Note from Ville Hietanen (Jerome) of and Currently, I (but not my brother of the “prophecyfilm12” mail) have updated many of my old believes to be more in line with Vatican II and I no longer adhere to the position that Vatican II or the Protestants, Muslims, Buddhists or various Traditionalists Groups and Peoples etc. or the various teachings, Saints and adherents to Vatican II (and other canonized by Vatican II) such as Saint Mother Theresa or Saint Pope John Paul II etc. was heretical or damned or not Catholic (or not the Pope) – or that they are unworthy of this title. I have also embraced the sexual views on marriage of Vatican II, and I no longer adhere to the strict interpretations as expressed on this website and on my other websites. To read more of my views, see these articles: Some corrections: Why I no longer condemn others or judge them as evil I did before. Why I no Longer Reject Vatican II and the Traditional Catholic Priests or Receiving Sacraments from Them (On Baptism of Desire, Baptism of Blood, Natural Family Planning, Una Cum etc.) Q&A: Damnation and Eternal Torments for Our Children and Beloved Ones is "True" and "Good" but Salvation for Everyone is "Evil" and a "Heresy"?

The Life of the Holy Fathers - The Sayings of the Desert Fathers

The Life of the Holy Fathers

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  • “...explain to me how it is that you are never worried by sexual temptation." And the old man said, "Since the time I became a monk I have never fully appeased my desire for bread, water, sleep or any of those things which give pleasure.”

    De Vitis Patrum (Vita Patris), Book Ia

    By Jerome, presbyter, and various others

    Life No 1

    The Life of St Paul, the first hermit, [Celebrated in the Roman Martyrology on Jan 15]

    by Jerome, presbyter & divine [c.341 - 420. Biblical scholar and Doctor of the Church]

    There is a controversy among many people about who was the first person to take to living in the desert as a hermit. Some point back as far as the blessed Elijah and John the Baptist as being among the first. Yet Elijah seems to us to have been more of a prophet than a monk, and as for John, he began to prophesy even before he was born! (Luke 1.44). Others say that Antony was the first, an opinion that is commonly held by the mass of the people, but that is only partly true. For it is not so much that he was the first as that he was the one who did so much to encourage others to do so. Indeed, even the disciples of Antony, Amathas and Macarius, the former of whom buried Antony's body, nowadays assert that Paul of Thebes was the pioneer of this kind of life. I incline to that opinion myself, although there are many who will repeat all sorts of stories as the whim takes them, such as that Paul was only a man covered in hair right down to his feet living in a hole in the ground, and other invented tales too tedious to trouble with. Such impudent lies need to be refuted.

    So then, seeing that Antony is now being diligently publicised both in Latin and Greek, [Athanasius' Life of Antony, written between 356 and 362, was widely circulated in the ancient world] I have decided to write something about the beginnings and end of Paul's life, not because I have any great confidence in my own ability, but simply because so far it has not been dealt with. What happened during the greater part of his life, or what battles with Satan he endured, it is not given to any man to know.

    The Life
    Chapter I

    During the persecutions of Decius and Valerian a savage storm laid waste many of the churches of Egypt and the Thebaid. It was during this time that Cornelius at Rome and Cyprian at Carthage gloriously shed their blood. [Both celebrated in the Roman Martyrology on September 14. The year of their martyrdom was 253] To be put to the sword for the name of Christ was held to be a true Christian sacrifice. But the enemy wanted to subdue the soul even more than the body, and they invented ingenious, lingering ways of putting people to death. As Cyprian, who suffered like that, said, 'Although they wanted to die, death was withheld from them'. I shall give you a couple of examples of this so that the cruelty of it may be more thoroughly understood.

    Chapter II
    There was one particular martyr who persevered victoriously in the faith through tortures by racks and hot metal plates, so they ordered him to be smeared all over with honey and laid him out in the heat of the sun with his hands tied behind his back, hoping that even though he had survived the hot frying pan he might succumb to the burning pain of the insect bites.

    Chapter III
    They ordered another young man in the flower of his youth to be taken into a most pleasant little garden, with white lilies and red roses, and a gentle murmuring stream winding through it, and the wind making a sweet whisper though the leaves of the trees, where they made him lie down on a feather bed, and left him there, tied down with soft silken bonds to prevent him escaping. [They tried to bring a prostitute] in the hope of so inciting him to lust that she might win a shameless victory over him. I don't know how this soldier of Christ did it, or how he summoned up his resolve. But will pleasure be the victor where torments fail? For at length, inspired by heaven, he bit off his tongue and spat it in her face as she tried to kiss him. And so the immense pain which followed was stronger than the feeling of lust.

    Chapter IV
    At the time when these things were happening Paul was about fifteen years old. He and his married sister had lost both their parents, who had left them a wealthy inheritance. He was highly educated in both Greek and Egyptian, a gentle soul, and a great lover of God. And when the storm of persecution exploded he fled secretly to a distant village. And then -
    'how is it that you have such power over the human breast, O dedicated desire for gold?' -
    [Virgil's Aeneid, Book 3]
    his brother-in-law who should have sheltered him sought to betray him. The tears of his wife, their common family ties, not even God who sees all from on high could stop him in his wickedness. The pursuit of cruelty will drive people to extremes just as godliness does.
    But when that most prudent youth heard of it, he fled to the mountains in the desert until the persecutions should come to an end. But what had been forced upon him by necessity came to be something which he welcomed, and as he gradually moved away, bit by bit as necessary, over and over again, he came at last upon a rocky mountain with a large cave at the foot of it and a large stone over the entrance. After removing the stone and going in, eager to explore the unknown with a human curiosity, he found a spacious chamber, with an opening to the sky above covered over by spreading branches of an ancient palm tree. There was a sparkling spring there, from which a stream overflowed through a little opening, and soaked away into the earth. There were also a few little buildings near the foot of the mountain containing the knives and anvils and mallets used to strike coins; Egyptian writings tell us that this used to be the site of a secret minting factory at the time when Antony and Cleopatra were together.

    Chapter V
    Accepting gratefully this dwelling which God had given him, he began to spend his time in prayer and solitude. The palm tree provided him with both food and clothing. And lest you think that is impossible, I call Jesus and his holy Angels to witness that in that part of the desert next to the Saracens of Syria I saw myself one of the monks who had been enclosed for thirty years living on barley bread and muddy water. There was another living in an old water cistern, in the pagan tongue of the Syrians known as a cuba, who survived on five dried figs a day. Such things might seem unbelievable to those outside the faith, but all things are possible to those who do believe.

    Chapter VI
    But to return from where I had digressed, by the time Paul reached the age of a hundred and thirteen, the ninety-year-old Antony was still living in another part of the desert. Antony used to say that it then occurred to him to wonder whether there was any monk in the desert more perfect than he was, and it was revealed to him at night while sleeping that there was one much better than he further into the mountain, and that he ought to make haste to visit him. As dawn broke the venerable old man set out he knew not where, supporting his weak old limbs with the help of a staff. By the middle of the day with the sun hot overhead he was burning with the heat, but did not consider for a minute abandoning the journey once begun.
    "I believe in my God, " he said, "who will show me his servant as he has promised."
    He had no sooner spoken than he saw a creature half man, half horse, which in the opinion of the poets is called a Hippocentaur. As soon as he saw it he signed himself on the forehead with the cross.
    "You, there!" he cried, "Whereabouts in these parts does the servant of God live?"
    The creature made strange, half crazy noises, mangling words which meant nothing, with a face all covered with bristly hair, while fawningly trying to make itself understood. It then pointed with its right hand in the desired direction, raced over the open countryside with the speed of a bird and vanished from sight. I don't rightly know whether this was an apparition sent by the devil to terrify him, or simply an animal spawned by the desert, which is a breeding ground for all sorts of monstrous beasts.

    Chapter VII
    Dumbfounded, Antony turned over in his mind what he had seen and went on a bit further. After a short time he saw a tiny little man in a stony hollow, with a hooked nose and horns on his forehead, with his lower parts ending in the hooves of a goat. Although apprehensive at this sight, Antony like the good warrior he was seized the shield of faith and the breastplate of hope (Ephesians 6.14). In spite of Antony's fears, this memorable creature by way of a peace offering offered him some dates as food for the journey, which he accepted and moved closer
    "What are you?" Antony asked.
    "I am mortal," he replied, "and one of those denizens of the desert which the pagans worshipped under the names of Fauns, Satyrs and Incubi. I come to you as an envoy from my people. We beseech you that you will pray for us to our common God, who we know came to save the world, and sends out his sound into all lands" (Psalms 19.4).
    At these words our long-lived traveller's face was freely furrowed with tears, indicating the depth of joy pouring into his heart. For he was rejoicing in the glory of Christ who has overcome Satan, at the same time giving thanks that he could understand what the creature was saying. He struck his staff on the ground and cried out.
    "Woe to you, Alexandria, who worship portents instead of God; woe to you, O city that has played the harlot, where demons congregate from all over the world! What can you say now? For the very beasts speak of Christ, while you still worship portents instead of Christ."
    He had hardly finished speaking when the horned animal fled as if it had wings. Lest anyone should be tempted to disbelieve any of this, remember that the whole world bears witness to the fact that during the reign of the Emperor Constantius [Died in 306. He was the father of Constantine the Great] .a living creature like this was put on show in Alexandria, providing the people with an extraordinary sight. And later its dead body was taken to Antioch, preserved in salt lest it rot in the heat, where the Emperor himself saw it.

    Chapter VIII
    But to return to my story, Antony continued on his journey as he had begun, looking out for the tracks of wild beasts in the wide vastness of the desert. How he did it, and where his path took him, I know not. Another day had come to an end. finding him untroubled, as one who was confident that Christ would not desert him. He passed the second spell of darkness in prayer the whole night through, and in the dim light of dawn he saw a wolf, panting with a burning thirst, creeping towards the foot of a mountain. He watched where it went, and after it had reappeared out of a cave and gone away, he went towards the cave himself. He began to look inside, but could see nothing to satisfy his curiosity, for darkness obscured his vision. But as Scripture says, 'perfect love casts out fear' (I John 4.18), so he went in with slow steps and bated breath, like a skilled explorer. Little by little he went a bit further, with frequent pauses, until suddenly he heard a sound. And then through the oppressive sightless darkness he caught a glimpse of a light in the distance. He hastened towards it eagerly, and struck his foot against a stone, making another loud noise. When the blessed Paul heard this he closed the door which had been open, thinking that now he could shut the wolf out. Antony then walked about outside it until it was later than the sixth hour, begging for admittance.
    "You know who I am, where I came from, and why I have come," he said. "I know I don't deserve to see you. However, I shan't go away till I do. You take wild animals in to you. Why do you drive human beings away? I have searched for you and found you. I have knocked, so please open up! If I don't succeed I shall die right outside your own doorposts. And you will have to bury my body."
    'He stayed there unmoving, persisting in bringing these things to mind. [Virgil's Aeneid, Book 2] To which the hero replied in a few words, thus'. [Virgil's Aeneid, Book 6 ]
    "Certainly, no one asks like that if he is about to threaten trouble," he said, "and no one who is weeping such tears is likely to do anyone any harm, but why should you wonder that I have not opened my door, since you yourself have said that you are coming here to die?"
    And Paul at last opened his door with a smile. They embraced each other, greeted each other by name, gave thanks to God together, gave each other a holy kiss, and sat down.
    "There now!" said Paul. "Just look at what you have gone to so much trouble to find: nothing but uncared for grey hairs covering limbs wasted with old age. See, I am nothing but a human being, and will soon be nothing but dust. But still, since 'charity beareth all things' (1 Corinthians 13.7), tell me how the human race is going on, whether new buildings have been going up in the ancient cities, how the world is governed, and if there is anyone left still under the power of the demons."

    Chapter IX
    As they were speaking, they saw a raven coming to rest in the branches of the tree. It gently flew down and placed a whole loaf of bread before their wondering eyes before flying off again.
    "How marvellous!" said Paul. "The kind and most merciful Lord for the last sixty years has been sending me half a loaf of bread. And now because of your coming he has sent his servants a double measure!"
    They gave thanks for the works of the Lord and sat down by the side of the sparkling spring. From then until evening time they had an argument about who should break the bread. Paul said that the guest should do so, Antony said the elder should. At last they came to a compromise, that each should take hold of one end of the loaf and pull, with the result that each would have a portion of the loaf in his hands. Each of them then drank a little water lying face downwards, after which they spent the night in a vigil, offering God the sacrifice of praise.

    Chapter X
    When day at last returned to the earth, Paul had this to say to Antony.
    "For a long time, brother, I have known that you lived in these parts. He promised me that one day he would send you to be my fellow servant. But the time of my going is at hand, and I have ever been longing to 'depart and be with Christ' (Phillipians 1.23). 'I have finished the course, there remains for me the crown of righteousness' (2 Timothy 4.7-8). The Lord has sent you to me to cover my body with earth. - yes, indeed, you will give back earth to earth."
    Antony wept and lamented at the thought of being thus deserted, and prayed that he might share such a journey with him.
    "You don't need to know your own end," said Paul, "but that of another. All you need to do is to follow the Lamb until the time comes for you to lay down the burden of the flesh, and it will be for other brothers to follow the example of what you are now about to do. Hasten, therefore, before it is too late, and bring me the cloak which Archbishop Athanasius gave you, so that you can wrap my body in it."
    Blessed Paul asked this not because he greatly cared whether his body would rot either clothed or naked, for he had been clothed anyway for a very long time in clothes made from palm leaves, but that Antony's sadness over his coming death would be lessened if he were to go away.

    Chapter XI
    Antony was quite stunned by what Paul said about Athanasius and his cloak, but, as if he were listening to the words of Christ himself, with the fear of God in his heart, he did not dare do otherwise, but with silent tears he kissed Paul's eyes and hands, and returned to that monastery which later was occupied by the Saracens. His going was not to his liking, for his body was weak because of his age and his fasting, and yet his spirit enabled him to overcome the effects of age. His journey done, he arrived at last at his cell, tired out and panting for breath. The two disciples who had ministered to him for a very long time came running to meet him.
    "Where have you been all this time, father?" they asked.
    "Woe is me, a sinner," he replied. "It is deceitful for me to be called a monk. For I have seen Elijah, and John the Baptist in the desert, and truly, Paul in paradise."
    He said no more but beat his breast and took the cloak out of the cell.
    "Won't you tell us any more about what is going on?" the disciples asked.
    "'There is a time for speaking and a time for keeping quiet,'" (Ecclesiastes 3.7) he replied, and without taking even a small portion of food, went out and took the road by which he had just come, aching for Paul, longing to see him, making pictures of him in his mind. For he feared that in his absence he might have given up his spirit to Christ. Which was, in fact, what had happened.

    Chapter XII
    For at the third hour of the next day he saw Paul, shining brightly in a robe as white as snow, ascending into heaven in the midst of choirs of prophets and angels, and immediately he fell on his face, threw sand all over his head, and wept and wailed.
    "Why have you left us, Paul?" he cried. "Why have you gone without bidding farewell? I have only now begun to know you; why have you so suddenly departed?"
    The blessed Antony said later that he ran the rest of the way so quickly that it was as if he were flying. And rightly so. For when he went in to the cave he found Paul on his knees with his head and arms stretched out, his body motionless. Thinking at first that Paul was praying he prayed also. But when he heard none of the usual responses being uttered, he rushed towards him with a tearful kiss, and realised that this was indeed the corpse of the holy man. And he offered the prayers for the dead to the God unto whom all things live.

    Chapter XIII
    He wrapped the body up and dragged it outside, singing the traditional Christian hymns and psalms. He was worried that he had no spade to dig the ground with, and turned the problem over in his mind, weighing up the various possibilities.
    "If I go back to the monastery," he said, " it will be a three day journey. But if I stay here, there is nothing I can do. So then, let me die here, as is fitting. Let me take my last breath, O Christ, next to your warrior, Paul."
    In the midst of his perplexity he was suddenly aware of two lions bounding towards him out of the desert, their manes streaming out behind them. At first he was terrified, then turning his mind back towards God, he stood there quite calmly, as if it were only two doves he was looking at. The lions ran straight to the holy man's body, with their tails between their legs, lay down at his feet and roared loudly, so that Antony could not fail to understand that they were indeed mourning in the only way they knew how. Then they began to scrape away the earth at a little distance, hollowing out the sand to make a grave big enough for a human being. Then as if to seek a reward for their deed, they came towards Antony with their ears pricked up and their necks stretched out to lick his hands and feet. And he realised that they were asking for his blessing. Without delay he poured out praise to Christ that even dumb animals looked to God.
    "O God, without whom not a leaf flutters down from the tree and not a sparrow falls to the ground, (Matthew 10.29), be it unto these creatures according to your will."
    And he motioned with his hand for them to go. After they had gone he carried the body on his bent and aged shoulders and put it in the grave, covered it over with earth, and built a mound over it according to the custom. Another day dawned, and Antony, as the only heir of this man who had died intestate, took possession of the tunic which Paul had woven for himself out of palm leaves in a basket weave pattern. And so he went back to his monastery, where he gave his disciples an account of everything that had happened. And from then on he always wore the tunic of Paul on the solemn feasts of Easter and Pentecost.

    Chapter XIV
    To conclude this little work, let me ask those who don't know the extent of their inheritance, who live in marble halls, and who make sure that an only son will benefit from all their wealth, whether this old man ever lacked anything in his nakedness. You drink from precious goblets, he was satisfied with his cupped hands, you wear tunics of golden thread, his clothing was rougher than that of your meanest slave. But to him in his deepest poverty the gates of paradise were opened, you with your gold will inherit hell. He, naked, was clothed with Christ, you in your silks have lost Christ's covering. Paul, buried in barren dust, will rise again in glory, you vaunting yourselves in sumptuous tombs, will burn with all your works. I beg you, share, share out at least some of your cherished riches. Why are your dead entombed in golden shrouds? How is it that your ambition is not slaked even in the midst of the tears of mourning? Do you imagine that the bodies of the dead will not rot if wrapped in silk?
    Whoever you are that reads this story, I beg that you will remember Jerome, a sinner, who if the Lord were to give him a choice, would much prefer the tunic of Paul with all its merit than the purple of kings and their kingdoms.

    Life No 2

    The Life of Antony

    by Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria

    The life and conversation of our holy Father, Antony: written and sent to the monks in foreign parts by our Father among the Saints, Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria. Athanasius [1] the bishop to the brethren in foreign parts.

    You have entered upon a noble rivalry with the monks of Egypt by your determination either to equal or surpass them in your training in the way of virtue. For by this time there are monasteries among you, and the name of monk receives public recognition. With reason, therefore, all men will approve this determination, and in answer to your prayers God will give its fulfilment. Now since you asked me to give you an account of the blessed Antony's way of life, and are wishful to learn how he began the discipline, who and what manner of man he was previous to this, how he closed his life, and whether the things told of him are true, that you also may bring yourselves to imitate him, I very readily accepted your behest, for to me also the bare recollection of Antony is a great accession of help. And I know that you, when you have heard, apart from your admiration of the man, will be wishful to emulate his determination; seeing that for monks the life of Antony is a sufficient pattern of discipline. Wherefore do not refuse credence to what you have heard from those who brought tidings of him; but think rather that they have told you only a few things, for at all events they scarcely can have given · circumstances of so great import in any detail. And because I at your request have called to mind a few circumstances about him, and shall send as much as I can tell in a letter, do not neglect to question those who sail from here: for possibly when all have told their tale, the account will hardly be in proportion to his merits. On account of this I was desirous, when I received your letter, to send for certain of the monks, those especially who were wont to be more frequently with him, that if I could learn any fresh details I might send them to you. But since the season for sailing was coming to an end and the letter-carrier urgent, I hastened to write to your piety what I myself know, having seen him many times, and what I was able to learn from him, for I was his attendant for a long time, and poured water on his hands [2]; in all points being mindful of the truth, that no one should disbelieve through hearing too much, nor on the other hand by hearing too little should despise the man.

    I. Antony you must know was by descent an Egyptian: his parents were of good family and possessed considerable wealth [2a], and as they were Christians he also was reared in the same Faith. In infancy he was brought up with his parents, knowing nought else but them and his home. But when he was grown and arrived at boyhood, and was advancing in years, he could not endure to learn [2b] letters, not caring to associate with other boys; but all his desire was, as it is written of Jacob, to live a plain man at home [3]. With his parents he used to attend the Lord's House, and neither as a child was he idle nor when older did he despise them; but was both obedient to his father and mother and attentive to what was read, keeping in his heart what was profitable in what he heard. And though as a child brought up in moderate affluence, he did not trouble his parents for varied or luxurious fare, nor was this a source of pleasure to him; but was content simply with what he found nor sought anything further.

    2. After the death of his father and mother he was left alone with one little sister: his age was about eighteen or twenty, and on him the care both of home and sister rested. Now it was not six months after the death of his parents, and going according to custom into the Lord's House, he communed with himself and reflected as he walked how the Apostles [4] left all and followed the Saviour; and how they in the Acts [5] sold their possessions and brought and laid them at the Apostles' feet for distribution to then needy, and what and how great a hope was laid up for them in heaven. Pondering over these things he entered the church, and it happened the Gospel was being read, and he heard the Lord saying to the rich man [6], 'If thou wouldest be perfect, go and sell that thou hast and give to the poor; and come follow Me and thou shalt have treasure in heaven.' Antony, as though God had put him in mind of the Saints, and the passage had been read on his account, went out immediately from the church, and gave the possessions of his forefathers to the villagers--they were three hundred acres [7], productive and very fair --that they should be no more a clog upon himself and his sister [8]. And all the rest that was movable he sold, and having got together much money he gave it to the poor, reserving a little however for his sister's sake.

    3. And again as he went into the church, hearing the Lord say in the Gospel [9], ' be not anxious for the morrow,' he could stay no longer, but went out and gave those things also to the poor. Having committed his sister to known and faithful virgins, and put her into a convent [10] to be brought up, he henceforth devoted himself outside his house to discipline [11], taking heed to himself and training himself with patience. For there were not yet so many monasteries [12] in Egypt, and no monk at all knew of the distant desert; but all who wished to give heed to themselves practised the discipline in solitude near their own village. Now there was then in the next village an old man who had lived the life of a hermit from his youth up. Antony, after he had seen this man, imitated him in piety. And at first he began to abide in places out side the village: then if he heard of a good man anywhere, like the prudent bee, he went forth and sought him, nor turned back to his own palace until he had seen him; and he returned, having got from the good man as it were supplies for his journey in the way of virtue. So dwelling there at first, he confirmed his purpose not to return to the abode of his fathers nor to the remembrance of his kinsfolk; but to keep all his desire and energy for perfecting his discipline. He worked, however. with his hands, having heard, 'he who is idle let him not eat [13],' and part he spent on bread and part he gave to the needy. And he was constant in prayer, knowing that a man ought to pray in secret unceasingly [14]. For he had given such heed to what was read that none of the things that were written fell from him to the ground, but he remembered all, and afterwards his memory served him for books.

    4. Thus conducting himself, Antony was beloved by all. He subjected himself in sincerity to the good men whom he visited, and learned thoroughly where each surpassed him in zeal and discipline. He observed the graciousness of one; the unceasing prayer of another; he took knowledge of another's freedom from anger and another's loving-kindness; he gave heed to one as he watched, to another as he studied; one he admired for his endurance, another for his fasting and sleeping on the ground; the meekness of one and the long-suffering of another he watched with care, while he took note of the piety towards Christ and the mutual love which animated all. Thus filled, he returned to his own place of discipline, and henceforth would strive to unite the qualities of each, and was eager to show in himself the virtues of all. With others of the same age he had no rivalry; save this only, that he should not be second to them in higher things. And this he did so as to hurt the feelings of nobody, but made them rejoice over him. So all they of that village and the good men in whose intimacy he was, when they saw that he was a man of this sort, used to call him God-beloved. And some welcomed him as a son, others as a brother.

    5. But the devil, who hates and envies what is good, could not endure to see such a resolution in a youth, but endeavoured to carry out against him what he had been wont to effect against others. First of all he tried to lead him away from the discipline, whispering to him the remembrance of his wealth, care for his sister, claims of kindred, love of money, love of glory, the various pleasures of the table and the other relaxations of life, and at last the difficulty of virtue and the labour of it; he suggested also the infirmity of the body and the length of the time. In a word he raised in his mind a great dust of debate, wishing to debar him from his settled purpose. But when the enemy saw himself to be too weak for Antony's determination, and that he rather was conquered by the other's firmness, overthrown by his great faith and falling through his constant prayers, then at length putting his trust in the weapons which are [15] 'in the navel of his belly' and boasting in them--for they are his first snare for the young--he attacked the young man, disturbing him by night and harassing him by day, so that even the onlookers saw the struggle which was going on between them. The one would suggest foul thoughts and the other counter them with prayers: the one fire him with lush the other, as one who seemed to blush, fortify his body with faith, prayers, and fasting. And the devil, unhappy wight, one night even took upon him the shape of a woman and imitated all her acts simply to beguile Antony. But he, his mind filled with Christ and the nobility inspired by Him, and considering the spirituality of the soul, quenched the coal of the other's deceit. Again the enemy suggested the ease of pleasure. But he like a man filled with rage and grief turned his thoughts to the threatened fire and the gnawing worm, and setting these in array against his adversary, passed through the temptation unscathed. All this was a source of shame to his foe. For he, deeming himself like God, was now mocked by a young man; and he who boasted himself against flesh and blood was being put to flight by a man in the flesh. For the Lord was working with Antony--the Lord who for our sake took flesh [16] and gave the body victory over the devil, so that all who truly fight can say [17], ' not I but the grace of God which was with me.'

    6. At last when the dragon could not even thus overthrow Antony, but saw himself thrust out of his heart, gnashing his teeth as it is written, and as it were beside himself, he appeared to Antony like a black boy, taking a visible shape [17a] in accordance with the colour of his mind. And cringing to him, as it were, he plied him with thoughts no longer, for guileful as he was, he had been worsted, but at last spoke in human voice and said, 'Many I deceived, many I cast down; but now attacking thee and thy labours as I had many others, I proved weak.' When Antony asked, Who art thou who speakest thus with me ? he answered with a lamentable voice, 'I am the friend of whoredom, and have taken upon me incitements which lead to it against the young. I am called the spirit of lust. How many have I deceived who wished to live soberly, how many are the chaste whom by my incitements I have over-persuaded! I am he on account of whom also the prophet reproves those who have fallen, saying [17b], "Ye have been caused to err by the spirit of whoredom." For by me they have been tripped up. I am he who have so often troubled thee and have so often been overthrown by thee.' But Antony having given thanks to the Lord, with good courage said to him, ' Thou art very despicable then, for thou art black-hearted and weak as a child. Henceforth I shall have no trouble from thee [18], "for the Lord is my helper, and I shall look down on mine enemies."' Having heard this, the black one straightway fled, shuddering at the words and dreading any longer even to come near the man.

    7. This was Antony's first struggle against the devil, or rather this victory was the Saviour's work in Antony [19], 'Who condemned sin in the flesh that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit.' But neither did Antony, although the evil one had fallen, henceforth relax his care and despise him; nor did the enemy as though conquered tease to lay snares for him. For again he went round as a lion seeking some occasion against him. But Antony having learned from the Scriptures that the devices [20] of the devil are many, zealously continued the discipline, reckoning that though the devil had not been able to deceive his heart by bodily pleasure, he would endeavour to ensnare him by other means. For the demon loves sin. Wherefore more and more he repressed the body and kept it in subjection [1], lest haply having conquered on one side, he should be dragged down on the other. He therefore planned to accustom himself to a severer mode of life. And many marvelled, but he himself used to bear the labour easily; for the eagerness of soul, through the length of time it had abode in him, had wrought a good habit in him, so that taking but little initiation from others he shewed great zeal in this matter. He kept vigil to such an extent that he often continued the whole night without sleep; and this not once but often, to the marvel of other. He ate once a day, after sunset, sometimes once in two days, and often even in four. His food was bread and salt, his drink, water only. Of flesh and wine it is superfluous even to speak, since no such thing was found with the other earnest men. A rush mat served him to sleep upon, but for the most part he lay upon the bare ground. He would not anoint himself with oil, saying it behoved young men to be earnest in training and not to seek what would enervate the body; but they must accustom it to labour, mindful of the Apostle's words [2], ' when I am weak, then am I strong.' 'For,' said he, 'the fibre of the soul is then sound when the pleasures of the body are diminished.' And he had come to this truly wonderful conclusion, 'that progress in virtue, and retirement from the world for the sake of it, ought not to be measured by time, but by desire and fixity of purpose. He at least gave no thought to the past, but day by day, as if he were at the beginning of his discipline, applied greater pares for advancement, often repeating to himself the saying of Paul [3]: 'Forgetting the things which are behind and stretching forward to the things which are before.' He was also mindful of the words spoken by the prophet Elias [4], 'the Lord liveth before whose presence I stand to-day.' For he observed that in saying 'to-day' the prophet did not compute the time that had gone by: but daily as though ever commencing he eagerly endeavoured to make himself fit to appear before God, being pure in heart and ever ready to submit to His counsel, and to Him alone. And he used to say to himself that from the life of the great Elias the hermit ought to see his own as in a mirror.

    8. Thus tightening his hold upon himself, Antony departed to the tombs, which happened to be at a distance from the village; and having bid one of his acquaintances to bring him bread at intervals of many days, he entered one of the tombs, and the other having shut the door on him, he remained within alone. And when the enemy could not endure it. but was even fearful that in a short time Antony would fill the desert with the discipline, coming one night with a multitude of demons, he so cut him with stripes that he lay on the ground speechless from the excessive pain. For he affirmed that the torture had been so excessive that no blows inflicted by man could ever have caused him such torment. But by the Providence of God--for the Lord never overlooks them that hope in Him--the next day his acquaintance came bringing him the loaves. And having opened the door and seeing him lying on the ground as though dead, he lifted him up and carried him to the church in the village, and laid him upon the ground. And many of his kinsfolk and the villagers sat around Antony as round a corpse. But about midnight he came to himself and arose, and when he saw them all asleep and his comrade alone watching, he motioned with his head for him to approach, and asked him to carry him again to the tombs without waking anybody.

    9. He was carried therefore by the man, and as he was wont, when the door was shut he was within alone. And he could not stand up on account of the blows, but he prayed as he lay. And after he had prayed, he said with a shout, Here am I, Antony; I flee not from your stripes, for even if you inflict more nothing shall separate rues from the love of Christ. And then he sang, 'though a camp be set against me, my heart shall not be afraid [6].' These were the thoughts and words of this ascetic. But the enemy, who hates good, marvelling that after the blows he dared to return, called together his hounds and burst forth, 'Ye see,' said he, 'that neither by the spirit of lust nor by blows did we stay the man, but that he braves us, let us attack him in another fashion.' But changes of form for evil are easy for the devil, so in the night they made such a din that the whole of that place seemed to be shaken by an earthquake, and the demons as if breaking the four walls of the dwelling seemed to enter through them, coming in the likeness of beasts and creeping things. And the place was on a sudden filled with the forms of lions, bears, leopards, bulls, serpents, asps, scorpions, and wolves, and each of them was moving according to his nature. The lion was roaring, wishing to attack, the bull seeming to toss with its horns, the serpent writhing but unable to approach, and the wolf as it rushed on was restrained; altogether the noises of the apparitions, with their angry ragings, were dreadful. But Antony, stricken and goaded by them, felt bodily pains severer still. He lay watching, however, with unshaken soul, groaning from bodily anguish; but his mind was clear, and as in mockery he said, 'If there had been any power in you, it would have sufficed had one of you come, but since the Lord hath made you weak you attempt to terrify me by numbers: and a proof of your weakness is that you take the shapes of brute beasts.' And again with boldness he said, 'If you are able, and have received power against me, delay not to attack; but if you are unable, why trouble me in vain ? For faith in our Lord is a seal and a wall of safety to us.' So after many attempts they gnashed their teeth upon him, because they were mocking themselves rather than him.

    10. Nor was the Lord then forgetful of Antony's wrestling, but was at hand to help him. So looking up he saw the roof as it were opened, and a ray of light descending to him. The demons suddenly vanished, the pain of his body straightway ceased, and the building was again whole. But Antony feeling the help, and getting his breath again, and being freed from pain, besought the vision which had appeared to him, saying, 'Where wert thou ? Why didst thou not appear at the beginning to make my pains to cease?' And a voice came to him, 'Antony, I was here, but I waited to see thy fight; wherefore since thou hast endured, and hast not been worsted, I will ever be a succour to thee, and will make thy name known everywhere.' Having heard this, Antony arose and prayed, and received such strength that he perceived that he had more power in his body than formerly.And he was then about thirty-five years old.

    11. And on the day following he went forth still more eagerly bent on the service of God and having fallen in with the old man he had met previously, he asked him to dwell with him in the desert. But when the other declined on account of his great age, and because as yet there was no such custom, Antony himself set off forthwith to the mountain. And yet again the enemy seeing his zeal and wishing to hinder it, east in his way what seemed to be a great silver dish. But Antony, seeing the guile of the Evil One, stood, and having looked on the dish, he put the devil in it to shame, saying, 'Whence comes a dish in the desert ? This road is not well-worn, nor is there here a trace of any wayfarer; it could not have fallen without being missed on account of its size; and he who had lost it having turned back, to seek it, would have found it, for it is a desert place. This is some wile of the devil. O thou Evil One, not with this shalt thou hinder my purpose; let it go with thee to destruction. [3]' And when Antony had said this it vanished like smoke from the face of fire.

    12. Then again as he went on he saw what was this time not visionary, but real gold scattered in the way. But whether the devil showed it, or some better power to try the athlete and show the Evil One that Antony truly cared nought for money, neither he told nor do we know. But it is certain that that which appeared was gold. And Antony marvelled at the quantity, but passed it by as though he were going over fire; so he did not even turn, but hurried on at a run to lose sight of the place. More and more confirmed in his purpose, he hurried to the mountain, and having found a fort, so long deserted that it was full of creeping things, on the other side of the river; he crossed over to it and dwelt there. The reptiles, as though some one were chasing them, immediately left the place. But he built up the entrance completely, having stored up loaves for six months--this is a custom of the Thebans, and the loaves often remain fresh a whole year--and as he found water within, he descended as into a shrine, and abode within by himself, never going forth nor looking at any one who came. Thus he employed a long time training himself, and received loaves, let down from above, twice in the year.

    13. But those of his acquaintances who came, since he did not permit them to enter, often used to spend days and nights outside, and heard as it were crowds within clamouring, dinning, sending forth piteous voices and crying, 'Go from what is ours. What dost thou even in the desert? Thou canst not abide our attack.' So at first those outside thought there were some men fighting with him, and that they had entered by ladders; but when stooping down they saw through a hole there was nobody, they were afraid, accounting them to be demons, and they called on Antony. Them he quickly heard, though he had not given a thought to the demons, and coming to the door he besought them to depart and not to be afraid, 'for thus,' said he, 'the demons make their seeming onslaughts against those who are cowardly. Sign yourselves therefore with the cross [4], and depart boldly, and let these make sport for themselves.' So they departed fortified with the sign of the Cross. But he remained in no wise harmed by the evil spirits, nor was he wearied with the contest, for there came to his aid visions from above, and the weakness of the foe relieved him of much trouble and armed him with greater zeal. For his acquaintances used often to come expecting to find him dead, and would hear him singing [5], ' Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered, let them also that hate Him flee before His face. As smoke vanisheth, let them vanish; as wax melteth before the face of fire, so let the sinners perish from the face of God ;' and again, 'All nations compassed me about, and in the name of the Lord I requited them [6].'

    14. And so for nearly twenty years he continued training himself in solitude, never going forth, and but seldom seen by any. After this when many were eager and wishful to imitate his discipline, and his acquaintances came and began to cast down and wrench off the door by force, Antony, as from a shrine, came forth initiated in the mysteries and filled with the Spirit of God. Then for the first time he was seen outside the fort by those who came to see him. And they, when they saw him, wondered at the sight, for he had the same habit of body as before, and was neither fat, like a man without exercise, nor lean from fasting and striving with the demons, but he was just the same as they had known him before his retirement, And again his soul was free from blemish, for it was neither contracted as if by grief, nor relaxed by pleasure, nor possessed by laughter or dejection, for he was not troubled when he beheld the crowd, nor overjoyed at being saluted by so many. But he was altogether even as being guided by reason, and abiding in a natural state. Through him the Lord healed the bodily ailments of many present, and cleansed others from evil spirits. And He gave grace to Antony in speaking, so that he consoled many that were sorrowful, and set those at variance at one, exhorting all to prefer the love of Christ before all that is in the world. And while he exhorted and advised them to remember the good things to come, and the loving-kindness of God towards us, 'Who spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all [7],' he persuaded many to embrace the solitary life. And thus it happened in the end that cells arose even in the mountains, and the desert was colonised by monks, who came forth from their own people, and enrolled themselves for the citizenship in the heavens.

    15. But when he was obliged to cross the Arsenoitic Canal [8]--and the occasion of it was the visitation of the brethren--the canal was full of crocodiles. And by simply praying, he entered it, and all they with him, and passed over in safety. And having returned to his cell, he applied himself to the same noble and valiant exercises; and by frequent conversation he increased the eagerness of those already monks, stirred up in most of the rest the love of the discipline, and speedily by the attraction of his words. cells multiplied, and he directed them all as a father.

    16. One day when he had gone forth because all the monks had assembled to him and asked to hear words from him, he spoke to them in the Egyptian tongue as follows: 'The Scriptures are enough for instruction 9, but it is a good thing to encourage one another in the faith, and to stir up with words. Wherefore you, as children, carry that which you know to your father; and I as the elder share my knowledge and what experience has taught me with you. Let this especially be the common aim of all, neither to give way having once begun, nor to faint in trouble, nor to say: We have lived in the discipline a long time: but rather as though making a beginning daily let us increase our earnestness. For the whole life of man is very short, measured by the ages to come, wherefore all our time is nothing compared with eternal life. And in the world everything is sold at its price, and a man exchanges one equivalent for another; but the promise of eternal life is bought for a trifle. For it is written, "The days of our life in them are threescore years and ten, but if they are in strength, fourscore years, and what is more than these is labour and sorrow [10]. "Whenever, therefore, we live full fourscore years, or even a hundred in the discipline, not for a hundred years only shall we reign, but instead of a hundred we shall reign for ever and ever. And though we fought on earth, we shall not receive our inheritance on earth, but we have the promises in heaven; and having put off the body which is corrupt, we shall receive it incorrupt.

    17. ' Wherefore, children, let us not faint nor deem that the time is long, or that we are doing something great, "for the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward [11]" Nor let us think, as we look at the world, that we have renounced anything of much consequence, for the whole earth is very small compared with all the heaven. Wherefore if it even chanced that we were lords of all the earth and gave it all up, it would be nought worthy of comparison with the kingdom of heaven. For as if a man should despise a copper drachma to gain a hundred drachmas of gold; so if a man were lord of all the earth and were to renounce it, that which he gives up is little, and he receives a hundredfold. But if not even the whole earth is equal in value to the heavens, then he who has given up a few acres leaves as it were nothing; and even if he have given up a house or much gold he ought not to boast nor be low-spirited. Further, we should consider that even if we do not relinquish them for virtue's sake, still afterwards when we die we shall leave them behind--very often, as the Preacher saith [12], to those to whom we do not wish. Why then should we not give them up for virtue's sake, that we may inherit even a kingdom? Therefore let the desire of possession take hold of no one, for what gain is it to acquire these things which we cannot take with us? Why not rather get those things which we can take away with us--to wit, prudence, justice, temperance, courage, understanding, love, kindness to the poor, faith in Christ, freedom from wrath, hospitality? If we possess these, we shall find them of themselves preparing for us a welcome there in the land of the meek-hearted.

    18. 'And so from such things let a man persuade himself not to make light of it, especially if he considers that he himself is the servant of the Lord, and ought to serve his Master. Wherefore as a servant would not dare to say, because I worked yesterday, I will not work today; and considering the past will do no work in the future; but, as it is written in the Gospel, daily shows the same readiness to please his master, and to avoid risk: so let us daily abide firm in our discipline, knowing that if we are careless for a single day the Lord will not pardon us, for the sake of the past, but will be wrath against us for our neglect. As also we have heard in Ezekiel [13]; and as Judas because of one night destroyed his previous labour.

    19. 'Wherefore, children, let us hold fast our discipline, and let us not be careless. For in it the Lord is our fellow-worker, as it is written, "to all that choose the good, God worketh with them for good [14]." But to avoid being heedless, it is good to consider the word of the Apostle, "I die daily. [15].'' For if we too live as though dying daily, we shall not sin. And the meaning of that saying is, that as we rise day by day we should think that we shall not abide till evening; and again, when about to lie down to sleep, we should think that we shall not rise up. For our life is naturally uncertain, and Providence allots it to us daily. But thus ordering our daily life, we shall neither fall into sin, nor have a lust for anything, nor cherish wrath against any, nor shall we heap up treasure upon earth. But, as though under the daily expectation of death, we shall be without wealth, and shall forgive all things to all men, nor shall we retain at all the desire of women or of any other foul pleasure. But we shall turn from it as past and gone, ever striving and looking forward to the day of Judgment. For the greater dread and danger of torment ever destroys the ease of pleasure, and sets up the soul if it is like to fall.

    20. 'Wherefore having already begun and set out in the way of virtue, let us strive the more that we may attain those things that are before. And let no one turn to the things behind, like Lot's wife, all the more so that the Lord hath said, "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and turning back, is fit for the kingdom of heavens [16]." And this turning back is nought else but to feel regret, and to be once more worldly-minded. But fear not to hear of virtue, nor be astonished at the name. For it is not far from us, nor is it without ourselves, but it is within us, and is easy if only we are willing. That they may get knowledge, the Greeks live abroad and cross the sea, but we have no need to depart from home for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, nor to cross the sea for the sake of virtue. For the Lord aforetime hath said, "The kingdom of heaven is within you [17].'' Wherefore virtue hath need at our hands of willingness alone, since it is in us and is formed from us. For when the soul hath its spiritual faculty in a natural state virtue is formed. And it is in a natural state when it remains as it came into existence. And when it came into existence it was fair and exceeding honest. For this cause Joshua, the son of Nun, in his exhortation said to the people," Make straight your heart unto the Lord God of Israel [18]," and John, "Make your paths straight [19]." For rectitude of soul consists in its having its spiritual part in its natural state as created. But on the other hand, when it swerves and turns away from its natural state, that is called vice of the soul Thus the matter is not difficult. If we abide as we have been made, we are in a state of virtue, but if we think of ignoble things we shall be accounted evil. If, therefore, this thing had to be acquired from without, it would be difficult in reality; but if it is in us, let us keep ourselves from foul thoughts. And as we have received the soul as a deposit, let us preserve it for the Lord, that He may recognise His work as being the same as He made it.

    21. 'And let us strive that wrath rule us not nor lust overcome us, for it is written, "The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. And lust, when it hath conceived, beareth sin, and the sin when it is full grown bringeth forth death [20].'' Thus living, let us keep guard carefully, and as it is written, "keep our hearts with all watchfulness [1]." For we have terrible and crafty foes--the evil spirits--and against them we wrestle, as the Apostle said," Not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places [1a]." Great is their number in the air around us", and they are not far from us. Now there are great distinctions among them; and concerning their nature and distinctions much could be said, but such a description is for others of greater powers than we possess. But at this time it is pressing and necessary for us only to know their wiles against ourselves.

    22. 'First, therefore, we must know this: that the demons have not been created like what we mean when we call them by that name for God made nothing evil, but even they have been made good. Having fallen, however, from the heavenly wisdom, since then they have been grovelling on earth. On the one hand they deceived the Greeks with their displays, while out of envy of us Christians they move all things in their desire to hinder us from entry into the heavens; in order that we should not ascend up thither from whence they fell. Thus there is need of much prayer and of discipline, that when a man has received through the Spirit the gift of discerning spirits, he may have power to recognise their characteristics: which of them are less and which more evil; of what nature is the special pursuit of each, and how each of them is overthrown and cast out. For their villainies and the changes in their plots are many. The blessed Apostle and his followers knew such things when they said, "for we are not ignorant of his devices [3];" and we, from the temptations we have suffered at their hands, ought to correct one another under them. Wherefore I, having had proof of them, speak as to children.

    23. 'The demons, therefore, if they see all Christians, and monks especially, labouring cheerfully and advancing, first make an attack by temptation and place hindrances to hamper our way, to wit, evil thoughts. But we need not fear their suggestions, for by prayer, fasting, and faith in the Lord their attack immediately fails. But even when it does they cease not, but knavishly by subtlety come on again. For when they cannot deceive the heart openly with foul pleasures they approach in different guise, and thenceforth shaping displays they attempt to strike fear, changing their shapes, taking the forms of women, wild beasts, creeping things, gigantic bodies, and troops of soldiers. But not even then need ye fear their deceitful displays. For they are nothing and quickly disappear, especially if a man fortify himself beforehand with faith and the sign of the cross [4]. Yet are they bold and very shameless, for if thus they are worsted they make an onslaught in another manner, and pretend to prophesy and foretell the future, and to shew themselves of a height reaching to the roof and of great breadth; that they may stealthily catch by such displays those who could not be deceived by their arguments. If here also they find the soul strengthened by faith and a hopeful mind, then they bring their leader to their aid.

    24. 'And he said they often appeared as the Lord revealed the devil to Job, saying, "His eyes are as the morning star. From his mouth proceed burning lamps and hearths of fire are east forth. The smoke of a furnace blazing with the fire of coals proceeds from his nostrils. His breath is coals and from his mouth issues flames." When the prince of the demons appears in this wise, the crafty one, as I said before, strikes terror by speaking great things, as again the Lord convicted him saying to Job, for "he counteth iron as straw, and brass as rotten wood, yea he counteth the sea as a pot of ointment, and the depth of the abyss as a captive, and the abyss as a covered walk [6]." And by the prophet, "the enemy said, I will pursue and overtake [7]," and again by another, "I will grasp the whole world in my hand as a nest, and take it up as eggs that have been left [8]." Such, in a word, are their boasts and professions that they may deceive the godly. But not even then ought we, the faithful, to fear his appearance or give heed to his words. For he is a liar and speaketh of truth never a word. And though speaking words so many and so great in his boldness, without doubt, like a dragon he was drawn with a hook by the Saviour [9], and as a beast of burden he received the halter round his nostrils, and as a runaway his nostrils were bound with a ring, and his lips bored with an armlet [10]. And he was bound by the Lord as a sparrow, that we should mock him. And with him are placed the demons his fellows, like serpents and scorpions to be trodden underfoot by us Christians. And the proof of this is that we now live opposed to him. For he who threatened to dry the sea and seize upon the world, behold now cannot stay our discipline, nor even me speaking against him. Let us then heed not his words, for he is a liar: and let us not fear his visions, seeing that they themselves are deceptive. For that which appears in them is no true light, but they are rather the preludes and likenesses of the fire prepared for the demons who attempt to terrify men with those flames in which they themselves will be burned. Doubtless they appear; but in a moment disappear again, hurting none of the faithful, but bringing with them the likeness of that fire which is about to receive themselves. Wherefore it is unfitting that we should fear them on account of these things; for through the grace of Christ all their practices are in vain.

    25. 'Again they are treacherous, and are ready to change themselves into all forms and assume all appearances. Very often also without appearing they imitate the music of harp and voice, and recall the words of Scripture. Sometimes, too, while we are reading they immediately repeat many times, like an echo, what is read. They arouse us from our sleep to prayers; and this constantly, hardly allowing us to sleep at all. At another time they assume the appearance of monks and feign the speech of holy men, that by their similarity they may deceive and thus drag their victims where they will. But no heed must be paid them even if they arouse to prayer, even if they counsel us not to eat at all even though they seem to accuse and cast shame upon us for those things which once they allowed. For they do this not for the sake of piety or truth, but that they may carry off the simple to despair; and that they may say the discipline is useless, and make men loathe the solitary life as a trouble and burden, and hinder those who in spite of them walk in it.

    26. 'Wherefore the prophet sent by the Lord declared them to be wretched, saying: "Wo is he who giveth his neighbours to drink muddy destruction [11]." For such practices and devices are subversive of the way which leads to virtue. And the Lord Himself, even if the demons spoke the truth,--for they said truly "Thou art the Son of God [12]" --still bridled their mouths and suffered them not to speak lest haply they should sow their evil along with the truth, and that He might accustom us never to give heed to them even though they appear to speak what is true. For it is unseemly that we, having the holy Scriptures and freedom from the Saviour, should be taught by the devil who hath not kept his own order but hath gone from one mind to another [13]. Wherefore even when he uses the language of Scripture He forbids him, saying: "But to the sinner said God, Wherefore dost thou declare My ordinances and takest My covenant in thy mouth [14]?" For the demons do all things --they prate, they confuse, they dissemble, they confound--to deceive the simple. They din, laugh madly, and whistle; but if no heed is paid to them forthwith they weep and lament as though vanquished.

    27. 'The Lord therefore, as God, stayed the mouths of the demons: and it is fitting that we, taught by the saints, should do like them and imitate their courage. For they when they saw these things used to say: "When the sinner rose against me, I was dumb and humble, and kept silence from good words [15]." And again: "But I was as a deaf man and heard not, and as a dumb man who openeth not his mouth, and I became as a man who heareth not [16].'' So let us neither hear them as being strangers to us, nor give heed to them even through they arouse us to prayer and speak concerning fasting. But let us rather apply ourselves to our resolve of discipline, and let us not be deceived by them who do all things in deceit, even though they threaten death. For they are weak and can do nought but threaten.

    28. 'Already in passing I have spoken on these things, and now I must not shrink from speaking on them at greater length, for to put you in remembrance will be a source of safety. Since the Lord visited earth [17], the enemy is fallen and his powers weakened. Wherefore although he could do nothing, still like a tyrant, he did not bear his fall quietly, but threatened, though his threats were words only. And let each one of you consider this, and he will be able to despise the demons. Now if they were hampered with such bodies as we are, it would be possible for them to say, "Men when they are hidden we cannot find, but whenever we do find them we do them hurt." And we also by lying in concealment could escape them, shutting the doors against them. But if they are not of such a nature as this, but are able to enter in, though the doors be shut, and haunt all the air, both they and their leader the devil, and are wishful for evil and ready to injure; and, as the Saviour said, "From the beginning the devil is a manslayer and a father of vice [18];" while we, though this is so, are alive, and spend our lives all the more in opposing him; it is plain they are powerless. For place is no hindrance to their plots, nor do they look on us as friends that they should spare us; nor are they lovers of good that they should amend. But on the contrary they are evil, and nothing is so much sought after by them as wounding them that love virtue and fear God. But since they have no power to effect anything, they do nought but threaten. But if they could, they would not hesitate, but forthwith work evil (for all their desire is set on this), and especially against us. Behold now we are gathered together and speak against them, and they know when we advance they grow weak. If therefore they had power they would permit none of us Christians to live, for godliness is an abomination to a sinner [19]. But since they can do nothing they inflict the greater wounds on themselves; for they can fulfil none of their threats. Next this ought to be considered, that we may be in no fear of them: that if they had the power they would not come in crowds, nor fashion displays, nor with change of form would they frame deceits. But it would suffice that one only should come and accomplish that which he was both able and willing to do: especially as every one who has the power neither slays with display nor strikes fear with tumult, but forthwith makes full use of his authority as he wishes. But the demons as they have no power are like actors on the stage changing their shape and frightening children with tumultuous apparition and various forms: from which they ought rather to be despised as shewing their weakness. At least the true angel of the Lord sent against the Assyrian had no need for tumults nor displays from without, nor noises nor rattlings, but in quiet he used his power and forthwith destroyed a hundred and eighty-five thousand. But demons like these, who have no power, try to terrify at least by their displays [20].

    29. 'But if any one having in mind the history of Job [1] should say, Why then hath the devil gone forth and accomplished all things against him; and stripped him of all his possessions, and slew his children, and smote him with evil ulcers? let such a one, on the other hand, recognise that the devil was not the strong man, but God who delivered Job to him to be tried. Certainly he had no power to do anything, but he asked, and having received it, he hath wrought what he did. So also from this the enemy is the more to be condemned, for although willing he could not prevail against one just man. For if he could have, he would not have asked permission. But having asked not once but also a second time, he shows his weakness and want of power. And it is no wonder if he could do nothing against Job, when destruction would not have come even on his cattle had not God allowed it. And he has not the power over swine, for as it is written in the Gospel, they besought the Lord, saying, "Let us enter the swine [2]." But if they had power not even against swine, much less have they any over men formed [3] in the image of God.

    30. 'So then we ought to fear God only, and despise the demons, and be in no fear of them. But the more they do these things the more let us intensify our discipline against them, for a good life and faith in God is a great weapon. At any rate they fear the fasting, the sleeplessness, the prayers, the meekness, the quietness, the contempt of money and vainglory, the humility, the love of the poor, the alms, the freedom from anger of the ascetics, and, chief of all, their piety towards Christ. Wherefore they do all things that they may not have any that trample on them, knowing the grace given to the faithful against them by the Saviour, when He says, "Behold I have given to you power to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy [4]."

    31. 'Wherefore if they pretend to foretell the future, let no one give heed, for often they announce beforehand that the brethren are coming days after. And they do come. The demons, however, do this not from any care for the hearers, but to gain their trust, and that then at length, having got them in their power, they may destroy them. Whence we must give no heed to them, but ought rather to confute them when speaking, since we do not need them. For what wonder is it, if with more subtle bodies than men haves, when they have seen them start on their journey, they surpass them in speed, and announce their coming? Just as a horseman getting a start of a man on foot announces the arrival of the latter beforehand, so in this there is no need for us to wonder at them. For they know none of those things which are not yet in existence; but God only is He who knoweth all things before their birth [6]. But these, like thieves, running off first with what they see, proclaim it: to how many already have they announced our business--that we are assembled together, and discuss measures against them, before any one of us could go and tell these things. This in good truth a fleet-footed boy could do, getting far ahead of one less swift. But what I mean is this. If any one begins to walk from the Thebaid, or from any other district, before he begins to walk, they do not know whether he will walk. But when they have seen him walking they run on, and before he comes up report his approach. And so it falls out that after a few days the travellers arrive. But often the walkers turn back, and the demons prove false. 35. 'So, too, with respect to the water of the river, they sometimes make foolish statements, For having seen that there has been much rain in the regions of Ethiopia, and knowing that they are the cause of the flood of the river before the water has come to Egypt they run on and announce it. And this men could have told, if they had as great power of running as the demons. And as David's spy [7] going up to a lofty place saw the man approaching better than one who stayed down below, and the forerunner himself announced, before the others came up, not those things which had not taken place, but those things which were already on the way and were being accomplished, so these also prefer to labour, and declare what is happening to others simply for the sake of deceiving them. If, however, Providence meantime plans anything different for the waters or wayfarers--for Providence can do this--the demons are deceived, and those who gave heed to them cheated. 33. 'Thus in days gone by arose the oracles of the Greeks, and thus they were led astray by the demons. But thus also thenceforth their deception was brought to an end by the coming of the Lord [8], who brought to nought the demons and their devices. For they know nothing of themselves, but, like thieves, what they get to know from others they pass on, and guess at rather than foretell things. Therefore if sometimes they speak the truth, let no one marvel at them for this. For experienced physicians also, since they see the same malady in different people, often foretell what it is, making it out by their acquaintance with it. Pilots, too, and farmers, from their familiarity with the weather, tell at a glance the state of the atmosphere, and forecast whether it will be stormy or fine. And no one would say that they do this by inspiration, but from experience and practice. So if the demons sometimes do the same by guesswork, let no one wonder at it or heed them. For what use to the hearers is it to know from them what is going to happen before the time? Or what concern have we to know such things, even if the knowledge be true? For it is not productive of virtue, nor is it any token of goodness. For none of us is judged for what he knows not, and no one is called blessed because he hath learning and knowledge. But each one will be called to judgment in these points--whether he have kept the faith and truly observed the commandments.

    34. 'Wherefore there is no need to set much value on these things, nor for the sake of them to practise a life of discipline and labour; but that living well we may please God. And we neither ought to pray to know the future, nor to ask for it as the reward of our discipline; but our prayer should be that the Lord may be our fellow-helper for victory over the devil. And if even once we have a desire to know the future, let us be pure in mind, for I believe that if a soul is perfectly pure and in its natural state, it is able [9], being clear-sighted, to see more and further than the demons--for it has the Lord who reveals to it--like the soul of Elisha, which saw what was done [10] by Gehazi, and beheld the hosts [11] standing on its side.

    35. 'When, therefore, they come by night to you and wish to tell the future, or say, "we are the angels," give no heed, for they lie. Yea even if they praise your discipline and call you blessed, hear them not, and have no dealings with them; but rather sign yourselves and your houses, and pray, and you shall see them vanish. For they are cowards, and greatly fear the sign of the Lord's Cross, since of a truth in it the Saviour stripped them, and made an example of them [11a]. But if they shamelessly stand their ground, capering and changing their forms of appearance, fear them not, nor shrink, nor heed them as though they were good spirits. For the presence either of the good or evil by the help of God can easily be distinguished. The vision of the holy ones is not fraught with distraction: "For they will not strive, nor cry, nor shall any one hear their voice [12]." But it comes so quietly and gently that immediately joy, gladness and courage arise in the soul. For the Lord who is our joy is with them, and the power of God the Father. And the thoughts of the soul remain unruffled and undisturbed, so that it, enlightened as it were with rays, beholds by itself those who appear. For the love of what is divine and of the things to come possesses it, and willingly it would be wholly joined with them if it could depart along with them. But if, being men, some fear the vision of the good, those who appear immediately take fear away; as Gabriel [13] did in the case of Zacharias, and as the angel [14] did who appeared to the women at the holy sepulchre, and as He did who said to the shepherds in the Gospel, "Fear not." For their fear arose not from timidity, but from the recognition of the presence of superior beings. Such then is the nature of the visions of the holy ones.

    36. 'But the inroad and the display of the evil spirits is fraught with confusion, with din, with sounds and cryings such as the disturbance of boorish youths or robbers would occasion. From which arise fear in the heart, tumult and confusion of thought, dejection, hatred towards them who live a life of discipline, indifference, grief, remembrance of kinsfolk and fear of death, and finally desire of evil things, disregard of virtue and unsettled habits. Whenever, therefore, ye have seen ought and are afraid, if your fear is immediately taken away and in place of it comes joy unspeakable, cheerfulness, courage, renewed strength, calmness of thought and all those I named before boldness and love toward God,--take courage and pray. For joy and a settled state of soul show the holiness of him who is present. Thus Abraham beholding the Lord rejoiced [14]; so also John [15] at the voice of Mary, the God-bearer [16], leaped for gladness. But if at the appearance of any there is confusion, knocking without, worldly display, threats of death and the other things which I have already mentioned, know ye that it is an onslaught of evil spirits.

    37. 'And let this also be a token for you: whenever the soul remains fearful there is a presence of the enemies. For the demons do not take away the fear of their presence as the great archangel Gabriel did for Mary and Zacharias, and as he did who appeared to the women at the tomb; but rather whenever they see men afraid they increase their delusions that men may be terrified the more; and at last attacking they mock them, saying, "fall down and worship." Thus they deceived the Greeks, and thus by them they were considered gods, falsely so called. But the Lord did not suffer us to be deceived by the devil, for He rebuked him whenever he framed such delusions against Him, saying: "Get behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve [17]." More and more, therefore, let the deceiver be despised by us; for what the Lord hath said, this for our sakes He hath done: that the demons hearing like words from us may be put to flight through the Lord who rebuked them in those words.

    38. 'And it is not fitting to boast at the casting forth of the demons, nor to be uplifted by the healing of diseases: nor is it fitting that he who casts out devils should alone be highly esteemed, while he who casts them not out should be considered nought. But let a man learn the discipline of each one and either imitate, rival, or correct it. For the working of signs is not ours but the Saviour's work: and so He said to His disciples: "Rejoice not that the demons are subject to you, but that your names are written in the heavens [18]." For the fact that our names are written in heaven is a proof of our virtuous life, but to cast out demons is a favour of the Saviour who granted it. Wherefore to those who boasted in signs but not in virtue, and said: "Lord, in Thy name did we not cast out demons, and in Thy name did many mighty works [19]?" He answered, "Verily I say unto you, I know you not;" for the Lord knoweth not the ways of the wicked. But we ought always to pray, as I said above, that we may receive the gift of discerning spirits; that, as it is written [20], we may not believe every spirit.

    39. 'I should have liked to speak no further and to say nothing from my own promptings, satisfied with what I have said: but lest you should think that I speak at random and believe that I detail these things without experience or truth; for this cause even though I should become as a fool, yet the Lord who heareth knoweth the clearness of my con science, and that it is not for my own sake, but on account of your affection towards me and at your petition that I again tell what I saw of the practices of evil spirits. How often have they called me blessed and I have cursed them in the name of the Lord! How often have they predicted the rising of the river, and I answered them, "What have you to do with it?" Once they came threatening and surrounded me like soldiers in full armour. At another time they filled the house with horses, wild beasts and creeping things, and I sang: "Some in chariots and some in horses, but we will boast in the name of the Lord our God [1];" and at the prayers they were turned to flight by the Lord. Once they came in darkness, bearing the appearance of a light, and said, "We are come to give thee a light, Antony." But I closed my eyes and prayed, and immediately the light of the wicked ones was quenched. And a few months after they came as though singing psalms and babbling the words of Scripture, "But I like a deaf man, heard not [2]." Once they shook the cell [3] with an earthquake, but I continued praying with unshaken heart. And after this they came again making noises, whistling and dancing. But as I prayed and lay singing psalms to myself they forthwith began to lament and weep, as if their strength had failed them. But I gave glory to the Lord who had brought down and made an example of their daring and madness.

    40. 'Once a demon exceeding high appeared with pomp, and dared to say, "I am the power of God and I am Providence, what dost thou wish that I shall give thee?" But I then so much the more breathed upon him [3a], and spoke the name of Christ, and set about to smite him. And I seemed to have smitten him, and forthwith he, big as he was, together with all his demons, disappeared at the name of Christ. At another time, while I was fasting, he came full of craft, under the semblance of a monk, with what seemed to be loaves, and gave me counsel, saying, "Eat and cease from thy many labours. Thou also art a man and art like to fall sick." But I, perceiving his device, rose up to pray; and he endured it not, for he departed, and through the door there seemed to go out as it were smoke. How often in the desert has he displayed what resembled gold, that I should only touch it and look on it. But I sang psalms against him, and he vanished away. Often they would beat me with stripes, and I repeated again and again, "Nothing shall separate me from the love of Christ [4]," and at this they rather fell to beating one another. Nor was it I that stayed them and destroyed their power, but it was the Lord, who said, "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from Heavens; [5]" but I, children, mindful of the Apostle's words, transferred [6] this to myself, that you might learn not to faint in discipline, nor to fear the devil nor the delusions of the demons.

    41. 'And since I have become a fool in detailing these things, receive this also as an aid to your safety and fearlessness; and believe me for I do not lie. Once some one knocked at the door of my cell, and going forth I saw one who seemed of great size and tall. Then when I enquired, "Who art thou?" he said, "I am Satan." Then when I said, "Why art thou here?" he answered, "Why do the monks and all other Christians blame me undeservedly? Why do they curse me hourly?" Then I answered, "Wherefore dost thou trouble them?" He said, "I am not he who troubles them, but they trouble themselves, for I am become weak. Have they not read [7], "The swords of the enemy have come to an end, and thou hast destroyed the cities ?" I have no longer a place, a weapon, a city. The Christians are spread everywhere, and at length even the desert is filled with monks. Let them take heed to themselves, and let them not curse me unreservedly." Then I marvelled at the grace of the Lord, and said to him: "Thou who art ever a liar and never speakest the truth, this at length, even against thy will, thou hast truly spoken. For the coming of Christ hath made thee weak, and He hath cast thee down and stripped thee." But he having heard the Saviour's name, and not being able to bear the burning from it, vanished.

    42. 'If, therefore, the devil himself confesses that his power is gone, we ought utterly to despise both him and his demons; and since the enemy with his hounds has but devices of this sort, we, having got to know their weakness, are able to despise them. Wherefore let us not despond after this fashion, nor let us have a thought of cowardice in our heart, nor frame fears for ourselves, saying, I am afraid lest a demon should come and overthrow me; lest he should lift me up and cast me down; or lest rising against me on a sudden he confound me. Such thoughts let us not have in mind at all, nor let us be sorrowful as though we were perishing; but rather let us be courageous and rejoice always, believing that we are safe Let us consider in our soul that the Lord is with us, who put the evil spirits to flight and broke their power. Let us consider and lay to heart that while the Lord is with us, our foes can do us no hurt. For when they come they approach us in a form corresponding to the state in which they discover us [8], and adapt their delusions to the condition of mind in which they find us. If, therefore, they find us timid and confused, they forthwith beset the place, like robbers, having found it unguarded; and what we of ourselves are thinking, they do, and more also. For if they find us faint-hearted and cowardly, they mightily increase our terror, by their delusions and threats; and with these the unhappy soul is thenceforth tormented. But if they see us rejoicing in the Lord, contemplating the bliss of the future, mindful of the Lord, deeming all things in His hand, and that no evil spirit has any strength against the Christian, nor any power at all over any one--when they behold the soul fortified with these thoughts--they are discomfited and turned backwards. Thus the enemy, seeing Job fenced round with them, withdrew from him; but finding Judas unguarded, him he took captive. Thus if we are wishful to despise the enemy, let us ever ponder over the things of the Lord, and let the soul ever rejoice in hope. And we shall see the snares of the demon are like smoke, and the evil ones themselves flee rather than pursue For they are, as I said before, exceeding fearful, ever looking forward to the fire prepared for them.

    43. 'And for your fearlessness against them hold this sure sign--whenever there is any apparition, be not prostrate with fear, but whatsoever it be, first boldly ask, Who art thou? And from whence comest thou? And if it should be a vision of holy ones they will assure you, and change your fear into joy. But if the vision should be from the devil, immediately it becomes feeble, beholding your firm purpose of mind. For merely to ask, Who art thou [9]? and whence comest thou? is a proof of coolness. By thus asking, the son of Nun learned who his helper was; nor did the enemy escape the questioning of Daniel [10].'

    44. While Antony was thus speaking all rejoiced; in some the love of virtue increased, in others carelessness was thrown aside, the self-conceit of others was stopped; and all were persuaded to despise the assaults of the Evil One, and marvelled at the grace given to Antony from the Lord for the discerning of spirits. So their cells were in the mountains, like filled with holy bands of men who sang psalms, loved reading, fasted, prayed, rejoiced in the hope of things to come, laboured in alms-giving, and preserved love and harmony one with another. And truly it was possible, as it were, to behold a land set by itself, filled with piety and justice. For then there was neither the evil-doer, nor the injured, nor the reproaches of the tax-gatherer: but instead a multitude of ascetics; and the one purpose of them all was to aim at virtue. So that any one beholding the cells again, and seeing such good order among the monks, would lift up his voice and say, 'How goodly are thy dwellings, O Jacob, and thy tents, O Israel; as shady glens and as a garden [11] by a river; as tents which the Lord hath pitched, and like cedars near waters [12].'

    45. Antony, however, according to his custom, returned alone to his own cell increased his discipline, and sighed daily as he thought of the mansions in Heaven, having his desire fixed on them, and pondering over the shortness of man's life. And he used to eat and sleep, and go about all other bodily necessities with shame when he thought of the spiritual faculties of the soul. So often, when about to eat with any other hermits, recollecting the spiritual food, he begged to be excused, and departed far off from them, deeming it a matter for shame if he should be seen eating by others. He used, however, when by himself, to eat through bodily necessity, but often also with the brethren; covered with shame on these occasions, yet speaking boldly words of help. And he used to say that it behoved a man to give all his time to his soul rather than his body, yet to grant a short space to the body through its necessities; but all the more earnestly to give up the whole remainder to the soul and seek its profit, that it might not be dragged down by the pleasures of the body, but, on the contrary, the body might be in subjection to the soul. For this is that which was spoken by the Saviour: 'Be not anxious for your life what ye shall eat, nor for your body what ye shall put on. And do ye seek not what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, and be not of a doubtful mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after. But your Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. Howbeit seek ye first His Kingdom, and all these things shall be added unto you [13].'

    46. After this the Church was seized by the persecution which then [14] took place under Maximinus, and when the holy martyrs were led to Alexandria, Antony also followed, leaving his cell, and saying, Let us go too, that if called, we may contend or behold them that are contending. And he longed to suffer martyrdom, but not being willing to give himself up, he ministered to the confessors in the mines and in the prisons. And he was very zealous in the judgment hall to stir up to readiness those who were summoned when in their contest, while those who were being martyred he received and brought on their way until they were perfected. The judge, therefore, beholding the fearlessness of Antony and his companions, and their zeal in this matter, commanded that no monk should appear in the judgment hall, nor remain at all in the city. So all the rest thought it good to hide themselves that day, but Antony gave so little heed to the command that he washed his garment, and stood all next day on a raised place before them, and appeared in his best before the governor. Therefore when all the rest wondered at this, and the governor saw and passed by with his array, he stood fearlessly, shewing the readiness of us Christians. For, as I said before, he prayed himself to be a martyr, wherefore he seemed as one grieved that he had not borne his witness. But the Lord was keeping him for our profit and that of others, that he should become a teacher to many of the discipline which he had learned from the Scriptures. For many only beholding his manner of life were eager to be imitators of his ways. So he again ministered as usual to the confessors, and as though he were their fellow captive he laboured in his ministry.

    47. And when at last the persecution ceased, and the blessed Bishop Peter [15] had borne his testimony; Antony departed, and again withdrew to his cell, and was there daily a martyr to his conscience, and contending in the conflicts of faith. And his discipline was much severer, for he was ever fasting, and he had a garment of hair on the inside, while the outside was skin, which he kept until his end. And he neither bathed his body with water to free himself from filth, nor did he ever wash his feet nor even endure so much as to put them into water, unless compelled by necessity. Nor did any one even see him unclothed, nor his body naked at all, except after his death, when he was buried.

    48. When therefore he had retired and determined to fix a time, after which neither to go forth himself nor admit anybody, Martinian, a military officer, came and disturbed Antony. For he had a daughter afflicted with an evil spirit. But when he continued for a long while knocking at the door, and asking him to come out and pray to God for his child, Antony, not bearing to open, looked out from above and said, 'Man, why dost thou call on me? I also am a man even as you. But if you believe on Christ whom I serve, go, and according as you believe, pray to God, and it shall come to pass.' Straightway, therefore, he departed, believing and calling upon Christ, and he received his daughter cleansed from the devil. Many other things also through Antony the Lord did, who saith, 'Seek and it shall be given unto you [16].' For many of the sufferers, when he would not open his door, slept outside his cell, and by their faith and sincere prayers were healed.

    49. But when he saw himself beset by many, and not suffered to withdraw himself according to his intent as he wished, fearing because of the signs which the Lord wrought by him, that either he should be puffed up, or that some other should think of him above what he ought to think, he considered and set off to go into the upper Thebaid, among those to whom he was unknown. And having received loaves from the brethren, he sat down by the bank of the river, looking whether a boat would go by, that, having embarked thereon, he might go up the river with them. While he was considering these things, a voice came to him from above, 'Antony, whither goest thou and wherefore?' But he no way disturbed, but as he had been accustomed to be called [16a] often thus, giving ear to it, answered, saying, 'Since the multitude permit me not to be still, I wish to go into the upper Thebaid on account of the many hindrances that come upon me here, and especially because they demand of me things beyond my power.' But the voice said unto him, 'Even though you should go into the Thebaid, or even though, as you have in mind, i you should go down to the Bucolia [17], you will have to endure more, aye, double the amount of toil. But if you wish really to be in quiet, depart now into the inner desert.' And when Antony said, 'Who will show me the way for I know it not?' immediately the voice pointed out to him Saracens about to go that way. So Antony approached, and drew near them, and asked that he might go with them into the desert. And they, as though they had been commanded by Providence, received him willingly. And having journeyed with them three days and three nights, he came to a very lofty mountain, and at the foot of the mountain ran a clear spring, whose waters were sweet and very cold; outside there was a plain and a few uncared-for palm trees.

    50. Antony then, as it were, moved by God, loved the place [18], for this was the spot which he who had spoken with him by the banks of the river had pointed out. So having first received loaves from his fellow travellers, he abode in the mountain alone, no one else being with him. And recognising it as his own home, he remained in that place for the future. But the Saracens, having seen the earnestness of Antony, purposely used to journey that way, and joyfully brought him loaves, while now and then the palm trees also afforded him a poor and frugal relish. But after this, the brethren learning of the place, like children mindful of their father, took care to send to him. But when Antony saw that the bread was the cause of trouble and hardships to some of them, to spare the monks this, he resolved to ask some of those who came to bring him a spade, an axe, and a little corn. And when these were brought, he went over the land round the mountain, and having found a small plot of suitable ground, tilled it; and having a plentiful supply of water for watering, he sowed. This doing year by year, he got his bread from thence, rejoicing that thus he would be troublesome to no one, and because he kept himself from being a burden to anybody. But after this, seeing again that people came, he cultivated a few pot-herbs, that he who came to him might have some slight solace after the labour of that hard journey. At first, however, the wild beasts in the desert, coming because of the water, often injured his seeds and husbandry. But he, gently laving hold of one of them, said to them all, 'Why do you hurt me, when I hurt none of you? Depart, and in the name of the Lord come not nigh this spot.' And from that time forward, as though fearful of his command, they no more came near the place.

    51. So he was alone in the inner mountain, spending his time in prayer and discipline. And the brethren who served him asked that they might come every month and bring him olives, pulse and oil, for by now he was an old man. There then he passed his life, and endured such great wrestlings, 'Not against flesh and blood [19],' as it is written, but against opposing demons, as we learned from those who visited him. For there they heard tumults, many voices, and, as it were, the clash of arms. At night they saw the mountain become full of wild beasts, and him also fighting as though against visible beings, and praying against them. And those who came to him he encouraged, while kneeling he contended and prayed to the Lord. Surely it was a marvellous thing that a man, alone in such a desert, feared neither the demons who rose up against him, nor the fierceness of the four-footed beasts and creeping things, for all they were so many. But in truth, as it is written, 'He trusted in the Lord as Mount Sion [20],' with a mind unshaken and undisturbed; so that the demons rather fled from him, and the wild beasts, as it is written [21], 'kept peace with him.'

    52. The devil, therefore, as David says in the Psalms [1], observed Antony and gnashed his teeth against him. But Antony was consoled by the Saviour and continued unhurt by his wiles and varied devices. As he was watching in the night the devil sent wild beasts against him. And almost all the hyenas in that desert came forth from their dens and surrounded him; and he was in the midst, while each one threatened to bite. Seeing that it was a trick of the enemy he said to them all: 'If ye have received power against me I am ready to be devoured by you; but if ye were sent against me by demons, stay not, but depart, for I am a servant of Christ.' When Antony said this they fled, driven by that word as with a whip.

    53. A few days after, as he was working (for he was careful to work hard), some one stood at the door and pulled the plait which he was working, for he used to weave baskets, which he gave to those who came in return for what they brought him. And rising up he saw a beast like a man to the thighs but having legs and feet like those of an ass. And Antony only signed himself and said, 'I am a servant of Christ. If thou art sent against me, behold I am here.' But the beast together with his evil spirits fled, so that, through his speed, he fell and died. And the death of the beast was the fall of the demons. For they strove in all manner of ways to lead Antony from the desert and were not able.

    54. And once being asked by the monks to come down and visit them and their abodes after a time, he journeyed with those who came to him. And a camel carried the loaves and the water for them. For all that desert is dry, and there is no water at all that is fit to drink, save in that mountain from whence they drew the water, and in which Antony's cell was. So when the water failed them on their way, and the heat was very great, they all were in danger. For having gone round the neighbour-hood and finding no water, they could walk no further, but lay on the ground and despairing of themselves, let the camel go. But the old man seeing that they were all in jeopardy, groaning in deep grief, departed a little way from them, and kneeling down he stretched forth his hands and prayed. And immediately the Lord made water to well forth where he had stood praying, and so all drank and were revived. And having filled their bottles they sought the camel and found her, for the rope happened to have caught in a stone and so was held fast. Having led it and watered it they placed the bottles on its back and finished their journey in safety. And when he came to the outer cells all saluted him, looking on him as a father. And he too, as though bringing supplies from the mountain, entertained them with his words and gave them a share of help. And again there was joy in the mountains, zeal for improvement and consolation through their mutual faith. Antony also rejoiced when he beheld the earnestness of the monks, and his sister grown old in virginity, and that she herself also was the leader of other virgins.

    55. So after certain days he went in again to the mountain. And henceforth many resorted to him, and others who were suffering ventured to go in. To all the monks therefore who came to him, he continually gave this precept: 'Believe on the Lord and love Him; keep yourselves from filthy thoughts and fleshly pleasures, and as it is written in the Proverbs, be not deceived "by the fulness of the belly [a]." Pray continually; avoid vainglory; sing psalms before sleep and on awaking; hold in your heart the commandments of Scripture; be mindful of the works of the saints that your souls being put in remembrance of the commandments may be brought into harmony with the zeal of the saints.' And especially he counselled them to meditate continually on the apostle's word, 'Let not the sun go down upon your wrath? And he considered this was spoken of all commandments in common, and that not on wrath alone, but not on any other sin of ours, ought the sun to go down. For it was good and needful that neither the sun should condemn us for an evil by day nor the moon for a sin by night, or even for an evil thought. That this state may l be preserved in us it is good to hear the apostle and keep his words, for he says, 'Try your own selves and prove your own selves [4].' Daily, therefore, let each one take from himself the tale of his actions both by day and night; and if he have sinned, let him cease from it; while if he have not, let him not be boastful. But let him abide in that which is good, without being negligent, nor condemning his neighbours, nor justifying himself, 'until the Lord come who searcheth out hidden things [5],' as saith the blessed apostle Paul. For often unawares we do things that we know not of but the Lord seeth all things. Wherefore committing the judgment to Him, let us have sympathy one with another. Let us bear each other's burdens [6]: but let us examine our own selves and hasten to fill up that in which we are lacking. And as a safeguard against sin let the following be observed. Let us each one note and write down our actions and the impulses of our soul as though we were going to relate them to each other. And be assured that if we should be utterly ashamed to have them known, we shall abstain from sin and harbour no base thoughts in our mind. For who wishes to be seen while sinning? or who will not rather lie after the commission of a sin, through the wish to escape notice? As then while we are looking at one another, we would not commit carnal sin, so if we record our thoughts as though about to tell them to one another, we shall the more easily keep ourselves free from vile thoughts through shame lest they should be known. Wherefore let that which is written be to us in place of the eyes of our fellow hermits, that blushing as much to write as if we had been caught, we may never think of what is unseemly. Thus fashioning ourselves we shall be able to keep the body in subjection, to please the Lord, and to trample on the devices of the enemy.

    56. This was the advice he gave to those who came to him. And with those who suffered he sympathised and prayed. And oft-times the Lord heard him on behalf of many: yet he boasted not because he was heard, nor did he murmur if he were not. But always he gave the Lord thanks and besought the sufferer to be patient, and to know that healing belonged neither to him nor to man at all, but only to the Lord, who doeth good when and to whom He will. The sufferers therefore used to receive the words of the old man as though they were a cure, learning not to be downhearted but rather to be long-suffering. And those who were healed were taught not to give thanks to Antony but to God alone.

    57. Wherefore a man, Fronto by name, who was an officer of the Court and had a terrible disease, for he used to bite his own tongue and was in danger of injury to his eyes, having come to the mountain, asked Antony to pray for him. But Antony said to him, 'Depart and thou shalt be healed.' But when he was violent and remained within some days, Antony waited and said, 'If thou stayest here, thou canst not be healed. Go, and having come into Egypt thou shall see the sign wrought in thee.' And he believed and went. And as soon as he set eyes on Egypt his sufferings ceased, and the man became whole according to the word of Antony, which the Saviour had revealed to him in prayer.

    58. There was also a maiden from Busiris Tripolitana, who had a terrible and very hideous disorder. For the runnings of her eyes, nose, and ears fell to the ground and immediately became worms. She was paralysed also and squinted. Her parents having heard of monks going to Antony, and believing on the Lord who healed [7] the woman with the issue of blood, asked to be allowed, together with their daughter, to journey with them. And when they suffered them, the parents together with the girl, remained outside the mountain with Paphnutius, the confessor and monk; but the monks went in to Antony. And when they only wished to tell about the damsel, he anticipated them, and detailed both the sufferings of the child and how she journeyed with them. Then when they asked that she should be admitted, Antony did not allow it, but said, 'Go, and if she be not dead, you will find her healed: for the accomplishment of this is not mine, that she should come to me, wretched man that I am, but her healing is the work of the Saviour, who in every place sheweth His pity to them that call upon Him. Wherefore the Lord hath inclined to her as she prayed, and His loving-kindness hath declared to me that He will heal the child where she now is.' So the wonder took place; and going out they found the parents rejoicing and the girl whole.

    59. But when two brethren were coming to him, the water failed on the way, and one died and the other was at the point of death, for he had no strength to go on, but lay upon the ground expecting to die. But Antony sitting in the mountain called two monks, who chanced to be there, and urged them saying, 'Take a pitcher of water and run on the road towards Egypt. For of two men who were coming, one is already dead and the other will die unless you hasten. For this has been revealed to me as I was praying.' The monks therefore went, and found one lying dead, whom they buried, and the other they restored with water and led him to the old man. For it was a day's journey [7a]. But if any one asks, why he did not speak before the other died, the question ought not to be asked. For the punishment of death was not Antony's but God's, who also judged the one and revealed the condition of the other. But the marvel here was only in the case of Antony: that he sitting in the mountain had his heart watchful, and had the Lord to show him things afar off.

    60. And this is so, for once again he was sitting on the mountain, and looking up saw in the air some one being borne upwards, and there was much joy among those who met him. Then wondering and deeming a company of that kind to be blessed, he prayed to learn what this might be. And immediately a voice came to him: 'This is the soul of Amun, the monk at Nitria.' Now Amun had persevered in the discipline up to old age; and the distance from Nitria to the mountain where Antony was, was thirteen days' journey. The companions of Antony therefore, seeing the old man amazed, asked to learn, and heard that Amun was just dead [8]. And he was well known, for he had stayed there very often, and many signs had been wrought by his means. And this is one of them. Once when he had need to cross the river called Lycus (now it was the season of the flood), he asked his comrade Theodorus to remain at a distance, that they should not see one another naked as they swam the water. Then when Theodorus was departed he again felt ashamed even to see himself naked. While, therefore, he was pondering filled with shame, on a sudden he was borne over to the other side. Theodorus, therefore, himself being a good man, approached, and seeing Amun across first without a drop of water falling from him, enquired how he had got over. And when he saw that Amun was unwilling to tell him, he held him by the feet and declared that he would not let him go before he had learned it from him. So Amun seeing the determination of Theodorus especially from what he had said, and having asked him to tell no man before his death, told him that he had been carried and placed on the further side. And that he had not even set foot on the water, nor was that possible for man, but for the Lord alone and those whom He permits, as He did for the great apostle Peter [9]. Theodorus therefore told this after the death of Amun. And the monks to whom Antony spoke concerning Amun's death marked the day; and when the brethren came up from Nitria thirty days after, they enquired of them and learned that Amun had fallen asleep at that day and hour in which the old man had seen his soul borne upwards. And both these and the others marvelled at the purity of Antony's soul, how he had immediately learned that which was taking place at a distance of thirteen days' journey, and had seen the soul as it was taken up.

    61. And Archelaus too, the Count, on a time having found him in the outer mountain, asked him merely to pray for Polycratia of Laodicea, an excellent and Christian [9a] maiden, for she suffered terribly in the stomach and side through over much discipline, and was altogether weakly of body. Antony prayed therefore, and the Count noted the day in which the prayer was made, and having departed to Laodicea he found the maiden whole. And having enquired when and on what day she was relieved of her infirmity, he produced the paper on which he had written the time of the prayer, and having read it he immediately shewed the writing on the paper. And all wondered when they knew that the Lord had relieved her of pain at the time when Antony was praying and invoking the goodness of the Saviour on her behalf.

    62. And concerning those who came to him, he often foretold some days or sometimes a month beforehand what was the cause of their coming. For some came only for the sake of seeing him, others through sickness, and others suffering from evil spirits. And all thought the labour of the journey neither trouble nor loss. For each one returned aware that he had received benefit. But though saying such things and beholding such sights, he used to ask that no one should wonder at him for this; but should rather marvel at the Lord for having granted to us men to know Him as far as our powers extended.

    63. Afterwards, on another occasion, having descended to the outer cells, he was asked to enter a vessel and pray with the monks, and he alone perceived an exceedingly unpleasant smell. But those on board said that the stench arose from the fish and salt meat in the ship. He replied however, the smell was different from that; and while he was speaking, a youth with an evil spirit, who had come and hidden himself in the ship, cried out. But the demon being rebuked in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ departed from him, and the man became whole. And all knew that the evil smell arose from the demon.

    64. And another, a person of rank, came to him, possessed by a demon; and the demon was so terrible that the man possessed did not know that he was coming to Antony. But he even ate the excreta from his body. So those who brought him besought Antony to pray for him. And Antony pitying the young man prayed and kept watch with him all the night. And about dawn the young man suddenly attacked Antony and gave him a push. But when those who came with him were angry, Antony said, 'Be not angry with the young man, for it is not he, but the demon which is in him. And being rebuked and commanded to go into dry places, the demon became raging mad, and he has done this. Wherefore give thanks to the Lord, for his attack on me thus is a sign of the departure of the evil spirit.' When Antony had said this, straightway the young man had become whole, and having come at last to his right mind, knew where he was, and saluted the old man and gave thanks to God.

    65. And many monks have related with the greatest agreement and unanimity that many other such like things were done by him. But still these do not seem as marvellous as certain other things appear to be. For once, when about to eat, having risen up to pray about the ninth hour, he perceived that he was caught up in the spirit, and, wonderful to tell, he stood and saw himself, as it were, from outside himself, and that he was led in the air by certain ones. Next certain bitter and terrible beings stood in the air and wished to hinder him from passing through. But when his conductors opposed them, they demanded whether he was not accountable to them. And when they wished to sum up the account from his birth, Antony's conductors stopped them, saying, 'The Lord hath wiped out the sins from his birth, but from the time he became a monk, and devoted himself to God, it is permitted you to make a reckoning.' Then when they accused him and could not convict him, his way was free and unhindered. And immediately he saw himself, as it were, coming and standing by himself, and again he was Antony as before. Then forgetful of eating, he remained the rest of the day and through the whole of the night groaning and praying. For he was astonished when he saw against what mighty opponents our wrestling is, and by what labours we have to pass through the air. And he remembered that this is what the Apostle said, 'according to the prince of the power of the air [10].' For in it the enemy hath power to fight and to attempt to hinder those who pass through. Wherefore most earnestly he exhorted, 'Take up the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day [11],' that the enemy, 'having no evil thing to say against us, may be ashamed [12].' And we who have learned this, let us be mindful of the Apostle when he says, 'whether in the body I know not, or whether out of the body I know not; God knoweth [13].' But Paul was caught up unto the third heaven, and having heard things unspeakable he came down; while Antony saw that he had come to the air, and contended until he was free.

    66. And he had also this favour granted him. For as he was sitting alone on the mountain, if ever he was in perplexity in his meditations, this was revealed to him by Providence in prayer. And the happy man, as it is written, was taught of God [14]. After this, when he once had a discussion with certain men who had come to him concerning the state of the soul and of what nature its place will be after this life, the following night one from above called him, saying, 'Antony, rise, go out and look.' Having gone out therefore (for he knew whom he ought to obey) looking up, he beheld one standing and reaching to the clouds, tall, hideous, and fearful, and others ascending as though they were winged. And the figure stretched forth his hands, and some of those who were ascending were stayed by him, while others flew above, and having escaped heavenward, were borne aloft free from care. At such, therefore, the giant gnashed his teeth, but rejoiced over those who fell back. And forthwith a voice came to Antony, 'Understandest thou what thou seest?' And his understanding was opened, and he understood that it was the passing of souls, and that the tall being who stood was the enemy who envies the faithful. And those whom he caught and stopped from passing through are accountable to him, while those whom he was unable to hold as they passed upwards had not been subservient to him. So having seen this, and as it were being reminded, he struggled the more daily to advance towards those things which were before. And these visions he was unwilling to tell, but as he spent much time in prayer, and was amazed, when those who were with him pressed him with questions and forced him, he was compelled to speak, as a father who cannot withhold ought from his children. And he thought that as his conscience was clear, the account would be beneficial for them, that they might learn that discipline bore good fruit, and that visions were oftentimes the solace of their labours.

    67. Added to this he was tolerant in disposition and humble in spirit. For though he was such a man, he observed the rule of the Church most rigidly, and was willing that all the clergy should be honoured above himself [17]. For he was not ashamed to bow his head to bishops and presbyters,and if ever a deacon came to him for help he discoursed with him on what was profitable, but gave place to him in prayer, not being ashamed to learn himself. For often he would ask questions, and desired to listen to those who were present, and if any one said anything that was useful he confessed that he was profited. And besides, his countenance had a great and wonderful grace. This gift also he had from the Saviour. For if he were present in a great company of monks, and any one who did not know him previously, wished to see him, immediately coming forward he passed by the rest, and hurried to Antony, as though attracted by his appearance. Yet neither in height nor breadth was he conspicuous above others, but in the serenity of his manner and the purity of his soul. For as his soul was free from disturbances, his outward appearance was calm; so from the joy of his soul he possessed a cheerful countenance, and from his bodily movements could be perceived the condition of his soul, as it is written, 'When the heart is merry the countenance is cheerful, but when it is sorrowful it is cast down [18].' Thus Jacob recognised the counsel Laban had in his heart, and said to his wives, 'The countenance of your father is not as it was yesterday and the day before [19].' Thus Samuel recognised David, for he had mirthful eyes, and teeth white as milk. Thus Antony was recognised, for he was never disturbed, for his soul was at peace; he was never downcast, for his mind was joyous.

    68. And he was altogether wonderful in faith and religious, for he never held communion with the Meletian schismatics, knowing their wickedness and apostasy from the beginning; nor had he friendly dealings with the Manichaeans or any other heretics; or, if he had, only as far as advice that they should change to piety. For he thought and asserted that intercourse with these was harmful and destructive to the soul. In the same manner also he loathed the heresy of the Arians, and exhorted all neither to approach them nor to bold their erroneous belief. And once when certain Arian madmen came to him, when he had questioned them and learned their impiety, he drove them from the mountain, saying that their words were worse than the poison of serpents.

    69. And once also the Arians having lyingly asserted that Antony's opinions were the same as theirs, he was displeased and wroth against them. Then being summoned by the bishops and all the brethren, he descended from the mountain, and having entered Alexandria [19a], he denounced the Arians, saying that their heresy was the last of all and a forerunner of Antichrist. And he taught the people that the Son of God was not a created being, neither had He come into being from non-existence, but that He was the Eternal Word and Wisdom of the Essence of the Father. And therefore it was impious to say, 'there was a time when He was not,' for the Word was always co-existent with the Father. Wherefore have no fellowship with the most impious Arians. For there is no communion between light and darkness [20]. For you are good Christians, but they, when they say that the Son of the Father, the Word of God, is a created being, differ in nought from the heathen, since they worship that which is created, rather than God the creator [1]. But believe ye that the Creation itself is angry with them because they number the Creator, the Lord of all, by whom all things came into being, with those things which were originated.

    70. All the people, therefore, rejoiced when they heard the anti-Christian heresy anathematised by such a man. And all the people in the city ran together to see Antony; and the Greeks and those who are called their Priests, came into the church, saying, 'We ask to see the man of God,' for so they all called him. For in that place also the Lord cleansed many of demons, and healed those who were mad. And many Greeks asked that they might even but touch the old man, believing that they should be profited. Assuredly as many became Christians in those few days as one would have seen made in a year. Then when some thought that he was troubled by the crowds, and on this account turned them all away from him, he said, undisturbedly, that there were not more of them than of the demons with whom he wrestled in the mountain.

    71. But when he was departing, and we were setting him forth on his way, as we [2] arrived at the gate a woman from behind cried out, 'Stay, thou man of God, my daughter is grievously vexed by a devil. Stay, I beseech thee, lest I too harm myself with running.' And the old man when he heard her, and was asked by us, willingly stayed. And when the woman drew near, the child was cast on the ground. But when Antony had prayed and called upon the name of Christ, the child was raised whole, for the unclean spirit was gone forth. And the mother blessed God, and all gave thanks. And Antony himself also rejoiced, departing to the mountain as though it were to his own home.

    72. And Antony also was exceeding prudent, and the wonder was that although he had not learned letters, he was a ready-witted and sagacious man. At all events two Greek philosophers once came, thinking they could try their skill on Antony; and he was in the outer mountain, and having recognised who they were from their appearance, he came to them and said to them by means of an interpreter, 'Why, philosophers, did ye trouble yourselves so much to come to a foolish man?' And when they said that he was not a foolish man, but exceedingly prudent, he said to them, ' If you came to a foolish man, your labour is superfluous; but if you think me prudent become as I am, for we ought to imitate what is good. And if I had come to you I should have imitated you; but if you to me, become as I am, for I am a Christian.' But they departed with wonder, for they saw that even demons feared Antony.

    73. And again others such as these met him in the outer mountain and thought to mock [3], him because he had not learned letters. And Antony said to them, 'What say ye? which is first, mind or letters? And which is the cause of which--mind of letters or letters of mind?' And when they answered mind is first and the inventor of letters, Antony said, 'Whoever, therefore, hath a sound mind hath not need of letters.' This answer amazed both the bystanders and the philosophers, and they departed marvelling that they had seen so much understanding in an ignorant man. For his manners were not rough as though he bad been reared in the mountain and there grown old, but graceful and polite, and his speech was seasoned with the divine salt, so that no one was envious, but rather all rejoiced over him who visited him.

    74. After this again certain others came; and these were men who were deemed wise among the Greeks, and they asked him a reason for our faith in Christ. But when they attempted to dispute concerning the preaching of the divine Cross and meant to mock, Antony stopped for a little, and first pitying their ignorance, said, through an interpreter, who could skilfully interpret his words, 'Which is more beautiful, to confess the Cross or to attribute to those whom you call gods adultery and the seduction of boys? For that which is chosen by us is a sign of courage and a sure token of the contempt of death, while yours are the passions of licentiousness. Next, which is better, to say that the Word of God was not changed, but, being the same, He took a human body for the salvation and well-being of man, that having shared in human birth He might make man partake in the divine and spiritual nature [4]; or to liken the divine to senseless animals and consequently to worship four-footed beasts, creeping things and the likenesses of men? For these things, are the objects of reverence of you wise men. But how do you dare to mock us, who say that Christ has appeared as man, seeing that you, bringing the soul from heaven, assert that it has strayed and fallen from the vault of the sky into body [5]? And would that you had said that it had fallen into human body alone, and not asserted that it passes and changes into four-footed beasts and creeping things. For our faith declares that the coming of Christ was for the salvation of men. But you err because you speak of soul as not generated. And we, considering the power and loving-kindness of Providence, think that the coming of Christ in the flesh was not impossible with God. But you, although calling the soul the likeness of Mind [6], connect it with falls and feign in your myths that it is changeable, and consequently introduce the idea that Mind itself is changeable by reason of the soul. For whatever is the nature of a likeness, such necessarily is the nature of that of which it is a likeness. But whenever you think such a thought concerning Mind, remember that you blaspheme even the Father of Mind Himself [7].

    75. But concerning the Cross, which would you say to be the better, to bear it, when a plot is brought about by wicked men, nor to be in fear of death brought about under any form whatever [8]; or to prate about the wanderings of Osiris and Isis, the plots of Typhon, the flight of Cronos, his eating his children and the slaughter of his father. For this is your wisdom. But how, if you mock the Cross, do you not marvel at the resurrection? For the same men who told us of the latter wrote the former, Or why when you make mention of the Cross are you silent about the dead who were raised, the blind who received their sight, the paralytics who were healed, the lepers who were cleansed, the walking upon the sea, and the rest of the signs and wonders, which shew that Christ is no longer a man but God? To me you seem to do yourselves much injustice and not to have carefully read our Scriptures. But read and see that the deeds of Christ prove Him to be God come upon earth for the salvation of men.

    76. But do you tell us your religious beliefs. What can you say of senseless creatures except senselessness and ferocity? But if, as I hear, you wish to say that these things are spoken of by you as legends, and you allegorize the rape of the maiden Persephone of the earth; the lameness of Hephaestus of fire; and allegorize the air as Hera, the sun as Apollo, the moon as Artemis, and the sea as Poseidon; none the less, you do not worship God Himself, but serve the creature rather than God who created all things. For if because creation is: beautiful you composed such legends, still it was fitting that you should stop short at admiration and not make gods of the things created; so that you should not give the honour of the Creator to that which is created. Since, if you do, it is time for you to divert the honour of the master builder to the house built by him; and of the general to the soldier. What then can you reply to these things, that we may know whether the Cross hath anything worthy of mockery?'

    77. But when they were at a loss, turning hither and thither, Antony smiled and said--again through an interpreter--'Sight itself carries the conviction of these things. But as you prefer to lean upon demonstrative arguments, and as you, having this art, wish us also not to worship God, until after such proof, do you tell first how things in general and specially the recognition of God are accurately known. Is it through demonstrative argument or the working of faith? And which is better, faith which comes through the inworking (of God) or demonstration by arguments?' And when they answered that faith which comes through the inworking was better and was accurate knowledge, Antony said, 'You have answered well, for faith arises from disposition of soul, but dialectic from the skill of its inventors. Wherefore to those who have the inworking through faith, demonstrative argument is needless, or even superfluous. For what we know through faith this you attempt to prove through words, and often you are not even able to express what we understand. So the inworking through faith is better and stronger than your professional arguments.

    78. 'We Christians therefore hold the mystery not in the wisdom of Greek arguments, but in the power of faith richly supplied to us by God through Jesus Christ. And to show that this statement is true, behold now, without having learned letters, we believe in God, knowing through His works His providence over all things. And to show that our faith is effective, so now we are supported by faith in Christ, but you by professional logomachies. The portents of the idols among you are being done away, but our faith is extending everywhere. You by your arguments and quibbles have converted none from Christianity to Paganism. We, teaching the faith on Christ, expose your superstition, since all recognise that Christ is God and the Son of God. You by your eloquence do not hinder the teaching of Christ. But we by the mention of Christ crucified put all demons to flight, whom you fear as if they were gods. Where the sign of the Cross is [9], magic is weak and witchcraft has no strength.

    79. ' Tell us therefore where your oracles are now? Where are the charms of the Egyptians? Where the delusions of the magicians? When did all these things cease and grow weak except when the Cross of Christ arose? Is It then a fit subject for mockery, and not rather the things brought to nought by it, and convicted of weakness? For this is a marvellous thing, that your religion was never persecuted, but even was honoured by men in every city, while the followers of Christ are persecuted, and still our side flourishes and multiplies over yours. What is yours, though praised and honoured, perishes, while the faith and teaching of Christ, though mocked by you and often persecuted by kings, has filled the world. For when has the knowledge of God so shone forth? or when has self-control and the excellence of virginity appeared as now? or when has death been so despised except when the Cross of Christ has appeared? And this no one doubts when he sees [10] the martyr despising death for the sake of Christ, when he sees for Christ's sake the virgins of the Church keeping themselves pure and undefiled.

    80. 'And these signs are sufficient to prove that the faith of Christ alone is the true religion. But see! you still do not believe and are seeking for arguments. We however make our proof "not in the persuasive words of Greek wisdom [11]" as our teacher has it, but we persuade by the faith which manifestly precedes argumentative proof. Behold there are here some vexed with demons ;'--now there were certain who had come to him very disquieted by demons, and bringing them into the midst he said,--'Do you cleanse them either by arguments and by whatever art or magic you choose, calling upon your idols, or if you are unable, put away your strife with us and you shall see the power of the Cross of Christ.' And having said this he called upon Christ, and signed the sufferers two or three times with the sign of the Cross. And immediately the men stood up whole, and in their right mind, and forthwith gave thanks unto the Lord. And the philosophers, as they are called, wondered, and were astonished exceedingly at the understanding of the man and at the sign which had been wrought. But Antony said, 'Why marvel ye at this? We are not the doers of these things, but it is Christ who worketh them by means of those who believe on Him. Believe, therefore, also yourselves, and you shall see that with us there is no trick of words, but faith through love which is wrought in us towards Christ; which if you yourselves should obtain you will no longer seek demonstrative arguments, but will consider faith in Christ sufficient.' These are the words of Antony. And they marvelling at this also, saluted him and departed, confessing the benefit they had received from him [12].

    81. And the fame of Antony came even unto kings. For Constantine Augustus, and his sons Constantius and Constans the Augusti wrote letters to him, as to a father, and begged an answer from him. But he made nothing very much of the letters, nor did he rejoice at the messages. but was the same as he had been before the Emperors wrote to him. But when they brought him the letters he called the monks and said, 'Do not be astonished if an emperor writes to us, for he is a man; but rather wonder that God wrote the Law for men and has spoken to us [13] through His own Son.' And so he was unwilling to receive the letters, saying that he did not know how to write an answer to such things. But being urged by the monks because the emperors were Christians, and lest they should take offence on the ground that they had been spurned, he consented that they should be read, and wrote an answer approving them because they worshipped Christ, and giving them counsel on things pertaining to salvation: 'not to think much of the present, but rather to remember the judgment that is coming, and to know that Christ alone was the true and Eternal King.' He begged them to be merciful and to give heed to justice and the poor. And they having received the answer rejoiced. Thus he was dear to all, and all desired to consider him as a father.

    82. Being known to be so great a man, therefore, and having thus given answers to those who visited him, he returned again to the inner mountain, and maintained his wonted discipline. And often when people-came to him, as he was sitting or walking, as it is written in Daniel [14], he became dumb, and after a season he resumed the thread of what he had been saying before to the brethren who were with him. And his companions perceived that he was seeing a vision. For often when he was on the mountains he saw what was happening in Egypt, and told it to Sera-pion the bishop [15], who was indoors with him, and who saw that Antony was wrapped in a vision. Once as he was sitting and working, he fell, as it were, into a trance, and groaned much at what he saw. Then after a time, having turned to the bystanders with groans and trembling, he prayed, and falling on his knees remained so a long time. And having arisen the old man wept. His companions, therefore, trembling and terrified, desired to learn from him what it was. And they troubled him much, until he was forced to speak. And with many groans he spake as follows: 'O, my children, it were better to die before what has appeared in the vision come to pass.' And when again they asked him, having burst into tears, he said, 'Wrath is about to seize the Church, and it is on the point of being given up to men who are like senseless beasts. For I saw the table of the Lord's House, and mules standing around it on all sides in a ring, and kicking the things therein, just like a herd kicks when it leaps in confusion. And you saw,' said he, 'how I groaned, for I heard a voice saying, "My altar shall be defiled."' These things the old man saw, and after two years the present [16] inroad of the Arians and the plunder of the churches took place, when they violently carried off the vessels, and made the heathen carry them; and when they forced the heathen from the prisons to join in their services, and in their presence did upon the Table as they would. Then we all understood that these kicks of the mules signified to Antony what the Arians, senselessly like beasts, are now doing. But when he saw this vision, he comforted those with him, saying, 'Be not downcast, my children; for as the Lord has been angry, so again will He heal us, and the Church shall soon again receive her own order, and shall shine forth as she is wont. And you shall behold the persecuted restored, and wickedness again withdrawn to its own hiding-place, and pious faith speaking boldly in every place with all freedom. Only defile [17] not yourselves with the Arians, for their teaching is not that of the Apostles, but that of demons and their father the devil; yea, rather, it is barren and senseless, and without light understanding, like the senselessness of these mules.'

    83. Such are the words of Antony, and we ought not to doubt whether such marvels were wrought by the hand of a man. For it is the promise of the Saviour, when He saith, 'If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say to this mountain, remove hence and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto yours [18].' And again, 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, if ye shall ask the father in My name He will give it you. Ask and ye shall receive [19].' And He himself it is who saith to His disciples and to all who believe on Him, ' Heal the sick, cast out demons; freely ye have received, freely give [20].'

    84. Antony, at any rate, healed not by commanding, but by prayer and speaking the name of Christ. So that it was clear to all that it was not he himself who worked, but the Lord who showed mercy by his means and healed the sufferers. But Antony's part was only prayer and discipline, for the sake of which he stayed in the mountain, rejoicing in the contemplation of divine things, but grieving when troubled by much people, and dragged to the outer mountain. For all judges used to ask him to come down, because it was impossible for them to enter on account of their following of litigants. But nevertheless they asked him to come that they might but see him. When therefore he avoided it and refused to go to them, they remained firm, and sent to him all the more the prisoners under charge of soldiers, that on account of these he might come down. Being forced by necessity, and seeing them lamenting, he came into the outer mountain, and again his labour was not unprofitable. For his coming was advantageous and serviceable to many; and he was of profit to the judges, counselling them to prefer justice to all things; to fear God, and to know, 'that with what judgment they judged, they should be judged [1].' But he loved more than all things his sojourn in the mountain.

    85. At another time, suffering the same compulsion at the hands of them who had need, and after many entreaties from the commander of the soldiers, he came down, and when he was come he spoke to them shortly of the things which make for salvation, and concerning those who wanted him, and was hastening away. But when the duke, as he is called, entreated him to stay, he replied that he could not linger among them, and persuaded him by a pretty simile, saying, 'Fishes, if they remain long on dry land, die. And so monks lose their strength if they loiter among you and spend their time with you. Wherefore as fish must hurry to the sea, so must we hasten to the mountain. Lest haply if we delay we forget the things within us.' And the general having heard this and many other things from him, was amazed and said, 'Of a truth this man is the servant of God. For, unless he were beloved of God, whence could an ignorant man have such great understanding?'

    86. And a certain general, Balacius by name, persecuted us Christians bitterly on account of his regard for the Arians--that name of ill-omen. And as his ruthlessness, was so great that he beat virgins, and stripped and scourged monks, Antony at this time wrote a letter as follows, and sent it to him. 'I see wrath coming upon thee, wherefore cease to persecute the Christians, lest haply wrath catch hold of thee, for even now it is on the point of coming upon thee[2].' But Balacius laughed and threw the letter on the ground, and spit on it, and insulted the bearers, bidding them tell this to Antony: 'Since thou takest thought for the monks, soon I will come after thee also.' And five days had not passed before wrath came upon him. For Balacius and Nestorius, the Prefect of Egypt[3], went forth to the first halting-place from Alexandria, which is called Chaereu, and both were on horseback, and the horses belonged to Balacius, and were the quietest of all his stable. But they had not gone far towards the place when the horses began to frisk with one another as they are wont to do; and suddenly the quieter, on which Nestorius sat[4], with a bite dismounted Balacius, and attacked him, and tore his thigh so badly with its teeth that he was borne straight back to the city, and in three days died. And all wondered because what Antony had foretold had been so speedily fulfilled.

    87. Thus, therefore, he warned the cruel. But the rest who came to him he so instructed that they straightway forgot their lawsuits, and felicitated those who were in retirement from the world. And he championed those who were wronged in such a way that you would imagine that he, and not the others, was the sufferer. Further, he was able to be of such use to all, that many soldiers and men who had great possessions laid aside the burdens of life, and became monks for the rest of their days. And it was as if a physician had been given by God to Egypt. For who in grief met Antony and did not return rejoicing? Who came mourning for his dead and did not forthwith put off his sorrow? Who came in anger and was not converted to friendship? What poor and low-spirited man met him who, hearing him and looking upon him, did not despise wealth and console himself in his poverty? What monk, having being neglectful, came to him and became not all the stronger? What young man having come to the mountain and seen Antony, did not forthwith deny himself pleasure and love temperance? Who when tempted by a demon, came to him and did not find rest? And who came troubled with doubts and did not get quietness of mind?

    88. For this was the wonderful thing in Antony's discipline, that, as I said before, having the gift of discerning spirits, he recognised their movements, and was not ignorant whither any one of them turned his energy and made his attack. And not only was he not deceived by them himself, but cheering those who were troubled with doubts, he taught them how to defeat their plans, telling them of the weakness and craft of those who possessed them. Thus each one, as though prepared by him for battle, came down from the mountain, braving the designs of the devil and his demons. How many maidens who had suitors, having but seen Antony from afar, remained maidens for Christ's sake. And people came also from foreign parts to him, and like all others, having got some benefit, returned, as though set forward by a father. And certainly when he died, all as having been bereft of a father, consoled themselves solely by their remembrances of him, preserving at the same time his counsel and advice.

    89. It is worth while that I should relate, and that you, as you wish it, should hear what his death was like. For this end of his is worthy of imitation. According to his custom he visited the monks in the outer mountain, and having learned from Providence that his own end was at hand, he said to the brethren, 'This is my last visit to you which I shall make. And I shall be surprised if we see each other again in this life. At length the time of my departure is at hand, for I am near a hundred and five years old.' And when they heard it they wept, and embraced, and kissed the old man. But he, as though sailing from a foreign city to his own, spoke joyously, and exhorted them 'Not to grow idle in their labours, nor to become faint in their training, but to live as though dying daily. And as he had said before, zealously to guard the soul from foul thoughts, eagerly to imitate the Saints, and to have nought to do with the Meletian schismatics, for you know their wicked and profane character. Nor have any fellowship with the Arians, for their impiety is clear to all. Nor be disturbed if you see the judges protect them, for it shall cease, and their pomp is mortal and of short duration. Wherefore keep yourselves all the more untainted by them, and observe the traditions of the fathers, and chiefly the holy faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, which you have learned from the Scripture, and of which you have often been put in mind by me.'

    90. But when the brethren were urging him to abide with them and there to die, he suffered. it not for many other reasons, as he showed by keeping silence, and especially for this:--The Egyptians are wont to honour with funeral rites, and to wrap in linen cloths at death the bodies of good men, and especially of the holy martyrs; and not to bury them underground, but to place them on couches, and to keep them in their houses, thinking in this to honour the departed. And Antony often urged the bishops to give commandment to the people on this matter. In like manner he taught the laity and reproved the women, saying, 'that this thing was neither lawful nor holy at all. For the bodies of the patriarchs and prophets are until now preserved in tombs, and the very body of the Lord was laid in a tomb, and a stone was laid upon it, and hid it until He rose on the third day[4a].' And thus saying, he showed that he who did not bury the bodies of the dead after death transgressed the law, even though they were sacred. For what is greater or more sacred than the body of the Lord? Many therefore having heard, henceforth buried the dead underground, and gave thanks to the Lord that they had been taught rightly.

    91. But he, knowing the custom, and fearing that his body would be treated this way, hastened, and having bidden farewell to the monks in the outer mountain entered the inner mountain, where he was accustomed to abide. And after a few months he fell sick. Having summoned those who were there--they were two in number who had remained in the mountain fifteen years, practising the discipline and attending on Antony on account of his age--he said to them, 'I, as it is written[5], go the way of the fathers, for I perceive that I am called by the Lord, And do you be watchful and destroy not your long discipline, but as though now making a beginning, zealously preserve your determination. For ye know the treachery of the demons, how fierce they are, but how little power they have Where fore fear them not, but rather ever breathe Christ, and trust Him. Live as though dying daily. Give heed to yourselves, and remember the admonition you have heard from me. Have no fellowship with the schismatics, nor any dealings at all with the heretical Arians. For you know how I shunned them on account of their hostility to Christ, and the strange doctrines of their heresy. Therefore be the more earnest always to be followers first of God and then of the Saints; that after death they also may receive you as well-known friends into the eternal habitations. Ponder over these things and think of them, and if you have any care for me and are mindful of me as of a father, suffer no one to take my body into Egypt, lest haply they place me in the houses[6], for to avoid this I entered into the mountain and came here. Moreover you know how I always put to rebuke those who had this custom, and exhorted them to cease from it. Bury my body, therefore, and hide it underground yourselves, and let my words be observed by you that no one may know the place[6a] but you alone. For at the resurrection of the dead I shall receive it incorruptible from the Saviour. And divide my garments. To Athanasius the bishop give one sheepskin and the garment whereon I am laid, which he himself gave me new, but which with me has grown old. To Serapion the bishop give the other sheepskin, and keep the hair garment yourselves[7]. For the rest fare ye well, my children, for Antony is departing, and is with you no more.'

    92. Having said this, when they had kissed him, he lifted up his feet, and as though he saw friends coming to him and was glad because of them--for as he lay his countenance appeared joyful--he died and was gathered to the fathers. And they afterward, according to his commandment, wrapped him up and buried him, hiding his body underground. And no one knows to this day where it was buried, save those two only. But each of those who received the sheepskin of the blessed Antony and the garment worn by him guards it as a precious treasure. For even to look on them is as it were to behold Antony; and he who is clothed in them seems with joy to bear his admonitions.

    93. This is the end of Antony's life in the body and the above was the beginning of the discipline. Even if this account is small compared with his merit, still from this reflect how great Antony, the man of God, was. Who from his youth to so great an age preserved a uniform zeal for the discipline, and neither through old age was subdued by the desire of costly food, nor through the infirmity of his body changed the fashion of his clothing, nor washed even his feet with water, and yet remained entirely free from harm. For his eyes were undimmed and quite sound and he saw clearly; of his teeth he had not lost one, but they had become worn to the gums through the great age of the old man. He remained strong both in hands and feet; and while all men were using various foods, and washings and divers garments, he appeared more cheerful and of greater strength. And the fact that his fame has been blazoned everywhere; that all regard him with wonder, and that those who have never seen him long for him, is clear proof of his virtue and God's love of his soul. For not from writings, nor from worldly wisdom, nor through any art, was Antony renowned, but solely from his piety towards God. That this was the gift of God no one will deny. For from whence into Spain and into Gaul, how into Rome and Africa, was the man heard of who abode hidden in a mountain, unless it was God who maketh His own known everywhere, who also promised this to Antony at the beginning? For even if they work secretly, even if they wish to remain in obscurity, yet the Lord shows them as lamps to lighten all, that those who hear may thus know that the precepts of God are able to make men prosper and thus be zealous in the path of virtue.

    94. Read these words, therefore, to the rest of the brethren that they may learn what the life of monks ought to be; and may believe that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ glorifies those who glorify Him: and leads those who serve Him unto the end, not only to the kingdom of heaven, but here also--even though they hide themselves and are desirous of withdrawing from the world--makes them illustrious and well known everywhere on account of their virtue and the help they render others. And if need be, read this among the heathen, that even in this way they may learn that our Lord Jesus Christ is not only God and the Son of God, but also that the Christians who truly serve Him and religiously believe on Him, prove, not only that the demons, whom the Greeks themselves think to be gods, are no gods, but also tread them under foot and put them to flight, as deceivers and corrupters of mankind, through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

    Life No 3

    The Life of Saint Hilarion, Monk [Celebrated in the Roman Martyrology on October 21]

    by Jerome, presbyter & divine

    I beg that you will remember me in your holy prayers, Dame Asella (nonna Asella), glory and ornament of virgins that you are. [She was the sister of Marcella whose Life appears in Book 1d of the Vitae. She had lived a virgin life on the Aventine in Rome from the age of ten] And as I begin to write about the life of the blessed Hilarion, I call upon the holy Spirit, who dwelt in him and showered him with virtues, to inspire me likewise with the words to describe him, so that my words may do justice to his deeds. For (as Crispus says) [Gaius Sallustius Crispus, a Roman historian, 86-34 BC] those who live virtuously are praised only in so far as there are talented writers to sing their praises. When Alexander the Great of Macedon, whom Daniel calls brass (Daniel 2.35), leopard (ibid. 7.6) and he-goat (ibid. 8.5), came to Achilles' tomb, he addressed him thus:
    "Blessed are you, O hero forever young, for your merits have been extolled by no less than Homer himself."
    Just so may I sing the life and deeds of this great man as if it were Homer still with us to understand him and fall under his spell.
    I know that the holy Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis in Cyprus, was an associate of Hilarion for a very long time, and has written a short letter in his praise which has had some circulation, but it is one thing to praise the dead in a general sort of way, and quite another to praise his virtues in serious detail. I begin this work about him not to diminish him but to extol him, and so I condemn those grumblers who, not content with criticising my account of Paul, now complain about Hilarion. Some cavil at his solitariness, others at his gregariousness. It is as if someone who was perpetually hidden away did not really exist, whereas someone in full view of many can only expect to be vilified. The Pharisees of old did exactly the same and more, criticising both John the Baptist fasting in the desert, and our Lord and Saviour eating and drinking in the midst of much company (Matthew 11.18-19). I block my ears to those rabid dogs, and, notwithstanding, set my hand to bringing this work to fruition. And I pray, O most holy Virgin, that you may be ever in Christ and mindful of me in your prayers.

    The Life [Appears as a separate work in Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Oxford, 1893, not as a letter addressed to anyone in particular. Written probably in 390.]

    Chapter I
    Hilarion came from the village of Thabatha, which is about five miles from the town of Gaza in southern Palestine. Born of parents who worshipped idols, he was the rose among the thorns. They sent him to Alexandria to study with a Grammarian, and the records show that at each stage of his life there he was both clever and well behaved. In short, he was skilled in speaking and popular with all. His belief in the Lord Jesus was greater than anyone's. He took no pleasure in the bloodstained sand and cruelty of the circus, nor in the decadence of the theatres. He was totally committed to the congregation of the Church.

    Chapter II
    Having heard of the celebrated name of Antony, which was being noised abroad among all the peoples of Egypt, he was seized with a desire to live like him and made his way to the desert. Once he had seen him he changed his lifestyle completely. He stayed with Antony for two months, observing his way of life and the integrity of his character. How instant in prayer he was, how humble in his dealings with the brothers, how severe in reproof, how eager in giving encouragement! Not even illness could make him break the accustomed severity of his abstinence from food.
    But then Hilarion found himself unwilling to put up any longer with the numbers of people coming to Antony seeking help to overcome their passions and various attacks of the demons. He said that as he was a desert dweller it was not right that he should be surrounded by crowds of city people. So Hilarion all the more decided that just as Antony was now a strong man enjoying the rewards of victory, so it behoved him to start as Antony had done. He had not yet done any military service, so he returned to his native land with one or two monks. His parents were now dead, and he gave part of his inheritance to his brothers, setting aside some for the poor, but keeping back nothing for himself, fearing the example of the punishment given to Ananias and Sapphira in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 5.1-5). And he was even more mindful of the words of the Lord: 'He who has not renounced everything he has cannot be my disciple' (Luke 14.33). He was fifteen years old.
    Stripped of his possessions, clothed only in the armour of Christ, he went along the coast into the desert which begins on the left of the seventh milestone from Maiuma, the market town of Gaza, as you go down to Egypt. This was a dangerous place because of robbers, and his friends and relations had warned him about it, but his way of avoiding death was simply to despise death. Such bravery at such a young age would have been quite unbelievable had it not been for the flame burning in his breast which showed itself in the light of faith sparkling in his eyes. His cheeks were smooth, his body slender and delicate, but he cared not for any discomforts either of cold or of heat.

    Chapter III
    He wore a tunic of sackcloth, with an over-garment of skins which Antony had given him as a parting present, and he also had a rough blanket. He lived in this vast and terrible solitude between the marshes and the sea, subsisting on fifteen figs a day, eaten after sunset. And because, as I have said, it is a region noted for its robbers, there was no one living there. When the devil noticed his presence he agonised about what he might do to convert this young man to himself. 'I shall ascend into the heavens, and set my throne above the stars, and I shall be like unto the Most High' had once been his boast (Isaiah 14.13), but now he could see himself being beaten by a mere boy. To avoid being trampled on, he knew what youthful sin he could tempt him with. He tickled his senses, suggesting how his pubescent body could be aflame with unlooked for pleasures. This little Christian novice was compelled to think about things which he had never thought about before, and a whole parade of ideas flooded through his mind about things of which he had had no experience. He got angry with himself and beat his breast with his fists as if he could drive his thoughts away by physical blows.
    "You little donkey!" he said to his body, "I'll see to it that you don't trample me underfoot. I'll not give you any barley. Nothing but chaff! I will tame you by means of hunger and thirst, I will weigh you down with heavy burdens, I will subject you to both cold and heat! So you will end up thinking of nothing but food instead of lust!"
    Every three or four days he maintained life in his gradually weakening body by the juice of herbs and a few figs. He prayed and sang psalms constantly, and cultivated the earth with a mattock, matching the labour of his fasting to the labour of his physical work. He also wove baskets from rushes, in imitation of the monks of Egypt and the saying of the Apostle: 'Whoso will not work, let him not eat' (2 Thessalonians 3.10). His flesh became so dry and wasted that it scarcely cleaved to his bones.

    Chapter IV
    At night he began to hear squalling babies, bleating sheep, bellowing cattle, wailing women, roaring lions, marching armies, and the noise as of an approaching horde of barbarians, striking terror into the heart just from the sound of it, even before coming into sight. But he understood that these were all tricks of the demons, and he flung himself down, making the sign of the cross of Christ on his forehead. Protected by that helmet and by the breastplate of faith he battled all the more strongly as he lay there, looking about here and there, trying to catch a glimpse of whatever it was that was so frightening to listen to. Suddenly, without any warning, he could see in the light of the moon a four-wheeled chariot with frenzied horses bearing down upon him. He called on Jesus, and suddenly the whole terrifying spectacle was swallowed up into a hole in the ground before his very eyes.
    "'The horse and his rider he has cast into the sea'" (Exodus 15.21), he said, "and 'Some put their trust in chariots, some in horses, but we will rejoice in the name of our God' (Psalms 20.7)."
    Many were his temptations, and various the tricks of the devil, night and day. This book would not be big enough for me to relate them all. How many naked women did he see lying about? How many large banquet tables appeared to him as he fasted? Sometimes a howling wolf and a little barking fox jumped out at him as he prayed; a gladiator fight made a fine show in front of him as he sang psalms, and a slaughtered man fell at his feet, begging for burial. He put his forehead in the dust as he prayed, but he could not concentrate; his mind, following a natural human bent, strayed away to think about I know not what. A charioteer jumped on his back, kicked him in the ribs and belaboured his shoulders with a riding-whip.
    "Come on!" he shouted. "Gallop! Wake up! You want to get your barley, don't you?"

    Chapter V
    From the age of sixteen till he was twenty the sun and the rain kept on beating down on the little shelter he had made for himself out of reeds and grasses. Then he made a little cell for himself, which remains to this day, four feet wide and five feet high. That was much lower than his own height, though it was a bit longer than his body fully stretched out. As you can imagine, it was more like a coffin than a house. He did cut his hair, to be sure, once a year at Eastertide, but to the day of his death he slept on a bed of rushes laid upon the bare earth. Once he had put his sackcloth on he never washed it. It was quite superfluous to wash your clothes, he said. Nor did he change his other garment until it had been reduced to rags. When not reciting the prayers and psalms as if he were in the presence of God, he kept the holy Scriptures in his mind. But since there is a lot to tell you about his great deeds through all the stages of his life, I will first of all summarise his various regimes for you, before returning to the order of my tale.

    Chapter VI
    From the age of twenty-one to twenty-seven, he ate half a pint of lentils soaked in cold water for the first three years, and dry bread with salt and water for the next three. From twenty-seven to thirty he subsisted on wild herbs and the raw roots of certain bushes. From thirty to thirty-five his food was half a loaf of barley-bread and a little bit of vegetable cooked without any oil. At this point he found that his eyes were becoming misty and his whole body began to burn with a sort of rough and scabrous impetigo, so he added a little oil to his diet and continued in this abstemious regime till the age of sixty-three, with no fruit, no pulse or anything tasty. When he felt that his body was getting weaker and the end of his life was getting near, he gave up bread, so that from his sixty-fourth year till the age of eighty, with incredible strength of mind, it was as if he were coming anew to the service of God, at an age when others begin to be a bit more relaxed. He would make a sort of weak broth of flour mingled with oil, and weight out about five ounces of it, to serve for both food and drink. And he went on like this, never eating before sunset, never relaxing his fasting, not even for holy days or when he was ill.

    Chapter VII
    But now I must return to my story. One night when he was aged eighteen and still living under his rough shelter, a band of robbers came, perhaps because they thought he might have something which they could steal, or else simply because they thought they might be held in contempt if they were not able to instil fear in such a mere boy. They ran about between the sea and the marshes from dusk to sunrise without being able to find where he was sleeping. It was not until the day had dawned that they were able to find him.
    "What would you do," they asked him, half jokingly, "if robbers came to visit you?"
    "Nakedness fears no robbery," he replied.
    "Yes, but you might easily get killed."
    "Possibly, possibly, but I'm still not afraid of robbers, for I'm quite prepared to die."
    They could not but admire the firmness of his faith, and after admitting to him how they had been blindly stumbling about all night, they promised to amend their ways in future.

    Chapter VIII

    By the time he was twenty-two years old his reputation was widely known through all the towns of Palestine, including Eleutheropolis, [A town about one day's journey from Jerusalem on the road to Ascalon.]

    where there was a woman who felt herself to be despised by her husband, because although they had been married for fifteen years she had not borne him any children. She was the first person bold enough to invade the privacy of the blessed Hilarion. Without fear or mistrust she embraced his knees.
    "Forgive my boldness," she said, "but please listen to my troubles. Why are you looking away? Why try to run away from someone who needs your help? Don't look at me as a woman, but just as someone utterly miserable. Don't forget that it was my sex who gave birth to the Saviour, and 'it is not the healthy who need a physician but the sick' (Mark 2.17)".
    This was the first time he had seen a woman in all that time, but he stopped resisting and asked her why she had come and why she was weeping. After learning the cause of her distress, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, urged her to have faith, and shed tears himself as she departed. After a year had passed she had a son.

    Chapter IX
    That was the first of the signs he did. A much greater one made him even more widely known. Aristaeneta was the wife of Elpidius who later became commander-in-chief of the praetorian guard. She was highly regarded among their colleagues and even more so among the Christians. She and her husband and three children were returning to Palestine from a visit to Antony when they stopped at Gaza, where her three children all fell ill of a fever and were given up for dead by the doctors. The poor woman wept, inconsolable, running from one son to another, scarcely knowing which one to grieve for first. The disease may have been caused by something in the air, or perhaps (as was afterwards made plain) simply in order that the name of Hilarion, the servant of God, might be glorified. For when she was told that there was a monk in the neighbouring desert, she hardly needed any persuasion from her husband to lay aside all her dignity of state and act simply like a mother. She mounted a mule, and accompanied by servants and eunuchs made her way to Hilarion.
    "In the name of the cross and blood of Jesus, our most merciful God," she cried to Hilarion, "I beg that God may send the servant of God to Gaza, that my three sons may be restored to me, that the name of the Lord our Saviour may be glorified in that city of the gentiles, and the temples of the ungodly be cast down."
    "No, I can't do that," he replied. "I never leave my cell. I never go into the villages, let alone the cities."
    She flung herself to the ground.
    "Hilarion, servant of God," she cried over and over again, "restore my three sons to me! Antony welcomed us in Egypt. We need you to care for us in Syria."
    Everyone there dissolved into tears. Hilarion wept in spite of himself. What more can I say? The woman would not go until Hilarion had promised that after sunset he would go into Gaza.
    When he got there he went to the beds of each one of them, and saw their dry and feverish limbs. He called upon the name of Jesus, and - O marvellous wonder! - sweat burst forth from them like three fountains. Within the hour they had taken food, recognised their grieving mother, and blessing God, had kissed the hands of the holy man. When this became known far and wide, people from Syria and Egypt flocked to him, and many believed in Christ and formed a monastery. For at that time there were no monasteries in Palestine, no monk in Syria before Hilarion. He was the first, the founder and teacher of this way of life in the province. The Lord Jesus had the old man Antony in Egypt; in Palestine he had the young Hilarion.

    Chapter X
    Facidia is a village near the town of Rhinocorura in Egypt. Ten years ago a blind woman was brought from this village to Hilarion by a number of monks who were with her. They told Hilarion that she had spent all her money on doctors.
    "If you had given to the poor," said the holy man, "what you have spent on doctors, you would have been cured by the true doctor, Jesus."
    She cried, and begged for mercy, whereupon Hilarion, following the example of the power of the Saviour, spat in her eyes and her sight was restored.

    Chapter XI
    There was a charioteer in Gaza who was struck by a demon so that he could move none of his limbs nor turn his head. He was carried to Hilarion in a litter, the only movement possible for him being that of his tongue which he used to pray for help. He was told that he could not be healed unless he believed in Jesus and promised to give up his former profession. He believed, he promised, he was cured, rejoicing more in the salvation of his soul than in that of his body.

    Chapter XII
    Another example: There was a very strong young man called Marsitas in the region of Jerusalem who had such confidence in his own strength that he was able to carry about three hundred pounds [quindeceim modios A 'modium' equals approximately one peck. A peck of water weighs about 20 lbs] on his shoulders for quite a long time. This would win a prize in a weightlifting contest, as it was more than a beast of burden could carry. This man became infested with a malicious demon; chains, fetters, even locked doors proved no obstacle to him. He attacked many people by biting off their noses or ears, he broke the feet of some, and the jaws of others. Everyone was so terrified of him that they treated him like a wild bull and tied him up with chains and ropes which they wound around him in every possible way. They took him to the monastery where the Brothers took one look at him and were petrified with fear (for he was enormously large), and went to tell the Father [i.e. Hilarion.] about him. He sat down and ordered Marsitas to be brought to him and loosed of his bonds.
    "Bow your head, and come here," he said. Trembling, the poor wretch bent his head and dared not disobey. All the aggression drained out of him, and he began to lick Hilarion's feet as he sat there. Hilarion spoke words of power to the demon infesting the young man, and twisted it out of him, so that at the end of seven days it had completely departed.

    Chapter XIII (continued), Life of St Hilarion, Book 1a
    We must also tell the story of Orion, the wealthy chief citizen of the town of Haila near the Red Sea. Possessed by demons he was brought to Hilarion with chains around his hands, neck, sides and feet, his staring eyes threatening savage violence. The Saint was walking with the Brothers discussing some portion of Scripture, when Orion burst free from the hands of those holding him, ran to the holy Hilarion, grasped him from behind, and lifted him off the ground. Everyone cried out in alarm; they were frightened that he would break Hilarion's bones, weakened as they were by fasting. But the Saint just smiled, lifted his hands above his shoulders, found the man's head, grasped his hair, and pulled him down in front of him, causing both his hands to lose their grasp. He planted the soles of his feet on each side of the man's feet and cried out
    "Twist yourselves out, you crowd of demons!" he shouted. "Twist yourselves out!"
    Orion howled, bent his neck and touched the ground with the top of his head.
    "Lord Jesus!" he cried. "Release me from my misery! You are Lord of one and all!"
    I tell you now something unheard of: from out of the mouth of this one man issued a multitude of voices, as of a confused crowd of people. And he was cured.
    Not long after this he came to the monastery with his wife and children to give thanks, bringing a number of gifts.
    "Haven't you read what happened to Gehazi and Simon?" asked the Saint. "One of them accepted payment for the sake of base reward (2 Kings 5.22-27), the other offered payment to buy the grace of the holy Spirit (Acts 8.18)."
    "Well, take it and give it to the poor," said Orion, weeping.
    "You would have done better to distribute your own goods," he replied. "You are familiar with your town. You know who are the poor. As for myself, I have renounced everything. Why should I seek what belongs to someone else? In the eyes of many people the poor are people to be exploited without pity. But you can't do better than to be generous without seeking any benefit for yourself."
    Orion lay prostrate on the sand, weeping..
    "Don't be sad," Hilarion continued. "What I have done was for my own benefit as well as yours. And if I were to accept these gifts, not only would I be offending God, but the legion of devils would return to torment you."

    Chapter XIV
    And who could remain silent about Maiumites of Gaza? He was gathering stones for building from the seashore not very far away from the monastery, when he suddenly became completely paralysed. His working companions carried him to the Saint and he was then able to return to work immediately! Remember also the beach along the border between Palestine and Egypt. Although naturally soft, it had become hardened by the grains of sand solidifying into small stones. But little by little, although it still looked like gravel it no longer felt like gravel.

    Chapter XV
    Thjere was an Italian citizen of Haila, a Christian, who kept horses and chariots to race against those of the two chief citizens of Gaza, a town given to the veneration of the image of Marnas. Marnas (or Consus, the god of secret plans) [Consus was also the god of agricultural fertility. The festival of the Consuelia, supposed to have been instituted by Romulus, was on August 31] .had been venerated in Roman towns since the time of Romulus, who won victory over the Sabines and seized their women, by means of his chariots racing round them seven times and overcoming the horses of the enemy. This Italian's rival used an evil magician, who by demonic incantations slowed down the Italian's horses, while improving the performance of his own. The Italian came to the blessed Hilarion, begging for help, not to cause injury to his opponent but to seek a defence against his spells.
    "Wouldn't it be better to sell your horses," said Hilarion with a smile, "and give the money to the poor for the sake of your own salvation?"
    "But the horses are state property," he replied. "I can't deal with them as I want, but only as I am told. And as a Christian man I can't make use of magic arts. I prefer to seek help from a servant of Christ, especially against the people of Gaza who are the enemies of God, not for my own sake so much as for the sake of the Church of Christ which they revile."
    Hilarion asked the Brothers present for the clay beaker which he usually drank from, filled it with water and gave it to the Italian, who took it away and sprinkled it over the stable, the horses, the charioteers, the chariots, and the bars of the starting gates. His rival made a great joke out of this, much to the excited interest of the people, for he publicly promised victory for himself and failure for the Italian.
    The signal was given, the Italian's horses flew like the wind and the wheels of their chariots were just a blur, the other horses struggled to keep up and were left far behind. The crowd gave vent to a great shout, with even the opponents joining in: MARNAS HAS BEEN BEATEN BY CHRIST! The losing team were furious and demanded that Hilarion, the Christian magician, should be punished. But it could not be denied that the victory here, and in many Circuses thereafter, brought many people to the faith.

    Chapter XVI
    In the market town of Gaza a young man was madly in love with his neighbour, a virgin of God. He tried various tactics, jokes, nods and whistles, and other such things by which it is hoped to make a conquest of someone's virginity, but to no avail. So he went to Memphis, where he hoped to be able to tell someone of his problem and go back to the virgin armed by magic arts. He spent a year under the tutelage of the priests of Aesculapius, which rather sent him further towards perdition than made him into a better person. Glorying in the disgraceful course upon which he had embarked, he pushed lascivious letters and suggestive images inscribed on sheets of Cyprian copper under the virgin's door, which inflamed her on the spot, so that she stripped off her head covering, cried piteously and gnashed her teeth while calling out the young man's name. The strength of her passion had turned her raving mad. Her parents brought her to the old man at the monastery, where the demon in her immediately howled and gave himself away.
    "I can't put up with this," it shouted. "I have been carried off here against my will, just when I was beautifully deceiving humans with the dreams of Memphis. O the pains, the tortures I am suffering! You are trying to drive me out, but I am beholden to none except those very spells and charms which were put under the door. I cannot go out unless commanded by the one who put me in here."
    "How exceedingly bold you are!" said Hilarion. "And yet you admit you are controlled by those spells and charms. Tell me, why did you dare to enter this child of God?"
    "To be a servant to that virgin."
    "You, a servant? Protector of chastity, are you? Why not rather enter the one who sent you?"
    "How could I enter him, when he already had my colleague the love-demon in him?"
    Now the Saint had set his face against curing the virgin or the young man by attempting to order the demons out by dramatic actions, lest it should appear that he was using incantations himself and accommodating his faith to suit the words of the demons. The demons were masters of deceit, he said, and extremely skilled in dissimulation. Instead he restored the virgin to sanity by scolding her, and making her see what it was in her that had enabled the demon to gain entry.

    Chapter XVII
    His fame began to spread further, not only in Palestine and the neighbouring cities of Egypt and Syria, but also into distant provinces. For the Emperor Constantine had among his staff a tutor, with the red hair and fair complexion that showed where he came from (for he was one of the Saxons or Alamanni, called Germanics in the past, but now Franks). From an early age he had been possessed by a demon which at night compelled him to howl and groan and gnash his teeth. He quite frankly told the Emperor about this and asked for leave of absence, which was granted to him. He was given letters of introduction to the Consul in Palestine, from where he was conducted with great honour and a large retinue to Gaza. There he asked the local senators how to find Hilarion. They were absolutely terrified, thinking he had been specially sent by the Emperor, but took him to the monastery, showing him every respect in the hope that if the Emperor had taken offence at any past insults to Hilarion, they might be able to atone for them by their new-found attentiveness.
    Hilarion was walking about on the sand, saying some psalms. Seeing this large crowd coming towards him he stood still. They all greeted each other and he blessed them. After an hour he told everyone to go away except the tutor, his personal servants, and clerical staff. He could tell by looking at his eyes and face why he had come. He asked him why nevertheless, and the tutor sprang up on tiptoe and answered with a great roar in the Syrian language - and you would have heard someone who knew only Frankish and Latin speaking pure Syrian, with not an accent, not an aspirate, not a Palestinian idiom out of place in his speech! The unclean spirit then confessed in that language the means by which he had gained entry, but so that the interpreters who knew both Greek and Latin would understand, Hilarion asked him to speak in Greek.
    "Many spells and incantations were needed," confessed the spirit, "and I needed the services of many magic arts."
    "I don't much care how you got in," replied Hilarion, "but I command that you now go, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."
    He was cured, and with a kind of rustic simplicity he offered Hilarion ten pounds of gold. Hilarion immediately offered him some barley bread.
    "Anyone content with barley bread," said Hilarion, "has no more use for gold than for mud."

    Chapter XVIII
    So much for talking about humans, it was unmanageable brute beasts also who were brought to him daily. One such animal was an enormous Bactrian camel who had injured many people. It took thirty men or more to restrain it with strong ropes and bring it to Hilarion. Its eyes were bloodshot, it frothed at the mouth, its swollen tongue rolled about, and its ear-splitting roar struck terror into all around. The old man ordered it to be untied. To a man, they all fled, those who had brought it as well as those who were with Hilarion, till there was only Hilarion standing in front of it.
    "You devil in such a great shapeless mass," said Hilarion, "you don't frighten me! Camels and little foxes (Song of Songs 2.15) are, after all, exactly the same."
    And he just stood there, with his hand stretched out. The raging beast rushed towards him, as if about to devour him, then suddenly stopped and lowered its head to the ground, to the astonishment of all the onlookers that such a fierce beast could be reduced to such gentleness.
    "It is because of human beings that the devil can corrupt even the beasts of burden," Hilarion told them. "The devils are filled with such hatred of human beings that they long to destroy not only them but also everything that belongs to them. As evidence of this, note that before the devil was allowed to put Job to the test he destroyed everything he possessed (Job 1.12). And let no one object that it was by order of the Lord himself that two thousand swine were sent to their death by the devils (Mark 5.13). For those who witnessed the event would not have been convinced that so many demons could have been expelled out of one man unless an equal number of swine had all perished together as if each one were being individually driven."

    Chapter XIX
    Time does not allow me to narrate all the signs done by this man. God gave him so much glory that when the blessed Antony heard about him he wrote to him, and was delighted to receive letters from him in return. And if anyone from the Syrian regions brought their troubles to Antony he would say to them, "Why have you taken the trouble to make such a long journey, when you have got my son Hilarion so close to you?"
    Following Hilarion's example monasteries were springing up everywhere throughout the whole of Palestine, and zealous monks were flocking to them. When Hilarion recognised this he praised the grace of God and urged that each soul should make progress, reminding them that this world is passing away (1 Corinthians 7.31), but that the true life could only be purchased by doing violence to our lives in this world. He set an example of humility and service by visiting the cells of all the brothers on certain set days before the grape harvest. When his own Brothers realised what he was doing they joined in with him, and they visited all the monasteries, each one taking with him food for the journey. Sometimes there would be as many as two thousand men gathered together. And as time went on each little hamlet would offer food to the monks, glad to cast in their lot with the Saints.

    Chapter XX
    He was so conscientious that no brother, however humble, however poor, was overlooked. So it happened that as he was on his way to visit a brother living in the desert of Kadesh, he and a great company of monks entered the town of Eleusa on a day when by chance the whole population were gathered together in the temple of Venus for an annual feast in honour of Lucifer, whom the whole Saracen nation worshipped. (This town was generally regarded as being semibarbarous, because of its isolated locality.) Now many of the Saracens there had been delivered from demons by Hilarion, and when they heard that he was there they all rushed to see him, along with their wives and children. They bent their heads before him crying 'Barech', that is, 'Bless', He received them all gently and humbly, and urged them to worship the true God rather than stone idols. Weeping freely, he gazed up to heaven and assured them that if they believed in Christ he would surely come to them. And by the marvellous grace of God, before he was permitted to continue on his way they had marked out a site for a future church, and their Priest was signed with the cross as though he was being crowned.

    Chapter XXI
    In another year, when about to go out to visit the monasteries, they were drawing up a list of whom they could stay with and whom they would simply visit in passing, when some of the monks suggested that they stay with a certain brother whom they knew to be rather niggardly, hoping thereby to cure him of his fault.
    "Why are you showing yourselves up in such a bad light," asked Hilarion, "in your desire to irritate your brother?"
    The brother in question understood what was being said, blushed furiously and somewhat unwillingly was overcome by the force of public opinion and asked for his name to be put on the list of places where the visitors might stay. When they arrived at his place on the tenth day, they found that there were guards on his vineyard armed with slings and stones and clods of earth to keep off intruders, as if it belonged to somebody else. Without picking any grapes they departed the next day, but Hilarion had a slight smile on his lips, pretending not to know what was going on. And when they went to the next monk whose name was Sabas (we don't mind naming him as he was generous, though we would not dream of naming the niggardly one), they were all invited into the vineyard to refresh themselves with some grapes after the trials of their journey. Now it was Sunday and long before the usual hour for taking food.
    "We can't approve of refreshing the body before seeing to the needs of the soul," said Hilarion. "Let us pray, let us sing psalms, let us offer God service, and then let us enjoy your hospitality."
    When the service was over, he stood by the vineyard and blessed it and dismissed his flock to their pasture. There must have been at least three thousand of them. The usual estimate for this vineyard was that it would produce a hundred bottles, but on the twentieth day after this it was found to have produced three hundred! The niggardly brother was accustomed to producing much less, but he was distressed to find that even what he had produced had turned to vinegar. And this is what Hilarion had predicted to many of the brothers beforehand.

    Chapter XXII
    What he detested above all was the way some monks lacked faith in their future, and saved up their possessions, worrying too much about how much their clothing was going to cost, or any other such transitory worldly item. So he ceased to look kindly upon one of the monks, who lived about five miles away, because he knew that this monk had acted far too timidly and cautiously in the management of his little garden, through which he had saved up a little bit of money. This monk wanted to be restored to the old man's favour. He often visited the brothers, especially Hesychius, of whom he was very fond, so one day he brought with him a packet of green chickpeas which Hesychius put on the table as part of the evening meal.
    "This stuff smells absolutely rotten," exclaimed the old man. "Where did it come from?"
    "A brother brought it as a gift of first fruits for the monastery," replied Hesychius.
    "Can't you smell how terribly rotten it is?" he asked. "And what these chickpeas stink of is avarice! Give it to the oxen, give it to the brute beasts, and see whether they will eat it."
    He did as he was told and put it in the manger. The oxen were terrified, lowed unusually loudly, broke their tethers and fled.
    The old man had this gift of being able to tell from the smell of anyone's body or clothing or anything that he had touched what sort of demon or vice was lurking underneath.

    Chapter XXIII
    In the sixty-third year of his life he looked about him and saw this great monastery and the large number of brothers living with him, and saw how many of them had attracted to themselves various degenerate and unclean spirits. The desert round about was filled with all kinds of people, so that he wept daily and was filled with an overwhelming nostalgia for his earliest way of life. The brothers asked him what was the matter, what was troubling him.
    "I have returned to the world," he said, " and I have received my reward in this life. All Palestine and the neighbouring provinces think I am somebody important, and I, under the excuse of building a monastery for the use of the brothers, possess a large mansion and everything that goes with it."
    The brothers tended him with extra care, especially Hesychius, whose veneration and love for him knew no bounds.

    Chapter XXIV
    After he had mourned like that for two years Aristaeneta came to visit him. She was the wife of the Prefect whom we have already mentioned, [See Chapter IX, above] though without the Prefect's vaunting ambition. She told Hilarion that she was intending to visit Antony.
    "That is where I would like to go, too," he said, weeping, "if I weren't held prisoner shut up in this monastery, and if it were any use to do so. For in two days' time the world will be deprived of this great father."
    She believed him and went no further. In a few days someone brought the news that Antony had indeed fallen asleep.

    Chapter XXV
    Marvellous were the signs and portents which he did, marvellous his incredible abstinence, his knowledge, his humility. I am never so overcome with amazement as when I think how he was completely unaffected by all the glory and honour paid to him. For bishops flocked to him, presbyters, crowds of clerics and monks, Christian matrons (a great source of temptation!), crowds of ordinary people from the towns and countryside, judges and people in high places, all wanting to receive from him a portion of blessed bread or oil. But he thought continually of nothing else but solitude.
    One day he suddenly made up his mind to set out. He saddled an ass and set out on his journey (for he was so wasted by fasting that he could hardly walk). When it was rumoured about that he was leaving Palestine for the desert vastness, more than ten thousand people of all ages and sexes gathered together in an attempt to stop him. He was unmoved by their prayers as he talked with them, stirring up the sand with his staff.
    "I will not make God a liar," (1 John 1.10) he said, "but I shall not see the overthrow of the Churches, the altars broken, or the blood of my sons."
    Those who heard him say this understood that some secret message had been revealed to him which he did not want to reveal in total, but nevertheless they surrounded him to prevent him going on any further. In a loud voice he argued with them, saying that he would take no food or drink until they let him pass. After seven days, growing weaker because of his fasting he was allowed to say farewell to most of them and move on to the town of Bethelia, still accompanied by quite a crowd. There he succeeded in persuading the crowds to turn back, but chose forty monks to stay with him who carried with them food for the journey and who were practised in fasting, that is, refraining from food till after sunset.

    Chapter XXV (continued), Life of St Hilarion, Book 1a
    On the fifth day he arrived at Pelusium and visited the Brothers in a neighbouring desert place called Lychnos. Three days later he arrived at the fortress of Thebatum where he saw Dracontius, the bishop and confessor who was in exile there. He was incredibly delighted at meeting such a great man. After another three days he arrived at Babylon, where he met bishop Philo, who was also a confessor. They had both been exiled to these places by the Emperor Constantius, who favoured the Arian heresy. Two days after leaving there he got to the town of Aphroditos, where he met up with the deacon Baisanes. Here he obtained camels, the only possible means of transport through the waterless desert, for he now told his brothers that he intended to observe the anniversary of Antony's death by keeping a night's vigil in the place where he died. After three further days in the vast and horrible wilderness he arrived at Antony's high mountain where he found two monks, Isaac and Pelusianus, Antony's interpreter.

    Chapter XXVI
    Now that we have got to this point in our story, and the occasion presents itself, it seems right to describe briefly the place where the great man lived. It is a rocky mountain about a mile high, with a spring of water at the base of it. Some of the water soaks away into the sand, but the rest of it falls away to form a small stream. On either bank there are a great number of palm trees, lending charm to the place as well as usefulness. Antony's disciples took the old man with them here and there to show him everything.
    "This is where he would sing his psalms", they said, "here he would pray, here work, here he would rest when tired. These vines he planted himself, as well as these little trees. He made this garden bed with his own hands. Much sweat went into the making of this pond, which irrigates his little garden. And here is the hoe which he used for many years to cultivate the ground with."
    Hilarion lay down on Antony's bed, and embraced the covers as if they were still warm. This was in a little cell, square-shaped, just big enough for a man to stretch out in and lie down. There were two other cells of the same size at the top of the mountain, which could only be reached by climbing up like a snail with a great deal of effort. Antony used to escape here to get away from visitors and the common life of his disciples. These cells had been cut out of the living rock, though extra porchways had been added on. The disciples then led him to the orchard.
    "See these fruit-bearing trees in the midst of the others?" said Isaac. "About three years ago a herd of wild donkeys caused great damage to them. Antony ordered the leader of them to stand still, belaboured him with his stick and asked it how it dared to eat that which it had not sowed. After that they often came to drink from the stream but never touched the trees or the fruit."
    Hilarion asked them if they could show him Antony's burial place. They came a little closer to him and said it was not possible either to show him or not to show him, for in accordance with Antony's instructions, the grave was kept secret to prevent a local very rich man called Pergamius from coming to take the body to his villa and making a martyr's shrine for it.

    Chapter XXVII
    He returned to Aphroditos, and, keeping only two of the brothers with him, remained nearby in the desert for a while, using such abstinence and silence as if he were only just beginning to serve Christ. The surrounding country had been suffering from a drought for the previous three years, and the people said that even the elements were mourning the death of Antony. Hilarion's fame was well known to the farmers round about, and both men and women, their lips bloodless and their bodies wasted with hunger, urgently begged the servant of Christ, as the successor of the blessed Antony, to pray for rain.
    Seeing their plight, Hilarion was filled with compassion, and raising his eyes to heaven and stretching out both his hands he immediately prayed for what they had asked. The rains fell on the dry and thirsty land, suddenly bringing forth a multitude of serpents and poisonous beasts, which bit a great number of people. If they had not run immediately to Hilarion for help they would have died, for he anointed the wounds of the shepherds and farmers with blessed oil and restored them to health.

    Chapter XXVIII
    He was showered with praise as a result, so he fled to Alexandria, intending to go on from there to the desert of Oasis [About 40 miles west of Alexandria]. But since he had never stayed in a city in all the time since he had become a monk, he went on to certain brothers whom he knew in Bruchium, not far from Alexandria, who received him with great joy. It was not long before night began to fall, when they suddenly saw Hilarion's disciples saddling the donkey and preparing for departure. They fell at Hilarion's feet, begging him not to go. They lay down across their doorway, saying that they would rather die than be held guilty of such a grievous lack of hospitality.
    "I was just thinking that I had better move on," said Hilarion, "lest I cause you a great deal of trouble. Future events will show you that I was right to leave so suddenly."
    He knew that next day people would come from Gaza with the Prefect's lictors and search the monastery looking for him.
    "Isn't it true what we have heard about him?" they said, when the found no trace of him. "He is a magician, and can tell the future!"
    For after Hilarion had left Palestine Julian had succeeded as Emperor, and the people of Gaza had destroyed his monastery and begged the new Emperor that Hilarion and Hesychius be put to death. It was decreed that both should be sought for throughout the whole world. But he had already left Bruchium and set out for Oasis through the trackless desert. He stayed there for about a year, but even there his fame had preceded him. There seemed to be nowhere in the East where he could hide, and he considered the possibility of sailing to some desert island. Even though there was nowhere to hide on land, he thought that perhaps the sea might be able to conceal him.

    Chapter XXIX
    But just then Hadrianus his disciple came from Palestine, saying that Julian had been killed, [363 AD. The new Emperor was Jovian]. that a Christian Emperor now reigned, and that he ought to return to what was left of his monastery. But Hilarion would hear none of it, and instead went westward on a camel to the seaside town of Paretonium in Libya, where Hadrianus, in an ill-fated desire to return to Palestine, betrayed Hilarion grievously. For he thought to acquire for himself some of the glory which had earlier belonged to his master, and packed up all the goods which the brothers had put in his care and set off without Hilarion's knowledge. This is a convenient place for me to relate something which might strike terror into the hearts of those who do not respect their masters, for it was not long after this that Hadrianus was stricken with jaundice.

    Chapter XXX
    He still had with him Zananus, and together they took ship for Sicily, knowing he could pay for the passage by selling a copy of the Gospels, which he had copied out himself as a young man. In the middle of the Adriatic the captain's son was possessed by a demon and began to shout loudly:
    "Hilarion, servant of God, why can't we even be safe from you in the middle of the sea? Give me a bit of breathing space till we get to land, lest you cast me out and I fall into the abyss."
    "If my God allows you to stay," said Hilarion, "well, stay! But if he casts you out, why should you blame me, penniless sinner that I am?"
    He said this to discourage the sailors, as well as the merchants who were aboard, from handing him over when they got to land. The boy was purged of the demon not long after that, and his father and the others who were there gave their word that that they would not mention his name to anyone at a later date.
    When they docked at Cape Pachynum in Sicily he offered the Gospel to the captain as payment for his passage, but he would not accept it, especially as he could see that apart from that book and the clothes they stood up in they possessed absolutely nothing. But the old man was quite happy to put his faith in being poor, rejoicing all the more in possessing nothing of this world, and that he should be thought a beggar by those he came into contact with. On the other hand he feared lest the merchants from the East might make his name known, so he fled from the coast twenty miles away to a lonely spot where he collected bundles of wood each day and loaded up his disciple with them. By selling these in a nearby village he was able to provide for his needs and also offer a little bread to anyone who might come to him.

    Chapter XXXI
    But, indeed, as it is written in Scripture, 'a city set on a hill cannot be hidden' (Matthew 5.14). A certain Scutarius, tormented by a demon, cried out in the basilica of the blessed Peter in Rome,
    "A few days ago Hilarion, the servant of Christ, arrived in Sicily and no one recognised him. He thought he was safe, but I am going there to reveal where he is."
    Accompanied by a youthful retinue, he straightaway went to the harbour and took ship for Pachymum, where, driven by the demon, he prostrated himself outside Hilarion's dwelling. Hilarion immediately cured him.
    This beginning of signs in Sicily prompted a great multitude of sick people to seek him out, as well as many of the ordinary faithful. Among the first who came to him was one suffering from dropsy, who was cured on that same day. He offered to reward the Saint with a large gift, only to hear him repeat the saying of the Saviour: 'Freely have you received, freely give' (Matthew 10.8).

    Chapter XXXII
    While this had been going on in Sicily, his disciple Hesychius had been searching everywhere trying to find him. He searched the coasts and he went into the deserts, buoyed up by the conviction that wherever Hilarion went he could not possibly go unnoticed. After three years' wandering he heard from a Jew in Messina, 'a city selling the people cheap trash', [Horace, Letters 1.vii] that a Christian prophet had appeared in Sicily, doing so many signs and miracles that he was thought to be one of the Saints of old time. But he was unable to get any answers to his questions about how he was dressed, how old he was, what language he spoke or his means of travel. His informant could tell him only that a great number of people had mentioned his fame to him. Hesychius went to Adria and took a quick passage to Pachynum, where in all the little villages along the coast he heard about the old man's fame. Everyone he spoke to knew where he was and what he was doing, and were never so full of admiration for him as for his not accepting from anybody in any of those places so much as a crust of bread by way of a reward for his many signs and miracles.

    Chapter XXXIII
    To cut a long story short, the holy Hesychius fell on his knees before the Master, watering his feet with his tears. The old man lifted him up and they spoke together for two or three days, until Zananus told Hesychius that the old man could no longer live in these parts, but wanted to go to some of the more barbarian places where his name and reputation were unknown. So they went to Epidaurus, a town in Dalmatia, but after having lived in a quiet little spot near the town for a few days, he found he could no longer remain hidden away. For a beast of enormous size was laying the district waste. The local people called these beasts 'cattlers' [boas] because they were able to swallow up cattle [boves] in one gulp. It could devour not only plough oxen and store cattle but also farmers and shepherds, who were irresistibly dragged towards it by the fascination of its power. Hilarion caused a pyre to be built, prayed to Christ, summoned the beast and made it ascend to the top of the pile of wood. And then, as all the people looked on, he set fire to the pyre and cremated the enormous beast. He began to wonder what he should do next, and where he should turn to, and prepared to flee once more, wanting desperately to be able to wander the earth alone, regretting that people were already spreading the news about how he had performed a miracle without even saying anything at all.
    In the tempestuous earthquake which followed the death of Julian, the sea burst its bounds as if God were threatening the whole world with another flood, or reducing everything to a state of primeval chaos. Ships were smashed and carried up on to the hillsides where they were left stranded. The people of Epidaurus were terrified that the size and violent movement of the waves with their mountainous whirlpools would suck away the beaches, and they were frightened that the foundations of the town would be washed away, which they had already seen happen once before. They ran to the old man, and made him go to the seashore, in the very forefront of the battle. He made the sign of the cross three times in the sand and stretched out his hands. Incredible to relate, a high and swelling wall of water stopped still in front of him, and gradually subsided back into itself. To this day, the people of Epidaurus, and the whole region round about, talk about this event. Mothers tell their children about it, and so the memory of it is transmitted to posterity. What was said to the Apostles is absolutely true: 'If you have faith you shall say to this mountain, be cast into the sea, and it shall be done' (Matthew 17.20). This can be fulfilled quite literally, if anyone has faith such as that which the Lord commanded that the Apostles should have. There is not a great deal of difference, after all, between a mountain being removed into the sea, and, on the other hand, mountainous waves suddenly being arrested and gently subsiding in front of the rock-like presence of one old man. The whole region wondered, and this remarkable sign was noised abroad as far as Salon.

    Chapter XXXIV
    When the old man realised this, he fled by night, and after two days boarded a merchant ship going to Cyprus. When they were half way between the islands of Malea and Cythera, pirates left the shore in two fast warships, sweeping the waves with their oars, striking fear into the occupants of the merchant ship. They wept, they ran about panic-stricken, they prepared what weapons they had, and cried out to Hilarion that pirates were coming, as if he did not know already. He had already seen them in the distance, smiled, and said to his disciples, "'O ye of little faith, what are you frightened of?' (Matthew 8.26). Are these greater than the armies of Pharaoh? Yet by the will of God they were all drowned" (Exodus 14.27). As he was speaking the hostile ships with foaming prows were only a stone's throw away. But he stood in the bows of the ship, and thrust his hand out towards them.
    "Thus far and no farther!" he shouted.
    Miracle of faith! The ships stopped, and quite contrary to the movement of the oars, began to go backwards. The pirates were stunned. They had no desire to go back to shore, but in spite of everything they could do, toiling away trying to make the ships go forward, they went back more quickly than they had come.

    Chapter XXXV
    I pass over the rest of the voyage, lest my narrative get too big for one volume. Suffice it to say that they sailed safely past the Cyclades, from whence they heard the voices of unclean spirits arising from the towns and villages, spreading down even as far as the coast, and arrived at last at the port of Paphus in Cyprus, a town celebrated in the songs of the poets. Here they saw the ruins of what once used to be, destroyed by the frequency of the earthquakes, and took up a humble existence about two miles from the city, rejoicing greatly at being able to remain in silence for a few days. But not twenty full days later, anyone throughout the whole island who was possessed by unclean spirits began to shout: "Hilarion the servant of Christ is here!" and felt compelled to seek him out. The people of Salamina, Cyrium, Lapetha and other towns all had the same cry, some of them shouting that they themselves were Hilarion, the servant of God, without knowing where he really was! Nevertheless, before a month had passed there were already about two hundred people, both men and women, gathered about him. He gazed at them, grieving that he was not being allowed to stay in silence, but nevertheless did violence to his own inclinations by belabouring them with urgent prayer, such that some of them were cured immediately, some within two or three days, and all of them by the end of a week.

    Chapter XXXVI
    He stayed there for two years, constantly wondering where he could fly to next. He sent Hesychius to Palestine to send greetings to the brothers and inspect the ashes of his monastery, telling him to return in Spring. When Hesychius returned, Hilarion then thought of going to Bucolia in Egypt, for the reason that there were no Christians there, only a wild and barbarous people, but Hesychius persuaded him it would be better simply to go to a more secret spot without leaving the island. He searched about in many directions, and at last took Hilarion to a place about twelve miles inland among steep and deserted mountains which it was hardly possible to climb up on hands and knees.
    Once there he could take comfort in being in a remote and daunting environment, surrounded by trees, and yet with a stream flowing down from the upper slopes, an area which had obviously once been cultivated and had fruit bearing trees in abundance - from which however he never picked any fruit! There were the ruins of an ancient temple nearby, from which numberless voices of demons emanated night and day, so much so that you might have thought an army was approaching (so he said, and his disciples bore this out). Being able to battle against the enemy at such close quarters pleased him, and he stayed there five years, with Hesychius keeping a constant eye on him. In this last phase of his life he was able to refocus himself, for only very rarely was anyone willing and able to seek him out because of the severe difficulties involved in getting there. Besides which the ordinary people were convinced that the place was haunted by ghosts.

    Chapter XXXVII
    One day he went out into the garden and found a man totally paralysed lying just outside. He asked Hesychius who he was and how he had got there.
    "He is the bailiff of this estate," he replied, "which includes the garden we are in."
    Hilarion wept and stretched out his hand.
    "In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ," he said, stand up and walk!"
    Amazing speed! The words had hardly come out of his mouth before the man's limbs regained their strength and enabled him to stand up.
    After this became widely known, many people in need refused to let a difficult and trackless journey deter them, and they found that there was nothing about the place which would enable him to escape from them. He began to drop hints that he would not be able to stay there much longer, not because of any thoughtless, childish pique, but because he shunned popularity, which he hated. He never desired anything other than to live humbly and in silence.

    Chapter XXXVIII
    In the eightieth year of Hilarion's age, while Hesychius was away, he wrote with his own hand a letter by way of making a will, leaving Hesychius everything he possessed, that is, a book of the Gospels, a sackcloth tunic, a cowl and a cloak. He became very ill, and many religious men came from Paphus to see him, many of whom heard him say that he was about to depart to the Lord, liberated from the chains of the flesh. A certain holy woman called Constantia, whose niece Hilarion had saved from death by anointing her with oil, urged them all not to delay for a minute after his death before covering him with earth in the garden, clothed in his hairshirt, his cowl and his sackcloth. While there was still a little warmth left in his body, and before his living human senses had departed from him, he opened his eyes and spoke:
    "Go, what have you to fear?" he said. "Go, my soul, why do you hesitate? Nearly seventy years you have served Christ, how can you be frightened of death?"
    With these words he gave up his spirit. He was buried at once in the earth, before the news of his death was announced in the city. When the holy Hesychius heard in Palestine, he hurried back to Cyprus, making out that he wanted to live in that same garden, in order to ease the plight of a faithful farmer who in great peril of his life had been guarding it, and had concealed the body there for nearly ten months. He took it back to Maiuma, in the presence of a great crowd of monks and townspeople, where he laid him to rest in his old monastery, clothed in his old ragged tunic and cowl and sackcloth. His body was as incorrupt as if he were still alive, and gave off a sweet smell as if he had been anointed with perfumes.

    Chapter XXXIX
    As this little book draws to a close I must not keep silent about the devotion of that holy woman Constantia. When she was told the news that the body of Hilarion was in Palestine, the breath left her body, showing her love for the servant of God even in death. For she had been accustomed to spending nights in vigil as if present at his tomb, talking to him as if he were present and begging for his prayers. Even today, there is still a great rivalry between the Palestinians and the Cyprians, the former boasting of his body, but the latter quite certain that it was they who possessed his spirit. And yet it is in both places that great signs are to be seen daily, but especially in that little garden in Cyprus, a place which perhaps he had loved above all.

    Life No 4, Book 1a

    The Life of Saint Malchus, (Also St Onuphrius, further down page)

    [Celebrated in the Roman Martyrology on October 21.

    This Life appears in Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, op.cit. not as a letter addressed to anyone in particular. Written probably in 391.]

    Monk and Captive

    by Jerome, presbyter

    Sailors contemplating a naval battle first of all steer their ship into the calm waters of a harbour, ship the oars, get the grappling hooks ready, arrange the troops in order, take up their station, accustom themselves to stand firm as the ship glides on, so that what they learn in a simulated battle will hold no fears for them when it comes to the real thing. So, seeing that I have been silent for a long time (for the person who complained about my writings made me keep silent), I thought perhaps I might get in some practice, by writing just a brief article, before engaging in a longer history. If the Lord gives me time, and if my enemies won't follow me now that I am a fugitive and enclosed in a monastery, I plan to cover events from the coming of the Saviour until the present age, that is, from the Apostles to the latest minute of our time, how and by whom the Church was born and nourished, how it suffered under persecutions and has been crowned with martyrs, after which we come to the age of Christian princes, greater in power and riches, but meaner in virtues. But that can await another time. [This project apparently never came to fruition, though doubtless these Lives would have formed part of it.] For the present, let us do as we have just said.

    The Life
    Chapter I
    Maronias is a quite unimportant little village about thirty miles to the east of Antioch in Syria. When I was a youth in Syria it used to be ruled by many different masters or patrons until it came into the possession of Pope Evagrius, [Bishop of Antioch at that time, well known to Jerome.] a necessary move in my opinion. I mention this to prove how I know the details of what I am writing about.
    In those days there was an old man called Malchus, of Syrian nationality and language and, as I understand, a native of that place. I suppose in the Latin language 'Malchus' would become 'King'. There was an old woman who was associated with him, very infirm, not far away from death, as it seemed, and both of them were very devout in their religious practices. They spent so much time in the church that you would have thought they were another Zacharias and Elisabeth as described in the Gospel (Luke 1.5), except that there wasn't any John in evidence. I asked some of the local people about them, curious about their links with each other, whether they were actually married, or related, or just soul-mates. Everyone I asked declared with one voice that they were holy and pleasing to God and had done who knows how many miracles. Devoured with curiosity I went to see the man himself, hoping to find out the truth of the matter. This is what he told me:

    Chapter II
    I was born in the hamlet of Nisibenus, the only child of my parents. Because I was the heir and the only hope of the family name continuing, they wanted me to marry, but I told them that I would rather become a monk. My father threatened me, my mother tried to soft-soap me into losing my virginity, which resulted in my running away from both home and family. I could not go east to Persia because it was occupied by the Roman army, so I went west, carrying with me a little food to keep me from starvation. I arrived at length at a desert near Chalcidos [a town in Syria], between Beroea and Imma, and slightly to the south of them. Here I found some monks, and I gave myself over into their governance, earning my bread by the labour of my hands and curbing my youthful lusts by fasting.

    Chapter III
    Many years later, thoughts of returning to my native land began to come into my mind, for I had heard that my father had died, though my mother was still alive. I thought I might care for her in her widowed state, and eventually sell the property, give some to the poor, build a monastery with some and keep enough to live on. How I blush to confess this faithlessness! My Abbot objected that this was a temptation of the devil. It was an occasion of sin presented by the ancient enemy under the guise of a good intention. It would be like a dog returning to his own vomit (Proverbs 26.11). Many monks were deceived in this way, for the devil never betrayed anyone by a frontal attack. He put many examples from Scripture before me, Adam and Eve to start with (Genesis 3.5), who were brought down by expecting to become gods.
    When he could not dissuade me by argument he went down on his knees and begged me not to desert him, not to lose my own soul, for, having put my hand to the plough, I ought not to look back (Luke 9.62). Miserable wretch that I am, the worst possible course of action won the day, for I thought he was simply seeking his own advantage, not my own welfare at all. He followed me out of the monastery as if he were at a funeral paying his last respects.
    "I see you, my son," he cried, "caught up in the snares of the devil. I brook no argument, I accept no excuses. He who leaves the sheepfold can expect to get bitten by wolves!"

    On the way from Beroea to Edessa, the public pathway passes through a deserted region, where the Saracens emerge from various hidden dens to make raids here and there. The risk they pose leads travellers to band together in these places, in order to minimise the danger. In the group that I was with there were men, women, old and young, as well as little children, to the number of about seventy. Suddenly there appeared a band of half naked Ishmaelites, riding camels and horses, wearing headbands, trailing long scarves behind them, quiverfuls of arrows hanging from their shoulders, and waving long bows and spears. They had come not to kill but to rob.
    They seized us, divided us up into small groups, and carried us off in various different directions. So there was I, already repenting of my plans, heir to a considerable property, finding my only inheritance was to be slavery, in which I found my chance companion was to be a young woman. We were led, or rather carried on camels, through a vast desert, hanging on to them rather than just sitting on them, frightened of falling off. Our food was half-cooked meat, our drink camel's milk. We came at last to a wide river, over which we crossed to an inner desert, where, according to their custom, we were made to bow our heads before their leader, who was a woman, and her children. We had to learn how to accept that we were prisoners, with different clothing, that is, we were left almost bare, apart from a loincloth, such was the climate of the place.
    I was put in charge of keeping the sheep, which was a great comfort to me in my misfortune, for it meant that I saw my masters and fellow slaves only rarely. It seemed to me that I had something in common with holy Jacob (Genesis 29). I also remembered Moses, both of whom in former times tended cattle in the desert. I was fed on cheese and milk. I prayed diligently, I sang the psalms which I had learned in the monastery. I began to enjoy my captivity, and I was glad of the judgment of God, in that the monastic life which I have been about to lose in my native land I had found again in the desert.

    Chapter V
    But one is never safe from the devil. O, the multiplicity and unexpectedness of his tricks! A malicious disaster was lying in wait for me. Now I had been following the precepts of the Apostle by faithfully serving my master as I would God (Ephesians 6.5, Colossians 3.22), and when my master saw that his flock was flourishing and that there was no deceit in me, he decided to reward me by giving me the woman with whom I had been taken captive. Now this woman's husband had also been taken captive, but had been given to a different master. So I refused his gift, telling him that as a Christian it was not lawful for me to have the wife of a man still living. My master changed in an instant from someone magnanimous to someone in a rage, and came at me with drawn sword. If I had not hastily taken the woman's gentle hand, blood would have flowed. A deeper darkness, gloomier than ever, had come upon me.
    I was forced to take my new wife into my rough shelter, both of us filled with misery rather than nuptial joy, each of us detesting the other, neither of us speaking. Now I felt the full force of my captivity, and I threw myself on the ground and mourned the monastic life which I had lost.
    "How did I get into this miserable plight? Is this what my sins have brought me to, that I, a virgin, should now have my hair grow grey as a husband? If I do that now, what point was there in giving up parents, native land and family life for the sake of the Lord? For I gave those things up for the very purpose of not following that course. Perhaps it is because I gave in to a desire to seek my native land again that I am suffering these things now. What are you going to do, O my soul? Are you going to perish, or conquer? Wait for the hand of the Lord, or dig a grave for yourself with your own sword? Turn the sword against yourself; the death of your soul is more to be feared than the death of your body. Shamefastness has brought its own martyrdom. Let this unsung witness to Christ lie here in the desert. I shall be my own persecutor and martyr."
    And then in my darkness I drew a gleaming sword and turned the point against myself.
    "Farewell, unhappy woman," I said. "You now have a martyr instead of a husband."
    She threw herself at my feet.
    "I beg you in the name of Jesus Christ," she said, "There is no need for your blood to be mingled with mine. Better for you to delay a while and turn the sword against me, that we may be united in that way. For even if my own husband is reunited with me I would still preserve the chastity that I have learned about in captivity. I would rather die than perish eternally. Why do you delay being joined to me? Take me as a wife of chastity, joined together in soul but not in body. Our masters can believe we are married, Christ knows you are my brother. They will easily be convinced that we are married, when they see how much we love each other."
    I was absolutely dumbfounded, I can tell you, lost in admiration for the virtue of this woman, whom I have loved even more as wife. I have never seen her naked, I have never laid a finger on her, fearing even in times of peace to lose sight of the goals I have striven after in the time of battle. Many days passed by in this 'marriage', and by our appearing to be married our masters looked upon us with greater favour. There was no question of my trying to escape, though sometimes I would spend as much as a whole month in solitude looking after the sheep.

    Chapter VI
    After having been alone in the desert for quite some time with nothing to see apart from earth and sky, I began to turn things over in my mind, especially thinking of the monastic community I had left. I envisaged the features of my spiritual father who had instructed me, cherished me, and lost me. As I was thinking, I noticed some ants swarming out of a narrow cleft in the rock, dealing with burdens bigger than their own bodies. Some were dragging grass seeds in their pincers, others digging earth out of their narrow entrance and heaping it up into ramparts intended to keep out water. They were obviously mindful of the coming winter, and were making sure their storehouses would not be damp and encourage seeds to germinate. Others were having a funeral, dragging along an ant's dead body. And what was even more wonderful to me was that those going out did not get in the way of those going in, and if one of them was struggling under the weight of its burden, another would come and lend extra strength. What a beautiful sight that day brought to my eyes! I thought of Solomon, urging us to consider the industry of the ant as an example to stir up sluggish minds (Proverbs 6.6), and I began to feel weary of my captivity, longing for the monastic cell and the sort of care shown for each other by those ants, where all work is undertaken together, no one has any private property, and everything belongs to all.
    My wife met me as I returned home, unable to conceal the sadness in my face. She asked why I looked so depressed. When I told her, she did not laugh me to scorn but suggested that we should escape.
    "Hush, hush!" I said. "Though I must say I admire your faith." And we whispered together half way between hope and fear.

    Chapter VII
    There were two wonderfully large he-goats in my flock. I slaughtered them both, made bags out of their skins, and prepared the meat as food for the journey. Early one evening, when our masters thought we had gone to sleep, we began our journey, carrying the bags and some of the meat. When we came to the river, ten miles away, we inflated the bags, grasped hold of them, and entrusted ourselves to the waters, paddling with our feet, so that little by little the stream would carry us to a place on the opposite bank a long way further down than the place where we entered, in the hope that any pursuers would lose the trail. Our meat got thoroughly soaked while we were doing this, besides which we dropped some of it, so that we scarcely had three days food left. Mindful that we might be thirsty later on, we drank till we could drink no more, and fled as fast as we could, constantly looking over our shoulders. We moved mostly at night, not only because of the burning heat of the sun, but also because of the ever-present threat of wandering Saracens. I tremble miserably even to think of it, and even though I am now quite secure, my whole body shudders.

    Chapter VIII
    On the third day we could just about make out two men on camels, following us quickly in the distance. Night was beginning to fall, we were terrified, we thought it must be our master, we thought we must be near death. Our fear was increasing as we thought of our footprints plainly there in the sand, when we noticed a cave on our right, going back into the cliff. We went inside, in spite of our fears that poisonous beasts might be seeking the shadows there as daylight faded - vipers, spiders, scorpions and such like. Just inside the entrance we took refuge in a side passage on the left. Going in any further would be in vain, for by fleeing from death we could equally easily be running to meet death. With that thought in mind we knew that if the Lord takes pity on miserable wretches we would be safe, though if he condemns the sinner we were in our tomb.
    Imagine our state of mind, imagine our terror, when we saw our master and another of his slaves not far away outside the cave, and led by our footprints approaching our hiding place. We knew we could expect a fate far more awful than death. With stammering tongue I breathed a prayer to the Lord in great fear, not daring to move. He sent his slave in to drag us out of the cave, while he held on to the camels with drawn sword, waiting for us to come out. The servant went in for about three or four cubits. We could see his back as we looked out of our hiding place. He sent his voice echoing down the passage.
    "Come out, you wretches, come out, you gallows fodder, come out and die! Don't just stand there. What are you waiting for? It is your lord and master who summons you."
    He had hardly spoken when suddenly we saw a lioness rush out of the darkness, grip the man by the throat, and drag him back all covered in blood. O good Jesus! What was our terror! And yet what was our joy! We had seen our enemy perish without the master being aware of it. The master began to wonder why the servant was taking so long, and thought that perhaps there was a fight of two against one going on. Unable to restrain his anger any longer he entered the cave, trusting in his drawn sword, berating furiously his servant's stupidity, until he too was laid low by the wild beast, which had evidently been hiding there before us. Who ever would have believed that a beast would have fought for us before our very eyes!

    Chapter IX
    With a second slaughter having taken place before our eyes we were still very frightened, wondering whether it was really safer to be threatened by a raving lioness than by an angry human. We were inwardly shattered, and dared not move, waiting to see what would happen in the midst of such great danger, but trusting in our own innocence as a wall of defence. In the morning the lioness picked up her cub in her mouth and went out, very cautiously, as if in danger, as if she were being observed. We were left in sole possession of our guesthouse. We could not believe it firmly enough to come out of our hiding place. We hesitated for a long time, wondering whether to go on, imagining that we might still be attacked again.

    Chapter X
    We spent the whole day in fear before we finally emerged and found the camels outside, chewing the cud. We mounted them, refreshed ourselves by a new supply of food, and on the tenth day of our journey through the desert arrived at a Roman fort. We reported to the tribune, to whom we gave a full account of what had happened to us. He sent us to Sabianus, the duke of Mesopotamia. Here we sold the camels. I found that my old abbot had fallen asleep in the Lord, but I rejoined the monks of his community. I saw my 'wife' safely into a community of virgins, caring for her as I would for a sister, though I would not have trusted myself to live with her as a sister.

    * * * * * * *

    Chapter XI
    So that was what Malchus told me when I was young. I am telling you the story now I am old, a celibate man expounding a story of chastity. I urge all virgins to preserve their chastity. And tell those who come after you how modesty was never compromised in the midst of swords and deserts and beasts, and how a man dedicated to Christ can die but can never be overcome.

    Life No5

    The Life of Saint Onuphrius, Hermit [Celebrated in the Roman Martyrology on June 12.]

    by Abba Paphnutius

    translated anonymously into Latin from the Greek

    by the anonymous translator.
    Quite recently in looking through some Greek writings I came across this Life of Onuphrius. I already knew about it from what I was told by Gregory, that venerable and most prudent man. Having found it, I translated it by the grace of God into Latin, so that his commendable life, as far as my own powers might allow, should be better known, and provide an object of admiration and imitation for the reader. I beg you to overlook my untutored style, and exercise some forbearance as you ponder how great a labour the man of God patiently and generously took upon himself, as he spurned all the glory of worldly vanity, and by the straitness of his living gained for himself the inheritance of the kingdom of heaven.

    The Life
    Paphnutius of blessed memory reveals some of his private acts and thoughts as follows:
    Chapter I
    One day as I, Paphnutius, was meditating in solitude and silence, it came into my mind that I should make a visit to all the places in the desert where there were holy monks, to shed light on how they habitually lived their lives of devotion, and learn to understand the way in which they served God. So it was that I quietly began my journey, eager to make this pleasurable venture into the desert. I carried some bread and water with me to sustain me in the labour of my journey, but by the end of the fourth day it had all gone. My limbs were beginning to lose their strength for lack of sustenance. However by the light of divine grace my imminent death was staved off, and gathering up my strength I resumed my journey, carrying on for another four days, eating nothing. At the end of this I was completely exhausted, and lay prostrate on the ground as if dead.
    And suddenly I was gladdened by help from heaven, for I saw a man in front of me who was unbelievably glorious, splendidly terrifying, impressively beautiful, colossally tall, illustrious of appearance. I was powerfully overcome at the sight, but with untroubled countenance he came close to me, and touched first my hands and then my lips. My strength flowed back strongly into me, and I rose to my feet immediately. By God's good favour I kept on going through the desert for seventeen days, to arrive at whatsoever place the Lord wished to show me, unworthy servant though I am, until such time as I might cease from my labour.

    Chapter II
    As I was wearily resting, and thinking of how I had struggled to arrive at where I was, I saw in the distance a man terrible to behold. He was covered all over in hair like a wild beast. His hair was so thick that it completely concealed the whole of his body. His only clothing was a loincloth of leaves and grasses. The very sight of him filled me with awe, whether from fear or wonder I was not quite sure. I had never before set eyes on such an extraordinary sight in human shape. I didn't know what to do, but as I valued my life I took refuge

    Chapter II (continued), Life of St Onuphrius, Book 1a

    in flight, and clambered hastily up a nearby cliff face. In trembling haste I hid myself under some thick leafy plants, breathing heavily. Age and abstinence had nearly become the death of me. The man saw me on the cliff and cried out to me in a loud voice.
    "Come down from the mountainside, you man of God. Don't be afraid. I am just a frail mortal man like you."
    Reassured by these words I recovered my wits and came down, and going up to the holy man, hesitantly prostrated myself at his feet.
    "Get up, get up," he said. "You mustn't kneel before me. You too are a servant of God and your name is Paphnutius, beloved of the Saints."
    I got up at once, and although I was very tired it was with great joy that I sat down in front of him, with a keen desire to know who he was, and what sort of a life he lived.
    "God who has guided me through the desert has fulfilled my heart's desire," I said. "My limbs and joints which were almost disintegrating already begin to feel refreshed. But my mind still thirsts for enlightenment. Tell me, reverend sir, with a fervent heart I beg you, I appeal to you in the name of him for the sake of whose love you inhabit the lonely wastes of this desert, whence did you come, what is your name, how long have you been here. I beg you, tell me plainly."
    He could obviously see how keenly I wanted to know about the purpose of his life, and he gave me his answer.

    Chapter III
    "I can see how earnestly you wish to know about the tribulations of my long life, beloved brother. Have no fear, I shall tell you everything, right from the beginning. I am called Onuphrius, an unworthy sinner, and I have been living my laborious life in this desert for nearly seventy years. I have the wild beasts for company, my regular food is fruit and herbs, I lay my miserable body down to sleep in mountainsides, in caves, and in valleys. Throughout all these years I have seen no one except you, and I have not been supplied with food by any human being.
    "I was brought up in the monastery of Hermopolis in the Thebaid, where there were about a hundred monks. Their life was such that they lived equably with each other in will and in deed. They were of one heart and one spirit, bowing their heads under the yoke and discipline of a holy rule, unworried by the ups and downs of life in the world. What pleased one pleased all. They walked before God with holy minds, pure faith, and perfect charity. Night and day they never ceased serving him with meekness and patience. They had such a love of silence, as part of their abstinence, that no one dared say a word, except by way of asking a necessary question or giving an apposite answer. I too received there the food of holy doctrine in my youth, there I learned from the brothers the model of a regular life. I was secure in the love they had for me, and they diligently instructed me how I ought to serve the commandments of God.

    Chapter IV
    "Above all I frequently heard the venerable brothers praising the life of our holy father Elias, who disciplined himself in the desert with such abstinence and prayer that the Lord found him worthy to be given exceedingly great virtues. As he was carried away in a chariot of fire, he imparted his gifts of the holy Spirit to his disciple, and in his old age he did not see death (2 Kings 2.12). Then they would go on to the example of the blessed John Baptist who shines brightly through the pages of the New Testament. Throughout a period of many years he had been called aside for a special divine purpose, disciplining his body until such time as he was counted worthy to baptise the Redeemer of the world, when he pointed up to the heavens and declared him to be the Lamb of God.

    Chapter V
    "As I listened to them talking of such things, I found I had questions to ask.
    "'Why do you stand in such awe of their life and miracles, good sirs,' I asked, 'and why do you rehearse their deeds so zealously? Are you not as strong as they were, living in the desert as you do? Or are you of less account than them?'
    "'My son', they replied, 'those who live without the help of any other human being are much stronger than we are. Each one of us is constantly being observed by everyone else, we all share in the celebration of the divine office, our food is ready for us at meal time, if anyone of us is ill or suffers from any other kind of human disability, the brothers are there to care for us with all kindness. We live in spacious buildings which shelter us from the summer heat and from the rain in winter. We are protected from the turbulence of wind and tempest. But the monks in the desert have no comfort except in God. If at any time they are suffering trials and tribulations, or if they begin to wage war with the devil, that ancient enemy of the human race, who is there for them? Who can help them? But when human help is lacking, divine help is always present. And if they are hungry, who will feed them? If thirsty, who will give them water where there is no food or water?
    "'It is beyond all doubt that desert places demand the maximum amount of labour, for the necessities of life are not readily available. The first essential for anyone deciding to live in solitude, therefore, is to be certain of standing firmly in the fear of God. They crucify their bodies in hunger and thirst, in labour and suffering. They fight manfully against the wiles of the devil, and against the fiery darts of the wicked they conquer with the sword of the spirit. That ancient enemy, the fount of all evil, strives always to bring them to ruin and enrol them in the company of the wicked, by undermining the good will with which they set out, by ensnaring their minds in thoughts of worldly pleasures, and making them weary of persevering in the work they have begun.
    "'But the Almighty God never abandons those who put their trust in him, for he surrounds them with the armour of his power, and the attacks of Satan have no power against them, for they are protected by divine mercy from on high. They are constantly under the protection of the Angels of God who habitually bring them everything they need. They drink water from the stony rock (Psalms 78.15), which, being interpreted, is Christ. For it is written: "The holy ones who trust in the Lord will be strong, they shall rise up with wings as eagles, they shall fly and shall not fall, they shall run and not be weary" (Isaiah 40.31). And again: "Those who thirst shall be refreshed by heavenly fountains, and green leaves shall melt in their mouths like honey" (cf. Exodus 16.31).
    "'Whenever the devil gathers his forces against them, they arise and lift up their hands to God, faithfully pouring out their prayers before the divine majesty. Help from heaven is there for them immediately, and the crafty arrows of the enemy are straightway destroyed. Have you not understood, my son, what is written in the Psalms? "He forgets not the suffering of the poor without end; the longsuffering of the poor will not last for ever" (Psalms 9.12). And again: "The Lord will hear them in the time of trouble, and will deliver them in the narrow places" (Psalms 107.19). "Truly each one shall receive his reward according to his labour" (1 Corinthians 3.8). "Blessed is the man who is always fearful" (Proverbs 28.14), who seeks the will of God in this present life, and takes care of the weak. Rest assured, my son, that the Angels of God are always round about the righteous, and are ever enlightening their bodies and souls with power from above.'

    Chapter VI
    "This was the instruction carefully given me in the monastery by the holy Fathers, and I began to picture silently the glorious bliss enjoyed in heaven, by those who for the love of God have endured great trials here on earth. My heart burned within me, my mind began to be set on spurning worldly joys completely, and seeking my heavenly father with all my might, as the psalmist says: 'It is good for me to cleave unto God and put my hope in the Lord my God' (Psalms 73.28)

    Chapter VII
    As a result of carefully thinking these things over I was moved to get up quietly in the middle of the night, take some bread and enough pulse to last me for a few days, and I set off, trusting in the guidance and goodness of God to show me a place where I might live. As I went from that monastery in the mountains into the desert where I intended to remain, I suddenly saw a shining light in front of me on the way, which filled me with fear to such an extent that I thought I had better go back to the monastery whence I had come. Then suddenly I saw a man of most beautiful appearance come towards me out of that ray of shining light.
    "'Fear not,' he said, 'I am your guardian Angel, whom God has assigned to you right from the beginning, to be with you by God's command and to lead you into the desert. Be perfected, walk humbly with God, labour joyfully, keep guard over your heart at all times, live uncomplainingly, persevere in good works. Rest assured I shall never leave you until such time as I shall bear you up into the presence of his Majesty most high.'
    "Thus spoke the Angel, who became my companion at the beginning of my journey.

    Chapter VIII
    "We went on for about six or seven miles until we came to a rather insignificant looking cave. I went closer to see if there were anyone inside, and as is the custom of monks I humbly called out to ask a blessing. I suddenly saw a most holy man emerge, and I prostrated myself on the ground before him. But he stretched out his hands, lifted me up and offered me the kiss of peace.
    "'Come inside, my son,' he said. 'You are my brother in the life of the desert. God grant that you remain always in his fear, and that all your doings may be pleasing in his sight.'
    "I went in and stayed with him for many days, eager to know what he did, wanting to find out about his solitary life. He knew what it was I wanted to know, and in words of most loving kindness gave me some wonderful advice about how to counter the snares of the devil.
    "'Arise, my son,' he urged me, after I had spent some days with him. 'Depart from me now. It is time for you to go into the inner desert, and there dwell alone in some other cave. Fight bravely, and you will overcome all the temptations of the devil. It is God's will that you be tested in this desert, to see whether you can fulfil all his commandments. "For his commandments are faithful and will endure for ever, grounded in truth and justice." (Psalms 111.7-8)'
    "Having said this, the holy man arose and came with me, and travelled with me for four days into the inner desert. On the fifth day we came to a place in Calidiomea where there were some palm trees.
    "'See, brother,' said the man of God, 'here is the place which God has prepared for you.'
    "And he stayed with me for a further thirty days, teaching me how to serve the teachings of God's commandments with watchful diligence. At last he commended me to God in his holy prayers, and went back to his own place. He continued to visit me once a year, and never ceased to admonish me with his godly words about how to live in simplicity and diligence.

    Chapter IX
    "There came a time when he visited me as usual and fell down to the ground as he greeted me. He had given up his soul to the Lord and had fallen asleep. I was overcome with grief, and flung myself down, weeping floods of tears which rose up from within me. And then I took up his body and committed it to the earth of Calidiomea."

    Chapter X
    "Holy Father," I said, in reply to all that the most holy Onuphrius had said to me, "I sense that you must have persevered through some rather difficult adversities in this desert in the name of Christ."
    "Believe me, beloved brother," the holy man replied, "I have endured such things in this desert that I have often thought I was very near death. There have been so many times in my life when hope has failed me and I have scarcely had any breath left in my body. Scorched by day in the heat and burning fire of the sun, exposed to dew and hoar frost by night, fainting from hunger and thirst - O how many such things have I suffered! I cannot tell you how many wounds and hard knocks must be suffered by anyone who is willing to die for the love of God, nor would it be right to do so. But the Lord rewards the labours of his Saints (Wisdom 10.17), for his riches are beyond telling, nor can they be diminished. Through all the manifold pains and torments that I have suffered, cold and heat, hunger and thirst, his power has strengthened me with the heavenly riches of the company of Angels. By spurning food for the body I have been found worthy to receive the bread of heaven. My holy Angel has daily brought me bread, and water in due measure, to refresh my body lest it faint, that I might continue in the praise of God.
    "The palm trees have this property that the dates ripen twelve times a year. I picked them daily and ate them together with green herbs, and they were in my mouth as the honey and the honeycomb. In the Gospel it is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God' (Matthew 4.4). Brother Paphnutius, if you wish to fulfil the will of God, everything necessary is ready for you. For the Truth himself counsels you, 'Take no thought for what you shall eat, or what you shall drink, or what you shall wear, for your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. Wherefore seek first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you'" (Matthew 6 31-33).

    Chapter XI
    I was lost in admiration for what this blessed man Onuphrius was telling me about his deeds and labours.
    "Tell me, good Father," I asked, "do you receive Communion from anyone on the Sabbath, or Day of the Lord?"
    "I find every Sabbath or Day of the Lord that the Angel of the Lord has prepared the most holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring me. With his own hand he gives me these precious gifts, for the everlasting salvation of my life. Indeed all the monks who lead a spiritual life in the desert share in this joy. If perchance any holy hermit living in solitude has a desire to see another human being he is carried up hence by an Angel into heaven where he can contemplate the vision of the souls of the righteous, shining like the sun in the kingdom of the Father. There, in the company of Angels, they see their own souls joined together with the souls of the blessed. And all who struggle in the battle with their whole mind, their whole heart and all their strength abound in good works in order that they may be found worthy to share in the glory of that heavenly country with Christ and all his Saints."
    As I listened to all these things that the venerable Onuphrius was telling me at the top of his little mountain where he met me, I was filled with such great joy that every hardship which I had suffered on my journey was banished into oblivion.

    Chapter XII
    "Father," I said, "I count myself to be numbered among the blessed for having been found worthy to meet you, and to hear of all your wonderful works. What you have told me is so beautiful, so honey-sweet, and my heart is so pierced to the core, that I can truly say with the Psalmist, 'How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey and the honeycomb in my mouth.'" (Psalms 119.103).
    "Come with me, my son," he said. "Come and see where I live. No more words for the moment."
    He got up immediately, moved away, and I followed him. He led me on for about three miles until we arrived at his spiritual home in Calidiomea, a pleasing spot among the palm trees. We first poured out prayers to God, then sat and conversed together on spiritual themes. At the precise moment of sunset I noticed some bread and a little water. The man of God could see how wearied I was.
    "Come now, my son," he said, "I can see that you are almost about to faint unless you take some food. So come and eat."
    "As the Lord liveth, (1 Kings 17.12) and as the Lord my God is blessed in whose sight we live," I said, "I will neither eat nor drink unless we both eat together in perfect charity."
    I was only just able to persuade him to do as I asked. But when he saw I was serious he broke the bread and shared it with me, and we ate and were satisfied; in fact there were some fragments left over from our meal. We passed almost the whole night without sleep as we offered up divine praise.

    Chapter XIII
    After we had observed the hours of prayer next morning, I noticed that he had gone very pale.
    "Is there something the matter with you?" I asked.
    "Don't be over alarmed, brother Paphnutius," he said, "but I think that the omnipotent God has directed your footsteps into this desert that you may give me an honourable burial, and commit my body to the earth. For this is the hour when my soul is to be released from its earthly chains and carried away to its creator in the kingdom of heaven. I know what you intend to do, my beloved brother, so when you go back to Egypt, tell all your brothers and all the worshippers of Christ about me. I have made a request to God which he has granted me: If anyone offers the holy sacrifice for the love of my name in the sight of our Lord Jesus Christ and gives himself wholly to the praise of God, he will be able to resist all the temptations of the devil and will be freed from all the chains of human wickedness, and will be able to enjoy the inheritance of the kingdom of heaven with the holy Angels for ever.
    "And anyone who is not authorised to make the offering or who cannot afford to pay for it, let him give an alms to the poor in the name of the Lord and in his honour, and I will pray for him in the sight of God that he may be found worthy to enjoy the life above in the heavenly realms.
    "If there is anyone who cannot offer the sacrifice or give alms, let him offer sweet smelling incense to the Lord our God for love of me, and I will ask that he enjoy perpetual bliss."
    "Do not be angry with me, Father," I said, "if I ask you what if there is someone who has no incense, and no money to offer to God. How should he call upon you so that he will not suffer from the lack of your blessing?"
    "If there is any poor person in the desert or in any other place who cannot offer the sacrifice, or give alms or incense, let him arise and stretch out his hands before the Lord and say the Paternoster, the Lord's prayer, three times, keeping me firmly in his mind, and let him sing a psalm in the name of the holy Trinity. And I will truly pray for him to the Lord that he may be found worthy to partake in the life of heaven with all the Saints of God."

    Chapter XIV
    I had a further request to make to him.
    "If you think I am worthy, and if you could find it in your heart to make me a gift, let me have this place to live in after your death."
    "No, that cannot be granted you," he said. "God did not guide your journey through this desert in order for you to find a place to live in, but that you should enjoy the company of the righteous in the desert, and then take pains to tell the world about what you have learnt in the desert. Go back to Egypt. Live there for the rest of your life. Be perfect in good works, and you will enjoy the crown of perpetual glory."

    Chapter XV
    In response to what the man of God was saying I fell down at his feet.
    "Beloved Father," I said, "I know that whatever you ask of God, the Lord will grant you because of the immense labour of the long struggle that you have endured by disciplining your body for seventy years in the name of the Lord. Grant me the gift of your holy blessing, that I may be like you in virtue, and that my spirit may always be guided by your intercessions, and that I may be found worthy to share with you in the life to come."
    "Paphnutius," he replied, "do not worry. The Lord will grant that your desire will stand firm. Stand in faith, act manfully (1 Corinthians 16.13), keep your eyes and your mind always on God, keep the commandments, do not be weary in well-doing, grasp hold of eternal life. May the Angels of God protect you and keep you from every working of wickedness, that you may be found pure and spotless before God in the day of judgment."
    Weeping, he prayed to the Lord, bent his knees and said, "Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit."
    As he said this, a brilliant light surrounded him, and his holy soul left his body in a flash of blinding light. [Probable date, c.400, according to Butler, Lives of the Saints, 6th Edition, A & C Black (Publishers) Ltd. 1989]

    Chapter XVI
    And I suddenly heard the voice of a multitude of Angels praising God as the most holy soul of Saint Onuphrius departed, and that angelic song resounded with ineffable joy among all the stars of the universe, while the heavenly armies carried the soul of this distinguished warrior up to heaven. I wept profusely, I groaned inwardly, rivers of tears flowed down, I beat my breast over and over again. I complained in sadness that hardly had I met him than I was no longer able to enjoy his company.

    Chapter XVI (continued), Life of St Onuphrius, Book 1a (Also St Pachomius, further down this page)

    I tore my tunic in half, keeping half to cover my body and using half in which to wrap his blessed body. I buried him in the natural tomb of a cave in the solid rock. I was alone, I wept afresh. Still weeping, I made as if to enter the cave where he had lived, but as I stood in front of it, it collapsed with a mighty roar, and the palm trees were torn up by the roots and lay prostrate. And then I knew that it was not God's will that I, Paphnutius, should live in that place. I returned to Egypt, and there I told the Church all that I had seen and heard.
    The holy Onuphrius died on the eleventh day of June, that is the third day before the Ides. His blessings are with us to this present day to the praise and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be all honour and power unto the ages of ages. Amen.

    Life No 6

    The Life of Saint Pachomius, [c.290 - 346. Feast Day May 14.]

    Abbot of Tabennisi

    by an unknown Greek Author

    translated into Latin from the Greek

    by Dionysius Exiguus, Abbot of Rome. [A Scythian monk who lived in Rome c.500 - 550. 'Exiguus' was the name he gave himself. It carries the meaning of 'small, poor, unimportant']

    Prologue by Dionysius
    Dionysius Exiguus to my revered Lady, the glorious handmaid of Christ: [Rosweyde conjectures that this was a Roman widow called Galla, who according to Gregory the Great lived the life of a recluse on the Vatican Hill. She died in 550, and is celebrated in the Roman Martyrology on October 5.]

    I reply to your respected request, and the valued opportunity it offers, by offering you the Life of Saint Pachomius, faithfully translated into Latin from its Greek source. Your initiative has long been reproaching me for my delay in fulfilling the promise I had made, so it would not be right for me to delay any longer, especially when you are someone who is accustomed to expect a solemn promise rather than a mere good intention. You have eagerly desired to learn more about the disciplines of the blessed Fathers, and by the grace of Christ there is a great number of stories which are there to be read and imitated. Because of the great interest you have shown in gathering together the deeds of each one of them, the credit for this document as a divine gift for future ages is yours.
    You have said that you pay a great deal of attention to the virtues you admire so much in the lives of the Saints. Indeed, you have become one with them by the illustrious quality of your own deeds. For it is no use admiring virtue unless you aspire to it yourself. It is by living like the Saints that you show your union with them, just as on the contrary a life at odds with the Saints is like a great family disruption. It frequently gives rise to terrible family hatreds, senseless disputes, blind and stupid malice which can lead even to the shedding of blood, with the wicked at odds with the good, the avaricious with the generous, the turbulent with the peaceful, the lazy with the industrious, the angry with the placid, the rough with the gentle, the brazen with the modest, the stupid with the wise, the crafty with the simple, the overbearing with the meek. But the Apostle of the Gentiles sounds a trumpet call even more effectively about the nature of these people when he inveighs against the dangers of these present times in the following words: 'For these men are lovers of self, greedy, puffed up, proud, blasphemous, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, impious, without affection, without peacefulness, wrongdoers, incontinent, ungentle, unkind, betrayers, violent, arrogant, who love pleasure more than they love God' (2 Timothy 3.2-3).
    Here the most blessed Paul sums up in a few wonderful words what I was saying earlier in a great many words, for he shows how those who love pleasure become captive to the most vicious desires. All sorts of evils arise when God is despised and pleasures are loved. Through a love of pleasure the devil entices and deceives, he titillates in order to bring about ruin, he flatters in order to destroy. To prevent future joy being preferred to the present, heavenly things to earthly, eternal things to transitory, he says, 'Those who love pleasures more than God, although they may have the appearance of piety, deny the power of all virtue' (Ibid. 5). In other words they are Christians in name but not in deed, and do more damage as enemies in our midst than enemies from outside; as part of the Church they disfigure the members of the Church. The Apostle gives us a forthright warning that we should avoid their company, and be separated from them not just by physical space but by our different standards of behaviour. Nor should anyone be surprised that these vermin are the enemies of the righteous when miserably and deceitfully they don't even spare each other, but quarrel fiercely among themselves. Your holy and glorious father, whose servant I am, has not only proved worthy to endure their attacks patiently and bravely but by his blessed death has triumphed over the whole world for the sake of the Truth who is Christ. He followed in almost every point the perfect rule of life of the Saints, and I earnestly desire to write learnedly and fluently about those rules so that it may be known in every place how your father came to be so famous and glorious, and how the human virtues of someone of this present day are to be admired. By the grace of Christ you stand in his inheritance, and may bequeath it to posterity in the shape of a book.

    The Prologue of the Author
    Our Lord Jesus Christ, the fount of wisdom and light of true knowledge, the true Word of God the father, by whom all things were made, is aware of our weakness and how prone we are to fall headlong into sin, but of his goodness he has offered us many remedies. Abraham our father was obedient to the commands of God, and in offering his own son as a sacrifice was found pleasing to God. And God swore by himself: 'In blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply you, as many as the stars of heaven in number, and numberless as the sands of the seashore. And in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed' (Genesis 22.17-18). And the Apostle has lessons for us concerning this seed, for he says, 'I don't say seeds, in the plural, but seed, in the singular. And this seed is Christ' (Galatians 3.16).
    And all the holy Prophets foresaw by the inspiration of the holy Spirit the hidden things of our salvation. Knowing that God cannot lie, they announced beforehand the heavenly medicines that would be available for our illnesses, and prayed continuously that he might look favourably on the human race. And the merciful Lord, who always anticipates our godly desires, never deserts those who seek him with their whole heart, but has fulfilled those promises in these last days by sending his only Son, born of a woman, born under the law (Galatians 4.4), who suffered in the likeness of our mortal flesh, and by his death destroyed him who had the power of death (Hebrews 2.14). And while in his divinity it remained impossible for him to suffer, he redeemed us from corruption and destruction. He completed the work of redemption for all people by washing us in the forgiveness of sins and giving us life, drawing every one towards the true faith by means of the teaching of the Apostles. As it says in the Gospel, 'Go and teach all nations and baptise them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit' (Matthew 28.19), so he has enfolded us into the bosom of his infinite love.
    But as the proclamation of the Gospel has shone forth in all lands, and many by the grace of Christ have been adopted as sons, so the enemy of the human race has burned with rage, and waged much more severe and testing battles against the servants of God than he used to. Accursed and faithless, he has striven to do everything he can to obstruct the peacefulness of our journey to the heavenly realms. But his intentions have been foiled and brought to naught, as by the help of the gifts of God his own crafty tricks have been turned against him, bringing confusion to himself and eternal glory to the servants of Christ. For when by the Lord's permission, the pagan Emperors rose up and brought savage and stormy persecutions against Christians everywhere who were battling faithfully and patiently in spiritual warfare, many in Egypt became holy Martyrs, through all kinds of tortures enduring unto death in the name of Christ, and along with Peter the bishop of Alexandria, [Martyred in 311. Celebrated in the Roman Martyrology on November 26.] gained an eternal crown and obtained the reward of immortality.
    And the multitude of the faithful began to increase daily, growing wonderfully in every place. Many churches flourished in zealous memory of the Martyrs, and monasteries most often among that number, practising abstinence as they renounced the world and adorned the secret places of solitude. People from all nations who had begun to believe in Christ were inspired by the sufferings of the Martyrs who had not wavered in their confession of Christ, and by the grace of the Lord they began to imitate the Saints in their life and discipline. They took to themselves this saying of the Apostle, 'They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, needy, straitened, afflicted, of whom the world was not worthy, wandering alone among the mountains, in caves and holes in the earth' (Hebrews 11.37-38). They sought the quietness of solitude, and by looking for the joyous divine gift of their own salvation through faith, they have furnished an example to others of a more sublime and sacred life.
    Freed from all earthly cares, they emulated the holiness of the Angels while still living in this mortal flesh. They scaled the heights of virtue, their brilliance was beyond belief, they were manifestly in no way inferior to the Fathers of antiquity, and their merits were the equal of those who have striven even unto death in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. For they have undermined all the powers of those invisible enemies of whom the Apostle speaks, 'For we fight not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world and spiritual wickedness in high places' (Ephesians 6.12). By forestalling the multiform attacks of the ancient serpent they trod his head underfoot, and obtained those eternal rewards of which it is written, 'Eye has not seen, nor has ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of humankind, what God has prepared for those who love him' (Isaiah 64.4 & 1 Corinthians 2.9).

    The Life
    Chapter I
    Throughout the whole of that time the outstanding life of blessed Antony was held up as an example for all to follow. He stood out as emulating the examples of Elijah and Elisha and the holy John Baptist, seeking with single-minded zeal the hidden places of the inner desert, where in his love for virtue he lived the life of heaven. The holy Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, bore witness to him with his own pen. He was a worthy and perceptive interpreter of Antony's way of life. At the request of his brothers in Christ he wrote the Life of Antony for the edification of many, and as a model for spiritual men.

    In the course of that work he also makes mention of Ammon [Vita Antonii cap.xxxii] who by the grace of God laid the foundations of the life now lived by those brothers in Mount Nitria. He also told us something of how that holy man Theodore, [ibid ] when he was with Antony, overcame the multifarious deceits of the devil with single-minded purpose and faith unfeigned before God. And thus in the overflowing grace of God he openly proclaimed what is celebrated in the Psalms, 'You have visited the earth and watered it, you have multiplied its riches' (Psalms 65.10). For joy and gladness has arisen in place of sadness and groaning, happiness and security in place of anxiety and misery.

    Hence it is that those wonderful men, our monastic Fathers, have emerged in almost every region. Their names are written in the book of life. At that time there were very few monks in Egypt and the Thebaid, but after the persecutions of those cruel princes Diocletian and Maximian, a multitude of the Gentiles came in, as God had fore-ordained (Romans 11.25). The fertility of the Church was shown forth by its abundant fruitfulness, as the holy bishops with their Apostolic teachings led the way in the journey of faith by the integrity of their own lives.

    Chapter II
    And it was at this time that Pachomius, who lived in the Thebaid, by the grace of God became a Christian. He came of pagan parents and religion, and is said to have sought after virtue even as an adolescent by means of rigorous fasting. I mention this fact for the glory of Christ who has called us out of darkness into light, and for the benefit of those who may be reading this. For his beginnings in a strict way of life as a young person go a long way towards explaining his later perfection.

    Chapter III
    While he was still a boy he went with his parents to offer a sacrifice to an idol on the banks of the river Nile. But when the filthy pagan priest tried to perform his usual sacrilegious rites, the presence of Pachomius prevented the usual manifestations of the demon from happening. The priest stood as motionless as the idol he was worshipping, unable to understand why the demons were not giving their usual response, until at last an evil spirit revealed to him that it was because of Pachomius that the demons had been unusually silent.
    "Why has this enemy of the gods come here?" he shouted frantically. "Drive him out! Get rid of him!"
    When his parents heard this, they realised that he was parting company with them, and they were grievously upset, not least because he had been declared so forcefully an enemy of the gods. They were at their wits' end to know what to do with him, because he had spat out the wine of the demons' sacrifice before he had even tasted it. They knew that they could not understand it at all, but they just kept quiet. They saw to it that he was instructed in Egyptian learning and moulded in the study of the ancients.

    Chapter IV
    It was at this time, after the persecutions, that Constantine won supreme command [312 AD] and carried out a campaign against the tyranny of Maxentius. He issued a royal decree that selected youths should be conscripted into military service, among whom was Pachomius, then aged twenty, as he himself later confirmed. As he was being carried off with others on board ship to foreign parts, they docked one evening in a certain port where the citizens, on seeing how strictly the raw recruits were being guarded, enquired what their situation was, and motivated by the commandments of Christ, took great pity on their miserable plight and brought them some refreshments. Pachomius was very surprised at what they were doing and asked who these men were who were so eager and willing to perform such humble acts of mercy.
    He was told they were Christians, who were in the habit of doing acts of kindness to everyone, but especially towards travellers. He learned also what it meant to be called a Christian. For he was told that they were godly people, followers of a genuine religion, who believed in the name of Jesus Christ the only begotten son of God, who were well disposed to all people, and hoped that God would reward them for all their good works in the life to come. Pachomius' heart was stirred on hearing this, and, illumined by the light of God, he felt a great attraction towards the Christian faith. The fear of God was ignited in him, and drawing aside a little from his companions he lifted up his hands to the heavens.
    "O Almighty God who made heaven and earth," he said, "if you will hearken to my prayer and show me how to order my life according to your holy name, and free me from my oppressive shackles, then I pledge myself to your service all the days of my life. I will turn my back on the world and cleave only to you."
    He returned to his companions and the next day they set sail from that country. As they sailed about from place to place, Pachomius never succumbed to any of the illicit pleasures of the body or the world which might have tempted him. He was ever mindful of his promise and vow to serve God. By the help of divine grace he had been a lover of chastity from his earliest days.

    Chapter V
    Once the Emperor Constantine by his godliness and faith in Christ had won the victory over his enemies, he ordered the raw recruits to be released. So Pachomius obtained the freedom he longed for and returning straight away to the lower Thebaid he went to the church in the village of Chinoboscium, where he became a catechumen, and not long after received the grace of being bathed in the life-giving water. On the very night when he was initiated into the sacred mysteries he saw in his dreams a heavenly dew falling on to his right hand and turning into the thickness of honey. And he heard a voice saying to him. 'Take thought, Pachomius, for what this means. It is a sign of grace given to you by Christ.'
    From then on he was inflamed with desire for God and grievously pierced by the saving dart of divine love, which impelled him to give himself entirely to the disciplines and precepts of God.

    Chapter VI
    He came to hear about a certain anchorite called Palaemon serving the Lord in a remote part of the desert. He sought him out in the hope of being able to live with him. He knocked on his door, asking to be let in. After a while the old man opened up to him.
    "What do you want? Who are you looking for?" he asked. He was of a rather intimidating appearance because of the life of strict solitude he had been living for such a long time.
    "God has sent me to you," replied Pachomius, "so that I may become a monk."
    "You would not be able to become a monk here. It is no light matter to entertain the idea of the chaste life of the true monk. There are many who have come in the past and have soon got wearied, strangers to the virtue of perseverance."
    "Not everybody is like that", said Pachomius. "So I beg you, take me in, and in the course of time make trial of my will, and see what I shall be capable of."
    "I have already told you, you can't become a monk here. Go rather to another monastery, and when you have learnt enough about how to live a life of abstinence come back, and then I might take you in. Listen carefully to what I am saying. I live an exceedingly abstemious life, my son. I punish my body with a most severe and difficult discipline. I eat nothing but bread and salt. I abstain from oil and wine completely. I keep vigil for half the night, spending some of that time in formal prayer and some in reading and meditating on the Scriptures. Sometimes, indeed, I keep vigil the whole night through."
    This filled Pachomius with the sort of fear a small boy has in the presence of his teacher, but strengthened by the grace of the Lord he was determined to submit himself to hard work.
    "If I have the aid of your prayers," said Pachomius, "I trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, who has given me an example of fortitude and patience, that I shall be made worthy of persevering in your holy way of life for all the rest of my days on this earth."

    Chapter VII
    With spiritual insight Palaemon then discerned the depth of Pachomius' faith, and at last opened the door to him, took him in, and clothed him in the monastic habit. And so they lived together in the observance of abstinence and prayer. They also wove baskets and worked with their hands as the Apostle instructed (Ephesians 4.28), not only to earn their own living but so that they might have something to give to those in need. When they were keeping vigil and offering their nightly prayers, if the old man saw Pachomius about to be overcome by sleep, he would take him outside and make him carry loads of sand from one place to another, and by this exercise deliver his mind from the danger of being oppressed by the burden of sleep. He would instruct him as he did this, teaching him how to be diligent in prayer.
    "Work hard, Pachomius," he would say. "Watch and pray lest the tempter draw us aside (which God forbid) from this work to which we have put our hand and cause all our work to be in vain."
    Pachomius obediently and diligently submitted to all this, daily increasing more and more in the practice of holy abstinence, and giving the keenest joy to the old man, who never ceased to give thanks to God for the way Pachomius was living his life.

    Chapter VIII
    In due course the most holy day of Easter arrived.
    "This feast is celebrated by all Christians," the old man said to Pachomius. "Let us get ready for it ourselves, according to our custom."
    Always prompt to obey, Pachomius did what he was asked and contrary to their usual custom took some oil and mixed it with some crushed salt. As well as the oil he prepared lapsanum, that is, wild olives and herbs.
    "I have done what your asked, father," said Pachomius, when all was ready. After the usual prayers, the blessed Palaemon came to the table, but when he saw the oil mixed with the salt, he clapped his hands to his head and wept copiously.
    "My Lord has been crucified, and am I now to eat olive oil?" he said.
    "Can you not just eat a little bit of it? asked Pachomius
    "I can in no way do that," he replied.
    So bread and salt was brought for the meal and they sat down together. The old man blessed the food with the sign of the Cross of Christ, and they both humbly gave thanks to God for the food they ate.

    Chapter IX (continued), Life of St Pachomius, Book 1a
    One day, as Palaemon and Pachomius were about to light the fire before the vigil, a brother arrived wanting to stay with them. After they had received him they conversed for a while as usual, when he suddenly stood up and said,
    "If you have any faith at all, let fire fall upon this charcoal!" And he began to recite the Lord's Prayer slowly, a bit at a time.
    "Stop this madness, brother!" cried Palaemon, who had sensed that the brother was deceived and puffed up by pride. "Do not say anything more!"
    But the brother took no notice of the old man's reproof. Carried away even more by his own pomposity, he became quite out of control and brazenly stood on the fire. The fire affected him not one bit, and it was obvious that with the Lord's permission, he was under the influence of the enemy of the human race. What he was thus doing with impunity served only to make his madness worse. As the Scripture says, 'The Lord has sent them into the paths of iniquity' (Proverbs 28.10 & Ecclesiastes 2.16). Next morning he departed quite early, not without giving them a parting reproof.
    "Where is your faith?" he cried.
    But not long after this the devil saw that this brother had given himself into his hands, and that it would be easy to drive him into whatever evil deeds he wished. So he changed himself into the appearance of a beautiful woman clothed in the most beautiful garments, and knocked vigorously on the door of the brother's cell. The brother opened the door.
    "I beg you for help," said the devil disguised as a woman. "I am being pursued by my creditors, and I am afraid they will do me great harm. Please take me into your cell, for I am not able to pay my debts. How grateful I shall be if you let me hide here, for it is the Lord who has guided me to you."
    Darkened and mentally blind, totally unable to discern who it was who was saying these things to him, he took the devil inside. The enemy of our existence could see that he was susceptible to all kinds of depravity, and began to put lustful thoughts into his mind. Before very long he gave in to them, and begged her for her womanly embraces, whereupon the unclean spirit flooded into him and dashed him savagely to the floor. He rolled about there for a while, then lay there as if dead. It was several days before he came to himself, feeling frantically sorry for his acts of madness. He came back immediately to the holy Palaemon and with floods of tears told him what had happened.
    "I know, Father," he cried, "I know that I am the cause of my own perdition. You did well to reprove me, and I am cursed for not listening to you. But I pray you, give me the help of your holy prayers, and prevent the enemy from driving me completely to ruin, placed as I am in such great danger."
    As he thus poured out his laments and tears, both the holy Palaemon and the blessed Pachomius wept in sympathy, but he was suddenly convulsed by the evil spirit, fled from their presence and rushed out headlong through the desert. When he came to a town called Panos, in his madness he threw himself into the furnace of a bath-house and so came to a miserable end in the flames.

    Chapter X
    When Pachomius heard about this, he set himself to hold on even more closely to the practice of abstinence, and to remain vigilant in everything that he did, but especially in his prayers, in accordance with what is written, 'Keep custody of your heart with all diligence' (Proverbs 4.23). The old man was amazed that he not only kept outwardly to his accustomed rule of abstinence, but that he strove inwardly to purify his mind into a heavenly pattern, as the blessed Apostle says, 'Our glory is the testimony of a good conscience' (2 Corinthians 1.12), sure that in this a reward was being prepared for him in heaven. In reading Scripture he endeavoured to commit it to memory, but not indiscriminately. He would dwell on some particular precept, turning it over devoutly in his mind, and then would endeavour to put into practice day by day what his memory had retained.
    Above all he strove to excel in the gifts of patience and humility, and most of all in purest love towards God. We learned about these things, and many others, from holy men of God who dwelt with him at many different times. He provided them with an example of godly life, and after reading the divine scriptures he would diligently point out to them the pieces which were relevant to the edification of their souls. There are so many examples of this that it is beyond my powers to describe them, so that I will write no more about them in these present writings. I have not sufficient eloquence to do justice to the merits of such a man.

    Chapter XI
    Near the mountain where these holy men dwelt there was a desert place where many thornbushes grew. Pachomius often went there to gather firewood, treading on the thorns with his bare feet. But he rejoiced that his feet were pierced with thorns, remembering how graciously our Lord was fixed to the cross with nails. He was greatly attracted to solitude, and would frequently spend long hours by himself in prayer, beseeching God to deliver him from any suspicion of self-deception.

    Chapter XII
    It chanced one day that Pachomius wandered a long way off from his cell and came to a hamlet called Tabennisi, where hardly anybody lived. After he had spent a long time in prayer in that place, according to his usual custom, he heard a voice from heaven:
    "Stay here, Pachomius, and build a monastery. For many will come to you seeking to profit from your instruction. You shall guide them in accordance with a rule with which I will provide you."
    And an Angel of the Lord appeared to him, with tablets in his hand, in which were laid down all the details of the sort of life which he was to teach to those who came to submit themselves to his direction. Tabennisi still keeps to this same rule today, using the same diet and wearing the same habit, and observing carefully the same discipline. The monks who live there come from many different places, and differ greatly in stature and culture; it follows then that they need a Rule different from what they have been used to.
    Divine grace and the integrity of his own life had together brought this voice to him, and Pachomius listened to it with sincerity of heart, in the sure knowledge that it came from God. He eagerly accepted the divine Rule. Returning to the venerable old man, Palaemon, he recounted what he had been charged to do by the divine voice, and begged him to come back with him to that place, where they might fulfil the commandments of the Lord together. Not willing to disappoint a beloved son in anything he might be asked to do, Palaemon yielded to his prayers, and they both went back to that hamlet where they built a cell, rejoicing in the Lord and waiting for the fulfilment of his promises.
    After some time, Palaemon made a proposition to Pachomius:
    "I am very much aware that the grace of God has been conferred upon you, and that you will always order your life accordingly; let us then make a pact between us that we should never leave each other, so that for as long as we still live in the light of day we should be able to encourage each other with tireless mutual support."
    They were both pleased with this idea, and for as long as they lived the blessed old man and Pachomius together took care to abide by this agreement.

    Chapter XIII
    Soon after this the venerable Palaemon began to suffer from kidney trouble, brought on by his practices of abstinence, and his whole body began to suffer with a most debilitating illness. For sometimes he had been eating while abstaining from drinking anything, and at others he would drink without eating anything. There were some other brothers with them who had come on a visit, and they advised him to cease from the daily offices, in order to give his body some rest, and that he should take up a more suitable diet to build up his wasted limbs and prevent his body from being totally ruined. But he would not agree to this regime for very long. His illness became even worse, and feeling that this new diet was an extravagance, he reverted to his old ways without any relaxation.
    "The Martyrs of Christ," he said, "were some of them torn to pieces, some decapitated, some burnt in the fire, but endured bravely to the end for the sake of their faith, and should I, then, impatiently scorn what rewards might come to me through suffering, and give in to these insignificant discomforts, by becoming attached to this present life and frightened of a few momentary pains? I agreed to your persuasion and adopted a diet which I was not used to, and it made my illness even worse than it was before, rather than giving me any relief. So I go back to my former regime, and I will not give up my battle for continence, in which I am certain lies all peace and true joy, except for the peace and joy we will find in God. I have not taken up arms in this battle to please human beings; I have set myself to strive for the love of Christ"
    So he carried on manfully, but within a month he became exceedingly weak. Pachomius attended him, caring for him as a father, kissing his feet and embracing him, in the knowledge that he was in the process of saying farewell. And the venerable old man, laden with every virtue, gently rested in peace. Holy Pachomius buried his body, and choirs of Angels lifted his soul and carried it up to heaven. Pachomius carried on with his own path of pilgrimage.

    Chapter XIV
    Not long after this his own brother, John, came to join him, having heard about everything he was doing. This gave Pachomius the greatest possible joy, for out of all those baptised Christians who had chosen the solitary life, he had up till then not found anyone from his own family. So John, Pachomius' true brother, followed in his footsteps and stayed with him, following the same rule, united with him in the same love for God. They meditated on the law of God day and night (Psalms 1.2), their minds undistracted by any worldly cares. Whatever was left over from what they produced by their manual work they gave to the poor and gave no thought to the morrow, in obedience to the precepts of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 6.34). They kept to the use of only one lebiton [sleeveless tunic] until it got to be so dirty that it had to be washed. This lebiton was a linen garment, similar to the colobium [long tunic] and is still worn today by the monks of the Thebaid and Egypt. But the blessed Pachomius preferred to mortify his own body and generally wore only a cilicium. [Shirt of goat's hair.] He lived for fifteen years like this, in laborious toil and sweat, in vigils and abstinence. He did not lie down to sleep at night, but sat in the middle of his cell without even learning against the wall for support. He did not find that an easy practice, but bore it quite cheerfully, in anticipation of the eternal rest being prepared for him in heaven. He studied the injunctions of many of the fathers, endeavouring always, with his brother, to rise to the very heights of virtue. They worked hard at it, and each of them lived to the utmost of their ability in the greatest humility and patience and in faith unfeigned (1 Timothy 1.5).

    Chapter XV
    During this time Pachomius was given more divine guidance about the Rule which was to be observed by those who because of him would put their trust in the Lord. He began to make additions to the building in which he and his brother lived, and he constructed other buildings as well in order to accommodate all those who would undoubtedly be renouncing the world and coming to serve Christ. He constructed enough accommodation for a great number of people.
    But while the holy Pachomius had been widening the area over which the monastery extended, as we have said, and increasing the number of buildings, his brother had been thinking about solitude and the life of an anchorite. He loved the smallness of his dwelling place. He was the elder of the two, and had no hesitation in making his views known to Pachomius.
    "You should give up this idea," he said. "Why are you doing all this unnecessary work? It's stupid to extend yourself like this."
    Pachomius took this reproach hard; he wasn't used to being criticised, but nevertheless said nothing in reply, kept calm and continued with what he was doing. But next night he went into the smallest room of a house that he had built himself, prostrated himself in prayer and wept bitterly.
    "Woe is me!" he cried. "For fleshly prudence has bought itself a foothold in me! I am still walking according to the flesh, as I have just discovered. For I have taken on all this activity, and it is not right that sometimes it makes me impatient, sometimes gloomy, sometimes furious, even though I might have cause to be angry. Have mercy on me, O Lord, lest I perish, lest I succumb to the deceits of the devil. For if your grace has deserted me, and the enemy has discovered in me some share in his own evil deeds, then I must have become a slave to his own demands, as it is written, 'You are designated a slave of whomsoever it is that overpowers you' (2 Peter 2.19). And again it is written, 'If someone who is bound to fulfil the whole law offends in only one particular he is guilty of the whole' (James 2.10).
    "I believe, O Lord, that your mercies are without number. They support me and help me for no merit of mine. Enlightened by you I shall walk in the way of your saints, and 'looking towards what is before I shall forget what is behind' (Philippians 3.13). It is thus that the company of your servants who have pleased you from the beginning, protected by your help, have evaded the attacks of the devil and have shone resplendent far and wide for the salvation of the many. But how should I, O Lord, presume to train in the monastic life others whom you might send to me, when I have not yet conquered the passions of the flesh myself, nor kept your commandments with a spotless mind? And yet I put my trust in you, O Christ, that your power may come to my aid in everything that happens, so that what I do may be pleasing in your sight. O most merciful God, forgive, forgive I pray, all my sins, and purify my heart by your visitation."
    He persevered all night with tears and weeping in this prayer to the Lord. He poured out so many tears and so much sweat (for it was summer time) that the floor on which he was praying became so wet that you would think it had had water poured out all over it. When he stood in prayer he was accustomed to stretching out his hands for several hours without lowering them while keeping his body still as if fixed to the cross, and by keeping this up for long periods at a time he spurred on his soul to be vigilant in prayer. And although he was powerfully endowed with all kinds of virtue, he showed incredible humility and the greatest gentleness in the way he lived with his brother, whom he supported always without fail.
    Not long after this his brother came to the end of his earthly life, and Pachomius celebrated his funerary rites with due honour. He spent a whole night keeping vigil by his body with psalms and hymns, commended his soul to the God in whom they had both put their trust, and reverently gave him burial.

    Chapter XVI
    Unwearyingly, he continued to discipline himself in his strait and narrow way of life, striving for integrity and purity in all things. When illicit thoughts assailed him he straightaway put them to flight with the help of God, and kept on going, rooted in the fear of the Lord. He was ever mindful of eternal punishment and never ending grief, where the worm does not die and the fire is unquenchable (Mark 9.44). While Pachomius was thus abstaining from forbidden practices and progressing onwards to better things, he was all the time taking great pains in extending his monastery in preparation for receiving many others. And the devil began to obstruct him fiercely, gnashing his teeth at him like a wild beast, stirring him up with all kinds of temptations in the hope of finding some opening for his deceits to enter. But protected by the shield of faith he vigilantly warded off the attacks of the enemy, and sang the holy Scriptures which he had committed to memory.

    Chapter XVII
    One day when Pachomius was beseeching the Lord and bending his knee in prayer, a great pit appeared in front of him by means of the devil's tricks. The enemy of the human race showed him a crowd of strange and meaningless shapes tumbling about in it, trying by stealth and deception to distract the mind at prayer from its proper intention, so that it was no longer able to offer prayer to the Lord in purity. By the revelation of Christ Pachomius recognised the stratagems of the demons and held them in contempt, gaining a great increase in faith thereby. In this kind of conflict he was constantly giving thanks and blessing the Lord.
    One of his customs was to go off to places some distance from the monastery to pray. On his way back the unclean spirits would often amuse themselves by forming into a troupe and disporting themselves in front of him, urging each other on as if they were clearing a path for some great official, by shouting out, "Make way for the man of God!" But Pachomius, armed with the hope of Christ our Redeemer, poured scorn on their ridiculous playacting, and held them to be as futile as barking dogs.
    They soon found that the great constancy of this man prevented them from being able to break down his defences by any number of these games, so they formed themselves into a great phalanx and rushed in upon him to surround his house and shake the foundations to such an extent that the holy man thought the whole place was about to fall in. But he remained undaunted, and as usual plucked the strings of his spiritual harp, by declaiming in a loud voice, "God is our refuge and strength, our help in the troubles which come upon us. Therefore we shall not fear though the earth be shaken" (Psalms 46.1-2). His psalmody brought immediate peace, and the attacks of the enemy vanished like smoke.
    But they only retreated for a little while, just like dogs who will leave off what they are doing when they get tired of it, but come back more aggressively than ever later on. For when the holy man after his prayers sat down to his work as usual, the enemy appeared in the shape of an enormous cock in the midst of his hens, crowing repeatedly, and making other unusual noises, before jumping on him and tearing him grievously with its claws. He made the sign of the Cross on his forehead and blew at the cock, putting it to flight. He became familiar with all the shapes which the enemy could take, but forearmed with the fear of God he made sure their deceits were of no effect. Frequently attacked, he never wearied, but like an impregnable fortress endured every struggle with the greatest patience.
    On some occasions the demonic army busied themselves by tempting the holy servant of God with what are called phantasms. Many of them would gather themselves together into a massed attack, seemingly as many as the leaves on a tree, and drag him into a mighty struggle, with their cohorts arrayed on the right hand and on the left. They would urge each other on, and strenuously oppress him so that he felt as if the weight of an enormous stone was moving against him. The wicked spirits carried on like this in the hope that they could so unnerve him that his mind would relax into some kind of mockery, through which they might find some way of giving him a mortal wound. But Pachomius discerned their impudence, and had recourse to the Lord as usual in prayer. By the power of Christ their attack was brought to naught.
    When he sat down to eat giving thanks to God, the demons would frequently appear in front of him looking like beautiful women of various shapes and sizes, decked out in scandalously shameless scanty clothing, seeming to sit down next to him and come close to him and touch him. Our strong and sturdy athlete was much troubled by this, but nevertheless closed his outward eyes and turned his inward eye upon the Lord, whereby he was able to trample their best endeavours underfoot. For the mercy of the Lord was with him, deigning always to come to the aid of those with an upright and contrite heart, according to his promise, 'Fear not, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world' (Matthew 28.20).

    Chapter XVIII
    On another occasion the devil began a most severe campaign against him, and attacked him so fiercely that from evening to morning his whole body was lacerated with many stripes. But although he was being crucified in immense pain, he never gave way to despair, but was mindful of the Lord who never deserts his servants in the time of trial. It was at this time that a monk called Apollo came to visit him. As Pachomius was conversing with him on the subject of salvation and recounting the manifold ways in which the devil attacks, he began to tell Apollo about all the ways in which he himself had been attacked, and in particular how bitter had been the beating that he had suffered.
    "Keep on fighting manfully," said Apollo, "and be strong in heart, venerable Father. For the devil knows that if you fall victim to his devices, he will also be easily able to overcome us as well. We rely for strength on living under the shadow of your contests, and we look to you as the greatest possible example of virtue. So don't cease from fighting vigorously. You are strong in the protection of the Lord; be strong in his power, lest you are called to account for us as well, which God forbid. For if you, who stand out among us all, grow slack in any way, you will become a cause and occasion of ruin for many."
    To hear this gave Pachomius great encouragement in his battle with the demons. He glorified God for the company of this brother, and begged him not to desert him. Apollo kept that in mind and often thereafter came to visit the old man.
    Shortly afterwards, however, when paying a visit to Pachomius for a few days, he was struck with an illness which put him beyond any human help, and to Pachomius' dismay completed the course of his life. He buried him with his own holy hands, singing the usual psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.

    Chapter XIX (continued), Life of Pachomius, Book 1a

    After this the blessed Pachomius grew so much in confidence before God, and flourished so magnificently in divine hope, that time beyond number he would tread upon serpents and scorpions without coming to the slightest harm (cf. Luke 10.19). Even crocodiles would most meekly submit to him, and transport him across the river when he had need, and take him to wherever he wanted on the other side. For all these things he constantly gave thanks to God who had protected him from all the wiles of the enemy.
    "Blessed are you, Lord God of our fathers," he prayed, "for you have not despised my humble estate, nor allowed me to be deceived in my great weakness by the deceitful frauds of the devil. You have mercifully dispersed the darkness of my ignorance and taught me how to do your will. For whereas I was weak and puny, and hardly aware of what my life should be, you have enlarged me with a sense of awe in your sight, so that I am saved from outer darkness and eternal punishment, and have been brought to a knowledge that you are the true light and eternal joy."

    Chapter XX (This chapter also in III.35)
    Seeing that he seemed to be pursued so assiduously by the demon, our bold athlete strove even more vigorously for a holy life by asking God that if it were possible he might be allowed to exceed the normal limits of human endurance and overcome the necessity of having to waste time in sleeping. So he kept vigil day and night until he had cast down the attacks of the devil, as it is written, 'I shall afflict them till they cannot stand. They shall fall under my feet, for you have girded me with power for the battle' (Psalms 18. 38-39)
    This petition was granted, to the limit of what the human condition would allow, and he endured against the enemy as if he were actually visible, and persevered in driving himself in eloquent outpourings to heaven. His prayers were unceasing that the will of God should be done in all things.

    Chapter XXI
    And as Pachomius was thus watching in prayer, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him
    "The will of the Lord, Pachomius," said the Angel, "is that you serve him with a pure mind, and gather together a great number of monks, who may strive to serve God by keeping all the rules in the book which has been shown to you". [See Chapter XII.] For he had already recently been given tablets on which the following words were inscribed:

    Chapter XXII
    Let each one eat and drink according to their strength, and let them work according to what they eat. Don't forbid them either to fast or to eat in moderation, but give harder work to those who are strong and eat more, lighter work to the weak and those who fast.
    Build a number of different cells, and put them three to a cell. Let all the food be prepared and eaten in the one place.
    At night let them wear linen lebitons [see Chapter XIV), girded about the loins, and let them each have a melote, that is a goat skin dyed white, without which they should neither eat nor sleep.
    When they come to the Communion of the Sacraments of Christ let them loosen their belts and take off their melotes, and wear only their cowls. It was also decreed that the monks should be divided up into twenty-four groups according to the letters of the Greek alphabet, that is from  through to So that when the archimandrite [This word was used in the Eastern Church from the 4th century for the head of a monastery, and is thus the equivalent of an "abbot". Later it was used to designate a ruler over several monasteries. It is still used in the Eastern Church today.] is asked about any particular person he can be given an easy one word answer about what he is like by saying or and again or or ,so that whatever letter you give to a group signifiesits grading. You could give the single-minded and innocent the letter  or the difficult and complex ones the letter  so that each letter would indicate each group according to its behaviour and serious intent. Only the spiritual leaders would know what each letter meant.
    It was also written down in the tablets that if a pilgrim from another monastery should come wearing a different habit no one should eat with him, unless he were on a journey, in which case this rule should be waived.
    Anyone coming to the monastery with the intention of staying permanently should be trained in his holy duties for three years and given the more straightforward tasks, before letting him enter into the field of battle.
    At mealtimes let them conceal their faces in their cowls so that a brother cannot see any other brother eating. And let them stay silent and not let their eyes wander about.
    The Angel who spoke with Pachomius also laid down that there should be twelve prayers for the daytime, twelve for the evening and twelve for the night.
    When Pachomius remarked at how few that was, the Angel replied:
    "It has been set at that number so that the weaker won't find the task too difficult. But the perfect need not feel deprived by this rule, for in the privacy of their own cells they can go on praying if they are being nourished by divine contemplation in purity of mind."
    After saying all this the heavenly messenger departed, and Pachomius gave thanks to God, for it was now by a threefold revelation that his vision was confirmed. He began to receive all who offered themselves to the mercy of God through penitence, and after a long trial of the life, they were enrolled into the family of monks. He urged them to flee from the immorality of the world, and to cleave always to the holy rules. He warned them that the overall rule according to the Gospel was that the monk renounces first the whole world, then his family, and lastly denies himself, so that he may take up his cross and follow in the footsteps of Christ (Luke 14.26-7).
    Instructed in that sort of teaching by the blessed old man, they soon brought forth most worthy fruits of penitence. Although he was now of advanced age he pursued the purpose of the spiritual life with undiminished zeal. He not only committed himself to a stricter rule but took upon himself the control and care of the whole monastery, aiming to be a servant of all even if it were beyond his strength. He punctually prepared the common meal for the brothers and performed the usual offices. He gathered the vegetables from the garden which he had watered with his own hands. When anyone knocked at the monastery door he would be the one who went to open it and give a ready response. He nursed the sick day and night. In all these things he gave a most excellent example to his disciples. Newcomers to the service of the Lord were thus more readily drawn into the duties of devotion. Not yet able to enjoy the gift of matching his standard of care, but free from all distraction, they were gently admonished by the old man:
    "In so far as you are called 'brothers', take your cue from that. Say the psalms and other books, and especially commit the holy Gospel to memory. Thus, serving the Lord, and binding to yourselves each one of the commandments, you will become perfect, you will imbue all things with my own spirit, especially if you take care to observe all the heavenly precepts."

    Chapter XXIII
    The first three men to join up with Pachomius were Psenthessus, Suris and Obsis. Pachomius constantly reminded them of the word of God as he gave them instruction and encouraged them to grow in the work of the spirit. For their part, as they contemplated the old man's life as a specimen of virtue, they were filled with admiration.
    "It is a big mistake," they said, "to think that human beings may live a life of blessedness because of some kind of privilege of birth, as if there were no such thing as free will. It is just as much a mistake to think that sinners cannot through penitence develop in virtue. Just look at how the Lord has manifestly enlarged this venerable father Pachomius, whose parents were pagan outsiders, and who has stretched himself to such an extent in the worship of God that he carries out all the commandments of God.
    "So then, we can be sure that any one of us who really wishes to, can by the help of God's grace follow the model of this holy man, and attain to the perfect life and holiness of the fathers. It is written in the Scriptures that Christ says, 'Come to me all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest' (Matthew 11.28). What does this mean except that we should cast off the heavy burdens which oppress the human race, and adhere to an unchanging good which does not perish? Let us persevere to the end with this old man, that we may be found worthy to be glorified with him in eternal bliss. For everything he teaches us is right, not only by his words but what is more effective still, by his own marvellous example."
    They went then to Pachomius and said to him, "Why is it, venerable father, that you take the whole responsibility of the monastery upon yourself?"
    "No one harnesses up beasts of burden," he replied, "and suddenly compels them to work with such a heavy load that they collapse under the strain, but he trains them little by little, getting them used to lighter loads until they are capable of taking on heavier. In the same way it is right that we should deal with you as Christ has dealt with us, and lead you on so that we may rejoice in your constancy in all things. May the most merciful God, who never despises the prayers of the humble, confirm his teaching in your heart, that you may carry out every good work with patience and longsuffering, following in the footsteps of the holy fathers, so that others may see how the integrity of your life is pleasing to God, and will come to the service of Christ and all take an equal share with the father in seeing to the needs of the monastery."

    Chapter XXIV
    They accepted the regime he gave them, that is, that they should be sparing in what they ate, that their clothing should be of the cheapest, and that their sleep should be no more than adequate. And it came about that according to the will of the Lord, who wills the salvation of all human beings, and who blesses all their good works with increase, that many men came to join the old man and stay with him, among whom were Pecusius and Cornelius, Paul, and another Pachomius, and John, who freely embraced the spotless faith and saving teaching of the blessed father. He then decided that those with any competence should share in the duties of the monastery, and in a very short time the numbers of monks were multiplied.
    When a feast day required that they should participate in the holy mysteries, they asked presbyters from neighbouring villages to come and celebrate the feast of spiritual joy for them. For the old man would not allow any of their own number to perform the duties of the clergy. He maintained that it was much more fitting that monks should not seek for pre-eminent honour and glory, and that opportunities of that sort should be rooted out of coenobia, for they are often sources of futile strife and jealousy among the brothers. Just as a whole year's harvest can be destroyed if a spark falling into the fields is not quickly extinguished, so a deadly thought in the mind of a monk, ambitiously desiring leadership as a cleric, can destroy the modesty he has acquired so laboriously, if he does not forthrightly drive from his heart the incendiary nature of such a suggestion. So the communicants of Christ should respect the clerics in the church with all meekness and sincerity; it is not right that they should wish for any religious preferments themselves.
    "But if anyone among the monks has been previously ordained by a bishop," said Pachomius, "let us welcome his ministry. We find in the old Testament that not everyone was allowed to take clerical office; only those born among the tribe of Levi were allowed to offer the sacrifices. So if a brother of undisputed priestly status comes in from elsewhere, let us not denigrate him as if he were trespassing into sacred areas and had no right to exercise his ministry. How could we possibly think that about him, when at the same time we earnestly request him to celebrate the heavenly Sacraments for us? It is much more fitting that we respect him as a father following the footsteps of the Saviour, and who is doing what we have requested him to do, and that he should not cease from offering the sacrificial gifts to God, especially if his character is known and approved by all.
    "If he is thought to have been guilty of some offence, which God forbid, it is not for us to judge him. For God the just judge has set bishops to be the judges over such people. As successors and imitators of the blessed Apostles they have the power to examine the particulars of each single case, and give just judgment upon them. Let us concur with their judgments from the bottom of our hearts, for the Lord warns us to be merciful, and that we ought always to pray that we be not led into temptation" (Matthew 6.13).
    This renowned father spoke these words quite forcefully, but yet with a caring concern. And thus when any cleric came to him wanting to live under his Rule, he accorded him the honour which the church expects for one of that rank, but expected him to submit to the monastic rules with all humility.

    Chapter XXV
    The blessed Pachomius loved all the servants of Christ, watching over them always with a father's care. He performed the works of mercy with his own hands for the old and for the sick, and even for the very young. Among other things he would always train their minds to be ready for spiritual warfare. Since many of them were making progress in their faith and in their work, and since their numbers were increasing, they were all becoming rather stretched in their pursuit of virtue. So he chose prefects (praepositi) from among them, who stood out as being able to assist in the development of the souls who daily came crowding in.
    There were so many coming in and increasing in the work of the spirit, that a great diversity was seen in their various spiritual states. So in accordance with the Rule given him by God, the old man, with the grace of Christ guiding him in everything, issued guidelines and schedules of work for all of them according to the strength and ability of each one. Some he set to grow food by manual labour, others were occupied in various common tasks, not that anyone was tied to any task at all times, for each one retained a certain amount of control over his own discipline according to his zeal and the sort of work he did. The general oversight of both brothers and visitors he committed to those who followed him in seniority.
    He urged all the monks, however, to be prompt in obedience, as a direct and easy path towards aspiring after the heights of perfection and diligently cultivating the fear of God in their hearts.For in humbly bringing forth the fruits of obedience they would be living their lives for God rather than self. This venerable father was mainly concerned with spiritual direction, but he was always ready to undertake any particular task if it so happened that for any reason the person to whom he had committed responsibility was not available. He truly regarded himself as the servant of all. And he did this quite unobtrusively and without any of the bluster which sometimes spoils the virtues of spiritual men. His manner of great humility infused everything that he did and built up everyone in the Lord. He visited each of the cells (monasteria) in turn, until his paternal affection led his footsteps back to those of his sons he had started with. He loved to find them earnestly vigilant in the work of God, and rejoiced greatly at the progress they were making.

    Chapter XXVI
    It happened once that he became concerned that the neighbouring peasantry in caring for their flocks did not receive the communion of Christ's Sacraments nor hear the solemn reading of the divine books which solemnly took place everywhere on Saturdays and Sundays. So he consulted with the holy Aprius, bishop of Tentyri, with a view to building a church in what passed for their village centre to which they could all come and participate in the divine mysteries. This was done, but since there were no ordained clerics to celebrate the solemnities for the people, he would go there with some monks at the usual hour for churchgoing, and read some pages to the people with their messages of saving grace. As he said, no readers had as yet been appointed, nor any other clerics to celebrate the sacred mysteries. So for as long as there was no presbyter there, or any of the other members of the clerical order, Pachomius would come and carry out the duties of reader with such unashamed eagerness and with his mind and body so focussed, that when the people attended to him they might have thought they were looking not at a man but an Angel. As a result of this programme many were converted from error and became Christians. His love of neighbour was so advanced, and his compassion so great, that when he saw anyone deceived by the devil, worshipping not the true God but vain idols, he would groan loudly because they were lost, and pour forth floods of tears that they might be saved.

    Chapter XXVII
    The holy Athanasius was bishop of Alexandria at that time, [He became bishop in 328.] a man outstanding in every virtue. He had been making a solemn visitation of all the churches in the upper Thebaid, building up the people's faith in Christ by his wholesome teachings, when his journeyings brought him to Tabennisi. As soon as Pachomius knew about it he went out to meet him with all his monks, leaping for joy in great happiness. They greeted this great pontiff of Christ with psalms and hymns, a vast multitude of brothers rejoicing in the Lord for his coming. But Pachomius did not introduce himself to this famous leader, but deliberately drew back and hid himself among the throng of monks. His reason for that was that the aforesaid bishop of Tentyri had often spoken about him to the holy Athanasius, suggesting that he was a marvellous man and a true servant of God worthy of being promoted to the honour of the priesthood. It was the knowledge of this that led Pachomius to make himself inconspicuous and hide himself away among the ranks of the monks until the bishop had gone.
    Pachomius respected Athanasius as being someone than whom there was no one more outstanding at that time. He had heard about his holy life and the persecutions he had suffered from the Arians because of his confession of Christ. He admired unreservedly the love which he showed to all but especially to monks, and respected him with his whole heart. But he accorded the greatest respect not only to Athanasius but to all men of true faith. He detested heretics completely, and had a particular horror of Origen as a blasphemous traitor and a precursor of Arius and Meletius. Arius had been expelled from the church by the venerable Heraclas, former bishop of Alexandria, because he had added many hateful and detestable things to the teachings of holy Scripture and thereby subverted quite a few souls. Just as poisoners disguise a bitter taste with honey, so did Origen bedaub the poison of his erroneous opinions with a most heavenly ability to write well, and so disseminated his pernicious doctrines among those who did not know any better. So Heraclas was careful to warn all the brothers not merely to refrain from reading any of Origen's commentaries, buts also to pay no heed to anyone who had read them. It is said that on one occasion he picked up a volume of Origen's and threw it into the sea.
    "If it weren't for the fact that I know that it contains the holy Name of God," he said as he did so, "I would have consigned all those outpourings of blasphemy to the flames!"
    Thus he loved the true faith and always sought for the truth. Just as he opposed the enemies of the church with unremitting detestation, so he acclaimed joyfully the increasing numbers of Catholics, and declared that he could discern Christ the redeemer of all speaking through the bishops (sacerdotes) in the royal power of the Church.
    If ever he heard of a brother slandering anyone on any matter, he not only stopped trusting him but avoided him as if he were a serpent, citing the Psalmist who said 'I will cut off him who secretly slanders his neighbour' (Psalms 101. 5).
    "No good person," he said, "allows evil to come out of his mouth and insult the holy fathers with venomous tongue. There are many places in the Scriptures showing how God is angry at such offences. Think of the example of Miriam who poured out disparaging remarks about Moses and became infected with leprosy (Numbers 12.10). She had no chance of avoiding the judgment of God."
    By this teaching he conferred great benefits upon his listeners.

    Chapter XXVIII [This story of Pachomius' meeting with his sister is ascribed to Theodore in Book III, chapter 34.]

    His sister had heard of the old man's deservedly famous institution, and journeyed to the monastery in order to see him. When Pachomius knew she was there he sent her this message by the doorkeeper:
    "Look, sister, you have heard that I am alive and well, so therefore depart in peace. Don't be sad that you have not been able to see me with your bodily eyes. But if you desire to follow the same sort of life as I am leading, so that you may find mercy from God, take diligent thought about it, and if you can assure me that this purpose has taken root in your heart I will bid my brothers to build you a house at some distance from here where you can live a disciplined and modest life. And I don't doubt that by your example God will call many to live with you and be counted worthy through you to gain the reward of everlasting salvation. For it is not possible for human beings to get any rest in this mortal flesh unless they please God by their dedication to a good life."
    His sister wept bitterly on hearing this, her conscience pricked by godly compunction, but she took his wholesome exhortations to heart and determined to set herself to follow Christ. When Pachomius realised his sister's intentions, he gave thanks to God who had so quickly strengthened her will, and gave orders to the more responsible of his brothers that they should build a cell for her at some distance. This was done, and she began to live the life in the fear of God. It was not long before many others gathered around her and she had become the mother of a great multitude. In her teaching she provided them with a means of openly renouncing all carnal desires in order to attain to heaven which perishes not, and she led the way on that journey as much by her living as by her teaching.

    Chapter XXVIII (continued), Life of Pachomius, Book 1a

    Pachomius appointed Peter, an outstanding monk of a venerable old age, to visit these sisters from time to time, so that he might support them with his holy instructions. He was a man who had mortified all his passions, and whose speech was well seasoned with salt, as the Apostle said (Colossians 4.6), and was most chaste in mind and body. Again and again he spoke to the virgins of Christ on the holy Scriptures, pointing out to them what was necessary for salvation. And Pachomius wrote Rules for them whereby they might together guide the direction of their lives. Except for the sheepskin cloak which women did not wear, the shape of their rules was exactly the same as for the monks.
    If one of the monks wanted to visit a sister or some other close relation in the women's monastery, an older monk of proven integrity was appointed to go with him. This man would first of all approach the woman in charge, after which, in the presence of them and other older women, the monk could then see his sister or relation in all propriety and holiness. They were not allowed to give each other anything, for neither of them had anything of their own to give. It was sufficient for them that they were able to visit each other and bear in mind the hope of future everlasting bliss. If the women needed any building work done by the monks, the work was entrusted to men of proven character who would oversee the brothers' work as they laboured in the fear of God. They would not be given anything to eat or drink by the women, but would return to their monastery when it was time to eat.
    There was only one Rule observed daily by both women and men, except for the sheepskin, as we have said. When any of the virgins died, the others carried out the necessary burial rites and carried the body down to the river which separated the two monasteries, singing the customary psalms. The monks then would cross the river bearing branches of palm and olive, and singing the psalms would carry her back to bury her with joy in their own cemetery.

    Chapter XXIX
    This way of life began to be noised abroad far and wide, and the name of Pachomius became well known everywhere, giving rise to universal thanksgiving towards God. Numbers of people were renouncing the affairs of the world and turning to this extraordinary monastic way of life and its spiritual search. Theodore was numbered among them, and this is the story of his conversion. He was a young man of nearly fourteen years of age, of Christian parents, highly respected in the world. On the eleventh day of the Egyptian month Tybi, that is, the eighth day before the Ides of January, [Jan 6, at that time the feast of the Baptism of our Lord, sometimes associated with the Nativity. Today, the Feast of the Epiphany.] a certain Egyptian festival was being celebrated as usual. He was giving thanks to God, aware that he had a large and splendid house and an abundance of possessions of all kinds, when he suddenly felt compunction in his heart.
    "What will it profit you, O Theodore," he began to wonder, "if you gain the whole world (Mark 8.36) and enjoy all its worldly delights, at the price of being excluded from the good things of eternal and immortal life? No one who lives only for present pleasure can expect the reward of unending glory."
    In a great turmoil over these thoughts he went into an inner chamber of his house and fell weeping on his face.
    "Almighty God, who know the secrets of our hearts," he prayed, "you know that there is nothing in this world that is more important to me than your love. So I beg you in your mercy to guide me in your will and enlighten my miserable soul lest in the darkness of my sins I fall into eternal death. Grant that by the gift of your redemption I may praise and glorify you for ever. "
    As he was praying thus his mother came in and saw his eyes were full of tears.
    "Why are you so sad, my beloved son?" she asked. "And why are you hiding away from us? We have been worried and upset, looking for your everywhere so that you can share our festival banquet."
    "Go and have your banquet, mother," he said. "For my part I could not eat a thing."
    She continued to beg him, but in vain. He would not come and join them in the feast. Daily while going to school to learn his letters he began to fast at least until vespers, though he would often fast for two days at a time. He abstained from all rich and fancy foods for a period of two years, striving to attain to perfect continence, in so far as his young age would allow. He began to wonder whether he should seek out a monastery and bind himself to a holy Rule. He gave up all that he had and sought out some religious men living a godly life together, and went to live with them, progressing daily in the fear of God.

    Chapter XXX
    These monks had a holy custom of gathering together after the evening prayers to meditate on the divine wisdom, and it so happened one evening that Theodore heard one of them talking of what the tabernacle of the old Testament and the holy of holies signified for people of the present day.
    "As regards those whose foreskins were circumcised," he said, "the outer court of the temple signified the early Jewish people, but the inner court, the holy of holies, prefigured the vocation of all the gentiles, that is, a vocation to be found worthy of entering into the more sacred place in order to participate in the greater mysteries. Instead of the animal sacrifices, the manna in the ark, the flowering rod of Aaron and the tables of the Law, the thurible, the table, and the propitiatory candelabra, God himself has mercifully made himself known to us in the person of his incarnate Word, and enlightened us with the light of his presence, and has become himself the propitiation for our sins. Instead of manna he has given us his own body for food.
    "This teaching I learned from our holy father Pachomius," this same brother went on to say. "He has begun to gather monks together in his monastery of Tabennisi, and by God's help I made great progress while I was among them. And I bear in mind that through this great man all my sins were forgiven."
    Theodore found his heart burning as he listened to this, and he prayed silently.
    "O Lord God, if this is what a righteous man on earth should be like, grant that I may see him and follow in his footsteps in obedience to all his commands, that so I may be found worthy to enjoy all those good things which you have promised to those who love you."
    And he wept freely, overcome by the wound of divine love.
    A few days later the venerable Pecusius, a man of a distinguished old age, came to visit them, desirous of knowing how they did. Theodore earnestly begged him to take him as his companion and guide him to the holy Pachomius. Without any argument he freely agreed to do so, and when they arrived there Theodore worshipped the Lord.
    "Blessed are you, O Lord," he said, "for answering so quickly the prayers of sinners. You have deigned to grant me what I asked."
    And as soon as he entered the monastery and saw Pachomius he wept for joy.
    "Don't weep, my son," the venerable father said, "for I am only a sinful human being, trying to do the work of God."
    Having said that, he introduced him into the monastery. Theodore's mind lit up when he saw how many brothers there were, and he flung himself with great zeal into the round of daily worship. In the course of time he made great strides in virtue. God showered great gifts upon him; he became practised both in good works and good words, with a wonderful humility and heartfelt contrition, meticulous in his fasting, wide awake in his vigils, earnest in prayer, losing no opportunity to seek after ever greater gifts of spiritual grace. He was able to give great comfort to those who were in some distress, and knew how to correct with humility and good will those who had strayed into some misdemeanour. Pachomius could see what a brilliant and shining example he was, and took him to his heart and loved him deeply.

    Chapter XXXI
    As soon as his mother heard that he was with Pachomius, she got the bishops to write a letter requesting that she should be reunited with her son, and armed with this she hurried to visit him. She lodged with the virgins in the monastery which, as we have said, was at some distance from the men, and sent the bishops' letter to the holy Pachomius, with an earnest request that he would allow her to see her son. Pachomius summoned Theodore to him.
    "I have to tell you, my son," he said, "that your mother is here and wants to see you. She has even brought letters to us from the bishops. So make haste and satisfy your mother, especially seeing that she brings a letter which the holy bishops have written."
    "Venerable father," he replied, "I have gained some knowledge of spiritual things. Before I do as you ask please first assure me that if I do see her I will not have to answer for it in the day of judgment. Like anyone else in the world I have given her due respect according to the commandments of Christ. But in the times before the manifestation of Christ's grace, the sons of Levi turned their backs upon their own parents in order to fulfil the righteousness of the law (Exodus 32.26-28, Leviticus 21.11, Deuteronomy 33. 8-9). Is it not even more incumbent upon me, who have been made partaker of such great gifts, to put the love of God before love of parents? The Lord says in the Gospel, 'He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me' (Matthew 10.37) ".
    "If you have decided it would not be right to see her," Pachomius replied, "I will not bring any pressure to bear on you. Those who utterly renounce this world do need to deny themselves completely. Monks especially ought to flee from all idle and worldly meetings and meaningless conversations, and associate seriously only with those who are members of Christ. For if anyone governed by some worldly passion says, 'My parents are my flesh. Therefore I ought to love them', he should pay attention to what the blessed Peter the Apostle says, 'A man is in bondage to anyone who overcomes him' (2 Peter 2. 19)."
    When Theodore's mother realised that he was not going to meet her, she decided to stay permanently in the monastery with the virgins of Christ, saying to herself, "If the Lord wills, I may at least catch sight of him among the other monks, and I shall also bring benefits to my own soul for as long as I persevere in this way of life. It is certain that those who maintain a strict discipline for Christ's sake and not for the sake of vainglory will acquire virtue upon virtue, and in a short space of time will give offence to none."

    Chapter XXXII
    We have shown his zeal in encouraging those who had a desire to seek after better things; so now we think it is right to describe those who were negligent, by way of a warning to our readers. For there were some monks living after the flesh and making no attempt to put off the old man (Colossians 3.9), about whom Pachomius was very worried. He frequently spoke to them with words of salutary advice, but could never see any signs of improvement in them. Worried and sad, he besought the Lord ever more earnestly.
    "O Lord, Ruler of all," he prayed, "You have commanded us that we love our neighbour as ourselves (Leviticus 19.18, Matthew 19.19). You know the secrets of our hearts. Turn not your face away from me as I cry out to you for their salvation. Have mercy on them, fill them with the fear of God, that knowing your power they may serve you truly, strengthened in all they do by hoping in your promises; for my soul is greatly troubled because of them, and my whole being is in distress."
    After a few days he could see that they had not improved a bit as a result of his prayers. Once more he stood in prayer, praying for them to the Lord, and he also gave them some private and personal rules of prayer and behaviour, in the hope that by applying themselves to obey rules like slaves they might little by little aspire to the gift of loving him as sons. They found that they were not going to be able to follow their own desires and went in mortal dread of Pachomius, inspired by fear of him rather than moved by his purity. They fell utterly into error and departed from the monastery, following Satan and rejecting the wonderful way of life followed by Pachomius.
    But once they had gone, the whole flock was restored to a state of integrity, increasing more and more in virtues, just as the good grain is able to flourish in the field when the weeds have been rooted out. I have told you all this to show you that although there is nothing against worldly people embracing a monastic life, nevertheless their venerable profession will be of no use to the monks if they persist in being negligent, for neither paternal prayer nor understanding will be able to help the idle.

    Chapter XXXIII
    The sometime confessor Dionysus, presbyter and oeconomus (that is, steward) of the Church of Tentyri, was someone whom the holy Pachomius loved dearly. Learning from somebody that Pachomius would not allow people coming from another monastery to eat with his own brothers, but kept them separate in another place outside the monastery, he came to see Pachomius in some agitation.
    "It is not right, abba," he said, more in anger than in gentle admonition, "that you don't treat everyone with the impartial charity that brothers deserve."
    Pachomius took this reproof with great patience and resignation.
    "The Lord knows what my purpose is in doing this," he replied, "and your fatherly nature must also accept that I don't want to upset anybody, much less despise them. Why should I do that, provoking my Lord into being angry with me, when he has clearly said in the Gospel that 'what you do unto the least of these my brothers you do unto me' (Matthew 25.40)? So listen to my explanation, venerable father. It is not that I wish to shun or despise anyone who comes to me that I do what you say I do. My own flock are gathered together in the coenobium. I am aware that many of them are so far unlearned in the monastic way of life that they have not yet even received the monastic habit. Some of them are quite young, and so ignorant that they hardly know their right hand from their left. So I thought it better that brothers from another monastery should be received with all honour and respect in a different place. I hardly think that this constitutes any insult to fathers and brothers who change over to us. On the contrary they are received with more than due reverence, especially seeing that they come together with us at the regular hours to worship God, after which they each go to the place allotted to them, where they work in silence. I am careful before God to supply them with everything they need."
    Having listened to all this, Dionysius the presbyter agreed that Pachomius was worthy of great praise, and said that he was sure that everything was being done according to the will of God. Much enlightened by the explanation that the holy Pachomius had given him, he went back to his own place.

    Chapter XXXIV
    There was a woman in the city of Tentyri who suffered from an issue of blood and had struggled with this disability for many years. She had heard that Pachomius worshipped God in a most marvellous and holy way, and was moreover aware that Dionysius the presbyter was a dearly beloved friend of his. She begged him to have pity on her and ask Pachomius to come and visit him on some business or other. He was moved by the woman's prayers and acted without delay. When Pachomius came to the church and greeted Dionysius after the prayers, she was seated nearby. As they were talking to each other, she summoned up her faith, believing she could hear Christ saying, 'Be of good comfort, my daughter. Your faith has made you whole' (Matthew 9.22). She came up quietly behind him and touched the cowl with which he covered his head. Immediately she was cured. She fell face down and worshipped the Lord, glorifying his mercy that through his servants he bestowed such great benefits on those who believe in him. The holy Dionysius realised what had happened and gave a blessing to the woman, who forthwith went back to her home.

    Chapter XXXV
    It was decided once that the monastery should be protected by being enclosed with a palisade and ditch, and Pachomius himself cheerfully played a great part in the work which the brothers undertook.
    A little later, a presbyter-monk who was the father of many brothers paid one of his frequent visits to the holy Pachomius, this time bringing with him a brother who was the cause of some dissension in their monastery. For this brother, since the time when he had arrived, had greatly pestered him to be given the dignity of being ordained but the presbyter judged him to be unworthy of such a gift, and had been putting him off with various excuses. It got to the point where he could no longer abide his importunity, and came to the holy Pachomius to lay the whole matter before him, confident that he was the only one who could settle such disputes. Once Pachomius had fully grasped what it was all about, he gave the presbyter his opinion.
    "Now you have come to me to discover what is the will of God, haven't you? My opinion is that you should give him what he asks and don't worry about it. It is quite probable that by exercising this office his soul will be freed from the power of the devil, for it often happens that when a bad man is given great blessings he amends his life. A desire for betterment is often the occasion for the growth of a genuine devotion and it becomes possible for at least some souls to cultivate the virtues which they have hitherto neglected through laziness. So I think it is right for the brother to do this, and it will be pleasing to God."
    The presbyter accepted this opinion and acted upon it. And the brother who had had his wish granted came to the blessed Pachomius in a most tranquil and self-effacing frame of mind and fell on his face before him.
    "O man of God," he said, "you stand most high in God's favour. For you have discerned what is necessary for salvation and turned evil into good. For if you had not been kind and understanding towards me but treated me sternly I might have discarded my habit and been lost to God for ever. But now, blessed are you in the Lord, for you have saved my soul."
    The old man lifted him up from the ground and earnestly entreated him to live worthy of the dignity which would be conferred upon him, lest being negligent he suffer the pains of future torment. He embraced him and went with him as far as the monastery gates before sending him on his way in peace

    Chapter XXXVI
    While Pachomius was still standing there, a man who had come from some distance away ran towards him and followed after him, begging him for the love of Christ to cure his daughter who was possessed of a demon. Pachomius left him outside and sent back a message to him through the gatekeeper.
    "It is not our custom to speak with women," he said, "but if you have got any of her clothing with you, send it in to us and we will bless it in the name of the Lord and give it back to you straight away. We trust in Christ that by this means your daughter will be freed from the attacks of the enemy."
    A tunic belonging to the girl was brought to the holy man, which he examined very gravely.
    "This is not hers," he said.
    "Yes it is," said the father. "Truly it is."
    "Yes, I know it is really hers," said Pachomius. "But although she is a virgin dedicated to God, she has not maintained her holy purity. It was for this reason that having inspected her tunic, and sensing that she had been neglectful of her holy chastity, I declared that it was not hers. Let her promise to you in the sight of God that from now on she will be continent and Christ will have mercy on her and restore her to health."
    Grieving and angry, the father interrogated his daughter, and she at last confessed to him that it was even as the holy Pachomius had said. She swore with an oath that she would not ever behave like that again, and the blessed man prayed for her to the Lord and sent her some blessed oil. Anointing with the oil immediately effected a cure, and she glorified God anew for delivering her not only from the demon but also from a repugnant practice. And for the rest of her life by Christ's help she was liberated to practise continence.

    Chapter XXXVII
    The reputation of this holy man was spreading everywhere so rapidly that it is not surprising that another man who had a son possessed by a demon should with great lamentation have begged Pachomius on bended knee to pray for his son to the almighty power of Christ. He was not able to bring his son to the monastery, but Pachomius prayed for him and gave him some blessed bread, with exact instructions that his son should take a little bit of this medicine before a meal.
    When it was time for his son to eat he gave him some of this bread, but the unclean spirit would not at all allow him to eat it, though he picked up other bread which was put in front of him and ate that. So the father broke the bread into smaller bits, took the stones out of some dates and put pieces of the bread inside them. He placed nothing else besides the dates in front of him, hoping that all unwittingly his son might receive a blessing. But he opened the dates up, pulled out the pieces of bread, cursed the dates and refused to eat anything at all. So the father kept him entirely without any food for several days, until at last, faint with hunger, he did eat some of the blessed bread. He immediately fell into a deep sleep, and was liberated from the evil spirit. And the father took the son with him to Pachomius, praising and glorifying God, who through his servants does such great and glorious things without number.
    This most blessed man did many other healings in the power of the holy Spirit, but never got conceited or took any credit to himself, for he had this gift from God that he always treated everyone the same, and never let his mind stray away from the discipline of Christ. And if he ever asked anything from God and his petition was not granted he was never in the least cast down but bore it patiently, knowing that whatever the divine mercy prescribed was right for him as well as for everybody else. Sometimes, with the best of intentions we ask for the wrong things, which are not granted because the goodness of God sees fit to overrule them. It is a great mercy of God not to grant our petitions when they are veiled in the night of our own ignorance.

    Life of Pachomius, Book 1a (continued)

    Chapter XXXVIII
    A certain young man named Silvanus gave up his life on the stage to live in the monastery with Pachomius. But after being received he continued living in the same disreputable worldly way, ignoring the disciplines of the Rule and neglectful of his own salvation. He spent his days in the ridiculous empty pastimes of his former life, and even achieved some following among the brothers persuading them to imitate him. Most of the brothers objected to this and urged the holy Pachomius to expel him from the monastery. But he would not agree to that, but bore it all with equanimity. He spoke to the brother, urging him to amend his ways and give up his former lifestyle. He prayed constantly to God for him, that out of the accustomed abundance of his mercy he might fill the young man's heart with compunction. But the youth persisted in his dissolute ways, an example of a lost soul if ever there was one, until at last everyone agreed that he should be cut off from the congregation as being completely unworthy.
    But Pachomius still begged to differ. He plied him with the most wise and gentle warnings, and gave him instructions in the wisdom of heaven, with the result that he began to burn so fiercely with the fear of God, and was filled with such trepidation about his future fate, that from then on he was completely unable to refrain from tears. Completely reformed, he became like a book in which everyone else could read what conversion really was. He wept continually wherever he was and whatever he was doing. Even when the brothers were eating he could not cease from lamentation. This annoyed many of the monks.
    "Stop your everlasting weeping," they said. "Please, just throw off these expressions of grief."
    "However much I try," he replied, "I simply cannot stop crying, as you ask. For my breast burns as if it is on fire, and gives me no peace."
    "Well weep privately, then, or if you must, during the prayers, but at least when we gather for a meal you ought to stop weeping and eat. For it is perfectly possible to maintain compunction in your soul without all these exterior manifestations of grief. Many of the brothers are quite put off their food when they see you weeping so freely. Tell us now, why is it that you can't moderate your tears?"
    "Would you not have me weep, when I am aware of how much I am supported by you holy brothers? I worship the dust under your feet and don't consider myself at all worthy of being part of your company. Should I not weep, when a man of the stage, guilty of many sins, receives such kindnesses? I go in constant fear lest like Dathan and Abiron I should be swallowed up in my wickedness by a hole in the earth (Numbers 16.32). Those men of unclean hands and deeds had attempted to take over power; and I who am so much aware of the gifts of God have likewise scorned my own salvation by reason of my disgraceful deeds. With this constantly in mind I am not ashamed to weep in front of you all. For I know what sins I am capable of, and I must needs expiate them by my constant fountains of tears. So if I pour out my soul in lamentations it is not really any great thing I am doing. Indeed, at this time I cannot think of any punishment adequate for my sins."
    This brother progressed to better things day by day and outstripped all his brothers in humility. So much so that the holy Pachomius had this to say about him in the presence of all the brothers:
    "I tell you my brothers and sons, before God and the holy Angels by whom this coenobium was founded, there is only one person that I know of who has followed my teachings on humility."
    Some of the brothers thought he was talking of Theodore, others of Petronius, others yet again of Orsesius. Theodore begged him to tell whom he was talking about, the holy man demurred, and Theodore asked him again more urgently. The greater part of the brothers also strongly urged him to say who it was who merited such praise.
    "Well, I wouldn't tell you," said Pachomius, "if I thought that the person of whom I have been speaking would succumb to vainglory, but I have not the slightest doubt that by the grace of Christ he would increase in humility however much he might be praised, so I need have no fear in openly singing his blessed praises.
    "Now you, Theodore, and others like you, have trapped the devil like a sparrow in a cage, and by the grace of God you have trampled him under your feet and crushed him to dust. But if, which God forbid, you are neglectful in anything he who is under your feet will rise up and rave against you with a terrible fury. But this young Silvanus, whom not long ago you wanted to drive out of the monastery, has put to death his own desires and laid the enemy so low that no one can compare with him. His humility is greater than anyone's. Indeed, whereas you, my brothers, derive satisfaction from the works of righteousness that you do, this young man judges himself to be lower than everyone, however hard he fights himself. With complete conviction he judges himself to be useless and lacking in every kind of virtue. That is why he cries so readily, because he lowers himself and humiliates himself, and does not reckon anything that he does to be important. There is nothing like the humility of a pure heart, together with amendment of life, to destroy the power of the devil."
    Silvanus valiantly fought under the banner of Christ for another eight years before coming to the end of his life in peace. The blessed Pachomius testified of his going that a host of holy Angels carried off his soul with great rejoicing, offering him up as a chosen vessel in the sight of Christ.

    Chapter XXXIX
    At this time, the way in which Pachomius was presiding over such a remarkable way of life came to the attention of Varus, the bishop of the city of Panos. He was a man highly respected in all his doings, devoted to God, standing out as one who fervently loved the true faith. He sent letters to Pachomius, telling him at great length of his desire that Pachomius should come and build monastic cells (monasteria) near his city. For a number of reasons he agreed to the bishop's request, and as he set out on his journey he decided it would be right to visit on the way the monasteries under the bishop's pastoral care. As he approached one of these monasteries he met the funeral procession of one of the brothers who had recklessly taken his own life. The brothers of the monastery were conducting the funeral with all ceremony, singing the usual psalms, with the friends and relations of the dead person all present. When they saw Pachomius they set down the bier and asked him to pray for the dead man as well as for themselves. Having finished the required prayer he turned to the brothers.
    "Stop singing psalms," he said. "Take off those splendid vestments you have clothed him with, burn the lot of them, and take the corpse to be buried without any further psalm-singing."
    The parents of the dead man, the brothers, and everyone else that was there were thus suddenly confronted in utter astonishment with this unheard of situation. They begged the old man that at least they should be permitted to sing the usual psalms over him, but he wouldn't agree.
    "What is the idea of this new procedure?" the parents asked accusingly. "Who would not pay their respects to the dead, even if they are in disgrace? The tragedy of his death in itself is quite enough to bear. What you are doing is worse than behaving like a wild beast and does not say much for your reputation of holiness. Besides, our own reputation will become completely dishonoured, and we shall be suspected of all sorts of other hidden wickednesses. If only we had never come to this place; if only he had never become a monk! Don't inflict on us a grief which will never go away. We beg that you will restore the singing of the usual psalms for the dead."
    "Truly, my brothers and children," said Pachomius in reply, "I grieve for you in the presence of this dead person inasmuch as you are thinking only of what is visible and temporal. My concern is for his present state which we cannot see, which is why I have made these decisions. And you would be bringing even more grief upon him by these so-called honours. I want him to expiate his evil deed, in the hope that he might gain some small measure of eternal rest. I am not thinking of his bodily life. What I have decided is for the benefit of his immortal soul, which will be given back his flesh incorrupt and whole in the day of resurrection. If I were to agree to what you want I would be thought of as one who bowed to human judgment, but I scorn to be seen as one who seeks only to satisfy your wishes for this present moment, rather than seek the best interests of this man in the world to come.
    "Our God is the fountain of all goodness, and he seeks opportunities to pour out upon us the overflowing gifts of his own beneficence and to forgive us our sins, not only in this world but in the world to come. It says in the Gospel, 'Whoever blasphemes against the holy Spirit will not be forgiven, neither in this world or in the world to come' (Matthew 12.32), which means that there are some sins which undoubtedly can be forgiven if penance is done for them. We have been considered worthy by the power of Christ to administer the medicine prescribed by his godhead, and if we do not pronounce judgments appropriate for each particular case we shall fall into disrepute as despisers, as Scripture says, 'Behold, you despisers, and wonder, and perish' (Habakkuk 1.5 & Acts 13.41). So, therefore, I beg you to allow this dead person to be humiliated because of his sins, if only so that he may be found worthy of obtaining some measure of rest in the day of judgement. Bury him without the psalms, as I have said. Our kind and clement and most merciful God is well able to grant him eternal rest in response to our unadorned prayers."
    When he had finished, they all went on their way and did as the venerable father had said, burying him on the mountainside where his tomb had been prepared.

    Chapter XL
    The holy man stayed with the monks for several days, and taught them first of all how each one should live in the fear of God, and then how they should fight against the devil, and by the grace of Christ turn away from his attacks.
    Messengers then came to tell him that a brother of the monastery of Chinobosci was seriously ill, and begged the blessing of a final prayer from Pachomius. The man of God immediately set off in all haste with the messengers, and as they were hurrying along about two or three miles from the monastery they were going to, he heard the most beautiful voice sounding in the air, and looking up saw that brother's soul being swiftly carried up to the blessed realms of everlasting life by Angels praising the Lord. Pachomius' companions neither heard nor felt anything at all, but only saw him gazing steadily towards the East.
    "Why are you just standing there, father?" they asked him. "We need to hurry if we are to get there in time."
    "There is no point in hurrying," he said. "What I have been gazing at for so long is the brother being taken up into the joys of eternity."
    They asked him to explain how he had seen the soul, and he told them what he had seen in as far as they could understand it. When they arrived at the monastery they asked what time the brother had fallen asleep, and found that everything they had learned from the holy man was true.
    I have told you about this for two reasons. Firstly, to show that this blessed old man had supersensitive sight and possessed the gift of prophecy, being able to see things at a distance by intellectual vision, and secondly, that we who follow in the footsteps of such men should carefully avoid the company of the wicked. And I think that I have now said enough about such things.

    Chapter XLI
    When the holy Pachomius and the monks came at last to the bishop of Chinobosci, he was welcomed with the greatest of respect, and a great celebration was held because of his arrival. He was told the places where it was hoped that monastic cells would be built, as was stated in the letters some time before, and the venerable man set about building them immediately. In the process of building surrounding walls to prevent break-ins, some detestable people, blinded with envy by the devil, came by night and destroyed what had been built so far. The punishment for their wrongdoing was not long delayed. For while the old man was urging his disciples to put up with all this patiently, those wicked people came intending to finish the destruction which they had begun. But the Angel of the Lord immediately consumed them by fire, and they were reduced to nothing, like wax cast into the flames.
    The brothers then quickly finished the whole building, where Pachomius installed religious men as monks, and put Samuel in charge of them. He was a very pleasant man, endowed with a great gift of self-denial. Once the monastic cells had been built, the holy man decided to stay there for some time, until those whom he had brought together should become established in the gifts of Christ.

    Chapter XLII
    During this time a philosopher of that same city came to visit them, having heard of their reputation as servants of God, wanting to know what they were like and what they thought they were doing. Seeing some of the monks he asked them to call the father, as he had several things he would like to discuss with him. When Pachomius knew it was a philosopher, he sent Cornelius and Theodore to him, telling them to answer his questions as prudently as they could.
    "We have heard many accounts," said the philosopher when they met, "of how you give yourselves to the study of wisdom, and that you are known to be able to give wise answers to anyone who enquires about your religion, for which you have a great love. I would like to ask you about what you have gathered in to your store of wisdom."
    "Ask what you like," said Theodore.
    "Would you settle the question for me about anything I might ask you?"
    "Tell me what you have in mind."
    "Who died without being born? Who was born but never died? Who died but did not suffer corruption?"
    "There is nothing very difficult about your questions, O philosopher. They can easily be answered. He who died without being born was Adam, the first man. He who was born but never died was Enoch, who pleased God and was translated (Genesis 5.24). The one who died but did not suffer corruption was Lot's wife who was turned into a pillar of salt, and remains there to this day as an example to all who do not believe (Genesis 19.26). And my advice to you, O philosopher, is that you give up your inept propositions and empty questions and turn without delay to the true God whom we worship, and receive remission of your sins to your eternal salvation."
    Quite confounded, the philosopher went away without asking any more questions, overcome with admiration at the sharpness of the reply which he got so quickly.

    Chapter XLIII
    Pachomius spent several more days in these newly constructed cells before going on to another monastery under his control. As all the brothers hurried out to meet him with a great welcome, a little child from the congregation, running about among them, shouted out to Pachomius.
    "Truly, father, since the last time you were here there have not been any vegetables or pulses cooked for us."
    "Don't worry, my son," Pachomius replied kindly, "I will cook you some."
    He went into the monastery and after the prayers went to the kitchen where he found the brother in charge making psiathoi (that is, rush mats), known in the vernacular as mattae.
    "Tell me, brother," asked Pachomius, "how long is it since you cooked any vegetables or pulses for the brothers?"
    "Almost two months."
    "Why have you been acting like this against the Rule and depriving the brothers of this benefit?"
    "I had been trying daily, venerable father," he replied, making his humble excuses, "to carry out my duty, but whatever it was that I cooked did not get eaten because they were all fasting. The boys were the only ones who ate anything cooked. So in order not to waste this food prepared with so much labour and expense I just stopped cooking it. And to keep myself from idleness I have chosen to weave psiathoi with the brothers. Only one of my assistants is needed for preparing what little food the brothers want for their meals, that is olives and herbs."
    "And how many psiathoi do you reckon you have you made?"
    "Bring them out for me to see."
    And when they had been laid out in front of him, he immediately ordered them to be thrown into the fire!
    "Since you have despised the Rule given you of looking after the brothers, then I condemn your labours to be consumed by fire. For you must know how pernicious it is to break the rules set out by the fathers that provide for the salvation of souls. And are you not aware of what a glorious thing it always is to fast in this present life? The Lord greatly rewards anyone who, as far as he is able, fasts out of consideration for the love of God. But when he has no choice in the matter but is compelled to it by necessity, his forced abstinence is useless, and he can expect a reward in vain. But when there is a variety of dishes placed in front of them, by partaking sparingly of them they demonstrate that their whole hope is in God. If they don't see the food, if they are never given any chance of seeing it, how can they expect a reward from God for their abstinence? For the sake of a petty concern for cost the brothers ought not to be deprived of this opportunity."

    Chapter XLIV
    As soon as he had finished speaking and correcting their errors the gatekeeper came to him in some haste, saying that certain highly respected anchorites had arrived wanting to see him. He said they were to be brought in, and after greeting them with due reverence and saying a prayer he showed them round the brothers' cells and all the other parts of the monastery. They then asked the old man if they could discuss certain matters with him, so he took them to his own cell and sat down with them. As they began a heated discussion about certain abstruse and arcane subjects Pachomius began to notice a terrible smell. It was so bad that he couldn't think, much less contribute to the discussion. When the time for the evening meal at the ninth hour drew near they stood up and said they must go. The holy man strongly invited them to stay for a meal, but they would not, saying that they had to return to their own place before sunset. They bade farewell and set out without delay.
    The holy Pachomius, wanting to know the cause of the smell, then prostrated himself in prayer, begging the Lord to reveal to him what kind of people these were. It was made known to him then that it was the impiety of the opinions which they held that had sent out such a stench from their hearts. Without delay he followed them and caught them up.
    "I would just like to ask you something," he said.
    "Ask, by all means."
    "You have been reading the Commentaries of Origen, haven't you."
    Of course, they denied it.
    "Before God I say to you that anyone who reads Origen and agrees with his depraved opinions will be sent to the lowest parts of Hell, where his inheritance will be worms and outer darkness, where the souls of the wicked suffer eternal punishment. See now, I have taken care to pronounce to you what has been revealed to me by God, so I am in the clear. You will know if you have spurned what is right. If you would agree with me and please God in all things, drown all the books of Origen in the river lest you be also drowned with them."
    Upon which he left them and went back to resume his accustomed life of virtue, where he found the brothers standing in prayer, and joined with them in singing the hymns and spiritual canticles.

    Chapter XLV
    As the monks went to their meal Pachomius betook himself to his own cell where he was accustomed to pray to the Lord. Shutting the door he fell to earnest prayer as he thought of the vision which he had just seen. He begged the Lord to reveal to him what would be the future state of his monks and what would happen to his congregation after he was dead. He prayed from the ninth hour up to the time when the brother in charge of the night prayers called him to the usual offices, thus extending the time of his own supplications.
    As he persevered in prayer, suddenly about midnight he saw a vision in answer to his prayer, which enlightened him a great deal about the state of those who were to come after him. As his monastery grew in size he saw there would be many living devoutly and chastely, but also a great number living negligently who would completely lose their chance of salvation. He saw, so he told me, a crowd of monks in a deep and dark valley, with some of them trying to climb out of it but not being able to. They could not make each other out and so were running about bumping into each other, completely unable to find the way out of that deep and dark place. Some tried in vain because they became overcome with weariness and sank down to lower places still. Others were lying about, weeping with tearful voices. But there were others climbing up with an infinite labour, and as they climbed they were suddenly bathed in light, and gave thanks to God that they were able to escape.

    Chapter XLV (continued) Life of Pachomius Book 1a

    So Pachomius was given to understand what was to happen in the last days. He grieved for the blinded minds of some who were to come after him, and their erroneous beliefs and falling away from goodness. He grieved especially that the leaders among them (praepositi) would become negligent and idle, wearing the monastic habit but bringing forth no good works. For once the worst kind of people hold the leadership, ignorant of what holy living should be like, strifes and envyings must needs arise, and evil men will be preferred above good men; leaders will be chosen not because of their integrity of life but merely for their seniority, whence good men will have no confidence in speaking up for the good of the community but will be forced to keep silent, lest for their outspoken honesty they suffer great persecution. But what need to go into details of what might happen when everything covered by the holy rules is subverted by human wickedness? Pachomius tearfully cried out to the Lord:
    "Almighty God, if this is what is going to happen, why did you allow this coenobium to be founded? For if the leaders will be corrupt in those last times, what will they be like who are under their rule? 'If the blind lead the blind they will both fall into the ditch' (Matthew 15.14). Woe is me! I have laboured uselessly and in vain! Lord, be mindful of the zeal with which your gifts have enabled me to work. Be mindful of your servants who have served you with their whole heart. Be mindful of your promise that your testament will be observed till the end of the world by those who worship you (Matthew 15.20). You know, O Lord, that since the time when I took the monastic habit I have humbled myself exceedingly in your sight, nor have I ever indulged to excess in partaking of bread or water or any creature that you have made."
    And even as he spoke a voice came to him from heaven:
    "Don't boast, Pachomius. You are only a human being in need of mercy. Everything that I have created continues to exist only through my mercy."
    Pachomius immediately threw himself on the ground, seeking forgiveness:
    "Almighty God, let your mercy come upon me that I may live (Psalm 119.77). Take not your mercy from me, for your mercy and truth have sustained me. For I know, O Lord, that all things fall into nothingness without the protection of your help."
    Angels of light stood about him as he spoke, and a young man was in the midst of them who shone with an indescribable beauty and brilliance, sending forth rays of splendour like the sun, and wearing a crown of thorns upon his head
    "Pray tell me, O Lord," cried Pachomius, "was it I who crucified you?"
    "It wasn't you who crucified me," the Lord gently said, "but your parents. But be of good cheer and comfort your heart, for your posterity shall stand for ever, and shall not fail until the end of the world. Those who come after you shall be freed from deep darkness insofar as they have lived in abstinence and taken care for their own salvation. Only those who hold with you at this present time, following the example of your virtues, shine with a great light of grace. But those who after you become embroiled in the darkness of this world will climb out of that great darkness, serving justice and loving eternal life with all their heart, insofar as they shall prudently understand what is to be sought after and what is to be avoided, and are not willingly swayed by merely human considerations. Amen I say to you, they shall be granted the same salvation and eternal rest as those who are with you now in continence and radiant sanctity."
    Having spoken thus, the Lord ascended into heaven, as the sky was illuminated with such a splendour of light as no human tongue could possibly describe.

    Chapter XLVI
    Pachomius, lost in wonder at what he had been shown, then went to the night office with all the brothers. And when the holy office was complete, the brothers according to their custom gathered round the old man to hear the word of God. And he opened his mouth and taught them:
    "My little children, with all the power of which you are capable strive bravely after your own salvation, and fight valiantly against the armed might of the enemy, before the time comes when we ourselves shall cry out in misery and lamentation as we grow weak and incapable. Let us not fritter away the days which the Lord has bestowed upon us, but let us develop our virtues with all zeal. For I say to you, if you knew the good things prepared for the saints in heaven, and the torments remaining for those who fall from virtue having known the truth and not embraced it, you would with all your strength flee from that eternal punishment and hasten to obtain that blessed inheritance which has been promised to the servants of God. It is only the evil and abandoned who shun and spurn such blessings, for they know not what they might be losing. It behoves them even now to cast off their worldly desires, weep constantly for their past offences, and seek for the mercy of God that they may turn to better things, and so direct their pathways that they may depart happy from this life and come rejoicing to the heavenly kingdom.
    "Having cast off its earthly tabernacle, the soul expands in the knowledge of its own inner existence (ad cognitionem suae substantiae properat), and accompanied by the celestial powers hastens to the presence of the Father of lights. Why do human beings exalt themselves in vainglory? Why should a creature of dust be raised up? What have earth and ashes to be proud about? Let us weep while we have time, so that when our long-delayed end comes upon each one of us, we may not then be found begging for a time of repentance when we no longer deserve to be given it. It is in this life that we are given to weep for our sins; as we learn from the holy prophet David: 'Who shall be able to cry to the Lord in hell' (Psalms 6.5)? Unhappy the soul, to be mourned with floods of tears, that having once renounced the world returns to the deeds of the world, that having but now been freed from worldly care returns once more to the service of slavery. So then, my beloved brothers, as the time is short before we are to pass from this fleeting world, let us not allow the perpetual life of blessedness to be taken away from us.
    "Our earthly parents, immersed as they are in the affairs of the world, and occupied with the business of this present life, are under the impression that we who have fled from the evils of the world already enjoy everlasting life. I tremble in great fear lest they condemn us under those very terms, saying to us, 'Why have you grown weary in your ways, beset with such misery as you are (Wisdom 5.7)? Your sad state is a great grief to us, your destructiveness only adds to our burdens. Our offspring have become quite useless, they do not produce the fruits of which their early flowering gave promise.' I greatly fear lest this prophecy becomes true for us, 'Our loved ones have fallen into disgrace, they have become abominable, the crown has been torn from their brows (Jeremiah 13.18). The cities of the south are closed to us, and there is no one who may open them up. Let the wicked perish and not see the glory of God' (Isaiah 26, according to Septuagint). Let us think on these things, my brothers, and strive with all our strength lest we be overcome by the enemy. For as he is ever on the alert to destroy us, so we must keep careful vigil that we be not destroyed by his deceits, which God forbid.
    "Above all, let us keep the last day before our eyes, and stand in dread each moment before the punishments of eternal pain. This will encourage the soul to grow in self-knowledge, and keep under the body by vigils and fasts. Persevere in grief and mourning, until you are set alight by the fire of the holy Spirit and are found worthy of the gift of heavenly contemplation, when freed from the contagion of earth you may be filled to overflowing with the words of God. He who at all times meditates upon these things obtains purity of mind and a humble heart; he rejects vainglory and turns his back on the wisdom of the world.
    "Let our spiritual souls, my brothers, reason daily against the crass matter of the flesh. Deal with it so thoroughly that it may cooperate in aspiring to better things. And when at night you seek your pillow, say to your bodily members, 'As long as we are together, obey me when I tell you what is best for you, and come along with me to serve the Lord with eagerness'. Say to your hands, 'The time will come when your expansive gestures will cease, when your angry pugilistic skills will no longer be, when your palms can no longer be thrust out to steal'. Say to your feet, 'The time will come when you will no longer have the strength to rush headlong into iniquity, when you will not be able to travel in the paths of depravity'. Speak also to all your members at once, and say to them, 'Before we are parted from each other by death, undergoing the punishment which fell upon us by the sin of the first human being, let us do battle bravely, stand unflinchingly, struggle boldly, serve the Lord without fear or hesitation, until he comes again to put an end to our earthly labour and lead us to the kingdom of immortality. Eyes, pour forth tears; flesh, show your nobility by being obedient, and work with me in prayer to my God, lest by preferring rest and sleep you procure for us eternal torment. Be watchful always in everything you do, for it is as you act in sobriety that you will receive an abundant reward of good things.'
    "But if you are neglectful, swarms of pitiable torments will come upon you, and then you will hear the moans of the soul complaining to the body, 'Woe is me that I am bound to you, undergoing the punishment of eternal condemnation because of you'.
    "Now, if we reason within ourselves like this, we shall become temples of the Lord, and the holy Spirit will dwell within us, nor shall any craft of Satan be able to encompass us round about. By means of meditations of this sort, the fear of the Lord can teach us more than the doctrines of ten thousand pedagogues and scholars, and the holy Spirit himself will breathe into us whatever we are unable to grasp by human perception. For we know not how to pray as we ought, as the blessed Apostle says, but the Spirit himself prays for us with groans which cannot be uttered (Romans 8.26).
    "There are many more things I might say to you, but lest I overburden you I will bring an end to my sermon here. Brothers, may the God of peace and grace give you strength and establish you in his fear. Amen"
    He finished speaking and straightway rose, commended us to God and departed.

    Chapter XLVII
    As he was going back to the monastery of Tabennisi with Theodore and Cornelius and a number of the other brothers, he suddenly stood completely still for a little while in the course of the journey, as if he was having a secret conversation with somebody. He was being made spiritually aware that one of the rules he had made for the monastery was being neglected. For he had decreed that the brothers working in the bakehouse should not indulge in empty chatter when preparing the oblations [i.e. bread for the Eucharist.] but should limit the conversation to edifying topics. He summoned Theodore who was in charge of the monastery.
    "Make a few judicious and unobtrusive enquiries about any rude conversations the brothers might be indulging in when preparing the oblations," he said, "and make sure you tell me whatever it is that you find."
    He went away and made diligent enquires, reporting back to the holy Pachomius what he had discovered.
    "Now wouldn't you think," said Pachomius, "that the rules I gave them to keep were eminently sensible? Don't they realise that neglect of even the least important of rules lays them open to great danger? Didn't the Israelites gladly keep silence for seven days before the city of Jericho, until at the appointed time they all gave a great shout and the city was taken (Joshua 6.10)? Did any of them deceitfully disobey what was really a commandment from God, even though conveyed to them only by a human voice? The monks from now on must observe our rules, if their previous sins of negligence are to be forgiven. After all, we ourselves strictly observe the rules which we prescribe for others." He rejoined the monastery, and after the prayers he visited the brothers who were making psiathoi. [See Chapter XLIII, above.] He sat down with them and began to do some weaving himself. Now, there was a young lad watching him who had been appointed as his assistant for the week.
    "You are not doing it right, father," he said. "Abba Theodore told us a quite different method."
    "Show me how I ought to do it, then," said Pachomius.
    He submitted to the lad's teaching, and sat down again to his work with a perfectly cheerful mind, having banished the spirit of pride by what he had done. For if he had been wise according to the flesh to only the smallest degree, he would not have paid any attention to the instructions of a small boy, but rebuked him for presuming to speak out of turn.

    Chapter XLVIII
    On one occasion when he shut himself away from everyone in solitude, the devil appeared and contended with him in a false guise.
    "Greetings, Pachomius," he said. "I am Christ paying you a visit, my faithful friend."
    But guided by the holy Spirit, he thought for a while, then spurned this vision of the enemy.
    "The coming of Christ always bring peace, and to see him is to be free from all fear and full of joy. Human reason is banished afar and gives way to a longing for heaven. But at this moment I am in a turmoil, gripped by a tumult of confusing thoughts."
    He rose up and signed himself with the cross, and stretching out his hands as if to seize him, he breathed upon him.
    "Devil, depart from me," he cried. "Cursed are you and your visions and your insidious arts. You have no place among the servants of God."
    He was turned to dust, filling the cell with a most foul smell, and Pachomius heard a loud voice shattering the silence:
    "I would have rewarded you greatly if I had persuaded you into my power. But the power of Christ is supreme, and I am always beaten by you. But make no mistake, I shall always continue to attack you. I am bound to carry out my task without ceasing."
    So Pachomius was strengthened by the holy Spirit, and put his trust in the Lord, giving thanks for the great gifts and blessings showered upon him.

    Chapter XLIX
    While walking through the monastery one night with Theodore, he was suddenly aware of a great phantasm in the distance, of an immensely seductive appearance. It was dressed as a woman so much more beautiful than any human being could possibly be that it is impossible to portray what it looked like or describe the impression it made. As Theodore looked at it he became exceedingly agitated and the look on his face showed it. The venerable old man could see that Theodore was desperately anxious.
    "Put your trust in the Lord, Theodore," he said, "and don't be afraid."
    And he stood in prayer, beseeching the Lord that the presence of his divine majesty might put to flight this stupendous phantasm. As soon as he began to pray, this vision began to dissolve into what it had been before, that is, a multitude of demons. As Pachomius finished his prayers they came towards him and spoke.
    "Why do you labour in vain when you cannot do anything to harm me? For the Lord has given me power to put to the test anyone I like."
    "What are you after?" asked Pachomius. "Where do you come from, and who is it you are seeking to put to the test?"
    "I am the power of the devil," it replied, "and a horde of demons are mine to command. I am the one to cast a holy light upon the earth, disguising the darkness of a death-dealing voluptuousness. I was the one who deceived Judas, and deprived him of the dignity of being an Apostle. Therefore, O Pachomius, I have sought from the Lord that I might wage war against you without ceasing, for I cannot bear the reproaches of the demons any longer that you have show yourself more powerful than all my stratagems and attacks. There is no one like you for making me powerless. For young men and old and even young boys subvert me by your teaching. They almost tread me underfoot. They are so much part of a monastic army gathered against me, surrounded by the indestructible wall of the fear of God, that my servants have no power to seduce by their multiple deceits anyone of your people at all. This is what is happening to us because the word of God was made man, who gave power to you to drive our power far off."
    "What then?" said Pachomius. "Am I the only one you have come to tempt, or are there others?"
    "You and everyone like you."
    "Theodore too?"
    "I have sought after Theodore also, and power has been given me to put you both to the test, but the trouble is that I can't get anywhere near you!"
    "Oh, why not?"
    "In fighting against you both it would seem that I am doing you a favour, but especially you, Pachomius, because you have attained to such heavenly heights that you have been held worthy to see the glory of the Lord with your bodily eyes. But you won't always be with your monks, will you, protecting them with your prayers, and stiffening their resolve by your exhortations. The time will come after your death when I shall rave wildly among them as much as I like, and do with them whatever I please. For it is all your doing that at present I am trodden underfoot by your great congregation of monks."
    "You miserable idiot, don't you realise that it could well be that better people will come after me, serving Christ with a steadfast will, who will imbue with spiritual knowledge those who take refuge in the discipline of the Lord, and build them up by their godly examples."
    "My certainty is that you are simply lying, speaking against the mind of God."
    "No, it is you who are the father of lies, for there is no way that you are able to tell the future. Only God knows the future; it is for his power and majesty to have foreknowledge of all things."
    "As far as foreknowledge goes, I admit I don't know much but by means of divination I know a great deal."
    "What do you mean? Divination?"
    "I deduce the future from what has gone before."
    "How can you do that! Tell me!"
    "Every project in the beginning tends as time goes on to prosper, until eventually its impetus weakens. And so I discern that this divine vocation of yours has been strengthened in its beginnings by counsel from heaven, by signs and prodigies, full to overflowing with all kinds of powers. But when it gets a bit older, it will grow less quickly, it will get weary as time stretches out, it will begin to fail through laziness and negligence, and in this situation I shall begin to make some headway. But for the present my task is to overcome whomsoever I can, and I shall not cease to put you great men to the test."
    "If, as you say, you will not cease from putting great men to the test, and if you claim that your main task is the perdition of souls, and that your malice is greater than all the demons put together, tell me, why is it that at this time you cannot prevail against the servants of God?"
    "I have already told you. Because of the marvellous incarnation of Christ on earth, we are having to carry on with greatly curtailed powers. Because of those who believe in his name we have become as insignificant as sparrows. Nevertheless, although we are weakened, we have not yet been so completely put out of action that we are prevented from deceiving where we can. For we never rest from sniping at your people. We insinuate evil thoughts into the minds of those who set themselves up against us, and when we sense that they are giving some measure of assent to our titillations we slip in a few thoughts even more disgusting still, and stir up the fires of various kinds of voluptuous excitement. By our subtle undermining tactics we can penetrate their defences and bring them more fully under our power.
    "On the other hand, if they reject what we suggest to them and pay no attention to us, and if they seriously and vigilantly build up their defences by means of their faith in Christ, we are scattered like a smoke, driven from their hearts and put to flight. We are not allowed to lay siege to all and sundry, because there are some that would not be able to resist our attacks. If we were allowed to deploy all our forces indiscriminately against everyone, we would be able to deceive many who are now protected by your endeavours. But what's the point? They are protected by your virtue and the power of the Crucified."
    "O how wicked," cried the holy Pachomius with a great groan, "are the unsleeping attacks which you will never cease levelling against the human race, until the power of God shall come again in the person of his Son and consume and destroy you for ever!"
    And he cursed the horde of demons in the name of Christ, whereupon they were scattered and brought to naught.
    Next morning Pachomius called together all the brothers who had seniority either by reason of the sanctity of their lives or by the length of their service. He told them all that he had seen and heard from the evil spirits. And he sent warnings by letter to those elsewhere, to strengthen them in the discipline and fear of the Lord, telling them to be on the alert and give no ground at all to demonic phantasms, but to have no fear of the demons' multiform displays. They all heard and understood what had been miraculously revealed to him by the grace of God and continued to endure with all eagerness the burden of labouring after purity of heart.

    Chapter L
    Meanwhile one of the brothers, who zealously imitated the patience shown by the old man, was bitten in the foot by a scorpion while he was standing at prayer. The poison injected into him almost travelled as far as his heart, so that he was almost on his last breath, but although he was in extreme pain he did not move from the spot until he had finished his prayer, whereupon Pachomius immediately poured out prayers to Christ and restored him to his former health.

    Life of Pachomius (continued), Book 1a (Also St Abraham, further down this page)

    Chapter LI

    Theodore also suffered terribly once from severe headaches, and he asked Pachomius to pray that he might gain some relief.

    "Do you think, my son," said Pachomius, "that any griefs or pains or anything else like that can happen to anyone unless God allows it? Therefore, put up with your aches humbly and patiently, and God will give you relief when he wills. And if you seem to be tested in this way for an over long time, be grateful. Job was perfectly patient, and blessed the Lord after suffering many trials and excruciating torments. Do as he did, and you also will receive an even greater reward from Christ. Abstinence and persevering prayer are good things, but the rewards are even greater when infirmity is endured with patience and longsuffering. Now this teaching has come down to us from men of great heart, and I too judge it necessary that for the benefit of many one man should show tolerance beyond human praise."

    Chapter LII

    There was a monk call Zachaeus who suffered from jaundice as a result of his abstinence over a long period, for he had been content with bread and salt, and lived alone in a cell quite separate from the brothers. He was always weaving rush mats, and for the sake of the Lord his hands suffered such injury through winding thin strands of rope together that they were covered in drops of blood. But in spite of these bodily ills he was never absent when the brothers met together, but roamed about watchfully during the offices to make sure that none of the brothers went to sleep. Every night before going to sleep it was his custom to meditate on something from the holy Scriptures, sign himself with the cross, give praise to the Lord, and only then snatch a little rest. He would get up again in the middle of the night and keep vigil till the time of the morning prayers.

    A brother was one day looking at those hands covered in blood, damaged so severely by the vigorous way he worked, and spoke to him about them.

    "Why do you torture yourself so much by the way you work father," he asked, "and let yourself get so wounded? Is it perhaps because you are afraid that God will be angry with you and accuse you of idleness if you don't work as hard as that? God knows you are suffering, and no work is worth the great trouble you are causing for yourself, especially when it is all quite unnecessary. For if we give bountifully, first to God, then to pilgrims and poor people, how much more should we not care for you, when we all serve with the greatest devotion such a great and good father."

    "Impossible for me not to work!" he replied.

    "Please, at least put some oil into your hands, lest the streams of blood coming from them stain your work."

    He took that advice and did what he was urged to do, but it only made his wounded hands so much worse that he could hardly bear the pain of it. The blessed Pachomius passed by and saw what was happening and why.

    "Did you really think, brother," he said, "that oil would be able to cure you? Was anybody compelling you to keep at your work so vigorously that you felt it necessary to use that as an excuse to put your trust in oil rather than putting your hope in God? Do you think it is impossible for God to heal you, or that he is ignorant of each person's illnesses? Do you imagine that he needs us to advise him? He is merciful by nature; how can he possibly despise us? He takes into consideration the welfare of the souls of us all, and allows us to suffer some temporary pains in order to pour out upon us the eternal rewards due to tolerance. Let us then be sure that we cast all our care upon him, and let him in his mercy bring an end to our griefs when he wills and as he wills."

    "Forgive me, venerable father," said Zachaeus, "and pray for me to the Lord that in his goodness he may see fit to put my fault behind me."

    Many people related of this old man that for the space of a whole year his eyes were full of tears, and that he took food only once every two days. The holy Pachomius held him up as an example of good works and a stronghold of virtues. He would send anyone weighed down with worry to him, for he said there was no one like him for being able to give a word of comfort. He fought bravely to the end of a holy old age, till he passed over to the heavenly kingdom to receive eternal consolation for all his pains.

    Chapter LIII

    Pachomius certainly never hid the talents entrusted to him (Matthew 25.18), but used them for the benefit of all, and sent Zachaeus and many others like him, who had become perfect in their lives, to the presence of Christ before him. One feast day he celebrated by giving thanks to God for all those many great blessings granted to him that this long drawn out account of ours has described. For on the most blessed feast of Easter, after many of his brothers had gone to the Lord before him, he at last fell ill himself and was nursed by Theodore, whom we have often mentioned. His whole body was weak and debilitated, but his face was shining and cheerful, proof to those who saw him of his godly mind and pure conscience. Two days before he died a holy death he called all the brothers to him.

    "Beloved brothers," he said, "I am about to enter into the path the fathers have trodden before me, for I hear the Lord calling me hence. But you, remember all the teachings you have heard from me again and again. Be watchful in prayer and sober in all you do. Have nothing to do with the sects of Meletius, Arius, Origen, or any others who set themselves up against the precepts of Christ. Keep to the company of those who fear the Lord and are able to assist you in pursuit of a holy life and provide your souls with spiritual comfort. I am now ready to be delivered, and the time of my departure is at hand (2 Timothy 4.6). Therefore, while I am still here, choose one among you who under God will be senior to all and will undertake the cure of your souls. As far as my own judgement is worth anything I would choose Petronius as being suitable for this task, but it is up to you to choose whom you will."

    In this they accepted their father's advice as obedient sons. Petronius was a man of great faith, humble in bearing, prudent in his thinking, of good habits and discernment. The holy Pachomius poured out prayer to the Lord for him, for he was known to be suffering from illness in the monastery of Chinobosci. But Pachomius commended the whole brotherhood to his care, even though he was absent, and had a message sent to him that he should come immediately. He signed himself with the cross, and gazing with a joyful countenance on the Angel of Light sent to him, he gave up his holy spirit in the tenth day of the month Pachon, according to the Egyptians, which is the seventh day before the Ides of May according to the Romans. [May 9]

    His disciples reverenced his dear and venerable body in a fitting manner according to the customs, and kept vigil over it the whole night through with the singing of psalms and hymns. And the next day they buried him in the mountain where he had begun. The brothers who had been sent to fetch the holy Petronius brought him back still suffering from his illness. He only ruled over the brothers for a few days before coming to a peaceful end himself, leaving behind him Orsesius, a just man acceptable to God.

    Chapter LIV

    We have described only a few of their many merits, and set out only a small number of their great deeds, not that their honour will be any the less for that. Indeed they have no need of lavish commendation, for it is enough for them to enjoy the eternal praise and unending glory which they have been granted in the presence of Christ and all his holy Angels. They shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of God (Matthew 13.43), who has borne witness that he glorifies those who glorify him. We try to follow in their footsteps with all our strength. Aware of the brilliance of their lives we try to imitate them with the help of Christ, aided always by the prayers of the blessed fathers, Patriarchs and Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs and all the Saints, who ever give glory and praise to our almighty and merciful God, the blessed and co-eternal and consubstantial and indivisible Trinity, Father, Son and holy Spirit, to whom be given all praise and glory unto the ages of ages. Amen.

    Life No 7

    The Life of Saint Abraham, Hermit, [Celebrated in the Roman Martyrology on March 16]

    by S. Ephraem the Deacon

    translated into Latin from the Greek

    by an anonymous author.

    Prologue by S Ephraem

    My brothers, I wish to tell you about the way of life of that wonderfully perfect man Abraham, who began his life and continued to the end in such a way that he has earned perpetual glory. But when I think of his great virtue I am very hesitant about trying to put together a worthwhile and enlightening tale. For he was an outstanding man who had achieved perfection, whereas I am but weak and unpolished. But although unskilled, I will do the best I can to write as much as possible about this man, although I cannot claim to have a perfect understanding of him. Anyone, indeed, who is deservedly called a second Abraham cannot be easily described by human tongue.

    He was a man of our own time, living an Angelic life while still on earth. He developed as much endurance as the hardest of adamantine rock, which earned him celestial glory. From his early youth he preserved the most spotless chastity, which made him a holy vessel, fit to be a temple of the holy Spirit, and thus he opened himself up to the God who came to dwell in the guesthouse of his mind.

    The Life

    Chapter I

    This blessed Abraham had wealthy parents who loved him tenderly beyond measure. They had such care for him, beyond the usual limits of human affection, that they betrothed him to a girl while he was still a child, hoping with a great longing that he would make progress in some secular walk of life. But he had long thought otherwise, for from the beginnings of his adolescence he began to frequent the regular gatherings at the church, eagerly listening with enjoyment to whatever was read from the holy Scriptures, which he would commit to memory and afterwards mull them over intently in his heart.

    But then his parents set a date for the approaching marriage ceremonies, which would oblige him to be bound by nuptial vows. He had objected to this at first, but they berated him and brought such pressure to bear on him that after a while he could no longer stand against them and felt so ashamed that he was persuaded to agree. So the nuptials were celebrated, but during the seven days of festivity divine grace suddenly illuminated him like a lamp shining in his heart. He welcomed it as guiding him to the fulfilment of his own desire. He leapt for joy and followed it as it led him out of the city.

    Chapter II

    About two miles from his home he found an empty cell which he occupied and made his home, glorifying God with immense happiness. But it was a crushing blow to his parents and friends, who went out searching everywhere for this man of God. He had been seventeen days in his cell when they finally found him there praying, and the blessed man then saw how distressed they were.

    "Why should you be so upset at seeing me in this situation?" he asked. "Rather give glory to the most merciful God, who has rescued me from feasting at the table of my own sins, and pray for me that I may in all things shape my life as may be most pleasing to his will, and that I may be able to bear unto the end this most gentle yoke which the Lord has laid upon me, unworthy though I am."

    All who heard him could not but say Amen, and he asked them not to disturb him by dragging out this meeting any longer. After they had gone he blocked up the entrance to his cell and shut himself up inside, constructing a small window to the outside world through which he might receive his usual daily bread.

    Divine grace began to light up his mind, freed as it was from all turbulent distractions, and he advanced daily in the way he governed his life. The foundation of his life was continence, upon which he built his vigils and prayers, which he poured out with humble tears and love. Gradually his reputation for holiness spread everywhere around, and as people heard about him they hoped for inspiration from him and came from all directions to visit him. God abundantly bestowed upon him words of wisdom and knowledge and comfort, which lit up the minds of his hearers as if by the most brilliant of lamps.

    Chapter III

    When he had been living this life for twelve years, his parents died leaving him a great deal of money and property. Lest this should distract him from his own prayers he asked a close friend to take upon himself the godly task of overseeing the distribution of it all to the poor and to orphans. His own soul and mind continued securely in quietness, for it was the greatest wish of this good man to be completely free from all earthly cares. He possessed nothing on this earth except a mantle and a coarse tunic. He also had a little bowl from which he ate and drank, and a rush mat on which he slept.

    Above all he had true humility, and showed the same charitable respect to all. He did not put the rich before the poor, the prince before the subject, or the aristocrats before the common people, but gave the same consideration and honour to all, without any respect of persons. He never scolded people rudely; his speech was always rooted in love and gentleness. How could anyone possibly get too much of his eloquence, offered as it was with such sweetness? Or how could anyone gazing at his face, the image of holiness, fail to be filled with a desire to see him over and over again. Once he had taken up his rules of abstinence he never relaxed them at any time. He completed with all diligence fifty years of this chosen way of life, and for the great love and longing he had for Christ, he reckoned that long stretch of time as but a few days, and he thought of all the austerity of his rule as nothing at all.

    Chapter IV

    There was quite a large and important village not far from the city, where everyone from the greatest to the least lived in a state of the most crude paganism. Nobody had succeeded in converting them from the worship of idols. A number of presbyters and deacons had been ordained by the bishop and sent there for that very purpose, but had to withdraw without converting anyone. They laboured there in vain; the people would not be persuaded. They were fierce in temperament and quite inflexible about keeping to their own opinions. Not only that, but they also stirred up anger and the most intense resentment against the preachers. There were even a number of monks who had tried to approach them time and again, but had not had the least success in converting any of them.

    Then, one day, as the bishop was having a meeting with his clergy, he began to talk about this most blessed man.

    "In all my days I have never seen anyone like him," he said. "He is perfect in every good work, adorned with all the virtues. God is with him, which is why he is known as Abraham the most holy."

    "It is perfectly true," came the reply from the clergy. "This servant of God is the most perfect of monks."

    "I would like to ordain him presbyter," said the bishop, "and send him into that village of pagans. With his patience and love he would be able to convert them to God."

    And he got up straight away and went to the holy man's cell along with his clergy. After greeting him he immediately suggested that Abraham should go to that village for the sake of their salvation.

    "I beg you, most holy father," said Abraham, unhappy and agitated, "Let me just go on weeping for my sins without placing this sort of burden on my weak and insignificant existence."

    "But by the grace of God you can do it. Surely you don't want to be found lacking in obedience in this matter."

    "I beseech you, your holiness, let me just mourn my misdeeds."

    "Look, you have renounced the world and everything in it, you have embraced the life of the cross, and yet having done all that, you should know that you have no idea of what obedience is, which is the greatest of all virtues."

    "What am I but a dead dog (1 Samuel 24.14), and what is my life that you have passed such a sentence on me, most holy father!"

    "Look, you are just sitting here taking thought for your own salvation. There are multitudes more whom by the help of God's grace you could save by turning them towards the Lord God. Just ask yourself which will bring the greater reward, saving your own soul, or leading many others to salvation with you.."

    "Then the Lord's will be done," the blessed man of God said in floods of tears. "In truth, obedience demands that I do whatever you wish."

    Chapter V

    So he was taken from his cell into the city, ordained presbyter by the laying of hands, and sent without delay to that pagan village, praying as he went on his journey.

    "O God most clement, most bounteous," he prayed, "look upon my infirmity, and send your heavenly grace down on my new status (praesidium) that your holy name may be glorified."

    When he got to the village and saw how deeply they were all immersed in the madness of idolatry, he groaned from the bottom of his heart and wept in grief.

    "You alone are without sin, O God," he cried, lifting up his eyes to heaven. "Despise not the works of your own hands."

    And he hastily arranged for a messenger to be sent to his dear friend in the city, asking him to bring him what money was left of his inheritance. Once he had got it, before long he had built a church and decorated it with many wonderful ornaments as if it were a most beloved bride. While it was being built, however, the man of God walked daily past the pagan statues, saying nothing, but praying secretly in his heart, and sending up his tears and sighs to the Lord. When the church was finished he offered it up with many tears as a gift to God and on his knees poured forth prayer to God.

    "Almighty Son of the living God, you have trodden the whole world of error underfoot, and led it by your presence into the knowledge of your light. Gather this scattered people also into the bosom of your church, and enlighten the eyes of their minds, that they may cast off the worship of idols and know you the only kind God and lover of humankind."

    The prayer over, he went straight out of the church to the pagan temple, overturned the altar and images and destroyed them with his own hands. When the pagans realised what he had done an angry crowd of them gathered around like a herd of wild beasts and beat him with many rods, making him run for his life. At night time he came quietly back to his church, taking no thought for his lacerations and wounds, but praying to the Lord with tears and groans that they should be saved. In the morning the pagans came to the church and found him praying, and they stood stock still in amazement. And they came to the church for several days, not in order to pray, but to feast their eyes on the beauty and ornaments of the church. A few days later the blessed man Abraham began to urge them to know God. But this made them very angry, and they fell upon him with clubs as if he were some lifeless stone, bound his feet with ropes, dragged him out of the village, and stoned him till they thought he was dead, although in fact he was still only half dead.

    In the middle of the night he regained consciousness and began to weep bitterly.

    "O Lord," he prayed, "why have you despised my lowliness and turned your face away from me? And why do you cast down my soul, and despise, O Lord, the work of your own hands? Now, O Lord, look upon your servant and hear my prayer and give me strength. Loosen your children from the chains of the devil, and enlighten them that they may know you, for you alone are God, and beside you there is no other."

    Rising from his prayer, he returned to the village and went in to the church, singing psalms to the Lord. When it began to get light the villagers came and were astonished to see him. Infuriated and maddened, they again tormented him cruelly without mercy, bound him and carried him out of the village.

    Chapter VI

    He went on suffering like this for three years, but he endured as if he were an adamantine rock, and he suffered a great many abusive torments without ceasing. But when he was knocked over, when he was dragged about, persecuted and stoned, suffering from hunger and thirst, no matter what happened he was never provoked to anger, never moved by indignation, never fainthearted, never worn out and weary. The more he suffered from them the more his love and charity increased towards them. He warned, he cajoled, he showered them with entreaties of gentlest eloquence. He addressed the older men as fathers, the younger as brothers, the youths as sons, but when he was ridiculed by them in return he just laughed as he suffered a thousand insults.

    Life of St Abraham (contiinued), Book 1a (Also St Basil, further down this page)

    Chapter VII
    There came a day when the inhabitants of that village got together and began to talk to each other in some fear and amazement.
    "Just look at the enormous patience that man has!" they said. "The extraordinary charity that he shows towards us! We have given him so much trouble, but he has not gone away, he has not said an unkind word to anyone of us, he has not spurned any of us, but has put with everything completely cheerfully! Surely he would not have been able to do that unless this God that he talks about really is the true God, as he says, and the kingdom, and paradise, and the punishment of the wicked are all true. We have to realise that all by himself he has overcome our gods and has not come to any harm. This man truly is a servant of God and everything we have heard about him is true. Come on then, let us also believe in this God whom he preaches about."
    And as result of these conversations they all came together to the church shouting and crying;
    "Glory be to the God of heaven who has sent his servant to us to save us from error!"

    Chapter VIII
    What an enormous joy filled the heart of the man of God at this sight! His face glistened like the dew of the morning and he opened his mouth to greet them.
    "Come fathers, brothers, sons, let us give glory to God who has stooped down to enlighten the eyes of your minds, that you may come to know him and receive the life giving sign which will purge you from the uncleanness of idolatry. Believe with all your heart and mind that there is one God of heaven and earth and all that is in it, beyond understanding, giver of light, lover and redeemer of humankind, terrible and gentle. And believe in the only begotten Son who is the wisdom of God, and in the holy Spirit who gives life to all, so that you may be lifted up from earth to heaven and enjoy the life of heaven."
    "You are our father," they said. "You are our guide through life. Whatever you tell us and teach us that we will believe and do."
    Without delay the holy Abraham performed the rite of Baptism, and baptised them all from the greatest to the least, about a thousand souls in all. Day by day he read the holy Scriptures to them, and taught them about the kingdom of God, the delights of paradise, the hell of punishment, about justice, faith and charity. They were like good earth receiving good seed, and brought forth fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, and some thirty, and as they progressed in the fear of God so did their fruits increase. In their sight he seemed like an Angel of God, holding the household together. His gentle teachings aroused such love towards him that that alone was enough to make them believe in God.

    Chapter IX
    For the space of a year the blessed man Abraham did not cease to teach them day by day about the word of God, until he could see that their faith and their zeal for God had become strong. But he also saw that their love for him was excessive, and that they were paying him too much honour. He feared that their attachment to him was undermining his rule of abstinence and that his mind to a certain degree was being drawn away into earthly cares. He rose in the middle of the night and poured out a prayer to God.
    "You alone, O God, are without sin for you alone are holy, and abide in the holy places. You alone are the merciful Lord and lover of humankind, who have opened the eyes of this multitude and freed them from the chains of the adversary, and rescued them from the toils of idolatrous error, and taught them how to know you. I beseech you, O Lord, to guide them and keep them to the end. In your mercy ever provide a generous measure of your help to this most wonderful flock, which you have possessed as your own. Surround them by the grace of your goodness as if with a strong wall, and ever illuminate their hearts that they may always do what is pleasing to you and earn the life everlasting. You have allowed me, weak as I am, to have been their prop and stay, but now hold it not against me as a sin if I do now speedily depart. You know the thoughts of all. You know that I desire only you, and I know that you are my Lord."
    He began his journey as he spoke, signing the village of Christ three times with the Cross, and went away to another place where nobody was able to find him.

    Chapter X
    A crowd of people arrived next morning at the church as usual. When he was not be found they were totally bewildered and ran about like lost sheep seeking everywhere for their shepherd, tearfully weeping and wailing. They searched about for a long time without being able to find him, and at last, overcome with grief they went to tell the bishop what had happened. He also was very worried at the news, and immediately sent off several people to search for him. He was anxious to do everything he could for the people, for he could see how deeply concerned they were. When they had searched everywhere as if they were looking for some precious stone but still could not find him, the bishop took counsel with his clergy and they all went to the village. He offered the villagers words of comfort and tried with his gentle coaxing to soften the blow which Abraham's departure had given them. He discerned that they were very strong in the faith, so he chose likely men from among them to be ordained as presbyters, deacons and readers.
    The most holy Abraham eventually got to hear about this, and he was overjoyed.
    "What return can I make unto you, O Lord my God, most compassionate Father, most gentle lover of mankind, for all the benefits you have given unto me? I give honour and glory to you for everything you have done."
    And he went back immediately to his former cell, where he built an extension in front of it and enclosed himself joyfully in the inner part.
    O what a miracle was this, my beloved brothers! Worthy of praise and eternal glory! Throughout all those terrible troubles that he suffered in that village he never broke his rule of abstinence, and turned not either to the right hand or the left. Glory and splendour to God who granted him the forbearance which led to the conversion of others, and who gave him the grace to hold to his original purpose!

    Chapter XI
    The devil, ever malicious towards good people, had not succeeded in turning the mind of the man of God, or separating him from the Lord, in spite of all the troubles he had stirred up against him. Worse, like gold tried in the furnace, he had emerged purified from the fire, and had grown into a greater patience and a keener love. The devil was so exceedingly annoyed and bitterly infuriated that he sent enormous phantasms against him, in the hope that by filling him with fear he might succeed in deceiving him and getting him to fall.

    Chapter XII
    So while he was standing to sing psalms in the middle of the night a light as brilliant as the sun suddenly shone in the midst of his cell and he heard the voices of a great multitude.
    "Blessed are you, Abraham, truly blessed and faithful, there is no one to be found like you in all the world, for you have done everything according to my will."
    The holy man immediately experienced an exceeding great grief, and he lifted up his voice and cried:
    "May you be lost in eternal obscurity, you receptacle of grief and deception, for I am a sinful human being, albeit fortified by hope, and by the grace of God I am in no way intimidated by your tricks. No matter how many phantasms you send against me I shall not be afraid. For the name of my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, whom I love and serve, is to me as a strong wall of defence. In his name I curse you, you unclean, thrice accursed dog."
    At these words the vision vanished as a smoke before his eyes, and the holy servant of God blessed the Lord with such eagerness and peace of mind as if he had never seen any phantasms at all.

    Chapter XIII
    A few days later while he was praying at night, the devil wielded a hatchet and tried to destroy his cell. When he had almost succeeded, he cried out with a loud voice:
    "Hurry, my friends, come quickly! Let us go in and bring him to a violent death!"
    But blessed Abraham stood up against him.
    "All the nations surrounded me," he said, "but in the name of the Lord I will be avenged on them" (Psalms 118.10).
    And the devil vanished immediately when he heard that voice, and the blessed man's cell remained whole and unharmed.

    Chapter XIV
    Again, a few days later when he was singing psalms in the middle of the night, his mat burst suddenly into flames. Completely unafraid, he stamped on the flames.
    "I shall walk upon the asp and basilisk, the lion and the dragon I shall trample under my feet Psalms 91.13), and I shall overcome all the power of the enemy in the name of my Lord Jesus Christ who comes to my aid."
    Satan was put to flight, crying out with a loud voice:
    "I will bring you to an unpleasant death! You may now hold me in despite, but I shall find a way to conquer you."

    Chapter XV
    On another day while he was taking food, the devil transformed himself into a young man who came into his cell and tried to overturn his bowl. But the man of God held on to it firmly and continued boldly with his meal. The devil jumped up and suddenly created another phantasm. It was as if there was a candelabra standing in front of him, and light shining above it, and psalms being sung from a polluted and ugly mouth.
    "Blessed are they who are undefiled in the way," it sang, "and who walk in the law of the Lord" (Psalms 119.1).
    More verses from this psalm followed, but the holy man said nothing until he had finished his meal.
    "Unclean and thrice accursed dog," he said firmly as he rose from the table, "most pathetic liar of liars, if you are so sure that we are blessed, why are you molesting us? In any case, blessed are all they who love God with their whole heart."
    "It is they who irritate me above all," the devil replied. "It is they whom I would conquer, bring all their good works to naught, and make them acquiesce in all kinds of evil."
    "No good will come to you from that, accursed one. You will never succeed in overcoming or even hindering anyone who fears God, only those who like you have departed from God of their own free will. You conquer and deceive them because God is not in them. But those who love God can make you evaporate and dissipate like smoke in the wind. One prayer from such as they can so prick and disturb you that you become like bits of dust in the breeze. For God is a living God, blessed for ever, who will glorify me, so that I shall not be afraid though you never left my side. I despise you as a nothing, the runt of the litter reviled by all."
    At these words the devil abruptly vanished, as usual.

    Chapter XVI
    Five days later, after his night psalms were finished, another powerful phantasm was constructed by the enemy. It was as if the holy man could see a great horde approaching him, all linked together, urging each other on with great shouts that they might cast the man of God into the pit. But the blessed man just looked at them surrounding him.
    "They surrounded me like a swarm of bees," he said, "and burned like fire among the thorns, but in the name of the Lord I am avenged on them" (Psalms 118.12).
    "Alas, alas!" cried Satan. "I don't know what else I can do! Look! He has beaten me and overcome me in everything I do. He has been defeated by none of my powers, and trampled me everywhere underfoot. Nevertheless I shall not leave you alone until I have overcome you, and humbled you and brought you into subjection."
    "May you and all your powers be anathema, you most foul of demons!" said the man of God. "And glory and honour be unto the Lord, the only wise and holy God who gives you to be trampled underfoot by us who love him. Therefore we have no respect for your craftiness but only contempt. Know then, you frail and unhappy demon, that we have no fear either for you or your phantasms."

    Chapter XVII
    Time after time the devil assaulted this strongest of men with all sorts of arguments and tricks, but never was he able to make any impression on the fortress of his mind or even to make him feel afraid. The more he was attacked, the greater grew his zeal and love towards God. For because he loved God with all his heart, and arranged his life according to God's will, so he earned an overflowing measure of God's grace, and the devil was not able to harm him. He was forever knocking on the door, seeking for the treasures of God's grace to be opened up to him. And when the door was opened up to him he found there the three precious stones of faith, hope and charity, powerful adornments bringing all the other virtues to perfection. And with these he wove a crown of good works which he offered back to his Lord, the King of kings, from whom all his gifts did proceed.
    Who has ever with his whole heart loved God and his neighbour as himself like this man (Luke 10.27)? Or who has ever endured such labours, or shown such compassion? Whenever he heard of any monk who had the reputation of a holy life, did he ever fail to pray for him to the Lord that he might be kept safe from all the snares of the devil, and maintain the blameless course of his life? Whenever he heard of any sinner or godless person, did he ever fail to pray to the Lord with tears day and night that he might be saved? In all the days of his religious life he did not pass one day without tears. Nor did laughter easily escape his lips. He never anointed his body with oil, and from the day of his conversion he never washed either his feet or his face. He always lived as one with the thought of his death always before him.

    Chapter XVIII
    Truly, my brothers, what a glorious miracle he was! Constant vigils washed with tears, disciplined in body by sleeping on the ground, never weary, never weakened or dulled by lethargy, never prone to apathy, but always like someone hungering and thirsting, he gladly endured all things, never allowing his mind to be deflected from its purpose by any relaxation. He appeared as a flower forever in bloom, his face mirrored the purity of his soul. There was nothing lacking in his whole body, which always seemed healthy and strong, enjoying divine grace in all its parts and enlivened with spiritual joy. In the hour of his death his face shone with such splendour that it seemed impossible that his whole life had been spent in abstinence. And there was another miracle in the way he managed things; he never once changed the tunic in which he was originally clothed.
    For other things in the Life of Abraham and his niece, see the Lives of the Women (Book 1d, Life No 20).

    Life No 8

    The Life of Saint Basil, [c.330 - 379

    Celebrated in the Roman Martyrology on Jan 2. Regarded as one of the great Doctors of the Church]

    Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia

    by Bishop Amphilochius Iconius,

    [c.340 - 395. Celebrated in the Roman Martyrology on November 23]

    translated into Latin from the Greek

    by Ursus, subdeacon.

    [Sometime around the year 860, according to Rosweyde]

    Preface by Ursus
    It is to comply with your request that I have translated into the Latin tongue the Life of the blessed Basil, Archbishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia. It is right that I should accede to your request. I am indebted to all my brothers and neighbours, and I certainly ought not to be disobedient to you. I could wish that this work had been done as well and promptly, and as usefully and felicitously as you have asked it to be, especially as you have emphasised how necessary it is for this great man to be celebrated as much among the Latins as he is among the Greeks. So let the Latin language have these salutary writings, for it is not yet known there how admirable the life of this man was. It is certainly not right that what he taught and did should not be more widely known, for this holy man not only taught human beings the words of God, but first of all performed them, as a great man called into the kingdom of heaven. He was an imitator of him whom Luke wrote about, who described what Jesus began both to do and to preach (Acts 1.1). So then, enjoy these teachings to your soul's health, and lest you should think that this man taught but did not do, you shall know now that what he taught that did he also do, and what is more, you will have a model to imitate.
    I have not up to now presumed to approach this work, as you know, because I thought it had been translated by someone else whose merits might have put me to shame. Nevertheless, although some people had already translated the holy Scriptures, was that any reason why there should not be other translators later on? If that were the case, the Latin race would never have been able to drink deep from the holy Scriptures translated into Latin from the original Hebrew by the blessed Jerome, Presbyter of the Roman Church and champion of the holy Bible.
    But when I had made enquiries, I found nothing in Latin about the life of this Saint except two of his miracles: the liberating of the boy who denied Christ, and the woman rescued from a life of sin, which however I found to have been so badly done that I could see that it was preferable to translate them afresh rather than try to amend them.
    It should also be noted that if any reader asserts that what the holy Amphilochius writes is different from what S Gregory Nazienzus [An associate of St Basil in monastic life. A great Doctor of the Church] wrote in his elegy on this great man, let him remember that what one person might mention another might well omit, which is what we find in reading the Gospels. Amphilochius has written the lives of many great men. Let it be known that he is a most suitable person for this task.

    Author's Prologue
    Beloved, it is right and proper that devout sons should grieve over the death of a father, and offer the gift of tears. That we have compassionately done. Now, having set aside the turmoil of grief, we have been moved to respond to the grace-giving prayers that all have offered to our Lord Jesus Christ, by producing a Life, and indeed an account of the true miracles, of Basil, our pastor and master, which have been crying out to be preserved in writing lest in the passage of time they be lost in the deepest oblivion.
    It might seem that I am wasting my time when there are three most sacred and outstanding men, and others elsewhere as well, who have already produced memoirs of this great and dazzling man. I refer to Gregory of Nazianzus, the memorable Gregory, [died.c. 395. A younger brother of St Basil]. bishop of the city of Nyssa, and the blessed Ephraem, [See chapter XI, below] from whose hands I have received the stories which each of them has gathered together. But I have added things which they have omitted, in the manner of a devoted son repaying a debt to his father. It may be thought that I am deliberately aware that I am conniving at theft, but just as clouds hide the sun, so do fractious criticisms of good stories make one forget how good the stories are.
    Basil, our father, was among the greatest, famous throughout the world, expounder of heavenly virtues, a fellow-servant among the order of Angels, a preacher and Doctor of the Church, a monument of incorrupt orthodox dogma, who used simple language to explain the nature of things, discredited Julian [332 - 363. Roman Emperor who promoted paganism].who denied the Trinity, closed the blaspheming mouth of Valens, [Emperor after Julian exposed the wicked error of the Arians, and strengthened unceasingly the beliefs of true Christians. He was a Pastor cherished by the people of the Church, a co-inheritor of a royal priesthood, clothed about in the truth of Christ, the ram of the flock, an outstanding teacher of divine faith, who after his death as in his life shines with great miracles, who by his oratory brought about, as we have said, the downfall of the hateful Julian who lifted up his horn on high and spoke evilly against God. After Julian, Valens accepted the Imperial purple in this illustrious city of ours, Caesarea. He favoured the teaching of the Arians who, as it were, killed off the Father, but it is not our intention in this present narrative to go into the reasons for that. We simply hold to our purpose of celebrating his virtues, from the womb to the end of his life.

    Life of S Basil (continued), Book 1a

    The Life
    Chapter I
    Basil, more than anyone else on earth, led a life of perfect balance. For not only was he adorned with good works, but he was furnished with divine wisdom and he offered it all up to Christ, with all his body and soul. His writings, especially, destroyed the erroneous spider webs of the pagans.
    His parents began his education at the age of seven. He studied Mathematics for five years, and being of a teachable nature he derived great profit from this philosophical discipline. After that he left his native land of Cappadocia and went to Athens, the mother of literature, where he lived chastely and developed many other habits of temperance and continence. He sat at the feet of a teacher of Greek wisdom called Eubulus, and applied his disciplines to himself so well that he became a model not only for his fellow students but also for his teachers. Gregory the future great bishop of Nazianzus, who ruled an Apostolic throne for twelve years, was one of his contemporaries, as were Libanius and Julian, at that time a Christian.
    Basil had decided not to take part in holy Communion, but there came a time when divine providence ensured that he would penetrate into those secrets of wisdom. For having studied the whole range of pagan philosophy for fifteen years, Astronomy and Geometry and everything that was best, he found that he had not succeeded in discovering in any of them the foundation underlying everything else. But one night as he was keeping vigil, a divine splendour enfolded him, urging him to study the scriptures of our religion.
    So he hurried off to Egypt, where he visited a certain Archimandrite named Porphyrius and asked to be given access to the holy books in order to gain a grounding in religious doctrines. As he read he continuously meditated on divine wisdom, while learning to survive on water and a vegetarian diet. He stayed there for a whole year, seeking the truth in faith by examining the word of truth. He then asked to be allowed to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in order to see the holy places. Permission was granted and he went.

    Chapter II
    He came back from there to the place where he had been instructed in Greek philosophy, [i.e. Athens] and began to preach Christ to many of the philosophers and other pagans, urging that therein lay the way of salvation. In particular he began to seek out Eubulus among the various schools of study that he had set up, in the hope that by his own pure faith he might lead Eubulus towards the faith. For Eubulus was a great teacher of all who were learning philosophy. Searching for him throughout all the schools he found him at last in the outskirts of the city among a group of philosophers, none of whom were either hearing or speaking anything new. As the dispute went on, Basil stood up and argued against Eubulus.
    "Who is this that is arguing with you, O philosopher?" asked one of those present.
    "Well, if it isn't God it's Basil," he replied. And he took his leave of the company, and for three days he and Basil fasted and put questions to each other.
    "How do you define philosophy, Basil?"
    "The first requirement of philosophy is to meditate on death."
    "Who then is pure" (mundus)?
    "He who is above the world" (mumdum). For the wisdom of the world is very seductive, but this same world becomes very bitter to anyone who shamefully follows it. Bodily pleasure is one thing and pleasure of the spirit is quite another, and there cannot be any equality of commerce between them. For no man can serve two masters (Matthew 6.24). Virtue enables us to break the bread of wisdom with those who thirst for it, and through virtue we restore those who have been cast out by the wickedness of others. If we see the naked we cover him with a cloak and we do not despise those of our own family."
    From there he went on by way of a parable to paint a picture of the mercifulness of our Saviour, which he brings us through our penitence.
    "Little by little he sets up three warning signs on the outskirts of our minds. The first one is over the gate and carries the virtues, Prudence, Fortitude, Temperance and Justice. On the left hand side sits Seduction, from whence arise Intemperance, Profanity, Argumentativeness and Deceit and a swarm of other like evils. Penitence however stands graciously nearby, fearless, joyful, gentle, brooking no denial, source of every blessing for people, and next to her Abstinence, Sagacity, Clemency, Shamefastness, Modesty, Humanity, and a host of other good things. The meaning of this catalogue to those who see it is that it serves as a warning, and to those who have ears to hear an invitation to a stronger zeal. Eubulus, I was filled with delight when I saw it, and was captivated by it, for they are not imaginary things of uncertain meaning for us, but plain truths guiding us to salvation.
    "For we shall all rise again, some to eternal life, some to condemnation and perpetual distress. We must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5.10) as the prophets in their magnificent eloquence have taught, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, David the king, and that surpassingly excellent Paul, not to mention the Lord himself, who calls for penitence and bestows its reward, who seeks out the lost sheep (Matthew 18.12), who welcomes back the son who left his father's house with a rich portion which he wantonly squandered, leaving him perishing with hunger. His father embraces him, clothes him in a brilliant robe and other precious garments, gives him a ring, and urges the good brother not to be angry but to forgive (Luke 14.11-32). This is the Lord who without distinction of persons gives an equal reward to those who come at the eleventh hour (Matthew 20.1-16). To those of us who come to our senses and repent he gives new birth by water and the holy Spirit. Eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what the Lord has prepared for them that love him" (1 Corinthians 2.9).
    "O Basil," cried Eubulus, who had thoroughly understood what Basil was saying, "you bear witness to the Trinity in heaven. Because of you I believe in one God the Father almighty and all the rest of it, and I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come, amen. And I will demonstrate my faith by what I shall do. Everything I have I place in your hands, and when I have received new birth by the holy water of the Spirit, I shall stay with you for the rest of my life, if that prove pleasing to God."
    "Eubulus, blessed be the Lord our God, now and for ever," said Basil, "for he has illuminated your mind with the true light, and brought you from the error of many gods into acknowledging his mercy. Now, if you wish to stay with me, as you say you do, I will show you how to work for our salvation and our liberation from this world. Let us sell everything we have and give to the poor, then go to the holy city to see for ourselves the places where the life-giving miracles were performed, and so increase our faithfulness towards God."
    Both of them gave away all their goods, keeping back only enough to buy those things necessary in preparation for holy Baptism, and set out for Jerusalem. And they converted not a few pagans to the Lord on the way.

    Chapter III
    When they arrived at the city of Antioch, they stopped at a certain guesthouse, where the landlord's son, Philoxenus, was sitting outside, lost in deep thought. He was a disciple of Libanius the sophist, who had given him some verses of Homer to explain in accordance with Rhetoric philosophy. He was sitting there in a state of great mental upheaval, and Basil could see that the strain of it was making him feel quite weak.
    "Why are you looking so worried, young man?" Basil asked.
    "Would it do me any good if I were to tell you?" he replied.
    "I may be able to help you."
    "Well, I am struggling with these verses in terms of sophistry."
    Basil picked up the verses and began to explain them. The youth was amazed and delighted, and begged Basil to put it all down in writing. Basil wrote out three separate ways of interpreting the verses, which the youth was delighted to receive, and at dawn next day took these explanations of the verses to Libanius. After reading them, Libanius was very surprised.
    "Good heavens!" he exclaimed. "There is no wise man of my acquaintance who could have explained them like this. Who is this new person?"
    "It is a traveller staying at our guesthouse who has the skill to have provided these explanations."
    Libanius lost no time in going to the guesthouse where he was astonished to recognise the unhoped for presence of Basil and Eubulus. He immediately took them back to his own house where he asked them if they would partake of a generous and well prepared meal. But according to their beliefs they would accept only a due measure of bread and water, for which they gave thanks to God the giver of all good things. Libanius began to expound most skilfully the wordy teachings of the Rhetoricians. Basil and Eubulus in return spoke about the faith, and Libanius understood what they were talking about.
    "It is not yet the right time for me to act on what you have said," he mused, "but when divine providence speaks to me, who should then be able to resist? However, you have been such a great help to me, Basil, that I would like you to put your arguments to my students as well."
    It did not take long for the students to assemble, and Basil spoke to them on cleanliness of soul, bodily endurance, a gentle manner, mild voice, measured speech, disciplined diet, silence in the presence of elders, obedience to superiors, charity unfeigned towards both equals and juniors, saying little but understanding much, not to be offended when rebuked, to be sparing in small talk, not prompt to laughter, practised in modesty, having no converse with shameless women, eyes cast down but soul lifted up, keeping out of quarrels, not seeking after a reputation for learning, nor forever wondering about who would be likely to be of benefit to you, and if you are able to be of benefit to others to look for your reward from God and the enjoyment of the good things of eternity from Jesus Christ our Lord.
    Thus spoke Basil to the disciples of Libanius, who all heaped admiring praises upon him. And so with Eubulus he continued his journey.

    Chapter IV
    When they arrived at Jerusalem they made a pilgrimage to all the holy places with faith and love, in each of which they worshipped God who is over all. They then made themselves known to Maximinus, the bishop of the city, and asked to be given new birth in the waters of the river Jordan. The holy man of God looked upon them and gave thanks, and hastened to fulfil their request. Along with some of the faithful they all approached the river Jordan, where Basil threw himself on the ground and with tears and a loud cry begged to be given the sign of faith. In fear and trembling he rose and put off his garments, and without doubt the old man along with them, before going down into the river. He prayed, and the priest [[sacerdos i.e the bishop] baptised him. And behold, a shining light surrounded him, and a dove flew out of it into the water. It stirred up the water and flew back to heaven. And those who were present trembled with fear and glorified God as the newly baptised Basil came up out of the water. Maximinus was overawed by the love which Basil was showing towards God, and poured out prayer over him as he clothed him in the robes symbolising the resurrection of Christ.
    He also baptised Eubulus and anointed them both with the holy chrism. He administered the lifegiving Communion to them. And as the priest of God prayed and offered this food to Basil he took it and said; "Lord Jesus Christ, our God, I believe in what you say in the Gospel, and put my hope in your goodwill towards us, that through this food and this drink I shall overcome our adversary the devil by the help of your holy Spirit."
    Overawed by the faith of this man, the priest of God went back with them into the holy city.
    They stayed there for a year and then agreed to go to Antioch, where Basil was ordained deacon by Meletius, the bishop of that city. It was here that he wrote his treatise on Proverbs, which was received with much acclaim.

    Chapter V
    Not very long after this, he went with Eubulus to Cappadocia, and when he was about to enter Caesarea, bishop Eusebius of that city was told of his imminent arrival in a vision of the night, and that Basil was to be his future successor. Without delay he summoned his chief ecclesiastical administrator, and several others of the venerable clergy, told them of his vision and sent them to the East gate of the city to meet the visitors as they entered, and invite them to visit the bishop immediately. As soon as they came in that most holy bishop was amazed to recognise them as being the very people he had seen in his vision, and gave thanks to God. He asked them what they were and where they were from, and where had they just come from, and having satisfied his curiosity he bade his deacons see to their needs. They took them to a very pleasant little cottage and did everything they could to see to their comfort.
    In the meantime that most holy bishop called a meeting of the leaders both of clergy and of state, and told them all that had been revealed to him by God.
    "In truth it is a tribute to the purity of your life", they unanimously agreed, "that you have been found worthy of a divine revelation as to who shall occupy the pontifical throne after you. So, therefore, don't hesitate. Do what you think best."
    The bishop called Basil and Eubulus and questioned them on their knowledge of the sacred Scriptures. He soon realised in wonder that fountains of wisdom flowed from them. He set them up in a suitable establishment, and not long after, he died. The bishops gathered together in Synod, and by the guidance of the holy Spirit they chose Basil for the episcopal throne. He was duly consecrated, and became governor of the Church by the providence of God.

    Chapter VI
    Shortly afterwards he asked God to give him such a gift of wisdom and knowledge that he might be able to offer the bloodless sacrifice to God in his own words and to come into the presence of the holy Spirit. For six days the holy Spirit kept his mind in a state of trance, until on the seventh day he began making the offering to God daily, and after some time spent in much faithful prayer he began to write down the mysteries of the Mass. At nighttime the Lord appeared to him along with the Apostles. Placing the bread upon the holy altar, he raised Basil up and said,
    "Let your mouth be filled with praise, even as you have asked, and let your offering of the bloodless sacrifice be made in your own words."
    Almost blinded by this vision, in fear and trembling he went up to the holy altar and began to speak aloud the following words, writing them down as he did so.
    "Fill my mouth with your praise that I may praise your glory, O Lord God, who have created us and given us life…" and the rest of the prayers of the holy Mass.
    At the end of the prayers he lifted up the bread, praying freely and saying,
    "Look down upon us, O Lord Jesus Christ our God from your holy habitation where you sit on high with the Father, and come and make us holy. Be present with us, though hid from our eyes, and by the power of your hand grant to us, and through us to all the people, holy things for the holy."
    "One alone is holy," responded the people, "the one Lord Jesus Christ with the holy Spirit in the glory of God the Father. Amen."

    He divided the bread into three portions; one portion he consumed, one portion he set aside to be buried with him [An early practice which was discontinued by the Third General Council of Constantinople, 680.] and the third portion he placed on the golden dove suspended above the altar.

    Eubulus and the chief cleric were standing outside the church and they saw a light shining out of it, and people clothed in shining white garments, and heard the voice of the people glorifying God as Basil stood at the altar. They fell in fear on their faces, glorifying God in tears. And when Basil came out of the church, they fell at his feet.
    "What are you doing here?" asked Basil, "and why are you worshipping me?"
    "We have seen the miracle of glory enfolding the church."
    Basil gave profuse thanks to God and told them the details of the glorious miracle. He called for a goldsmith and instructed him to make a dove of the purest gold, in which he placed the third portion, and hung it over the holy table. It commemorated the holy dove which appeared when the Lord was baptised in Jordan. When this had been done he decided to preach a celebratory sermon to the people, and gathered a great crowd of them into the church. Among them was Ephraem, a worshipper of God who also had seen the divine vision, which we shall say more about later on [see Chapter XI, below].

    Chapter VII
    Once while he was celebrating divine service a certain Jew, wanting to find out what the service and gift of Communion was all about, joined in the congregation as if he were a Christian, and saw a little infant being torn limb from limb in Basil's hands. He went up with everyone else to communicate and was given real flesh, and when he came to the chalice it was full of blood and he partook of it. He managed to conceal a part of it and took it home to show it to his wife, telling her that he had seen with his own eyes what he had been told by others, and so believed that the Christian mysteries were truly tremendous and glorious. Next morning he went to Basil and asked that he be signed without delay with the cross of Christ. Basil was nothing loth, and giving thanks to him who wills all people to be saved, baptised him and all his household into the household of the Lord.

    Chapter VIII
    Helladius of holy memory was another who witnessed and shared in the miracles brought about by Basil. It was he who was found worthy after Basil's death to occupy the see of that memorable Apostle. He was a marvellous, brilliant man, adorned with all the virtues, and he told me about a certain faithful senator called Proterius, who took his daughter to a holy and much cherished place, intending she should be tonsured and given over to one of the venerable monasteries, as a sacrifice offered to God. The devil, who has been a murderer from the beginning, was annoyed by her religious purpose, and inspired a slave of Proterius to fall in love with the girl. He had scant respect for her intentions, but since he did not dare himself to put her off from her intentions, he approached one of those repulsive magicians, and promised him a great quantity of gold if he were able to subvert her.
    "I don't have that power, my friend," he replied, "but if you like I will put you in touch with my power supply, the devil, and he will do what you want, as long as you promise to obey him."
    "I will do whatever he says."
    "Would you renounce Christ, and put it into writing?"
    "Yes, I would."
    "If you are ready then, I will help you."
    "I am quite ready, if only I can get what I want."
    And that evil-doing servant of the devil wrote out something to send to his master, as follows:
    "Whereas it behoves me to further the purposes of my lord and master in taking care that those who forsake the Christian religion are effectively joined to your company, that your portion may be filled, I send to you the bearer of this letter who is wounded by love for a girl. And I pray that you will fulfil his desires, and give me due credit for my overflowing desire to gather all your lovers together."
    "Take this letter," he said, "and go at midnight to stand upon some pagan statue. Throw this writing into the air, and someone will appear who will lead you to the devil."
    He did this with all eagerness, lifting up his miserable voice and calling on the devil to help him. Immediately he was surrounded by the princes of the power of darkness, spirits of wickedness, who with great rejoicing led this deceived wretch away and showed him the devil sitting on a high throne. The devil took those poisonous writings into his hands and spoke thus to that unfortunate person;
    "Do you believe in me?"
    "I do believe."
    "You Christians are liars. You only come to me when you want something, and when you have got it you deny me and go back to your Christ, who forgives you because he is good and merciful. So let me see you put into writing that you renounce of your own free will both your Christ and your Baptism, and give yourself into my power for ever, and that you will stay with me till the day of judgement, when together we will enjoy the eternal punishments which are being prepared for me."
    And he wrote this all out in his own hand as asked. At once he sent out the demons of fornication, who made the girl burn with desire for the slave. With a great cry she threw herself on the floor in front of her father.
    "Have mercy on me!" she cried. "I am suffering desperate torture for the love of our slave. Find some compassion in your heart. Show some pity for your only daughter, and marry me to this slave. He it is that I choose. If you don't, you will see me die a painful death in a few days, and it will be you who have to account for it before God in the day of judgement."

    Chnapter VIII (continued). Life of S Basil, Book 1a

    "God have mercy on me, a sinner! " he cried. "What has got into my miserable wretch of a daughter! Who has stolen my treasure? Who has led my daughter astray? Who has extinguished the sweet light of my eyes? It has always been my intention to marry you to the heavenly bridegroom, to see you safely into the company of Angels, and I was ready to praise God in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. But you have lost your senses in some sort of insane frenzy. Let me betroth you to God, which is what I wish, or else you will bring down my grey hairs in misery to the grave, and bring disrepute on to the good reputation of your parents."
    She reckoned nothing to all that her father had said to her.
    "Father, if you don't give me what I want," she said, "it won't be long before you see me dead."
    Her father's mind was in a whirl, not only because of the depth of his grief, but also because his friends advised that it were better that he should give way to his daughter rather than have her commit suicide. He agreed at last, and gave orders that her desires should be fulfilled, rather than hand her over to dreadful death. He gave her the husband she wanted, and handed over to him his own daughter and all his goods.
    "Here you are, my ungrateful daughter," he said. "But you will greatly regret it, for it will not profit you in the day of judgement."
    Sometime after this infamous marriage ceremony, when the work of the devil was complete, some people noticed that the husband was no longer going to church to receive the immortal and life-giving Sacrament and went to this pitiable newly-wed and said to her,
    "You must have known that this husband you have chosen is not a Christian. He has left the faith, he is as good as cast into outer darkness."
    She was at once plunged into deepest darkness and agony, threw herself on the floor, raked her face with her nails and beat her breast.
    "No one can be saved who disobeys their parents," she cried. "Who will tell my father of my downfall? Alas, I am destroyed! I have gone down to the depths of hell. Why was I ever born? And since I was born, why was I so easily corrupted?"
    The rejected husband heard her complaining, came in to her and protested that what she was complaining about was not true.
    "That gives me some comfort," she said, "but to satisfy me completely, and make me sure in my own confused mind, let's you and I go together to the church tomorrow and let me see you receive the inviolate mysteries. That will really put my fears to rest. "
    Thus cornered, he was compelled to admit the covenant he had signed. In revulsion against such ungodliness, she immediately cast off her feminine misgivings, came to a good decision, and ran to Basil, the pastor and disciple of Christ.
    "O saint of God," she cried, "take pity on my misery. Have mercy on me, O disciple of Christ, for I have been party to an agreement with the devil. Have mercy on me for being disobedient to my father."
    And she told him everything she knew about what had happened.
    The saint of God asked the slave to come and see him and asked him if it really was as his wife had said.
    "Yes," he said. "I cannot deny it, for what I have done has been shouted to the skies."
    He told Basil the evil work the devil had done and all the details of it from start to finish.
    "Do you wish to turn back to the Lord?" Basil asked
    "I do, but I can't."
    "Because I renounced Christ in writing and made a treacherous pact with the devil."
    "Don't worry too much about that. Our God is kind and will accept you if you repent. He is kind even when we have done evil things."
    The girl threw herself at his feet.
    "O disciple of Christ our God," she said, "help us if you can."
    The saint turned to the slave.
    "Do you believe you can be saved?" he asked.
    "Lord, I believe," he said. "help my unbelief" (Mark 9.24).
    Basil prayed and made the sign of the cross over him, took him by the hand and hid him away in the place where the sacred vestments were kept, where he left him with a rule to follow. For three days he prayed for him before visiting him again.
    "How are things going, my son?"
    "In very great weariness, sir. O saint of God, I am suffering from their shouts and alarms and their darts and their stonings. And they keep holding up in front of me that contract that I wrote out with my own hands, cursing me and saying, 'It was you who gave yourself to us, not the other way round'".
    "Fear not, my son. Only believe."
    He gave him something to eat, prayed again and signed him with the cross. He shut him up again, and visited him after another few days.
    "How are things going, my son?"
    "Holy father, I don't see them any more, but I still hear them shouting and threatening in the distance."
    Again he gave him some food and poured out prayer for him, then shut the door and went away. It was the fortieth day before he visited him again.
    "How are things going, my son?"
    "O saint of God, very well. For in a dream today I saw you fighting for me and overcoming the devil."
    He prayed as usual, then led him out and took him to his own room. In the morning he called a meeting consisting not only of the reverend clergy, but people from the monasteries and all the people who were friends of Christ.
    "Beloved children," he said, "Let us give thanks to the God of all. Look how the good shepherd is about to lift the lost sheep on to his shoulders and bring him back into the Church. Now what we must do is spend the night in vigil, praying that the corruptor of souls does not prevail against his good intentions"
    The gathered people immediately acted on his words, and spent the night praying in tears to God with their good pastor, and crying Kyrie Eleison. At daybreak the saint took the slave by the hand and along with the whole crowd of people led him into the holy church of God with psalms and hymns. Who should appear but the devil, that perpetual bane of our lives. In a last ditch effort to stave off defeat, he arrived with all his pernicious power and without being seen seized hold of the boy, trying to snatch him from the saint's hand, making the boy cry out loud.
    "Saint of God, help me!"
    The devil renewed his grip on the boy, trying to overcome and subvert even the noble Basil as well.
    "Shameless violator of souls!" cried the saint, turning on the devil, "father of darkness and perdition, isn't your own damnation and the damnation of those you have already won over to yourself enough for you? Will you never cease from attempting to deface the image of God?"
    "You have condemned me unheard, Basil!" the devil said, and many of us could hear what he was saying.
    "May the Lord curse you," replied Basil
    "But you are prejudging me, Basil. It was not I who approached him, but he who came to me, renouncing Christ, and making a solemn pact with me, and here is the document itself, which in the day of judgment I shall lay before the Judge."
    "Blessed be the Lord our God! The people here will not cease from lifting up their hands to heaven until you have given up that document," and turning to the people he went on, "Lift up your hands to heaven, mingling the cry of Kyrie Eleison with your tears."
    The people stood for a long hour lifting up their hands to heaven, until at last they all saw the slave's document whisked up in the air and come to rest in the hands of our noble pastor and father Basil. He held it up, and gave thanks to God with a great shout of joy, along with all the people
    "Do you recognise this little bit of writing?" he asked the boy.
    ""I do, O saint of God," he said. "It is my own handwriting."
    Basil tore it in two, and led the slave into the church, where he was held worthy to be present at the sacred offering of the Mass, and to participate in the holy mysteries and gifts of Christ. By this great undertaking of his, Basil gave fresh life to all the people. He took the slave and gave him instruction, and restored him to his wife, glorifying and praising God without end. Amen.

    Chapter IX
    That noble man, Helladius, whom we have already mentioned [see Chapter VIII.] also tells the story of how our great holy father Basil went out of the city one fine day without telling anyone where he was going. Helladius arrived at our house and said to us:
    "Follow me, my sons, and witness along with me the glory of God, and give praise to the master of one of his disciples."
    Now soon after our father had left the city, a certain holy presbyter called Anastasius became aware of it by the power of the Spirit, and mentioned him by name to his wife (who was living with him as a sister).
    "I am going out to work in the fields, my lady sister," he said to her, "but you get busy and tidy the house, and around about the ninth hour take the thurible and a wax taper and go out to meet the holy Archbishop Basil for he is coming to visit our house."
    With some trepidation at such a glorious piece of news she did as she was asked. She was a virgin, who by saying that she was sterile had kept it secret that she had been living chastely with her husband for forty years. She met us with all due modesty and exchanged greetings with us, first of all asking a blessing from our holy father.
    "And how are you keeping, mistress Theognia?" asked Basil.
    She was thunderstruck at being addressed by her proper name, but managed to reply that she was well.
    "And where is master Anastasius, the presbyter, your brother?"
    "He is my husband, sir, and has gone out to work in the fields."
    "No, he is in the house. Don't jest with me."
    She was thrown into confusion not only by this last remark and by the fact that he had addressed her by name, but also that this godbearing father of ours had taken her to be Anastasius' sister, whereas she was known everywhere as his wife. Thunderstruck, overcome by fear, she fell at his feet.
    "O saint of God," she cried, "pray for me a sinner, for I am witnessing great and wonderful deeds."
    Basil made the sign of the cross over her.
    "Hold out your apron in your two hands," he then said, "and pour the coals from the thurible into it and put on incense."
    Then, with him leading the way, we all went to the house of the presbyter, who came out to meet us, kissed Basil's feet, and greeted him in the name of the Lord.
    "How is it that the saint of God comes to visit me?" he asked.
    "I am glad to have found you, O disciple of Christ, " said our father. Come, let us go and celebrate the Mass of God."
    The presbyter of God was fasting every day except Saturday and Sunday, taking nothing except bread and water. When they got to the church, Basil asked the presbyter to sing the Mass.
    "O saint of God," replied the presbyter, "being asked to do that is a case of a bad person being given a blessing by someone far better!"
    "Nevertheless, be obedient with all your heart," replied our father.
    The presbyter agreed, and stood at the altar for the holy Mass. When it came to the time of the elevation of the life-giving body of our Lord Jesus Christ, the saint of God and some of the worthy men with him saw the holy Spirit coming down in the shape of fire, surrounding the presbyter and the holy altar. We all communicated and gave thanks to God, after which we went back to the presbyter's house and took food.
    "Tell me where your treasure is, "said the saint of God, "and what your life is like."
    "O saint of God." said the presbyter. I am just a poor sinner relying on payments from the public (subiacens publicis tributis). I have four oxen, one of which I use in my fields, one I hire out, one is for the use of pilgrims, and the fourth I use to pay my taxes. That is my retinue of servants, ministering to the needs of my guests and myself."
    "Call your sister, for that is what she is, and tell me about the things you do."
    "I don't do anything good on this earth, I can't lay claim to any virtue."
    The father of us all then got up, asked the presbyter to follow him and went to the door of a very small room in the house.
    "Open the door of this room," he said.
    "O saint of God, don't ask to go in there. It is only a necessary store room."
    "But this is the reason I have come here."
    The presbyter still would not unlock the door, but our wonderful father opened it by simply speaking a word of command. When he went in he found inside a man covered all over with ulcerous sores, and nobody had known he was there except the presbyter and his sister.
    "Why have you been hiding away your treasure like this?" asked the holy father.
    "He is mentally deranged, sir, and liable to cause injury to others and, in a word, I was frightened he might get killed."
    "You have described him very well. But give me a night to minister to him, and let's see if I can bring about a reward for what you have done."
    We were rendered speechless by what seemed to be an unreasonable obsession, but we left the holy man in the little room with that ulcerous man, shut the door and departed. This healer of wounds then spent all night with the man, praying to God the healer of all ills and infirmities, and the man was cured.
    "Glory to you. O God!" cried the presbyter. "For you perform miracles and hear the prayers of those who fear you. Look, the doctor has made the sick man whole!"
    And at this very moment the saint of God called out to us to open the door. He led forth the ulcerous man totally cured, without a mark on his body, speaking plainly and glorifying God. This great miracle having been brought to a conclusion, we returned to our own city, joyfully praising and blessing the Lord, to whom be honour and glory unto the ages of ages. Amen.

    Chapter X
    There was a woman of noble family, well endowed with worldly goods, totally immersed in the vanities of this world, occupying the highest rank in society, who, even when she was widowed, continued to spend money with great abandon, lived luxuriously, gave herself up to every kind of vice, never did anything pleasing to God, but was like a pig rolling about in her own excrement. But God gave her a nudge and she came to herself. Her mind was suddenly illuminated with knowledge of the enormity of her sins. She went through them all in her mind and wept in great grief.
    "Woe is me, a sinner!" she cried. "How can I make up for all the sins I have done? I have corrupted the temple of the spirit. I have a soul in this body of mine and I have befouled them both. Woe is me! Woe is me! What shall I do? What's got into me? Can I say that I have sinned like the harlot of that publican?"
    But God wants all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth, and he wills no one to perish. And as she turned all these things over in her mind, God gave her the grace to remember all the sins she had done from her youth up. She sat down and wrote out a list of all her offences from her youth up to her present age. She headed the list with the worst great sin she had ever done, and signed her name to it all.
    Choosing a suitable time when she knew that the holy Basil was accustomed to go to the church to pray, she ran out in front of him, prostrated herself at his feet and threw the list down in front of him.
    "O saint of God," she cried, "have mercy on me, have mercy on all my sins."
    "Why all this weeping and lamenting?" that most blessed man asked in a most caring tone of voice.
    "Look, O saint of God, I have written out all my sins and offences in this list, and signed it. I beg you, O saint of God, do not ignore this list, but by your holy prayers wipe out everything in it."
    The great and holy Basil picked it up and lifted up his eyes to heaven.
    "To you alone, O Lord, the deeds of this woman lie open, but you have taken away the sins of the world, and are easily able to wipe out the sins of this one single soul. Indeed, all our offences are numbered in your sight, but your mercy is boundless and beyond compare."
    Saying this, he went into the church holding the list in his hand, prostrated himself before the altar and prayed the whole night through, until the end of the solemnity of the Mass next day. He then went to the woman and handed her back the list.
    "Have you heard that no one can forgive sins but God alone?"
    "I have, father, but that is why I begged you to intercede to the mercy of God for me."
    She then unfolded the paper, and found that all the sins had been blotted out except for that one great sin at the beginning. Seeing this sin still there, not wiped out at all, she beat her breast in anguish, and fell at his feet in tears.
    "Have mercy on me, O servant of God most high, and since you have struggled with all my other sins and been heard, surely you must be able to intercede for this single one that is left for it be wiped out also?"
    The holy Basil wept for sheer pity.
    "Rise, poor woman," he said. "I am only a human being in need of forgiveness. He who forgives has wiped out your sins as you wished, and he who has taken away the sins of the world is able to take away this sin also. If you are faithful from now on, and walk in the law of the Lord, you will not only find forgiveness of your sins but you will be found worthy of glory. Now go out to the desert, and from among all the holy fathers seek out a holy man called Ephraem. Give him the paper, and he will intercede to God for you and obtain from the Lord what you want."
    She took this holy bishop of God at his word and made a rather long journey into the desert till she found this great and marvellous hermit called Ephraem. She knocked on his door and cried out.
    "Have mercy on me, have mercy O Saint of God!"
    He discerned in the spirit the reason for her coming and replied:
    "Go away, woman, for I am only a sinful human being, in need of forgiveness also."
    "But holy Basil the Archbishop sent me to you," she said, as she threw the paper at his feet, "so that you can pray to God for this last sin in the list to be wiped out. Holy Basil by his prayers has had all the other sins wiped out, so, O saint of God, don't be so reluctant to pray for this one sin. It is for this very reason that I have been sent to you."
    "No, my daughter. If Basil was able to obtain pardon for all those other sins, surely he can do the same for this one? Go, don't delay, go and see him again, before his soul departs from his body."
    She took this holy confessor at his word and returned to Caesarea. When she got into the city she was met by a funeral procession carrying holy Basil's body. She fell to the ground and cried out against the saint of God.
    "Woe is me a sinner. Woe! I am undone! Woe is me, O saint of God, for you directed me into the desert so that you could depart this life without being bothered by me any more. And look, I have come back without getting any results after taking such a long journey through miles of sand in vain. Let the Lord God look down and judge between me and you, for you could have interceded to God and been answered without having to send me to someone else."
    And she threw the paper on to the street in front of the people carrying Basil's body, and gave them a detailed account of what she had gone through. One of the clergy, desperate to know what the one great sin was, picked up the paper, unfolded it, and found it totally wiped clean,
    "Woman," he shouted, "There is nothing written on this paper at all. What a great labour and anguish you have imposed upon yourself, unaware of the great things God in his unsearchable mercy has done for you."
    When the people realised the great glory of this miracle they glorified God who had such power as to be able to put away all the sins in the world, and gave such grace to his servants as to heal all ills and infirmities, and to give the power of forgiveness of sins to those who maintained true faith in God, strove to do good works and glorified God and our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Chapter XI
    Brothers, I want to tell you also a story about the illustrious Basil and Ephraem the Syrian. I heard some of this from the mouth of our father himself, and some of it from the reliable mouth of the holy and wonderful Ephraem. So it is true.

    Chapter XI (continued), Life of S Basil, Book 1a

    When Ephraem was living in the desert he learned of the wonderful doings of our father Basil, sometimes by direct revelation of the holy Spirit, sometimes by question and answer, and he prayed constantly to be given an insight into what made the great Basil what he was. He was taken up into an ecstasy, and saw a column of fire, the top of which reached up to heaven and heard a voice coming from above, "Ephraem, Ephraem, the great Basil is like this column of fire that you have seen." So taking an interpreter with him, because he did not speak Greek, he went to the great church that had the great name of Caesarea, and arrived during the holy feast of the Theophany. He went in, unrecognised, and saw the great Basil processing in to the church. He saw that he was dressed in a glistening white robe, and surrounded by reverend clergy all clothed in white and bowing to him.
    "I think we have been labouring in vain," he said, as he watched the service from an inconspicuous part of the church, "for this brother, living in such ceremony, is nothing like the vision I saw. We who have borne the labour and heat of the day profit nothing, and yet this man is given such obsequiousness and human respect! I am amazed!"
    At the very moment that he was saying this, the holy man sent his Archdeacon out, telling him to go down to the West door where he would find in an inconspicuous place a man dressed in a monastic robe, with a thinning beard, rather small, and mentioning other details of his appearance, and tell him that his holy father the Archbishop invited him to come up into the sanctuary.
    "You have made a mistake," said Ephraem through his interpreter. "We are simply visitors."
    The Archdeacon went back and repeated this to the great Basil as he was singing from the sacred books. The holy man looked down and saw a tongue of fire coming from Ephraem's mouth and he spoke to the Archdeacon again.
    "Go down and say, 'Master Ephraem, please come up into the holy sanctuary, it is the Archbishop who asks you into the holy sanctuary.'"
    The holy Ephraem was thunderstruck at these words, gave glory to God and changed his mind completely.
    "Truly, Basil is great," he said. " Basil truly is a column of fire. Truly the holy Spirit speaks through his mouth. But tell him I would rather greet him in the sacristy after the Mass."
    When the Mass was over he went up into the sacristy. Basil greeted him by name and gave him a holy kiss in the Lord.
    "You are more than welcome," he said, "for you have multiplied the disciples of Christ in the Church and expelled demons through Christ in whose power you have laboured. Father, what you see in me is just a human sinner. May the Lord give you the reward of all your labour. "
    The praiseworthy Ephraem replied by telling him all that was in his heart, as did the abba who was with him. They placed themselves in his holy hands, and with great affection and esteem the holy Ephraem had a request to make.
    "Reverend father", he said, "there is one gift I would ask of you and I pray that you will grant it me."
    "Ask whatever you like, for I owe you a great deal, especially for all the work you have done and for coming here today."
    "Holy father, I know that whatever you ask from God is granted. Pray God that I may be able to speak Greek."
    "That is beyond my power to grant. But since you have asked in faith, come, father and teacher of the desert, let us pray to the Lord together, for he is able to grant your request. It is written, 'He grants the wishes of those who fear him and hears their prayer and brings them into a place of safety' (Psalms 145.19)."
    They prayed together for several hours.
    "Master Ephraem," said Basil when they had risen from prayer, "why should you not be ordained to the presbyterate, for you are worthy of it."
    "Because I am a sinner," he said through the interpreter.
    "I wouldn't mind if I only had your sins! Come, let us prostrate ourselves."
    And as they lay on the floor that great priest laid his hand on holy Ephraem, said the prayer for the Deacon and told him to stand up. His tongue was opened and he recited in Greek the salve, the miserere, the suscipe, and the conserva nos Deus in tua gratia. and so it was fulfilled what was written in the scriptures, 'Then shall the lame man leap like a hart, and the mouth of the dumb shall be unstopped' (Isaiah 35.5) And at that hour they both praised God in the Greek tongue. For he is all powerful and hears the prayers of those who fear him.
    He ordained Ephraem presbyter and his interpreter deacon, and sent them on their way in peace, 'glorifying God for all they had heard and seen, as it was told them' (Luke 2.20).

    Life No 9 Book Ib The Life of St Ephraem of Syria,

    (Life of St Simeon Stylites begins further down page),

    a deacon of Edessa,

    by an unknown Greek writer

    translated into Latin by Gerardus Vossius

    Chapter 1
    Our holy father Ephraem came from in the East, born of godly Syrian parents in Edessa. He lived during the times of the great Emperor Constantine and others who reigned after him. He kept himself innocent of evil deeds from his youth up. While he was still a boy, his parents in a dream saw a vision of a fruit-laden vine growing out of Ephraem's mouth, which grew to such an extent that it spread over everything under the heavens. All the birds of the air came and fed on its fruit, yet however much they ate there was still plenty left. He sought the desert from a very young age, developing a bottomless store of compunction, through which he was able to receive the divine grace of the holy Spirit.

    Chapter II
    Someone else, inspired by the breath of God, had a night vision in which he saw an awe-inspiring man holding a large volume and asking:
    "Who is able, do you think, to take this book and guard it?"
    And a voice came to him: "No one other than Ephraem my servant."
    And Ephraem, standing near, opened his mouth and devoured the book, from whence a flood of teaching sent by God streamed forth, full of compunction and penitence, filling the mind with a fear of judgment and of the second coming in majesty of the King and Lord of all, Jesus Christ our true God, who will reward each one according to his works. Thus was certified the purity and truth of the divine teachings contained in his writings.

    Chapter III
    Again, another of the holy old men saw in a vision a band of Angels coming down out of heaven by God's command, carrying a proclamation, a scroll with writing within and without. And they spoke among themselves: "To whom may we entrust this scroll?"
    And some said this and some said that, and others replied as follows: "Truly there are many saints and righteous people, but this scroll should be entrusted to no one except Ephraem, meek and humble of heart."
    And the old man saw that they gave the scroll to holy Ephraem. In the morning he heard the most striking words of wisdom for the instruction of others streaming from Ephraem's mouth, full of compunction and the fear of God, scattered about as from a free flowing fountain. And the old man knew that what flowed from that mouth had been inspired by the holy Spirit.

    Chapter IV
    This holy father Ephraem was filled with a desire to visit the city of Edessa and he prayed to God: "Lord Jesus Christ, let me visit that city, and when I enter let there be someone to meet me with whom I can explore the meaning of the Scriptures."
    A woman who was one of the city's prostitutes met him as he was going through the gate. Ephraem the servant of God was disappointed when he saw her.
    "Lord Jesus Christ," he said, "you have despised the prayers of your servant Ephraem. What sort of common ground would this woman have with me in discussing the Scriptures?"
    The woman stood still, gazing at him.
    "Tell me, my girl, why are you standing there staring (intueor) at me so intently?"
    "I can look at (intueor) you, because as a woman I was created out of your manhood. But you do not give me any respect at all (intueor), you only see the dust of the ground out of which you were created" (Genesis 2).
    When Ephraem the servant of God heard that, he looked up to heaven and glorified God who had given her the wisdom to be able to give him such an answer as that. He realised that God had not despised his prayer. He went on into the city where he stayed for some time.

    Chapter V
    It so happened that another prostitute lived next door to the guesthouse in which he was staying. After he had been there for a few days, he heard her say, "Give me a blessing, abba."
    He looked up and saw her looking out at him through her window.
    "God bless you," he said.
    "Isn't there something you have been lacking in your cell and enclosure?"
    "Yes, a few stones and cement in order to block up the window you are looking through."
    "Look, I spoke to you first and you have responded. I would like to sleep with you, and would you really want to not have anything to do with me?"
    "Well, if you want to sleep with me, come with me to a place of my choosing and sleep with me there."
    "Tell me where and I will come."
    "If you really want to sleep with me I would not be able to do it anywhere else but in the middle of the city."
    "Wouldn't you be ashamed for people to see you doing that?"
    "If human beings can make us feel ashamed, how much more should the God whom we ought to fear make us feel ashamed! He knows all human secrets, for he it is who shall come to judge the world and reward each one of us according to our works " (Romans 2.5-6).
    The prostitute was pricked in her conscience at these words. She came out to him and fell at his feet weeping.
    "Servant of God," she said, "lead me into the way of salvation, and deliver me from my many sins and wicked doings."
    So the holy old man gave her many things from the holy Scriptures to think about and confirm her in her repentance. He then took her into a monastery, and thus rescued her from the company of the reprobate.

    Chapter VI
    He left that city and went to Caesarea in Cappadocia, where he went into the church and found the holy Basil the Archbishop preaching to the people. The blessed Ephraem began to sing his praises in a loud voice. Some of the crowd wondered who this stranger was, praising Basil like that.
    "He's fawning upon him hoping to get some reward!" they said.
    After he had finished preaching, Basil said, "Bring that man to me who is standing there singing my praises."
    They brought him.
    "Why are you standing there lifting up your voice in my praise, master Ephraem?"
    "I kept on shouting and praising because I saw a pure white dove standing on your right shoulder and whispering into your ear what you were to say to the people."
    The great Basil, full of the holy Spirit, then recognised him.
    "You are that Ephraem from Syria, are you not? I see in you something which I have always understood you to possess, a love of quiet. As it is written in the prophet David, Ephraem is the strength of my head (Psalms 60.7 & 108.8). For your gentleness, clemency and simplicity are as unmistakeable as a light visible to all."

    Chapter VII
    (This chapter almost the same as in Book V.x.21)
    Ephraem travelled on a bit further and was again approached by a prostitute trying to trip him up. She hoped to get him agree to commit fornication or at least to make him lose his temper, which nobody had ever seen him do. He said to her, "Follow me", and took her to a very crowded part of the city.
    "Here is the place," he said. "Come on, let's do what you want."
    "How can we do that here?" she said, looking at the crowd. "Wouldn't we be ashamed?"
    "If you are ashamed because of human beings seeing you, ought you not to be ashamed because of God who brings to light all the hidden things of darkness?"
    The deed was not done. Thoroughly confused, she went away, unable to prevail against him in the slightest, not even making him lose his temper.

    Chapter VIII
    And there you have the contests undergone by the great Ephraem, who was a man most patient, gentle, pure and simple, seeking God without guile, as was written of Job (Job 1.1), unassuming and modest, humble and full of compunction beyond belief. Even when remaining silent, his countenance was enough to teach something to any one gazing upon him, for he was intent upon pouring out all his prayers to God. This holy father of ours lived a good and blessed life, he provided an example of divine virtue, he produced many instructions on holy doctrine, and when at last he was aware of his approaching death he left a last testament for his disciples and for monks in general, warning them about future events. He was ill for only a short while before he fell asleep in the Lord and was buried by his disciples in the desert. By his prayers and intercessions may Christ our God make us worthy of imitating his divine life, and obtain mercy and the remission of all the sins into which we may have fallen. To Christ our God belongs all honour and worship, with the Father and the holy and life-giving Spirit unto the ages of ages. Amen.

    Life No 10

    The Life of St Simeon Stylites

    by Antony, his disciple

    Chapter I
    (Another account of this Life in Book IX.xxvi)
    The holy Simeon was chosen by God from his mother's womb and sought how to please and obey him. His father was called Sufocion, and had no other education than that supplied by his parents. At the age of thirteen he saw a church one day as he was feeding his father's sheep. He left his sheep and went inside where, after hearing the Apostle being read, he approached one of the elders.
    "What was the meaning of that which was being read?" he asked.
    "It was about the underlying reality (substantia) of the soul," replied the old man, "and how a human being may learn to fear the Lord with all his heart and with all his mind" (Luke 10.27).
    "What does fearing God mean?"
    "Why are you asking me such serious questions?"
    "I am seeking through you for an answer from God. I want to learn about the things I was listening to, because I am ignorant and unlearned."
    "If you fast continually, offer prayer moment by moment, humble yourself before all other human beings, renounce attachment to money, parents, clothing or possessions, but nevertheless honour your father and mother and the priests of God, you will inherit the eternal kingdom. And on the contrary, if you do not keep these things you will inherit the outer darkness which God has prepared for the devil and all his angels (Matthew 22.13 & 25.30). All these things, my son, are fully lived out in monasteries."
    At these words Simeon fell at his feet.
    "You are my father and mother," he said, "teacher of everything good, and a guide to the kingdom of heaven. You have won over my soul, which before was on the way to perdition. May the Lord reward you for the change wrought in my soul. I shall do as you say and go to a monastery, if God wills, and may his will be done in me."
    "My son, before you go off to a monastery, listen carefully to what I say. You will find tribulation, you will have to serve and keep vigil in nakedness, and undergo unknown evils before finding consolation as a precious vessel of God."

    Chapter II
    The blessed Simeon left the church and went straight away to the monastery of that magnificent man, the holy Timothy. He lay for five days outside the monastery, neither eating nor drinking. On the fifth day abba Timothy went out to him.
    "Where are you from, my son? And who are your parents, that have driven you to this? What is your name? Perhaps you have committed some crime, or you are a slave running away from your master?"
    "Nothing like that at all, sir. I want only to be God's slave, if he wills it so, and save my soul from perdition. Let me be admitted into the monastery to be a servant of all. Don't leave me outside any longer."
    The abbot took him by the hand and led him inside.
    "My sons," he said to the brothers, "see, I am giving you this brother. Teach him all the rules of the monastery."
    He spent four months obedient to all without complaint, during which time he learnt the Psalter by heart, and daily received divine nourishment. The food which he was given along with the brothers he secretly gave to the poor without a thought for the morrow, for whereas the brothers ate every evening, he ate only once a week.

    Chapter III
    He went one day to the well to draw water, and took the rope from the wellhead, which the brothers used for drawing water and wound it round his body next to his skin, from his loins up to his neck. He went inside and told the brothers that he could not find the rope at the wellhead when he went to the well.
    "Hush, brother," they said, "the abbot will deal with that in due course."
    His body became infected because of the weight and roughness of the rope, which was cutting him to the bone. It buried itself into his flesh, as soon became apparent. For one day the brothers went out and caught him giving his food to the poor. They came back in and told the abbot.
    "Where ever did you get this person from?" they asked him. "We can't abstain from food as he does. He fasts from one Sunday to the next, and gives his food to the poor, and there is a most horrible stink coming from his body which is more than anyone can bear. Maggots fall off him as he walks along. His bed is full of maggots."
    The abbot immediately went and found it was all just as they had said.
    "My son," he said to Simeon, "what is all this the brothers have been telling me about you? Isn't it enough for you to fast in the same measure as the rest of us do? Haven't you heard the Gospel telling us that the disciple is not above his master, and everyone is made perfect if he does as his teacher does? (Matthew10.24-25) And tell me, my son, what is the reason for this stink which comes from your body?"
    The blessed Simeon just stood there, saying nothing.
    The abbot was angry, and ordered him to strip, and discovered the rope round his body covering everything except his head.
    "However did this person come to us?" he cried, "overturning all the rules of the monastery? I am telling you now, you will have to leave us, and go wherever you like."
    But with great care and difficulty they removed the rope from his body together with his rotten flesh, and looked after him for many days until he was cured.

    Chapter IV
    Once cured, he left the monastery without telling anybody and went to an abandoned, dried up water hole, not far from the monastery, which was infested with unclean spirits. And that same night the abbot was shown a troop of demons surrounding the monastery with swords and cudgels, shouting, "Timothy, give us Simeon the servant of God. If not, we will burn the monastery down and you with it, for you have done an injury to that just man."
    When he woke up he called the brothers and told them that he had seen a vision and was very worried about it. On another night he saw a crowd of strong men standing around him and crying, "Give us Simeon, the servant of God, for he is beloved of God and the Angels. Why have you punished him? He is greater in the sight of God than you are, and all the Angels of God grieve for him, for God intends to do many signs through him in this world such as nobody else has ever done."
    In great fear, the abbot called the brothers together.
    "Search out that man and bring him back here, lest we all die because of him. Truly he is a saint of God. I have seen and heard great things of him."
    All the monks went out looking for him, searching everywhere and not finding him. They came back and reported to the abbot.
    "There is nowhere left where we have not searched, unless perhaps he is near that deserted waterhole."
    "I am asking you, brothers, to look there for him, and I will go with you. He is truly a saint and servant of God."
    He chose five of them to go with him to the waterhole. Saying a prayer he went down into it with the brothers. When the blessed Simeon saw them coming he began to speak to them.
    "Servants of God, I beg you, leave me in peace for an hour, that I may refresh my spirit which is somewhat disturbed as yet. My soul is greatly troubled, for I have offended God."
    "Come, servant of God," said the abbot, "let us take you back to the monastery. For I now know that you are a servant of God."
    He did not want to go, but they took him by force back to the monastery, where everyone prostrated themselves at his feet in tears.
    "We have sinned against you, servant of God," they said. "Forgive us."
    "Why are you making the burden on this unhappy sinner even greater?" Simeon said with a deep sigh. "It is you who are our fathers and servants of God."
    But he stayed with them for a further year.

    Chapter V
    He left without telling anyone, and went to a place not far from the monastery where he built a little cell of dry stone walling. He stayed there for three years, and many people sought him out to ask for his prayers. Then he built a little column four cubits high, on which he lived for four years. As his holy reputation spread throughout the world, the pressure of people caused him to make a column twelve cubits high, on which he lived for twelve years. They then made him a column twenty cubits high, on which he lived for a further twelve years. All the people who had gathered there then built two basilicas near him and built another column for him thirty cubits high. where he lived for four years and began to perform miracles. He cured many people who came to him with diseases or demons, and restored sight to the blind. Withered hands were restored to health, the deaf heard and lepers were cleansed. He persuaded many people to embrace the Christian faith, Saracens, Persians, Armaceni and Laoti. Allophyli likewise heard about him and his powers, and came to bow down before him.

    Chapter VI
    The devil in his envy then changed himself into the likeness of an Angel and appeared in splendour in a fiery chariot with horses of fire, next to the column where the blessed Simeon was standing. Simeon too was lit up with a fiery splendour like an Angel.
    "Simeon," said the devil in dulcet tones, "Listen to the word which the Lord has charged me to bring you. For he has sent me, his Angel, with fiery chariot and horses, to catch you up as once I caught up Elijah (2 Kings 2.11). The time has come for you likewise to step up into this chariot which the Lord of heaven and earth has sent. Let us go likewise into heaven that you may be seen by Angels and Archangels and Mary the mother of the Lord, with Apostles and Martyrs, Confessors and Prophets, where you may speak with the Lord who created you in his image. That is all. Come up without delay."

    Chaopter VI (continued), Life of St Simeon Stylites , Book Ib

    "Lord," said Simeon, "Do you really want to take me, a sinner, up to heaven?"
    He lifted his right foot to go up into the chariot and with his right hand made the sign of the cross. Suddenly the devil was nowhere to be seen. He vanished along with his persuasiveness like dust before the face of the wind, so that Simeon was then sure it was the devil.

    Chapter VII
    When he came to himself he said to his foot, "Don't come back down, but stay like that until my death, until the Lord summons me, sinner that I am."
    Meanwhile the devil had coolly wounded him in the thigh, which became infected with a horde of maggots which scattered out of his body and wriggled about at his feet on the column, and from thence fell down to the ground. It was a certain youth called Antony, his assistant, who witnessed this and wrote it down. Simeon told him to collect the maggots which had fallen and bring them up to him. And he put them back into his wound as Job did.
    "Eat what the Lord gives you," he said to the maggots.

    Chapter VIII
    Basilicus, king of the Saracens, heard about him and came to visit him. As he looked up at him a maggot fell from Simeon's body as he stood in prayer. The king ran to pick it up and in act of faith held it above his eyes.
    "Why do that, your majesty?" said Simeon when he saw what the king was doing. "It makes me feel guilty, for the maggot had fallen out of my putrid body."
    At these words the king opened his hand and found a most precious pearl in it.
    "This is no putrid maggot," he said, "but a most precious pearl."
    "It is given to you as a human being according to your faith," said Simeon. "May it be blessed in your hands all the days of your life."
    And that man of faith withdrew inside.

    Chapter IX
    Quite a long time after this his mother heard where he was and came to visit him, but he would not let her see him, for women were forbidden to enter that place.
    "Just wait for a little while," said Simeon, when he heard her voice, "and we shall see each other, God willing."
    She began to weep when she heard his voice, and loosed her hair and besought him earnestly.
    "My son, why have you done this? As a reward for carrying you in my womb, you have filled me with grief. For the milk with which I fed you, you have given me tears. For the kisses that I showered on you, you have given me bitter pains in my heart. For the pain and labour that I suffered for you, you have given me the most painful wounds."
    She spoke so feelingly that we all wept.
    As Simeon listened to the voice of his mother he buried his face in his hands and wept bitterly.
    "Dear Mother," he said, "Be at peace for a little while, and we shall see each other in the place of eternal rest."
    "In the name of Christ who formed you, if there is a possibility of seeing you as a sort of stranger in that great time, why not let me see you now? Or if not, now that I have heard your voice, let me die at once, for your father has already died from grieving for you. Don't leave me any longer in this state of bitterness, my son."
    In weeping and wailing she went into a state of trance, and continued her pleadings to him for three days and three nights. Simeon then prayed to the Lord and she straightway gave up he spirit. They picked up her body and brought it to where he could see it.
    "May the Lord receive you into his joy," said Simeon, weeping, "for you have been greatly troubled on my behalf. You carried me in your womb for nine months, you fed me with your milk, and worked hard in caring for me."
    As he said this, we all noticed drops of sweat appearing on his mother's brow and we saw her body move. Simeon lifted up his eyes to heaven.
    "O Lord God of power," he cried, " you sit among the Cherubim, and see into the depths of the pit, you knew Adam before he existed, you have promised the riches of the kingdom of heaven to those who love you, you spoke to Moses in the burning bush, you gave your blessing to Abraham our father, you lead the souls of the righteous into paradise and the souls of the wicked into perdition, you tamed the two lions (Daniel 6.22) and saved your servants from the fiery furnace of the Babylonians (ibid. 3.28), You sent the ravens to feed Elijah (1 Kings 17.6), receive now her soul in peace and place her among the holy fathers, for yours is the power unto the ages of ages."

    Chapter X
    It was after this that they built him a bigger column forty cubits high on which he stood for sixteen years until his death. During this time a huge wild beast (draco) was living near him in the region of Aquilo, and preventing the grass from growing. A piece of wood had damaged his right eye so that he cold no longer see out of it. He came one day to the area where the man of God lived, writhing itself into complicated coils as if asking pardon, and lowering its head in humility. Simeon looked at it carefully, and pulled a piece of wood a cubit in length out of its eye. All who saw it glorified God, even though they had kept well back through fear. The beast curled itself up and lay unmoving while all the people walked past it. Then it got up and bowed down before the door of the monastery for about two hours, before going back to its den without doing anyone any harm.

    Chapter XI
    A certain woman, feeling thirsty one night, went to the water jar for a drink and swallowed a little serpent which had been in the jar. It lodged in her stomach, and all the efforts of doctors, spellbinders and wizards were unable to do anything about it. After a while she was taken to the holy Simeon, who ordered her to be placed on the ground and water from the monastery to be put into her mouth. He then cried loudly, and pulled out of her mouth a serpent three cubits long. The serpent burst within the hour, after having been inside her for seven days. In that same hour the woman was restored to health.

    Chapter XII
    The greatest possible eloquence would hardly be sufficient to describe adequately all his miracles, but his powers were so great that they cannot be passed over in silence. It so happened that water was in very short supply in the region, and the people and all the animals were in danger of perishing for lack of water. Holy Simeon saw their plight and stood in prayer. At about the tenth hour of the day there was a sudden earthquake which caused an enormous upheaval in the land to the East of the monastery. A cleft appeared in which could be seen an immeasurable amount of water. He ordered a well to be dug seven cubits deep, and from that time onwards there has been no lack of water right up to the present day.
    It was at this time also that there were a group of people travelling from a distance to seek for Simeon's prayers and witness his deeds, and they paused on the way to rest under a leafy tree because of the heat. As they were sitting there they suddenly saw a pregnant deer walking by.
    "By the prayers of the holy Simeon," they cried, "we conjure you to stay still for us to catch you."
    And the deer stayed absolutely motionless. They caught it and killed it, and after eating some of it they were struck dumb, and it was in this condition that they arrived before holy Simeon, carrying the deer's hide with them. They stayed there for two years without being able to find a complete cure for their dumbness. Their crime was so wicked that it is almost a crime to talk about it. The hide of the deer was hung up in the church as a witness to the miracle of the cursing.

    Chapter XIII
    There was a large leopard in those parts killing both humans and animals over a wide area. The people came from there to the holy Simeon and told him of all the great evils which the beast was responsible for. The holy Simeon ordered that some of the earth from the monastery should be taken and scattered about in that place, and it was done. The people carried out a search a little later and found the leopard lying dead, and they all glorified the God of Simeon.

    Chapter XIV
    This is the injunction he gave to someone he had cured:
    "Go home and give glory to God who has cured you, and don't dare to say that Simeon cured you. And don't presume to swear by the name of the Lord. That is a grave sin. If you must, swear by me a humble sinner, whether you are right or wrong."
    This is why all the Eastern and barbarous peoples of that region swear by Simeon.

    Chapter XV
    A certain robber from Antioch named Ionathas suddenly burst into the monastery followed by many pursuers, like a lion pursued by a hunting party and unable to hide from them. He embraced the column of the holy Simeon and wept bitterly.
    "Who are you, my son?" asked Simeon, "and where have you come from and why have you come here?"
    "I am Ionathas, a robber. I have committed many crimes and have come here to repent."
    "Of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 19.14), said the holy Simeon, "but don't try and put me to the test, lest you be found to have returned to the wickednesses you have renounced."
    The official pursuers from Antioch arrived as he spoke.
    "Hand over to us that evil and dangerous Jonathas," they cried, "or else the city will be in a riot. For the beasts to devour him have already been prepared."
    "I did not lead him to this place," said the blessed Simeon. "He who led him here is greater than I and comes to the aid of people like this. For of such is the kingdom of heaven. But if you feel able to enter here, come and seize him. I can't do that myself, for I fear him who sent him here."
    Greatly afraid, the men went away and told them in Antioch what had happened. Jonathas in the meantime clung to the pillar and embraced it for the space of seven days.
    "Sir," he said to the blessed Simeon, "if you gave the word I would like to be able to walk away from here."
    "In a hurry to get back to your wickedness then?"
    "No, sir, but my time has come."
    And he gave up his spirit as he spoke. As they were about to bury him outside the monastery, another lot of officials came after him from Antioch.
    "Give us this criminal", they cried. "The whole city is in an uproar because of him."
    "He who led him here," said the blessed Simeon, "came with a company of the heavenly host, and he has the power to cast your whole city and everyone in it down to hell. He has reconciled this soul to himself, and I was afraid that he might also take me as well. So don't please cause me any more trouble, humble sinner that I am."
    And they too, departed in great fear, and told everything that they had heard and seen.

    Chapter XVI
    A few years later, he prostrated himself to pray on a Friday and stayed there all day Saturday and Sunday. I became very worried, and climbed up and stood in front of him.
    "Master," I said, "Please get up and give us a blessing. There have been people here for the last three days expecting a blessing from you."
    He made no reply.
    "How is it that you are not taking any notice of me?" I asked. "Have I done something to offend you? Please, give me your hand - or, has your spirit perchance departed?"
    When he did not answer me, I thought I would not say anything to anyone - I was frightened to touch him. After standing there for half an hour I bent down to put my ear where I could listen more closely. There was no breath, only a smell as of many perfumes which rose from his body, and I knew that he had gone to rest in the Lord. Stunned, I wept bitterly, bent down kissed his eyes and smoothed his beard and his head.
    "Why have you left me, my master?" I wailed. "Where now shall I find your Angelic teachings? How can I answer for you? Who will be able to look at this column without you, and refrain from mourning? What reply shall I give to the sick when they come looking for you and find you not? What shall I say? How can I in my lowliness explain? I see you here today; tomorrow I shall search both on the right hand and on the left and shall not find you. In what guise could I possibly take over your column? Alas, when they come from afar seeking you and finding you not!"
    So great was my grief that I lost consciousness, and immediately he appeared to me.
    "I shall not abandon this column," he said, "nor the blessed mountain in this place where I have become so well known. But go down and make excuses to the people, and send a message to the bishop in Antioch, but secretly lest there be tumult amidst the people. For I have gone to my rest, as the Lord wills. But you must carry on ministering in this place, and the Lord will reward you in heaven."
    I came to, and in trepidation replied to him, "Master, remember me in your holy resting place."
    Lifting his robe I fell at his feet and kissed the soles of his feet, and because I knew how much greater they were than mine, I placed them on my eyes, and cried, "Bless me, I pray, my master."
    And again I wept and cried, "What may I keep of yours to remind me of you?"
    And as I said this his body twitched, but I was frightened of touching him.

    Chapter XVII
    No one knew what had happened. I went down from the column and sent a reliable brother to the bishop in Antioch. He came at once with three other bishops and also Ardaborius, the commander-in-chief of the army. They set up tripods around the column and fixed his garments to them. They brought his body down and laid it next to an altar in front of the column, and as they gathered together, a flock of birds flew over the column, making bird cries as if in mourning, as everyone could see. The lamentation of both human beings and beasts could be heard for seven miles around. Even the mountains and fields and trees in that place were grieving, for a thick fog spread all around.
    I was wondering whether an Angel would come and visit him, and indeed at about the seventh hour, seven seniors were in conversation with an Angel whose face shone like lightning and whose clothing was white as snow. And for as long as I could I listened to his voice in fear and trembling. I could not describe what it was like.

    Chapter XVIII
    While the holy Simeon was lying on the funeral bier, the Pope of Antioch tried to take a lock from Simeon's beard for a holy relic, but as he put out his hand it was immediately paralysed. Many oaths were sworn to God and prayers made for him before his hand was restored.

    Chapter XIX
    Having put the body on a funeral bier they set out for Antioch. All the people from the surrounding region grieved that they were being deprived of such a great source of relics, for the bishop of Antioch had forbidden his body to be touched.

    Chapter XX
    When they got as far as the village of Meroë, nobody was able to move it any further. Then a man who had been deaf and dumb for forty years suddenly fell down before the bier and began to speak.
    "Welcome, O servant of God!" he cried. "Your arrival has cured me! If I deserve to live, I shall serve you all the days of my life."
    He got up from the ground, seized one of the mules drawing the bier and immediately began to move it forward. And so that man was made whole from that moment. His sin had been to love the wife of another person. He had wanted to commit adultery with her but never had the opportunity. The woman died and was placed in a tomb, but he had broken into the sepulchre, and been immediately struck deaf and dumb, in which state he had been held for forty years.

    Chapter XXI
    Everyone from the city of Antioch went out to bring in the body of the holy Simeon with offerings of gold and silver. With psalms and hymns and many torches they brought him first of all the principal church, and then to the church of Penitence. Many miracles occurred at his sepulcher, more than had occurred during his lifetime, and the man who had been cured served there till the day of his death. Many people of the faith offered money to the bishop of Antioch, hoping for relics from his body, but were disappointed because of the oaths that had been sworn.
    I, Antony, a humble sinner, have put together this brief account to the best my ability. Blessed is he who possesses this book and reads it in the church and house of God, for when he celebrates Simeon's memory he will receive a reward from the Most High, for his is the honour and the power and the glory unto the ages of ages. Amen.

    Life No 11, Book Ib

    The Life of St John the Almsgiver

    by Leontius,

    bishop of Neapolis in Cyprus

    translated by Anastasius, his librarian

    Preface of Anastasius
    to the Lord Pope Nicolaus
    For a long time I have been quietly and carefully turning things over in my mind, wondering what sort of worthy work suitable for the house of God I might undertake. I would not want to do anything which would bring discredit on my ministry, nor would I want to attempt anything greater than my own limited ability would allow. As Solomon says: 'If you have found honey don't eat more than you need, lest you make yourself sick' (Proverbs 25.16). And again, 'Delve not into things too deep for you, and search not into things greater than you can understand' (Ecclesiasticus 3.22). And quite unexpectedly I have now been asked by certain dedicated scholars to translate into Latin Leontius' Life of John, the late bishop of Alexandria, whom the Greeks were absolutely right to call 'the Almsgiver', because of the great compassion which he showed to all. Such a great man should be of great benefit not only those who speak Greek but those who speak Latin.
    I felt that I was quite unworthy and insufficiently skilled for such a great task, but I lifted up my eyes to the hills from whence comes my help (Psalms 121.1). Trusting in the help and prayers of the fathers, I cannot allow this bountiful man to be kept hidden from those who speak Latin. But although I have prepared the parchments, and drawn up a synopsis, I would not begun writing a book without seeking your Lordship's approval, a thousand times blessed as you are. For it would not be right to take anything in hand, or publish it, apart from the Vicar of God, the key-bearer of heaven, the winged chariot of the spiritual Israel, the universal Pontiff, the one and only Pope and Pastor and special Father and ruler of all. For you hold the keys of David, you have been given the keys of knowledge. In the ark of your breast are preserved the tables of the Law and the manna of heavenly sweetness. For what you bind no one looses, what you loose no one binds, what you open no one shuts, what you shut no one opens (Matthew 16.19). For in this world you stand in the place of God.
    However, in turning the life of this blessed man into Latin, I have not followed the exact words and constructions of the Greek, nor ought I to have done so. I have not translated word for word but sense for sense. I have not been concerned for the niceties of Latin style, for my intention has been only to be of service to the reader. So then, my Lord, friend of angels, pray do not take offence at my insignificant person, do not expect me to be clever, or to produce ornamental prose, but rather with the godly eye of your heart, think first of how great a benefit it must be for the reader to have such a great man as an example and mirror for all. If this translation is acceptable in your judgment, confirm it by your Apostolic authority; where it is not, amend it. I only hope that the Latin will not disappoint you as being lacking in savour as compared with the pleasure to be obtained from the well-turned Greek.
    Accept then this Saint, interpreted by a sinner. Think not of the translator, but of the person translated. Do not despise the purity of the water because it comes through pipes of lead, nor spurn the rose because it grows among thorns. For the guardian and lover of your soul, sent dreams as it pleased him to both Pharaoh (Genesis 41.1) and Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4.5), by which the future could be foretold. He prophesied through wicked Caiaphas what was expedient (John 11.49-50), and, finally, when he wills, he even permits an ass to speak (Numbers 22.28).

    Greetings, O Prelate,

    Greetings for ever!

    Farewell, O blessed Pope of all the world.

    Author's Prologue
    Our intention in this present narrative of the life of that memorable man is identical with that of all those industrious and holy men who have gone before us, that is, to provide a beneficial and godly example of someone to be imitated, and thereby celebrate the glory and magnificence of the holy and adorable Trinity. In this man, as in all who from generation to generation shine with the true light, has been made manifest the things which may illuminate those who live in the shadow of sin and death (Luke 1.79).
    O friends of Christ, we profess not to be surprised that there were men in the generations before us who lived lives pleasing to God, and left us lessons on the subject of how the devil works, for we often say among ourselves that human wickedness was not so strongly developed then as is it is today, as divine Scripture foretold, saying. 'Iniquity has abounded, the love of many has grown cold' (Matthew 24.12). And so we say that we are not capable of rising to their level of merit. It is for this reason that we have decided to tell the story of this holy Life, wishing to demonstrate the proposition that the more excellent among us, even in our days, are capable of following the strait and narrow way (Matthew 7.14) and thereby shutting the mouth of those who speak wickedness and the minds of those who hate us (Psalms 63.11).
    There are of course others who have expounded on the outstandingly excellent doings of John, this great high priest. By their words and deeds they have had a lasting influence. I am talking about John and Sophronius, worshippers of God, lovers of truth and promoters of godliness. But they did miss out some things in their studies of the dignity and merit of this man. They are exactly like certain industrious farmers who harvest the most rich and fruitful vines, but who leave behind the blessing of a vine to be picked over by needy gleaners, among whom I am the least. All those holy men with great power and godly zeal strove to harvest the plentiful fruit of that olive tree which in the words of Psalmist is planted in the house of God (Psalms 52.8), but by the dispensation of the Lord there are yet many fruits of the olive left over.
    I beg you therefore to accept this lowly and feeble effort as the two mites of the widow (Luke 21.2), not as taking anything away from them, as if I were able to match their God-given wisdom, but simply that I am eager to commit the deeds of the righteous to writing. In the first place I know that it is not right to keep silent about anything which might be of benefit to those who are listening, lest one fall into the condemnation of the servant who hid his talent in the ground (Matthew 25.18). Secondly, in what we have written there are some delightful stories preserved in praise of that truly most holy and blessed John, which were not mentioned by those other good men. They were wise and powerful writers and lovers of history, who managed their material wisely and sublimely. They have provided a great and all-embracing inspiration for us to undertake this present task, which is simply to tell a tale, as far as in us lies, as a humble, pedestrian and shapeless character, illiterate and unlearned. May you profit from what you read.

    The Life
    Chapter I
    When I went to Alexandria to visit the tomb of the holy and victorious martyrs Cyril and John, I attended a conference of respected and Christ-loving men to discuss the Scriptures and the nature of the soul. As we were gathered together, a stranger approached us seeking an alms. He said that he had been recently been rescued from captivity in Persia. It so happened that none of us had any small change, but one of our number had a clerk standing by, who was accustomed to giving alms secretly, even though he was paid only three nummi a year and he had a wife and two children. After the beggar had gone on his way he followed him closely, and gave him a silver cross he was wearing, saying that he had never had so much as few pennies to spare in his whole life.
    I saw what had happened and realised that it was by the grace of God that he had done this. I was very moved, and mentioned it to the person sitting next to me, a man called Mennas, a conscientious man who feared God, and who was the business manager of the most holy church of the noble and most blessed patriarch John. He could see how much I admired and praised the man who had given the alms.
    "Don't be so surprised," he said. "There is someone whose teaching and example inspires people to actions of this sort."
    "How is that?" I asked. "Do be so kind as to tell me about it."
    "He has ceaselessly followed our most holy and thrice blessed patriarch John, and is as zealous about it as a son obedient to his own father. For John said to him, 'Zacharias, be merciful, and through the words coming from my own insignificant mouth I give you a message from God that God will never desert you during my lifetime or even after my death.' And he has faithfully kept to that, right up to today. God has sent him many blessings, but has never given him anything but what he gives it immediately to the poor, almost to the point of depriving his own family and bringing them to penury. There are people who have often heard him saying to God in ecstasy, 'So, you may be giving but I am giving it away. Let's see which of us will win! For you, O Lord, are full of riches and bring help to us in our lives.'
    "Certain it is that in the event of his not having anything to give to a beggar he will say to some innkeeper or merchant, 'If you give me the third part of a gold coin I will be your slave for a month or two, as you will and where you will, for my household is in great need.' And then he gives it to the poor, telling them not to tell anybody."
    Mennas could see that I was also a worshipper of God, seeing that I was listening to him as if he were the Gospel itself.
    "Are you amazed by all this, sir?" he asked with concern. "What if you were to discover what our holy patriarch is like!"
    "Why, what more might I see?"
    "Just believe, by the mercy of God. He ordained me presbyter and made me steward of his most holy church, and I have seen him do things beyond the bounds of nature. And if you would care to honour me by letting me be your servant today I will tell you about the deeds which I have seen him do."
    Suiting action to the word, he got up, took my hand and conducted me into his godfearing household, where he immediately suggested that we partake of food.
    "It is not right, sir," I said, "to neglect food for the soul and feed the body before feeding the soul. Let us, then, partake first of the food which perishes not, and afterwards see to the needs of the body" (John 6.27).
    He then began to tell me the true story of this holy man's life.
    "The first good thing about him," he said, "is that he never under any circumstances swore by any oath."
    I asked for pen and paper and began to note down in due order what he was telling me.

    Chapter II
    It was not by divine decree, not from men or through men that he was promoted to the throne of this great city of Alexandria, beloved of Christ. First of all he demonstrated where his priorities lay. For in the presence of all in his inner circle he declared to his helpers and to him who administered the peace, that it was not right to take thought for anybody more than Christ.
    "Go, therefore, through all the city," he said, as they all listened carefully and supportively, "and make a list of all those who are my masters."
    They did not understand what he was talking about, and asked each other in some bewilderment who could be these masters of the patriarch.
    "Those whom you call beggars and poor I call masters and helpers," he said in his angelic voice. "They really are helpers for they are able to open the doors of the kingdom of heaven for us."
    His orders were fulfilled with all speed, whereupon he ordered that a certain sum be set aside each day, and provided what was necessary out of his own possessions which amounted to more than seven thousand five hundred pounds. Then like a true shepherd and not a hired servant (John 10.12) he went with his own sacred flock and with the other bishops to the holy church where he was consecrated with divine approval.

    Chapter III
    It would not be right to delay the story of his good deeds any longer. The very next day he sent out his stewards and other civic officials to ensure that there were no arbitrary measures of weight of various different sizes in the city. All buying and selling was to be carried out under one standard size of weight He wrote out this order, to be circulated throughout the city, in the following form:
    John, the humble and unworthy servant of the servants of our Lord Jesus Christ, to all who live under our poor jurisdiction and who are ruled by this same Lord and God, take heed.
    The blessed and noble Paul lays down a law for all in the name of Christ, who speaks through him. 'Be obedient to those who have the rule over you, and be subject to them' (Hebrews 13.7). For they care for you and will be held responsible for your souls. I, the least of men, yet have confidence that you will accept our requests as a divine word from God, not from men. In this knowledge I therefore warn you that in your charity none of you should be in any doubt on that score. Divine Scripture says 'God holds unequal weights in abhorrence' (Proverbs 11.1). If anyone after reading this prescription is found to be guilty of this crime let him give all his goods to the poor, without any appeal or mitigation. We therefore hasten to publish this order and expect it to be obeyed.

    Chapter IV
    He was told at one time that in dealing with foreigners church officials were taking money to act as brokers for slavery. He diligently summoned them together and without upsetting anybody increased the wages which they had been getting and laid it down that none of them should accept gifts from anyone.
    "Let fire consume the houses of those who accept bribes," he said.
    And so by the grace of God their houses flourished to such an extent that some of them were able to give away some of their extra money.

    Chapter V
    He learnt that some people who were in dispute with their enemies had been refraining from putting their case to him as they wished, for they were intimidated by the officials and other staff who surrounded him. He took thought as to what he might do which would be acceptable to God, and on the fourth and fifth days of the week put a desk and two chairs outside the church, where he sat holding the Gospels in his hands. In order to show that anyone who wished might approach him with confidence, he allowed none of his staff near him except one of the church guards. He had the church guards announce this to the people, and gave orders that none of them should endeavour to dissuade their unworthy head priest.
    "We human beings are always allowed to present our petitions by entering the house of God to plead before him, even though he is beyond our reach and much greater than any creature. Furthermore we urgently beg for our prayers to be answered without delay as the prophet says: 'Let your mercies speedily anticipate our requests, O Lord' (Psalms 79.8). How much more, then, ought not we to use all expedition in hearing the prayers of our fellow servants, mindful of the Lord's saying: 'Whatever the measure you use, that will be the measure by which you will be measured' (Matthew 7.1). The Prophet also says: 'It shall be done to you even as you have done'" (cf. Matthew 7.12).
    There came a day when this amazing man went out and sat in the accustomed place until the fifth hour with no one coming to petition him. He was filled with sadness and went away in tears. No one felt it right to ask him why he was so sad, except Sophronius, who took him aside and asked:
    'What is the reason, O healer of God, for you to burden your holy soul with such sadness? We are all quite worried about you."
    "I have not received any wages from anybody, to day," he humbly replied, "nor have I been able to offer Christ anything to make up for my numberless sins."
    Sophronius by divine inspiration understood immediately why the patriarch was so unhappy.
    "Today you should rejoice and be glad, O most blessed one," he said, "for you really are most blessed in so far as you have brought such peace from Christ to your flock that no one has brought a suit against his neighbour. Without lawsuit or judgment you have made them like Angels."
    This gentle pastor accepted that as the truth and lifted up his eyes to heaven.
    "Thanks be to you, O God," he cried, " that you have deigned to use my undeserving weakness in the priesthood. You have called me, an unworthy sinner, your priest, and have used me to feed your living flock."
    His depression cast aside, he then felt able to rejoice in all humility, and in this (as many said) he imitated Constantine, who became emperor after Heracles, and whose son he was.

    Chapter VI
    It was during the time of this holy patriarch that the Persians mounted an invasion of Syria and laid it waste. Of those who fled from the hands of the Persians, nearly all of them were aware of the reputation of this thrice blessed man, and came to him as to a harbour after storms, seeking help and refuge. The blessed man received them hospitably and saw to their needs not as if they were prisoners but as if they were truly his natural brothers. He organised the wounded and infirm into reception centres and guesthouses, giving orders that they should be cared for and given free medicine, and allowing them to depart of their own free will whenever they wished. To males who were healthy but destitute he gave a measure of pulse, but a double measure to women and children as the weaker members of society.
    There were some wearing gold rings and brooches who came seeking alms, and they were referred to the patriarch by those in charge of the distribution centre. The blessed man replied with a stern voice and piercing eye, for all that he was of a gentle and equable disposition.
    "If you wish to continue as stewards of humble John as if for Christ, pay heed without any prevarication to the divine instruction: 'Give to all who ask' (Luke 6.30). If you go investigating them in searching detail, God has even more searching ministers, and so has humble John. If what you are distributing were my own personal property, which belonged to me from birth, then perhaps I might well be reluctant to give it away. But if what you are distributing belongs to God then it should be dealt with according to his own instructions. If you are frightened to do this because of your weak faith and unbelief, frightened that the number of people receiving alms will be more than the treasury can cope with, I'm afraid that I do not share your inadequate faith. For if what you are doing is pleasing to God, and if I am the unworthy dispenser of his gifts, then I don't care if the whole world should come to Alexandria seeking alms. For the limitless treasury of God is not straitened, nor is that of his holy church."

    Chapter VII
    He dismissed them from his service, and so got rid of the weakness and faintheartedness with which they were infected. But to those who trusted in him and admired his God-given compassion, he told the following story.
    "When I was still a young boy of fifteen in Cyprus, I saw a young woman in a dream one night, shining even more brightly than the sun, more beautiful than any human sense can conceive of. She came and stood by my bed and nudged me in the ribs. I awoke instantly, and saw her actually standing there, and realised that it was indeed a woman.
    "'Who are you?' I asked, making the sign of the cross. 'And why are you so bold as to come in here while I am asleep?'
    "She had a crown of olive branches on her head.
    "'I am the first of the daughters of the King', she said with a joyful face and smiling lips, and at these words I bowed low before her. 'If you will have me as your friend I will lead you into the presence of the Emperor. For no one has more influence with him than I do. I was the reason he became man in order to save mankind.'
    "As she said this she vanished. When I had come thoroughly to myself I began to understand the vision.
    "'I believe,' I said, 'that she is called Compassion and Almsgiving, which is why she had the crown of olive leaves on her head. For it was indeed because of his compassion and good will towards mankind that God took upon him our flesh.'
    "I got dressed at once and without waking anyone in the house I went out to go to the church. It was nearly dawn. On the way I met a fellow human being shivering with cold, so I took my cloak off and gave it to him, saying to myself 'By this I shall know whether my vision was true or if it was of the devil.' I'm telling you the truth, before I had even got to the church I suddenly saw coming to meet me someone dressed in white who gave me a parcel of a hundred numismas, saying, 'Take these, brother, and dispose of them as you will.' I took them very happily, but then changed my mind and thought to give them back, seeing I had no need of them, but he had vanished.

    Chapter VII (continued) Life of John the Almsgiver , Book Ib

    "'It was real and no phantasm,' I said to myself. And from that time onwards, when I was giving anything to anyone, I found myself saying. 'Let's see if God will reward me a hundredfold, as he promised' (Matthew 19.29). It was wicked to test God like this, but I gained a great deal of satisfaction in various ways by doing this, until at last I said to myself. 'Stop trying to tempt him who cannot be tempted, you miserable sinner!' But in the humility of my soul I gained so many assurances from God! Today those unbelievers came and tried to make me fall into the same kind of diffidence as theirs."

    Chapter VIII
    One of the strangers among the great number of people in the city, seeing his compassion, thought of putting him to the test. Dressed in old clothes, they approached him as he was visiting the distribution centre, where he went two or three times a week.
    "Have mercy on me," he cried, "for I was a prisoner of war."
    "Give him six numismata" he said to the steward.
    The man took them, went away and changed his clothes, and approached the patriarch on another occasion, fell down before him and cried, "Have mercy on me, for I am in dire straits."
    "Give him six gold nummi," said the patriarch to the steward.
    After he had gone the steward whispered in the patriarch's ear, "This is the second time he has taken alms from you, sir." But the patriarch made as if he did not want to know. He came again for the third time as the patriarch was bringing out the gold coins, and the steward nudged him, and pointed the man out.
    "Give him twelve numismata," said that truly merciful friend of God, "for he might perchance be Christ come to test me."

    Chapter IX
    There was a foreign sea-captain who had suffered some loss and he came to the blessed man in floods of tears, begging him to have pity on him as he did to everyone else. He gave orders that he should be given five pounds of gold. The sea-captain bought grain and stowed it in his ship. Not long after, he was shipwrecked near the Alexandrian lighthouse, though he was able to salvage the ship. He came to the patriarch again, presuming on his goodwill.
    "Have mercy on me," he said, "for the God of this world is merciful."
    "Believe me, brother," said the patriarch, "if you had not mixed up money from the church with what money of your own that you had left you would not have suffered shipwreck. You gained your own money from criminal transactions, and so you have lost that along with what you had from the church."
    But he still ordered that he should be given ten pounds of gold, warning him that it should be kept separate from his other money.
    Again the sea-captain bought wheat, and sailing one day into a hurricane he lost everything, ship and all, and was cast up on the shore possessing nothing except his own soul. He seriously considered killing himself in his distress and confusion, and this was revealed to the holy patriarch by God who cares always for the salvation of humankind. When he had heard what had happened he sent a message to the sea-captain that he was not to worry but to come and see him. The sea-captain sprinkled dust upon himself, tore his robe and presented himself thus disfigured. When the holy man saw him like that he dissuaded him from killing himself.
    "May the blessed Lord God have mercy on you," he said. "I have faith that from this day onwards you will never suffer shipwreck again for as long as you live. This misfortune has happened to you in order that your ship should no longer be able to serve the cause of unjust dealings."
    And he ordered that he should be given charge of one of the ships which served the needs of the most holy church, and that it should be loaded up with twenty thousand modii of grain. He set sail from Alexandria, and for twenty days and nights he sailed through a terrible storm, unable to tell where they were, either by the stars or by familiar landmarks, except that the steersman could see the holy patriarch himself holding a staff and saying, "Don't be afraid. Just steer skilfully."
    On the twentieth day they fetched up on the island of Britain, and when they went ashore they found that there was a great food shortage. They told the leading citizen that they were carrying wheat in the ship.
    "It's the goodness of God that has sent you here," he said. "Make your choice. We will either give you one numismata for a modius of wheat, or give you its weight in tin."
    They decided to take half in this way and half in that. And what I hasten to tell you happened next will be found unbelievable to the faithless who have no experience of the gifts of God, but will be accepted as credible by those who have experienced his miracles. For when they joyfully arrived back in Alexandria, the captain took some of the tin out of the ship in order to sell it to an old business acquaintance of his who he knew was interested in it. He had about fifty pounds of it in a bag. His acquaintance, wanting to make sure it was pure, tested a sample of it in the fire and discovered it was pure silver! He thought that he must have been put to some sort of a test, and gave the bag back.
    "God forgive you!" he said. "Were you trying to make me out as some sort of a cheat by giving me silver instead of tin?"
    "Believe me," said the astonished captain, "it was tin I gave you. But I suppose it is nothing wonderful if he who turned water into wine (John 2) could turn tin into silver because of the patriarch's prayers. But satisfy yourself. Come to the ship and see the rest of the metal from which you accepted this portion."
    They went to the ship and found that all the tin had been turned into pure silver. But the love of Christ will not find this a very strange miracle. For he also multiplied the loaves of bread (John 6), and turned the waters of Egypt into blood, and the rod of Aaron into a serpent (Exodus 7), and made the flames as harmless as dew (Daniel 3), so it was not more difficult to do this great miracle in response to the prayers of his servant in order to show mercy to the sea-captain.

    Chapter X
    One Sunday, when this most holy man was going to the church a certain very rich man rushed up to him, saying that thieves had burgled his house and deprived him of everything they could lay their hands on. Exhaustive enquiries had not been able to reveal who was responsible, and now his utter poverty was leading him with the utmost respect to tell the most holy patriarch about his disaster. The patriarch was very sorry for him and told the steward in charge of the gold to give him fifteen pounds of it. The steward went away to get it, but after discussing the matter with the chief accountant and the bursar, between them they decided to give him only five pounds.
    In the meantime the most honourable Archbishop had returned from the morning office, and was approached by a widow woman who had an only son. She gave him a note of hand promising a praiseworthy gift of five hundred pounds of gold, which he accepted and concealed about his person. He then called the stewards.
    "How much did you give to that man who approached me earlier?" he asked
    "Fifteen pounds, as your most sacred holiness ordered," they said
    By the grace which dwelt in him he knew they were lying, and he called the man to whom he had given the money.
    "How much money did they give you?" he asked.
    "Five pounds," he said.
    The holy man then showed the stewards the note of hand he had been given.
    "God requires from you another thousand pounds. For if you had really given fifteen pounds, she who brought me five hundred would really have given me fifteen. And I can prove that by summoning the woman who gave this gift."
    He sent two reverend clerks to bring back the woman who had given him the note of hand and held it out to her.
    "Bring me the actual amount of gold which God put it into your heart to give me," he said.
    She soon returned and fell at his feet with a quantity of gold, which the patriarch accepted and prayed over her and her son.
    "Tell me, sister," he said, "Is this all you wanted to give Christ, or was there some more?"
    She sensed that as a representative of God he knew already what she had done, and trembled with awe.
    "Through your prayers and the prayers of Saint Menna I had written fifteen hundred in my promise, but an hour ago in the church I brought it out of my pocket ready to give it to you, my lord, and read it over again. With my own hand I, your unworthy servant, had written fifteen, but I found that it had been changed to five! Quite baffled, I said to myself that it must have been the will of God that I should only give five."
    After the patriarch had sent this worthy woman away in peace, the stewards who had been disobedient to him fell at his feet, asking forgiveness, and promised not do such a thing again.

    Chapter XI
    When Nicetas, the governor of the province, heard of the generosity of this most virtuous man and his ever open hand, standing head and shoulders above everyone else, he was driven by the devil to visit him.
    "The state is in difficulty because of a shortage of money," he said to him. "So then, since money is given to you freely when you ask, give it to the state, let it go into the public treasury."
    "It would not be right, I think, lord governor," he said, remaining quite calm, "to give to an earthly ruler what has been offered to the ruler of heaven. But if that is what you have finally decided upon, take note that humble John gives you not one single nummus. But look, it is the treasure chest of Christ that is under my humble bed. Do what you will."
    The governor immediately ordered some of his men to carry all the money away on their shoulders, leaving behind not so much as a hundred nummi. As they were going out with it, others were just coming in, carrying small jars containing money donated from Africa. Some of the jars were labelled 'Best Honey', others 'Unsmoked Honey'. The governor read the labels and suggested to the patriarch that he might give him some of the honey for his own use. He knew that the patriarch was incapable of evil. The gentle pastor went to the men carrying the jars and learned from them that it was money in the jars, not honey. He wrote a short note saying:
    'I will never leave you nor forsake you says the Lord (Hebrews 13.5 & Joshua 1.5). For he is the true God and does not lie. Therefore corruptible man can never thwart God who provides food and drink for all. Farewell.'
    He put this label on one of the jars marked 'Best Honey' and gave it to the governor. He told those who were carrying the jar away with them to ask the governor to open the jar in their presence, and to tell him that all the jars which he had seen were filled with money, not honey. They arrived with the jars and went in to the governor as he was sitting at table, and saw that there was only one jar of honey.
    "Go and tell the bishop," he said, "that he has after all shown me some ill will, for he has only given me one jar!"
    He broke open the jar and emptied out all the money and realised that all the other jars which he had seen must have been likewise filled with money. When he had read the note saying that corruptible man could never thwart God's will he was conscience-stricken.
    "As the Lord lives," he said, "neither can Nicetas thwart his will. I am just a human being, sinful and corruptible."
    He got up from his meal immediately, gathered together the money he had taken from the worthy father as well as the jar, added three hundred nummi of his own and went to fall at the patriarch's feet, with no thought of the respect properly due to his own position. With the deepest humility, as if he had been actually accused by somebody, he asked pardon of God, assuring the patriarch that whatever penance he might choose to give him he would accept it and faithfully carry it out. In wonderment at the man's sudden conversion, the Archbishop said absolutely nothing in condemnation of what he had done, but rather comforted him with consoling words. Divine charity was thus so mutually restored between them that the Archbishop became the governor's spiritual father.

    Chapter XII
    God tempted Abraham in order to bring into the open the faith that till then had been known only to God, so that the whole world might learn of it and imitate it (Genesis 22). So also did God tempt that unforgettable John. The form his temptation took came in the shape of a potential benefit for his holy churches. It happened like this:
    Because of the great numbers of refugees escaping from the Persians and coming to Alexandria, which we have already described, there was an acute shortage of food, made worse by the fact that the Nile had not flooded as usual. The patriarch had spent all his own money, as well as about a thousand pounds given him by some of the lovers of Christ, and when that had been all used up, nobody was willing to give him any more. Food was still in short supply, people feared the severity of the famine, and the needs of those whom the patriarch was maintaining were not being met, though the blessed man persevered in prayer and in giving what help he could.
    Now there was a citizen of that city who greatly desired to be made a deacon, but he had been married twice. He was very much aware of how desolate and needy that most holy man was in all sorts of ways, and he hoped to make use of those needs in order to gain the ordination that he coveted. He arranged for a legal letter to be sent to him, for he did not dare to speak to him face to face:
    'To John, the most holy and thrice blessed father of fathers, vicar of Christ, from Cosmas, the unworthy servant of servants of your holiness, this petition and prayer: Most holy lord, knowing that your worshipful head is bowed down in care because of the shortage of food inflicted on us for our sins, albeit with the permission of God, I do not think it right that your servant should dine at ease while my lord remains in poverty. Your unworthy servant possesses two hundred thousand modii of wheat and a hundred and eighty pounds of gold which I would like to be given to Christ through you, my lord, if only your unworthy servant might be found fit to enjoy the ministry of the diaconate with you and repent of his many sins, for necessity demands that the law be changed, as says the holy Apostle, God's preacher' (Hebrews 7.12).
    Upon receipt of this the wise man of God called for the man.
    "You are the man who got your notary to write me this letter and you sent it to me by your son?"
    "Indeed, my lord."
    The blessed and most merciful man sent everyone else out of the room, not wishing to embarrass the man in their presence.
    "What you are offering would be very welcome," he said, "and in tune with the needs of the time, but it is flawed. For you must know that the Law says that a sheep, whether big or small, may not be offered in sacrifice unless it is unblemished (Leviticus 2.21), which is why God had no respect for the sacrifice of Cain (Genesis 4.5). For all that you have spoken truly, brother, in saying that necessity demands that the law should be changed, it was the Old Testament that the Apostle was quoting. What about what James the brother of the Lord says, that whoever keeps the law and offends in one particular is guilty of all (James 2.10)? As for the holy church and my brothers in need, the God who cared for them before you and I were born will continue to do so if we keep our lips from evil speaking. He who multiplied the five loaves is well able to pour out a blessing on the ten modii in my granary. Moreover, my son, what I say to you is what was said in the Acts of the Apostles: 'You have no portion or right in this matter'" (Acts 8.21).
    No sooner had he dismissed the man, disappointed in his failure, than news came that two of the church's great ships that had been sent to Syria for grain had reached port. The blessed man fell on his face and gave thanks to almighty God.
    "I give you thanks, O Lord, that you have kept me from selling your grace for money. Truly, O Lord, those who seek after you and observe the rules of your holy Church shall lack for nothing."

    Chapter XIII
    He once punished two clerks, guilty of striking each other, with canonical excommunication for a certain period. One of them accepted his punishment with humility, the other, a maliciously minded person, was quite happy to submit to this decree, for it gave him an excuse not to go near the church but allowed him to continue in his wicked deeds. He was incensed with the holy patriarch and was threatening violence. There were those who said that he was one of the people who had helped carry the church's money to governor Nicetas and had helped himself to some of it. The blessed man was told that the clerk was still nursing resentment and was as wicked as ever in his ill will towards him.
    But he was a true pastor, mindful of the saying, 'Who is weak and I am not weak?' (2 Corinthians 11.29). And again, 'You who are strong should bear the burdens of the weak' (Romans 15.1). He wanted to summon him, give him a talking to and release him from his excommunication, for he could see that he was a wolf threatening to steal the sheep. But as everyone knew, the mind of the patriarch was always liable to be forgetful of anything evil, and in the providence of God it so happened that he completely forgot to summon the man to release him from his excommunication.
    Next Sunday, while standing at the altar preparing to offer the unbloody sacrifice, the affair which he had forgotten suddenly came back into his mind, just as the deacon had come to the end of the prayer and was about to unveil the holy gifts. He thought of how the Lord had said. 'If you are offering your gift at the altar and remember that your brother has anything against you, leave there your gift. First be reconciled with your brother and then offer your gift' (Matthew 5.23-24). He told the deacon saying the usual prayer which deacons say to begin again from the beginning, and if he finished it again, to go back to the beginning again, until he should come back for the consecration. He went into the administration wing and ordered twenty of the staff to go out looking for the evil minded clerk, for his intention was to rescue the sheep from the mouth of the lion. And indeed, God who always responds to the desires of those who fear him caused the clerk to be speedily found. When he arrived, the patriarch, in an act of witness to the truth of the gospel, was the first to fall on his knees saying, "Forgive me, brother".
    The clerk was awestruck at the example presented by this honourable pontifex to him and all the others present, and even more than that, fearful of the judgment of God that fire might come down from heaven and consume them in an instant. He gazed at the venerable gray hair lying on the floor before him and bent the knee himself, seeking pardon and mercy.
    "May God forgive us all," said the patriarch. They got up and went into the church and with great joy and gladness stood before the altar, able to say to God with a clear conscience, 'Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors'. As these events were rumoured abroad, the clerk's change of heart became so apparent that he was found worthy of being made a lector, as a preparation for eventually being ordained to the presbyterate.

    Chapter XIV
    Some of the God-bearing holy fathers have said, 'It is the nature of Angels that they are never contentious but remain at peace in every way, human beings may quarrel but have the ability to be reconciled, whereas the demons are always on the attack and never make peace.' We mention this, O lovers of Christ, by way of preface to the following narrative:
    Our noble patriarch decided to make an objection on a certain public matter against the governor Nicetas, whom we have already mentioned. The occasion for the dispute was that the governor wanted to sell off a certain amount of public seating for the benefit of the treasury, but the patriarch would not countenance this out of respect for the poor. They argued at length between themselves in private, but neither would give in and they parted in anger with no solution to the dispute. It was the fifth hour, and the governor was upset because he was thinking only of pecuniary gain, but the patriarch was upset and bitter on behalf of God's commandment. But at length that just man spoke sharply to himself.
    "Human beings ought not to give way to anger," he said, "whether their cause is either reasonable or unreasonable."
    At the eleventh hour he sent his archpresbyter and a clerk to take this memorable message to the governor:
    "It is almost sunset, sir." (cf.Ephesians 4.26)
    Listening to this, the governor forgot about the turmoil in his heart, for he was conscience stricken at these words. Burning with the love of God and quite overcome by tears, he went straight away to see the blessed man.
    "Welcome to the church, my son," said the patriarch. "You have listened to what it teaches."
    They apologised to each other and embraced each other, and sat down together.

    Chapter !V (continued) Life of St John the Almsgiver, Book Ib

    "Believe me, sir," said the patriarch, "if I had not seen how troubled you were by this affair, I would not have been so tardy in coming to you. But our Lord and God goes about, visiting cities and castles and ordinary homes."

    All who heard were full of admiration at the humility of this great high priest.

    "Believe me, father," said the governor, "I was not listening to the voices of anyone except those who were urging me to be argumentative."

    "Believe me, my son and brother," said the wise teacher, "if we were to give credence to all those kinds of people, we would be encouraging many people to fall into sin, especially these days when there are such a lot of people who hate each other. There are always many who try to persuade me into their way of seeing matters, and if I am persuaded to agree with them, there are always others who come along and tell me that my first decision was wrong. By the time I have been through this process two or three times I call a halt to the arguments of either party and keep to the decision I made to start off with. If any of them are lying they become subject to the same penalty due to anyone who can be truly proved to have uttered a slander. Since the day I have taken this position, no one has been bold enough to make unproven allegations against anyone else, and so, my son, I recommend and beg that you be of like mind. It happens so often that unjust decisions are made by those who have been entrusted with high authority, because they have been persuaded by others, and have got away scot free with going back on their first decision."

    And the governor, as if he were listening to the commands of God, determined to keep the commandments inviolate from that time on.

    Chapter XV

    This remarkable man had a nephew called George, who one day got into a quarrel with one of the shopkeepers in the city. The shopkeeper abused him roundly, which the youth bitterly resented, not only because he had been insulted in public but because he, the nephew of the patriarch, had been insulted by someone of an inferior class. He went to complain privately to the patriarch, weeping bitterly. When that most gentle patriarch saw him so upset and angry he questioned him about what was causing him so much grief, but in his bitterness he was unable to find words to express properly what had happened. The patriarch summoned eyewitnesses who might be able to exonerate his nephew from any blame. They gave him an exact account of what had happened, adding that it was not right that the actions of his relatives, condemned by all, should be overlooked, as it reflected on the honour of the Archbishop himself.

    But the patriarch was a true physician and determined to apply a healing plaster to his nephew's anger, or take a liberating knife to amputate his passion, so he opened his mouth of wisdom and began to cure his disease in these words:

    "Well now, has someone dared to open his mouth in order to condemn you? Believe what your father is about to tell you, my son, for I shall today do something which will call for the respect of all Alexandria."

    The boy thought that he was about to be vindicated and recovered from his tantrums completely, thinking that the patriarch was about to cause the person who had insulted him to be whipped by the public constable and publicly disgraced. The patriarch clasped him to his breast.

    "My son," he said, "if you would wish to prove yourself in humility a true nephew of mine, prepare yourself to be whipped and suffer the condemnation of everyone. For true relationship between people consists not in flesh and blood but in the virtuous meeting of minds."

    He summoned the leader of the tradesmen's association and gave him instructions that the shopkeeper should be dispensed from paying his accustomed dues and public rates and even from the rent for his workplace, which in fact belonged to the most holy church. Everyone was awestruck at his forbearance, and began to understand what he had meant when he said that he would do something which would call for the respect of all Alexandria. For not only had he refrained from returning evil for evil but had proved himself to be careful for the rights of those who depended on him.

    Chapter XVI

    It was reported to this blessed man that one of the clerics was nursing a grudge in his heart against someone and refusing to make up the quarrel. Upon enquiring his name and position he was told that it was a deacon called Damian and that he was due to take part in the service next day at the Sunday offering. He gave his archdeacon instructions that he was to point Damian out to him when he came to the church. So when the archdeacon saw Damian coming next day to perform his Sunday duty he pointed him out to the patriarch. In order to do something about the deacon's quarrel the Pontifex himself stood at the altar, though no one realised what it was he was about to do. When the deacon Damian in due course came to receive holy Communion that holy man grasped his hand.

    "First go and be reconciled with your brother," he said, "and then, having forgotten your grievance, come and receive the spotless mysteries of Christ."

    The deacon did not dare to protest at this in the presence of so many clerics, in such a place and at such an awesomely holy moment, so he swore a solemn oath that he would do so, and then the patriarch administered the holy mysteries to him. From that time onwards both clerics and laity took care not to nurse grudges among themselves, fearing lest the patriarch should find them out and humiliate them as he had done to that deacon.

    Chapter XVII

    This most holy man had an extensive knowledge of the divine Scriptures, not so that he could boast of his wisdom by reciting them by heart, but so that they might inspire all his actions, and enable him to keep the commandments. No idle conversation was ever heard to take place in the course of his daily business, unless involvement in civil affairs demanded it. He delighted in stories of the holy fathers, or scriptural questions, or dogmatic problems occasioned by the multitude of heretics in the region, whose names we do not need to spell out. If he heard anyone beginning to defame someone else, like a wise man he skilfully dealt with it by giving them a talking-to. If any offender persisted he said nothing, but gave instructions to the doorman not to allow him entry with any of the other visitors, so that others might be warned and instructed thereby.

    Chapter XVIII

    It would not be right to pass over another decision which this holy man made. He had heard that after the Emperor had been crowned, no one in the senate or the army proposed a monument to him in accordance with custom, so when some monumental masons came to see him with four or five small samples of marble in different colours, and asked him what sort of memorial he wanted his rule to be remembered by - as much as to say, 'You are only a transitory human being, destined for corruption, so take thought for your soul and govern your kingdom justly' - the blessed man thought to maintain this praiseworthy custom and ordered a tomb to be built for him near where his predecessors in the patriarchate were lying. But he gave instructions that it was not be finished until his death, in the expectation that as people were going in to the services conducted by the clergy its very incompleteness might provoke someone to remind him, 'My lord, your tomb has not been finished. Pray bid that it be brought to a conclusion, for we know not the day nor the hour when the thief might break in' (Matthew 24.42-43). The holy man did this in a desire to leave a good example for future patriarchs to follow.

    Chapter XIX

    Because of the multitude of our sins, the Lord allowed his own temple at Jerusalem to be looted and burned by the Persians, and when the most holy patriarch heard of this and of the great need in which Modestus the patriarch of Jerusalem found himself in his desire to rebuild, he ordered a thousand numismata to be sent to him, a thousand bags of grain, a thousand measures of pulse, a thousand pairs of scales, a thousand bags of fried fish known as menomenae, a thousand flasks of wine, and a thousand Egyptian workmen, together with a letter as follows:

    Forgive me, dear labourer for Christ, for not sending you anything worthy of the temple of Christ. Believe me, had I been able, I would have come myself to take part in the resurrection of the house of the holy Christ. Nevertheless I beg you not to take offence at my own poverty, but rather seek from Christ that I may be written in the book where the truly blessed are wont to be written.

    Chapter XX

    Here is something which this holy man chose to do, namely, sleep on the meanest sort of bed covered with the meanest sort of bedcovering. When a comfortably well-off person in the city heard about that he went to see John and found that his bedcovering was indeed a very ragged, rough woollen object. So he sent him a new bed and blankets worth thirty-six numismata.

    "Use them to cover yourself with, and let them remind you of me!" he said.

    Persuaded by that remark, and much more of the same, he used it for one night, but spent the whole night arguing with himself. It was as if a whole host of bedroom attendants were besetting him with questions.

    "Who would have believed that humble John (which is how he always referred to himself) has a bed worth thirty-six numismata, while Christ's brothers are dying of cold?"

    "How many are there whose teeth are chattering with cold?"

    "How many are there who have only half a blanket over them and half a blanket under them, so that they cannot stretch their feet out but lie curled up in a shivering ball?"

    "How many are there who are sleeping unfed, in the dark, out in the open, suffering the double torment of hunger as well as cold?"

    "How many are there who would gladly stuff themselves with the cabbage leaves that are thrown out from your own kitchen?"

    "How many are there who would gladly soak their own bread in the water your kitchen has cooked food in, then thrown away?"

    "How many are there who would enjoy just a sniff of the wines stored in your cellar?"

    "How many strangers are there in this city at this moment who have nowhere to sleep except in the street, probably drenched with rain?"

    "How many are there, do you think, who have gone for a whole month or even two without a taste of any oil?"

    "How many are there who have no change of garments between summer and winter and therefore suffer in both seasons?"

    "You live in the expectation of eternal bliss, and you drink wine, and eat large fish and sleep in your bedroom. And along with all these things you have chosen to keep yourself warm in a bed and bedding worth thirty-six numismata? Living in such luxury, you should not expect to partake in the joys which have been prepared, but rather hear what the rich man heard, 'You have received you good things in this life, but the poor have received evil things, but now they are comforted, but you are in torment' (Luke 16.25). Blessed be God, humble John will refuse to use his expensive bed for a single night more. Now blankets are being sold at four for one numismatum. So it would be right and acceptable to God that a hundred and forty-four poor people (who are your masters, don't forget) should have a blanket rather than you with your expensive bed."

    He sent it off forthwith next morning to be sold. But the person who had originally given it noticed it on sale and bought it himself for thirty-six numismata and took it back to the patriarch. The same thing happened next morning, and again he bought it and took it back to the patriarch, begging him to make use of it. And it happened again a third time!

    "We shall see who will give up first, you or I," said that holy man, who was really enjoying this. For the giver of the bed was very rich indeed, and the holy man was cheerfully reaping a rich harvest from him little by little. He always used to say that it was right to despoil the rich if it was for the purpose of giving to the poor. You could even take the shirt off his back without sin if it was for a good intention, especially if he was unmerciful and miserly. The benefits from this are twofold. The first is that you are being helpful to others, the second is that you can expect a great reward from it yourself. And in support of this belief he would cite the example of Epiphanius and John the bishop of Jerusalem, whereby Epiphanius deceived that patriarch into giving him money which he then gave to the poor.

    Chapter XXI

    In keeping with the previous chapter it is fitting to relate the story that this holy man once told us all:

    I used to know someone who worked in a shop in Cyprus, he said, who was very faithful, and a virgin till the time of his death. He told me how the owner of the shop was very rich and very mean. It so happened that one day as the poor were warming themselves in the sun, some of them began singing the praises of those who gave alms and offering a prayer for each one of them, and also castigating those who gave no alms at all. Among them the name of this shop owner cropped up, and they all asked among themselves whether any of them had ever received any alms from him, and no one was found ever to have received any alms from his household.

    "How much do you bet that I won't get an alms from him this very day?" one of them then said. And when they had come to an agreed price he went and stood in outside the door of the shop owner's house, waiting for him to come home. By the providence of God the shop owner arrived there at the same time, leading a donkey bringing back fine wheat flour from the mill for his own table. Seeing the beggar standing there, he searched about for a stone to fling at him, and not finding any, snatched a bag of flour from the saddle of the donkey and angrily threw that in his face. The beggar picked it up and showed it to his companions to prove that it had been given to him by the shop owner's own hands.

    Two days later the shop owner took ill and was like to die, and saw himself being put to the judgment, with all his deeds being weighed in the balance. On one side of the balance were gathered a horde of ugly Moors, on the other side beings dressed in white and of an awe-inspiring appearance. They could find nothing good to throw into their side of the balance, whereas the Moors gathered together all his evil deeds to weigh their side of the balance down. The ones dressed in white were very sad and troubled.

    "Haven't we got anything on our side?" they asked.

    "Nothing", one of them said, "except one bag of flour which he gave to Christ two days ago, and that unwillingly."

    They put the bag of flour into the balance and it tipped the balance slightly in his favour.

    "Now go and make this bag of flour bigger," the ones in white said to the shop owner. "For otherwise these Moors will have you."

    He groaned, knowing that he was being presented with the truth and no lie. He saw everything he had done from his youth up, and had forgotten, being gathered together by those Ethiopians and thrown into the scales.

    "Let me take warning!" he said. "If one small bag of flour is worth so much, how many evils may one be delivered from by giving alms freely to the poor?"

    And from then on he became such a prudent and caring person, and such a great almsgiver that he would not even spare his own body.

    It happened one day as he was going at dawn to his shop that he met a sailor, naked as the day he was born, who had come ashore from a shipwreck, and who fell at his feet asking for his protection. Realising his need, he took off his cloak, which was one of his best, and gave it to him and begged him to wear it. But the sailor felt embarrassed, and sold it to a street trader. The shop owner noticed it as he was going by and felt very upset. He went home, refused to eat, and shut himself weeping inside the door of his study.

    "How is it that I am not worthy," he asked, "for that beggar to be my memorial?"

    Still worrying, he went to bed, and had a vision of someone as radiant as the sun, carrying a cross and wearing round his shoulders the cloak he had given to the sailor.

    "Why are you weeping, Master Peter?" the vision asked.

    "How is it, Lord," he replied, arguing as if with God, "that when we give anything out of the bounty with which you have blessed us, they take it and disgracefully turn it into cash?"

    "Don't you recognise this?' he said, indicating the cloak. "It is I who am wearing it. You gave it to me, and I give you thanks for your good will, for I was cold and you clothed me."

    When he awoke he was filled with wonder and began to bless the poor.

    "The Lord lives!" he cried. "And if the poor are my Christ, I shall not die before becoming as one of them."

    He summoned a slave of his who acted as his secretary.

    "I want to entrust some highly confidential business to you, he said, "and if you betray me, or if you won't do as I say, I shall sell you to the barbarians. Take this ten pounds of gold to set yourself up in business, then take me to the holy city and sell me to some Christian or other, and give the money to the poor."

    The secretary was extremely reluctant to do so.

    "If you refuse to do it I shall sell you to the barbarians, as I said."

    The secretary perforce agreed, and they went to the holy places, where he made contact with a silversmith, a dear friend of his, whose business, however, was not doing very well.

    "Listen, Zoilus," the secretary said, "I've got this very good slave for sale. He says he is actually of noble birth."

    The silversmith was rather surprised that he had this slave.

    "Truly, I have not got enough money to buy him," he said.

    "Borrow some money then, and buy him. He will bring you a lot of good fortune. God will bring you many blessings through him."

    He agreed, and bought him for thirty numismata, dressed as he was in mean and common clothing. The secretary left and went to Constantinople, making sure he told no one, kept nothing for himself out of the price he had been paid, and gave the whole lot to the poor.

    Peter meanwhile was working in his master's kitchen, and sometimes doing the washing, tasks which he had never been used to doing before. He also chastised his body with regular fasting. His master began to see that Peter was indeed a blessing above all other blessings, and was put to shame by his outstanding virtue and humility.

    "Peter," he said, "I would like to give you your freedom and be to me as a brother."

    Peter would not agree.

    Then the master noticed that he was constantly being abused and insulted by his fellow servants. For they thought he was a half-wit, and always called him 'Half-wit'. But as often as he was being given a hard time by his fellows and went to bed in disgrace, he was given a vision of him whom he had seen in Africa, wearing his cloak, and now holding those thirty numismata in his hand.

    "Don't be so sad, brother Peter," he said. "I have received your price. Continue in your endurance until you are recognised."

    Not long after this some merchants selling silver came from his native land in order to pray at the holy places, and Peter's master invited them to his house for a meal. Peter recognised them as soon as he started waiting at table. And they, as they were eating, could not help noticing him

    "Doesn't he look like master Peter, the shop owner!" they said to each other.

    As much as he could he kept his face hidden from them. But as they were eating they remarked to their host, "Master Zoilus, we think there is something rather extraordinary going on here, for unless we are mistaken you have a well known citizen among your slaves."

    They could not be any more positive than that, for fasting and work in the kitchen had altered his appearance. They discussed it among themselves for a while, until one of them said, "I am sure it is Master Peter. I am going to get up and grab him."

    As Zoilus heard all this he was very put out for not having realised this before. Peter heard what they were talking about from outside the door, put down the bowl he was carrying, did not go in but ran straight to the front door. The doorkeeper was one who had been deaf and dumb from birth, but was used to opening and shutting the door in response to a nod of the head.

    "I am speaking to you in the name of Christ," said Peter, as he ran up to the door.

    "Yes sir," said the doorkeeper, his hearing suddenly restored.

    "Open up," said Peter.

    "I will sir," said the deaf and dumb doorkeeper." And he got up and opened it

    As Peter went out, the doorkeeper ran back in, shouting with great exultation, "Lord! Lord! I can hear and speak!" Everybody in the house could hear him and were quite petrified to hear him shouting.

    Chapter XXI (continued) Life of St John the Almsgiver, , Book Ib

    "It was the one who works in the kitchen," the former deaf mute said. "He has just run outside. But go and see. Perhaps he has run away! In any case he is a great servant of God. As he came up to me he said, 'I am speaking to you in the name of Christ', and I saw a flame coming out of his mouth and touching my ears, and immediately I could hear and speak."
    They all jumped up and ran out after Peter, but alas, he was nowhere to be seen. Then everyone in the house began to feel guilty including the master who had bought him and subjected him to such a subservient state, but especially all those who had called him 'Half-wit'.

    That is a sample of the stories told us by the blessed John, the patriarch honoured by God. He was not content to spend only his own life in giving a helping hand to anyone who wanted it, but made use of the true stories of those who had been accepted by God.
    "Anyone who spares not his own flesh," he always used to say, "but lays it down for his brother, lays it down for Christ. Why else do you think that with eagerness and humility we ought to give of our possessions to Christ in the persons of the needy and poor, if it is not to receive our reward from God, that righteous source of all recompense, in that fearful and tremendous Day? 'He who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly' (2 Corinthians 9.6), but he who sows with blessings, that is generously and widely, shall also reap a manifold reward. In other words he will inherit those good things which pass man's understanding."

    Chapter XXII
    This holy man was impeccable in his way of life. He fell short in nothing. He truly loved to speak of the deeds of the holy fathers and those renowned for giving alms. One day he told us about the life of the holy Serapion, known as the Sindonite, who gave his cloak to a poor man, and then having gone on a little way gave his tunic away as well, leaving him sitting there naked, with nothing but the Gospels in his hand. Somebody asked him. "Who has robbed you, abba?" And he held up the holy Gospels, saying "This!"
    On another occasion he sold this book of the Gospels and gave the money away in alms.
    "Abba, where is your book of the Gospels?" said his disciple.
    "Believe me, my son, I have sold that very thing which told me to sell all that I have and give to the poor (Matthew 19.21), that in the day of judgment I may have abundant recompense before God."
    And again, when a widow woman asked for an alms from this same holy Serapion because her sons were starving, he handed himself over to her, not having anything else to give, so that she could sell him as a slave to a troupe of Greek actors, and it was not very long before he had converted those actors to Christ.
    In reading this story of the holy Serapion, the holy John was overcome with admiration for his great zeal. In tears, he called all his aid workers and read the whole story to them.
    "O, you who love Christ," he said, "Do you not see what profit there is in talking about the deeds of the holy fathers? Believe me, up to today I was thinking that I could not do any more than give away what money I had. I never imagined that compassion could be felt so strongly that anyone would sell himself."

    Chapter XXIII
    This holy man always held those wearing the monastic habit in high regard. He encouraged them and empathised with them, especially when he saw a monk emaciated for lack of bodily comforts. One of his priorities was never to accept any accusation, whether true or false, against anyone wearing the monastic habit. For it happened once that among many other tales going round, a certain monk was being accused of having been wandering about in the city for several days in the company of a very young girl while asking for alms. People who saw him were scandalised, because they assumed that the girl was his woman. They brought a complaint about him to the patriarch.
    "You stand high in God's favour," they said to the bishop. "Is it not a disgrace to the reputation of the Angelic monastic habit that he should have this girl as his woman?"
    The servant of God believed that he was there for the very purpose of putting a stop to sins committed against God, and ordered that the girl should be separated from him and whipped, and that the monk should be beaten and put in prison. After these orders had been carried out with all diligence, the monk appeared to him that night in a dream, showing him his back, which was a bloody pulp, for the church guardians had assaulted him without mercy.
    "I hope this pleases you, my lord bishop," he said. "You have erred like any other human being this time. Don't forget that your life and death is in the hands of your neighbour!"
    In the morning that blessed man remembered his vision and was overcome with shame and sorrow as he sat up in his bed. That blessed patriarch sent immediately for his prison warder to bring him the monk from the prison, wondering whether he was the same man as had appeared to him in his vision. It was an enormous effort for him to arrive before the patriarch, for because of his wounds he was hardly able to move. When the patriarch saw him he was speechless, not knowing what to say. He could only gesture with his hand to tell him to sit on the bed. He recovered sufficient composure to cross himself, and asked the monk to take no thought for his modesty but take his clothes off so that he could see whether his back was as he had seen in his dream. The monk was wearing a linen tunic. Somewhat unwillingly he undressed to show his back to the holy man, and in God's wonderful providence his loincloth also slipped to the floor, allowing everyone to see that he was in fact a eunuch! It had not been at all obvious outwardly, for the operation had only been done quite recently. The holy Pontiff and everyone there could see how exceedingly viciously he had been flogged, and he immediately ordered that those who had beaten him so unmercifully should be suspended. He then began a long discussion with that venerable monk by admitting that he had sinned against him and against the true God.
    "But you must realise, my son," he said, "that you could hardly expect not to be locked up in this city, wandering about in your Angelic monastic habit in the company of a female, to the scandal of all who saw you."
    The monk then in all humility explained to the holy man what had happened.
    "Believe me, I am not lying. A few days ago I was in Gaza, and as I was going out of the city on my way to worship at the shrine of the holy Cyrus, this nice-looking girl came up to me outside the gates as night was falling, fell at my feet and asked if she could come with me. She said she was a Jew and wanted to become a Christian and she told me a quite horrifying story, begging me to save her from being killed. In fear of the judgment of God I accepted her, confident that eunuchs have no fear of sexual temptation from Satan. So, we came here together, most holy father, and after praying together I baptised her at the shrine of abba Cyrus. In simplicity of heart I wandered about begging for a little sustenance until such time as I could get her into a monastery."
    "Oh, how wonderful!" exclaimed the patriarch. "I wonder how many more servants of God there are about, that humble John has never heard of. "
    And he told those who were with him about the vision that he had had the night before. He took out a hundred numismata from his purse to give him, but that true monk and friend of God would not accept it, offering instead a very noteworthy saying to the patriarch:
    "I would not ask for all that, sir," he said. "If a monk has faith he has no need of it. If he does need it, he has no faith."
    This more than amply satisfied his hearers that this monk was indeed a servant of God. He bent the knee to the patriarch and departed in peace. The result of all this was that the patriarch honoured monks even more, and offered them hospitality whether they were good or bad. It was not long before he built a guesthouse for them, which he called 'Allmonks Haven'

    Chapter XXIV
    Once when plague struck the city this holy man took part in the funerals, which he said was useful so that he could inspect the burial places. Very often indeed he would sit with the dying as they suffered the agony of the departure of their souls. He would close their eyes with his own hands, deliberately reminding himself of his own mortality. And he made sure that no one would be left in any doubt that prayers had been said for the deceased.
    For he told a story about how someone not long since had been taken captive by Persians, and taken to a prison in Persia called Lethe, that is, 'oblivion.' Some people escaped from there and came back to Cyprus, where they were questioned by the captive's parents as to whether they had seen him at all. They replied that they had buried him with their own hands, unaware that it was not this man but someone else who looked like him. And they told him the day and the month of his death. His parents then said the prayers for the dead for him at three set times a year.
    Four years later he escaped from Persia and came back to Cyprus.
    "Truly, brother," said his relations, "we thought you were dead, and have been saying the prayers for you three times a year."
    "What days did you say then on?" he asked.
    "Epiphany, Easter Day and Pentecost." they said.
    "On these very three days every year I was visited by someone dressed in white, as shining bright as the sun. He loosed me from my iron chains and from my cell, and I was able to walk about freely all day without anyone noticing. Next day I was back in chains."
    "What we learn from this," said the holy bishop, "is that when we say the prayers for the dead, the dead are given rest."

    Chapter XXV
    What frequently happened to this most compassionate of men is what we read of as happening in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 4). For many people, when they saw his unlimited and unsearchable generosity to people, were often moved to sell many of their possessions and bring them to lay at the feet of this devoted minister of God. There was one person who came one day with seven and a half pounds of gold and assured the holy man that that was all the gold he had. Genuflecting repeatedly before the bishop he begged also that he would pray that the Lord God would keep his son safe. He had just the one son of about fifteen years of age, who was bringing back goods from Africa in his ship.
    The high priest accepted the gold from his hand, marvelling that his generosity extended to giving all the gold that he possessed. He prayed for him, with many people as witnesses, and so let him depart. Furthermore in response to the man's great faith the patriarch made a bundle of the gold and put it under the holy table in his private chapel (oratorio cubiculi sui) and celebrated the synaxis for the person who had made the gift, including many prayers that the son should come home safely in the ship, as he had been asked to do.
    However, before a month had passed, the son died. Three days after his death another ship of his came in from Africa, containing his own brother, to whom also he owed money. He was able to describe how while sailing past Pharos the son's ship was shipwrecked and apart from one empty lifeboat all that might possibly qualify for salvation were their souls. When the boy's father, the owner of the ship, heard about this disaster his soul had almost dwell in hell, in the words of the Prophet (Psalms 94.17). To the tribulation he suffered because of his son's death was added the loss of his ship.
    The patriarch was told about all that had happened to him, and he mourned almost more than the father did. He was especially sad at the loss of the only son. He did not know what to do, except beseech the most merciful God that the father would find comfort through the strength of his faith. The holy man felt extremely awkward about calling the man and comforting him face to face. Nevertheless he did so, and urged him not to fall into despair, for none of God's judgments were unjust; everything was done for the best, even when we could not see why. The faith that he had shown in the patriarch and in the gift of the seven and a half pounds of gold would bring a spiritual reward, which he prayed would not be lost in this time of testing, which had come after having performed such a good deed. We should always remain untroubled and give thanks to God.
    That night, that Christ-loving father had a dream of someone dressed like the most holy patriarch.
    "Why are you so sad, my brother, and sunk in mourning?" he said. "Did you not ask me to pray to God that your son should be kept safe? Behold, he is safe. Believe me, if he had lived he would have become a dissolute and wicked person. And as for your ship, if it had not been that God was pleased at the good deed you did to me, it too would have perished in the deep with everyone in it including your brother, as it happens. But rise and give glory to God who has brought your brother back to you and has saved you son unharmed by the vanities of this world."
    When he woke up he found there was comfort in his heart and all his sadness cast out. He got dressed and went straight away to that most honourable patriarch and fell at his feet, giving thanks to God as he told him about the vision he had had.
    "Glory to you, most kind and merciful God," said that most righteous patriarch, "for you hear the prayers of sinners."
    And to the man he said, "Don't give thanks for my prayers, my son, but thank God for your faith. Faith is able to overcome all things."
    This holy man was always so humble, and prudent in everything he said.

    Chapter XXVI
    This blessed man once spent some time visiting the poor in the Caesarian district, where he provided some quite spacious shelters for them to sleep in during the winter. They had wooden planks laid over a solid floor, together with rush mats and blankets. There was one of the bishops with him who was a very tight-fisted lover of money
    "Brother Troilus," said the blessed patriarch (for Troilus was his name), "love and honour these brothers of Christ."
    Now someone had told him that Troilus' house servant was carrying thirty pounds of god with him in order to buy a sort of anaglyphus to grace his table with. Fearing that John was about to preach a sermon at him, with a marked lack of enthusiasm he ordered his servant carrying the gold to give some of it to each of the poor. The whole amount of it quickly vanished. The patriarch and bishop Troilus, the unwilling almsgiver (as I call him), both went their several ways home. Troilus felt very bitter, with all kinds of perilous thoughts rushing through his mind because of the money he had given away. The love of money which had engendered harshness and negligence in him finally caught up with him and made him shake all over, so that he became unnaturally feverish, and unwillingly took to his bed.
    Now the most holy patriarch sent his servant to Troilus to bid him come to a meal, but Troilus refused, saying that for some reason he was suffering from a shivering sort of fever. The patriarch knew at once that the unwilling almsgiver's fever had been caused by the sudden disappearance of his money. For, as we have said, he loved his money and had no sense of compassion for others. The blessed man could not allow himself to sit at ease at his table while Troilus was languishing on his bed, so he went to see him straight away.
    "Don't worry, Troilus, my son," he said humbly and with a cheerful face. "Did you really think that I would have expected you to give to the brothers in that way? Believe me, I was only joking. I had in fact wanted to give each of them a numismatum for them to celebrate the holy feast day, but my purseholder did not have enough money with him, so you kindly lent me the money. See, I am bringing you back the thirty pounds now."
    When Troilus actually saw the money in the honoured hand of this wise doctor and pastor, his fever suddenly left him and strength and warmth returned to his body, so that it was quite obvious what had caused the change that had come over him. Without hesitation he took the money from the venerable patriarch's hands, and the patriarch asked him in return for a receipt, disclaiming any reward that might be due for having given the thirty pounds. Troilus quite happily agreed to this, and in his own hand he wrote as follows:
    "O God, I have received back my own money. Ascribe the reward due for the almsgiving of the thirty pounds to the account of my lord John, the most blessed patriarch of this great city of Alexandria."
    The holy man took this receipt and betook both himself and Troilus back to dinner, for as we have said, he was now completely well.
    But God, the giver of rewards, decided to reproach him, and awaken in him some compassion and sympathy with the idea of almsgiving. So after his dinner with the patriarch, God showed him that night in a dream how he had been deprived of his reward. He saw a building whose magnificence and beauty no human art could possibly devise, with a doorway all of gold, and across the doorway a scroll, saying THE ETERNAL MANSION AND RESTING PLACE OF BISHOP TROILUS.
    "I was overjoyed," he told us later, "when I read this, to think that someone had provided such a sumptuous house for me. But I had hardly finished reading this superscription before a royal bedroom-attendant came along with other servants to the doorway of this gleaming house and said: 'Take that superscription down. Change it and put it back according to the orders of the ruler of the world.'
    "And as I looked on, they brought a new scroll and fixed it on: THE ETERNAL MANSION AND RESTING PLACE OF JOHN, ARCHBISHOP OF ALEXANDRIA, BOUGHT FOR THIRTY POUNDS. I awoke immediately, and went to the great high pastor to tell him what I had seen"
    And from that time onwards Bishop Troilus became a most magnificent almsgiver.

    Chapter XXVII
    The Lord who in due season stripped blessed Job of his riches did the same to the holy patriarch John, who also was a man full of all goodness. For some ships belonging to the most holy church encountered such storms in the Adriatic that the crew had to throw overboard all their cargo, which consisted of clothing and silver and other more valuable things, which they reckoned to amount to about three thousand pounds in weight. There were more than thirteen ships, each with a capacity of ten thousand modii.
    Arriving at Alexandria the ships' captains, as being responsible for the loss, took refuge in the church. When the holy man heard they were there he sent them a word written with his own hand: 'The Lord has given, brothers, the Lord, as he wills, has taken away. As the Lord pleases so is it done. Blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1.21). Carry on and fear nothing from this event. For the Lord will visit you in the morning.'
    Almost half the city assembled at the church next day wanting to show their support for that noble man, but he got in first by saying to them,
    "Sons and brothers, don't be too sad because of the difficulties that these ships got into, because really it is all the fault of humble John. If only I hadn't been so conceited this would never have happened. The reason it happened was that I was constantly being praised for what God was doing, and was thinking to myself what great things I was doing, savouring only the things of men. So God allowed this to happen in order to teach me a lesson. Almsgiving can easily lead to pride if one is not careful, but humility comes to someone who suffers an event like this. As divine Scripture says, 'poverty brings a man low', and again, 'it is good that you have humbled me, for so have I learned your judgments' (Psalms 119.71). I have become detestable because of my evil deeds, for my generosity has led me into vainglory. All that money has been lost because of my wickedness, and I now suffer the penalty of being in dire straits. But truly, my beloved, God is now the same God as the God of Job, and he will not abandon us. Not because of my needs, but because of the needs of the poor, he himself has said, 'I will not leave you nor desert you' (Hebrews 13.5). And again, 'Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you' (Matthew 6.33).
    So it was that whereas the citizens came wanting to comfort him, it was on the contrary they who received comfort from his blessedness. And it was not long afterwards that the Lord doubly restored the goods of our latter day Job, so that again he was able to be generous towards the poor, but in perhaps a more chastened frame of mind than he was before.

    Chapter XXVIII
    When one of his domestic servants fell into extreme poverty, the holy man gave him two pounds of gold, so that no one would know about it.
    "Now that you have given me this, my lord, I no longer feel any resentment at the sight your honourable and angelic face."
    To which he made the following wise and praiseworthy reply, "I have not yet laid down my life for you, my brother, as demanded by Christ my Lord and God of all."

    Life of St John the Almsgiver, (continued), Book Ib

    Chapter XXIX

    There was a time when the region was suffering because the usual flooding of the Nile to irrigate the fields had not happened. Someone who was being harassed because he had no money to settle his debts went to the chief banker to borrow fifty pounds of gold, pledging that he would repay it double. The banker promised that he would make the loan but that he would have to put it off for the moment. Still harassed by the debt collectors, the man went like every one else to the door where no one was turned away, the door of the most compassionate and praiseworthy patriarch. He had hardly begun to outline his needs when the holy man said to him, "I would even give you the clothes I am wearing, if you needed them!"

    For along with all his other good points he had this quality of not being able to see anyone weeping in distress without watering him with his own tears. Without any hesitation he satisfied the request for a loan.

    That night the banker dreamed that he saw someone standing at the altar to whom many people were offering gifts, and for every gift offered they were getting back a hundred fold from the altar. Now the patriarch was standing just behind the banker. An offering was lying on a bench in front of them both.

    "Come now, sir banker," someone said to him," pick up the offering, offer it at the altar, and get back your hundred fold in exchange."

    But he hesitated, and the patriarch dashed in front of him, although he had been behind him in the queue, picked it up, offered it at the altar and received, like everyone else, a hundred fold. He woke up, unable to understand the meaning of the dream. But he sent a message to the man who wanted to borrow from him, asking him to come and see him.

    "Here is the loan you wanted," he said.

    "The lord patriarch came before you to receive your reward," the man replied. "You put me off, sir, so I had to run to him as to a safe port in a storm, so demanding had the debt collectors been."

    The banker immediately remembered his dream.

    "What you say strikes home," he said. "It was my reward that the patriarch received instead of me. Woe betide the man who has an intention of doing good and puts it off."

    He then told the man about his dream, which very soon everyone knew about.

    Chapter XXX

    As he was on his way once to the shrine of the victorious martyrs Cyrus and John, to give thanks for their glorious memory, a woman grasped him as he was going out of the city gate, and fell at his feet.

    "Plead my cause," she cried, " for I am being sued over the provisions of my husband's will. There are some who had a grudge against him, and are forcing me to go to law about it."

    "If I put this off," replied that most holy man, "How should I expect God to hear my prayers? Who can promise me that I will still be alive tomorrow? And what sort of excuse could I give about this if go to appear before Christ?"

    So he did not leave the place until he had done what needed to be done.

    Chapter XXXI

    God sent to this memorable man two wise and remarkable counsellors, John and Sophronius, who gave support to his good intentions, which were in any case always entirely rooted in God. They were truly good men, and the patriarch trusted them implicitly as fathers, and gave thanks that they were constantly strong in their active defence of the integrity of the true religion. They relied on the power of the holy Spirit to wage a battle of words against the Severians and other unclean heretics in the region. Like the good shepherds they were, they strove to rescue from the mouths of those wild beasts many a stronghold, many a church and many a monastery, for which reason that most holy man held them in highest honour.

    Chapter XXXII

    If he heard that someone was treating his slaves badly and beating them inhumanely, he would summon the owner and speak to him quite gently.

    "My son," he would say, "it has come to my sinful ears that you have been dealing rather too severely, as if they were your enemies, with those whom you should really think of as your children. Please, give place to your anger. God has not given them to us for us to ill treat them but to serve them. Perhaps not even for that, but so that in being placed under us, we may realise that God stands over us all. Is it a human being, tell me, who gives you the authority to buy someone created in the image and likeness of God? Although you are his master, do you really own his hand, his foot, his hearing, his soul, as if it were your own body? Is he not like you in everything?

    "Hear what Paul, that glorious source of light, says: 'As many as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free; they are all one in Christ' (Galatians 3.27-28). If then we are all equal in Christ let us deal with each other as equals. For Christ took the form of a servant, to teach us that we should not lord it over our own servants. For there is one Lord for all of us, and 'he dwells on high and has regard to the lowly' (Psalms 113. 5-6) - not the exalted but the lowly. How much gold did we pay in order to subject to slavery one who has been valued and purchased by the divine blood of the Lord? He is the creator of the heavens, the earth, the stars, the sun, the sea and all that is in it.

    "It is a true fact that Christ to whom the Angels minister washed the feet of his servants on behalf of your slave, for whom he was crucified and underwent all his sufferings. You however are not giving honour to him whom God honours, and you have no mercy on him, as if he were not of the same nature as you. Tell me, please, how often do you admit any blame for those acts for which God will surely demand payment? Never. Tell me, how can you pray every day 'Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors' (Matthew 6.12)?"

    In these words, and others like them which he brought forth from his inner treasury, he gave them a warning and let them go. If he learned that he had not amended his ways, he took steps to advise the slave to find a way out by asking to be sold. The righteous bishop would then acquire him and straightway give him his liberty.

    Chapter XXXIII

    After he had heard that someone well known for his almsgiving had died leaving a son destitute and in great poverty, with both his parents dead, the people who had administered the man's will came to see the bishop.

    "When the father died, my lord," they said, "he was left without so much as a single numisma. But just before he made his will he called his son to him and said, 'You could have these ten pounds, my son. Is it your wish that I leave them to you, or to our Lady the birthgiver of God and carer and provider of the poor? The boy chose the holy birthgiver of God, and his father proceeded to give all the money to the poor. So you see, most holy father, he lives in absolute destitution, never straying far day or night from the shrine of our Lady."

    The holy man was hearing all this from those who certainly ought to know, so without saying anything to anybody he hired a notary and told him the circumstances of the case, and set a time limit within which he should not tell anybody what he was going to ask him to do.

    "I want you to go and write on very old paper a document in the name of someone called Theopentus, stating that the boy's father and I are first cousins. When you have done that go to the boy and say to him, 'Did you know, brother, that you are of the same family as the patriarch? You should not be living in poverty like this'. Then show him the document and say to him, 'If you shrink from doing anything about it, I would be willing to put your case to the patriarch and see what he says.'"

    Having done everything that the patriarch had asked he came back to see him.

    "The boy agreed," he said, "that I should put his case to you, my lord, and showered me with thanks."

    "Go and tell him that you have spoken to the patriarch, and say that I said that I knew my cousin had a son, but that I would not recognise him if I saw him. And then be so kind as to bring him to me. And when you bring him, have the document with you."

    After they had arrived that righteous man had a private interview with him and embraced him.

    "You are very welcome, son of my cousin!" he said.

    He provided him with money, found a wife for him in Alexandria, and bought him a house and everything else he needed, full of joy at being able to demonstrate that the Lord does not abandon those who put their trust in him.

    Chapter XXXIV

    This admirable man had the habit of pointing out this commandment, among others: 'Do not turn your face away from him who would borrow from you' (Deuteronomy 15. 7-8 & Luke 6.30), and he never denied help of this sort to anyone who asked him. Now there was a certain evil-minded fraudster who was aware of this and asked him for a loan of twenty pounds of gold. He was one of those known as Gallodromes. To blacken the name of the holy man and put him into the same category as many others, he went about saying that the patriarch would not give him anything. Whereupon the officers of the church put him in prison and made public just how much money he had been given.

    But the bishop was a follower of him who said, 'Be merciful as your father in heaven is merciful (Luke 6.36), who makes his sun to rise upon good and evil, and the rain to fall upon both just and unjust' (Matthew 5.45), and he disagreed with the man's punishment. The church officers gathered around him rather mockingly.

    "Do you really think it is fair, my lord, that this waster should have what might be given to the poor?"

    "Believe me, my brothers," he replied, "if you have taken any of that money back from him you will have broken two commandments, but you will fulfil one of them when that amount of money has been given to the poor. The first commandment you have broken is that you have complained about the loss and given a bad example to others. The other is that you have not listened to the Lord God saying, 'Do not seek to get back what has been taken from you.' (Luke 6.30). My sons, you should give everyone an example of patience. Does not the Apostle say, 'Why do you not rather put up with insults? Why do you not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? (1 Corinthians 6.7) Truly, it is good, brothers, to give to whoever asks, and better still and more honourable to give even when you are not asked. 'To him who takes your cloak give your tunic also' (Luke 6.29). This is to imitate the Angels. It is truly divine. The Lord demands that we give help to our neighbour out of what we possess. It is good that we should deal with our brothers according to what we have, not out of what we have gained by lawsuits and arguments and compensation for injuries."

    Chapter XXXV

    A notable old man, aged about sixty, who had heard tales of this sort about the blessed bishop, decided to see whether he could be persuaded to do something scandalous, and if so whether he would acknowledge blame. He belonged to the monastery of abbot Seridon in Gaza, from where he came to Alexandria and met up with certain disreputable characters. Not that this was displeasing to God who 'rewards everyone according to what is in their hearts', as David says (Psalms 20.4). For he made a list of all the well known prostitutes, then took on a small job which earned him a certain amount each day. At sunset he took some of the money and went to the house of one of the prostitutes and offered it to her,

    "Let me stay the night with you," he said. "but no sex."

    And he stayed that night with her, making sure that she didn't commit fornication. For he stood in a corner of the cell where she slept, singing psalms and praying for her, and doing prostrations for her from evening time till dawn. When he left he exacted a promise from her that she would tell no one what had been going on. He kept on doing this until one of the prostitutes did reveal that he had visited her not for sex but for her salvation. The old man prayed, and she began to be possessed by a demon, which terrified the other prostitutes into keeping quiet about what he was doing. But people condemned the girl with the demon.

    "Come off it!" they said, "God is punishing you for being a liar. That monk is a wicked man and went to you for the sake of fornication!"

    And the holy Vitalius (for that was this monk's name) kept on in his intention to get no praise from men, and to go on saving souls.

    "I work during the day," he said, "and at night I am free. It's time now for me to go. A certain lady is waiting for me."

    What of his monastic state? People everywhere were condemning him and mocking him.

    "Am I not clothed with a body like you?" he asked them. "Is it only monks that God is angry with? They are just human like everyone else."

    "Well, why don't you take just one woman, abba," someone said to him, "and take off your monastic clothing, so that God will not be blasphemed because of you, or souls scandalised."

    "I am taking no notice of you," he shouted, making himself out to be very annoyed. "Just leave me alone. I am not going to change my ways simply so that you won't be scandalised. I am certainly not going to take a wife and have to manage a house, and spend my days in misery. If you want to be scandalised, be scandalised, and go bang your head against a wall. Why should you be making demands on me? Has God made you judges over me? Go and mind your own business. You don't have to account for me to God. He alone is the judge, and his the holy day of judgment, when he will render to all of us according to what we have done."

    Some of the church guardians who had heard tales about him on all sides told the patriarch about him. That holy man, not wanting to discredit abba Vitalius, hardened his heart and would not believe them. He remembered the case of the eunuch. He remonstrated forcefully with those who brought these accusations against Vitalius.

    "Don't blacken the name of monks," he said. "Haven't you heard what the Emperor Constantine of holy memory did with certain accusations given him to read? It was during the second Synod of Nicaea, that some who had no fear of God brought disgusting accusations in writing, to their own disgrace, before that blessed Emperor, some of them clerics, some of them monks. Constantine, that saint of God, had both accuser and accused brought before him and listened to them both. When he found that many of the accusations were true, he ordered a candle to be lit and burned all the evil tales that had been put into writing.

    "'If I had seen with my own eyes,' he said, 'any priest or anyone wearing the monastic habit committing some sin, I would have enfolded him in my cloak and hidden him so that no one could see.'

    "In the case of that servant of God the eunuch, you thought all sorts of evil things about him, and drew my soul into grievous sin."

    This silenced them and he dismissed them.

    Vitalius the servant of God meanwhile kept on with his programme. But he did pray that after his death God would reveal to someone in a dream that he was not guilty of the things which were scandalising people, for he realised that people said it was scandalous thing for a human being to be doing the things which he was accused of and not receiving any punishment for it. But he did persuade many of the women to feel ashamed of themselves, especially when they saw him lifting up his hands at night and praying for each one of them. Many of them gave up prostitution altogether, some took husbands and lived modestly, some renounced the world entirely, and vowed themselves to celibacy. Right up to the time of his death, no one knew that it was because of his prayers and admonitions that these shameless women gave up their life of prostitution.

    One morning at daybreak, when he was leaving the leader of these women, a certain dissolute man was going in for the purpose of having sex, and when he saw the holy Vitalius going out he slapped his face.

    "You disgraceful traitor to Christ," he said. "How much longer are you going on with your wickedness?"

    "Believe me," he replied, "you will soon be getting such a slap from me, the lowest of the low, that all Alexandria will gather round you as you cry."

    It was very soon after this that Saint Vitalius died peacefully in his cell without anyone knowing. Now his little cell was near the Gate of the Sun quite close to the church of S. Metra. When people began to gather there for worship so near his cell several of those women came too.

    "Come on," they said to each other. "Abba Vitalius is celebrating again."

    Vitalius was certainly still looking after them as they gathered together, for as he was lying dead in his cell unbeknownst to anyone, as we have said, a demon in the shape of a deformed Ethiopian came and slapped the face of the man who had slapped Vitalius.

    "Take that as a present from abba Vitalius," he said. And the man fell down frothing at the mouth.

    As Vitalius had prophesied, nearly all Alexandria began to gather at this scene of violence which the demon had instigated, mainly because many people had heard the sound of the slapping as if it had been the flight of an arrow. The injured man came to his senses after an hour or two, and began to tear his garments and shout and run towards Vitalius' cell.

    "I have done you wrong Vitalius, you servant of God!" he cried. "Have mercy on me."

    Everyone who heard him came running. Outside the holy man's cell the demon left him, throwing the man down before them as they watched. They all went into the cell and found the holy man in a kneeling position, as if praying as he gave up his soul to God, and on the floor was written: PEOPLE OF ALEXANDRIA, JUDGE NOTHING BEFORE THE TIME, UNTIL THE LORD RETURNS. The man vexed with the demons confessed openly what he had done to the holy man, and everything concerning the holy Vitalius was told to the most blessed patriarch John, who came down with his clergy to where the body of the holy Vitalius lay. When he saw what was written there he rejoiced

    "Truly," he said, "humble John by God's help has escaped. For it could easily have happened that it would have been me who was slapped, instead of the man with the demon."

    Then all the prostitutes, including those who had given it up, got men to carry Vitalius' body, and walked before it weeping, carrying torches and lamps.

    "We have lost our saviour and teacher," they cried.

    And they told everyone the whole story of what Vitalius had been doing.

    "He has not been visiting us for anything disgraceful," they said. "We never saw him lying down beside us. He never so much as held our hand. You might wonder why we did not tell everyone what was going on, allowing the whole city to be scandalised, but we all knew what had happened to the one among us who was attacked by a demon, so we were too frightened to say anything."

    He was buried with great honour, and the man who had been corrected and saved by Vitalius entered the monastery of abba Seridon in Gaza, and took over the cell of abba Vitalius, where he stayed till the day of his death.

    The most holy patriarch thanked God profusely for saving him from sinning against his servant Vitalius. Many people derived great profit from these happenings in Alexandria, and became very friendly towards monks. They had been warned not to condemn anyone by going on appearances only. By the grace of God the honoured name of Saint Vitalius began to perform many cures after his death. By his prayers may the Lord grant us a wholesome life and mercy in the day when the hidden deeds of humankind will be made manifest. and the secrets of all hearts will be revealed.

    Chapter XXXVI

    A beggar asked for an alms from him one day and he gave him only ten copper nummi, whereupon the beggar complained loudly and violently because he had not been given as much as he hoped. People with the patriarch felt like knocking the beggar down, but the blessed patriarch vehemently forbade them.

    "Leave him alone, brothers," he said. "For all of my sixty years I have been doing things very unpleasing to Christ, so can I not put up with a bit of cursing from this fellow?"

    And he ordered his steward to open up his purse and let the beggar take out of it as much as he wanted.

    Chapter XXXVII

    Whenever this most wise man heard of another almsgiver he would feel very happy, and would take him aside and ask him about it.

    "Do you give alms easily, or do you have to force yourself to do it?"

    Some of them modestly would not answer him, others told him the truth.

    "Believe me, my lord," one of these people said to the holy man, "I don't do any good deeds. But I will tell you what I do. Out of the good things which God and your prayers supply me with, this is the course I follow.

    Chapter XXXVII (continued) Life of St John the Almsgiver, , Book Ib

    "I once used to be very unfeeling and hard-hearted, until I suffered a very severe financial loss, after which I took to reasoning very keenly with myself. My thoughts began to say to me that if only I had been generous with my almsgiving God would not have deserted me. So I decided to give five copper nummi to the poor every day, but once I had started doing that, Satan put a stop to it.

    "'Five nummi are enough to buy food for a complete household, or to go to the baths', said Satan, and the thought of taking food from the mouths of my own family stopped me giving at once, and I realised that my evil nature had overcome me.

    "'Steal five nummi from me every day,' without anyone knowing,' I said to my servant, 'and give them to the poor.'

    "I am a money-changer, my lord. So the servant began to steal the money and give it away, and I almost immediately had a financial windfall. When the servant saw that we were being blessed and money was coming in, he began to steal and give threefold. At the same time, I was wondering at the blessings of God.

    "'Those five nummi have turned out to be very profitable, my son,' I said to him. 'Give ten instead.'

    "At which he laughed and said, 'Ask how much I have stolen. Without that we would not have enough bread to eat today! If ever there were a righteous thief, it's me.'

    "Then he told me that he had been giving threefold and more, and inspired by his faith, my lord, I have aspired to give from my heart."

    That holy man was deeply impressed.

    "Believe me," he said, "I have read about many of the doings of the holy fathers, but I have never come across anything like that!"

    Chapter XXXVIII

    This great John heard that a certain prominent citizen was nursing a grudge against another leading citizen, and he often urged and pleaded with him to seek reconciliation, but without success. So the holy man asked him to come and see him as if on some public business, and said Mass in his own private chapel with just him and a server. When the holy patriarch had consecrated the offerings, the three of them began the Lord's prayer, but when it came to the words 'forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us' the patriarch made a sign to the server to keep quiet. The patriarch also kept quiet so the citizen said the words about 'forgiving as we forgive' all by himself.

    "See now," said the holy man, turning towards him with a gentle voice, "What will happen in that terrible hour when you must say to God 'Forgive me as I have forgiven'?"

    As if undergoing torture by fire, the citizen fell down at the feet of the holy man.

    "Whatever you tell me to do," he said, " your servant will do it."

    As a result of this he came to a deeply sincere reconciliation with his enemy.

    Chapter XXXIX

    If this blessed man knew of anyone guilty of excessive pride, he would not reprove him in public, but would have a little private talk with him when he got him on his own. His conversation with him would be about humility, hoping by this means to change the proud man little by little into a modest one.

    "It amazes me, my friend," he would say, "how it is that my miserable soul has never been able to be humble as the Son of God told us to be on this earth. I am forever puffing myself up and putting myself in a better light than my brother. I am a little bit more handsome than he is, or richer, more outstanding, or else I have a greater position in life than anyone else. I have not been listening to the divine voice that says, 'Learn from me for I am lowly and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls'. Nor have I taken to heart the words of the saints, who described themselves as 'dust and ashes' (Genesis 18.27), 'a worm and no man' (Psalms 22.6), 'not eloquent but slow of speech' (Exodus 4.10). When Isaiah was privileged to see God, as far as a human being is capable of doing so, he declared himself to be a man of unclean lips (Isaiah 6.5). Am I humble like that? Have I not been fashioned out of mud? Isn't that where my body came from? And all the glory which I imagine I have, does it not fade as the flower of the field (Isaiah 40.6)?"

    With such words and many others like them this most wise man pretended to speak of himself, but in so doing cauterised and healed the soul of a man weakened by self-importance and pride. For the man with this ugly defect knew that the patriarch was really talking about him.

    Chapter XL

    This man whom God held in honour frequently preached on humility.

    "If we had thought and meditated on the mercy and goodness of God towards us we would not have dared lift up our eyes to heaven but would always have walked wisely in lowliness. Furthermore, the Creator of all has brought us into being from nothing. Deceived by our sin into disobedience, we have been brought to life again and redeemed from death by his blood, and he has given the earth and the very heavens above to the service of humankind. He has not destroyed the sinners, but with great long-suffering, unmoved in his own nature, he watches over us with patient eye. However much we blaspheme against him, in his mercy he still woos us and strengthens us, and pours his gentle rain from above upon our lives. How many evildoers, even such as murder and steal, does he not hide and protect from being taken and punished? How many pirates, who hope to kill those whose ships they attack, does he not save from drowning, commanding the sea not to swallow them up, in the hope that they might be converted from their wickedness? How many who swear falsely on the most holy body and blood does he not tolerate with great long-suffering, without making their lives difficult for them? How many robbers does he save from being devoured by wild beasts as they travel about? How many of those who plot together in hiding for seditious purposes escape from both guard dogs and humans?

    "Or suppose I lie with a prostitute, or keep company with drunkards and those of filthy speech, isn't there a bee who flies about in the valleys and river beds gathering honey to sweeten the taste in that throat from which has flowed such wicked and disgusting language? The grape comes to maturity in order to delight the taste and make glad the heart which has betrayed its maker. The flowers in their turn busy themselves in giving pleasure to eyes which have led men into fornicating with other men's wives. Shake the fig tree as you come near it, and your hand is filled with plenty, and your mouth with sweetness, that same mouth that seduces and embraces the wife of another. All these things are the sort of thing we do, brothers, and these are the things which the kindness of God gives us in return. How urgently should we not cultivate prudence then, and take thought for our last and most terrible hour!"

    He was always giving homilies like this, reminding us of our death and the departure of the soul, so that there was many a one coming in to him with a proud demeanour, a mirthful countenance and an arrogant eye, who went out again humbled, with a guilty expression and eyes full of tears.

    "The least we can do in our human condition", he would say, "is to think carefully and seriously about our salvation, and keep the thought of our death in mind, for nothing will help us or be with us in that hour except our good deeds. How distressed will be the soul who is found unready to meet the Angels as they come hurrying towards him? How can he then ask for a little more time to be given him? All he will hear is, 'But have you used the time well that you have already been given?' And how will humble John escape the beasts of the reeds, when they come to demand vengeance of him? Alas, what fear and trembling will possess the soul as it tries to make its excuses to such bitter and merciless inquisitors!"

    The holy man continuously bore in mind the vision given to Simeon on his pillar, for as his soul was leaving his body choirs of demons met him in his ascent from earth to heaven, each of them with its own mandate. For the choir of pride met him to see whether he was carrying any of their deeds with him, the choir of slander met him to see whether he had spoken evilly of anyone and not done penance for it, the demons of fornication met him, to search out any voluptuous desires in him, and when his miserable soul arrived at last in heaven to give an account of itself, even the holy Angels stood back from him and there was nothing to come to his aid except any good that he had done.

    This noble man bore such considerations constantly in mind, inculcating in himself a healthy fear of that dread day. But he also remembered what the holy Hilarion had said when fearful at the approach of his life's end: 'O my humble soul, you have spent eighty years serving Christ, and are you now frightened to depart? Go, for he is merciful'.

    "If he served Christ for eighty years," the holy patriarch said to himself, "raising the dead and doing miracles, but still went in fear of that bitter hour, what will you be able to say or do for yourself, humble John, when you come face to face with those cruel and merciless avengers and inquisitors? What excuses will you be able to give to those who inquire into your lies, your denigration of others, your cruelty, your avarice, your bearing of grudges, your hatred, your false witness? O God, do you bring them all to confusion, for human bravery is not enough to stand against them!

    "O Lord, give us your holy Angels as guides to keep us and govern us, for there is a stormy ocean of madness, fear, trembling and great danger raging against us. As we pass over from our earthly city to the city which is above we beseech our guides to keep us from falling into the abyss or perishing in the dens of the wild animals, the everlasting floods, the inaccessible and trackless mountains, the bands of robbers, or the impenetrable and waterless deserts. O how great is our need for strong guides and godly guardians, as we depart from the body and ascend into heaven, seeking that long and everlasting life!"

    These were the teachings, full of wisdom, which that blessed man addressed to himself and everyone else. These were his daily care and meditation.

    Chapter XLI

    He was very conscientious about the responsibilities of his own position. There was one occasion when he decided to educate people into not leaving the church after the gospel and preferring idle gossip to wholesome prayer. So what did he do? He left the church also after the end of the gospel, to go out and sit with the crowd, to their great astonishment.

    "Well, my children," he said, "where the sheep are, there is the shepherd. Either go in, and I will go with you, or else stay here and I will stay with you. It is only for your sake that I go into the church, for I could quite easily say Mass for myself at home."

    Not once but twice did this blessed man deploy this strategy. It was a magnificent way of putting the people to shame and making them amend their ways, for they were frightened of making him do the same thing again.

    Chapter XLII

    He allowed no talking during the sacred celebrations, but would make a show of turning the transgressor out of the church.

    "If you have come here in order to pray," he would say, "set your mind and tongue to doing just that. But if you have only come here for idle conversation, it is written that 'the house of God shall be called the house of prayer' (Matthew 21.13), so don't turn it into a house of thieves."

    Chapter XLIII

    Something even more admirable about this most holy patriarch was that although he was not a monk, nor did he live in a church clergy house but had once been married to a wife, he nevertheless lived by the strictest rules of the church from the moment he was consecrated to the episcopate, achieving even greater heights than many a hermit living in a narrow cell.

    Chapter XLIV

    He nevertheless was eager to have a share in the benefits of being part of the monastic life, and went about it in this way: he gathered together two communities of holy monks and decreed that they could be of most use by having their houses in the city. He built cells for them from the foundations upwards, with two chapels dedicated to our Lady, the holy birthgiver of God, and St John.

    "Under God," he said to those monks beloved of God, "I will be responsible for your bodily welfare; you must take care of my spiritual salvation. Let your vespers and your night offices be offered to God for my intentions; let whatever offices you do in your own cells be done for your own souls."

    He did this to encourage these monastic friends of God in their dedication. And so permanent congregations acceptable to God were set up, such that the whole city seemed to be living like a monastery, and hymns to God were being offered up in divers places.

    Chapter XLV

    This blessed man also laid an injunction upon everyone that they should never befoul themselves by participating in communion with heretics, even if, by force of necessity, they had to spend their whole lives without communion in a place where there was no Catholic Church.

    "If you have a legal wedded wife," he said, "but have to live for any extended period somewhere a long way off, you are forbidden both by God and our laws to desert her and live with another. Anyone who has done this is punished. But you are joined to God in the true faith of the Catholic Church - 'I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you to Christ as a chaste virgin' as the Apostle says (2 Corinthians 11.2) - so how can you think that you will not likewise share in the torments reserved for heretics in the life to come if you have polluted your holy orthodox faith by entering into communion with them? 'Communion' signifies 'that which makes common and strengthens the unity among those who communicate'. I beg you, my children, don't have anything do with prayer gatherings of that kind."

    Chapter XLVI

    Among all the good points of this blessed man there was also this: that he would not condemn his neighbour nor put up with those who condemned. The following incident shows that I am telling the truth about this teaching of his:

    There was a certain youth who raped a nun (monacha) and then fled to Constantinople. When this righteous man heard of it he could have died from grief. Some time later when seated one day in a meeting with some other clerics discussing matters beneficial to the soul, the youth who had raped the handmaid of the Lord came by and was instantly recognised. His fellow clerics began to heap curses upon the youth for having imperilled two human souls, his own and that of the nun (sanctimonialis). But the blessed man restrained them and enlightened them.

    "No, no, my sons," he said. "Let me show you how it is that you are committing two sins. Firstly you are disobeying the commandment which says, 'Judge not that you be not judged' (Matthew 7.1), and secondly you do not know for sure if he has been in a sinful state right up until today without having repented.

    "Now I have read something like this in the lives of the fathers, that there were two monks who were out on an errand and as one of them was walking along, an prostitute cried out to him, 'Save me, father, as Christ saved the harlot!'

    "Without worrying in the slightest about the difference between the sexes he said, 'Come with me'.

    "He took her by the hand and in full view of everyone led her publicly out of the city. The news soon spread that the abba had taken Madam Porphyria to wife. He was intending to put her into a monastery, but as they were going along, the woman came across a little boy abandoned in front of a church. She picked him up and looked after him.

    "A year later some people visited the place where the abba and former prostitute Porphyria were living and saw her with the little boy.

    "'That's a fine little colt you've given birth to!' they cried. (For she had not then taken the monastic habit.) Going back to Tyre, which is where the abba had brought her from, they spread it abroad that they had seen with their own eyes the little boy that the abba had begotten on Porphyria, and it looked just like him!

    "There came a time when it was revealed to the abba by God that he was near to death. By this time he had clothed her in the monastic habit and given her the name Pelagia.

    "'Let's go to Tyre', he said to her. 'I've got something to say to them there. And I want you to come with me.'

    "She did not want to argue with him so she went with him, and they both went there, together with the little boy who was now seven years old. As the abba was sickening and fast approaching death, about a hundred people from the city gathered round to visit him

    "'Bring me some hot coals,' he said.

    "They brought a thurible full of hot coals, which he took and emptied out into his lap.

    "'You had better believe, my brothers,' he said, 'that just as God kept the burning bush from being consumed (Exodus3.2), these hot coals have not burnt up my clothes. Just so, I have never known the sin with a woman which gave me birth.'

    "And they were all amazed at the way his clothing had not been damaged by the fire, and they glorified God and those who served him in secret. Following the example of Pelagia, the nun (nonna) and former prostitute, many others renounced the world and joined her in her monastery. And the servant of God who gave her the tonsure, his reputation restored, gave up his spirit to God in peace.

    "And so, I tell you, my sons, don't be in too much of a hurry to condemn and judge others. It is easy to see the many who fornicate, we don't always see their penitence, which occurs in secret. We are aware of someone who thieves, we don't know about the sighs and tears he pours out to God. We judge people according as we see them, thief, fornicator or perjurer, but God accepts their hidden confession and penitence, and to him they are precious."

    And all who heard him were deeply moved by this diligent pastor and teacher.

    Chapter XLVII

    There were two clerics who mended shoes and worked quite near each other. One of them had several children, a wife and a father and mother, but he always had time for the church, and still was able, under God, to feed all his family. The other, although he was more clever, neglected the church and worked even on Sundays, but was barely able to support himself alone. He became jealous of his neighbour, and one day was unable to contain his jealousy any longer.

    "How is it," he said angrily, "that you have so much money? I spend more time at my trade than you do, and yet I stay poor."

    "Well, I've found some buried treasure," said the other, who really hoped his friend would give more of himself to the church. "That is what is making me rich little by little. But if you like, I will call you and you can come with me, and whatever we find you can have half."

    He agreed, and found that he was in fact following his friend to the church, through which God blessed him freely, and prospered him.

    "You see, my brother," said that good counsellor, "how one little untruth for God's sake has resulted in such benefit both for your soul and your substance, for truly, it was not in the earth that I was finding treasure, as you thought, but in the saying of the Lord, 'Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you' (Matthew 6.33). I simply used that as a means of persuading you to follow me, and it was not something I did in vain, was it, as you have discovered, and more than discovered."

    When the holy patriarch heard about this incident he made that good counsellor one of his presbyters, for he had been only a lector.

    Chapter XLVIII

    Up to this point the story has been in the words of that worshipper of God, Mennas, who was next in importance to the bishop of the church of that great city of Alexandria. From here on my unworthy self narrates what I heard from some other perfectly credible witnesses. As we said in an earlier chapter, a great deal of spiritual affection developed between the patriarch and Nicetas the governor, and this present chapter is further evidence that such affection was not misplaced.

    At the time when, God permitting, Alexandria was about to be handed over to the godless Persians, the pastor remembered the text: 'If they persecute you in one city, flee to another' (Matthew 10.23), so he fled to his native city in his own country of Cyprus, where Nicetas the governor, whom we have mentioned before, made him welcome.

    "I beg you, if I have found favour in your sight, " said Nicetas to the holy man, "to trouble yourself still further by taking your case to the most pious Emperors in the queen of cities where you will be well received."

    Chapter XLVIII (continued), Life of St John the Almsgiver Book Ib

    (Also Saints Epictetus and Astion further down this page)

    He gave his assent to this man of great faith, obeying God by submitting himself to his will, for Nicetas only wanted to let John benefit from his own considerable prestige. But the ship in which the holy man and the governor travelled was buffeted by gales and in danger of being sent to the bottom. During the night the governor and his aristocratic entourage saw the patriarch moving about among the poor people on board, encouraging them to join with him in lifting up their hands to pray for help from on high. As they were approaching Rhodes, the holy man was startled to hear God calling him, and saw a eunuch of shimmering appearance standing in front of him, holding a golden sceptre in his right hand.

    "Come!" the vision said. "The King of kings requires your presence!"

    Without delay he called to Nicetas the governor and spoke to him with many tears.

    "You, my lord, may have summoned me to an earthly Emperor, but the heavenly Emperor has forestalled you, for he has warned me of my approaching departure."

    He told him about the vision of the Angelic eunuch which had appeared to him, and that most glorious man was at once both sad and joyful, knowing that there was nothing he could do to prevent that holy man's departure. Supported to the full by the holy man's prayers he abandoned the journey to the Emperor and gave the order to return to Cyprus.

    Chapter XLIX

    When he got back to his own city of Amathunta he told his secretaries to draw up his will. They quickly brought pen and paper and he dictated as follows:

    I, John, the servant of God, freely give God thanks for entrusting me with the honour of priesthood. I give thanks to you, O God, that you have regarded my lowliness and I beseech that your loving kindness will not be lacking to me in my death. When I was chosen to be the bishop of the most holy church of that great city Alexandria, I accepted the post by the grace of God, and when I was consecrated bishop I found myself in possession of eighty thousand pieces of gold, nearly as great a number as the friends of Christ who provided it. I thought of the mind of Christ, and recognised that all that money belonged to the ruler of all, so I hastened to give back to God what belonged to God. If there is anything left I order it to be given to those who belong to God.

    What a glorious thing! What holy devotion! He did not think of his own family, as many rich people would conceive to be their duty. They gather their riches through oppression and think of the gifts of God as their own property, and hoard their treasures as if they could take it with them, never giving a thought to the needy. But he sought after those things which remain for ever and may not be diminished. In very truth he cannot have been denied what God promises in the words, 'I will glorify those who glorify me' (1 Samuel 2.30). The Lord did indeed magnificently glorify that holy man who was glorified in the deeds he performed. This noble man in the course of his life could never rest from doing good works worthy of praise. What did he do? He built refugee centres, old peoples' homes, and monasteries from the foundations up, and he set up choirs of holy monks, all of which stand as a permanent memorial to his undeniable righteousness through the good works done in them. As for those who do evil, and after their death leave successors with their own evils in this life, the Apostle full of the grace of the Lord says 'Whose works are manifest, and go before them to the judgment and some men they follow after' (1 Timothy 5.24). But on the other hand this is what has to be said about this blessed man, 'His righteous works are manifest and go before him into the kingdom of heaven and some men they follow after' (1 Timothy 5.25). He stands out among such men.

    What we have said about him is no fable or exaggeration, and a testimony to the truth of that was plainly given to us in the prodigious miracles which followed soon after his precious death. They took his body and commended his soul into the hands of God - as it says in Scripture, 'the souls of the righteous are in the hands of God (Wisdom 3.1) - and offered the holy sacrifice for the honourable laying to rest of his honoured body, and in a ceremony appropriate for bishops they took him to a chapel where lay that miracle-worker St Tychon. And a great and glorious sign was done.

    Chapter L

    For lying in the same tomb where he was to be laid were the bodies of two former bishops who in their lifetime had been truly holy. According to the order of nature they were now lying there inanimate, nevertheless as if they were truly alive they indicated that honour equal to their own should be attributed to John. For as his blessed body was being laid with theirs, at God's command they moved aside as if they were alive and received his sacred body between them. They were shepherds honouring the greatest of shepherds, showing wondering respect for his faithfulness towards God. At God's bidding they were honouring him as they themselves were honoured by God, and making plain to all, the glory and transcendence given to him by God. This extraordinary and glorious miracle was witnessed not by one, not ten, nor even by a hundred people, but by the whole crowd which were gathered round his precious tomb.

    Chapter LI

    My tale must try to commemorate an even more glorious miracle that he did, which began while he was still alive but which was not completed till after he departed to the Lord. For a woman appeared in the city who knew what a holy man he was, because after he had come back from Rhodes she had heard about the Angel who had appeared to him and revealed that he was about to be called to that Lord who was hers as well as his. She was aware of a most grave sin she had committed which she was quite unable to tell anyone about. But with unquestioned faith, she came to the holy man and fell at his feet, crying with floods of tears.

    "O thrice blessed man," she cried, "this miserable woman has committed a sin which cannot possibly be spoken about for human ears to hear. But I know that if you are willing you can bring me forgiveness. For the Lord has said to you, 'Whatever you loose on earth is loosed in heaven, and whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven' (Matthew 18.18), and 'whosoever's sins you forgive they are forgiven, and whosoever's sins you retain they are retained'" (John 20.23).

    The holy man listened to the woman and feared that if he refused her request she would suffer even greater torment, whereas her faith in him might well be able to free her from her sin.

    "If you believe," he humbly said, "that by using my own unworthiness God can forgive this sin that you are talking about, confess to me what it is."

    "I can't bring myself to say it," she replied. "No human ear could bear to listen to it."

    "If you are too ashamed, go away and write it down, if you can write, and bring it back to me."

    "Truly, my lord, I can't do it."

    "What about if you write it down and seal it up before bringing it to me?" - for he had a good idea of why she wouldn't say anything.

    "Perhaps I could do that, as long as you would give me your honourable and angelic word that you would not open it nor let it fall into the hands of anyone else."

    He gave her his word that that would be the case, so she went away and wrote down her sin in her own writing, sealed it, and brought it back to him. Having taken it from her he died five days later without having told anyone about it or saying where and what it was.

    By chance, or by the dispensation of God, the woman had left the city by the time that the patriarch passed from this world to the next, for she wanted to demonstrate to God how much trust she had placed in the patriarch as God's own servant. She heard of his death a day after his precious body had been placed in the tomb. She came back to the city, frantic and almost out of her mind, supposing that her letter had been left in the bishop's house somewhere and that her sin would soon become public knowledge. But she pulled herself together, and regained her former unshakeable faith. She flung her arms around the tomb of the man honoured by God and spoke to him as if he were truly still alive.

    "Man of God," she said, "I could not tell you my sin, for it was just too appalling beyond measure. But now, what I could not tell you is likely to be made known to everybody. Alas, alas! I hoped to find the disorder (confusio) in my life straightened out. Instead I will become an object of repulsion (confusio) to all. I hoped for soothing ointment, all I will be getting is bitter execration. What was the use of opening up my secrets to you? However, I will not give up or go away or cease from pouring out my tears over this tomb until I have been given an answer to my petition. You are a saint of God, you are not dead, but alive. It is written, 'the just shall live for ever' (Wisdom 5.16). All I ask of you, O man of God, is that you satisfy my worries about what happened to the letter I gave you."

    And just as God said to the Canaanite woman, "Your faith has made you whole" (Matthew 15), so he also gave this woman the assurance she needed. For after persevering for three days tasting neither food nor drink, on the third night, as she tearfully poured out forceful and faithful pleas to the most blessed man, behold, the servant of God came visibly out of the tomb, along with the two bishops buried with him, one on each side.

    "Woman," he said, "why do you keep on disturbing these two with me here, preventing them from resting in peace? Our vestments are dripping wet from your tears. Here, do you recognise this?" - and now he passed her letter to her - "Unseal it, examine it."

    And as she was coming out of her trance she saw those holy men going back to their own place. She broke open the seal and found that what she had written had been erased completely, and instead there was written YOUR SIN HAS BEEN WIPED OUT FOR THE SAKE OF MY SERVANT JOHN.

    O, my friends and brothers, who can possibly tell of all the powers of the Lord? Who is this merciful lover of mankind, who does the will of them that fear him, and glorifies them that glorify him and magnifies them by the workings of his miracles? For the grace which he had in God's sight was manifested not only in this place where his precious body was laid to rest, but shone brilliantly in places a long way off.

    Chapter LII

    For on the same day when this blessed man departed this life to go to God, a certain worthy and diligent monk called Sabinus who lived the monastic angelic life in Alexandria went into a trance, and saw John carrying a candle and coming out of his own house with his clerics on his way to the Emperor. And he saw as it were a eunuch in the garb of a household servant, beckoning him on (so Sabinus himself told us) as he came out of the doorway. This signified his separation from the body. And he saw a young woman as bright as the Sun welcoming him and taking him by the hand and crowning his head with a circlet of olive branches. The holy Sabinus soon knew for sure that the patriarch had passed over to the Lord in that same hour. For some people in Alexandria questioned visitors from Cyprus about the death of the patriarch, and when they mentioned the day and the month (it was in fact the feast day of the holy martyr Mennas), they knew that Sabinus' vision was true, especially in view of the vision of the young woman taking him by the hand at the time of his death. It was then that he received the fulfilment of the promise made to him in the words which we have already mentioned: 'If you will have me as your friend I will lead you into the presence of the Emperor'.

    Chapter LIII

    It was not only his almsgiving and compassion for the needy which convinced everyone that he had been taken into the kingdom of heaven, but another God-fearing Alexandrian citizen, in the same night as the holy Sabinus had his vision, saw all the poor and the orphans and the widows going in to the church and proclaiming the patriarch. So that was not two voices, not ten, nor even a hundred who testified, making it clear that this memorable man had earned the right to be numbered among the saints, and subsequent events confirmed it.

    Chapter LIV

    For some time later, the anniversary of the falling asleep of Saint Tychon took place in the shrine where the precious body of the most blessed patriarch John had been laid. Sacred hymns were being sung on the vigil of the annual remembrance of the holy miracle worker Tychon, when the Lord of miracles himself demonstrated how worthy of being honoured was his servant John, for he caused an invigorating, sweet-smelling perfume to emanate from his coffin, so that everyone with joyful confidence returned thanks to the Father and the Son and the holy Spirit, our true God, who glorifies his Saints with infinite glory.

    Chapter LV

    My friends in Christ, do not be reluctant to believe in such miracles. Similar graces of God can be seen even now in connection with many Saints in the island of Cyprus, beloved of God. Sweet-smelling perfumes flow like a fountain from their precious shrines, to the glory of God's loving-kindness and to the honour of his Saints and to the diligence and good zeal of the human beings who follow them. For insofar as we set about imitating them, we too may be found worthy of receiving the same honour from the righteous giver of rewards. So, my dearly beloved, let us fulfil the righteous counsels of our most holy father John. As sojourners and pilgrims in this life let us lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven by generous almsgiving to the needy (1 Corinthians 16.1), even as the divinely inspired Apostle said. From his store of blessings he measured out blessings, and exchanged the corruptible for the incorruptible, the temporal for the eternal, which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has entered into the heart of man, the things God has prepared for those who love him, and which we all beg to be granted through the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom with the Father and the holy Spirit be glory and honour and dominion, now and always and unto the ages of ages. Amen

    Life No 12

    The Life of Saints Epictetus, presbyter

    and Astion, monk

    by an unknown writer

    Chapter 1

    During the reign of that most irreligious emperor Diocletian, a presbyter called Epictetus lived in the Eastern regions, pursuing a religious life, chaste in all his ways. He had been brought up from infancy in the service of the Lord, and meditated on the statutes (Psalms 119.23) of Jesus Christ. When he arrived at a mature age, just as Samuel's ephod in days of old foreshadowed the promise of priesthood (1 Samuel 2.18), so did the many signs and prodigies which Epictetus performed by divine grace. By his prayers he often opened the eyes of the blind and cleansed the lepers that came to him and put to flight the demons from the bodies of those possessed.

    Chapter II

    One day as he sat alone in his cell offering his usual prayers to Christ, the daughter of a local nobleman (comes) was brought to him, paralysed in all her members except her tongue. Her father left her outside Epictetus' door and went inside to the holy man, where he fell on his knees and made his plea.

    "Have mercy on me, O man of God most high," he said, "for your God is known by his servants to be kind and merciful of heart. Do not turn your face away from me, I beg you, for he freely comes to the aid of those who seek refuge in him. I have an only daughter aged fifteen, and over the last three years she has gradually become completely paralysed. I have no doubt that he who cured the woman who had had an issue of blood for twelve years (Matthew 9.20) will be able, if he will, to restore my daughter to wholeness. We have given our faith to him, for we are children of the holy Church and have been baptised in the name of the Father, Son and holy Spirit."

    The priest of God told him to bring the girl inside, which he did and placed the girl at his feet.

    "O Lord God," the man of God prayed, "eternal God, you who give life to the Cherubim, you came down from heaven to bring back the exiled into the possession of paradise, by taking our humanity you have taken upon yourself our infirmities, so that we in these earthen vessels may be found worthy to possess you. I pray to you, O Lord, I pray that you may look upon the faith of your servant, and as you restored to life the daughter of the ruler of the synagogue (Mark 5.42), so now be pleased to restore this beloved daughter to her former condition, that this unbelieving and perverse generation may learn to worship your holy and terrible name, and tell of your wonders at all seasons."

    He finished his prayer and anointed all her members with holy oil, and after this holy remedy she was able to bless the Lord along with her parents.

    "Dearly beloved," Epictetus then urged the father, "if you would have your household freed from the last vestige of infirmity and distress, take care that you and your whole family receive the Sacrament of the Lord every week with inner devotion and pureness of heart."

    He then let them return home, rejoicing and in good heart.

    Chapter III

    A demoniac was brought to the man of God once, and he kept him with him for three days, during which the demon did not cease from crying aloud.

    "O what a cross, what torture, I am suffering!" he shouted, "It used to be really good for me once in the land of Phrygia, where I had persuaded human beings to use my rites and sacrifices. How much honour I was given there! But now I am miserable for I know honour no more. How senseless of me to have left there and come here! I am he who is responsible for all the many blasphemous words of Montanus, and the manifold crimes committed by Maximilla. I subjugated that whole region to my worship and wickedness. It was I who attacked the city of Alexandria through Arius and persuaded them that the Son of God was a mere created being. Through Manes I instituted the Manichean heresy and showed them how to dedicate their fasting to me. Through Donatus I devastated the whole of Africa. And now, look, I have been captured like a runaway slave by one of your servants, O Christ!"

    He carried on like this for hours and hours, until on the third day he fled from where he had established himself, and the cleansed man gave thanks to Christ the Lord.

    Chapter IV

    Again, a blind woman was taken to him, who stood before him and wept.

    "I don't know you," she said, "but I believe in whatever merit you have in the sight of God. Do not despise my tears, or render my prayers in vain. Doctors throughout the whole of the province have prescribed for me with diligence and care, but have not been able to do me any good. Indeed the more they have practised their art on me the more miserable and unhappy I have become. So I beg your holiness to lay your right hand upon my eyes in the name of Christ, and I believe that light will then be restored to my eyes through your mediation."

    The holy Epictetus appreciated the woman's faith, and laid his hand on her eyes, glorifying the loving-kindness of the Lord.

    "According to your faith, be it done to you, my daughter," he said, echoing the words of Christ (Matthew 9.29).

    And immediately her eyes were opened and she saw the light.

    "Glory to you, O God of the Christians," she cried. "You do not spurn sinners in their sins, but according to your great mercy you pick them up and save them when they turn to you."

    And after this, along with her whole household she believed in God the Saviour.

    It would take rather a long time if we were to set before the eager reader all the miracles which the Lord did through him, but we have touched briefly upon these few among the many before reverting to our main theme.

    Chapter V

    One day a youth called Astion, with a very beautiful face and handsome appearance, came to visit him, and the blessed presbyter made him sit down beside him, and putting his hand on his head he began gently to urge him to have faith in the Lord.

    "You are a most charming young man," he said. "Tell me who you are, and where you have come from, and where you are going, and who your father's family is."

    "I don't know that I could tell your blessedness where my family originated, most blessed father," he replied, "but I will briefly tell you what I do know. My father is a leading citizen of this city, and is reckoned to be very wealthy. My mother is from the noble Julian family; she is the daughter of a senator. I am her only offspring and they spend their days looking (inspicio) upon me as some sort of precious pearl."

    Chapter V (continued) Life of Sts Epictetus and Astion , Book Ib

    "You have well said that they investigate (inspicio) you as to whether you are a precious pearl," he said, "because that is what they have not got yet. They can only be considering (inspicio) the possibility of it, insofar as your soul is held by Christ to be more precious than any pearl or any other metal. For as far as I can see our Saviour has chosen you for his ministry and service. Come then, my son, renounce everything of the world, and in company with all the saints strive after those unseen things belonging to the world to come.
    "Everything prized in this world is transitory and perishable, but the things which God has prepared for those who serve him remain for ever, even as he remains for ever. Gold which can be handled is not true treasure, but depends on a certain vanity of the imagination, deceiving the minds even of the righteous in this world. Similarly, silver coveted by human eyes, belies its own name, for it is processed and polished to deceive the greedy and ensnare the foolish.
    "Come now, listen to me, my dearest son, and I will show you what sort of gold you should really be choosing, and the sort of silver to be desired, which our Saviour bestows on those who put their trust in him. 'I urge you to buy from me gold tried in the fire,' he says, 'that you may be enriched, and put on white garments that the shame of your nakedness may not appear' (Revelation 3.28). The gold tried in the fire is Christ our Lord, and, my son, anyone who enthrones him in the heart will be rewarded by the riches of heaven, and will be clothed in white garments, that is in Faith, Hope and Charity, by which with the help of all his angels you will be able to overcome not only this world but also the devil, whom at present you worship as lord.
    "Even your own father whom you can see is not your true father, my son. The omnipotent God is your true father, and it is because he is called father that your natural father is also called father (Ephesians 3.15). The one is invisible and ineffable, the other is visible and corruptible; the incomprehensible remains unaffected by death, the corruptible is in all things subject to death. The governance of the one keeps all things in existence; the best endeavour of the other produces nothing which endures. God gave a command and you were created, he issued a decree and you were formed in your mother's womb, he gave an order and you were born, he surveyed your progress and brought you up to your present youthful age.
    And although your earthly father is to be held in respect, my son, nevertheless he is not to be compared to your true father, who formed and created us in his own image and likeness, bestowed upon us intelligence, prudence, sensitive observation, and an appreciation of all things that are good. He gave us dominion over all his works, and by grace he called us out of slavery and adopted us to be his sons and brothers and friends.
    "So therefore, my son, it ever behoves us to know and adore this true father who has surrounded us with such great goodness. For to our visible father, respect is to be given only in so far as he has seen to our natural needs while we were in our infancy; he has sometimes beaten us, but more often he has been careful to provide what our childish state required, for it was a case of his own flesh embracing his own flesh, his solicitude was being poured out on the fruit of his own body. Nevertheless it is for these things that he deserves respect.
    "Our mother also is held to be of a different kind - not our visible mother, but our immortal mother who lasts for ever, a worthy bride for our Saviour, adorned by Angels, celebrated by the prophets, glorified by the Apostles, exalted by martyrs and confessors, lifted up in Christ and through Christ to the heavenly bridal chamber, proclaimed by humanity as our holy mother, the Church. Her voice is as the voice of the turtledove (Song of Songs 2.12), her lips distil the sweet perfumes of the apostles' teaching. Her eyes are the two luminaries of heaven, her teeth are white, like sheep coming up from the washing (ibid 4.2), twenty-four in number, indicating in a figure the books of sacred scripture. Her hands drop myrrh (ibid. 5.5), that is, justice and true faith. Her ten fingers signify the power and sacrament of the Decalogue, her breasts are the two Testaments, that is, the law of Moses and the grace of the Gospels. Her feet are like fine brass, the inner life of her womb signifies the fountain of the most sacred Baptism and the regeneration of all nations. Come then, my child of destiny, fly to the breasts of your true mother, accept her admonitions, renounce all that is of this world, that you may earn the right to enjoy what the Lord promises to give his children in the world to come.
    "Listen to what our true father says: 'Leave your own land and your family, and come into that land which I shall show you' (Genesis 12.1), that is, the land of the living and the country of the Saints, a land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3.8), that is, the teaching of the apostles and prophets. And when you have fulfilled all these instructions, he will give you possession of paradise, he will open up to you the heavenly sacraments, he will give you the glory of the kingdom of heaven, he will show you the immeasurable joy of the apostles, and reveal to you the choirs of martyrs and the company of the Angels and Archangels. And more importantly still, he will adopt you by grace as his son and brother."
    That most wise youth listened to this, fell at the old man's feet, and begged to be shown this person to whom he should give his allegiance for the years to come, and who alone possessed such great power and majesty. He asked that the servants and ministers of the holy man should not reveal any of this to his father, and spoke no more with the man of God that day.

    Chapter VI
    Next day he arose at first light, and like a most industrious bee hastened to revisit that same place where on the day before he had pastured on celestial flowers. He went to the house of God's priest and greeted him.
    "Hail, O apostle of Christ and minister of the New Testament", he said.
    "You are welcome, young man," the holy man replied, "wearing as you do the robe of martyrdom and a crown adorned with various kinds of gems. Come, sit down beside me. What is it, my son? Has the seed of the Lord which we sowed yesterday in the ground of your heart borne fruit which up to now has been hindered from growing by the weeds of infidelity?"
    "Most holy father," Astion replied, "as your beatitude knows, I am greatly beloved by my father as I am an only son, and I am very much afraid that if I become a Christian he could perhaps die of excessive shock, or else throw himself into the sea, or, God forbid, lose his reason, so that what for me could be the beginning of salvation, could mean that I was simply sending him to eternal death and the fire of hell. But I have a plan, and if you are willing to carry it out with me, enrol me today as a catechumen, make me fast for a fixed number of days, and when that is over give me the sacrament of Baptism. And when I have fulfilled all the conditions of becoming a Christian, what I am asking is that you and I together leave this city and go somewhere far off wherever the holy Spirit may lead us, lest my father's tears make me change my mind."
    The programme which this most prudent youth had proposed was completed, and a few days afterwards they prayed to Christ, left the city, and took ship to the land of Scythia. Here they went to the city of the Almiridenses, where nobody knew them or where they came from.

    Chapter VII
    Now when these most blessed men had embarked on this holy flight, the parents of the holy Astion began to search for him everywhere, going about here and there, making his name known in their grievous distress.
    "What has happened to you my dearest son?" said his father, giving voice to his grief. "You are my only child, my beloved Astion. Has some wild beast suddenly devoured you, that I cannot find the slightest trace of you anywhere? You were the staff of my old age, and the light of my life. Where else I can search for you I know not. I have no idea where I can send my slaves after you. You were the most precious pearl of this city, you moved among your fellow citizens like the most beautiful of doves, you shone among them all like a ray of the sun, you glittered like a splendid moon over the common people, you showed great wisdom among the wise. What more? You made many people fond of you by your friendly way of talking to them."
    His mother also tore her garments, and wept, beating her breast.
    "Who has taken you away from me? Who has enticed you away? I cannot think what malignant omen may have snatched you from my bosom. But I would not be surprised if that God of the Christians has sent one of his own to pervert his heart and alienate him from us. And now I am woeful, miserable and lonely. I am in the grip of an infinite sadness and intolerable grief. All the labour of so many years has proved to be in vain. The crown of my life has fallen. The fruit of my womb has shrivelled and I am become as a wasted city. Up to today I was a mother and a queen, my son. Now I have neither the glory of a queen nor the joy of a mother. And you, my beloved, you were a tree and you are now cut down. You were a pearl and the Galileans have stolen you, a precious gem and you have fallen into darkness, a lamp and you have been extinguished, a pillar and you have been cast down, a royal statue and you have been overturned. And what more? You were a human being, and in a moment of time, as I suspect, you were dead. And now, my son, because of you I am almost out of my mind, I despair of life, I can hardly even remember my own name."
    So cried his mother and father, and found no relief to their deep despair.

    Chapter VIII
    Meanwhile in the city of the Almiridenses, the holy men of God found a suitable place to live and offered to God alone their acts of prayer. But as it is written, 'a city set upon a hill cannot be hid, nor can divine grace be hidden under a bushel' (Matthew 5.15), and soon the power of heaven began to show forth through the holy Epictetus the many signs and wonders in Scythia that he had formerly done in the East. For one day a woman brought her son to him, aged about fifteen, who was leading a profitless life because he was deaf and dumb. She fell at the feet of the holy Epictetus.
    "I don't know where you have come from," she said, "and I have no idea where you belong. But this only I do believe, that if you will, you can bestow the benefit of wholeness upon those who are lacking, for your clothing and your religious practices proclaim you to be a disciple of that Nazarene. We have heard about how many signs and wonders have been done in his name by those among your number. You are believed to be one of his disciples so come to the aid of our infirmity. Tell us about his miracles, his kingdom, his divine sacraments, so that we also may become his servants."
    "If you wish to believe," he said in reply, "in the God I preach, and will keep in your heart from now on no trace of faithlessness, but will believe with your whole heart that he is the creator of heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water and all that is in them, he will be for you what you are seeking. He is not far from each one of us, for in him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17.27-28).
    He told her to let go of her son and push him forward, and he lifted up his eyes to heaven and prayed to the Lord.
    "O almighty God, immeasurable and invisible, incomprehensible and beyond description, health of Christians, healer of the sick, the sailor's guide, harbour for those in peril, the light of the blind, the feet of the lame, the way for the wanderer, look, I pray you O Lord, on this your servant and loose the string of his tongue to the praise of your holy name, open his ears that he may hear of your divine sacraments. Make all his members whole, his soul as well as his body, as you did to that man who had been paralysed for thirty-eight years (John 5.5), to whom your august presence brought wholeness and healing, so that they might know your name who did not know you, and believe that you are the true God who live and reign with the Father and the holy Spirit unto the ages of ages."
    His prayer done, he spat three times on the boy's mouth.
    "My son," he then asked, "in what God ought we to believe, in idols made by human hands, or in Jesus Christ the crucified, who today has come to heal you?"
    "We ought to believe in Jesus Christ, O most blessed man," he shouted with a loud voice, "who grants such gifts to humankind even in this present age."
    A great number of the Almiridenses got to hear of this miracle and gave glory to God, and more than a thousand souls believed in the Lord the Saviour that day.

    Chapter IX
    Not only did the holy Epictetus perform many miracles, but the most blessed Astion did likewise. Indeed they were granted numerous graces against all kinds of infirmities, but more than anything else they were given power against the demons. Astion was going to the Danube one day to draw water, when a man met him vexed by a demon. Astion stood in front of him, prayed, made the saving sign on his forehead, and on all his members. The demon was cast out at that moment.
    "Your faith and purity, O Astion," cried the devil as he fled, "have drawn the power of the Saviour down against our race."
    And he was nowhere to be seen again.

    Chapter X
    On another occasion Astion saw a man who had fallen from a great height and was lying half dead in his own home where his parents had taken him. When he had learnt all the details of the sudden accident which had caused them such grief, he was moved with compassion and went away to pray privately,
    "O Christ our God," he prayed to our Lord, "who through the blessed apostle Paul restored to life Eutyches who fell to his death from a window (Acts 20.9), and through St Peter brought strength to the limbs of eighty-year-old Aeneas (Acts 3.2) as he lay in the gate of the temple, and who showed forth your wholeness and health even from your mother's womb, I pray now, O Lord, that you may look upon this man who by the work of the devil has fallen from such a great height, and grant him your wholeness and health. Make him to become one of the number of your flock, for you are our shepherd, our true Lord, who said in your Gospel: 'I am the good shepherd and I know my sheep, and my sheep know me. As the Father knows me, so do I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep' (John 10.14-15)".
    His prayer finished he went back to the injured man.
    "In the name of Jesus Christ, get up and walk," he said.
    And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and at once he was made whole from top to bottom, and he was able to jump and run. He and his parents then went and stood outside the dwelling of the holy man and proclaimed loudly:
    "The God of Epictetus and Astion is one God, truly the only God of the Christians. Therefore I shall not depart from this place today until my parents and I are made Christians."
    The priest of the Lord then took the man and all who were with him and enrolled them among the catechumens, and a few days later gave them Baptism.

    The most blessed Astion was going to draw water from the river one day without his senior's orders or permission, when an evil thought suddenly entered his mind as he was going along. For three days this great man was unable to drive it out from his heart, which made him feel very depressed, and it showed clearly in his face.
    "What is the matter, my son?" asked Epictetus, as he looked at Astion. "Why so sad, and consumed in gloom? This despondency which seems to have gripped you is not the sort of image a holy man is supposed to present, or even those who are doing penance for their own salvation. I rather think this is a death-dealing affliction such as killed the apostate Judas (Matthew 27.5), or Achitophel the counsellor of Absalom (2 Samuel 17.23).
    "Three days ago," replied Astion, "when your reverence was talking about the heavenly mysteries to those people, I shamelessly went to draw water from the river without your knowledge. As I was going along a particularly sordid and disgusting thought was put into my mind, by the devil, I suppose. And for the last three days, however much I pray with tears and use the Scriptures to try and get rid of it, I have in no way been able to succeed."
    Epictetus' terrible anger against the demon immediately showed in his face.
    "And why, without my permission, did you go out the door of the cell and go to the river without the prayers of the priest of Christ? You surely must be aware that the permission given by the superior to the junior is the girdle of faith, the one impregnable wall of defence against the devil. Come now, join with me in prayer and prostrate ourselves before the Lord."
    After both of them had prayed long and earnestly for the mercy of the Saviour, the blessed Astion prayed by himself, and then saw a little black boy with a fiery torch escaping from his bosom.
    "Your confession, Astion," it said, "has grievously constricted my powers today. One prayer of yours has made me defenceless and desolate in every way. So, from here I shall go to the heart of Sir Latronianus and stir him up against you. He will bring all kinds of punishments against you, on the grounds that you have come into this province like robbers and evildoers, turning many away from the worship of the gods by your poison, and bringing them to your God."
    Having said this, the demon was no longer to be seen.

    Chapter XII
    The holy servants of God continued in their spiritual exercises, single-mindedly singing psalms and praying to our Saviour Jesus Christ, and by divine grace doing many miracles not only among the people but also among their animals. Suddenly Sir Latronianus visited the Almiridensian region and for three days carried out a public inspection of all the imperial offices there. On the fourth day somebody told him about the doings of those most blessed men, saying that they were evildoers, enchanters (magi), enticing many people away from sacrificing to the gods. He immediately ordered some of the officials of public order to go after sunset to the dwelling of the holy men, seize them, and bring them in chains to the prison. When the most blessed men were arrested they sang psalms all the way to the prison: 'God is our help and strength, a very present help in time of trouble' (Psalms 46.1), and 'The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge' (ibid. 46.11). And again, 'Many are the troubles of the righteous and godly, but the Lord delivers them out of them all. He takes care of every bone, and not one of them shall be broken' (ibid. 34.19-20).
    When they had actually been put into the prison, they continued all night singing psalms and praying in their accustomed way. When they had finished the office of vigils, Epictetus had a few words with Astion.
    "Tomorrow, my beloved son," he said, "if the judge questions us as to our family, our names, what province we belong to or where we have come from, let us say hardly anything. Don't tell him our names or family, our native land or where we come from. Just tell him we are Christians, and that answers all questions about our name, our family and our native land. We are nothing but worshippers of the true God. If after this he orders us to be tortured, let us not say anything under torture except 'Lord Jesus, may your will always be done in us'".

    Chapter XIII
    Next day, early in the morning, Sir Latronianus ordered the courtroom to be got ready in the centre of the town, and got the town crier to summon the people as loudly as he could to come and see a disgraceful and horrid sight. And at the third hour Latronianus came forth like a raging beast. As the people eagerly watched, he ordered the holy men to be brought out for all to see. They were put on show in front of him, but as soon as he looked at them he was overcome by uncontrollable trembling. He could not bear to gaze at the holy men, for their faces shone like the sun, so great was the grace which filled them.
    Epictetus at this time was aged about sixty, of noble stature, with a flowing beard and a head of splendid silver hair. The most blessed monk, Astion, also exhibited the same sort of noble stature, overwhelmingly handsome and graceful. He was about thirty-five years of age. For the next hour Sir Latronianus questioned them.
    "What is your first language? what is your family? What province were you born in? Explain yourselves so that all these people can hear."
    "We are Christians," they replied, "born of Christian parents. Our native land is Christianity."
    "I want to hear you tell me your names. I know you are a follower of that cursed, perfidious person, and so does every one here."
    "We are Christians. We acknowledge and adore Jesus Christ our Lord, by whose power all things exist, and we abominate all your idols, as Scripture says: 'Those who make them are like unto them and so are all who put their trust in them'" (Psalms 115.8).
    This infuriated him and he ordered them to be stripped and beaten. And when these martyrs of Christ were being abused, they lifted up their eyes to heaven and said; "Lord Jesus, our master, may your will be done in us."
    They were beaten severely for a long time, but the cruelty of Latronianus was able to make no impression on these worshippers of God.

    Chapter XIII (continued) Life of Sts Epictetus and Astion , Book Ib

    "Where is your marvellous defender then?" cried Latronianus in a rage. You have been calling on him unceasingly to come to your aid. Let him come then, and snatch you out of my hands if he can."
    "We are Christians, O tyrant," was all they would say. "May the will of God be done in us."
    He ordered them to be put on the rack, and stretched by its iron claws, but even as they were being stretched they kept on saying: "We are Christians, Latronianus you tyrant. May the will of God be done in us."
    The tyrant then ordered burning torches to be put under them as they hung on the rack. They endured this torment with wonderful bravery, continuing to say: "We are Christians, tyrant, May the will of God be done in us."
    It was not till the seventh hour that Latronianus ordered them to be taken off the rack and sent back to the prison.

    Chapter XIV
    One of the court officials called Vigilantius listened to these martyrs under torture repeating incessantly 'We are Christians, Latronianus you tyrant. May the will of God be done in us', and thought to himself that this incantation must have very great power, seeing that throughout all their torture they said that in repeating it they did not feel any pain. He began to think about it deeply and to repeat it while in his house and when out in the open, when going to bed and when getting up, in fact at all times. He kept this up without ceasing for three days, and on the fourth day began to shout it out aloud in public.
    "I am a Christian, Latronianus, you tyrant. May the will of God be done in us."
    He visited the most blessed martyrs in the prison and begged that he and his whole household might receive the sign of life, since they now believed in God the Saviour. He it was who later buried their holy bodies with great honour.

    Chapter XV
    On the fifth day, Sir Latronianus at last came back to the judgment seat and ordered the holy presbyter Epictetus and the monk Astion to be brought out. As those servants of the demons led them out they began to sing psalms:
    "'In you we shall overcome our enemies, O Lord, and in your name we pour scorn on those who rise up against us. For we put not our trust in human bow and spear; nothing can save us but your right hand and your arm and the light of your countenance, for we have found favour with you.'" (Psalm 44.4-7).
    The martyrs of Christ were made to stand in front of the seat of that most irreligious Latronianus.
    "Will you do as I say and sacrifice to the gods, or are you going to persist in your madness?"
    "You have now interrogated us many times," said the holy Epictetus, "you have given us many soft speeches, you have promised us all kinds of gifts and great honours, and yet you have never heard us reply anything other than that we are Christians. You must know that we have never ceased from saying so."
    Latronianus' reply to all that was to roar like a lion and shout orders to his soldiers.
    "You, who serve in this most splendid building," he said, "bring salt and vinegar and rub it into their wounds. Then fill a brass cauldron with pitch and asphalt, put a fire under it and when it boils throw them in. Quickly!"
    "We are Christians, O tyrant," they said. "May God's will be done in us."
    But even this form of torture they bore with great bravery, and seemed to come to no harm at all. That most savage tyrant ordered them to be lifted out and taken back to the prison.
    "We don't want their constancy to put us in a bad light," he said, "still less that their bravery should persuade people to become Christians. Put them in solitary confinement for the next thirty days, and give them nothing to eat or drink."
    The athletes of Christ continued daily to be refreshed by the divine word, by that bread which came down from heaven, and sang psalms without ceasing, 'God have mercy upon us and bless us, and show the light of your countenance upon us, and have mercy upon us, that we may know your way upon earth and your salvation among all peoples' (Psalms 67.1-2)

    Chapter XVI
    Now there was a certain foreigner there when these holy martyrs were suffering torture for Christ's sake, who recognised the most blessed Astion as he stood before the judge, and remembered his name and family. He returned promptly to the city in the East from whence he came, visited Astion's mother and father and told them everything that had happened. He told them that he was being martyred as a Christian along with an old man called Epictetus, and told them exactly the name of the place where they were. They fell down before the person bringing them this news, and questioned him keenly to make sure that what he was telling them was true. He swore with an oath that he was telling the truth.
    "If only I could be fortunate enough to see the face of my son again," the father said, "I would do anything he asked, and accept anything he told me, without the slightest hesitation."
    "And I", said his mother, "miserable and wretched as I have been all this time, if only I could be so blessed as to see him again in the flesh, I would put my house and everything I have at his disposal and would submit myself to him, for he is dearer and sweeter to me than anything else. Even if he wanted me to become Christian I would not refuse him. As long as he was with me I would even suffer torments and gladly meet my death."
    At once they arranged for all their money and possessions to be put in trust, and with three servants left their home, took ship for Scythia, and arrived at last in the Almiridensian region. Now the chief priest and leader of the holy churches of God in that province was Evangelicus, a most blessed man.

    Chapter XVII
    Meanwhile, the thirty days completed, the tyrant ordered the holy martyrs to be brought before him. They came out cheerful in heart and with shining faces.
    "I have interrogated you many times," said Sir Latronianus, "on your language, your family and place of origin, and you have never told me the truth. Seeing that I don't know anything about your native land, your family, or even your names, I have come to the conclusion that you cannot be anything else but demons in human flesh, who are well known to have no name or family. So that is what I name you, and that is no more than you deserve. Listen carefully now, you demons in human flesh. If you do not sacrifice to the immortal gods today your heads will be cut off."
    "We are Christians," said these martyrs of Christ, "and in the name of Christ we are accustomed to casting demons out from people's bodies, demons that you worship and adore as gods. Would that you were not possessed of such a malignant demon."
    These words maddened Latronianus so much that he raged like some wild beast, and he ordered his officers to stone those holy men. He then ordered them to be beaten with ashen rods for as long as breath remained in their body. But these most blessed athletes of Christ bore it all patiently, saying nothing but "O Lord our God, may your will be done in us." The torture went on for a long time, but they remained cheerful and strong-hearted in their confession of the Lord.
    When Latronianus saw that his madness was not prevailing against their constancy, that servant of the devil ordered his officers to continue their wicked deeds by taking them outside the city and cutting their heads off with their swords. They still kept on singing psalms as they were taken away: "'O praise the name of the Lord, praise the Lord you servants of his' (Psalms 135.1), for in everything the will of our God is done in us".

    Chapter XVIII
    When they had arrived at their destination, they stood facing the East, lifting up their hands and raising their eyes to heaven, and prayed to the Lord:
    "Blessed are you and worthy of all praise, O Lord God of our fathers; you are exalted above all ages. It is not the will of a human being, but your divine will that has been done in us in all things. For you are he who have taught those who believe in you to do your will and proclaim your marvellous works at all times. It is your holy Spirit who governs each one of us in good things according to the desire of our hearts.
    "You are he who governed Abraham according to your will, you sanctified Isaac, and strove with Jacob giving him the name of Israel, you preserved the chastity of Joseph in the midst of the persuasive blandishments of Egypt, you kept Susannah unspotted from the pollution of her betrayers, by the gift of the holy Spirit you purified the hearts of all your prophets and the minds of the most blessed apostles, by your grace you have granted a crown to us, your athletes, and have given us the victory in all our struggles on behalf of your holy name, you have led us humble sinners towards this land for us to proclaim and preach the teaching of your Gospel to those who live here, you have been our governor and master, and provider of all our good, who have governed us even to this very moment according to your will.
    "We beseech you, O Lord, to send us your holy Angels to free us and defend us from the power of the adversary, and lead us victorious and triumphant before the throne of your majesty. And keep the people of this region and city in your fear, protect them in your mercy, guard them in your goodness, govern them according to your will, bless them all both small and great, and by the honour that they have given to us because of your holy name, show them the rewards of everlasting life. Grant us faithfulness, and whenever we offer our petitions to your divine majesty, grant that in all goodness they may be fulfilled.
    "And now O Lord, take us up into your eternal hands, lead us into your heavenly Jerusalem, which is the mother of all the Saints; for you are its light and its bride, you are its foundation and creator, and with Angels and Archangels, fathers, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs and confessors we praise and glorify the Father and the Son and the holy Spirit unto the ages of ages."

    Chapter XIX
    As all who heard this prayer cried Amen, the holy Epictetus asked the executioners to take the blessed Astion first.
    "Surely, O most blessed father," said Astion, "you deserve to be the first to offer this most salutary sacrifice?"
    "The fiery wrath of the old serpent is subtle and devious as of old, my son," replied Epictetus. "What I now want done is for the benefit of both your salvation and mine. For seventeen years now, by divine grace, I have cared for your spotless purity, and would you now in this last hour spoil the labour of so many years? No, what I want to do, my son, I do by the inspiration of the holy Spirit. Abraham offered up his son Isaac as a burnt offering (Genesis 22.2), Jephtha offered up his daughter as a sacrifice (Judges 11.31-35), Peter also sent Stephen before him into the heavenly places (Acts 7). And although I don't believe that the goodness of God could not have preserved your chastity without my help at all times even up to the present day, nevertheless you must know that the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. So do not now cast doubts on my good intentions. I do believe that Michael and his Angels, Abel and the prophets, Peter and the apostles, Stephen and the martyrs and Daniel with the confessors will come to meet you, my son, and enfold you in their bosom, and lead you to the throne of Christ our Saviour with psalms and spiritual hymns."
    "May your will and the will of God be done, O priest of God and venerable father," replied Astion. And making the sign of the cross on his forehead, he offered his prayer to God.
    "O my Lord, you are my protector. Into your hands I commend my spirit" (Psalms 31.5).
    And as he said this, the executioner cut off his head. The holy Epictetus immediately gave glory to God and threw himself upon his body.
    "Strike me now, I beg," he cried to the executioner, "even as I am lying on the body of a holy martyr."
    It was done, and all who were present, Christians and pagans alike, gave tearful thanks to God for the good teacher Epictetus and for the perfect obedience of his disciple.

    Chapter XX
    And as they were giving God glory and honour, behold, the bodies of the holy martyrs suddenly shone as white as snow, and were seen to give off a splendour as of the rays of the sun. Anyone suffering from any kind of infirmity was delivered from all pain and grief as they touched the bodies and reverently embraced them. At sunset Vigilantius came with all his household and some other Christians and secretly carried away the bodies of the holy martyrs, and anointed them with myrrh and precious spices, and buried them in a specially suitable place with hymns and psalms and great devotion. Many signs and prodigies to the praise of Christ's name are being done in that place up to the present day.
    Latronianus, however, became totally possessed by a demon that very night, and early next morning came into the praetorium and stood there shouting out all kinds of mad nonsense. He drew his sword and began to chase and strike at the leading members of his staff, and running about now here now there, he raged at some of them like a mad dog, and tore the clothes off others. They realised that he had lost his mind, and fought and struggled with him till they had managed to disarm him and bring him to the ground, where they bound him hand and foot and threw him into a small cell. After two days the demon asphyxiated him and in a violent fit he gave up his spirit.

    Chapter XX1
    The third day after the passion of the holy martyrs had dawned, when Vigilantius came to their tomb to pray, and suddenly Astion appeared to him.
    "My parents will be coming in search of me today," he said to Vigilantius. "I beg you, most beloved brother, hurry down to the harbour and take them into your house, giving them what comfort you can, for they have suffered great grief because of me. And try and make them understand about our Saviour and his many wonderful acts."
    Vigilantius gave glory to God at hearing this and hastily went down to the riverbank. At the third hour he saw a small ship coming into the harbour. Two passengers got off the boat and began to enquire from bystanders whether any of them knew of, or had seen, a young man by the name of Astion. Many people immediately began to talk freely about him, as Vigilantius stepped forward.
    "I saw him and knew him," he said. "But come to my house and rest a while, for you must be very tired after your journey in the ship, and after a while, if you like, there will be an opportunity for me to take you to him without any delay."
    They threw themselves down in front of him, and grasped his feet and kissed them.
    "Please, if it is at all possible," they said, "take us to him before we have even had anything to eat."
    "Just grant my request first," said Vigilantius, "and then I will do what you have asked and what you want."
    When they had gone to his home and were sitting down having a meal, Astion's mother talked to Vigilantius.
    "If you can show me where he is, my dear brother," she said, "I will place a golden crown upon your head!"
    The father also spoke to him
    "If only I may see him today, young man," he said, "I will clothe you in cloth of gold and bestow the half of my goods upon you!"
    "Three days ago," said Vigilantius, "he departed for a far country, and gave into my keeping half of what he owned, together with his house and some writings, and he said to me, 'If anyone sent from my father comes looking for me, bring him to this little house of mine and tell them that Astion said to wait for them there until he comes back safe and sound. And if they would inherit his legacy let them be diligent in carrying out everything that is written in this book, and let them be happy, nothing doubting.'"
    "Just what is this country," asked the mother, "where my only beloved Astion has gone to?"
    "It is a country of very strong and powerful people," he replied.
    "Quite a few people living there?" the mother asked.
    "Very many noble people, who are said to be in possession of paradise, who dwell in everlasting light, whose life is God himself, whose existence is deathless, whose garments have been sprinkled with blood, whose heads bear crowns of purest gold inset with various precious stones. The King of that region is all powerful and greatly to be feared, and his name is God of gods and Lord of lords, his messengers are called Angels of justice, they are clothed all alike, and their touch is like burning fire. And the senate of this great Emperor is exceeding illustrious, for some of them are prophets, and the others, apostles.
    "And the city of this King is brilliant above measure, for its walls are constructed of pure gold, with twelve gates, and a single pearl hanging from each one (Revelations 21.21). The first gate is called Peter, the second Paul, the third Andrew, the fourth John, the fifth James, the sixth Philip, the seventh Bartholomew, the eighth Thomas, the ninth Matthew, the tenth Thaddeus, the eleventh Simon, the twelfth Matthias. It has a magnificent temple, with a Holy of holies and an altar of gold. In front of it there stands a wonderful man with a twelve-stringed psaltery who ceases not to sing the praises of the King, saying, 'Praise the Lord in the highest, praise him all you Angels of his, praise him all you powers' (Psalms 148.1-2). The name of this man is David, son of Jesse. And the streets of this city are paved in pure gold, and its river is a source of eternal life, its trees bring forth their fruits month by month, and their leaves are for the healing of souls. Its light is beyond description, and its gates are never shut, for there is no night there nor any shadow of darkness, but joy and never-ending gladness are the eternal lot of all who dwell there" (Revelations 21 & 22)
    "And do you not know, my dearest brother," said the mother, "who it was who called my Astion thither? I hope it was not because he was taken in some crime, or was it perhaps that one of the council or the senate summoned him, and adopted him because of his great beauty?"
    "He went there," said Vigilantius, "because the prince of that country called him into his fellowship with great honour. I was not able to see all that company myself, but he told me about them himself. He said they were of the most splendid and beautiful appearance, with golden weapons and garments of hyacinth. And because he had fulfilled faithfully and with his whole heart everything that the prince of that region had commanded, he had been called thither by his servants and given the governorship of ten cities."
    "In the midst of all that glory," said his mother, "do you think he will have remembered us at all?"
    "He keeps you very vividly in mind," said Vigilantius, "and deeply desires to have you with him for ever, if only you are able to fulfil willingly what is written in the book which he left me."
    "Come then," said his mother, "Show us these things which he has left behind."
    And they all rose from the table as they spoke.

    Chapter XXI
    Then Vigilantius took them to the cell of the holy martyrs and showed them the Cross of the Lord, and the sacrosanct Gospel of Christ.
    "This is what your son Astion left me," he said. "And if you will accept the mystery of this divine power and carry out what is written in this book, you will surely see him and dwell with him in that country for ever."
    The father picked up the Gospel of Christ and opened it at the place where Jesus spoke to his disciples, saying:
    "Amen, amen, I say to you, that you who have followed me, in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit in majesty, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left home, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, shall receive a hundredfold and possess eternal life. For many who are first, shall be last, and the last first" (Matthew19 28-30).
    "Who is this Lord Jesus then," asked the father, "and who are they who followed him? And who are they whom he bade to leave father and mother, wife and children, for his sake, who he said would receive everlasting life in the blessedness to come? I beg you, dearest brother, if you know what the truth of all this is, do not hesitate to tell us about it."

    Chaptert XXI (continued) Life of Sts Epictetus and Astion, Book Ib

    (Also St Macarius of Rome further down page)

    So Vigilantius opened his mouth, and beginning from the Scriptures, told them about the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, about how everything was made by him from the beginning of the world, and how he had made a man in his own image and likeness, and placed him in the most delightful garden, and took a rib from his side and fashioned it into a woman, and how Adam because of the serpent was expelled from the garden of delights and sent into this mortal world, and how Eve, because she preferred to listen to the serpent rather than the Lord God was condemned to bear children in grief and suffering, and how the holy prophets were sent to prepare the way for the coming of the Son of God, and preached and were not listened to, and how the Lord God Jesus Christ, who alone is the Word and Wisdom of the Father, the power and the splendour of glory, came down in the latter days and was born into this world by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and how he made disciples of those who followed him, and sent them to preach the word of salvation to the gentiles, giving them the name of Apostles, and how he made them inheritors of the kingdom of heaven because they despised the vanities of this world and loved him alone above their love for anyone else.

    When Vigilantius had said all this and much more, they turned to the place in the Scriptures where Jesus said:

    "Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who confesses me before other people I will confess in the presence of my Father in heaven. But whosoever denies me before other people I will deny in the presence of my Father in heaven. Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the world. I come not to bring peace but a sword. I am come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. A man's enemies are those of his own household. Anyone who loves father and mother more than me is not worthy of me. And whosoever will not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me (Matthew 10.32-38). He who would save his soul shall lose it, and he who would lose his soul for my sake and the Gospel shall save it"(Mark 6.35).

    And again: "They shall bring you before kings and rulers, but take no thought for what you shall say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father who will speak in you. The brother will deliver up the brother unto death, and the father the son, children shall rise up against their parents and deliver them up to death, and you shall be hated by all for my name's sake. But whosoever perseveres to the end shall be saved" (Matthew 10 18-22).

    He then turned to the last of the four Evangelists, and read to them from the Gospel of St John:

    "Father, I will that those whom you have given me should be with me where I am, that they might see my glory, which you have given me, for you have loved me before the foundation of the world (John 17.24). May they be one, as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they may be one in us, that the world may believe that you have sent me. And the glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as you and I are one, I in them, and you in me, that they all may be made perfect in one, that the world may know that you have sent me, and that you have loved them even as you love me" (John 17, passim).

    Chapter XXIII

    When the father had read these things and much more, he turned to Vigilantius.

    "I beg you, dearest brother," he said, "Can you explain thoroughly to us what we have just read, for we can hardly understand any of it."

    "When our Lord Jesus says", replied Vigilantius, "that he will confess in the presence of his Father in heaven those who confess him among people, and that he will deny in the presence of his Father in heaven those who deny him among other people, he is talking about those of us who believe in him and who put our trust in his holy name. So if there comes a time when the rulers of this world say to us: 'Deny your God and worship these idols which are our great gods', and we refuse for the sake of his name, we shall suffer the threats and torments of the tyrants, but we shall ever be acknowledged in that blissful country of the Father and his holy Angels, where he has made us his most dearly beloved friends.

    "And among that number your only most dearly beloved and most holy Astion now stands. For just a few days ago, Latronianus, the ruler of this province, demanded that he deny Jesus Christ, whom we truly believe to be the Emperor in heaven, and that he should obey his command to show respect to the demons. But he would in no way consent to obey. He was strong in his faith, and strong in spirit against those who wished him evil. There was another venerable old Christian man with him called Epictetus who persevered steadfast to the end in his holy confession of faith. And the heavenly Emperor looked with approval on the sincerity of their love for him, and sent his servants, the holy Angels, to take them up with great honour to that country where he dwells, that he might bestow upon them that eternal reward which he has promised to all who strive bravely against his adversaries.

    "And so to your Astion, as to all like him, has been given the fulfilment of the promise that you have just been reading about, 'that they all may be one, as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they may be one in us, that the world may believe that you have sent me. And the glory you have given me I have given them, that they all may be one in us'. Most respected father, we call them the Martyrs of the Saviour, those among whom are numbered your Astion."

    Chapter XXIV

    "So he's dead, then," cried the mother, "and you didn't know how to tell us!"

    "We are all dead," replied Vigilantius, "who live in this mortal flesh and in this vain world, if we exist without any knowledge of our maker. For with him only is there true life, and true food and drink, and unending dignity for those who are worthy of receiving it. Deathless, they reign for ever, and dwell in perpetual joy."

    "I would like to see him dwelling in glory," said the mother. "Do you think he would still recognise me, who once gave him birth? Living ins such glory as you say he is, perhaps he might look upon me with some distaste, now that mourning for him has made the beauty fade away from my face?"

    "If you will do what is written in this book that the holy Astion and Epictetus left me," replied Vigilantius, "and believe in your heart on Jesus Christ, the king in whom he believed, you shall be able to see him. If you won't believe, it would be impossible for you to see him or for him to call you his mother, inasmuch as you remain unwilling to keep the commandments of his Father."

    "Look," she said, "this is his father here."

    "His true Father is the Lord," said Vigilantius, "with whom he now dwells, and who has given him such great gifts in the blessed world to come. This man here is mortal, and his children are mortal, and when he thinks to stand, suddenly he falls, and when he thinks he is alive, suddenly he dies, for he does not know the true Father whom Astion knows, of whom it is written, 'Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name'."

    Chapter XXV

    They discussed these matters for the rest of the week, and spoke to each other about Christ's miracles, which they were happy to hear about, and by the time Sunday came they both believed in Christ. Vigilantius took them to a certain presbyter called Bonosus, who had so far avoided persecution by living in hiding. He prayed with them and questioned them, and enrolled them that same hour among the catechumens.

    "See now," they said to Vigilantius, "we have done what was written in that book you gave us. Show us now the treasure which you said our Astion entrusted to your keeping."

    "Come with me without any more delay", he replied, "and I will show him to you. But I have, however, put him in a hidden place, and I am not sure whether I can get him out of it. But if you will, let us go to the place and spend all night there, and perhaps we shall be able to persuade him to come out of the place where I hid him. "

    They went to the tomb where he told them that they must spend the whole night in vigil. At dawn, just as it was beginning to get light, behold, a brilliant light shining all around them, together with a wonderfully sweet perfume, and they saw the holy Martyrs, who up till then had been asleep, standing there in their own bodies and praising God. The holy Astion rushed into his mother's arms and kissed her, saying, "You have done well to come from the East, O disciple of Christ, my mother Marcellina!"

    Likewise the most blessed Epictetus clasped the husband's cheeks and kissed him, saying, "Rejoice in the Lord, my dearest brother Alexander, for now that you have been numbered in the company of the faithful, you have won the promise of eternal blessedness."

    To Vigilantius he said, "Rejoice also in the Lord, my dearest brother Vigilantius, for you have been found worthy of having fulfilled in you what is written in the Scripture, 'He who converts a sinner from the error of his ways shall save his soul from death and shall cover a multitude of sins' (James 5.20)."

    Chapter XXVI

    "O my dearest and blessed lady mother," said Astion, "everything written in the sacrosanct Gospel of Christ our Lord is true. Hasten therefore to live by it, that you may be found worthy to enjoy its promises. So put together a portion of your wealth for me, divide it up and distribute it to the poor, for the sake of your own salvation and my eternal satisfaction, that so you may deserve to come to us adorned with the crown of righteousness and good works."

    "Are you being well treated," asked his mother, "by your king and his company, my dear son?"

    "So well that I could not find the words to describe it to you," he replied, "for the Lord God has taken me from slavery and adopted me as his son. He has granted a mansion to me in his city, he has brought me to serve in his household, he has showered the greatest honour upon me among his senators and brought me into the delights of paradise. And his servants also count me worthy to be one of them and love me. Every day, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, I go with them to visit the sick, to bring back the lost, to enlighten the blind, to save those in peril on the sea, to fight against the prowling bands of barbarians on the earth, to console the mourners, to defend the weak, and to drive out the demons from the bodies of the possessed. Even today they have given me some good advice about you: 'Counsel your father and mother well, so that they too may come hither'"

    "Do you mean to say that they know all about us?" asked his mother.

    "They know you well and love you dearly, mother," replied Astion, "if only it is your will to know them, and are able to arrive at that same blessedness as theirs."

    His mother felt a great joy spreading through her breast.

    "Do you really think a miserable wretch like me can get to that place?" she asked.

    "If you put your trust completely in Jesus Christ our Lord and God, just as Vigilantius trusted, and distribute all your goods to the poor, you too without fail shall live and rejoice with me where I am now in eternal blessedness."

    And having encouraged them in these words and much more, the blessed athletes of Christ departed from them.

    Chapter XXVII

    On the fortieth day after the martyrdom the bishop Evangelicus visited the region of the Almiridenses, so Vigilantius and the holy presbyter Bonosus took them to see him. They told him in detail all that had happened and asked that they might be consecrated to Christ in the number of the faithful. He rejoiced greatly in the Lord, welcomed them, prayed for them, and gave them the sacrament of Baptism. He went back with them into a neighbouring city and celebrated with them for the next eight days. After he had gone away again, Alexander and Marcellina expressed their thanks to Vigilantius.

    "You have given us so many blessings, dearest and most loving brother," they said. "Your saving teaching has enabled us to escape from the snares of the devil and come to the knowledge of Christ our Saviour. You have a glorious part to play in the wisdom of the holy church, you are brilliant in your teaching, your love for the religion of the holy Gospel is perfect. You have showed such great love in taking strangers into your care, indescribable kindness in defending the defenceless and assisting the weak. With burning faith you have worked for the destruction of idols and promoted love for the holy Martyrs. You have lived up to the meaning of your name by your vigilance in all the good works you have done for love of the Lord. No greater praise can be given you but to say that you are held to be the most intimate friend of God."

    They took Vigilantius and the holy and venerable presbyter Bonosus back to their own city, where they remained, joyful in spirit, and perfect in the sight of the Lord. They gave all their possessions to the poor, and glorified God the Father Almighty, who had led them out of darkness into the light of his knowledge.

    The martyrdom of the holy athletes of Christ, Epictetus the presbyter and Astion the monk, took place in the city of the Almiridenses, on the eighth day of July, at the time of the tyrant Diocletian and the governor Latronianus. But according to us it took place during the reign in heaven of Jesus Christ our Saviour, to whom with the Father and the holy Spirit be all honour and glory, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

    Life No 13

    The Life of Saint Macarius of Rome,

    a servant of God who was found

    to be near Paradise.

    by Theophilus, Sergius and Hyginus

    Chapter I

    Glory and magnificence be to the only most blessed God, who through innumerable miraculous examples daily beckons us towards the heavenly joys of blessed life, unworthy and lukewarm though we are. We three wretched and humble monks, Theophilus, Sergius and Hyginus, beseech all you most holy fathers and brothers that you lend your ears to what we shall tell you about the pathways through life of the most holy Macarius of Rome, who appeared to us at the twentieth milestone from Paradise. We only ask that you should place credence in what we say, for it would have been much easier for us to have avoided giving offence by remaining silent, than to be accused of giving false witness.

    Chapter II

    We three brothers, Theophilus, Sergius and Hyginus, renounced the world for God's sake, and joined the monastery of the hegumen Asclepion, a most famous father of many monks, in Syrian Mesopotamia between the two rivers Tigris and Euphrates. Together, the three of us were thankfully accepted by the father and the gathered community of the brothers; we gladly submitted ourselves to the yoke of the Rule, and began to share in the common life.

    Chapter III

    Quite a long time after that, one day when the synaxis of the ninth hour was finished, we went out to the banks of the river Euphrates and sat down to talk for a while about how servants of God should persevere in their labour and way of life. And I, Theophilus, had a thought come into my mind which I expressed to my brothers, Sergius and Hyginus.

    "Beloved brothers," I said, "I hope you will be willing to stay with me all the days of my life, and I wonder if you would be willing to go with me to the place where the sky meets the earth."

    "We have always held you to be first and foremost our spiritual brother, Theophilus," they said, "and nothing will be able to separate us. We like your idea very much, so don't delay to go off to where your heart's desire is fixed. And we shall be with you in life or in death."

    We got up from the riverbank and went back to the monastery, and after vespers, when all the work of the monastery was completed and all was quiet, we secretly left. We walked for seventeen days and arrived at Jerusalem, where we worshipped at the shrines of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. We went to Bethlehem where we saw and reverenced the holy Manger where Christ was born, and where the Magi brought gifts to Christ, guided by a star. We saw the wonderful place, about two miles from Bethlehem, where an Angel with a multitude of the heavenly hosts sang glory to God in the highest. We went up the Mount of Olives and worshipped in that holy place where Christ's feet had rested before being lifted up and hidden in a cloud as he ascended into heaven. Returning to Jerusalem we worshipped God again, and signing ourselves with the cross we commended ourselves to God and the Saints before commencing our journey, in a spirit of complete detachment from the concerns of this world.

    Chapter IV

    We journeyed steadily with Christ as our companion, until on the fiftieth day we crossed the river Tigris into a vast level plain in the country of Persia. We arrived at Assia, where Mercurius, the martyr of Christ, killed Julian the Apostate. We next came to the city of Kitissifodo, not far from Babylon, and worshipped where the three children, Ananias, Azarias and Misael, were laid to rest (Daniel 3). We stayed there a few days, offering hymns of praise to God.

    We continued our journey for another four months, crossing the whole of Persia, and arrived at the land of India, where we found a house, quite empty, and rested there for two days. On the third day we saw a man and a woman, both carrying arms, coming towards us. We were terrified, but decided we would go out to meet them. When they saw us they thought we were spies and hastily went back the way they had come. They gathered together about three thousand Ethiopians, and after a while came back with them. They hurried up to the house in which we were praying, dug a ditch around it and set fire to each of the four corners of it, eager to burn us alive.

    When we realised what was happening we were even more terrified, but calling upon Christ the Saviour of all, we ran out into the midst of them. They began to talk to each other excitedly in their own tongue, surrounding us with threatening looks, but we could not understand them nor they us. Finally they took us and shut us up inside a very dark prison. Nobody brought us any food or water. We never ceased calling with tears upon the mercy of almighty God the creator of us all. After a time when they thought that we would have died of hunger and thirst they came back and crowded round the prison and were surprised to see us at our prayers. They opened the door and brought us out with a great deal of talk among themselves, bound us tightly again with sharp untreated fibres and drove us out of their territory. As God is my witness we had been eighty days without food.

    Chapter V

    After being driven out from their lands we travelled for quite a long time towards the East, and arrived at a wonderful place, consisting of a glorious plain full of tall trees laden with delicious fruit. Praising and glorifying God we ate these sweet-tasting fruits till we could eat no more. From there we entered the land of the Chananaeans, whom some people call Cynocephali, and we were quite amazed at what they looked like. They lived in caves in the rock with their wives and children, but with the grace of Christ protecting us they offered us no harm.

    Chapter VI

    We journeyed still further East for a hundred and ten days, till we arrived at the land of a people called Pichiti. They were extremely small, being no more than one cubit high, and when they saw us, they were convulsed with terror and fled. We praised God who had delivered us out of their hands and pressed on with our journey.

    Chapter VII

    After this we came to a fearsome, mountainous country, into which the sun was scarcely able to penetrate. Neither grass nor tree grew there, but we saw great numbers of serpents, dragons, asps, basilisks, vipers, unicorns and other horned animals, besides many other death-dealing beasts and poisonous creatures, of whose names and nature we were completely ignorant. But with the right hand of God protecting us we passed through them completely unharmed, with the hissing of the dragons and serpents continually in our ears for twenty days, to the extent that we could hardly get any sleep unless we blocked up our ears.

    Life of St Macarius of Rome (continued), Book Ib

    Chapter VIII

    Next we came to a terrifying place of high, rugged cliffs and deep valleys. After spending seven days there it seemed to be impossible to go any further. But on the seventh day we saw a stag in front of us, roaring as it went, and we followed it. A pathway opened up for us, along many more even greater cliffs, and we did not manage to get out of that country without a great deal of labour and difficulty. But we emerged into a vast wide plain where there were a great number of elephants, but we passed through the midst of them unharmed.

    There was no clear indication of which way we should go next, but we wandered on for nine days along various little pathways, without any food, calling with tears upon the clemency of the Lord, until at last we came out into another wide plain with abundant fruit.

    And now the most dense fog descended upon the place. There was no light, just a thick cloud covering everything in darkness. Troubled and distressed, we fell to the ground in plaintive prayer poured out to God. We continued like this for seven days, neither eating nor drinking, without ever a glimpse of the light of heaven. After perserving in our troubled prayer for seven days, a dove appeared to us, circling round us, beating its wings strongly, as if to encourage us to keep on walking. Giving thanks to God we got to our feet and followed the dove through various pathways, until we found ourselves in front of an archway, with an inscription around it. We were delighted to see this inscription and gave thanks to God. This is what it said:


    Chapter IX

    So we kept to the left and journeyed on for many days. On the fortieth day we became aware of an unbearable smell which almost took the life out of us. We fell to the ground and prayed to the Lord that he would mercifully revive us. After a while we got up from the ground and noticed a great lake containing a multitude of fiery serpents. Voices floated up from this lake. We heard them moaning and complaining, a vast multitude of them, and a voice from heaven thundered out, saying:

    "This is the lake of judgment and punishment, in which those who deny Christ are tormented."

    The sound of this voice caused us to beat our breasts and weep copiously. We passed by the lake in fear and trembling into a place between two very high mountains, where an enormous man appeared, a hundred cubits high, bound in brass chains around the whole of his body. A long chain stretched out from each side of his body, one of them fixed to the mountain on the right, the other to the mountain on the left, and he was surrounded on all sides by a most intense flame. His voice could be heard from forty miles away. When he saw us he cried out, weeping and howling, and complaining how bitterly he was being tortured by the fire.

    Chapter X

    We were greatly frightened at this sight, but we covered our faces and crossed over into the mountains at some distance from him. We came out into another place of many cliffs of a very great height. Here we saw a woman with flowing hair, her whole body wrapped in the folds of a most horrible dragon. She opened her mouth as if about to speak to us, but the dragon moved his head towards her mouth and bit off her tongue. This woman's hair reached right to the ground. As we watched this in awe and terror, we suddenly heard plaintive voices coming up from the depths, crying, "Have mercy on us, have mercy on us, O Christ, son of God most high."

    Consumed with terror, we fell to our knees in prayer and tears, saying, "O Lord who have created us, receive our souls, for our eyes have seen your judgment on the earth."

    Chapter XI

    We got up and carried on our way, however, in deep mourning and grief and fear, until we came to another place where we saw many great trees which looked like fig trees. In their branches were what looked like a flock of birds from heaven, crying with a human voice, "Spare us, O Lord who fashioned us, spare us, most merciful, for we have sinned over all the earth before your face."

    We too prayed: "Show us, most merciful Lord, the meaning of these marvels that we have seen, for we do not understand what they are."

    And a voice came, saying, "It is not given for you to understand the mysteries that you have seen. Just keep on your way."

    Chapter XII

    We moved on from there in great dread, and came to a place which was much more pleasant and beautiful. Here we saw four men of most venerable appearance. Their faces were of such marvellous beauty that it would be impossible to describe them in credible terms. They each wore golden crowns, studded with gems and precious stones. They carried golden palm leaves in their hands, there was a great and fearsome fire in front of them, and the stems of the palm leaves were sharpened to a point and held in front of them. The very sight of them filled us with great fear.

    "O most high servants of the Lord our God," we cried, "have mercy on us, that the palms and the fire do us no harm!"

    "Fear not," they replied. "Walk securely in the way that the Lord has shown you. For the Lord has put us in this place to guard and watch over this pathway until the day of judgment, when the whole world shall come to be judged."

    Chapter XIII

    At these words we bowed before the men, and passed by them at a respectable distance. We walked on for forty days, taking no food and drinking only water. As we walked along we suddenly heard a multitude of voices singing psalms, and a most beautiful perfume as of the best and most precious balsam came to us, overwhelming our nostrils like the scent of sweetest honey. This most beautiful scent, like that of nectar, combined with the sound of an ancient and heavenly melody, induced a feeling of drowsiness in us, but when we awoke we could see a marvellously decorated church, most precious. It seemed to be made entirely of crystal, and in the middle of the church an imposing altar, and from under the altar flowed a stream of water the colour of whitest milk. In fact we assumed that that water really was milk. Standing around this stream were some holy and honourable men singing a heavenly song. It was the sound of the Cherubim. We were very much in awe of them as we gazed upon them.

    The North side of this church looked like green jade, the South side was the colour of pure blood, the West was all white, like milk or shining snow. Stars above the church shone with a more than earthly light, the sun there was seven times as hot and strong as in our world, the hills and trees were taller. The leaves and fruits more abundant and sweeter than those on the trees of this world, and the birds of the air sounded altogether different from those on our earth. The earth itself was of two colours. Parts were as white as snow, parts the colour of scarlet. We were awestruck, and fell down there in worship. We bowed to those men, and fearfully went forth to take up our journey once more.

    Chapter XIV

    For the next hundred days, as God is our witness, we took no food, but refreshed ourselves frequently with water. Suddenly we were surrounded by a multitude of people, both men and women, who were no taller than a single cubit. We were very frightened at the sight of them.

    "Let's let our hair down and charge at them," I, the miserable sinner Theophilus, said to my brothers Sergius and Hyginus. "Perhaps they will run away from us and the Lord will deliver us out of their hands."

    This seemed like a good idea to them, so we untied our headbands letting our hair float free and suddenly rushed at them. Seeing this, they hastily picked up their children and fled, gnashing their teeth. And we praised the Lord who had delivered us.

    We then crossed a river, and found ourselves in the midst of shining plants as white as milk, with a taste like honey. They were about a cubit high. We ate these delicious plants till we were sated, giving thanks to the Creator of all, who had preserved us in the midst of so many great dangers and freely nourished us with his grace. As we continued on our journey along wandering paths we suddenly saw a most beautiful woman, and we fell down in worship and praise of God who had shown her to us.

    Chapter XV

    For many days we kept on our journey till we came to an impressive-looking cave. We made the sign of the holy cross on all parts of our body and went inside this cave, but found no one there.

    "But it is so clean in here," we said, "that it must belong to some human being. Let's stay here till evening, and we shall meet the person who lives here."

    After sitting there for an hour, rather weary, we smelt a most delicious perfume which induced us to go to sleep. But we woke up after a short interval, went outside and looked towards the East. There we suddenly saw a man a long way off, hurrying towards us, whose hair, as white as snow, floated in the wind and covered his whole body. We could see him coming towards us, prostrating himself on the ground, and getting up again as he shouted, "If you are of God, make the sign of the holy Cross and come towards me. If you are from the devil, get away from me, the servant of God."

    "Give us your blessing, holy father," we said in response, "and fear not, for we too are servants of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. We too are monks who have renounced the vanity of the world."

    Hearing this, he came right up to us, lifted up his hands to heaven and prayed for quite a long time. His prayer finished, he shook his hair back from his face and mouth and gave us a blessing. His hair and beard were milk-white, and his face was as the face of an Angel. He was like a tree planted by the waterside (Psalms 1.3), he was very old, and his eyes were not visible because of the way his eyebrows hung over them, his toenails and fingernails were exceedingly long, his beard and hair covered his whole body, his voice sounded thinly as if coming from some deep place, and the skin of his face was as hard as the shell of a tortoise.

    Chapter XVI

    "My beloved brothers," he said, "where are you from, where have you come from? Tell me how the human race is getting on, how the Christian faith is doing, and whether the Saracens or any other peoples still wage war against the people of Christ."

    We replied to his questions one by one, telling him of the dangers and difficulties we had encountered along every step of our journey, and of our desire and intention to find the place where the curve of the sky met the earth.

    "My beloved little children," he said in reply, "listen to me. It is not possible to travel from this place to paradise while still clothed in human flesh. For I, a great sinner, also laboured under this desire to go forth to where I would be able to see where the earth joined the sky, until one night an Angel of the Lord appeared to me in a vision, saying, 'Go no further, lest you presume to tempt the Lord your God.'

    "'Why may I not go any further, my lord?' I asked.

    "'It is twenty miles from this place,' he replied, 'to the paradise which Adam and Eve delighted in. And the Lord placed a Cherub with a whirling fiery sword in front of the garden to guard the tree of life. From his feet to his navel he was shaped like a man, his breast was as the breast of a lion, and the hand that held the sword guarding paradise was like crystal, preventing any approach.'

    "When the Angel told me this, I asked no more questions, nor did I try to go on any further."

    So I, Theophilus, and my brothers, companions on our journey, took in what the holy man had told us, prostrated ourselves before him, and praised the Lord as we saluted him.

    Chapter XVII

    When evening came he said to us, "My beloved brothers, come outside the cell and wait for a while. I have two lions who roam about during the day and come back to me in the evening. I would not want you to suffer any harm from them if you were to come upon them unawares."

    Somewhat alarmed, we nevertheless went outside with him. Almost immediately two lions came roaring up to the holy man and bowed down before him. He put his hands on their heads, and stroked their necks.

    "My little children," he said to them, "These are three brothers who have come to visit us from the outside world. Pray do not do them any harm." Then, adding to us, "Come closer. Don't be afraid."

    We were too frightened. We made our apologies and went back inside!

    We celebrated the evening office together, after which we dined in silence on nuts and roots and water. In the morning we said to the holy man, "Holy father and master, may we ask your blessedness to tell us the story of your life, where you came from, and what you are called?"

    "My name is Macarius, my most beloved sons and brothers," he replied. "I was the son of a Roman citizen, born and bred in the imperial city, and I occupied a prominent and flourishing position in the city's affairs. As soon as I had left boyhood behind me, my father married me to a wife, much against my will and in spite of all my protests. On the day of my wedding, when the bridal chamber had been prepared, and the bride was ready, and many invited guests were present, and my father was in celebratory mood urging all the guests to enjoy the feasting, which they had begun to do with much dancing and general hilarity, I quietly left, and fled to the house of a widow who was a family friend. I remained hidden there for the next seven days, during which she daily visited my parents' home, listening to everything that was said about my wickedness, and telling me all about it when she came back.

    "My father searched everywhere for me without any success, and wept greatly, as did my mother and all the family. On the eighth day, Sunday night, I said goodbye to that widow and went out onto the public highway, where I found a venerable white-haired gentleman, dressed as if ready for a walk.

    "'What direction are you going in, senior sancte?' I asked, after greeting him.

    "Wherever you like,' he replied, turning to look at me. 'I am quite happy to go with you. Everyone in town knows about my journeyings.'

    "Reassured by this, I gladly went with him. From then on we stayed in whatever house was close at hand, and we gladly accepted what bread we could beg. After walking for many days we came to the place of torment and narrow pathways through which you say that you have likewise travelled. When we had gone thirty miles from that place, my companion suddenly disappeared as we were sitting down, in the middle of a conversation we were having. I was thrown into a turmoil, not knowing where to turn next, and flung myself on the ground, weeping bitterly. And suddenly he reappeared in a flash of light!

    "'Don't be worried, my beloved friend,' he said. 'I am the angel Raphael, and I have been sent to help you and bring you to this place, on the orders of the Most High. The Lord has been watching over your journey. You have passed through the place of darkness, the place of torments and the place of punishment, and you have now come out into the light. So fear not, rise up and continue your journey.'

    "And again, he disappeared as suddenly as he had appeared."

    Chapter XIX

    "With renewed strength I rose and began to walk on. I saw a wild ass some way off and I cried out to him.

    "'Greetings, in the name of Christ who created you! Show me the way in which I should go.'

    "He ran quickly up to me and turned off in front of me into a small and narrow pathway. I followed him and walked along with him for two days. On the third day I saw in the distance a stag of astonishing size. When the wild ass saw it he was frightened and ran back away from me, leaving me alone in a confined place, with no clear way ahead. I shouted out to the stag.

    "'If you have been sent to help me, I conjure you in the name of God to show me the pathway.'

    "He came up to me as gently as any domestic animal, and turned off into a narrow mountain pass, turning round to look at me from time to time. We went for three days like this. Then on the fourth day we came up against an immense and terrifying dragon, spread out in the middle of the way ahead. The stag suddenly fled as soon as he saw it. I felt very frightened, and fell to the ground. Then, strengthened in the Lord, I arose, protected myself with the sign of the holy Cross, and spoke to the dragon.

    "'In the fear of God Almighty, harm me not!'

    "It raised itself up to its full terrifying height and spoke to me in a human voice.

    "'Come, blessed man, for you are Macarius, the servant of God most high. The holy angel Raphael has described your face and figure to me, and given me strict orders to meet you and lead you to the place that God has prepared for you. It is now the fourth day that I have been waiting here for you without eating anything. But this very night I had a vision of you sitting in the midst of a shining cloud, and I heard a voice coming from above, saying, "Hurry, meet up with Macarius, the servant of God, who is almost here, as I foretold." So arise, follow me, nothing doubting; come, and I will show you the place in which you may pour out your praises to God.'

    "Having said this he then changed into the appearance of a young man, and led me to this cave where we now are. We had no sooner entered it than he disappeared.

    Chapter XX

    "At the back of the cave this miserable sinner then saw two lion cubs, with their mother lying dead beside them. I dragged her outside and buried her, and gave thanks to God and glorified him for doing so many marvels in my sight, and freed me from so many tight corners. I picked branches from the trees to make a bed for the two little lions to stretch out on, and cared for them as if they were my own sons. And so we lived in peace together for two years.

    "And then the devil, who never rests in his envy of the human race, attacked me with his snares. For one day at about the seventh hour, as it was getting really warm, I went outside the cave and saw a most beautifully worked headscarf lying on the ground. It was a real delight to the eyes. I thought to myself, 'How does this headscarf come to be here in this wilderness?' Thinking that it really was a headscarf, I forgot to protect myself with the sign of the Cross, miserable wretch that I am, for the sacrosanct sign of the Cross is proof against all the phantasms of the enemy. I reached out my hand, picked it up and took it back into the cave.

    "Next day as I went out I found a pair of women's shoes lying on the ground, and even then I did not begin to suspect that this might be the work of the devil. I did not protect myself under the banner of the Cross, but picked up the shoes and took them into the cave, where I laid them down next to the headscarf.

    "When I went out on the third day, I found the devil standing there in the shape of a woman, wearing the most beautiful clothes, and I miserably still did not recognise the snares of the devil, nor did I sign myself, but spoke to her, in the belief that it really was a woman.

    "'Where have you come from?' I asked her. 'And who could have guided you to this wilderness?'

    "She just kept on weeping bitterly, and I like an idiot began to weep with her out of sympathy.

    "'Most holy father,' she at last managed to say. 'I am the most wretched daughter of a Roman citizen who decided to marry me against my wishes and will to a certain noble young Roman, and the wedding day came, and the bridal couch was prepared and the feasting begun, when the bridegroom suddenly disappeared in the midst of it all. There was great consternation all round, they searched for him in this place and that place in a terrible state of turmoil. Meanwhile, I was glad, and secretly left home, began my journey that same night, and without any guide travelled through those same narrow mountains and valleys until I arrived here.'

    "I believed everything I had heard. I believed she was my intended bride, and I took her by the hand and led her into the cave, during which time she never ceased weeping. I was sorry for her misery and tears and grieved deeply for her. I made her sit down beside me and offered her some nuts to eat. I had no suspicion as yet that this was all the work of the devil, and of course I had not protected myself with the sign of the Cross. We had a long conversation as we sat side by side. Then I began to feel as tired as if I had been working hard, and she began to caress me all over with her hands, and I felt even more overcome by sleep. To cut a long story short, wretch that I am, I who had never before agreed to sin with a woman, came to the realisation that I had committed sin with her in my sleep. For suddenly waking from sleep, I found myself lying on the ground, unclothed as if I had been with a woman, although by now she was nowhere to be seen.

    Life of St Macarius of Rome (continued), Book Ib

    (Also St Posthumius further down this page)

    Chapter XXI

    "At last I knew I was the unhappy victim of the devil's tricks. I rushed out of the cave, beating my breast and pouring forth floods of tears. My companions, the lions, must have realised my sinfulness, for they both fled from my sight. When I saw them go, I began to call devoutly upon the mercy of Christ, with great grief and lamentation, begging that he might order them back again, if only I might be given a rule of penance. And immediately the most merciful Father allowed me to do penance and called the lions to come back straight away.

    "They came back with me into the cave and they dug a hole in the earth as long as a human being, into which I lay down and I ordered the lions to bury in that place up to the neck. I spent three years buried in that trench. During a very heavy rainstorm the roof of the cave suddenly gave way over my head, and I could see light. I put my hand outside and was able to feel the herbs which I could pick and eat.

    "After three years the lions came back, and seeing the light shining round me they dug away the earth which was covering me, and I came out totally healed in body, and feeling all my pristine virtue restored. I glorified my Lord Jesus Christ, went outside the cave, knelt on the ground and stayed there without moving for forty days and forty nights, praising and praying to God, and giving him thanks for the great gifts of mercy which he ever shows to us sinners.

    Chapter XXII

    "At the ending of those forty days I went inside the cave and behold, the four corners of the cave shone brilliantly with a heavenly light and I saw the human form of our Saviour Christ, holding a golden rod in his hand, and singing a marvellous song in the sweetest of voices, and the voice was as loud and strong as if it were the voice of a thousand. When the heavenly voice of the singer had come to an end, suddenly a voice proclaimed three times: 'Amen, and forever, Amen'. At that moment the Saviour left the cave and ascended up to heaven, and a tall pillar of fire came down into the cave like an extensive cloud. There were thunderings and dazzling lightnings, and I heard all the birds of the air singing each in its way, 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord our God'. When I saw and heard the immensity of the vision I was terrified. Caught up into an ecstasy, I fell to the ground and remained there for eight days, and then I understood how Christ our Lord, the Saviour of the world, had gone into the cave and blessed it.

    "I then went into the cave and began to make reparation for my ignorance and negligence, praising and glorifying Christ our Saviour and redeemer and creator of all, who had borne with me so patiently, and led me to penitence, and finally had shown me such great mercy. These things all happened when I had been in the cave seven years at the age of forty.

    "See now, my beloved sons, I have given you a true account of my life. Now think, if you are able to withstand all the attacks of the wicked enemy, stay here with me. But if not, go back to the monastery from which you came, and may the Lord be with you on your journey."

    Chapter XXIII

    Having listened to what the holy man of God had told us we fell to the ground and glorified the Lord who alone does great marvels, and replied to Macarius, the holy servant of God.

    "Most blessed father Macarius, pray for us to the Lord that we may be able to return to our monastery and spread the tale of your holy life throughout all the churches of Christ, for we believe that it was for this very purpose that the Lord guided us to you."

    The old man then poured out prayer for us for a long time, and blessed us all and embraced us, and commended us to Christ that he might direct our ways in peace. Then he handed us over into the care of the two lions, giving them instructions that they were to guide us as far as the place of darkness, where the darkness had encompassed us for seven days and seven nights. Macarius, the holy servant of Christ, bade us farewell, and we quickly came back to the arch of Alexander, where the lions saluted us and with hurried steps returned to the servant of God.

    Chapter XXIV

    By the favour of Christ we continued on our journey without any difficulty, and entering the land of the Persians came to that wonderful plain called Assia where the holy Mercurius had killed the apostate Julian. We entered the city of Kitissifodo, the place of the three children, not far from Babylon. We crossed the river Tigris, and on the fifteenth day arrived at Jerusalem and prayed at the sepulchre of our Lord Jesus Christ and at all the other holy places, pouring out thanks to Christ the Saviour of all who had preserved us in safety both going and coming. Leaving there we swiftly arrived back in our monastery and found our hegumen and all our brothers safe and well. We told them in due course all the wonders we had seen and heard, the merciful acts of the Lord, and the life and doings of the most blessed Macarius. They praised and glorified God for everything they heard, singing hymns to God the Father Almighty, and his only begotten Son, our Lord and Saviour, and the lifegiving Spirit who enlightens our souls, three persons in one God, who lives and reigns to be blessed and praised everywhere, now and always, and through deathless ages of ages. Amen

    Life No 14

    The Life of the blessed Posthumius,

    the father of five thousand monks.

    by an unknown author


    As with great longing you have ever desired to hear about what is holy, so we have a duty of care in this respect, lest the times are passed over in silence. So therefore we cannot stay silent about the works of the Lord, unceasingly shown forth in his servants. First and foremost, then, you should be told about the holy servant of God, Posthumius, and the manner in which God deigned to call him into his grace, according to the accounts given by those who witnessed the unfolding of his life. It has been my care to provide these writings for your delight, inasmuch as the Lord is able to manifest the mysteries of his kingdom to those who believe in him, even through the efforts of untutored rustics such as myself.

    The Life

    Chapter I

    Posthumius was a native of Memphis, of noble birth, blameless in childhood, unskilled in letters, unaffected by all the pernicious doctrines of the Egyptians, as never having had any truck with the delusions of that race. He was a weaver of ropes, and did not frequent the company of other young people, so never at any time shared in the fripperies of public society, dancing was never something that attracted him. Throughout the whole of his life obscene language never proceeded out of his mouth, and his heart was completely free from avarice. Even while still living in the world he never gazed at young women, and lying was something he avoided with all this strength. He expressed hatred for neither neighbour nor stranger. At all times he preserved peace in his soul.

    Chapter II

    He had reached the age of thirty-seven living like this, when it pleased God to call him out of the corruption of sin into the incorruption of eternal life. For an angel of the Lord appeared to him as he was weaving his ropes.

    "Posthumius," called the angel.

    "What is it?" he asked.

    "What is that in your hand?"

    "A rope I am weaving."

    "Do you know the most high God who is in heaven?"

    "Sir, I have no notion of a god in heaven. I am a simple rustic with no learning. I have been plying my trade from my infancy up, and have never had the opportunity of learning anything from people who live in cities. I have always avoided company."

    "Pray to God and he will give you both wisdom and knowledge."

    "I don't know how to pray to God. I wouldn't know what to say."

    The Angel took a laurel leaf, wrote the words of a prayer on it and gave it to Posthumius.

    "Eat this," he said, "and it will taste as bitter as gall. But it will fill your heart with prayers for wisdom, give you an outline of prayer and sound doctrine."

    Posthumius took it and ate it, and it was bitter to his mouth. But then his heart was filled with sweetness, and he mightily magnified the Lord. We may truly believe that what was happening to him was the same as what happened to the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 3.3) and the apostle John (Revelation 10.9), who ate and were filled with wisdom and prophecy.

    Chapter III

    The angel of the Lord then touched the lips of Posthumius. The bitterness was dispelled and his tongue spoke of the mighty works of God.

    "Posthumius," the Angel then said, "Kneel on the ground and face the East, and what you must pray will be given to you by God."

    Posthumius knelt on the ground and faced towards the East, and he was filled with prayer.

    "I will bless you, O Lord God Almighty, king of heaven, who make your name known to those who know you not. Your name is made manifest through our Lord Jesus Christ, your son, who gathers to himself a people called out every nation. To bring succour to the world bowed down with its burdens, you did not spare your only-begotten son, for the sake of the salvation of the human race. Through him, by your mercy, I pray that you may show light to them that sit in darkness. You know, O Lord, that I have no store of words, and yet you have given me the gift of being able to speak to you, and you have taught me what I should pray for. For I know in myself, O Lord my God, that verily the blind see, the deaf hear, the tongues of the dumb are loosed, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the poor have the gospel preached to them, and sinners are called to repentance. (Matthew 11.5).

    "Who am I that you should be mindful of me? How is it that my weakness has prevailed in your sight that you have come and sought me? Wherefore I pray now that you may wash me from the stains of those sins which belong to the misery of my natural state. They have long oppressed me, for I lived in unfaithfulness, brought up by my parents to live in the manner of the gentiles like a dumb beast. You have sent me your Angel and struck my thigh (Genesis 32.25), you have opened up my heart of stone. Woe to him who keeps silent about you, for he shall suffer for ever in the burning fire. I have learned in a brief moment that there is no joy for the ungodly in your sight, nor relief for the wicked after death, for unless they turn to you they cannot be saved. But since it has seemed good to you that I should not be lost, O Lord the redeemer of my lowliness, lead me into even better things yet, that I may fully know Jesus my Lord and Saviour who is one with you, who is blessed for ever."

    This is the first prayer that holy Posthumius made, through which the angel of the Lord led him into the path of seeking for true faith.

    Chapter IV

    Posthumius eagerly expected that the angel of the Lord would visit him again. He trusted and hoped that the Lord would always favour him in this way. And behold, a few days later, as he was twisting ropes from rushes as usual, the angel of the Lord came in to him.

    "Hail, Posthumius," he said, as Posthumius rose to his feet in awe. "Is it your will that I should take you to a priest of God who will baptise you in the name of the Father and the Son and the holy Spirit?"

    "O my lord, holy messenger of God," replied Posthumius, "that is the great joy that I desire above all else, for you would be teaching me the fulness of the pathways of God, and how to bring to perfection the works of supernatural grace."

    The angel of the Lord seized him by the hair of his head and carried him off to a certain holy man called Priscus, who feared God.

    "Teach this man about the way and wisdom and knowledge of the Lord," the angel said to Priscus, "and baptise him in the name of the Father, Son and holy Spirit."

    The priest of the Lord was delighted to hear this, though he did not at first realise that it was an angel of the Lord who was introducing him, until the Angel was suddenly transformed before his very eyes into a splendid figure of beauteous countenance, clothed in shining white garments. The priest of God was afraid, and flung himself to the ground, but the Angel immediately raised him up.

    "Fear not," the Angel said, "I am the guardian of you and of all your brothers. It was necessary that you should be shown the glory of our God (Apocalypse 22.16), so that you should learn how to teach this man the word of the Lord and enlighten him about the path of salvation, so that he might live for ever with the Lord."

    Having spoken thus, he departed from them.

    Chapter V

    Bishop Priscus took Posthumius into his care and taught him about fasting. He laid his hands on him and enrolled him as a catechumen, and very soon taught him the meaning of the Sacrament and baptised him. At his baptism he was filled with the holy Spirit, and spoke this prayer:

    "I give you thanks, O Lord Jesus Christ, that through your holy Spirit you have deigned to reconcile me to God the Father, and have redeemed me from death and the eternal punishment prepared for those who do not believe in you and who are burdened with the weight of their own sins. For the sins from which you have happily delivered me were heavier than lead, and I rejoice in being freed from all my iniquities and my bondage to them. Truly there is no respect of persons with God (Acts 10.34), and his mercies are manifold. How could I, unworthy as I am, become part of your new creation unless you touched me with your heavenly finger? You have come swiftly to my aid; you have overthrown the hostile law reigning in my members, and cleansed me by water and the rebirth of the holy Spirit. There is a renewed spirit giving voice in me, who for such a long time have lain prostrate among the lost sheep.

    "I rejoice in having been enrolled under the sign of a great name, like a soldier assigned by grace to the following of an Emperor. Dumb, I have been given a voice, and I long to bear witness to your children in a hymn of praise, for you have brought me out of captivity. In your wisdom you have sought out the foolish, you have brought life, you have refreshed the needy, you have brought the dead back to life, you have called me from afar to approach your majesty; although a stranger to the fellowship of Israel, by the grace of Christ you have willed me to be one with the Communion of Saints. Therefore I cleave to you. and when you have taught me how I shall sing psalms to your name, I shall sing and bless your name for ever and unto the ages of ages."

    Chapter VI

    At the time when Posthumius was baptised he was quite unlettered, but he grew in the name of the Lord with increased faith and virtue from day to day. He was on fire with a zeal for brotherly love, and bound himself to all the brothers in the bonds of humility. He keenly felt the demands of love, and sought out all the brothers who were members at that time of the local churches. He learned how to sing the psalms, he chastised his body with fasting, day and night he prayed to God. He dined on the herbs of the field, his drink was cold water. He covered his body with a hair shirt and tired himself out by running about in the desert in order to subdue his body. He considered it a sin to neglect any part of his routine. He avoided idle speech, he learned how to bend his ear to the divine books. He detested all bad language. He was a model of purity in all his prayer.

    He ceased not from weeping, and when as often happened he suffered from the attacks of demons he found safety in the fortress of prayer. To avoid over indulgence in sleep and to avoid pandering to his mortal limbs, he would sleep for a little while on stony ground, and when the hardness of his bed made his body ache he would get up and continue with the work of God. He allowed himself bread and water in due measure, but never got up from the table with a full stomach or with his thirst completely quenched, for he said it was not fitting to obey all the demands of the body. He practised obedience and taught it, and he bore patiently and humbly with people who were angry or proud. When Satan tried with his wiles to divert him from his purpose, he lifted up his eyes to heaven and immediately knew that help from above was there for him. Right through to old age he continued his way of life as he had begun it. To the very end, he used these methods of practising contempt of the body.

    If ever he was afflicted with a fever or severely tormented by stomach pains he did not give way to his illness. He would not look for extra warmth, or lessen his fasting, for he said that if he pandered to his body with hot meals he might lose the redemption of his soul from the Lord. But if ever he was so severely ill as to lose all the strength of his legs so that he was not physically capable of getting up to keep vigil, he still did not cease to pray and sing psalms as he lay. If his tongue was dried up with thirst he felt uncomfortable in his inmost being, lest the devil, the soul's enemy, should rejoice, and a holy man of God should be found negligent in the work of God. But when he seemed to be permanently distracted by such thoughts he went to the bishop who baptised him, and asked for his blessing to go out into the most hidden parts of the desert without taking any food with him, and stay there for a long period of time to meet the numerous attacks of the demons. And the Lord, who had converted this venerable man from the world, fortified his heart to be able to withstand all the demons' craftiness.

    Chapter VII

    Posthumius' way of life became known to blessed Antony's disciple, the holy Macarius, who began to hold his name in such high regard that it seemed good to him to go and visit him in the desert. Now this same Macarius had been left in charge of Antony's monks. There were almost fifty thousand of them, disciples of that illustrious man. Macarius knew that the time of his departure from this world was drawing near, and he was wondering whom he might ask to take charge of this flock of the Lord after his death.

    When the holy Macarius met the holy Posthumius he took him gladly to his heart, not least because he had heard of his reputation from an Angel. He had not come merely for the sake of making a visit, but to make an assessment of his character. And Macarius found Posthumius' whole way of life very pleasing, and began to suggest to him that it might be a good idea for him to come and see the legacy of the holy Antony, prince of anchorites. Posthumius had no desire to go there at all, and resisted the idea with all his strength, but when he was warned in a dream to go without delay, he found himself unable to deny the divine majesty any longer. So in the company of Macarius he undertook the journey and came to that vast company of monks, governed by Macarius alone, who, as we have often said, had been the one to bury the body of the master after his soul had been called out of this world.

    Now that he could see the end of his own life in this world approaching he called the holy Posthumius to talk to him.

    "Look, brother, the time of my departure is at hand. I have heard of your good reputation, and as my general debility increases I have come to believe that the end of my old age will be of great relevance to you. You have done well to come here with me. Now take up the governance of this flock of God with paternal love. Don't ask whether it will be useful to you, but rather whether it will benefit the salvation of many (1 Corinthians 10.33). Do not run the risk of losing the grace of that honourable reward which you will receive from the Lord in due season."

    The holy Posthumius fell down at his feet.

    "Dearly beloved father," he said, "How can you think of placing on me the care of this great multitude? I am only an unlearned rustic. Seek out men of merit who are better fitted than I to care for the souls of so many people."

    "I am not listening to your excuses," said Macarius. "I do not accept them as valid. All these men will be under your direction, for there is no other man of such great abstinence with the capability of guiding the souls of these people, and dealing sympathetically with them. Beloved brother, I can assure you that the Lord himself by his own choice has named you as being the one to take over the ministry in this place. And there is no way that I can countermand the decrees of heaven."

    Chapter VII (continued) Life of St Posthumius, Book Ib

    Posthumius could find nothing to say in reply to this, and even as he was turning all this over in his mind, Macarius gave up his spirit. Crowds of people soon gathered for his funeral rites.

    Crowds singing psalms, others singing many different kinds of hymns, but all singing praises to God as if with one voice, until his body was carried to the sepulchre to be buried. There was no one completely overwhelmed by grief at Macarius having left the monastery so suddenly, for the Lord had provided Posthumius, someone like Macarius, to take up the governance of his flock.

    Chapter VIII

    Three days later Posthumius prayed to be given a fountain of pure teaching through Jesus Christ in the holy Spirit, which he might be able to pass on wisely to that great multitude. After a further three days, the Angel who had converted him came as usual, and confirmed him as the teacher and ruler of the monastery in that place from which Macarius had departed. He gave him a schedule of spiritual precepts and departed. Posthumius gathered all the brothers together and opened his mouth to teach them.

    "My little children," he said, "hear the word which the Lord has spoken to you. It is his will that he should fill our minds with a clear Rule containing precepts of justice and love. I speak to you as a father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of our God. I have received these prescriptions from the hand of an Angel, so that for your edification I can speak to you about all the things which have been poured out into my heart. Listen carefully, then. The commands which come from my mouth are the commands of God."

    1. Obedience to the seniors

    The first rule of community living is that obedience should always be given to those in authority.

    2. Chaste fear

    The second is that those who live under the rule should serve the Lord in fear and purity.

    3. Temperance

    The third is that you should live in this world in a spirit of temperance, godliness and justice.

    4. Bodily discipline

    The fourth is that you should discipline your body in everything, in order to promote the salvation of your soul by fasting and the mortification of the flesh. These are good works which you should delight in.

    5. Frequent prayer

    The fifth is that you should constantly be directed towards prayer, since the Apostle tells us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5.17). Praying and fasting, we shall keep the gifts of faith constantly in remembrance, and be able to overcome the plentiful presence of the demons.

    6. Humility

    The next deals with the sort of error which leads to the downfall of the soul, that is, beware of the evil of pride in all that you do. It was pride that cast the angel out of heaven in the foundation of the world, and we know that pride is the root of every other sin. To drive it out of our thoughts, pray always to God that he may clothe you with humility.

    7. Flee Worldliness

    Another deadly infestation in the flesh is the temptation to worldliness, the root of all monastic vices.

    8. The bonds of Charity

    Above all keep hold of the bond of charity among yourselves, and in unswerving faith never lose hope of hastening towards the kingdom of the God of eternity. The aim of monastic discipline is the pursuit of perfect love. These chains of charity and peace adorn the soul and are completely devoid of self-seeking. Therefore sincere love is all that is needed in this life, for those who love each other are called the children of the kingdom. Those who have perfect love are they who are spotless and eat bread in the kingdom of God (Luke 14.15). You will be perfect, therefore, if charity sets you on fire as a pure sacrifice, with zeal, seasoned with gentleness. The Lord Jesus will rejoice in you, for you have faithfully carried out what he has commanded. For the first of the laws laid down at Mount Sinai and given to Moses was: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul (Deuteronomy 6.5). And the second: thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself (Leviticus 19.18). There can be no love of God without love of neighbour. The plain truth of this precept is that the rule of charity should reign in every part of your body. Then will your love be fulfilled if you have laid the yoke of obedience on everything you purpose doing.

    9. Obedience to each other

    Obedience must be held in great honour in the community. It will profit you nothing, my little children, if you love each other but are not obedient to each other. Love without obedience causes dissension and weakens the conscience. Just as weeds prevent the seed from bringing forth fruit, so does disobedience render fasting in vain, nor does prayer bring forth any fruit. So then, let anyone who desires to live in unity and share a common mind consider these commandments as being of major importance. And let anyone who is as yet far from perfection carry out what he can glean from the writings of the fathers. If a brother carrying a load on his back finds it too heavy for the weight on his shoulders and then, with the abbot present, comes across a pool of water for washing or irrigating, and takes it to be drinking water, he commits a sin if he drinks from it without asking the abbot first. And this is so even if he allows a junior companion with him to drink from it without permission from the abbot. Though he might be burning from the heat of the sun, if the abbot tests him by forbidding him to drink, he commits a sin if he grumbles about it, even if only in his thoughts. Furthermore, if you tread upon a thorn as you walk along, it should not be pulled out unless the abbot says so.

    10. The rule for sleeping

    Spread your woven vine branches out at a distance from each other. And when you retire to sleep keep a distance of a cubit between each person. For if your bodies are too close to each other it could encourage lascivious thoughts.

    11. Keeping vigils

    The night office is an especially spiritual work, because the demons hate the light and are busy at night. There is no reason for any seculars to be awoken until the hour for the common prayer of the brothers at cock crow. There is no need for the individual choirs to wake each other for prayer, but let the first person to awake beat his breast so that those still sleeping will also be woken up. Satan often rolls his nocturnal darkness around anyone deep in sleep, so therefore I say to you, my little children, be vigilant for you know not the hour when the thief will come (Matthew 24.43).

    12. The Love of God

    Strive also to be pleasing to God in the spiritual quality of your life. Let the precepts of the law and the divine commandment to love God be lodged with wisdom in the depths of your heart. You need not be wise in anything other than what the simplicity of the Scriptures of God enjoin. There are many who have other ideas about God and fall away from the love of him and the love of one's neighbour. People like this should heed what the prophet Baruch says about the 'peace of righteousness and the glory of godliness' (Baruch 5.4). When God sees the brotherly love exercised by his people to be without blemish then he makes them all to become partakers of the friendship of God. Wherefore those who love God in the glory of doing a good work perform a good work also in rendering null and void any love of this world in each other. They declare that any thoughts coming from the devil into the hearts of the servants of God are profane, and their desire is to live like anchorites in so far as they deny the body even while still living in this world. It is the things of heaven they delight in, they no longer seek after the things of earth, for they have thrown down the foundations of secular darkness and trampled them underfoot.

    13. Speech tempered with salt

    Since you are fashioned to enjoy the kingdom of heaven it is fitting that you please the Creator by maintaining your virginity in mind and body, guarding the fruits of your faith and the tenor of your speech as carefully as possible. It is a shameful thing that anyone might have cause to accuse a monk either in small matters or in great. We must be above reproach; as the Apostle teaches, let your speech always be tempered with salt (Colossians 4.6). This is the seasoning which the Evangelist means when he says, 'You are the salt of the earth' (Matthew 5.13). I beg you not to let it depart from you, lest in departing from you it be cast out of the congregation and reviled by the tongues of the enemy.

    14. Avoiding slander

    I beg you, my little children, according to the programme which I received from the Angel's hands, to have no truck with the ungodly who speak evil, who without cause are forever attacking the Church of Christ with their biting tongues.

    15. The avoidance of dissension

    Cast our from your midst any disagreements you may have with one another, for you know that our Lord is not a Lord of disagreement but of peace. If a brother, at the suggestion of the devil, has a grievance against another brother, let him put it out of his mind in faith and obedience. Remember it is not I who say this, but God who has taught me by the hand of his messenger.

    16. Hospitality to pilgrims in obedience to superiors

    If you wish to give evidence of your obedience to superiors, show hospitality to strangers and obey the precepts of the Lord (Hebrews 13.2).

    17. Avoiding anger

    The soldier of God should in no circumstances show anger, either to his brothers or to outsiders.

    18. Avoiding contention

    Whatever the occasion, let no one presume to pass judgment on any secular servant of God, for there is a distance to be kept between us and them. Do not allow anyone to go to law with you; it is better for a monk to suffer deceit and injustice than that the voice of a soldier of Christ be raised in anger.

    19. Business dealings not suitable for monks

    It is not right for a monk to take part in business deals for the sake of making money. Rather he should be bargaining for the rewards of heavenly benefits. Let him promote the word of salvation, let him persuade souls into heaven, let him overcome the competition from worldly desire. For a Christian heart of any sort is triumphant, especially the heart of a servant of God. By the exercise of the divine power of prayer it puts out of business the diabolic deceiver of souls.

    20. The demon put to flight by the sign of the Cross, prayer, fasting, recourse to God.

    If a demon fills you with dread, run to the shelter of the Cross. He will be put to flight immediately. His wiles are not proof against frequent prayer and fasting. My little children, you need have no cause for alarm if whole armies of demons assail you; the numerous ranks of Angels are able to come to your aid. When crowds of demons seem to be growing in strength, cast your eyes up to heaven and say, 'Lord Jesus Christ, help me for I am weak'. When the servant of the prophet Elisha was frightened by those coming to attack them from Samaria, the prophet said, 'Open the eyes of your servant, Lord that he may see, for those who are for us are more than those against us' (2 Kings 6.17). Even so, the legions of the angels of God will come to your aid, and strengthen your faith.

    Chapter IX

    "These are the commandments, my little children. If they are lodged in your hearts, however weak, I have explained how they are weapons against the devil. I would not want to have passed over in silence the attacks he brings to bear on us, so that you are able to resist his malice.

    "Once when I was sitting on a mountainside, an enormous army of soldiers came towards me. When I saw them in the distance I immediately recognised them as angels of Satan. But I cast all terror aside, fell to the ground on my knees and prayed to God that they might go away, calling upon the Lord my redeemer. And that approaching throng, like straw caught up by the wind, was suddenly brought to naught. So I gave thanks to the Lord through our Lord Jesus Christ who quickly brought me victory in the contest, and straightaway heard my prayer. I have been attacked over and over again, but the Lord has saved me out of all. Therefore, my little children, be constant, for the Lord is eager to set us free. Love the Lord, therefore, and hate the malignant enemy, and the God of mercy will be with you, that you may escape from his treachery. Amen."

    Life No 15, Book Ib

    Life No 15

    The Life of St Frontonius, abbot,

    author unknown

    You have often asked me to tell you about holy things, which I have been quite willing to do. So I have decided to provide an outline of a temple of God, about people no longer clothed in sheepskins, but who are now clothed in gold and silver and precious gems, so that we also, as living stones, may be built up into a spiritual house (1 Peter 2.5), by profiting in Jesus Christ our Lord from the examples of those who are better than us. I am, of course, talking about what was done in the Nitrian desert, and I will not miss out any of the truths by which this present little work may serve as edification for monks.

    The Life
    Chapter I
    Frontonius, then, was a true servant of God, and as he progressed from day to day in the fear of God he became less and less at ease with public community life and grew in desire for the trackless desert. He called about seventy like minded people to him, and said to them:
    "What have we got in common with this sordid world, whose works it is only right for us to renounce in order that we might follow a path to heaven? So, taking nothing with us, let us go to the desert to seek for the glory of heaven, and practice a higher discipline of virtuous living."
    They all agreed with what he said, and went forth to the desert taking with them a few olive tree seeds, and forks and hoes to till the ground.
    "The Lord says in the Gospel," Frontonius said, "'Take no thought what you shall eat or what you shall drink or what you shall wear, for all the nations of the world seek after these things, but seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you' (Matthew 6.31-33) Let us hold fast to that promise, and we shall find that the work of the Lord will be fulfilled in us."
    So they all dwelt in the desert, labouring constantly in the work of the Lord, and the Lord came to the aid of his servants as they progressed in the spiritual struggle. Frontonius himself prayed not only on his own behalf but on behalf of all, knowing that it was written, 'Not seeking after what is profitable for me alone but what is for the salvation of many' (1 Corinthians 10.33).

    Chapter II
    After they had lived in the desert for quite some time, the enemy of Christians began to tempt them, making them think that they ought to go back to the world, for the Anchoretic life was too severe and more than anyone should have to put up with, and they murmured in their hearts.
    "What is the point," they asked, "of living in the desert as our father Frontonius wants us to do? Can't those who live in towns and walled cities see God? Are desert-dwellers the only ones to see him? Don't their good actions speak for them? Who can exist on the bread of Angels? Here are we, dying of hunger. The hard work of vigils does not get done, we are weakened by over severe fasting, our knees are so weak that we can hardly stand."

    Chapter III
    Frontonius was aware of their murmuring, but before they came to him to say anything he got in first.
    "Why are you angering God," he said, "by murmuring among yourselves, questioning whether desert-dwellers are the only ones to see God, and saying that it is impossible to exist on the bread of Angels? You have been planning to come to me as abbot, asking to live in the city, where people could see us, and as a sacrifice to God supply us with food to eat, according to how much each one of them is inspired by God. But know this: the Lord does not slay the soul of the righteous by hunger, for the eyes of the Lord are always over those who fear him and he keeps them alive in famine (Psalms 33.18-19). And have you forgotten what the Apostle says: 'In hunger and thirst' (2 Corinthians 11.27)? But living here in the desert you have never lacked root vegetables to eat, and you have not always been fasting.
    "So remember what has been said to you before: 'Take no thought what you shall eat or what you shall drink or what you shall wear, for all the nations of the world seek after these things. The Lord knows how to give food to those who fear him. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you' (Matthew 6.31-33). If the Lord feeds the crows and all winged creatures, how shall he not feed those who bear his yoke and pray to him constantly? If we were really dying from hunger in the desert, then we might run to him accusingly and say: 'We believed in your Gospel where you said that you would give bread from heaven to all who believed in you. We have done all you asked, we hoped in you, and now you have just deserted us. But if you have just been testing us, now prove yourself to be truthful and fulfil your promises.' So don't go on murmuring against God, lest you perish from serpents as our fathers did in this desert (Numbers 21.6). If you wait on the Lord he will give good things to those who fear him when he wills."
    These words stilled their murmuring a little, for they had been in deep gloom.

    Chapter IV
    Now I have promised to deal briefly with everything in my own untutored way, and cover all the things which it would be right to include under that heading, and, in a little book like this, to run through all the opinions and arguments in simple speech such as any Reader might be able to understand. So let us go back to the reason why this work was begun, and show that I don't claim any credit for it.

    Chapter V
    An Angel came to a certain rich person one night and said:
    "You dine in rich splendour, but my servants in the desert lack bread. Rise then at daybreak and take some food to my servants out of all that I have given you. I have given you the task of feeding this flock of mine. You have always been filled with awe at the blessings which heaven has poured out on you; I have never deserted you. It is my pleasure therefore that you should refresh by your almsgiving my poor people living a spiritual life in the desert, who have entrusted themselves to me as their Lord. So you must tell them that I speak to you as one sent from the Lord. Unless you do this you will spoil your peaceful accord with the Lord your God."

    Chapter VI
    In some trepidation he rose from sleep, and went out in the morning to call together some faithful friends and some of his trusted servants.
    "I had fallen asleep in bed last night," he said to them, "when suddenly a messenger appeared who said: 'You dine in rich splendour, but my servants in the desert lack bread. Rise then at daybreak and take some food to my servants out of all that I have given you. I have given you the task of feeding this flock of mine'. I would very much like to send them some food, but I don't know where these servants of God are. I am very eager to do what I have been asked, but who can tell me where I should go? I must be obedient to the Angel, and therefore to God. You are all people of some standing. Surely you can tell me where they are."
    But nobody could tell him, because the monks lived in an unknown part of the mountain, and nobody knew where it was.

    Chapter VII
    The next night that rich man was subjected to a much more threatening visit. He was buffeted severely and censured, and once more urged to take food to the servants of God. Again he rose up at daybreak and consulted his friends.
    "If you can't tell me where these servants of God are," he said, "then ask around from other people."
    He accompanied his request with floods of tears, and showed them the bruises which he had suffered at the hands of the Angel that night. But still nobody was able to tell him where the servants of God dwelt. Then one of his friends, wiser than the rest, came up with an idea.
    "If you are willing to accept my advice, my dear friend," he said, "perhaps you might find this idea useful. You have got seventy camels. Load them up with all kinds of provisions which you know that the servants of God would eat, and drive the camels out on to the highway with no one in charge of them. If what you have been told really comes from God you can be sure that you will get your camels back again safely. But if this turns out to have been a blow directed against you by the devil, you will just have to accept humbly that this time you have been whipped by the devil, to avoid you having to suffer an even more severe fate. If you don't like this idea, see if you can find someone else with a better one."
    The rich man and his companions thought this idea was a good one. So they loaded up sixty camels with food that the servants of God would be able to eat, except that five of them carried loads of animal fodder.
    "Whoever comes across them," they said, albeit with some anxiety, " when they examine the loads and see the fodder, will surely take pity on the beasts and feed them."
    They tied all the beasts one behind the other with leading ropes, and tearfully sent them on their way, committing them into the care of the Lord, trusting that if this was of God they would come back safely. There was to be no one in charge if them.

    Chapter VIII
    After going out of the city gates a servant loosed hold of the leading camel. Followed by the rest of them the leading camel moved into the neighbourhood of the mountains, totally unaccompanied. I doubt, however, that the camels could have arrived where they did by such a direct route unless the messenger of the Lord had gone before them (as we later understood). For, as we were later told, on the fourth day, as the brothers were doing the work of God at the ninth hour, the leading camel came and knelt down outside the monastery door. The brothers could not hear the sound of the camel's little bell for the noise of the hymns they were singing. But the abbot was placed near the gateway, and he was the first to notice them, to his overwhelming joy. The entrance to the monastery was quite a narrow one, and it was the abbot, because of his authority, who was in charge of the doors. But placed as he was in the midst of the other brothers, he said nothing until the singing had finished. Then, in almost indecent haste, he called out to the brothers.
    "Where is your murmuring now?" he cried. "See, the Lord has speedily sent us food from on high. He has issued his commands to some wise person and sent us these laden camels. Come, let's unload them and give these weary beasts some relief."
    They all rejoiced with an exceeding great joy, and all together gave thanks to God, as they happily unloaded the camels. As they unloaded five of the camels they found the loads of animal fodder. They washed the animals' feet, and using the saddles for mangers, they fed them out of the food which they had brought with them. The animals had been able to find some food from vegetation as they were following their tortuous route through the mountains, so they were refreshed by several different kinds of food.

    Chapter IX
    Next morning, the abbot chose the wise course of not giving way to greed, and divided the food into two. He reloaded the camels with one portion, giving an equal weight to each one, so that none of them was disadvantaged, and gave thanks to the God of all for not giving way to greed, since he was intending to return half the food to the rightful owner of the camels.
    Meanwhile, the owner of the camels and his friends were trying to reassure each other about the possible risk the camels were being subjected to, and praying to the Lord that this honourable man would not suffer loss. They were gathered together, fasting, on the eighth day, when one of them who had sensitive ears caught the sound of the tinkling of bells being carried towards them on the breeze. He said nothing at first, until he was sure that it really was bells that he was hearing.
    "I think," he then said, "that the sound of bells can be heard coming from up the mountain."
    They went outside and saw the camels returning. They were filled with a marvellous joyfulness at being able to congratulate their friend. Whereas before they had been mourning the probable loss or death of the animals, now they were delighted at receiving them back completely unharmed, looking well, and not having lost condition. So the owner took them back with great thanksgiving, and was even more amazed when he examined their loads.
    He then invited all his friends, as well as a great number of the poor, to a splendid banquet, and distributed to the needy the goods which had come back with the camels. He was given lavish gifts by his friends, blessings which he accepted graciously, giving thanks to the Lord.

    Chapter X
    From that time onwards, right up till the time of Frontonius' death, he would mark the anniversary of his first consignment by sending another lot of basic foods to the same people. And the Lord inspired other rich people also, so that the servants of God with Frontonius never lacked for anything, but were provided for by the generosity of all. They continued to keep vigil in the work of God, sons with their father who fed them with banquets of spiritual nourishment. He fed them daily with words of heavenly wisdom, rejoicing happily in the Lord who had inspired him with the intention of seeking out this precious place in the trackless desert.

    Chapter XI
    When you have read this, pass it on, that many monks may be edified. He who not only reads it, but entrusts himself to the servants of God and does likewise, will be even more greatly blessed. For he will receive his reward from Christ Jesus our Lord, who loves those who give alms to the poor and cares for the servants of God with an open heart, to the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be honour and glory unto the ages of ages. Amen.
    These things all took place during the time of the Emperor Antoninus, in the thirteenth year of his reign.

    (End of Book 1b.

    Life No 16, Book 1c, Barlaam and Josaphat.

    Life No 17, Book 1d

    The Life of St Eugenia, Virgin and Martyr

    [celebrated in the Roman Martyrology on December 25]

    by an anonymous author [Rosweyde suggests Ruffinus]

    Chapter I
    During his seventh consulship the Emperor Commodus [180-192] sent that distinguished man Philip to Egypt as prefect of Alexandria, with supreme authority over all the local administrations throughout the whole of Egypt. He arrived in Alexandria from Rome with his wife Claudia, his two sons, Avitus and Sergius, and his daughter Eugenia. He fulfilled the duties of his prefecture with exemplary Roman thoroughness, and brought the benefit of Roman law to the whole province of Egypt. He imposed a complete ban on all those who followed strange magical rites, forbade the Jews to advertise their presence publicly, and ordered all the Christians out of Alexandria. He himself was more of a student of the philosophers than a worshipper of idols, but he set up all the Roman ceremonies and observed them religiously, not because he believed in them but merely to maintain tradition.

    Chapter II
    He gave his daughter Eugenia a thorough education in the liberal arts, and having taught her to be fluent in Greek as well as Latin, he then allowed her to study philosophy. She had a very sharp intelligence, and a memory so gifted that she had only to hear or read anything once in order to grasp the meaning of it and permanently retain it. She was a beautiful girl with a shapely figure, but even more beautiful in her mental capacity, and sweeter still in her love of chastity.
    When she was fifteen years old her hand in marriage was sought by Aquilus, the son of Aquilus the consul. Her father asked her if she would be willing to be married to this young man of such a distinguished family, and her reply was that a husband should be chosen on his personal qualities, not on his family.
    "It would be him that I was marrying," she said, "not his parents."
    Persevering in a path of chastity, she had turned down several suitors, when the teachings of the blessed apostle Paul came into her possession, and although of pagan parents she began from then on to live as a Christian in sprit.

    Chapter III
    Now since all the Christians had been ordered out of Alexandria, she told her parents she would like to see all their country estates beyond the city limits. Permission was granted and she was soon visiting one of their villas where she was able to hear a group of Christians singing the psalm 'All the gods of the nations are demons, but our God made the heavens' (Psalms 96.5). To hear this made her sigh and weep, and she confided in her two slaves, eunuchs called Protus and Hyacinth.
    "I know that you are just as well educated as I am," she said, "and we have studied together the deeds of humanity both good and evil. We have conscientiously worked our way through the syllogisms of the philosophers, put together with such misguided effort. We have studied the arguments of Aristotle and the ideas of Plato, the principles of Epicurus and the counsels of Socrates and the Stoics, but if you could sum it all up as comprising everything the poets have written, everything the orators have proclaimed, and everything the philosophers have thought, it is all counted to be as nothing by this phrase that we have just heard being sung by these dancing Christians, 'All the gods of the nations are demons, but our God made the heavens. Praise and beauty are before him, holiness and majesty belong to his sovereign power' (Psalms 96. 5-6)".
    She said the scriptures should be consulted. They read the Apostle and were delighted with the Prophets. They found that they agreed with one another in faith, and with burning desire decided the means by which they might penetrate into the mysteries of divine knowledge together.
    "It is an unfair authority which I have over you as mistress," she said. "Wisdom makes me your sister. So then, be my brothers, as divine wisdom says we should, not as human considerations dictate. Let's go to the Christians together, and let's hurry, as I suggest. I hear that Helenus, who lives in that place where the praises of God are sung day and night, is what they call a bishop. Whenever we go near them we can hear them singing. But this bishop is said to be fully occupied with various matters to do with the church, and has put a presbyter called Theodore in charge of those who give themselves up to the praise of God. He is credited with many miracles, his prayers give sight to the blind, demons are put to flight and the sick are healed. In their wisdom, however, they don't allow any women into the visitors' area of this congregation, so bearing this in mind I think I should cut my hair off, and wear men's clothing, and decide to go out tomorrow night and perhaps the way to them will be shown to us. You two could walk alongside a basterna, [a small horse-drawn carriage] from which you could let me out while the other slaves are going on in front. We could let the basterna go on empty, and then all three of us could go on, dressed in household livery, and so walk to where the men of God are."
    They thought this was a good idea, and the following night they put their plan into action.

    Chapter IV
    Christ bestows such grace upon those who believe in him! For it so happened that the bishop Helenus was going to this monastery at the same time as they were. Now it is the custom in Egypt that when bishops visit monasteries they are accompanied by a whole army of people singing psalms, so along with Helenus, bishop of Heliopolis, came about ten thousand people singing the psalm 'The way of the righteous is made plain, and a path is prepared for the holy' (Proverbs 2.8). Eugenia turned to her companions.
    "Just think of the meaning of what they are singing," she said, "and you will see that their rhythmic psalm applies directly to us! Earlier God's dealings with us led us into an agreement about his word, and we heard that all the gods of the nations are demons but our God made the heavens. And now, see, a path is laid out for us to follow, by means of which we are promised the gift of being able to move away from the cult of idols and come to the worship of Christ. Look, there are a thousand people coming towards us, singing with one voice, 'The way of the righteous is made plain, and a path is prepared for the holy'. Let's find out where this crowd is going to, and whether it is going to the same place as we are. Let's join this singing crowd, so that we shall be admitted as new arrivals, and so we may learn a bit more."

    Chapter V

    They joined in with the singers, and asked who it was that was leading them, the only one riding a little donkey in their midst, with people in front of him and behind. They were told that this was indeed bishop Helenus, a Christian from his infancy, who even while growing up as a child in the monastery had advanced so far in the virtues of holiness that when asked to go and fetch fire from a neighbour he carried some burning coals in a fold of his clothing without them doing any harm. [It was a not uncommon practice for children to be entrusted to the care of monks]

    "Then again," the tale continued, "a certain magician came among us who tried by the force of his arguments to mislead the people of God. He said the bishop was a deceiver, and that he himself had been sent by Christ as a teacher. He was very cunning and made use of the divine Scriptures to lead the people astray. In the end the whole congregation came to this man, our father, whom you can see among us and said:
    "'Zareas tells us that he is the one who has been sent by Christ. Set a time when you will either acknowledge him as your equal or else prove to us that he is telling lies, if you can.'
    "So a day and a place were decided on in the city of Heliopolis. Zareas came with his magic spells, bishop Helenus came with his prayers.
    "'Now we shall see whose spirit is of God,' said Helenus. He turned to Zareas and they began a contest of words, but Zareas was so subtle that he was unable to beat him in any rational argument. He turned to the people and asked for a moment's silence.
    "'In this contest,' he then said, 'we should keep to the teaching of St Paul, where he says to his disciple Timothy, "Do not go in for verbal arguments. They are good for nothing except to confuse those who hear them" (2 Timothy 2.14). So lest you should think we are bringing forward this text in fear rather than with due caution, let a fire be lit here in our midst, and let each of us walk into the flames, and let the one who is not burned be accepted as the one whom Christ has sent.'
    "This was agreeable to everyone, and a large fire was immediately started.
    "'Go into the fire, then,' the blessed Helenus said to Zareas.
    "'No, it was your idea,' replied Zareas. 'You go first.'
    "The most blessed father Helenus signed himself with the cross, and walked into the roaring flames, where he stood for about half an hour with neither his clothes or a hair of his head coming to any harm. Then he asked Zareas to go in. Zareas exhibited a marked reluctance and tried to run away. But the people caught him and threw him in anyway, where surrounded by the flames he began to burn. The holy Helenus went in and pulled him out, half burned but still alive, and the people drove him out in disgrace from their territory. "This is the man you see before you, and daily, wherever he goes, the people crowd round him praising God."

    Chapter VI
    Eugenia sighed deeply and fell at the feet of the person who had told her all that.
    "Please," she said, "introduce me to this man along with my two brothers here. We want to turn from idols to Christ. And because we all came to this conclusion together, and because we are brothers, we would also like to ask him to make sure that we are never parted from each other."
    "Well, be patient for a while," was the reply, "until he goes in to the monastery where he will rest for a while. When an opportunity offers I will tell him all that you have told me."
    As they got nearer to the monastery, people came out to meet their father, singing a psalm to God, 'O God we have known your mercy in the midst of your temple' (Psalms 48.9). And as the bishop and the people went in, so did Eugenia and her companions Hyacinth and Protus. No one knew them except the person with whom they had been talking.

    Chapter VII
    Once the morning praises had been completed, the bishop rested for a while before giving instructions that things should be got ready for the sixth hour, when he would celebrate the divine mysteries. The ninth hour would provide an opportunity for the fast to be broken. As the bishop was resting he had a vision in which he was taken before the image of a woman to whom he should offer sacrifice.
    "Then in my dream," he told us afterwards, "I asked permission of those who led me there to speak to this goddess of theirs. Permission was granted and I said to her, 'You ought to realise that you are merely a creature of God, and come down from your pedestal and forbid anyone to worship you.' She listened, came down and came up to me, saying, 'I will not let you go until you have reunited me with the creator and foundation of my being.'"
    As the bishop was turning these things over in his mind, he was approached by Eutropius, the man with whom Eugenia had been speaking.
    "There are three slaves here, brothers," he said, "who have together decided that they want to turn from the worship of images and be numbered among the servants of Christ in this monastery. They have begged me, implored me with tears, that I should bring them to the notice of your blessedness."
    "I give you thanks, good Jesus," said the blessed Helenus, "that you have given me prior warning of this."
    He ordered them to be brought before him, took Eugenia's hand and offered up a prayer. He then took them aside and with a very serious look on his face asked them the reason for these things being said about them, and that he needed to know where they were coming from.
    "We are Roman citizens," replied Eugenia. "This brother of mine is called Protus, the other one is Hyacinth, and my name is Eugenius."

    "You are well called Eugenius," said the blessed Helenus, "for you are acting manfully, and your heart will be strengthened by your faith in Christ. So Eugenius is a good name for you. But you should know that by the holy Spirit I have already seen you and me in a vision, but you were in the body of a Eugenia. I have been told why you are here, though it was not given to me to know about these friends of yours. However, the Lord has deigned to reveal to me that you have prepared a most pleasing dwelling place for him in your body, for you have kept the prize of virginity and rejected the false blandishments of this present world. But you should know also that you will have a great deal to suffer because of your chastity, but he will never desert you, for you have given yourself to him completely."

    He then turned to Protus and Hyacinth.
    "You may be slaves," he said, "but you have boldly laid hold upon the dignity of freedmen, and you will continue to do so. So let me keep silent, hear what Christ the Lord says to you: 'Amen, Amen I say to you, I no longer call you slaves but friends' (John 15.15). Wherefore I call you blessed, for you have opened your hearts to the holy Spirit and wholeheartedly consented to the commandments of our Saviour. And you will enjoy the glory of all those who come to him."
    The blessed Helenus said all this quite openly, informed by none other than God himself. He said that she should remain in male clothing, and that they would all be kept with him until such time as they had been instructed about the holy rite of Baptism and made members of the monastery.

    Chapter VIII
    Now let us return to what happened after Protus and Hyacinth went off with Eugenia in their charge. Led by the slaves, the horses brought the basterna back empty to Eugenia's mother. It was noticed while still some way off and everyone in the household went out to meet it with great joy. But when they found it empty their joy was turned to weeping, and there was a great outcry throughout the whole city. Who could have imagined that the daughter of the prefect could have gone missing? There was enormous distress, floods of tears, everyone mourned in a state of unbelief. Parents mourned a daughter, brothers a sister, slaves a mistress. A gloom descended upon all, and unending mental tribulation. A search was decreed throughout the whole province, auspices were taken and oracles consulted. The demons also were entreated with sacrifices and other disgusting superstitious practices to reveal where Eugenia was. They all indicated only that gods from heaven had carried her off.
    Her father came to believe that this was true, and in order to get what comfort he could in the midst of his grief, he decreed that a feast day should be kept. He consecrated her to be numbered among the gods, and caused a golden image to be made of her, to be venerated with no less honour than that given to the other gods. Her mother Claudia, and her brothers Avitus and Sergius were, however, inconsolable; they found their grief unbearable.

    Chapter IX
    Meanwhile the blessed Eugenia, manly in spirit as well as in clothing, remained in that monastery of men. She made such great progress in divine knowledge that at the end of two years she had committed to memory all the Scriptures of the Lord. She displayed such an aura of peace that everyone declared her to be numbered among the Angels. Who could discover that she was a woman, since the power of Christ and her immaculate virginity were protecting her in a way that was marvellous among men? No one was before her in coming to prayer, she became all things to all (1 Corinthinans 9.22), she consoled the sad, rejoiced with the happy, calmed the angry, put the proud to shame by her example, and rejoiced in being like a sheep rescued from the power of the wolf. She was blessed with so much grace that whenever she talked with anyone who was feeling depressed, grief was banished and well-being restored. Her companions, Hyacinth and Protus, stayed close to her, and followed her example in all things.

    Chapter X
    In the third year of her conversion, the abbot of the monastery passed to the Lord, and it seemed right to everybody that they should choose the blessed Eugenia as their abbot. Eugenia was alarmed that they had chosen a woman to be superior over men, contrary to all the rules, fearing in particular that they would take advantage of her and pay her no respect.
    "Let us pay attention to the Gospel in this situation," she said, "for Christ should be listened to above all whenever Christians embark upon any course of action. Let us see what he demands in this election you have made, so that I can conform myself both to your wishes and his commandments."
    She opened up the Gospels and began to read.
    "'Jesus said to his disciples, "You know that the rulers of the gentiles lord it over them and exercise authority over them. But among you it shall not be like that. He who would be first among you let him be as the last, and he who would be master, let him be as your servant"' (Matthew 20. 25-27). So then I have decided to submit to your wishes and accept the leadership, and also obey the commands of the Lord. Finally I rely on your continued charity."
    They all very happily approved of what she said. More than anyone else she took upon herself the monastic tasks which were usually assigned to the lowliest members. She fetched water, cut firewood, kept everything clean. She chose one of the smaller rooms in the gatehouse for herself, not wishing to appear more important than the gatekeeper himself. She took great care over the brothers' food, and kept very strictly to the orderly recitation of the psalms and maintained the regular observance of the third, sixth and ninth hours, vespers, night office and matins. She would have considered herself a failure in God's sight if any portion of the hours in praise of God were missed out. Her work in all this became so acceptable in the sight of God that she was able to expel demons from those possessed and open the eyes of the blind. I intend to deal with many of these deeds one by one, so let us hurry on for as much as we have time for.

    Chapter XI
    There was a woman from Alexandria called Melanthia, the most notable of all the other matrons, who heard of Eugenia's reputation and came to her because of a quartan ague from which she had suffered for more than a year. The blessed Eugenia anointed her with oil and immediately the disturbance in her gall bladder disappeared. Completely restored to health, she walked to an estate of hers near the monastery and ordered three silver bowls to be filled with silver coins and sent to the blessed Eugenia in thanksgiving for her cure. Eugenia sent them back.
    "We have enough and more than enough of this world's goods here. So, my dear Melanthia, I urge and implore you to be a mother to the poor and share this out among those who are much more in need."

    Chapter XII
    Melanthia was annoyed when she got this message. She went to Eugenia and begged her to change her mind and promised to give her even more. Having spent quite a long time with the blessed Eugenia without realising that she was a woman, she began to get quite enamoured of this person whom she thought to be a very elegant young man. She decided that he was just a creature of earth anyway, attributing her cure to his magic arts, not to his sanctity. She became infatuated with him, and decided that he was just angling for more money. She offered him more and more, but for all her persistence, everything she sent to Eugenia was simply sent back with grateful thanks. She determined on an even more destructive path and, pretending to be ill, asked Eugenia to visit her. She tried to impose herself upon Eugenia, who was sitting at her bedside.
    "My breast is bursting with insatiable love for you. The only possible remedy for this condition is for me to make you the master of all I possess. Why torment yourself with your stupid, useless sexual abstinence? Look, I can offer you enormous wealth, tons of gold, and plenty of silver, and a large and varied household. I can be very generous. I have no children, I have been widowed for the last year. Take their place. Be master not only of all my possessions but of me, too."
    Eugenia heard her out and replied, "The blackness [Melanthes (Greek) = dark-coloured]of your name bears witness to your wickedness. You are making yourself into a dwelling place for the devil. Melanthia, you unsavoury deceiver, leave the servants of God alone. We have our own battles to fight. Let your wealth belong to someone like yourself. We prefer to be beggars with Christ. Banish all your lustful desires. This insanity has taken you over and is endangering your own salvation. You are possessed by a dragon pouring out poison, but your poison has no effect on us, for we call on the name of Christ and find the mercy of the Lord."

    Life of Eugenia (continued), Book 1d

    Chapter XIII

    But she felt no remorse for her deceits. She went back to Alexandria, determined to expose Eugenia before she herself could be exposed. She complained to the prefect.

    "I have had dealings with a villainous youth who pretends to be a religious Christian. He has a reputation for being able to heal the sick, so when I was ill I allowed him to visit me. He must have thought I was one of those who enjoy a bit of an orgy, for he had the cheek to try and seduce me in the most obscene language. If I had not cried out and been saved by my maid coming in, he would have forced himself on me like a barbarian."

    The prefect was furious, and ordered guards to go to the monastery and bring back in chains this person and everyone else who was there. There was not one prison big enough to hold them all, so they were chained up in various different places. A day for the imposition of the death penalty was decided upon, some to be thrown to the beasts, some to be burned, others to various different kinds of torture. The news of it was widely circulated, and it became a subject of obscene conversation throughout the whole of the province of Egypt. Everyone believed Melanthia, and everyone joined in condemnation, unable to conceive of such an eminent person to be capable of lying.

    What next? The day of the death penalty arrived, and people poured in from all the towns round about to see those revolting prisoners thrown to the beasts. They were brought in, chained together to the blessed Eugenia with iron collars round their necks, with no one aware that she was a woman. A fierce uproar broke out from the people, hurling all kinds of insults. The prefect ordered that Eugenia should be brought nearer to him so that he could hear for himself her true account instead of having to rely on a messenger relaying her words to him. The horsemen were ready with their canes, the torturers with fire and all the other means of inducing people to confess and incriminate themselves.

    Chapter XIV

    Philip then spoke to her.

    "Tell me, you most loathsome Christian, did your master Christ include in his commandments that you should give yourself up to corruption, and attack a woman's chastity and modesty by your cunning deceits? Tell us now, you monster of depravity, what kind of madness was it possessed you to accost that noble woman, Melanthia, gain access to her on pretence of being a doctor, and then entice her to exchange her wholehearted commitment to chastity for the disgusting morals of the brothel?"

    Eugenia listened to all this with lowered head, so that she was not recognised, then made her reply to the prefect.

    "My Lord Jesus Christ whom I serve advocates chastity, and promises eternal life to those who maintain the integrity of their bodies. I could now accuse Melanthia of being a false witness. Nevertheless I would prefer to be wronged myself, than for her to be punished if convicted, lest I lose my spiritual reward for being patient. However, if your sublimity will promise, on your authority as prefect, that you will not give her the punishment prepared for me, and that her false witness will not bring her to any harm, then I shall prove that the crime I am accused of should redound upon her own head."

    The prefect promised, on his own reputation as prefect, to do as she asked, and Eugenia went on:

    "O Melanthia, name of blackness, Melanthia of the night, you have drawn swords against us, you would have all Christians hung. Damn us, cut us down, deliver us to the flames, that is where you would be well pleased to have us. Christ does not have the sort of servants that you have accused us of. But let your maid be brought forward, who you have said was a witness of my crime. Perhaps the lie may be uncovered out of her own mouth."

    The maid was made to stand forth in the presence of the judge.

    "This shameless young man," she said, "has often been known to fornicate with common people. It was sheer shamelessness that led him to brazen his way into my lady's bedroom at the first hour of the morning, saying at first that he had come on a healing mission. It soon became apparent that lust was his intention, and it would have come to violence if I had not come in and roused the whole household, who will also bear witness today to this crime."

    The prefect called the other slaves who she said would confirm her account was true. He asked each one of them, and they all testified that it had happened as she had said.

    "What have you got to say to that, you hardened sinner," the prefect asked furiously, "with all these witnessing against you, bringing such a heavy weight of evidence?"

    Chapter XV

    "All will now be revealed," said the blessed Eugenia. "The time for silence is past. I had hoped that the accusation against me would be left until the judgment to come, when my chastity would be obvious to him alone who is ever to be lovingly served. But lest these wicked insults result in the servants of Christ being mocked, let me in a few words lay bare the truth, not in a spirit of human vainglory, but simply for the glory of the name of Christ. So great is the power of his name that even women who fear him can come to be worth as much as any man. We believe that neither sex is considered to be superior in his sight, since the blessed apostle Paul, the universal Christian teacher, has said that the Lord makes no distinction between male and female, for in Christ all are one (Galatians 3.28). I accepted this saying with a whole heart. With complete trust in Christ I decided to be a woman no longer, but to live bravely as a man in Christ, and preserve my virginity intact. I have not taken on some twisted semblance of honesty as if I were a man pretending to be a woman, but as a woman I have lived as a man, while strongly embracing virginity in Christ."

    Having said this she tore the tunic she was wearing from top to bottom and stood revealed as a woman.

    "You are my father, according to the flesh," she said to the prefect, "and Claudia is my mother. There are my two brothers sitting next to you, Avitus and Sergius. I am Eugenia, your daughter, and for the love of Christ I have renounced all the delights of the world as being worth no more than dung. See, here are Hyacinth and Protus, my eunuchs who entered the school of Christ with me. Christ has favoured me so greatly that by his mercy he has made me conqueror over all polluting lusts, and I trust that I shall remain faithful to him to the very end."

    Chapter XVI

    Father recognised daughter, brothers a sister, slaves a mistress. They all rushed towards her and embraced her with floods of tears in the sight of all the people. A message was sent to Claudia, her mother, and she too came hurrying down to the arena. A tunic of cloth of gold was brought, which Eugenia put on, albeit unwillingly, and she was lifted aloft and taken up to the prefect's stall. All the people cried out "Christ is one, the only true God of the Christians!" There were many Christian people, with priests and bishops, in the amphitheatre, who had come with the intention of giving burial to the accused after their death. They all with one voice sang a psalm, 'The right hand of the Lord has grown marvellous in power, your right hand O Lord has broken in pieces your enemies' (Psalms118.16)

    Eugenia was carried away into a triumphal procession, and just to make sure that proof of her chastity was not lost on the people in their joy, fire was seen to descend from heaven and engulf Melanthia's house completely, so that not a trace of anything she possessed was left. The church, which had been dead and buried for the last eight years, was reopened. The Christian people were allowed to return, the prefect surrounded by his lictors was baptised, and so were his sons, and also Eugenia's mother Claudia. All citizens' rights were restored to the Christians, and a report about the Christians was sent to the Emperor Severus, [Emperor 222 - 235, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica] to the effect that Christians were perfectly good servants of the Republic, so that they should be allowed to live in the city without restraint. The emperor approved the report, to the great joy of every city, and the dignity of the Christian name flourished.

    Chapter XVII

    But the envy of the wicked one always hovers around anything holy, and evil is for ever fighting against the good. Thus, several of the most influential of the Alexandrian idol-worshippers took it ill that Christians should have citizens' rights, and went to the emperor to complain that Philip had upset the state of the Republic, in that he had governed it inefficiently over his nine years of office, and that in this tenth year everything was falling into chaos. The worship of the immortal god was being neglected, and the whole city had turned to the worship of some man or other whom the Jews had executed. There was no respect for the old laws. People everywhere were going into the sacred temples, not for the sake of worshipping in good faith, but simply to utter endless blasphemies, saying that the images of the Gods were merely bits of stone or brass. These complaints, and a lot more like them, were made to Severus and Antoninus Augustus, who were then constrained to issue the following decree to Philip.

    "Our divine father Commodus, the former Augustus, appointed you to be not merely a prefect but more like a king, in that you would not be replaced during your lifetime. We desire to add to the benefits you have received, by making sure that you maintain the traditional worship of the omnipotent gods. Either that, or lay your office aside and yield up all your authority."

    Chapter XVIII

    He bowed to the decrees of Augustus, and took some sick leave, while gathering together all his assets and distributing them to various churches and poor people throughout the province. Living in the fear of God and worshipping Christ he was a great source of encouragement to others. All Alexandria combined to regard him as their bishop, so from then on the republic had him as prefect until such time as his successor might be appointed, and the church had him as bishop, for because of his great faith he had been chosen for this priestly office. And this episcopate of his lasted for a year and three months.

    Chapter XIX

    At that time a new prefect named Perennius took up his office. He tried hard to discredit Philip, but found it difficult because of the high regard in which he was held throughout the city. So he organised some men who pretended to be Christians in order to gain admittance to him, whereupon they stabbed him as he was celebrating the regular Sunday prayers. [He is commemorated in the Roman martyrology on September 13.] The assailants were handed over to Perennius the prefect, who, although he knew perfectly well what his orders had been, acted as if this was the first he had heard of it, and sent them to prison. A few days later, exercising his princely discretion, he released them.

    Meanwhile the most blessed Philip lingered on in the flesh for three days after the attack on him. He desired nothing more than to strengthen the hearts of those who doubted, so to that end he prayed that he might receive the crown of martyrdom, not wishing to be deprived of that honour. While still in the flesh he had put demons to flight and enlightened the eyes of the blind; is it surprising that he wished also for the palm of martyrdom? What he wanted he was indubitably able to command, and so it fell out that from sharing the name of Philip he became one who shared the crown. The martyrs took him into their company, just as the church had deservedly accepted his priesthood. His daughter the holy Eugenia established a monastery of Christian virgins in his house, and ordered his precious body to be placed in the guesthouse which the most blessed Claudia had built and endowed for the reception of pilgrims. Claudia herself, together with her sons Avitus and Sergius and the blessed Eugenia, returned to Rome.

    Chapter XX

    The Roman senate welcomed back Philip's sons, and assigned one to the consulship of Carthage, and the other to the deputy consulship of Africa. Around Eugenia, however, many matrons gathered as well as quite a number of virgins. Whether they were friends or just acquaintances she was able to persuade them to believe in Christ, and to dedicate their virginity to the Lord. A member of the royal family called Basilla very much wanted to join them, but could not do so openly because they were known to be Christians, but she sent a messenger to Eugenia telling her of her desire to be instructed in the Christian religion. So the blessed Eugenia had a meeting with her most blessed companions Protus and Hyacinth.

    "Get yourselves ready for Christ is calling you to some military service," she said. "I would like to offer you to Basilla as if I were giving her a present, so that you can teach her what it means to be a handmaid of the Lord."

    Basilla thanked Eugenia for this gift and accepted them as if they were slaves, but honoured them as apostles. She spent all her time with them, and although they appeared to be her eunuchs and slaves, there was not a time, night or day, which they did not spend in learning about Christ and in prayer. Cornelius, protector of the sacred law in Rome, came and baptised her secretly. [Cornelius is listed as Pope of Rome, 251 - 253.] Now that the blessed Basilla was confirmed in the fear of God, by the mercy of Christ she and the blessed Eugenia spent practically every night in each other's company.

    Chapter XXI

    The blessed Claudia was the focus point for all the widows, and the blessed Eugenia for the virgins. The holy Cornelius, pope of the city of Rome, led a night-long vigil of hymns for them every Saturday until Sunday dawn, and at cock-crow in the quiet of the night, he celebrated the sacred mysteries. That was how he ministered to them on the Sabbath, but, as we have said, Eugenia and Basilla spent almost every night together in rehearsing to each other the wisdom of Christ. How many virgins came to the Saviour through Eugenia! How many brides came to Christ through Basilla! How many women gladly embraced their widowhood through Claudia! How many young men put their trust in Christ the Lord through Protus and Hyacinth!

    Chapter XXII

    When Valerian and Gallienus were joint emperors, persecution of Christians began, because Cyprian [Bishop of Carthage 249 - 258] was turning Carthage upside down and Cornelius Rome. Authority was given to Paternus the proconsul that Cyprian should be killed. Cornelius, however, was held in such high esteem by so many leading Romans that he was able to remain in hiding. Eugenia then consulted Basilla.

    "It has been revealed to me by the Lord," she said, "that you will be made to suffer for your virginity." "And the Lord has thought fit to tell me," replied Basilla, "that you are about to receive a double crown of martyrdom, the first because of all that you achieved by your virtuous labours in Alexandria, [It needs to be remembered that the primary meaning of "martyrdom" is "witness", not necessarily including shedding of blood.] secondly because you are about to shed your blood."

    "O Lord Jesus, son of the most High," said Eugenia as she lifted her hands up to heaven, "you brought us salvation through the virginity of your mother. Through the prize of my virginity, lead into the kingdom of your glory all those whom you have entrusted to my care."

    Chapter XXIII

    Eugenia called together all those virgins who were living with her and Basilla.

    "See now, the time of the grape-harvest is at hand," she said, "when the grapes are plucked and trodden underfoot, in preparation for the royal feasting which is to come. Without shedding of blood no one gains imperial power, no one has the highest honours showered upon them. You therefore, my branches of vine, beloved of my heart, be ready in the Lord. For virginity is a sign of the highest virtue and nearest to God. It mirrors the life of the angels, it is life giving, the friend of holiness, the way of security, the mistress of joy, the leader of virtue, the spur and crown of faith, the prop and support of charity. There is nothing worth working for and striving after like living in virginity, or what is even more glorious, dying for the sake of virginity. The deceptive pleasures of the world come with a great momentary joy, but depart leaving perpetual grief behind. They bring short-lived laughter and eternal tears. They offer fresh flowers, but leave you with withered stalks. They pretend that the passing moment will last for ever, but hand you over into the torments of everlasting ages.

    "Therefore, my beloved virgins, who have run with me in the race of virginity, go on in the love of God as you have begun. The time of weeping will be short; bear it unflinchingly and bravely, that you may be able to enter into the realm of eternal joy with all your heart. I have offered you all up to the holy Spirit, and I trust that for my sake he will keep you whole and unstained. Don't imagine that the way I look is my true self; contemplate rather in the spirit my actions and deeds."

    Having said this she kissed them all, and wiped away their tears with a strong heart. Basilla and Eugenia said goodbye to each other and departed.

    Chapter XXIV

    The day came when a serving girl spoke to Pompeius, Basilla's betrothed.

    "We know that our mistress Basilla has been intended by the Emperor for you, and that you have spent the last six years or more of your young life waiting until such time as you might be old enough to have her. But you must know that her cousin Helenus is a Christian. She also has become a Christian and has not the slightest intention of marrying you. And it was only a pretence that Eugenia offered her those two eunuchs Protus and Hyacinth as a gift. She regards them as her teachers, and daily kisses their feet as if they were immortal gods, whereas they are really practitioners of the magic arts that Christians go in for."

    Pompeius immediately went to see Basilla's cousin Helenus, who was also her guardian and teacher.

    "I would like to celebrate my marriage within the next three days," he said, "so I would like to see my promised bride, whom our mighty lords and masters have decreed that I should marry."

    Helenus realised that Basilla's position had been revealed to Pompeius.

    "Because of my relationship to her father I have been responsible for her welfare since infancy," he said, "but now she has got a will of her own, so it is not for me to order her to see you. It is entirely up to her."

    Chapter XXV

    Pompeius' passion was aroused on hearing this, and he hastened to Basilla's house where he ordered the janitor to announce him. But all he got was a message relayed to him from Basilla:

    "I know of hardly any reason at all why I should see you, or listen to you, or even greet you."

    This made him very angry. He attended an almost full meeting of the senate and prostrated himself before the Emperor:

    "Come to the aid of your Roman citizens, O most sacred prince," he said, "and banish from the city these new gods that Eugenia has brought with her from Egypt. For a long time now these people called Christians have been undermining the republic. They make a mockery of the sacred ceremonies of our constitution, and despise our mighty gods as being empty idols. They are subverting the very laws of nature; they break marriages up and decide about marriages themselves, considering it against their principles for a bride to accept the bridegroom assigned to her. O most godly Emperor, what shall we do? It seems we now have gods who make husbands superfluous, and shall they see it come to pass that there will be no younger generation capable of taking command? Whence will come the renewal of Roman power? Whence shall the Roman army renew its strength? Will there be victorious women to bend the necks of the enemy into submission to your right hand, if we are not to have wives, if promised brides escape from us and we say nothing?"

    Chapter XVI

    He said quite a lot more in the same vein, until the senate was thoroughly acquainted with the details of this lamentable affair. Gallienus Augustus then decreed that Basilla should either accept her bridegroom or be put to the sword, that Eugenia should either sacrifice to the gods or be cruelly tortured, and he gave orders that anyone hiding Christians should be punished. Basilla was summoned and told she must accept her spouse.

    "I have the King of kings, Christ the son of God, for my spouse," was her reply.

    No sooner had she said this than the sword transfixed her. Protus and Hyacinth were arrested and dragged to the temple but when they were led before the image of Jove and told to sacrifice to it, it fell down at their feet and broke into a thousand pieces, so that it was no longer in a condition to have sacrifices made to it. Nicetius, the city prefect, deemed that this was because of their magic powers, not because of the power of God, and ordered that they should be beheaded.

    Chapter XXVII

    He summoned Eugenia to appear before him and browbeat her about her magic arts. She was firm and fearless in her reply to him.

    (Chapter XXVII (continued), Life of Eugenia, Book 1d
    (Also Euphrasia further down this page)

    "I promise you," she said, "that our art is much stronger than that. Our master has a Father but no mother, and a mother who knew not a father. For the Father begot him without help from any woman, and a mother brought him to birth who knew not a man. He has a virgin for his spouse, who daily bears him many sons, yes, countless sons does she bear, and daily he gives his flesh to their flesh. She enjoys his embraces unceasingly, their love for each other is everlasting, and exists in such integrity that their union becomes the source of all virginity, all charity and all integrity."

    Chapter XVIII
    Nicetius found all this quite baffling, and to save the Emperor from having to listen to all that if she were called before him, he ordered Eugenia to be taken to the temple of Diana, where a soldier threatened her with a spear.
    "Get your life back, Eugenia," he said. "Return to your own inheritance and sacrifice to the goddess Diana."
    Eugenia spread out her hands to heaven and prayed.
    "O God, you know all the secrets of my heart. In your love you have preserved my virginity unsullied, for you have found me worthy of being given your son, my Lord Jesus Christ, as my spouse. You have made your holy Spirit to reign in my heart. Be present with me now as I confess your holy name and let all those who worship this idol and glory in its images be put to shame."
    As she was praying an earthquake occurred, and the foundations of the temple shook and the idol was overthrown. Nothing remained standing except the altar in front of the temple doors where Eugenia was standing. This all happened in the district of Lycaonia, in the presence of all those who had followed Eugenia in her trials. A vast crowd of Roman people collected amid a tumult of discordant shouts. Some protested her innocence, others branded her as a magician. The prefect was told what was happening and he made it known to the Emperor. The Emperor ordered her to be thrown into the Tiber weighed down with stones, but the stones became untied, and the blessed Eugenia floated over the surface of the water, so that it was obvious to all Christians that he who walked with Peter in the sea without sinking was with her to prevent her being drowned.

    Chapter XXIX
    They fished her out of the river and threw her into the furnace that heated the Severian baths, but the furnace immediately went out, its heat turned to cold, and all its burning fuel crumbled to nothing. Chaos broke out such as had never been seen before. They threw her into a dark dungeon and ordered that she be given no food for the next ten days nor allowed any light. But such great splendour was daily there with her that when she eventually emerged she radiated light. For the Saviour had appeared to her there, bringing her bread as white as snow and of the most exquisite tasting sweetness.
    "Eugenia," he had said to her, "take this bread from my hands. I am your Saviour whom you have loved with all your heart and mind, and do still love. I will receive you into heaven on the same day in which I came down to earth."
    Having said this he departed, and on Christmas day a gladiator was sent to kill her in prison, and her body was taken up by Christian relatives of hers and taken to the family estates not far from the city on the Latin Way, where the bodies of many saints were buried.

    Chapter XXX
    As Claudia her mother was grieving at her tomb, keeping vigil in the dead of night, Eugenia appeared to her clad in a garment of cloth of gold, accompanied by a host of virgins.
    "Be glad and rejoice," said Eugenia, "for Christ has led me to share in the joyfulness of the saints, and has numbered my father amongst the patriarchs. And behold, this Sunday he will receive you into the everlasting joys. Encourage your sons, my brothers, to keep the sign of the cross, that they too may come to share glory with us."
    And as she spoke she was enfolded in a light so brilliant that human eye could not bear it, as the Angels came down singing a hymn to God in voices of a beauty beyond description, except that it was the name of Jesus Christ and his holy Spirit that resounded through their praises. Glory and honour to the Father, and to the Son, and to the holy Spirit, now and always and unto the ages of ages, Amen.

    Life No 18

    The Life of St Euphrasia, Virgin [Celebrated in the Roman martyrology on March 13]

    by an anonymous author

    Chapter I
    At the time of the most godly emperor Theodosius, [Theodosius I, Emperor in Constantinople 379-395] there was a certain senator in the royal city called Antigonus. He was of the imperial family and a member of his closest circle, a man wise in deeds as well as in words, who governed the province of Lycia [A province of Asia Minor between Caria and Pamphylia] conscientiously according to Roman Law. He was a compassionate man, sensitive to the needs of others. The Emperor loved him not only as a relative and a senator but as a godly Christian who was always able to offer good advice. He was extremely wealthy; the royal city had no one else like him in respect of wisdom, good deeds and riches. He took a wife called Euphraxia, of his own nation and from the same imperial family, who feared the Lord deeply and spent much time in church offering her prayers and tears to God. She helped many to take part in the work of God by means of her many gifts to churches and monasteries. The emperor and Augusta his wife dearly loved her not only because she was of their family, but also for her upright morals, her honesty and her deep piety. They had one daughter who was also called Euphraxia, after her mother.

    Chapter II
    After their daughter was born, Antigonus said to Euphraxia one day:
    "You know, Euphraxia, my sister, that this life is nothing, that the vanity of riches and this temporal existence is nothing. A human lifespan of eighty years is consummated in ruin, whereas riches laid up in heaven last for infinite ages of ages to them who fear God. We deprive ourselves of those riches if we are fettered by the standards of the world and held in thrall to the deceits of temporal riches, or if we pass our days in idleness, acquiring nothing useful to our souls."
    "What are you suggesting we should do, my husband?" asked Euphraxia.
    "God has given us one daughter, which should be quite enough for us. We don't need to conform any further to this unfortunate and miserable age."
    Euphraxia sprang to her feet and raised her hands to heaven.
    "Blessed be God," she said to her husband Antigonus with a sigh. "He has given you the grace to fear him, and lead you into a knowledge of his truth. To tell you the truth I have often prayed to God to illumine your heart and enlighten your mind on this very matter, though I did not presume to broach the subject myself. Shall I tell you who is the prime mover in this?"
    "Tell me anything you like, my love."
    "The Apostle bore witness many long ages since, you know, and said, 'We have but a short time. It remains that those who have wives should live as those who have them not' (1 Corinthians 7.29). All the desires of the world are doomed to perish. What use is our money and abundant possessions? None of it will go down with us into the grave. Let's make haste to act on your good advice and give much to the poor, so that the plan you have proposed will not be unfruitful."
    Hearing this, Antigonus glorified God.

    Chapter III
    Having entered into this higher way of life and given a great deal to the poor, Antigonus lived only for one more year after renouncing his wife. He had died after conducting his life in this godly way for a whole year, and so was buried in peace. The Emperor and Augusta both mourned for him, not just because he was descended from the same family line, but because he had been upright and devout. They were very solicitous for Euphraxia's welfare, not just because of family ties, but also because she was now in the same position as a young unmarried woman. Two years and three months only had she lived with a husband, one year of which they had abstained from each other and lived as brother and sister.
    So once Antigonus was buried, Euphraxia received great support from them, to the extent that she felt able to take her daughter and hand her over into the care of the Emperor and Augusta. She fell at their feet, crying and weeping.
    "I commend this orphan into your hands and the hands of God," she said. "Be mindful of Antigonus who belonged to you, and take this child and care for her, and stand in the place of both father and mother for her."
    Many of those who heard this shed many tears. Even the royal couple wept.

    Chapter IV
    A little while later, when mourning for Antigonus had subsided a little, the Emperor persuaded Euphraxia that her daughter should be betrothed to a certain rich senator. The betrothal was arranged in expectation of her arriving at full age, for at present she was only five years old. After some further time had passed, this senator began to entertain a desire to be united with Antigonus' widow. He begged for the support of various matrons, who persuaded Augusta that the senator should be allowed to exchange marriage vows with Euphraxia, without seeking permission from the Emperor. Euphraxia wept bitterly when told about this plan and complained to the women responsible.
    "Woe to you in the life to come!" she cried. "In foisting this plan upon me, you are contriving to hinder the path of a woman who is striving to live for God alone. Leave me alone. In any case you have ensured that I no longer have any desire to be part of your circle."
    They were left in some confusion, and told Augusta what had happened. The Emperor got to hear about it as well, and was furious with Augusta.
    "Really, Augusta," he cried, "You have done something which is completely and utterly out of order! Is this your kind of Christianity, Augusta? Is this the way you fulfil your promise to God to govern in a godly manner? Is this the way you honour the memory of Antigonus whom we valued so greatly? You have done something completely at odds with the way we should be governing. Here is this woman who is still technically an infant, although she had lived with a husband for a year. By agreement they stopped sleeping with each other for the sake of the kingdom of heaven, and now you want to compel her to return to the way of the world? Have you no fear of God, to perpetrate this wickedness? How am I going to persuade people that I did not authorise this? What you have done is bizarre! Indecent! You have flouted my imperial authority, and sullied the memory of my dearest and greatly loved Antigonus!"
    Augusta was covered in confusion at this rebuke, and was struck dumb and as still as a stone for nearly two hours. Euphraxia, Antigonus' widow, had become the occasion of an enormous dissension between the Emperor and Augusta, and at that thought Euphraxia was very upset, and with downcast eyes she felt she might just as well be dead. She decided to leave the city entirely.
    "We have large estates in Egypt," she said to her daughter, weeping bitterly, "so let's go there and visit your father's property. Everything I have is yours, my daughter."
    So Euphraxia and her daughter left the imperial city, without telling the Emperor, and went to Egypt. They intended to stay there, and visited all their estates in quick succession, before going into the interior of the Thebaid, taking with them slaves and stewards to look after their luggage. They stayed in several monasteries both of men and of women, where they offered many prayers and gave considerable gifts of money.

    Chapter VI
    In one place there was a monastery of women which had a hundred and thirty architria. ['small cells', presumably small buildings with three domes] It was said that many notable virtues could be observed there. Nobody drank wine in that monastery, they ate no apples or grapes or figs or other fruits which the region brought forth in abundance. One of those women who had renounced the world denied herself the use of oil in her diet, and fasted daily from vespers to vespers. There were some who ate only every two days, some every three. None of them ever washed their feet. They poured scorn upon the very mention of a bath, judging it to be a word which was almost obscene, to which they ought to shut their ears. There was one of them who took her meagre allowance of sleep on the ground, with a covering of goatskin only one cubit wide and three long. Their outer garments were of goatskin right down to the tips of their toes. Each of them did as much manual labour as possible. If anyone fell ill there was no provision for medicine or ointments, but they accepted their illnesses as the greatest of blessings from the Lord, and bore their weakness in expectation of the medicine of the Sunday Eucharist. None of them wandered outside the gates. There was a mature woman in charge of the gate, who was responsible for all communications inwards and outwards. She was one who dispensed a great deal of sound common sense.

    Chapter VII
    Euphraxia greatly valued the wisdom of these holy women, the fruit of their marvellous lives, and often went to the monastery where she offered incense and candles. One day she had a request to make of the abbess and her deputies.
    "I hope you won't be too angry if I offer you a little gift of twenty or thirty pounds of gold, that you might pray for this little friend of yours and her father Antigonus."
    "My dear good lady," replied the abbess, "Your servants have no need of any gifts and no longing for money. For we have left all, and scorned the things of this world in order to enjoy the blessings of eternity. We desire to possess nothing that we may not lose the kingdom of heaven. But I don't want to disappoint you, or send you away empty-handed, so just take a little lamp oil and incense to the oratory, and that will be ample reward for us."
    Euphraxia did so, and begged all the sisters to pray for Antigonus and his daughter Euphraxia.

    Chapter VIII
    One day the abbess put the child Euphraxia to the test.
    "Now then, Miss Euphraxia," she said, "how do you like our monastery and all the sisters?"
    "Oh, I like you very much, ma'am," she replied.
    "Well, if you like us so much, why not wear the habit as we do," said the abbess jokingly.
    "If my mother has no objections," said the little girl, "I would be quite happy to stay here for ever."
    "Whom do you love best, then, out of us and the man you are betrothed to?"
    "I don't know him, or he me. I know you, and I love you. Tell me, whom do you love, me or him?
    "We love you, and we love our Christ."
    "And I truly love you and your Christ."
    Euphraxia the mother listened to all this and her tears flowed without restraint. The abbess was very moved by what the little girl said, to think that such a small girl should come out with such things. For she was only seven years old, when this conversation was taking place.
    "Come, daughter," said the mother with a sigh and a bitter tear, "Time to go home. It's evening already."
    "I want to stay here with my lady abbess."
    "No dear," said the abbess, "you can't stay here. Off you go home. No one can stay here unless they have given themselves completely to Christ."
    "Where is Christ?"
    The abbess pointed out an image of the Lord. Euphraxia ran up to it and kissed it, turned round and said:
    "I truly vow myself to Christ and will not go home with my mother."
    "My daughter," said the abbess, "it is not for you to stay here, you can't stay here."
    "Where you are," she replied, "there shall I be."
    It was already evening, but however much both mother and abbess urged her to go home nothing would persuade her to leave. Day after day both mother and abbess talked to her, but they were unable to make her change her mind and could not drive her out of the monastery.
    "My daughter," the abbess said at last, "if you want to stay here you must be able to read, and learn the Psalter, and fast until vespers like all the other sisters."
    "I can learn to fast and do everything, if only I can stay here."
    "Well, my lady," the abbess said at last to the girl's mother, "Let the girl stay here. I perceive the grace of God alight in her, and I recognise that her father's virtue, and your honesty, and the prayers of both of you have given her a vision of eternal life."

    Chapter IX
    Euphraxia arose and took her daughter over to the image of the Lord, raising her hands to heaven with a loud cry and many tears.
    "Lord Jesus Christ," she cried, "take this little girl who longs for you and has offered herself to you," and turning to her daughter, "Euphraxia, my daughter, may God who has laid the foundations of the everlasting mountains confirm you in his fear."
    She handed her over to the abbess, and beating her breast and weeping, left the monastery. The whole congregation wept with her in sympathy.

    Chapter X
    A few days later the abbess took Euphraxia into the oratory, prayed over her, and clothed her in the monastic habit.
    "O eternal King," she prayed as she stretched out her hands to heaven, "you have begun a good work in her; bring it peacefully to perfection, we pray. Grant that this little girl may ever walk according to your name, and be found faithful in your sight."
    Euphraxia's mother also prayed, and said to her daughter:
    "Is it your will, my daughter, to be clothed in this habit?"
    "It is, mother. For I have learned from the abbess and from the sisters that this habit is the bridal dress which the Lord Jesus Christ gives to those who love him."
    "May he to whom you are betrothing yourself, " said her mother, "make you worthy of his marriage bed."
    With these words and prayers for her daughter, she said farewell to the abbess and the sisters, embraced her daughter, and left to resume her usual custom of moving about, supplying the needs of the poor.

    Chapter XI
    After a few days the abbess asked the girl's mother to come and see her privately.
    "I have something to tell you," she said, "but don't be alarmed."
    "Tell me, whatever it is."
    "I saw in a dream Antigonus your husband standing in great glory, begging the Lord Jesus Christ that you might depart from your body and be with him from then on, and enjoy the glory which he enjoyed."
    Like the religious woman she was, she went home not in the least perturbed but glad and joyful. She prayed that indeed she might be allowed to depart this life and be with Christ. She went to see her daughter.
    "My daughter," she said, "my lady abbess has told me that Christ is calling me and the day of my departure is at hand. Everything belonging to your father and me I give into your hands. Distribute it wisely, that you may gain a heavenly inheritance."
    "Woe is me," cried her daughter, "I am now a pilgrim and orphan!"
    "My daughter, you have Christ for your father and your husband, so don't say you are a pilgrim and an orphan. And you have your lady abbess in place of a mother. So look to it that you carry out everything you have promised. Fear God, honour all your sisters, serve them with all humility. Never entertain in your heart any thoughts that you are of the imperial family and therefore they ought to be your slaves. Be poor on earth that you may be rich in heaven. See now, everything is yours. Give lands and money to the monastery on your father's behalf and mine, that we may find mercy in the sight of God and escape the punishment eternal."
    Three days later she died, and they buried her in the monastery's cemetery.

    Life of Euphrasia (continued), Book 1d

    Chapter XIII

    When the Emperor heard that Euphraxia the wife of Antigonus was dead he summoned the senator to whom her daughter had been betrothed and told him the news, adding that the girl had joined a monastery. The senator begged the Emperor to send a letter by special messenger to the girl instructing her to come back to the city to be married. When Euphraxia received his letter she wrote back in her own hand.

    "My Lord Emperor, are you really trying to persuade me to renounce Christ in order to unite myself to corruptible human flesh which to day is, and tomorrow will be food for worms? God forbid that your servant should do this thing. Therefore, my Lord Emperor, don't let that man trouble you any further. I have given my allegiance to Christ, and that it is impossible to deny. I beseech you that in your position of authority you bear in mind what my parents wanted, and gather together all my assets and distribute it to the poor and the orphans and to the churches. I know that you do remember my parents, especially my father, for I have heard that he was in constant attendance on you in the palace. Bearing in mind what you know about them, dispose of my money as you know they would wish. Free all our slaves and grant them legal rights. Instruct all my father's bailiffs to remit any debts incurred by tenants since the day my father died up until now. And so let me be found worthy to serve Christ unhindered, without having any responsibility for all these worldly affairs. He knows I have commended my soul to him. May you and Augusta pray for your servant, that she may be found worthy to serve Christ as a servant of his."

    She signed the letter and gave it to the special messenger who took it and brought it back to the Emperor. He opened it and read it privately with Augusta, shedding many tears and offering many prayers for Euphraxia.

    Next morning the Emperor summoned the whole senate, which included the father of Euphraxia's bridegroom, and ordered the letter to be read out loud to them all. The eyes of all filled with tears as they listened to it, and agreed together with one accord.

    "Truly, my Lord Emperor, the daughter of Antigonus and Euphraxia is a true member of your family, a girl in whose veins runs noble blood. She is a true religious daughter of religious parents, a holy branch springing from a holy root."

    And as if with one voice they all glorified God and prayed for the girl. The senator had no further chance of having his demands met.

    Chapter XIV

    Once the Emperor had disposed responsibly of Euphraxia's assets and distributed them well, he died and was buried in peace with his fathers. Euphraxia continued to flourish and prosper in the sight of God, increasing in her practice of fasting. She was now twelve years old and applying herself ever more strongly to the battle. At first she fasted from vespers to vespers, then she ate only every two days, then three days. She swept out the refectory, made the sisters' beds, and carried water for the kitchen.

    There was a custom in the monastery that when any sister felt herself being tempted by the devil during sleep she would tell the abbess about it as soon as possible. The abbess would ask God in tears that the devil might depart, and direct that a layer of stones should be put under the blanket the sister slept on, and ashes sprinkled on the goatskin covering. She was to sleep like this for ten days. When Euphraxia was tempted by the devil one night, she sprinkled ashes over her bed. When the abbess noticed this she laughed.

    "The girl is beginning to learn about temptation!" she said to one of the senior sisters. And she prayed to God:

    "O God by whose will she was created, strengthen her in your fear."

    She called Euphraxia to speak to her.

    "Why didn't you tell me you were being tempted by the devil?"

    "Forgive me, my lady," said Euphraxia as she fell at the abbess's feet. "I was too ashamed to tell you what it was about."

    "Look, my daughter, you are now being called into the battle. Be strong, that you may conquer and win the crown."

    Chapter XV

    A few days later her temptations were renewed and she told another sister called Julia about it who was very fond of Euphraxia, and who was also deeply engaged in the battle.

    "Euphraxia, my friend," said Julia, "don't hide this from the abbess, but tell her about it so that she can pray for you. We are all tempted by the devil, but we trust in the name of Christ that we shall conquer. So don't delay, my sister. Tell the abbess what it is all about, and don't worry."

    "Oh, thank you, Julia," said Euphraxia. "God reward you, my sister, for helping me and strengthening my soul. I will go, truly, and tell my lady abbess what is happening."

    "You do that, and she will pray for you and prescribe some sort of abstinence for you."

    She went to see the abbess and told her about her troubles.

    "Never be afraid, my daughter," said the abbess, "of all the attacks of the devil, who is always doing his worst against us. Struggle against him by trying to keep your mind still, and he won't be able to prevail against you. You are bound to be tested a great deal by him, but struggle, that you may conquer and win the victory and receive the crown from your bridegroom Christ, and as far as possible increase your practice of abstinence. The more you strive, the greater the gifts you will receive. How many days do you go fasting?

    "Three days, my lady."

    "Add an extra day, then."

    Euphraxia accepted this injunction gladly and departed.

    Chapter XVI

    By the time she had reached the age of twenty she had become strong and stable. She was very beautiful, as befitted a matron of imperial blood. When she was tempted anew she confided in the abbess.

    "Fear not, my daughter," said the abbess. "God is with you."

    Now there was a heap of stones in the courtyard of the monastery. The abbess decided to test the ability of Euphraxia to be obedient to herself as mother.

    "Come, my daughter," she said, "pick these stones up and take them over to the bread oven."

    Euphraxia immediately began to pick up the stones. Some of them were so big that it would almost need two sisters to carry one of them, but she was young and strong, and she lifted them up on to her shoulders without any help from anyone. She did not ask the abbess to let her get help from another sister. She did not say, "These stones are too heavy. I can't do it". She did not say, "I am fasting and I am too weak to carry this heavy load." She simply did what she was told in obedience and complete trust.

    Chapter XVII

    Next day the abbess said to her:

    "It's not the right place for those stones to be next to the furnace. Take them back to where they were."

    With complete trust she again did what the abbess said. And the abbess kept this up for twenty days, in order to test her patience. All the sisters could see what was happening and were quite amazed. Some of the sisters scoffed, but others shouted, "Go for it, Euphraxia!"

    This went on for thirty days. The next day, as Euphraxia was going off to carry stones after the morning offices were said, the abbess said to her, "Finish doing that work, my daughter. Instead get flour and water and bake bread for you to serve to the sisters this evening." These commands also she fulfilled with true gladness and joy.

    Chapter XVIII

    The devil tempted her again in her sleep, for she had a dream in which the senator to whom she had been betrothed came with a large band to snatch her out of the monastery and carry her off. She screamed out loudly as she lay in her bed, rousing the abbess and all the sisters in alarm at the terror of her voice.

    "Whatever is the matter, my daughter?" asked the abbess.

    She told the abbess of her dream, and the abbess directed that all the sisters should stand in prayer with her, which they did, right up to the third hour of the day. At the third hour, Euphraxia stood to lead the office while the others sat, after which Euphraxia carried out all the necessary tasks for the sisters. She swept out the refectory, made the beds, filled the water jars and carried them to the kitchen, chopped wood and cooked pulses, kneaded flour and cooked bread in the oven. And while doing all this she did not miss the night psalmody, or the offices of the third, sixth and ninth hours, or vespers. It was not until vespers were over that she had any time to herself. Julia also helped her in all her tasks, for she was very fond of Euphraxia. [No sanctions there against 'special friendships', then!]

    Chapter XIX

    The devil again began to tempt her in her dreams and increased the intensity of the battle to the highest degree. Again she opened up her fears to the abbess.

    "Euphraxia, my daughter," said the abbess, after praying for her, "this is a time of battle. Take care that you do not let the devil soften your resistance and bring to naught all the work you have done. After struggling with you for a while he may retire in defeat, but will always come back again!"

    Julia also had some advice for her.

    "If we can't keep fighting and winning now, how shall we be able to do so when we are old?"

    The Lord lives, Julia my sister," replied Euphraxia, "and if the abbess agrees I shall begin to fast for a whole week at a time, until with the help of the Lord I shall overcome."

    "If you can manage to do that on earth, how blessed you will be in heaven! There is no one in this monastery who goes without food for a whole week except our lady abbess."

    Euphraxia went to the abbess again to tell her of the attacks of the devil in her sleep and asked for permission to go for the whole week without food.

    "Do what seems possible for you, my daughter," said the abbess, "and may God who created you strengthen you and give you victory against the devil."

    So Euphraxia began to spend the week fasting, without missing any of the offices or the tasks she performed for the sisters. They were all astonished at how much such a young and beautiful girl cold put up with.

    "We have been watching Euphraxia for the last year," some of them said among themselves, "and we have not seen her sitting down day or night, except when she goes to bed at night. She never even sits down to eat her bread."

    All the sisters loved her because she was so humble, and took pains to act as if she were the slave of all the sisters, even though she was a member of the imperial family. So they all prayed for her very much, begging God for her salvation.

    Chapter XX

    One of the sisters called Germana, who was from the working class, began to feel quite hostile towards Euphraxia, and cornered her one day in the kitchen.

    "It's all very well for you to be told by the abbess to eat only once a week, Euphraxia," she said, "but some of us don't feel we could do that. How would we go on if the abbess told us to do that?"

    "Sister," said Euphraxia, "our lady abbess has said that each one of us must act according to her own ability. She did not impose this ruling on me without good reason."

    "You are just a scheming poser. Is there anyone who doesn't know that you are being clever and carrying on like this, so that you can become abbess after this one goes? I hope in Christ that you would never be found a fitting person to fill this abbess's shoes."

    Euphraxia fell at her feet.

    "Forgive me, sister," she said, "and pray for me."

    When the abbess got to hear of what had happened, she called Germana out in front of everybody.

    "You are a wicked servant," she said, "and very far off from God. What harm has Euphraxia ever done you for you to be so keen on spoiling her good intentions? You are an outsider as far as the rest of the sisters are concerned, you are a disgrace to our profession, and you are excluded from Chapter meetings forthwith." [Aliena es a sororum concilio, indigna es a ministerio, et collegio sororum extranea. Both concilium and collegium carry the meaning of 'assembly' or 'association', but collegium here seems to have a more formal sense, which I hope justifies translating it somewhat anachronistically as 'Chapter meeting']

    Euphraxia pleaded strongly that Germana might be forgiven, but the abbess was implacable, and remained like that for the next month.

    Euphraxia seemed to be getting nowhere with her pleas, until on the thirtieth day she got together with Julia and some of the senior sisters in the monastery and went to plead with the abbess to be reconciled with Germana. The abbess again called Germana out in front of everybody.

    "You decided in your own heart, "she said, "to try and destroy the good work of this sister. Didn't it occur to you that although she is an aristocrat, and a member of the imperial family she has nevertheless humbled herself and made herself the slave of all for God's sake?"

    The pleas of everyone on behalf of Germana won the day and the abbess relented.

    Chapter XXI

    The devil did not let up in his assaults upon Euphraxia. He raved furiously against her and tried to bring her to her death. When she was at the well one day to draw water, the devil picked her up along with the bucket and threw her in. Euphraxia was appalled to find her head hitting the bottom of the well, but she came up to the surface of the water, and holding on to the well-rope she called out: "Christ help me!" Her voice was heard, and the abbess and the sisters, realising that she had fallen in, ran to the well and pulled her out. As she came out she laughed and signed herself with the cross.

    "My Christ is alive!" she cried. "So you can never conquer me, you old devil. I give no ground to you whatsoever! Up to now I have been carrying only one bucket of water at a time from the well. From now on I will carry two!" And so she did.

    Chapter XXII

    When the devil realised that he had not succeeded in drowning her in the well, he followed her when she went out to chop wood. After she had chopped for a while with the devil standing there watching her, he jerked her arm as she was bringing the axe down on to the wood, so that she cut her foot at the base of the shin. She saw this gaping wound with blood pouring out of it and dropped the axe and fell to the ground in a faint. Julia came in great haste and shouted out to the sisters that Euphraxia had been struck by an axe and was dead. Everyone cried out in alarm and ran to the scene, surrounding Euphraxia and weeping. When the abbess came she sprinkled water on Euphraxia's face, signed her with the cross and held her in her arms.

    "Euphraxia, my daughter, how did you come to be so wounded?" she cried. "Come back to us. Speak to your sisters."

    Euphraxia opened her eyes.

    "Lord Jesus Christ," prayed the abbess, "heal your servant who has suffered so much for you."

    She bound Euphraxia's foot with strips of cloth, helped her up, supported her with her hands and began to lead her back to the monastery. But Euphraxia saw the piece of wood still lying there that she had dropped.

    "As the Lord lives," she cried, "I will not go back in until I have completed my set tasks."

    "Don't be silly, sister," said Julia, "you won't be able to manage it. Leave it. I will pick it up. You go in and rest. You are hurt."

    Euphraxia would not hear of it, but picked up an armful of wood to take in with her. Even then the devil did not spare her. She caught her foot in her tunic as she was going up the steps and fell forward on to the wood she was carrying, so that a splinter went into her face. It looked to the sisters as if it had gone into her eye.

    "I told you you should have gone in to have a rest," exclaimed Julia, "but you wouldn't listen!"

    "My eye is all right," said Euphraxia. "Just pull this splinter out."

    As she did so, Euphraxia began to bleed, but the abbess anointed her with oil, prayed for her, and laid hands on her.

    "You go and lie down," said the abbess. "I will get some of the other sisters to finish your work."

    "As the Lord lives," said Euphraxia, "I will not lie down till I have finished my duties."

    The sisters begged her to lie down and rest because of her injuries, but she would not, even though in her weakened state both wounds were still bleeding. She insisted on carrying out her usual services for the sisters; and she was just as insistent on attending the divine offices as she was in her serving duties.A modern monastic superior would condemn Euphraxia here as displaying inordinate pride in her disobedience to the abbess's orders. Instead, it is her endurance under suffering, comparable to the endurance of Christ under the attacks of the devil in his passion, which captures his attention here, in spite of his praise of her obedience as exemplified in her labours described in Chapter XVI above]

    Chapter XXIII

    On another occasion she was going up with Julia to the third solarium, [In classical Latin solarium means 'sundial'. Rosweyde explains it as simply meaning 'the highest part of the building exposed to sun', and wonders why there should have been three of them] when the devil seized her and threw her down to the bottom. Julia screamed and the sisters came running, but Euphraxia simply got up and greeted them. They took her to the abbess who asked her if she had been hurt.

    "As the Lord lives, my lady, "replied Euphraxia, "I have not the faintest idea how it was I came to fall, or how I ever got up again."

    The abbess was amazed that she was completely uninjured after having fallen from such a great height and she glorified God.

    "Go back to your work, my daughter" she said, "and the Lord will be with you."

    Chapter XXIV

    Again the devil tried to kill her. It happened like this: She was pouring a boiling pot of cooked vegetables into another container, when the devil took her feet from under her, She fell backwards and the contents of the pot splashed all over her face. The sisters feared for her safety, but she simply got up and laughed.

    "What are you worried about?" she said.

    The abbess was relieved to see that she was uninjured. She looked in the pot and could see that what was left in it was still boiling hot.

    "Amazing!" she said to Euphraxia. "It is just as if it were only cold water that fell over your face. God keep you, my daughter, and may he continue to grant you power to endure all things in his fear."

    The abbess called a meeting of the senior sisters in the oratory.

    "I suppose you realise that Euphraxia has earned special favours from God? As you know, she had a very great fall but was completely unharmed, nor did she suffer any injury from that scalding water."

    "She truly is a handmaid of the Lord," they said, "and the Lord has a special care for her. In all these trials she has been preserved safely by the Lord."

    Chapter XXV

    Not only in the city but also in the whole province roundabout the custom had developed of bringing any sick children to the monastery, to these sisters who could work miracles. The abbess would receive them, take them into the oratory and pray for them to the Lord. Almost immediately their spirits would revive, and their mothers would receive them back healed, and they would all go forth glorifying God. [This next paragraph would seem more naturally to belong to the beginning of Chapter XXVII]

    Now there was one devil-possessed woman in the monastery who had been imprisoned there from infancy for her own good. An unclean demon infested her spirit. She frothed at the mouth and ground her teeth and screamed out loud, so that even if her hands were tied everyone who heard her was filled with fear. The abbess and the senior sisters had often prayed for her without success. No one was able to go near her, not even to take her food to her; bread or vegetables were put into a pot hanging from the end of a stick, and offered to her from a safe distance. Sometimes she would overturn the pot and throw it, stick and all, in the direction of whoever was bringing her food.

    Chapter XXVI

    One day the gatekeeper came to the abbess with an urgent message.

    Chapter XXVI (continued), Life of Euphrasia, Book 1d

    "My lady," she said, "there is a woman standing weeping outside the gate with her child of about eight years old, paralysed, deaf and dumb."

    The abbess knew by the revelation of the Spirit that Euphraxia had been given the grace of the Lord against demons.

    "Ask Euphraxia to come here," she said to the gatekeeper. And when she appeared she said to her:

    "Go and take that child from his mother and bring him here."

    She went out to the gate and when she saw the child, paralysed and trembling, she was over come with compassion, heaved a deep sigh and made the sign of the cross over him.

    "May he who created you heal you, my son," she said.

    And she picked him up and took him to the abbess. While she was carrying him the boy was healed and began to cry for his mother, which gave Euphraxia such a start that she dropped the boy on the floor. The boy immediately got up and ran towards the gate, still crying for his mother. Meanwhile the gatekeeper ran to the abbess to tell her what had happened. The abbess called the mother of the child.

    "Now look here, my sister," she said, "Have you come here simply to pay tricks on us?

    "In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, my lady," said the mother, "that child has never walked or spoken a word until this present moment. But when that other sister picked him up he began to speak! She was so startled she dropped him on the floor, but the child got up immediately and ran to me, your servant."

    "So then, he is completely restored to you!" she said. "Take him and go in peace."

    Which she did, and departed glorifying God.

    Chapter XXVII

    The abbess again consulted the senior sisters.

    "What is your opinion of Euphraxia?" she asked.

    "She is a true handmaid of God," they replied.

    The abbess called her.

    "Euphraxia," she said, "I want you to go to this demented sister of ours, to see if she will take food from your hands, as long as you are not afraid of her?"

    "No, I am not afraid," she replied, "as long as it is you ask me to do it."

    So Euphraxia took a bowl with some pulses and broken bread and offered it to her, but she gnashed her teeth and howled, rushed at her and seized the bowl, threatening to smash it. Euphraxia grasped hold of her hand.

    "As the Lord lives," she said, "if I can just manage to throw you down on the ground I will get the abbess's cane and give you such a whipping that you will never dare to try that again!"

    This had the effect of intimidating her completely, and Euphraxia continued in a rather quieter vein, and spoke to her coaxingly.

    "Sit down, now, sister," she said, "take some food and drink and just don't get excited."

    And indeed she did sit down, and ate, and drank, and stayed quite calm.

    From that moment onwards, food was always given to her under the threat of the cane. The sisters soon knew what Euphraxia had done, thanked the Lord for her, and if ever the sister showed signs of getting upset and violent, they would simply say to her:

    "Calm down, sister, restrain yourself, or else sister Euphraxia will come and give you a whipping." And she was immediately quiet.

    Chapter XXVIII

    Germana, however, was still full of spite as hot as a raging furnace

    "If it hadn't been Euphraxia," she said to the sisters, "why couldn't somebody else have been the one to approach that sister with her food? I'm going to take some food to her myself."

    Which she did.

    "Here is some food for you to eat, sister," she said.

    The possessed woman jumped on her, tore her clothes, grasped her and threw her to the floor, fell on top of her and began to tear at her flesh with her teeth. Germana screamed, but nobody was brave enough to come to her help. Julia ran to the kitchen to get Euphraxia.

    "Hurry, sister," she shouted, "Germana is being torn to pieces by that woman!"

    Euphraxia ran as fast as she could, grabbed the possessed woman by her hands and neck and succeeded in dragging her off Germana, who lay there bleeding and torn.

    "This is a fine escapade of yours," she said. "What did you think you were doing?"

    The woman was still standing there, frothing at the mouth and grinding her teeth.

    "From this time on, sister," said Euphraxia, "if you get violent towards the sisters, I shan't spare you, I will have no pity on you, but I will get my lady abbess's cane and beat you mercilessly!"

    And at once she sat down, and ceased from her ravings.

    Chapter XXIX

    Next morning as they came out of the oratory after divine office, Euphraxia went to visit the possessed woman and found that she had torn her clothes to pieces and thrown them on the floor, where she sat picking up her own excrement and eating it. Euphraxia wept at the sight and went to tell the abbess about it. The sisters all came together, and found her still sitting there, naked, gathering filth and eating it. The abbess ordered that she be given another tunic to wear. Euphraxia took the tunic and a small dish of pulses and broken bread which she held out to her.

    "Take this, sister, and get dressed," she said. "Why are you disgracing yourself like this?"

    She accepted it, and ate and drank, and Euphraxia put her clothes on for her, and did not cease weeping and groaning for her all day until vespers. And after vespers she began with tears to pray to the Lord that this woman might be healed.

    At dawn next day the abbess found her.

    "Why didn't you tell me that you were offering prayers for this possessed woman? If you had told me I would have joined you."

    "Forgive me, my lady," replied Euphraxia. "It was just that I saw her so vulnerable and acting so disgracefully that I was sorry for her."

    "There is something I must say to you," said the abbess, "and that is that you must take care that the temptations of Satan do not result in you getting a bit above yourself! Your must just accept that it is Christ who has given you power over the demons to drive them out."

    Euphraxia poured ashes upon her head and prostrated herself on the ground

    "I know that I am an unclean and unfortunate person," she cried. "Why should I be the one to expel such a powerful demon, when you have all prayed for such a long time without success?"

    "My daughter," said the abbess. "The emergency of the moment found you with the strength to cope with it. Your reward will be great in heaven."

    Euphraxia went back into the oratory and prostrated herself before the altar and prayed that through her prayers the possessed woman might be healed and help given her from on high. She got up from the floor and on the instructions of the abbess went back to the woman. The sisters all followed her, in some awe at what was being done.

    "May you be healed," she said to the woman, "through my Lord Jesus Christ who created you." And she made the sign of the cross on her forehead, and a great cry came from her mouth, as all who were there can bear witness.

    "Why should I depart on the orders of this impostor and deceiver, after having lived here for so many years? No one has ever been able to drive me out, so why should this filthy and abandoned person be trying to disturb me?"

    "It is not I who am disturbing you," said Euphraxia, "but Christ the God of all."

    "I am not going, you filth," cried the demon. "I do not accept that you have the power to drive me out."

    "I know I am unclean and full of all kinds of wickedness," said Euphraxia, "as you yourself have just said. But it is the command of the Lord that you should come out of her, before I make use of the abbess's ring, which will torment you above measure!"

    The demon still resisted and refused to go so Euphraxia held up the abbess's ring and cried:

    "Go! before I put you to torture!"

    "Why should I go? I can't go!

    Euphraxia began to strike her with the ring, and on the third strike she cried out:

    "Depart from this image of God, you unclean spirit!"

    "I can't go! Why are you tormenting me? Where can I go?"

    "Into the outer darkness! Into the eternal fire! Into the unending torment prepared for you and for the devil your father and for all who follow him!"

    The sisters were witnesses to all this but did not dare come too close, while Euphraxia just kept on struggling with the demon, who kept on resisting.

    "Lord Jesus Christ," she cried, looking up to heaven. "Let me not be confounded in this hour! Let not this unclean demon have the mastery!"

    And at last, with frothing at the mouth and grinding of teeth, he fled, and the woman was healed from that moment.

    The sisters rushed towards her, glorifying God, and a great fear fell upon them all. Euphraxia lifted the woman up and washed her, and clothed her, and led her by the hand to the abbess, who together with all the sisters took her into the monastery and gave glory to God for the miracle they had seen done.

    Chapter XXX

    From that time on Euphraxia humbled herself even more, going without sleep for a whole night at a time, and maintaining her practice of fasting for the whole week. She continued to serve the sisters in menial tasks, and strove to live in gentleness, humility and joy.

    One day the abbess had a vision which left her in a state of extreme distress. The senior sisters noticed and began to question her about it.

    "Tell us, my lady abbess, why you are going around groaning, and giving us such cause to worry about you."

    "Don't press me on that until tomorrow."

    "Trust us, my lady. If you don't tell us what it is, it will only make us more and more worried about you."

    "I'm worried about something in the future, and I didn't want to tell you about it until tomorrow. But seeing you are pressing me, listen: Euphraxia is going to leave us. Tomorrow her life here comes to an end. But don't upset her by telling her that."

    The senior sisters cried out in distress at what the abbess had to say, and continued to lament for quite some time. One of the sisters, as soon as she had heard this, ran to the bread oven where she found Euphraxia cooking bread along with Julia, her usual companion.

    "Sister Euphraxia," she said, "You ought to know that the abbess and the senior sisters are in a terrible state of grief because of you."

    Julia and Euphraxia were bewildered, and just stood there open-mouthed.

    "Perhaps she has heard a rumour," said Julia, "that your former fiancé has persuaded the Emperor to order your removal from the monastery, and that is what she is upset about."

    "As my Lord Jesus Christ lives," said Euphraxia, "not even if the foundations of the whole round world were shaken, could I be persuaded to abandon my Lord Christ. Do me a favour, sister Julia, while the bread is cooking, go and see if you can find out what the problem is and set my mind at rest."

    Julia went and stood outside the abbess's door, and could hear her still talking about her dream.

    "I saw two men in monastic habits," she was saying, "who came looking for Euphraxia, and they said to me, 'Bring her here. You must.' And then others came along and said, 'Take Euphraxia and bring her before the Lord.' So I summoned her, and hurried along with them, and we came to a gateway whose glory I couldn't begin to describe, and it opened to us of its own volition, and we went in, and we saw an indescribably beautiful heavenly palace, and there was a nuptial throne there, not made with hands. I was prevented from going any closer, but they took Euphraxia and offered her to the Lord. She fell down and kissed his immaculate feet, and I saw ten thousand Angels and a numberless multitude of Saints standing around looking on, and I saw, the mother of the Lord taking Euphraxia - truly! - and leading her to the nuptial couch, where there was a beautiful crown prepared, and I heard a voice saying to Euphraxia, 'Behold, your reward. Now hurry and come here in ten days' time, to enjoy these things for endless ages.' That was nine days ago, when I saw the vision, so tomorrow Euphraxia will die."

    Chapter XXXI

    As Julia listened secretly to the abbess's story, she began to beat her breast and face. She wept and returned to the kitchen, where Euphraxia as alarmed to see her in tears.

    "For the sake of the Son of God, sister Julia," she cried, "tell me what you have heard and what you are crying about."

    "I am weeping, dear sister, because today we shall be parted, so I have heard the lady abbess say. Tomorrow you will breathe your last!"

    Euphraxia was shocked at hearing this, and sat down completely distraught. Julia sat down beside her, weeping.

    "Give me your hand, sister," said Euphraxia, "and help me to where the firewood is kept and leave me there. I will leave you to take the bread out of the oven and take it into the monastery."

    This Julia did, saying nothing as yet to the abbess. Euphraxia lay down n the floor.

    "Why, O Lord," she cried, "are you being so cruel to your pilgrim and orphan? Why are you angry with me? Now is the time when I ought to be doing battle with the devil, but you are demanding that I give up my soul. Have mercy on your handmaid, O Lord Jesus Christ. Spare me for at least a year that I may weep for my sins, for I have not sufficiently repented, I have not done penance. I cannot work out my salvation (Philippians 2.12), for no one can approach you from the lower regions. Once dead, there is no repentance, tears cannot prevail beyond the grave, for the dead praise not thee, O Lord (Psalms 6.5). It is the living who praise your holy name. Grant me just one more year, that I may do penance. Without your aid I am become as withered as the fig tree (Mark 11.21). "

    One of the sisters heard her laments and told the abbess and the sisters that Euphraxia was lying in the woodshed, weeping.

    "It is because she had heard that she was going to die," said Julia.

    "Who was it told her?" exclaimed the abbess. "Causing such grief to her soul like that. Who told her and saddened her heart? Didn't I tell you to say nothing until her hour had come? Why have you done this and hurt her so deeply? Go, someone, and bring her here."

    Several sisters went to where Euphraxia was.

    "Come, sister," they said. "The abbess is calling for you."

    She got up and went with them, crying and sobbing, and stood in front of the abbess, weeping and lamenting, and pouring forth heartrending groans.

    "What has happened, my daughter," said the abbess, "to make you groan so grievously?"

    "I am mourning for myself," she replied, "because you knew I was going to die, and you didn't tell me so that I might have time to weep for my sins, still embroiled in sinfulness as I am."

    She prostrated herself and clasped the feet of the abbess, her who had been always been so prompt to give her good counsel.

    "Have mercy on me, my lady," she cried, "and pray for me to the Lord that he might grant me one more year to do penance, for I know not what darknesses may overwhelm me."

    "As the Lord lives," said the abbess, "Christ your king surely counts you worthy of joining the heavenly choir."

    And she told her all the details of the good things in store for her, and asked her to pray to the Lord that she also might be found worthy to share in those things. Euphraxia prayed, and she and the abbess together turned towards Christ in prayer that what one would enjoy the other might enjoy also.

    Chapter XXXII

    As Euphraxia lay at the abbess's feet she began to feel cold and stiff, then after a while became quite feverish.

    "Pick her up," the abbess said to the sisters, "and let us all go into the oratory, for her time is come."

    They put her in the oratory and kept vigil over her till vespers. After vespers it was time for the evening meal, and the abbess told everyone to leave the oratory, keeping only Julia with her so that Euphraxia would not be left alone. They closed the doors and remained with her till morning. Julia prayed to Euphraxia:

    "My dear sister, do not forget me. Remember how closely we have always been united on this earth. Pray to God that I be not separated from you. Remember how I have shared in your battles. Pray to the Lord that he will release me from the burden of this flesh in sure hope that I may be found worthy of being with you."

    When morning was come, the abbess noticed that Euphraxia was breathing and stirring a little.

    "Go and fetch my daughters," she said to Julia, "so that they can say goodbye to her before she goes."

    They all came in weeping to make their farewells.

    "Remember us, dear sister Euphraxia," they said, "for your name is blessed of the Lord who loves you."

    Last of all came in that woman who had suffered for so long from a demon and who had been healed by Euphraxia. She grieved like everyone else, and kissed Euphraxia's hands.

    "How much these hands have ministered to me, an unworthy sinner!" she said. "It was these hands that drove the demon out of me."

    When Euphraxia made no reply, the abbess said to her:

    "My daughter, can you not give this sister some comfort? Can you not just say something to her, for she is so terribly upset?"

    Euphraxia responded.

    "Why grieve for me, sister?" she said. "Just let me rest in peace, for I am going fast. But you, just keep on blessing the Lord, and he will keep you safe. But pray for me, for there is a great battle going on in my soul at this moment."

    The abbess prayed, they all responded Amen, and Euphraxia gave up her spirit. She was thirty years old, and they buried her in the same grave as her mother, glorifying God that they were privileged to have one of their sisters in the presence of God.

    Chapter XXXIII

    It was Julia who had taught her how to read and how to sing the psalms, and she had loved that pupil of hers who had belonged to the Emperor's family. She wept for three days without leaving Euphraxia's grave. On the fourth day, however, she felt quite happy and went to the abbess to tell her why.

    "Pray for me, my lady," she said "for through blessed Euphraxia's intercession Christ is calling me."

    She kissed all the sisters, and on the fifth day after Euphraxia's death her teacher Julia died also, and was buried in the same tomb as the blessed Euphraxia.

    Chapter XXXIV

    Thirty days later the abbess summoned the senior sisters.

    "My daughters," she said, "you must choose someone else as a mother to take my place and preside over you."

    "Why are you saying this, my lady? Tell us! You have never spoken to your servants like this before."

    "The Lord is calling me," she said. "Sister Euphraxia has been praying very diligently for me, so that I too may merit a heavenly marriage bed. Julia also is sharing in what Euphraxia has been granted and has entered into that palace not made with human hands, and I too am hastening on the way to being found worthy of sharing that place with them."

    The sisters rejoiced at hearing of the great glory which Euphraxia and Julia enjoyed, and prayed likewise that they all might deserve to be partakers of such a marriage. They chose one of the sisters called Theogenia to preside over them, whom the abbess called to her side.

    "All the sisters have a good opinion of you, and give you the leadership, and the responsibility of handing on the divine rule and all that follows from it. In the name of the undefiled and consubstantial Trinity I urge you to take no thought for riches or possessions, nor engage the sisters in worldly concerns, but rather, despising temporal goods you may earn the right to eternal blessings."

    Chapter XXXIV (continued), Life of Euphrasia, Book 1d

    (Also Euphrosyna further down this page)

    To the rest of the sisters she said:

    "You have all witnessed the perfection of the life and conduct of Euphraxia. Imitate her that you may share with her where she is."

    They all said Amen. She said farewell to them all, went into the oratory, and shut the door as she told them that no one else should come in until next morning.

    Next morning when they went in they found her asleep in the Lord. They sang a hymn to the Lord and placed her in the same tomb as the blessed Euphraxia. And from that time on no one else was buried in that tomb.

    Chapter XXXV

    Many signs and healings were done at this memorable tomb, and demons screamed as they were expelled, for Euphraxia was strong for us after her death and looked after us.

    This is the true life of the blessed lady Euphraxia who earned admission to the company of heaven. Let us all, brothers as well as sisters, make haste to imitate her manner of life and seek after humility, obedience, labour, gentleness, long-suffering, that we may be worthy of the Angelic life and with great joy be at one with our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be honour and glory unto the ages of ages. Amen.

    Life No 19

    The Life of St Euphrosyna, Virgin [Celebrated in the Roman martyrology on January 1]

    Chapter I

    There was a man in Alexandria called Paphnutius who kept the commandments of God and was held in honour by all. He took a wife from a family of similar status to himself, who had many good points, except that she was sterile. This made him very unhappy, because he had no one to whom he could bequeath his possessions and who could manage his estates well after his death. Night and day he was very active in caring for the poor, and he spent a lot of time in church, fasting and praying to God to give him a son. His wife too was very sad at seeing how unhappy her husband was, and she too gave much money to the poor and to various oratories, and prayed that God would grant him his desire.

    Paphnutius cast about trying to find some person beloved of God who might be able by his prayers to get him what he longed for. He visited a monastery where it was said that the father of the monastery had great influence with God. He gave them quite a large sum of money and regained much of his self-confidence from the abbot and the brothers.

    Chapter II

    After some time he confided in the abbot what it was that he longed for above everything else, and the abbot had compassion on him and prayed to God that he might be given a child. God heard their prayers and granted them a daughter, and Paphnutius was so impressed with the abbot's way of life, that he kept up a regular association with the monastery from then on. He also brought his wife to the monastery that she might be blessed by the abbot and brothers. Once the child was weaned and had attained the age of seven years, she was baptised and given the name Euphrosyna. She was a great joy to her parents, for she had been accepted by God, and was very beautiful.

    Chapter III

    When she was twelve years old her mother passed away from this world. It fell to her father to continue teaching her to read and write and learn about all the other things necessary for living in this world. The girl was diligent in her studies and her father was astonished at how gifted she was. The reputation of her intelligence and good sense spread throughout the city, as did the beauty of her countenance which reflected the beauty of her soul. Many parents sought after her as a bride for their sons, but a definite agreement could never be reached because her father just kept on saying, "Let the will of the Lord be done." But one of them richer and more important than the others pressed him so forcefully to promise his daughter in marriage that at last he agreed.

    Chapter IV

    Much later, when she was eighteen, he took her with him to visit the monastery where he was so well known, and again gave a considerable sum of money to help with the monastery's needs.

    "I have brought the fruit of your prayers with me," he said to the abbot, "that you might pray for her as I give her hand in marriage."

    The abbot made arrangements for her to stay in the guesthouse, and had several conversations with her in which he encouraged her to be chaste and humble and patient in the fear of God. She stayed there for three days and joined in each day with the psalms. She saw something of the way of life and spiritual purpose of the monks, and was deeply moved.

    "How blessed these men are, in this life living like Angels, and afterwards enjoying life without end."

    And her heart began to yearn zealously after the fear of God.

    Chapter V

    After three days Paphnutius went to the abbot again.

    "Come, father," he said, "so that your handmaid can give you thanks, and pray for her as we go back to the city."

    When the abbot came the girl threw herself at his feet.

    "Please pray for me, father, " she said, "that God may enlighten my soul."

    The abbot stretched out his hands over her and blessed her.

    "God, you know human beings before they come to be born. Grant your protection to this your handmaid, that she may merit your assistance and a portion in the kingdom of heaven."

    They thanked the old man, and went back to the city, and whenever Paphnutius met one of the monks he would invite him back to his house to pray for his daughter.

    The anniversary of the day the abbot founded the monastery occurred a little later and he sent one of the brothers to Paphnutius with an invitation for him to come to the solemn celebration. He knocked at the door and asked for Paphnutius, but the slave replied that he was out.

    Chapter VI

    Euphrosyna heard what the slave said, came to the door herself and invited the brother inside and began to question him eagerly.

    "Tell me, brother, how many brothers are there in the monastery?"

    "Three hundred and fifty-two."

    "Does the abbot accept anyone who comes wanting to join?"

    "He receives them joyfully, mindful of what the Lord said, 'He that comes to me I will not cast out' (John 6.37)"

    "Does everyone join in singing the psalms and fasting?"

    "We sing the psalms in common, and each one fasts according to his ability, as he decides. Our practices are not rigidly imposed, but are freely chosen as spontaneous acts of will."

    Euphrosyna thought for a moment about what the monk had said.

    "I would like to leave here," she said at last, "and join this indescribable sort of life, but I am frightened of disobeying my father, who wants to hand me over to a husband, because it would suit his empty and fleeting business interests in this world."

    "Sister, don't allow any man to stain your body and bring such beauty into defilement, but give yourself as a bride to Christ who can give you the kingdom of heaven and the company of Angels in exchange for every transitory delight. Leave without telling anyone, change your clothes into monastic garments and come to the monastery."

    "I like that idea. But who will cut my hair off? I don't want any old layperson to do it, who would not see it as a religious act."

    "Look, your father will be coming to the monastery to spend three or four days there. Get one of the monks to come to you and he will happily cooperate with you in anything you want to do."

    Chapter VII

    As they were talking thus, Paphnutius came back home.

    "How is it," he said when he had greeted the monk, "that you have come to visit our humble dwelling?"

    "The abbot has sent me because it is the anniversary of the monastery, and he invites you to come and share in the blessings."

    This pleased Paphnutius very much, and he went back to the monastery with him in his boat. By the time he had got there, Euphrosyna had called one of her most reliable slaves to her.

    "Go the monastery of Theodosius," she said, "go into the church, and ask any monk you meet there to come and see me."

    By the mercy of God the slave met a monk as he was coming out of the monastery carrying his goods for sale, and asked him to come and see Euphrosyna, which he did.

    "Pray for me, father," she said as she greeted him.

    He said a prayer of blessing and they sat down.

    "Sir," said Euphrosyna, "I have a father who is a Christian and a servant of God, and is very wealthy. He had a wife who gave me birth, but she is now dead. My father finds it convenient in his business affairs to hand me over into the toils of this wicked world. I don't want to be stained in that way, but I am frightened of disobeying my father, and I don't know what to do. I spent a sleepless night asking God to have mercy on my soul, and when morning had come I had the idea of sending to the monastery for one of the brothers to come and bring me a word of salvation and tell me what I ought to do. Father, I know you are sent by God. I beg you, as you hope for a blessing on your own soul, teach me the path of God."

    "What the Lord says," he replied, "is 'Whosoever will not renounce father and mother and brothers and children, yes, and his own life also, cannot be my disciple'. I can't tell you any more than that. However, if you think you have the bodily strength to go through with it, leave it all, flee from the worldly riches of your father, who will have no difficulty in finding people to bestow it on - poorhouses, hospitals, hospices, monasteries, widows, students, pilgrims, the sick, prisoners - let him deal with his property as he will and as it pleases him. But you, think only of how to save your own soul."

    "I trust in God and I trust in your prayers, that it is my task to labour for the salvation of my soul, God being my helper."

    "Intentions like that must not be flouted. But there is still time to change your mind."

    "No, I have troubled you for the very purpose that you may help me to fulfil my desires. Say your prayer of blessing over me and cut my hair off."

    The monk prayed, cut her hair off and clothed her with the monastic habit.

    "May God who leads all his saints to freedom preserve you from all evil," he prayed.

    And he left her and went on his way rejoicing.

    Chapter VIII

    Meanwhile Euphrosyna took thought about what she would do next.

    "If I go to a monastery of women, my father will be able to find me and drag me off to my promised bridegroom. So I shall go to a monastery of men, where no one would suspect me to be."

    She shed her female clothing and dressed in male attire. She put five hundred solidi in her pocket and late that night stole out of the house, and lay low till morning. By the providence of God her father went out early in the morning to spend some time in church. Euphrosyna presented herself at the monastery where her father was so well known, and sent a message to the abbot by means of the gatekeeper.

    "I am a eunuch from the palace standing at the gate and wanting to speak with you."

    The abbot went out, Euphrosyna prostrated herself, the abbot prayed and they sat down.

    "What is it that has brought you here, my son?" asked the abbot.

    "I am one of the palace eunuchs, and I have a great longing to be part of the monastic life. The city nowadays holds the monastic life in high regard. I have heard of how good your way of life is here, and I long to share it with you. I have many possessions, and if my master releases me I shall hand them over to you."

    "You are very welcome, my son. The monastery is here. If that is what you want to do, come and live with us. What is your name, my son?"

    "Smaragdus." ["Emerald"]

    "You are too young to live as a solitary. You need to have a teacher, so that you can learn the rule and customs of the monastery."

    "Whatever you say, father, that I will do."

    She put the five hundred solidi into the abbot's hand.

    "Please accept these in the meantime," she said, "and if it proves that I am able to persevere in this life the rest will follow."

    The abbot summoned a brother called Agapitus, a sober, [impassibilis. Perseverance in monastic discipline was expected to bring about a state where one was no longer subject to the passions. One had become passionless, impassible] holy man, and handed Smaragdus over into his care.

    "From now on he will be your son and your disciple. Set your seal upon (consigna) him, that he may come to be even greater than his master."

    Smaragdus knelt, Agapitus signed (consignavit) him with the cross and said a prayer, they all said "Amen", and Agapitus took him into his own cell.

    Now when Smaragdus came into the church to join in the prayers, the beauty of his face proved to be such that many demons were encouraged to scatter evil thoughts among the brothers, so that they were indignant with the abbot for allowing such beauty into the monastery.

    "Your face is disturbingly beautiful, my son," said the abbot to Smaragdus, "and the brothers are very weak, so I want you to remain alone in your cell, and sing the psalms there, and eat there, and not come out of it at all." And he instructed Agapitus to get a single cell ready for Smaragdus and leave him there. Agapitus did everything the father of the monastery told him and put Smaragdus in a solitary cell, where he gave himself night and day to prayers, and fasting, and vigils, serving God in simplicity of heart, so that Agapitus wondered, and told all the other brothers of his constancy. They all praised God that from their weakness had come such strength.

    Chapter IX

    When her father, Paphnutius, came home he went to his daughter's room, and was worried at not finding her there. He enquired anxiously for the serving men and women what had happened to Euphrosyna.

    We saw her last night," they said, "But when she did not appear this morning we thought that the father of her bridegroom must have come and taken her away."

    He sent slaves to the bridegroom's house, but they did not find her there. The bridegroom and his father were very upset, and came back to see Paphnutius. They found him lying on the ground in a terribly distressed state.

    "Someone must have abducted her and run off with her," they said to him.

    He sent slaves on horseback throughout the whole of Alexandria, they boarded the ships in the harbour in their frantic search for her, they investigated the women's monasteries, the hermitages, the anchorites' caves, the houses of friends and neighbours. They did not find her and at last they began to mourn her as dead, father-in-law grieving for daughter-in-law, bridegroom for bride, father for daughter.

    "Alas! Alas!" cried Paphnutius, "Alas, my beautiful daughter! Alas, the joy of my eyes! Who has invaded my territory? Who has stolen my treasure? Who has despoiled my vineyard? Who has put out the light of my life, dispossessed me of my hope, violated my daughter's beauty? What wolf has snatched my precious lamb? There is no place where such beauty as hers could go unremarked. Where is the sea across which her regal appearance could have been led away captive? She has been a model of generosity, a comforter in time of trouble, a solace for those in distress, a harbour for those hard pressed. O Earth, Earth! Never may you receive my bones until I discover my Euphrosyna's fate!"

    Inspired by these words of Paphnutius, and many more like them, the voices of all who heard him were raised in mourning and weeping. The whole city lamented Euphrosyna.

    Chapter X

    Paphnutius could not reconcile himself to his loss, he could find no comfort anywhere, so he went to his friend the abbot and fell at his feet.

    "I beg you not to cease from prayer, that the labour of your prayer may bring forth fruit, for something has happened to my daughter and I do not know what."

    The venerable old man was very sorry to hear this, and he called all the brothers together.

    "My brothers," he said, "I am going to ask you to be so kind as pray to God that he may mercifully show us what has happened to the daughter of our friend Paphnutius."

    They prayed and fasted for a whole week, but were given no revelation about Euphrosyna, such as they were usually granted when they prayed to God for someone else. Euphrosyna herself, of course, was praying to God day and night that he would not bring her life out into the open. When the abbot realised that there was not going to be any revelation from God either to him or anyone else, he did his best to comfort Paphnutius.

    "Don't rebel against the Lord's discipline, my son," he said. "Whom the Lord loves, he chastens" (Proverbs 3.11-12). Remember that not a sparrow falls to the ground without our Father (Matthew 10.29), how much more your daughter! Nothing happens without his permission. Surely, since he has revealed nothing to us about your daughter he has something better in store for you. I am sure that if she has wandered into evil paths, which God forbid, God would never ignore such great labours as the brothers have been doing. I have confidence in the Lord that he will in this life reveal her to you."

    Paphnutius was comforted by his words, and prayed and gave thanks to God daily, while giving himself to good works and almsgiving.

    Chapter XI

    From time to time he kept on visiting the monastery, commending himself to the prayers of the brothers. One day he fell at the abbot's feet, and opened his heart.

    "Pray for me, father, for I cannot stop grieving for my daughter, but more and more from day to day the wound is reopened and grows bigger and my soul is troubled."

    The abbot could see how troubled he was.

    "Would you like to talk to a very spiritual brother of ours who used to belong to the palace of Theodosius?" - not realising that he was talking about Paphnutius' daughter.

    "Yes, I would," said Paphnutius.

    The abbot summoned Agapitus.

    "Take Paphnutius with you to the cell of Smaragdus," he said.

    And so without any warning Euphrosyna found that her father was in her cell with her. Seeing her father in such sorrow her tears began to fall, which Paphnutius put down to her feelings of sympathy. He did not recognise her, for the beauty of her face had wasted away by reason of her abstinence and vigils and tears. Besides, her face was half hidden by her cowl, so that he could not see her clearly. They prayed and sat down. She began to speak to him about the future kingdom of blessedness and eternal glory, to which one could attain by humility and chastity, by a holy way of life, by almsgiving and charity, by contempt of the world and by not loving children more than God who has made us all. And she drew on holy scripture to show that tribulation encourages patience, and patience acceptance (Romans 5.3-4). And she had great compassion on her father, seeing him in such great sorrow.

    Life of Euphrosyna, (continued). Book 1d

    (Also St Mary the Harlot further down this page)

    Chapter XII

    She was frightened of being recognised and making things worse for him, but she nevertheless wanted to bring him some comfort.

    "I am quite sure that God is not turning his face away from you," she said. "And if your daughter's soul had been lost, God would have revealed that to you, and would not blame you, or debar you from light perpetual, because of her soul being claimed by the devil. But I am confident that she must have chosen a better part for herself (Luke 10.42), as I have already said, in accordance with the Gospel where it says, 'Whosoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me' (Matthew 10.37). And 'Anyone who has not renounced everything he possesses cannot be my disciple' (Luke 14.26). But God is quite able to reveal her to you sometime in the course of this life. So until then, be content. Why destroy yourself by excessive grief? Just give thanks to God, doubting nothing.

    "Now my teacher Agapitus has told me several times that someone called Paphnutius, a man abounding in good works, has been visiting us in great grief because he believes his daughter must be dead, without any idea of that has really happened to her, but in great sorrow because she was his only daughter. He has been falling at the feet of the abbot, begging that God will reveal the truth to him through the prayers of the abbot and all the brothers. So you pray to God also, as I will, unworthy though I am and aware of my many sins. I will pray that God will give you patience and longsuffering and that he will fulfil in you, as in your daughter, what it is best for you both. For that reason I would like to see you and talk to you more often, so that perhaps I may humbly be able to give you some consolation."

    At this point she bade Paphnutius farewell, fearful that too prolonged a conversation might give her away. As Paphnutius moved away her soul was filled with compassion for him, her cheeks paled and tears flowed and she coughed up blood, weakened by fasting as she was, and not having eaten that day. But Paphnutius was greatly comforted, and went back to the abbot.

    "That brother has really done my soul good," he said. "His words of comfort have brought me such happiness and grace from God that it is almost as if I had found my daughter again."

    And commending himself to the prayers of the abbot and all the brothers he went back home magnifying God.

    Chapter XIII

    When Smaragdus had lived in her cell for thrifty-eight years she fell ill and died. A few days earlier Paphnutius had paid one of his usual visits to the monastery and after being greeted by the brothers and praying with them he said to the abbot, "With your permission, father, may I see Smaragdus, for I have a great longing to see him?"

    The abbot called Agapitus and told him to take Paphnutius to Smaragdus' cell. Paphnutius went in and found him lying there mortally ill, burst into tears and embraced him.

    "Alas, where are your promises now? Where are your sweet words promising me that there would come a time when I would see my daughter with my own eyes? I shall never see her, and not only that but you are leaving us as well, the only one who could give me some comfort. Woe is me! Who shall comfort me in my old age? To whom can I go? Who can help me? I am weighed down now by a double grief. It is thirty-eight years since I lost my daughter, without any news of her at all which I have prayed for day and night, and now another grief overwhelms me, for I have never found anyone like unto this brother. What hope have I left? Where do I find comfort? I shall go down in sorrow to my grave."

    Smaragdus became aware of his tears and inconsolable grief.

    "Why are you in such a turmoil and, killing yourself with worry?" she said. "The arm of the Lord is not weakened. Is there anything that God finds too difficult? Put away your sadness. Remember how God revealed to the patriarch Jacob that Joseph for whom he had mourned was alive. But I have a request to make. Stay with me for three days without leaving my side."

    So Paphnutius stayed for three days wondering within himself whether God was about to reveal to Smaragdus something about himself.

    "I have waited as you asked, my brother," he said on the third day, "and have not gone off anywhere else."

    Chapter XIV

    Smaragdus, who was really Euphrosyna, knew that this was the day of her death

    "Almighty God has taken up my wretchedness and fulfilled all my desires," she said to Paphnutius, "for he has defended me from the snares of the enemy, against whom I have striven manfully right up to the end, not in my own strength but by his power. I have finished my course and there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4.8). I don't want you to worry any more about your daughter Euphrosyna, for I am she, and you are my father. So now you have seen me and have achieved your desire. But I would rather you did not tell anyone; don't let anyone else strip my body and wash it, but do it yourself. And I declared to the abbot that I had great possessions, and that if I proved able to persevere and endure in this place I would leave them all to him. So please fulfil what I have promised, for this place is worthy of respect, and pray for me."

    So saying she gave up her sprit. It was the first of January.

    Chapter XV

    Paphnutius saw that she was dead, and his stomach heaved and he fell to the floor as if dead. Agapitus came in and saw that Smaragdus was dead and that Paphnutius was lying half dead on the floor. He threw some water in his face and picked him up.

    "Are you all right, Paphnutius?" he asked.

    "Let me be. Let me die on this spot," he said. "I have seen wonderful things here today."

    He got up and gazed upon her face, while his own tears streamed forth.

    "Woe is me, my most sweet daughter!" he cried. "Why did you not reveal yourself to me sooner, so that I could have willingly joined you here myself. Woe is me! Why did you hide? How is it that you have endured the snares of the enemy and the spiritual powers of darkness in this life and now have entered into life eternal?"

    Chapter XVI

    As Agapitus listened to him, he realised the wonderful thing that had happened and was amazed. He ran to tell it all to the abbot, who came and fell down before Euphrosyna.

    "Euphrosyna, bride of Christ and daughter of the saints," he cried, "forget not your servants in this monastery and pray for us to the Lord Jesus Christ, that we may strive manfully to enter the gateway of salvation and receive our portions with him and his saints."

    He assembled all the brothers and with all due honour he ordered her holy body to be buried. As they were all together as witnesses of this stupendous miracle, they glorified God who had worked such a great miracle even in the weaker sex. One of the brothers who was blind in one eye tearfully kissed her face, and as soon as he touched her his sight was restored. All the brothers who were there and saw what had happened blessed the Lord and gave thanks to him from whom all blessings flow. Greatly strengthened and edified, they buried her in her family grave. Her father gave everything he possessed to the church, the hospice and the monastery, but the greater part to the monastery, which he joined, and dwelt in the same cell as that in which Euphrosyna had fallen asleep.

    Paphnutius lived in this holy life for ten years before departing to the Lord, and the abbot and all the brothers buried him next to his daughter, glorifying God. The anniversaries of their departure to the Lord are celebrated to this present day, glorifying the Father and the Son and the holy Spirit. to whom be honour and glory unto the ages of ages. Amen.

    Life No 20

    The Life of St Mary the Harlot, the niece of Abraham the Hermit

    [Celebrated in the Roman Martyrology on 29 October]

    by St Ephraem the Archdeacon

    translated into Latin from the Greek by an anonymous author.

    This is the rest of Life of Abraham, begun in

    Life No 7 in Book 1a

    Chapter I

    Beloved brethren, I would like to respond to your unanimous request that I should tell you about another admirable matter which this blessed man dealt with in his old age. For wise and spiritual men it provides an instructive example of humility and compunction. This is what it was all about:

    Chapter II

    The blessed man Abraham had a brother who died leaving a daughter seven years old. Her father's friends decided that as this girl had now lost both her parents, she should be immediately handed over to her uncle. The old man accepted this, and put her in the outer room of the cell. There was a little window in the wall between the rooms, through which he was able to teach her the psalter and the scriptures. She joined with him in praising God in the vigil services, and she strove to emulate her uncle in his practice of abstinence. She readily accepted this regime and made great advances in all the virtues. The holy man unceasingly prayed with tears to the Lord that her mind should be freed from attachment to the affairs of this world, for her father had left her a large sum of money. But with her father now dead, and her uncle in charge, the servant of Christ ordered that the money be distributed to the needy and orphans. The girl daily asked her uncle to pray that she be kept safe from the divers snares and traps of the devil, and kept faithfully to the rule he had given her.

    Her uncle gave thanks that he could see her unhesitatingly moving forwards in the practice of all the virtues, that is in tears, humility, modesty and silence, and what was even more wonderful, in a profound love of God. She had lived with him in abstinence for twenty years, as pure as a lamb and as unspotted as a dove, when the devil began to rage against her, and tempted her with his usual tactics. He sought to ensnare her in his nets, hoping to turn her mind away from God and give the blessed man great cause to worry about her.

    Chapter III

    There was a certain monk (a monk in name only) who was in the habit of coming to visit the holy man under the pretext of seeking for instruction. He could see that blessed woman through the window, and began to be stirred with desire for her. He sought pretexts for speaking with her, and the urgings of lust began to set his heart on fire. Over the space of a year he insinuated himself into her affections by degrees, until her thoughts were quite overwhelmed by the sweetness of his words, and at last she opened the window of her cell and went out to him. He immediately contaminated and polluted her in the wickedness of his sinful lust.

    Afterwards, she was horrified at how wicked was the deed she had done. She tore the tunic she was wearing and lacerated her face with her nails. In her excessive grief, she wished she were dead. Her anxiety oppressed her like a dead weight, in her mental storm she could not see the prospects of any harbour, her fevered thoughts flew backwards and forwards and she bewailed her fate unceasingly.

    "This feels like a wound unto death," she cried. "The labour of my days and my abstinence have gone for nothing, the work of my prayers, tears and vigils has been rendered completely worthless. I have grievously offended my God and have destroyed myself. What a miserable wretch I am, drowning myself in tears! I have inflicted the most bitter sorrow upon my holy uncle, my soul is burdened with guilt, and I have simply become a bit of sport for the devil. What point is there in prolonging my miserable existence any further? Alas, what have I done? Alas, what shall I do now? Alas, what evils have I brought upon myself? Alas, how could I have ever sunk so low? How did my mind come to be so darkened? I could not see that I was doing wrong, I did not realise I was being despoiled, I cannot understand how my heart came to be hidden in a cloud of darkness. How is it that I did not realise what I was doing?

    "Where can I hide myself? Where can I go? Where is there some ravine I can throw myself into? Where now are all the teachings of my most holy uncle? Where are the warnings of his colleague, Ephraem? They taught me to preserve my virginity so that I might offer an immaculate soul to my immortal bridegroom. 'Your bridegroom,' they said, 'is holy and ardent'. Alas, what can I do? I don't dare so much as lift up my eyes to heaven, for I know that in the eyes of both God and man I am as good as dead. I don't dare to go anywhere near his window. I am a sinner full of sordid uncleanness - how shall I even try to speak with my holy uncle? If I even dared to attempt it, wouldn't a blast of fire burst from him to burn me to ashes? Seeing that I am already dead and have no hope of gaining salvation, I had better leave here and go to some foreign land where nobody knows me."

    Hastily, she left, went to a foreign land, changed her clothes and found employment in a brothel.

    Chapter IV

    This disaster which happened to her was revealed to the holy man by a vision in his sleep. What he saw was a terrifying, enormous dragon, hissing loudly and stinking most horribly, which burst out from somewhere towards his own cell, where it found a little dove, which it devoured and then returned to its own pit. He woke up in great distress, weeping bitter tears, interpreting the vision as an attack of the devil against the Church of God, turning many away from the faith and creating some schism in holy Church. He fell on his knees and prayed to God.

    "O God, lover of men, nothing is hid from your sight. You know the meaning of this vision."

    Two days later he saw the same dragon coming back to the cell in the same manner as before. With its belly torn open it lowered its head down at his feet, and he could see the dove which it had devoured was still alive in its stomach. He put his hand in and pulled it out alive. When he woke up he called out for his blessed niece several times, thinking that she was still in her cell.

    "What has been the matter with you, Mary" - for that was her name - "that you have not opened your voice to praise God these last two days?"

    He got no reply, and since he had not heard her singing the psalms as usual for the last two days it began to dawn on him that the vision most certainly was about her. Then he groaned and wept bitterly, pouring out floods of tears.

    "Woe is me! A wolf has carried off my little lamb and taken my daughter captive! O Christ, Saviour of the world, give me back my little lamb Mary. Bring her back to the fold, lest in my old age I depart this world in grief. Do not turn your ears away from my prayer, O Lord, but speedily send down your grace that she may be snatched unharmed from the mouth of the dragon."

    The two days of the vision turned out to signify two years, during which his niece lived out her shameful life as if in the disgusting belly of the dragon. But the holy man never ceased at all times day and night from praying for her to God.

    Chapter V

    After two years, he found out where she was and what she was doing, and he asked someone he knew very well to go there and find out everything about her that he could. After having gone there and actually seen her, he came back and gave Abraham a full and truthful report. At Abraham's request he then lent him a soldier's uniform and a horse to ride. Disguised as a soldier, and wearing voluminous headgear to conceal his face, he opened his door, came out, mounted his horse, and hurried off, taking with him just one solidus. Anyone who ventures into any foreign country or city always assumes the dress of that country so that he won't be noticed; just so did Abraham wear aggressive clothing, to frighten off any possible attacker. Take a lesson, my beloved brothers, from this second Abraham. Just as the first Abraham went forth to do battle with kings and struck them down in order to rescue his nephew Lot (Genesis 13.12-16), so did this second Abraham sally forth to do battle with the devil, to conquer him and bring back his niece in triumph.

    Chapter VI

    When he arrived at the place where she was, he turned aside into the inn (stabulum) and looked about him carefully in all directions, hoping to catch sight of her. Having lingered there for the best part of an hour without having caught the slightest glimpse of her, he approached the landlord with a grin on his face.

    "I have heard, my friend," he said, "that you have a most beautiful girl here. I would gladly have a look at her, if you will allow me."

    The landlord looked at Abraham's grey hairs, and thought to himself that this person could hardly have any thoughts of lust in his mind, considering his obviously advanced age.

    "You have been told correctly," he replied. "She really is outstandingly beautiful."

    And indeed it is true that Mary was of an almost preternatural beauty.

    "What is her name?" he asked.


    "I should be delighted if you would bring her in to me," he said, filled with joy at hearing her name. "Perhaps she might dine with me today, for I have heard great stories about this girl."

    He called her in, and when her uncle saw her, dressed like a prostitute, a shudder of grief shook his whole frame, but he hid the bitterness of his soul with a smile of pleasure. He restrained himself from breaking out into tears, lest she recognise him and take refuge in flight.

    Chapter VII

    They sat down and had a drink, and this wonderful man then began to lead her on. She got up from her seat, put her arms around his neck and gave him a few gentle kisses. But as did so, the familiar scent of an abstinent body assailed her sense of smell, and the remembrance of the days when she lived in abstinence herself suddenly burst upon her mind. She cried out, as if pierced by a javelin, and tears rolled down her cheeks.

    "Woe, woe is me!" she cried, unable to restrain the pain in her heart.

    The landlord was shocked.

    "What is the matter Mary?" he cried. "Why these cries of pain? You have been here two years and I have never heard you moan like this before. I don't understand what's bothering you."

    "It would have been better for me if I had died three years ago!" she said.

    Her blessed uncle, hoping not as yet to be recognised, said to her quite calmly:

    "We were enjoying each other's company a moment ago. Could it be that the memory of your sins has just come into your mind?"

    O Almighty God! How wonderful is the way you shed your mercy upon us! Wouldn't you think that by now the girl was at least thinking to herself, 'What a close resemblance there is between this man and my uncle!' But you alone are the lover of mankind, O God, from whom all goodness and wisdom flows; you so decreed that she did not recognise him and so run away in confusion. The only possible reason for this servant of yours, her uncle, being able to hold back his tears, must surely be that you intervened to make the impossible possible.

    The holy man gave the landlord the solidus he had brought with him.

    "Prepare the best meal for us that you possibly can," he said, "so that the girl and I can dine together. I have come a long journey for the love of her."

    O loving wisdom of our God! O truly spiritual fount of knowledge! The wisdom of your saving ways is a perpetual cause for celebration. For fifty years of abstinence Abraham had tasted nothing but bread, and here he was now eating meat without hesitation, simply in order to save a lost soul. The choirs of Holy Angels looked on and applauded with exultation at the discretion this blessed man was displaying, for he was eating and drinking enthusiastically with no qualms at all simply in order to rescue a lost soul from the lowest deeps O wisdom of the wise, O knowledge of the knowledgeable, O discretion of the discreet! You cannot but admire the simplicity of this man. Come, stand in awe of how this man, so perfect and wise and prudent and discreet, has made himself into something quite different, into someone ignorant and completely lacking in discretion, simply in order that he might snatch a soul from the mouth of the lion, and free an imprisoned and conquered soul from the chains and oppression of darkness.

    Life of St Mary the Harlot (continued), Book 1d

    (Also St Thais the Harlot further down page)

    Chapter VIII

    After they had eaten, the girl became quite provocative and suggested they go to the bedroom.

    "Yes, let's go," he said.

    As he went in he saw the bed in the corner and sat down on it without hesitation. However shall I describe you, you most perfect athlete of Christ? I really do not know how to put the right name to you. Do I call you continent, or incontinent? Wise, or idiotic? Discreet or indiscreet? For fifty years of your life you have slept on a hard bed, and here you are now boldly getting into a bed of this sort! But of course you have done all these things for the praise and glory of Christ. You have undertaken a long and tedious journey, you have eaten meat and drunk wine, entered a house of ill repute, and all for the sake of saving one lost soul. Yet we tend to draw back in diffidence when we should at least be saying some sort of constructive word to our neighbour.

    Chapter IX

    "Come, sir, let me take your shoes off for you," she said, as he sat on the bed.

    "Shut the door first," he said, "and then you can take them off."

    She wanted to take them off first, but he would not let her, so she went and shut the door and came back to him.

    "Come closer, Mary," he said.

    He took her by the hand, and she thought he was about to embrace her, but instead he took off the concealing headgear he was wearing and at last allowed the tears to flow.

    "Mary, my daughter," he said, "don't you recognise me? You are my own flesh and blood. Wasn't it I who brought you up? O my daughter, what has become of you? Who has destroyed you? Where is the clothing of angels that you used to wear? Where is your continence, your tears, your vigils, your sleeping on the ground? How did you come to fall into this pit after dwelling in the heights of heaven, my daughter? If you had sinned, why didn't you tell me? Why didn't you immediately let me help? My beloved brother Ephraem and I would gladly have done penance for you. Why have you behaved the way you have? Why desert me and plunge me into such grief. After all, is there anyone who hasn't sinned, except God?"

    As he was saying all this, and much more besides, she remained in his grip as still as a stone, transfixed as much by fear as confusion. But the blessed man kept on talking to her through his tears.

    "O Mary, my daughter, haven't you got anything to say to me? Flesh of my flesh, can you not speak? Haven't I come all this way especially for your sake? Let your sin rest upon my shoulders, my daughter, that in the day of judgment I may stand in your place before God and make satisfaction to God for your sin."

    He went on till midnight pricking her conscience with such words and overwhelming her with his life-giving tears. Little by little she began to regain a little confidence, and answered him through her tears.

    "I am so covered in confusion," she said, "that I can hardly bear you to look at me. But how could I possibly have poured out my prayers towards God, when I had been wallowing in such filth?"

    "Let me bear the burden of your sin," said this most holy man. "Let God require your sin at my hands, if only you will listen to me. And come, and let us go to our own place. Look, there is that most loving Ephraem who has been most deeply upset because of you. He prays without ceasing for you to the Lord. Don't have any doubts, my daughter, about the mercy of the Lord. Though your sins be as big as mountains, yet his mercy is greater than all creation. Don't we read about how the unclean woman came to him who was spotless without in the least contaminating him? By him she was cleansed, she washed his feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair (Luke 7.38). There is more hope of a spark setting the sea on fire than there is of your sins contaminating him.

    "There is nothing new in falling down in the contest; the wicked thing is to keep on lying there. Be brave, retrace your steps. For as long as you go on lying down the enemy is laughing at you, but he knows that you will be all the stronger when you get up. Have pity on my old age. Give me some recompense for the labours I have undertaken in spite of my grey hair, I beg you. Leave here and come back with me to your cell. Don't be afraid, it is human nature to be in danger of falling. But even though a fall can happen quite quickly, by the help of God to rise again can be quicker still. For God does not will the death of a sinner but rather that he may be healed and live" (Ezekiel 18.23).

    "If you are sure that I can do penance, and that God will accept my reparation," she said, "then, see, I am going to do what you say. You lead, and I will follow your holiness, and kiss your footprints, because you have grieved so much about me and drawn me out this unclean morass."

    And she laid her head down at his feet and wept for the rest of the night, crying: "What shall I give to the Lord, as retribution for all my sins?"

    Chapter X

    "Come, daughter," said Abraham as soon as it was light, "let's go back to our cell."

    "I have a little money here," she replied, "and some clothes. What do you want me to do with them?"

    "Leave them behind," said the blessed Abraham. "They are the wages of sin."

    So they arose and departed. He put her on his horse and walked in front of her. Just as a shepherd who has found his lost sheep puts it on his shoulders rejoicing (Luke 15.5), so did the blessed Abraham begin this journey with his niece rejoicing. When they got home he put her in the inner room which he had previously occupied, and he remained in the outer room. Wearing the monastic habit once more, she passed her days in humility of mind and body, her eyes bathed in tears, disciplining herself with the strictest abstinence, declaring unceasingly with untroubled confidence before the Lord that her tears were offered in sure hope of the forgiveness of her sins. She cried out for mercy so powerfully that he would be hard hearted indeed who would not have been overcome with compassion at the sound of her weeping. Who is there so devoid of mercy that would not have wept in sympathy with her in her lamentation? And who in true compunction of heart would not have given thanks to God?

    Her penitence was beyond measure, compared to ours. So zealously did she pray to the Lord to pardon what she had done, that she was bold enough to ask God for a sign that her sins were indeed forgiven. And the most merciful Lord who wills no one to perish but rather come to repentance (1 Timothy 2.4), so graciously accepted her penances, that after three years salvation began to come to many other people through her prayers. For crowds of people began to flow eagerly towards her, begging that she might pray to the Lord for their salvation.

    Chapter XI

    The blessed Abraham lasted for a further ten years in this life, to witness the depth of her penitence and glorify God, until in his seventieth year he rested in peace. For fifty years he had been faithful to his profession with great devotion, humility of heart and charity unfeigned.

    Chapter XII

    He had shown favouritism to no one, as many are inclined to do, loving this person and despising that. He never relaxed his rule of abstinence, he never slumped into indolence, he was never careless, but lived each day as it if were his last. The way of life of this most blessed Abraham, and the battles he endured, were such that he ever stood resolute in the face of the enemy and never retreated. In his struggles in the village, [In his earlier life he had been responsible for converting a pagan village, at the behest of his bishop. See chapter iv and following, in Life No 7 in Book 1a.] and in all his battles against the phantasies of the demons, he never relaxed his mind or quailed before anyone. A great and memorable battle he had in the matter of the most blessed Mary. With spiritual wisdom, prudence and innocence he rescued her from the carelessness and incontinence of a morass of iniquity. What a miracle! He ventured even into the lair of the dragon and trod him underfoot, snatching his prey from out of his very mouth. What agonies and sweat this blessed man endured.

    Chapter XIII

    We have written all these things for the comfort and devotion of all those who desire to govern their lives devoutly and zealously, and to the praise and glory of God whose grace has surrounded us abundantly at all times. I have described the rest of his virtues in another book. When he was lying in peace, having passed to the Lord, almost the whole city gathered. Each person approached his most pure body with the greatest devotion, tearing off bits of his clothing to obtain a blessing for themselves. And if they were ever ill, they only needed to touch the scrap they had torn off to be fully restored to health.

    Chapter XIV

    Mary lived for another five years, pursuing an extraordinarily strict mode of existence. Day and night she continually prayed to the Lord with great lamentation bathed in tears, so that the many people who came by night to hear the voice of her weeping were so affected by her plaints that they joined her weeping with their own weeping. And on the day of her falling asleep, when she was taken up out of this life, all who saw her gave glory to the Lord because of the shining splendour of her countenance.

    Chapter XV

    O what a wretch am I, my beloved brothers, compared with those who have already fallen asleep and passed to the Lord with such great faithfulness! Their minds were never preoccupied with mundane business, but centred solely in the love of God. But I, indeed, remain buried in self-will, stumbling and unresponsive. My soul is wintry, an unending tempest leaves me bare, and despoiled of the hope of bringing any good work to perfection.

    Chapter XVI

    I am astonished at myself, my beloved brothers, because of the way in which I daily fail. I build for hours, then for hours I destroy what I have built. At night I say, 'Tomorrow I will repent', but in the morning when I get up I put it off for another day. Again towards evening I say, 'Tonight I will keep vigil and besiege the Lord with tears that he may look mercifully on my sins', but when nighttime comes I fall asleep. There are those who like me have been given a talent and have laboured day and night to trade successfully and gain the prize of being given power over ten cities (Luke 19.17), but I in my laziness have hidden my talent in the ground, and my Lord is hastening near and will strike fear into my heart, and I mourn for the days of my negligence, for I have not any excuse to offer.

    Chapter XVII

    O my God, have mercy upon me and save me, for you alone are without sin, you alone are merciful and kind, and apart from you I know no other, nor is there any other in whom I believe, Father most blessed, and only begotten Son incarnate for our sakes, and holy Spirit who gives life to all things. It is in your nature, O lover of mankind, both to keep me in mind, and to lead me out of the prison house of my sins. It is at your behest that I both came into this world and shall depart from it. Be merciful to me in my helplessness, and bring salvation to me, a sinner. Your grace is my helper in this world, my refuge and my hope of glory. Let it hide me under the shadow of its wings in that terrible and horrendous day. For you know the secrets of our hearts and minds, you know how many depravities and scandalous by ways I have scorned, you know how many shameless vanities and inclinations to heresy I have rejected. And all that not in my own strength but by your grace which has enlightened my mind. Wherefore I pray you, holy Lord, to save me into your kingdom and be graciously pleased to bless me along with all who are pleasing to you, for yours alone is the glory, the adoration and the magnificence, Father Son and holy Spirit. Amen.

    Life No 21

    The Life of St Thais the Harlot

    [Celebrated in the Roman Martyrology on 8 October.]

    There was once a harlot called Thais who was of such great beauty that many young men were ruined because of the money that they spent on her. She provoked such jealous quarrels among her lovers that the blood of many a young man must be laid at her door. When she came to the notice of abba Paphnutius, he donned secular clothing, took a solidus with him and went to see her in the Egyptian city where she lived. He offered her the solidus as the price for her favours, which she accepted, and invited him to come inside. Immediately on going inside he could see a bed with most beautifully ornate drapery, obviously intended for use.

    "Isn't there an inner room we can use?" he asked.

    "If you are frightened that others might see you here, don't worry. No one will come into this outer room. But if it is God you are frightened of seeing you, there isn't anywhere hidden from the eyes of the Divinity."

    "You believe there is a God then?"

    "Yes, I have heard about God and the kingdom of the world to come and the torments laid up for sinners."

    "If you know this, why have you brought so many souls to ruin? Don't you know that you will have to give an account not only of your own sins but also for theirs?"

    Thais fell at the feet of Paphnutius the monk and besought him with tears to give her some penance to perform.

    "I believe that if you will pray for me I might gain forgiveness," she said. "Give me just three hours, and after that I will come to whatever place you say and do whatever you decide."

    So while Paphnutius went off to prepare a place for her, she collected together all the beautiful things she had gained from her life of sin, went into the middle of the city, and as the people looked on, set fire to them.

    "Gather round, all you people who have sinned with me," she cried. "See, I am burning everything you have given me." It was all worth about forty pounds of gold.

    Chapter II

    When all had been consumed, she went to the place which the abba had prepared for her, which was a small cell in a monastery of virgins. He sealed up the door with molten lead, leaving only a small window through which she could be given food. He instructed the sisters to give her a little bread and water each day. As he was departing after sealing up the door, Thais called out to him.

    "Where are you expecting me to urinate, each day?" she asked.

    "In the cell, as you deserve." he replied.

    "What sort of prayers should I offer to God?" she asked.

    "You are not fit to talk about God. The name of God is not fit to be heard coming from your lips, nor should you lift up your hands to heaven, for your lips are full of iniquity and your hands are stained with iniquity. All you may do is to sit facing the East and repeat over and over, 'You who have moulded me, have mercy on me'."

    Chapter III

    After she had been enclosed for three years Paphnutius began to feel compunction about her, and he went to see abba Antony to ask him whether God had yet forgiven her sins or not. He gave him a full account of all the circumstances of the case, whereupon Antony called all his disciples together and decreed that they all should keep solitary vigil that night to pray that God might reveal to one of them the answer to the question that abba Paphnutius had come about. They all departed and began to pray without ceasing, till abba Paulus, Antony's chief disciple, saw a vision of a throne decked in precious drapery attended by three virgins with faces of shining splendour.

    "This cannot be anything other than a symbol indicating my father Antony," thought Paul, but a voice came from heaven:

    "It is not your father Antony, but Thais the harlot."

    When abba Paulus came forward to tell what he had seen, abba Paphnutius went back home, confident that the will of God had been revealed. He went to the monastery where Thais was enclosed and broke the seals on her door. She had been expecting that she was to remain enclosed for ever, but as Paphnutius opened the door he said to her:

    "You can come out, for God has forgiven your sins."

    "I call God as witness," she said, "that since the moment I came in here I have kept all my sins in view as a great burden. My sins have not diminished, I have kept them all continually in remembrance."

    "It is because you have kept the thought of your sins constantly in mind that God has forgiven you. It is not because of the penances you have performed. "

    Fifteen days after taking her out of the prison, Thais rested in peace.

    Life No 22, Book 1d

    The Life of St Pelagia the Harlot

    [Celebrated in the Roman Martyrology on October 8]

    by Jacob the Deacon

    translated into Latin from the Greek by Eustochius

    Prologue of Eustochius
    Since the words of such a great priest could not be understood by Latin speakers, I, Eustochius, have translated them by the help of Christ. You who read them, be mindful of my labours and pour out your prayers to God for me.

    Author's Preface
    We ought always to give hearty thanks to God that he does not wish for the death of sinners, but rather that they repent and live. (1 Timothy 2.4). Listen, then, to this miracle which has been done in our time. It has seemed right to me that I, Jacob, a sinner, should write to you, my holy brothers, so that the knowledge of it might come to your ears, either by reading it, or by hearing it read, that you may obtain the greatest possible help and consolation for your souls. The merciful God who desires that no one should perish has demonstrated in our day that sins can be wiped out by making satisfaction for them, so that in the world to come when all shall receive according to their works the judgment shall be just. Pray now, keep silence, and listen to me with all the diligence of your hearts, for our story is redolent of the most fruitful compunction.

    The Life

    Chapter I
    The most holy bishop of Antioch summoned his neighbouring bishops to a meeting to discuss certain matters. [The Synod of Antioch met in 341 to discuss certain theological difficulties still in dispute since the Council of Nicaea in 325] There were eight of them altogether, among whom was my bishop Nonnus, a most holy man of God, a most wonderful and effective monk from the monastery of Tabennisi. He was taken out of the monastery and ordained a bishop simply because of his incomparably beautiful life. Once we had arrived at Antioch, the bishop directed us to the basilica of the blessed martyr Julian,where we found all the other bishops meeting in the porch.

    Chapter II
    Some of the other bishops asked my superior, Nonnus, whether he had any edifying comments for them, and without delay our holy bishop began to tell them something for the instruction and salvation of all who were listening. As we were all listening with enjoyment to his holy teaching, suddenly there passed by in front of us the foremost actress of Antioch, the star of the local theatre. She was seated on a donkey and accompanied by a great and fanciful procession. She seemed to be clothed in nothing but gold and pearls and other precious stones. Even her feet were covered with gold and pearls. The male and female slaves accompanying her were extravagantly clothed in costly garments, and the torcs round their necks were all of gold. Some of them went before, others followed after.
    The worldly crowd could not get enough of their beauty and attractiveness. As they passed by us the air was filled with the scent of musk and other most delicious perfumes, but when the bishops saw her passing by so immodestly, with her head bare, and the outlines of her body clearly visible, nothing over her shoulders as well as her head, and yet the object of such adulation, they all fell silent, groaned and sighed, and averted their eyes as if being forced to witness some grave sin.

    Chapter III
    The most blessed Nonnus, however, looked at her long and hard, and even after she had passed by he looked after her for as long as she remained in sight. Not till then did he turn round and speak to the other bishops.
    "Weren't you delighted to see such beauty as hers?"
    They answered nothing. He leant his head down on to his knees and shed tears into the handkerchief which he held on his lap between his holy hands. He sighed deeply and turned again to the bishops.
    "Weren't you delighted to see such beauty as hers?"
    Again they answered nothing.
    "Truly, I was extremely delighted. Her beauty pleased me very much, for God has preordained to bring her here into the presence of this worthy and eminent bishop of Antioch as a judgment on us all personally as much as on our episcopacy. Think, my beloved brothers. How many hours did this woman spend in her dressing room, washing herself and dressing herself and decorating herself with the utmost care and attention, so that there might be nothing lacking in the beauty of her ornamentation, simply so that she would not disappoint all her various admirers, who are here today and gone tomorrow? But for us there is an almighty father in heaven, an immortal spouse who makes promises to those who serve him, who offers heavenly riches and eternal rewards which are beyond estimation, which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor yet have entered into the heart of mankind, which God has prepared for them that love him (1 Corinthians 2.9).
    "What more can I say? We have his promise that we shall see the great and splendid and inestimable face of our bride, which Cherubim dare not gaze upon, but we do not take care to adorn ourselves, or purge ourselves of all the filthy thoughts of our wretched souls. We just let them lie there."

    Chapter IV
    Having said all this he took me, his sinful deacon, to the hospice where a cell had been assigned to us. He fell down and laid his face on the floor, beating his breast and crying.
    "O Lord Jesus Christ, forgive me an unworthy sinner, for the decoration of a harlot lasting but a day is greater than the decoration of my soul. How can I show my face before you? What words can I offer to justify myself in your sight? But I will not hide my heart from you, for you know all our secret thoughts. Woe to me, an unworthy sinner, for I stand before your altar, and I do not offer the beauty of soul that you expect of me. That woman vows to make herself pleasing to men, and she succeeds. I vow to make myself pleasing to you, and I fail because of my slothfulness. I stand stripped bare before you in heaven as in earth, for I do not fulfil your commandments. I cannot put any trust in my own achievements. My hope lies solely in your mercy, by which I trust to be saved."
    With these words, and a great deal of loud weeping, we celebrated the feast of the day.

    Chapter V
    Next Sunday, after we had completed the prayers of the night, the holy bishop Nonnus said to me:
    "I must tell you, brother deacon, I have had a dream which disturbs me greatly, for I don't understand what it means. Standing near me on the edge of the altar, I saw a black dove, absolutely covered in filth. It flew all around me and I could hardly bear the stink of its unpleasant filth. After the deacon proclaimed 'Depart' [Catechumens had to depart after what we would call nowadays 'Ministry of the Word'. The offering and consecration of the sacred elements was for the faithful only] to the catechumens, it was nowhere to be seen. But after the Mass of the Faithful and the completion of the offering and the dismissal of the church, as we went out the door of the house of God, there was that dove again, still covered in filth and flying around me as before. I reached out my hand and caught it, and plunged it into the pool in the courtyard in front of the holy church. All the dirt covering it was washed off in the water, and it flew up out of the water as white as snow. It was carried away in its flight high up out of the sight of my eyes."
    Having told me his dream, the holy bishop of God, Nonnus, took me with him to the great church with the other bishops, where we greeted the bishop of the city.

    Chapter VI
    As he went in he spoke a few words of encouragement to the people of the church as they sat in their seats, and after the canonical prayers and the reading of the holy Gospel, the bishop of the city offered the holy Gospel to the most blessed Nonnus and asked him to speak to the people. He opened his mouth and poured out the wisdom of God which dwelt within him. His words owed nothing to studied composition, nothing to philosophy, and yet there was nothing indiscreet about him. He was completely human, yet filled with the holy Spirit. He taught the people and warned them, speaking with sincerity about the judgement to come and the good things laid up for us in eternity. The people found the words he had spoken by the holy Spirit so moving that their tears flowed all over the floor.

    Chapter VII
    Now it so happened, by the guidance of the divine mercy, that there was present in the church that very harlot whom we have previously mentioned. The wonderful thing is that taking thought for her sins had never induced her to come to church as a catechumen before, but as Nonnus was instructing the people she was suddenly so overcome by the fear of God, that she fell into complete despair and burst into floods of tears, which she could in no way restrain. She gave instructions to two of her slaves that they should stay there until the holy bishop Nonnus left, follow him, find out where he was staying, and come back and tell her. They did as their mistress instructed, and followed him to the basilica of the most blessed martyr Julian, where we had our cell. They came back and reported to their mistress that he was staying in the basilica of the most blessed martyr Julian, whereupon she sent tablets to the bishop by these two slaves containing the following message:
    "O holy servant of Christ, I am a sinful woman and servant of the devil. I have heard that your God, who upholds the arc of the heavens, came down to earth not for the sake of the righteous but to save sinners. He upon whom the Cherubim dare not gaze humbled himself to be a friend of publicans, and talked with sinners. Now, even though you, my lord, who display such holiness, have never set mortal eyes on this same Lord Jesus Christ who showed mercy on the Samaritan woman at the well, nevertheless you are a true worshipper of him, as I have heard Christians tell. So if you really are a true disciple of Christ do not turn your face away from me, for through you I long to see the Saviour, through you perhaps I may get a glimpse of his holy face."
    The holy bishop Nonnus wrote back:
    "Whoever you are, you are known of God, and he knows both what you have done and what you want. But I have to ask you not to put too big a strain on my humility, for I too am human, a servant of God who is a sinner. So if you truly have a desire for God for virtue and faith, and want to see me, come, and see me in the midst of all the other bishops who are with me, for I could not allow you to see me alone."
    The woman was overjoyed to read what he had written, and went to the basilica of the blessed martyr Julian, where she made her presence known to us. The holy bishop Nonnus called on all the other bishops who were there and asked them to meet with him. The woman came before the gathered bishops, threw herself on the floor before the blessed bishop Nonnus, and grasped his feet.
    "I am asking you, my lord," she said "to imitate the action of your master the Lord Jesus Christ, and show your good will towards me by making me a Christian. For I, my lord, am an ocean of sins and a sink of iniquity. I ask to be baptised."

    Chapter VIII
    The holy bishop Nonnus bade her rise and stand in front of him.
    "The priestly canons," he then said, "do not allow harlots to be baptised unless they can provide guarantors to see that they do not fall back into their former sins."
    She threw herself down once more upon the floor and grasped the feet of holy Nonnus, washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair (Luke 7.38).
    "You will have to give an account to God for my soul," she said, "and I shall lay at your door all the iniquities of my misdeeds, if you put off baptising me, wicked and repulsive though I am. You will not be given your portion with the saints in the presence of God unless you now cut me off from all my evil doings. You would be denying God and worshipping idols if you do not today give me new birth as a bride of Christ and offer me to God."
    All the bishops and clerics who were there were deeply moved at the sight of this woman speaking out in such a way because of her desire for God. Never had they witnessed such faith and desire for salvation as this harlot was demonstrating. And they sent me, a sinful deacon, straight away to the bishop of the city, to tell his blessedness everything that had happened and to ask that he send back one of the deaconesses with me. [In the early church one of the duties of deaconesses was to clothe the female candidates in a white baptismal gown.] His reaction was one of great joy, and he had this message for the holy Nonnus.
    "Well done, reverend father. Carry on with what you are doing. I am aware that you are acting on my behalf."
    And he immediately instructed the lady Romana, the chief deaconess, to come back with me. When she came in she found the woman still at the feet of the holy bishop Nonnus, who had great difficulty in persuading her to get up.
    "You must get up, my daughter," he said, "and be exorcised. And first, confess all your sins."
    "If I were to scrutinise everything I know to be in my heart, I would not be able to find any good deeds at all. But I know my sins are more numerous than the sands of the sea. The ocean is miniscule compared with the extent of my sins. But I trust in your God that he will relieve me of the burden of my sins and look kindly upon me."
    "Tell me your name," said the holy bishop Nonnus.
    "Pelagia was the name given to me by my parents, but the Antiochenes call me Margarita (Pearl), because of the masses of jewellery I had earned through my sins. I used to be the devil's jewel, and reckoned to be part of his work force."
    "But your proper name is Pelagia?"
    "Yes, my lord."
    Upon this the holy bishop Nonnus exorcised her, baptised her, signed her with the cross of the Lord, and gave her the body of Christ. The chief deaconess, the lady Romana, became her spiritual mother, and took her into the place reserved for the catechumens, where we also gathered together.
    "I tell you, brother deacon," the holy bishop Nonnus then said to me, "today we are rejoicing in the presence of the Angels of God, so let us have oil today with our food, contrary to our usual custom, and drink a little wine to celebrate our spiritual joy at the salvation of this young woman."

    Chapter IX
    As we were drinking the wine, we suddenly heard a great shriek like that of a man suffering great violence. It was the shout of the devil.
    "Woe! Woe! Why should I be suffering because of this decrepit old man? Weren't you satisfied with the thirty thousand Saracens whom you snatched from me, baptised and offered up to your God? Weren't you satisfied with Heliopolis, which used to belong to me along with everyone in it, which you have snatched from me and offered up to your God? And now you have taken from me the one in whom I had placed my greatest hope. O, how I suffer from this damnable man! Cursed be the day in which you were born. Her tears have flooded out over the floors of this hospice and all my hope has been cut off from me."
    All these things he shouted out, lamenting outside the doors. Everybody there could hear him. And he continued, addressing himself to the neophyte.
    "And you have done this to me, my lady Pelagia? Thinking to imitate my beloved Judas, were you? As one of the chosen apostles he had a place of glory and honour, and he betrayed his master. You have done the same thing to me!"
    "Cross yourself and renounce him," the holy bishop Nonnus said to her. She signed herself in the name of Christ and breathed upon the demon, and at once he disappeared.

    Chapter X
    On the second day, the devil appeared by night to Pelagia, the handmaid of the Lord, as she was asleep in the cell of her holy mother Romana, and woke her up.
    "Just answer me this, my lady Margarita," he said. "Weren't you plentifully supplied with gold and silver? Wasn't it I who decorated you with gold and precious stones? Tell me, what have I done to upset you? Tell me, so that I can put things right. Don't make me a laughing stock for these Christians."
    Pelagia, the handmaid of the Lord, crossed herself and breathed at the demon.
    "My God has snatched me out of your very jaws," she said, "and led me into his bridal chamber. He it is who fights for me."
    And the devil was suddenly no more to be seen.

    Chapter XI
    On the third day after her baptism, Pelagia had some instructions to give to the slave that looked after her possessions.
    "Go to my wardrobe," she said, "and make a list of how much gold and silver I have, and how much richly decorated clothing I have, and bring it all back here."
    He did as he was asked and brought back everything she possessed. She asked her holy mother, the lady Romana, to ask the holy Nonnus to come and see her, and gave him everything she possessed.
    "These riches, my lord," she said, "are the rewards that Satan has given me. I want to give them freely to your holiness, to do with as you think best. It is my task now to seek for the riches of our Lord Jesus Christ."
    The bishop summoned his chief steward, and in Pelagia's presence handed everything over to him..
    "I want you to swear by the indivisible Trinity," he said to the steward, "that none of this goes either to the bishopric or to the church, but rather disbursed to widows and orphans and the poor, so that what has been gathered by evil can be distributed for good purposes, and so the riches of a sinner can become the treasury of the righteous. And if this oath is broken either by you or by anyone else who takes any of it for himself, let him be anathema and all his house, and let them be as those who cried out, 'Let him be crucified'".
    Pelagia called together all her slaves, male and female, and freed them, taking their golden torcs off with her own hands.
    "Make haste and free yourselves likewise from