexandria, he was once asked whether it was possible for anyone without faith to be baptised according to the rituals and teachings of the Christians, and what should we think of anyone who was baptised pretending to have faith or on some other pretext, and how would God receive such a person. Athanasius replied:
"I heard once from our elders that an angel in human form appeared to blessed Peter, bishop and martyr, when there were some mortally ill people taking refuge in Baptism because they were afraid of death. The angel said: 'Why are you turning out so many empty vessels (marsupia,pouches) even though they have been signed [with the cross]. They are utterly worthless and empty, with no inner life.' So as far as one can judge, from what the angel said, there are those who bear the sign of Baptism simply because they thought that if they were to be baptised they might get something out of it [ forgiveness of sins], and that is the only reason that they were baptised."


 

 

 

 

Chapter CXCIX
The story of a rather simple OLD MAN,  who saw Angels when offering the Sacrament.

One of the fathers told us about an old man living a pure and holy life who used to see Angels standing on the right and on the left when offering the Sacrament. However, he had learnt his rite of consecration from heretics, so because he was rather simple and unversed in divine doctrine, he was saying things which were not in accordance with the true faith when making the offering, unaware that he was in error.
But one day by divine providence a deacon was with him who was skilled in divine doctrine, and he was there when the holy old man was offering the sacrifice.
""The words you use in making the offering," he said to the old man, "are those of heretics, men of erroneous opinions."
But because the old man saw Angels when making the offering he was not troubled, and took no notice of what the deacon said but treated him with derision. The deacon, however, persisted.
"You are wrong, abba," he said "for the Catholic faith of mother Church does not admit of the words you use."
The old man began to realise that the deacon was really serious in his arguments, and the next time he saw the Angels at the saving oblation as usual he spoke to them.
"This deacon here tells me this and that. Why should he be telling the truth?"
"Listen to him," said the Angels, "for he does speak the truth and is on the right path."
"Why haven't you told me this, then?"
"God has so decreed that humans should be corrected by humans."
And from that time on he was corrected, giving thanks to God and his brother.

 

 

Chapter CC

How a YOUTH who was a goldsmith was adopted by a nobleman as his heir.

 

One of the holy fathers told us about a gifted youth who was apprenticed to a goldsmith in order to learn the trade. After he had been learning for some time, a certain nobleman asked that a golden cross should be made, ornamented with precious stones, so that he might offer it to the church. And since the young apprentice was proving himself to be very creative, his master gave the task to him. This gave the young man cause for thought.

"If this man can offer so much money to Christ," he said to himself, "why shouldn't I put my wages into it, so that Christ will take note that it is mine, just as he did the widow's two mites." So he calculated the amount that he would receive in wages, borrowed that amount, and put it into the cross.

The nobleman came and weighed the cross before the stones were set in it, and found that it was heavier than he had asked for. He turned on the young man and accused him of fraudulently adulterating the gold.

"He who alone can search the secrets of the heart knows that I have done no such thing," he said. "But when I saw how much money you were offering to Christ the Lord, I thought that if I could put my wages into it I could share with you, so that Christ would accept me just as he accepted the widow's two mites."

"Is that what you really thought, my son?" he asked in astonishment.

"It is indeed."

"In thinking like this you have given your whole self to Christ, and since you want to share with me, look, I take you as from today as my son, and make you my heir."

And he did take him to himself, and he did make him his heir.

 

 

Chapter CCI

The life of a NOBLEMAN of Constantinople whose father at death left him to the guardianship of Christ.

 

One of the fathers told us the following story:

I had occasion once to go to Constantinople and I was sitting in the church when a nobleman came in. He was of a well known family, and also of great faith. When he saw me, he came up and greeted me warmly, then sat down and began to question me on matters to do with the salvation of the soul. I said to him that the things of heaven are given to them who put aside the things of the earth .

"Well said, father," he said. "He is blessed who puts all his hope in God and commits himself wholly to God. I am the son of someone who was very famous in the world. This father of mine was greatly devoted to almsgiving, and gave a great deal to the poor. One day he called me and showed me how much money he had. "'Son, would you rather,' he said, 'that I leave you all this money or simply leave you to the guardianship of Christ?'

"'I prefer Christ,' I said, delighted that he should have asked me this question, 'For all these things were once, today are, and tomorrow will perish, but Christ remains for ever.'

"Hearing this, he gave to the poor with an even greater generosity, so that when he died he had hardly anything at all to leave me. But poor though I was, I went humbly on, putting all my hope in Christ to whom he had left me.

"Now there was another very rich man, a leading citizen, whose wife feared God with a deep faith. They had an only daughter.

"'What does this only daughter of ours stand in need of,' the wife asked her husband, 'since God has blessed us with so much worldly goods? We could look into the possibility of marrying her to someone else who is important and rich, but if he were a bad-living man, he might be forever beating her. So let us look out for a humble man who fears God, who will love her and cherish her for God's sake.'

"'I think you are right,' he replied. 'So go into the church, offer some fervent prayer, then sit down, and let the first person that comes in after that be the one whom the Lord sends us as bridegroom.'

"So she did as her husband had bidden her, and after she had prayed and sat down it was I who was the first person to come in. She sent her servant away, and approached me and began to question me.

"'Who are you, exactly?' she asked.

"'I am the son of so-and-so of this city,' I said.

"'The famous almsgiver?'

"'Yes, I am his son.'

"'Are you married?'

"'No' - and I told her what my father had said to me and what I had replied.

"'Glory to God," she said. "Your good guardian has now provided you with a wife and wealth, and you must use both in the fear of God.'

"And she entrusted her daughter and her wealth to me, and I pray that I may follow in my father's footsteps to the very end."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter CCII

The life of ABIBAS, a lay person's son, a servant of God

 

One of the fathers told us about a layman who had a very devout son, very committed, accustomed to being very abstemious from early childhood, so much that he did not even drink wine. His greatest desire was to live in solitude. His father wanted to get him involved in business but had no success, as the son simply could not endure it. He had other brothers but he was the eldest. Since he distanced himself so firmly from what his father wanted, his father cursed him roundly and particularly ridiculed his continence.

"Why can't you be like your brothers? Why won't you take part in our business?"

But he stayed silent, and everyone loved him for his piety and modesty.

Now when the father was about to die, some of his family and other friends of Abibas (for that was the young man's name) who thought that he must really hate Abibas, judging by the way in which he had cursed him, got together and decided to beg the father not to deprive the son of his inheritance. For he was very rich.

"We have come to you with a request," they said as they stood round him.

"What do you want from me?" he asked.

"We are pleading with you that you don't neglect Abibas."

"You are pleading with me about him?"

"Yes, we are."

"Call him here."

They all thought that as usual he was intending to heap curses upon him, but when Abibas entered his father said:

"Come closer."

And when he had done so the father clasped the son's feet, weeping.

"Forgive me, my son," he said, "and pray to God that he will forgive me for the way in which I have mistreated you. You have been seeking Christ; my motives have been all of this world."

He then called his other sons.

"Abibas now will be your lord and father," he said. "Do whatever he tells you. It will be in his power to decide what each of you should have."

And this met with their approval.

As soon as the father was dead, Abibas shared out everything among the brothers. His own share he gave to the poor, keeping nothing for himself. He built himself a little cell in which he could live as a solitary, but no sooner had he finished building than he fell ill, and was in danger of death.

One of his brothers was with him, and it was on the feast of the holy Apostles.

"Go and celebrate with your family," he said.

"How could I possibly go away and leave you?"

"Just go, and if my hour is come, I will call you."

And when he did feel the time had come he went to the window [of his cell] and knocked on it. The brother had been keeping an eye on it, and Abibas waved to him, saying, "Come". No sooner had he come than Abibas gave up his spirit to God.

And they all wondered, giving glory to God, and saying, "It was the abundance of charity with which he loved Christ that brought him to such a worthy end."

 

 

Chapter CCIII

The story of a certain JEWELLER who saved his life at sea by means of a wise plan

 

One of the fathers told us about a certain jeweller, who gathered together some precious stones, gems and pearls and took ship with his sons on a business trip. In the providence of God he took a great liking to a boy on board who waited on him. He was very kind to this boy, sharing his own food with him. One day the boy heard the sailors talking among themselves, making plans to throw the jeweller into the sea for the sake of the jewels. The next time he came to offer his usual services to the jeweller it was with a very long face.

"Why are you looking so glum today, my son?" he asked. But he said nothing and tried to hide his grief.

"Come, tell me truly, what is the matter with you?"

"Thus and thus, have they made a plot against you," he said, bursting into tears."

"Are you sure about this?"

"Yes, this is what they have decided to do to you."

The jeweller called his sons to him.

"What I shall tell you to do, see that you carry it out implicitly and without fail."

He laid out a cloth and told them to fetch his jewel cases, which he opened up and spread the jewels out on the cloth so that they could all see them.

"Is this what life is all about?" he said. "Am I in danger because of these? Must I do battle with the sea? And shortly die? Can I take anything with me out of this world? Throw all these things into sea."

In obedience to his words they picked them all up and threw them overboard. And the sailors were stupefied, knowing that their plans had been thwarted.

 

 

Chapter CCIV

How a religious WOMAN who feared God put to flight a monk's evil desires.

 

One of the fathers said:

There was a brother who got bitten by a serpent and went into the town to find a cure. A certain religious woman who feared God agreed to take him in and cure him. When he had nearly recovered from the poison the devil began to stir up lustful thoughts in him, and he tried to take her by the hand.

"Not so, father," she said. "Fear God. Bring to mind the grievous penances and remorse that you have endured in your cell. Think of the groans and tears which you have poured out."

After listening to this and other similar warnings the devil's attack departed from him. He was deeply embarrassed, and thought to depart immediately, unable for very shame to look her in the face.

"No, don't go, father," she said, pitying him 'in the bowels of Christ' (Colossians 3.12), "You still need some more poultices. Those thoughts of yours were not entirely your own fault, but came from the deceiving suggestions of the devil in hell."

And thus she was able to cure him and send him on his way with a blessing and no scandal.

 

 

Chapter CCV

The story of another prudent WOMAN who repulsed a monk's advances with her wise words.

 

One of them told us about someone else in a coenobium, who used to be sent out on monastery business. Whenever he went into the village, he used to stay with a certain devout layman who lived there. This man had a recently widowed daughter living with him who had lived with her husband for one or two years. As the brother went in and out among them he began to be infatuated with her, which being a prudent woman she soon recognised, and so took care to keep out of his sight as far as possible. But one day her father had to go into the city on some necessary business leaving her alone in the house.

The brother came to visit according to his usual custom and found her alone.

"Where is your father?" he asked.

"He is away in the city."

He immediately began to struggle in a great interior battle, filled with a desire to force himself on her.

"Don't struggle," she said, very prudently. "My father will not be back until evening. Here we are, both of us, but I know that you monks never do anything without praying about it, so go and pray to God, and whatever he puts into your heart, let's do that."

But he would not agree to that and got even more agitated.

"Haven't you ever been with a woman?" she asked, observing his agitation.

"No, but I would love to know what it is like."

"You are getting all aroused, but you don't know how smelly we unfortunate women are. I am having my period at present," wanting to dampen his passion down, "and no one could come near me without ceasing to breathe because of the smell."

Listening to her saying these things and much more, he was stricken with compunction, and came to himself and wept.

"See now," she said when she realised he had calmed down, "if I had listened to you and given in, we would have committed a great sin, and after that how could you have looked my father in the face (lit. 'with what face, with what eyes would you have been able to look at my father')? And when you got back to the monastery, how would you have been able to listen to those holy men singing psalms? I implore you to be sober and vigilant, so as not lose the fruits of all your labour, and to be deprived of eternal reward because of one brief failure of will."

This brother took what she was saying to heart. He had suffered temptation and drawn back from it and he gave thanks to God who through the prudence and modesty of a woman had snatched him back lest he be overthrown and perish. He went back to the monastery and did penance for his sin.

 

 

Chapter CCVI

The means by which a certain aristocratic LADY was taught docility (mansuetudo).

 

One of the fathers told us of an aristocratic lady of senatorial rank who was on a pilgrimage to worship at the holy places. When she got to Caesarea, she decided to rest for a while and visited the bishop.

"Could you send me one of your nuns (virgines)," she asked him, "to instruct me and teach me how to fear God?"

So the bishop chose a nun noted for her humility and sent her to the lady. After a while, the bishop went back to visit her.

"How is that nun I sent you getting on?" he asked.

"She is a very good person, but not much use to my soul, for she lets me please myself in everything, because she is so humble."

So the bishop sent a rather more severe nun to her who criticised her, calling her a 'stupid little rich woman' and other uncomplimentary things.

After a while the bishop once more enquired.

"How is that other nun behaving herself?"

"She really is doing my soul a great deal of good."

And this is how the lady acquired docility.

 

 

Chapter CCVII

The life of a GIRL of Alexandria, who was lifted out of the sacred font by holy Angels.

 

Abbots Theonas and Theodore told us that in the time of the patriarch Paul, there was a girl of very rich parents who was left an orphan. She had not as yet been baptised. One day she was walking in the orchard which her parents had left her (for there are orchards even in the midst of the city), when she saw a man preparing a noose to strangle himself with. She ran over to him.

"What are you doing, man!" she said.

"Leave me alone, woman, for I am in deep trouble."

"Tell me why, and perhaps I may be able to help you."

"I am heavily burdened by debt, and my creditors are almost suffocating me, so I choose rather to put an end to my life than go on living like this."

"I beg you, take what I have, and settle your debts. Only do not destroy yourself." And truly she gave him her all.

But then she found herself in difficulties, not having enough left to live on. Deprived of parental care she took to prostitution to earn a living.

People who knew her and what her parents had been like wondered among themselves.

"Who can understand all this except God alone? Perhaps God has allowed her soul to fall into sin for some reason known to him alone and for the time being he has abandoned her."

Not long after this the girl became ill, and coming to herself she was conscience-stricken and approached her neighbours.

"For the Lord's sake have pity on my soul and beg the Pope to make me a Christian."

But they all turned her away.

"Who is going to take her on, harlot that she is!" And they persecuted her mercilessly. In these narrow straits she found herself in the presence of an Angel in the shape of a man, who took compassion on her.

"I want to become a Christian," she said, "but there is no one willing to speak for me."

"Is that what you really want?" he asked.

"Yes, indeed, sir, and please, will you ask for this to be given me?"

"Don't be sad any longer", he said. "I will bring you some people who will speak for you." And he brought two other holy Angels to her who led her into the church, transformed into very aristocratic personages, well known members of the Augustal class. They called the clerics, a presbyter and a deacon, who were in charge.

"Will your charity make the promises for her?" the clerics asked.

"Yes indeed, we will promise for her."

So they took her to Baptism, and lifted her up, clothed in the white garments of the newly baptised. They put her down, and vanished.

When she went home, the neighbours saw that she was clothed in white.

"Who has baptised you then?" they asked.

She told them the whole story.

"There were some people who came and took me into the church, spoke for me to the clerics and had me baptised."

"Who were they?"

"I can't really tell you who they were!"

The neighbours went to report it to the bishop, and the bishop spoke to the clerics in charge of baptisms.

"It was you who baptised this woman?"

"Yes, we baptised her at the request of two Augustal people."

The bishop summoned the two people whom the clerics had named.

"Was it you who vouched for this woman's faith?"

"We don't know anything about it; we didn't even know that it had been done."

Then the bishop realised the truth.

"This is the work of God," he said.

He got the girl to come and see him.

"Tell me, my daughter," he said, "about any good deeds you have done."

"I am only a very poor little prostitute. What good could I have possibly done?"
"You have never ever done anything good at all?"
"No - except that I once saw a man trying to strangle himself because of being pressurised by creditors, and I liberated him by giving him all my money."
And as she said this, she fell asleep in the Lord, freed from all her sins, both voluntary and involuntary. And the bishop glorified the Lord.
"Thou art just, O Lord, and thy judgments are right." (Pslams, 119.137)


Chapter CCVIII
The beautiful advice of an OLD MAN to a brother fighting against depression.

A brother fighting against depression sought advice from one of the old men.
"What shall I do? For I am attacked by thoughts telling me that it was a complete waste of time to have renounced the world, and salvation is beyond my reach."
"Don't you know, brother," the old man said, "that even if you cannot enter the promised land it is better to perish in the desert than to go back to Egypt." 

Chapter CCIX
The beautiful explanation that A MAN gave of the meaning of the words And lead us not into the time of testing in the Lord's prayer.

One of the holy men said that when we pray to the Lord, 'Lead us not into the time of testing', we are not praying not to be tested (for that is impossible), but that we may not be swallowed up by the testing, if we do anything displeasing to Christ. This is what it means not to enter into the testing. For the holy martyrs were tested by tortures, but were not overcome. They were not swallowed up by the testing, just as anyone fighting with beasts is not swallowed up as long as he has not been eaten. When he has been eaten, then he has been swallowed up by the testing. It is like this in every attack of the passions. As long as we are not overcome by the passion we have not been swallowed up by the test.


Chapter CCX
How a holy BISHOP in disagreement with another bishop conquered by means of humility

One of the fathers told us about two neighbouring bishops between whom a quarrel had arisen. One of them was rich and clever, the other very humble. The clever one was doing everything in his power to discredit the other. When the latter realised what was happening he spoke to his clerics about it.
"By the grace of Christ, it is possible we can win," he said.
"Who could possibly prevail against him, my lord?"
"Just be patient for a while, and you will witness the mercy of God."
He waited for a day when the clever bishop was celebrating a feast of the martyrs, and he called his clerics to him and said:
"Follow me, and whatever you see me doing, you do the same, and we shall come out victorious."
"Whatever are you thinking of doing?" they wondered.
However, they approached the bishop as he was processing with the whole population of the town singing a Litany. He fell at his feet along with all his clerics, saying:
"Forgive us, my lord. We are your servants."
He was astonished and conscience stricken by such a display of humility from a bishop, and the Lord touched his heart. He grasped the other's feet and said:
"You are my lord and father."
From that day on the greatest charity and concord was established between them. The humble bishop explained it to his cleric thus:
"Have we not conquered by the grace of Christ? So then, if you have an enemy do likewise and you will be victorious."
And the old man added: "The humble man has more glory than a king, does he not?  For the king is praised for his appearance, the humble man is praised always and everywhere, and is called blessed."
Chapter CCXI
How an OLD MAN freed from prison the brother who had stolen his goods.

A certain abbot told us that near our coenobium there was a most gentle old man of great virtue. In a neighbouring cell there was a brother who, one day when the old man was absent, by the instigation of the devil went in to the old man's cell and stole his books and vessels. The old man came back and saw his door was open, went in and found that his vessels and all his books had gone. He went to the brother to tell him what had happened and found the vessels still out in the open, for the brother had not had time to put them away. The old man did not want to embarrass the brother or start an argument with him, so he pretended that he had a sudden call of nature and went out. He stayed out quite some time, giving the brother time to remove the vessels and hide them. When the old man did eventually go back he began to talk to the brother about something quite different and did not remonstrate with him at all.
After a few days the theft was discovered by some of the brothers, and they put him in prison without the old man knowing anything about it. When he did discover, however, that the brother was in prison, but not knowing why, he came to our monastery, which is something which he quite often did, and made me a request.
"Do me a kindness, and let me have some food supplies."
"You've got a guest with you, perhaps?
"Indeed, yes."
The old man gathered these foodstuffs up in order to go to the brother in prison with some comfort and cheer. And as soon as he entered, the brother threw himself at the old man's feet.
"It is because of a crime against you, abba, that I am here. I am the one who stole all your things. But look, one of your books and your cloak are in such a place, and the other things are in this place and also that place."
"Well, my son, I didn't actually come here on that account - and you can be absolutely sure about that. I had no idea that it was on my account that you are here. But when I heard that you had been arrested, I was very sorry, and I came here to cheer you up. See, I have brought you some food. And I will do everything I can to see that you are released."
He went to see some of the people in authority, who took note that he was a man of virtue, and they gave orders that the brother should be released from custody.


Chapter CCXII
How two OLD MEN displayed marvellous patience towards robbers.

An old man of great virtue was visiting us once when we were reading the lives and sayings of the fathers, which this old man delighted in reading above all things. They were always in his heart and in his speech, and he profited immensely from them. We had got to the point in the reading where robbers entered an old man's cell, and said:
"We are intending to take everything you have in your cell."
"Help yourselves, my sons, to everything you can see."
And they gathered up everything and went. The old man realised that they had overlooked a little bag hanging up [on a hook], so he took it down and ran after them shouting loudly.
"Take this also, my sons. You overlooked it in my cell."
They were astounded at the old man's tolerance, and put everything back in its place in the cell.
"Truly here is a man of God," they said.
After we had read this, the old man said to me:
"I have found this a very profitable example, abba."
"How is that, father?"
"I read this when I was once living near the river Jordan, and were struck with admiration for this old man. 'Lord God,' I said, 'who have deigned to call me to wear this habit, make me worthy to follow in his footsteps.' I was burning with the greatest desire to imitate him, and after two days some robbers did come and knock on my door. 'Thanks be to God,' I said to myself. 'It is time for my desire to bear fruit.' I opened the door, greeted them kindly, lit a lamp, and began to show them everything. 'Don't worry,' I said to them, 'I put my trust in the Lord. I won't keep anything back from you.' They asked me if I had any gold, and I said that I had three numismata, which I put before them. They took them, and departed in peace."
"And did they come back to you, as those others did to that old man?" I asked.
"No, God did not allow that to happen. In any case, I would not have wanted them to come back."


Chapter CCXIII
Why there are signs and divine wonders in the holy Church

An old man said:
Signs and divine wonders are done in the Church right up to the present day because of those who have spewed forth ungodly heresies and who still do so today, especially because of the pernicious schisms of that brainless Severianus and all the rest of them. The signs are for the purpose of building up and consolidating weak souls, and for converting those heretics if only they will. Marvels have been done in the holy Catholic and apostolic Church from the beginning of the faith right up till now by the holy fathers and most blessed martyrs.

Chapter CCXIV
The miracle of the Baptismal font in the state of COEANENSIS

The village of Soruba is at the foot of the mountains in the state of Coeanensis. There is a baptistery there which at the feast of the Epiphany fills with water, getting gradually deeper over a space of three hours. Once a Baptism has been performed the water level begins to disappear, and after three hours has completely gone.


Chapter CCXV
Another baptismal miracle in the fortress of CEDEBRATIS

In the fortress of Cedebratis at the foot of the mountains in the state of Aenoandron, there is a baptistery made out of one block of stone which fills up all by itself on the holy paschal feast of the Resurrection. The water stays there till Pentecost; after Pentecost it vanishes.
Both these miracles occur in the province of Lycia. If anyone does not believe this, let him make the small journey to Lycia and test the truth for himself.


Chapter CCXVI
Prudent advice on the subject of not swearing rash oaths, and not keeping to what has been rashly sworn.

Once when I was in the holy city, a certain man of the faith approached me.
"A certain antagonism has arisen between my brother and me," he said, "and he is not willing to be reconciled with me. Could you go and see him and urge him to relent."
I was quite happy to do so, so went to see him and spoke to him about the things which make for charity and concord. He seemed to be agreeing with me for a while, but then came out with an objection.
"I can't be reconciled," he said, "because I have sworn on the cross to be at odds with him from that time forth."
I smiled!
"That oath of yours has as much force as if you had said 'By your precious cross, O Christ, I swear that I will not obey your commandments but give myself over to your enemy the devil'. We should not only abandon such things which we have spelled out so wickedly, but also afflict ourselves with severe penances for wickedly determining to do things contrary to our salvation. For if Herod had done penance and not carried out the oath which he had foolishly uttered, he would never have committed the dreadful crime of beheading the Forerunner of Christ. And Basil himself confirms this opinion, when he uses the example from the scriptures of how the Lord wanted to wash the feet of the blessed apostle Peter, who at first vigorously resisted and then changed his mind.


Chapter CCXVII
The wise advice of an OLD MAN that a monk should not have dealings with a woman.

An old man said:
My sons, salt is obtained from water, and if it is put back into water it dissolves and disappears. Similarly a monk comes from a woman, but if he gets involved with a woman, he likewise is dissolved and disappears and is no longer a monk.


Chapter CCXVIII
How abbot SERGIUS by his patience put to shame a farmer who raged at him.

Abbot Sergius, the superior of the monastery of abbot Constantine, told us the following story:
Once when we were on a journey with a certain holy old man, we wandered off the way, and without realising it found ourselves unintentionally in a newly planted field, crushing the plants with our feet. When the farmer who was working there saw us, he immediately unleashed a storm of angry abuse at us.
"Call yourself monks who fear God? If you had the fear of God before your eyes you would certainly not have done that."
The holy old man turned to us;
"For the Lord's sake, don't any of you reply." Then turning to the farmer he said:
"You are quite right, my son. If we feared God we would not have done that."
But he kept on raging, and hurling invectives at us. The old man spoke to him again.
"You are telling the truth, my son, for if we were true monks we would not have done what we did. But for the Lord's sake, please forgive us for we have sinned."
Overcome at last by such great humility, the farmer came nearer and fell at the feet of the old man.
"No, it is I who have sinned. Forgive me, and for the Lord's sake, let me go with you."
And the blessed Sergius told us that the farmer followed them and took the habit.


Chapter CCXVIV
How a certain BROTHER by his humility was reconciled with a deacon who was angry with him.

One of the senior men told us the following story from his own experience:
I stayed for a short time in the monastery of abbot Gerasimus where I shared a cell with another brother, whom I dearly loved. As we were sitting together one day talking about matters profitable to the soul, I happened to mention a certain saying of abba Poemen.
"In my own experience," he said, "I have learned the strength and peacefulness of those words of abba Poemen, as also their forceful efficacy. For I once had a deacon in the monastery who was most dear to me, and whom I loved very much. Somehow or other he came to suspect me of something which had upset him, and he began to be quite miserable, and did not look upon me so kindly as he used to. Seeing that he was so unhappy, I began asking him the reason.
"'Because of what you have done,' he said.
"I could not think of anything I had done, and tried to persuade him that my conscience was completely clear.
"'Sorry, brother,' he said, 'but I am not convinced.'
"So I left him and went to my cell and examined my conscience as to whether there was something I was guilty of, but could find nothing. So one day when he had the holy chalice in his hands to give communion to the brothers, I went up to him and swore on that very chalice that I had done nothing wrong. He would not accept that. So I went back to my cell again, turning over in my mind the words of the holy fathers. I believed in their truth, and little by little began to change my mind.
"'This deacon cares for me very deeply,' I said to myself, 'and it was out of charity that he told me what was in his heart - that I should be sober and vigilant, and not try to do anything more than just keep control of myself. Miserable wretch! you said you had done nothing wrong, and yet you must have committed sins without number which you are not aware of. Where are they, the sins I did yesterday, or three days ago, or ten days ago? Recollect them if you can. Oh yes, there is this you have done, and that, and this other thing you had forgotten about.' I was deeply moved, to realise that there were these things I had done which had escaped my memory, and I gave thanks to God, and also to the deacon, for it was through him that the Lord had seen fit to convince me of my sins and do penance for them.
"I got up and went to the deacon to apologise and also thank him. When I knocked at his door, he opened up immediately and got in first by prostrating himself in front of me.
"'Forgive me brother,'he said. 'It was a demon who suggested to me that I should suspect you falsely. Truly, God has convinced me of your innocence.'
"And he would not let me make any apology to him.
"'It's not necessary,' he said.
"So I was greatly edified, and glorified Father, Son and holy Spirit, the unchanging and indivisible Trinity, to whom be honour, kingdom, power and glory and unto the ages of ages. Amen."

End of Book X

 

 

 

Appendix 3 to Vitae Patrum   Sayings of the Egyptian Fathers

By an unknown Greek author

Translated into Latin by Bishop Martin Dumiensis, 6th century

 


1. Abba John said to his disciples: "The Fathers ate only bread and salt, and thus became strong in the work of God while inhibiting themselves. Let us also therefore restrict ourselves to bread and salt, for it behoves the servants of God to be constricted in this way for the Lord himself said that narrow was the gate and strait the way that leads to life." (Matt.7.14)


2. A brother asked the same old man: "What is the effect of the fast and vigils that we do?" And he replied: "They bring humility to the soul, as it is written in Scripture; 'Look upon my adversity and misery and forgive me all my sin.' (Psalm 25.17)  If your soul strives like this, God will bring you mercy and strength."


3. Abba Poemenius said: "Have no truck with thoughts of sexual sin or slandering of your neighbour; do not allow their venom into your mind. For if you once allow them entry, you will immediately begin to feel how poisonous they are and that is the beginning of losing your way. But rather by prayer and good works bring your enemy to naught. Drive him back and you will have peace."


4. A brother asked an old man: "How should I deal with passionate thoughts, father?" And the old man replied: "Pray to God that your eyes may see your salvation which comes from God who surrounds you and preserves you."


5. A brother going to market asked Abba Poemenius: "How should I go about selling my goods?" And the old man said: "Don't sell anything for more than it is worth, and if you are pressurized, don't be upset by anyone who forcefully tries to beat you down, but sell to him without losing your peace of mind. When I have been going to market I have never wished to gain in my prices at my brother's expense, holding fast to the hope that my brother's gain is a source of fruitfulness."

6.    =  V.iv.8
7.    =  V.x.56
8.    =  V.i.14
9.    =  V.xvii.20

10.  (cf V.xv.11)  An old man said: "In living with your neighbour be like a pillar of stone, which does not get angry when insulted, or conceited when praised."
11. & 12.   = V.iv.20
13.  Similar to 11 & 12
14.  = V.xvii.10
15.  = V.x.34

16.  Abba Macarius said: "If a monk is harmed or slandered by his brother, he is himself at fault if he does not drive anger from his heart and hasten to make his peace with him. The Shunamite would not have been found worthy to receiive Elisha into her house unless she was innocent of any quarrel with anyone. Now the Shunamite personifies the soul and Elijah the Holy Spirit, showing that the soul does not deserve to receive the Holy Spirit unless it is pure. Unforgiving anger blinds the eye of the heart and deprives the soul of prayer.

17. The brothers talked to Abba Poemenius about a brother who fasted in exemplary fashion for six days a week but who had a dreadful temper, and asked whether this could be acceptable. The old man replied: "Anyone who has learned to fast for six days without conquering his bad temper needs to spend more time in a little hard work at it."

18. Abba Poemenius had a brother monk living with him in his cell who had a quarrel with another brother living outside their monastery. Abba Poemenius said to him: "Brother, I wish you wouldn't pursue a quarrel with someone outside our monastery." But the brother wouldn't listen to him. So Abba Poemenius went to another old man and said to him: "My brother monk has a quarrel with someone outside our monastery and we are getting no peace because of it." The old man said to him: "Poemenius, do you mean to tell me that here you are, still alive? Go back to your cell and think on the fact that by this time next year you may be in the grave."

19. While Abba Poemenius sat quietly in the cell, the brothers quarelled fiercely among themselves, but Poemenius said nothing to them at all. When Abba Paphnutius came in and found them wrangling, he said : "Why do you let them go on without telling them to stop their arguments?" Poemenius said to him: "They are brothers. They will make it up in due course." "How can you say that?" said Paphnutius. "You can watch them quarrelling almost to the point of shedding blood, and you can say they will make it up?" Abba Poemen said to him: "Brother, you should think in your heart that I am not here at all." This was the quality of the stillness and silence of Abba Poemenius.

20. Some heretics once visited Abba Poemenius and began to criticise the Archbishop of Alexandria, but Poemenius said nothing. He simply called his disciple and said: "Set the table and give them something to eat, and let them go in peace."

21. A brother asked Abba Poemenius: "How should you go about sitting in your cell?" And he replied: "To sit in your cell is clearly to work with your hands, to meditate on the word of God, to be still and eat bread in solitude. Sitting in hiddenness and stillness he begins to discipline his thoughts. Wherever he goes he observes the canonical hours of prayer, and does not fail to meditate in private. Thus he cultivates a good way of life (bona conversatio) and departs from evil."

22.  = V.iii.22

23.  Abba Macarius said: "If a monk can learn to treat scorn as praise, poverty as riches, and hunger as a feast, he will never die. If you believe in God and seek him in everything you do, you cannot fall into unclean thoughts and the wiles of the devil."

24. An old man said: "Going, coming, or sitting or whatever it is you are doing, keep God always before your eyes and the enemy has no terrors for you. Anyone who keeps this thought in his mind is possessed of the power of God."

25. A brother said to Abba Peter: "In my cell my soul is at peace, but when I go out and hear what the other brothers are talking about I get into a turmoil." The old man replied: "You have the key to the door of your brother's mouth." "How do you mean?" the brother asked. "It's you who ask him things," the old man said, "so he replies, and you hear things you had rather not."  The brother asked; "What should we do then when we meet with a brother? How should we converse with him?" "All teaching is summed up in the one word, Mourning ('luctus' = mourning, grief, lamentation, compunction).

26. A brother asked Abba Sisois: "At what point should one cut off one's emotions?" (abscidere passiones, cut off passions)  And the old man replied: "The moment any emotion arises in your heart cut it off at once. The soul is very fragile, but be prepared for battle lest you suffer defeat.

27. A brother asked Abba Agathon about his emotions, which he could not overcome. The old man replied: "There is a large container of them inside you. Give them arrhas retributionis ipsorum (?) and they will depart.

28. A brother visited a hermit who welcomed him gladly. When it came time to depart he said: "I'm sorry, father, if I have interrupted your way of life." The hermit replied: "My way of life, brother, is to receive in peace all who come, and take leave of them in charity."

29. A brother asked an old man why it was that although God through the Holy Scriptures promises the soul good things, nevertheless the soul does not desire to rest in them but inclines after transitory and unclean things. The old man replied: "It is because the soul has not yet tasted the joys of heaven which would make it seek God whole-heartedly that it turns more readily to things unclean."

30. A brother asked an old man why it was that the soul savoured its emotions, and he replied: "The soul delights in its emotions but it is the Spirit of God who keeps it in check. We therefore should weep and take note of what in us is unclean, begging God who can accomplish all things to cut off from us the seeds of evil. Mary kneeling before the sepulchre wept, and straightway was in His presence. So it is with the soul if it loves tears."

31. A brother said to an old man: "Give me, abba, a word whereby I may live," and he replied: "Go, ask God to give you mourning and humility, and keep your own sins always in mind."

32. It was said of Abba Poemonius that before leaving his cell to join the brothers in church, he would sit still for an hour passing judgment on his own thoughts, and only then would he go in.

33. A brother asked an old man what he should do about his sins, and he replied: "Anyone who wants to be freed from sin can only be freed by tears, and anyone who wants to build up virtue can only build with tears. The Scripture itself is tears. Our fathers said this to their disciples 'Weep. There is no other way to life except this.'"


34.  = V.iii.13


35. Abba Moyses said: "If prayer and action do not go together, your labour is in vain. So then, when you pray that your sins may be forgiven, make sure that you do not offend again. When you have lost the desire to sin and walk permanently in the fear of God, then God welcomes you with joy."


36. A brother asked an old man what one should do about all the temptations which come upon one, and all the thoughts which come from the devil, and he replied: "Weep always in the sight of the goodness of God, that he may make haste to come to your aid. For it is written: 'The Lord is my helper and I shall triumph over my enemies.'" (Psalm 118.7)


37. A brother asked an old man: "Suppose someone strikes a servant in punishment for a fault, what should the servant say to his master?" And he replied: "Even if the servant is not at fault, he should say: 'I have sinned. Have mercy on me.' and nothing else. But if he recognises his sins and confesses what it is that he has done, his master will forgive him."


38. A brother asked an old man where one should fly to if there were to be persecution for the faith, and he replied: "Wherever you hear that people are orthodox and faithful, fly there."


39.  = V.ix.8


40. A brother asked an old man what he should do about the thoughts which troubled him and the old man said: "Question them: 'What do I want with you? What need do I have of you?' - and you will find peace. Be willing to be held in low esteem, cast self-will behind you, be careful for nothing, and your thoughts will cease to bother you."


41. A brother asked an old man: "How is that sometimes when singing psalms time flies and I finish them quite quickly?"  And he replied: "This is the sign of someone who really loves God. It is only when depressed by the action of demons that we need to drive ourselves vigorously, motivated by the fear of God and God's love."


42. The same old man said: "A fly will not come near a boiling pot, though it will alight on a tepid one. Similarly, the devils fly from the monk who is burning with the divine Spirit, though they will deceive a tepid one." He also said: "If persecuted by the enemy, first of all fly, secondly fly, thirdly be like a great sword against them, get out from under them, kill them."
43.  = V.xiii.5


44. Some brothers from Scete once came to Abba John as he sat and worked in silence and after they had greeted him he turned back ('conversus in alteram patrem', sic, misprint for partem?)and began to work again. The brothers said to him: "John, who was it gave you the monk's habit, and why did he not teach you when receiving brothers to ask them to say a prayer or ask them to sit down?" John said to them: "Sinners are never at leisure," to which Abba Theodore replied: "How right you are. God does not require such requests from anyone who is in constant prayer and penitence."


45. A brother asked Abba Poemen what he should do, and he replied: "The Scripture says: 'I acknowledge my faults and my sin is ever before me.'" (Psalm 51.3)


46. A brother asked an old man what he should do and he replied: "Learn to love how to do violence to yourself, unsheathe your sword and go to war." The brother said to him: "My thoughts prevent me."  The old man replied: "Scripture says: 'Call upon me in the time of trouble, so will I hear thee and thou shalt praise me.' (Psalm 50.15) Call upon God then and he will save you.
47.  = V.iii.19
48.  = V.iii.15
49.  = V.xv.17
50.  = V.xi.13


51. A brother asked an old man the meaning of : "When I was in prison you came to me." And the old man replied: "The Lord accepts what is done to one's neighbour as being done to himself. At the same time, since 'being in prison' is the same as 'being in one's cell', anyone who in the cell constantly remembers God can quite properly hear God addressing him with the words: 'I was in prison and you came to me.'"


52. A brother asked Abba Besarion: "What shall I do, for my thoughts trouble me?" And he replied: "Just be still. Don't measure yourself up against those of great reputation, but just be quiet in your own heart."

53. A brother asked Abba Antony what it meant that anyone should consider himself as of no account. And he replied: "It means to consider yourself to be like an irrational beast which has no discernment, as it is written in Scripture: 'I am become as it were a beast before thee, nevertheless I am always by thee.' (Psalm 73.21-22)

54.  = V.i.2

55. A brother asked an old man: "Is it a good thing to be highly regarded by people?" He replied: "There is no virtue in that. Don't desire to be highly regarded by your brethren. Run away from that."

56. A brother asked an old man the meaning of humility, and he replied: "Perfect humility is shown in blessing those who do you evil." And the brother said: "What if you can't rise to the measure of being able to do that?"  And he replied: "Walk away from it, and be still."

57. A brother asked an old man: "What makes a perfect monk?" And he replied: "Humility. You are raised up to the heights in proportion as you are brought down low through humility."

58. A brother asked an old man: "How can you keep on being humble?" And he replied: "By keeping your sins constantly in mind."

59. Abba Poemenius groaned and said: "All the virtues except one are evident in my cell, and it is by this one virtue that a man stands or falls." The brothers asked him what this virtue was and he replied: "Always to accuse oneself."

60. A brother asked an old man: "Please pay me a visit if you think I am worthy to wash your feet." But he would not. A second and a third time he asked with the same result. At last he went to the old man's cell and did penance before him, beseeching him to visit him in his cell. And the old man agreed. The brother asked him: "How was it that you didn't come all the times I asked you before?" And the old man replied: "When it was with words only that you asked, I wasn't persuaded in my heart that I should come. But when I saw in you the monastic virtue of humility, then I came with joy."

61. An old man said: "How can anyone teach someone else something which he has not learnt himself and also put into practice? Therefore always be humble enough to learn."

62. An old man said: "The virtue of a monk lies in being always suspicious of himself."

63. An old man said: "You can't inspect your thoughts from outside, but only when they rise up from within. If you are a warrior, expel them."

64. An old man said: "The work of a monk is to see thoughts coming from afar."

65. An old man said: "Unforeseen crises prevent us from rising to better things."

66. An old man said: "Don't set your own standards, but measure yourself against those whose life is irreproachable."
67. An old man said: "If you don't cut off every occasion of sin, you will continue to be led astray."

68. An old man said: "Every task which falls to a person can be an occasion of victory."

69. An old man said: "Every carnal delight is an abomination in the sight of the Lord"

70. An old man said: "If the flesh causes certain thoughts to come to you, once, twice, or even three times, pay no attention."

71.  = V.xi.5

72. An old man said: "Pilgrimage is keeping silent."

73. An old man said: "People who curb their appetites and are immune from worldly considerations will find peace."

74. An old man said: "A monk must be single-hearted, and he will be on the way to salvation,"

75. An old man said: "Whatever you see or hear, don't

gossip about it to your brother; it only breeds battles."

76. An old man said: "Self will and laziness, especially if habitual, drag a monk down."

77. An old man said: "Charity, silence and private meditation make for purity of heart."

78. An old man said: "Anything out of proportion comes from the demons."

79. An old man said: "What is the point of building up somebody else's house and pulling down your own?"

80. An old man said: "Each person begins with a wall of self will, as of bronze and stone, between the self and God. Therefore if you can overcome your own self will you can truly say: 'With the help of my God I shall leap over the wall.'" (Psalm 18.29)

81. An old man said: "If we depart from the straight and well marked path we wander off into dark and thorny places; that is, if we cease to weep for ourselves and our sins, we begin to neglect our neighbour."

82. An old man said: "Anyone who slanders his neighbour is not a monk, anyone who returns evil for evil is not a monk, nor he who is bad tempered, greedy, proud, avaricious, puffed up or verbose. The true monk is humble and quiet, loving, with the fear of God always in his heart."

83. An old man said: "See that you don't condemn a brother who stands up to you. How do you know whether the Holy Spirit is in you or him?"
84. An old man said: "Humility, chastity and the fear of God are greater than all the other virtues."

85. An old man said: "If anyone wills to cause a monk actual harm, his cause is just if he resists as he would against the devil."

86. An old man said: "Whatever things a person may be upset by, whether great or small, let them all be held in contempt, whether in thought or deed."

87. An old man said: "Humility is no burden, but provides the seasoning in everything burdensome."

88. An old man said: "To be humble and self deprecatory is like a protective wall for a monk."

89. An old man said: "Anyone wishing to build a house needs to amass many materials in order to bring his work to completion; so a monk must take great care in bringing the work of God to completion."

90. An old man said: "Blessed is the one who undertakes to work hand in hand with grace."

91. An old man said: "There is no greater virtue than to despise no one."

92. An old man said: "To do violence to self in all things, this is the way of God, this is the work of the monk."

93. An old man said: "Doing violence to yourself makes you like the Confessors."

94. An old man said: "If you keep your mortality always in mind you will lose your faint- heartedness."

95. An old man said: "Speak as a free person, not as a slave."

96. An old man said: "It is impossible to advance in virtue without custody of the tongue. Custody of the tongue is the primary virtue."

97.  = V.iii.4

98. An old man said: "Wherever you live, don't look out for those who are comfortable, but for the needy who lack food and shelter."

99. An old man said: "If you are in the grip of some passion and without having done anything about it pray to God about something else, he will not hear you. First pray about your own battle, and when you have then knocked and entered ask anything you like for other people."

100. An old man said: "There are three important things: the fear of God, diligent prayer, and doing good to your neighbour."

101. An old man said: "Humility and the fear of God which you ought always to have in you are like the breath in our nostrils without which we can't live."

102. An old man said: "What is the use of starting anything if you don't study to finish it? Starting without finishing is worth nothing."

103. An old man said: "If you cannot give your whole hearted agreement to somebody don't regard him as if he were your conscience."

104. An old man said: "Decide never to do harm to anyone, and be open hearted towards all."

105. A brother asked an old man whether he should do anything about it if he saw some neglect in his brothers. And he replied: "Whether they are older than you or of the same age admonish them humbly without being censorious, lest in this you lose your own humility."

 

106. A brother asked an old man: "The brothers living with me want me to be their teacher. What do you think I should do?" And he replied: "Practice what you teach them. And give them not only moral precepts but also practical means of carrying them out."

107. It was said of Abba Macarius the Greater that like God he protected the whole world. He carried the burden of human sin, he was like an earthly God to his brothers, covering their sins, and as if blind and deaf to the things which he did see and hear."

108. Abba Moyses asked Abba Silvanus: "Is it possible to begin again every day?" And he replied: "A true workman can begin again every day. He must understand that each one of the many virtues is of equal importance. On rising each day let him make a new beginning in every virtue and in every commandment of God, in much patience and longsuffering, in the fear and love of God, in humility of mind and body, in much forbearance, in tribulation, in staying in the cell, in prayer and intercession, with groaning, purity of heart, custody of the eyes and tongue and speech, in denial of material things and carnal desires, in the warfare of the cross, that is in mortification and poverty of spirit, in spiritual temperance and agonised battle, in penitence and mourning, simple of mind and few of words, in fastings and nightly vigils, and in manual work as St Paul teaches when he says: 'working with my hands, in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness, in labours and tribulations, in need and difficulties and persecutions, in pitfalls and caverns and caves of the earth.' (2 Cor.11)  'Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only' (James 1.22) , let your talents bring forth double, wearing the bridal garment, founded upon the rock, and not on the sand. Be faithful in almsgiving, steadfast in faith, remembering the day of your death is at hand, and care nothing for the things of this world as if you were already in the grave. Be sparing in food, be humble and mourn. Let the fear of God be in you at all times. For it is written: 'In the fear of God, we have accepted and given birth to the spirit of salvation even from the womb.' (Isaiah 26.9) If there be any virtue look to these things. Do not reckon yourselves to be among the great but consider yourself to be lower than all other creatures, worse than any other human sinner. Gain discretion, know yourself, do not judge your neighbour nor delight in other people's sins, but weep for your own sins, and do not interfere in other peoples affairs. Be gentle in spirit and not angry. Think no evil in your heart about anyone, bear no malice, and entertain no hatred towards anyone who bears malice towards you without a cause. Don't be upset by his malice, or turn against him in his need and tribulation, render no evil for evil, but be at peace with all - this is the peace of God. Do not entrust yourself to the evildoer, but do not rejoice in anyone who does evil to his neighbour. Slander no one, for God knows all and sees each one of us. Do not believe the slanderer or rejoice in his evil speech. Do not hate anyone because of his sins, for it is written: 'Judge not that you be not judged' (Matthew 7.1). Do not despise the sinner but pray for him that God will patiently turn him and have mercy on him, for the Lord is of great power. And if you hear about anyone doing evil things say 'Who am I to judge? For I too am a sinner, dead because of my sins, and mourning my own wicked deeds. He who is dead has no quarrel with anyone. Anyone then who thinks of these things and earnestly pursues them is a worker for universal justice under the grace and power of our Lord.


109. Abba Moyses gave the following seven precepts to Abba Poemenius, which if followed will lead to salvation by anybody whether they be in the cenobium, or in solitude or in the world:
1. In the first place, as it is written, love God with all your heart and with all your mind.
2. Love your neighbour as yourself.
3. Do to death all evil in you.
4. Do not judge your brother in any dispute.
5. Do no evil to another person.
6. Before departing this life cleanse yourself of every fault of mind or body.
7. Always be of a humble and contrite heart. These things can be achieved by anyone who thinks of his own sins and not his neighbour's, and trusts in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ who with the Father and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns world without end. Amen