Chapter XXXII (continued),  Book VII

VII.xxxii.2. (
Also in V.xi.27) "I really want to save my soul," a brother said to abba Sisois.
"How can we possible save our souls," he replied, "when our tongue often jumps out as if through an open door?"
VII.xxxii.3. (
Also in III.186) A brother asked an old man how long he had been observing silence.
"Right up until the time you have asked me about it," he replied. "Wherever you are, if you keep silent you will be at peace."
VII.xxxii.4. (
Also V.iv.44) An old man said, "The main point of pilgrimage is to keep silence."
VII.xxxii.5. (
Also in V.iv.44) An old man said, "Pilgrimage undertaken for God's sake is good, as long you maintain silence with it. Confidence in self has no part in pilgrimage."
VII.xxxii.6. Abba Arsenius used to say, "A monk going on pilgrimage to another country should not take it upon himself to express an opinion about local quarrels. Otherwise he will lose his peace of spirit."
VII.xxxii.7. (Also in III.187) Abba Ampo used to say, "Just as the bee gathers honey wherever it goes, so should a monk build up a beautiful series of good deeds as long he is concerned to do God's work wherever he goes."

Chapter XXXIII

Refusing the honour of clerical status

VII.xxxiii.1. When abba Theodore was ordained deacon in Scete he would not agree to stay permanently but became a fugitive in many different places. The elders brought him back again instructing him to stay in his own place, but he said to them, "Let me ask God if it is his will for me to minister in my own place."

And he prayed to God, "Lord show me if it is your will that I should continue in my ordination."
And he was shown a fiery column stretching from earth up to heaven, and heard a voice saying, "Theodore, if you can become like this column carry on with your ministry. Suffice it to say that it was decreed for the Levites and priests of Moses that in order to offer the sacrifices for the children of Israel they should be purified in body and soul, with clean hands and spotless clothing."

Upon hearing this he was confirmed in his determination to refuse. When he came in to the church they remonstrated with him for not being willing to serve and administer the chalice, but he would not agree, saying, "If you say any more to me on this subject I will go away again."

And so he silenced them.
VII.xxxiii.2. (
Also in III.22) When Abba Isaac heard that the fathers wanted to ordain him presbyter in Scete, he fled into Egypt and hid in a meadow in the long grass. the fathers followed after him and stopped for a rest in the same meadow.  It was late in the evening and they loosed the baggage donkey to let it feed. As the donkey was feeding it came near to the place where Abba Isaac was hiding. When daylight came the monks went in search of the donkey and so came to that place where the old man was hidden. Marvelling at the way God had guided them, they seized him and would have bound him but he said,  "I shall not flee any further, for I know that this is from God, and wherever I flee to, I know that I shall have to come to this in the end."
VII.xxxiii.3. (
Also in III.188 & V.xv.27) Abba Motois came with his disciple from the place called Ragitham in the Gebalon district. When the bishop of that place knew, he took him and ordained him presbyter against his will.
"Forgive me abba," said the bishop, as they were eating together later, "I know you did not want this to happen, but I presumed to do it because I longed to receive your blessing."
"My thoughts were a little against it," said he in great humility. "What exercises me is that it makes a division between me and the brother who is with me. I shan't be able to do all the prayers by myself."
"If you think he is worthy I will ordain him as well," said the bishop.
"I don't know whether he is worthy," said abba Motois. "What I do know is that he is better than I am."
The bishop ordained the disciple as well, and they remained with each other to the end, but neither of them ever presided at the offering [of the Eucharist].
"I put my trust in God," said Motois, "though I am not sure about this ordination, which is why I have not presumed to make the offering. Ordination is for those who are blameless, just, and spotless. I know myself too well."

Chapter XXXIV
Why seek solitude in the desert

VII.xxxiv.1. (
Also in V.xvii.5) Abba Arsenius was asked by abba Marcus why he fled from human company.
"God knows that I love human beings," he said, "but I cannot be with both God and human beings at the same time. The virtues from above are many, but there is one single will behind them all. Among humans there are many conflicting wills, and that is why I cannot leave God to be with human beings."
xxxiv.2. (Also in III.192) Some brothers wanting to go to the Thebaid in order to buy linen thought that this would give them a chance to see the blessed Arsenius. When Arsenius was told by his disciple Daniel that they had arrived, he told him to ask them why they had come.
When they replied that they had come to buy linen. Arsenius replied, "Well I won't see them then. They came here because of their work, not for my sake. Go and give them some hospitality, make my apologies and send them on their way, telling them that the old man can't come out to see them."
VII.xxxiv.3. (
Also in III.194 & VI.iii.1) Abba Besarion when travelling through the desert with his disciple came to a cave and went in, where the found a brother sitting in the process of weaving a rope. He neither looked at them nor greeted them, but said nothing.
"Let us go," abba Besarion said to his disciple," this brother evidently does not want to speak to us." And they went on to abba John.
On the way back they arrived at the same cave.
"Let us go in to this brother again," said abba Besarion to his disciple. "Perhaps God will persuade him to speak to us."
Buy when they went they found that the brother had died.
"Come, brother," said Besarion with a sigh, "let us lay him out for burial. The Lord has brought us here for that very purpose."
As they were carrying out the funeral rites they found that it was a woman, and they marvelled.
"How great is the mercy of God! Women as well can strive and conquer the devil!"
And they went back praising and glorifying God, the protector of all, to tell the others what they had seen.

Chapter XXXV
The hermit's way of life

VII.xxxv.1. (
Also in III.196) Abba Moyses instructed his brothers that there were four main things that a monk ought to observe: silence, keeping the commandments of God, humbling of self and strict poverty. There are three virtues which a person gains only with difficulty: that he should always mourn, always be mindful of this sins, and keep the hour of his death always before his eyes.
VII.xxxv.2. Blessed Antony was accustomed to say, "The ancient fathers went into the desert, and having been healed became healers. They then came back and healed others. There are those among us nowadays who go into the desert and try to heal others without first being healed, and thus do weaknesses come back among us and our last state is worse than the first. For this reason it was said to us, 'Physician first heal thyself'" (
Luke 4.23).

Chapter XXXVI
Different brothers of similar worthiness

VII.xxxvi.1. (
Also in V.x.52) A brother asked a question of abba Pimenius:
"Which brothers have the same merit as each other?"
"If they were all three together, and one of them were remaining quiet in word and deed, and another of them were ill and yet remained thankful, and the third were tending him with an untroubled conscience, all three of these are equally meritorious."

VII.xxxvi.2. An old man said, "It is contrary to the spirit of Christ to harm anyone, to lie or to forswear yourself. There are four things by which the soul is tainted: currying friendship with the powerful in the hope of worldly advantage, slandering your neighbour, walking about in the city without keeping custody of the eyes, and being familiar with women.

VII.xxxvi.3. (Also in III.38 & V.xviii.2) The blessed Arsenius described how while he was sitting in his cell he heard a voice coming to him bidding him to go outside and see what was being done. So he got up and went out and saw a man standing by a lake, drawing water from it and putting it into a jar, but there was a hole through which the water was escaping and running back into the lake. Going on a little further he saw an Ethiopian cutting wood with an axe and making a big bundle of it, and then trying to lift it up but was unable to do so. But he still went back and cut some more to add to the bundle. Again he tried to lift it up but was unable to do so, and yet he still went on cutting more wood.
And going on a bit further he was shown two men on horseback outside the city gate, each of them carrying on their shoulders a long wooden pole, and trying to go through the gate but unable to do so because they were carrying the pole crossways. Nor were they giving way to each other, but were both trying to get in at the same time; neither of them was humble enough to give way to the other, and so they both remained outside the city.
And he who was showing Arsenius these visions explained them to him. "He whom you saw first, drawing water from the lake into the vessel with the hole in it, letting the water flow out again, is one who gives alms, and thus gives an impression of being a good man, but is wicked in other ways, so that the evil far outweighs the good, and he perishes. He whom you saw cutting wood and making his bundle bigger and even bigger is one who is burdened with many sins but after repenting of them keeps on making the burden of sin greater. Those whom you saw unable to enter the city because they were carrying the poles crosswise are those who bear a wretched yoke of pride, and are unable to humble themselves before anyone else. They are unable to amend themselves in order to walk humbly in the way of our Lord Jesus Christ and they remain outside the kingdom of God.
VII.xxxvi.4. (
Also in V.x.56) A brother had a question for abba Sisois:
"My parents have left me a legacy. What should I do with it?"
"If I were to say, 'Give it to the clerics at church,'" he replied, "they would only have a feast on it. If I were to say, 'Give it to your relations', that would bring you no benefit. So if you wish to fulfil the divine command, give it to the poor and needy, and you will be on the way to perfection."

Chapter XXXVII
Temporal advantage should be abandoned for the sake of charity

VII.xxxvii.1. Abba Sisois said, "Once when I was in the market place I was selling baskets to a brother when I noticed that I was beginning to get angry. So I dropped my baskets and ran."

VII.xxxvii.2. Abba John said, "Once as I was going on a journey in Scete, weaving a rope as I went, I heard a camel driver speaking very foolishly, so lest I be drawn into getting angry I dropped my rope and fled."
VII.xxxvii.3. (
Also in III.201 & V.xvii.10) A brother had a question for abba Pimenius:
"What does it mean when the Lord in the Gospel says. 'Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends' (
John 15.13). How do you do that?"
"If you are insulted by your neighbour," said the old man, "and are tempted to reply in kind, but take the force of it in your heart while working hard at forcing yourself not to return the insult and upset him, that is when you are laying down your life for your friend."
VII.xxxvii.4. Abba Macarius said, "If we go on remembering the evil things that people have done to us we thereby banish the memory of virtuous things. But if we reflect upon the evils sent against us by the demons we should be able to remain calm, knowing that God in the beginning created all things good - the devil merely sows evil things on top of them. And see what havoc he has caused.
It is a fault in a monk if when suffering injury from others he is not the first to attempt a charitable reconciliation with a pure heart. The Shunamite woman would not have been worthy to accept the prophet Elias into her house if she had been in dispute with anyone. Now the Shunamite stands for the soul, Elijah for the Holy Spirit, so if the soul is not pure it is not worthy to receive the Holy Spirit. Unrestrained anger blinds the eyes of the heart and drives prayer out of the soul.

The effect of weeping and poverty when embraced for God's sake.

VII.xxxviii.1. A brother asked Antony what he should do about his sins, and he replied, "If you want to be liberated from your sins it is weeping and wailing that will effect that liberation. If you want your virtues to be strengthened it is in floods of tears that that strengthening will come. Think of the example of Hezekiah that the prophet Isaiah tells us of. Through his tears he not only regained his sanity, but the power of the Lord, watered by his weeping, promised him fifteen extra years of life (
Isaiah 38.5) and brought death to a hundred and eighty-five thousand of the enemy who were attacking him (Isaiah 37.36). Through his tears the Apostle Peter was forgiven by the Lord for his denials. Mary who washed the feet of the Lord with her tears was found worthy to hear that she had chosen the better part (Luke 10.42). So it is that the holy fear of the Lord endures for ever and ever."

VII.xxxviii.2. The blessed Macarius said, "If a monk accepts scorn as if it were praise, poverty as riches, hunger as a luxurious banquet, he will never wither away. One who believes in God and truly seeks God cannot possibly be conquered by evil passions or the falsehoods of the demons."

Chapter xxxix
Human nature cannot find ultimate peace in this life.

xxxix.1. A brother asked abba Sisois, "How much time must elapse before the passions are overcome?"
Abba Sisois replied, "It is written in Scripture 'God does not hear sinners but those who worship him and do his will' (
John 9.31). Therefore repel temptation as soon as it arises, for the soul is weak. Be forearmed against corruption."
VII.xxxix.2.  (
Also in III.100 & V.ix.8) A brother asked abba Pimenius how to control the thoughts that came to him as he sat in his cell.
"Don't decide anyone is worthless, don't condemn anyone, don't slander anyone, and God will give you rest and establish your meditation without disturbance. Meditate in the divine office and keep the canonical hours day and night. Then the fear of the Lord will not depart from your heart, but you won't boast about it. Don't consider yourself to be among the company of the righteous, and above all other virtues don't be self-willed."
VII.xxxix.3. (Also in III.204) He also said, "A fly will not go near a pot when it is on the fire, but once it has cooled the fly will alight on it and produce maggots. Likewise the demons flee from the monk on fire with the love of God, but if he cools down they buzz into him and lead him astray."

Chapter XL
The sources of vice

VII.xl.1. A brother had a question for the holy Antony:

"God promises a healthy soul as a return for study of the Scriptures; how is it then that the soul does not make up its mind to stay healthy, but falls off into short-lived pleasures, second rate satisfactions and even evil?"
He replied, "The Psalmist answers this by saying 'If I have entertained wickedness in my heart God will nor hear me' (
Psalms 66.18). You don't seem to be aware that when the belly is full of food, great vices flourish, as our Saviour foretold in the Gospels: 'It is not what goes into anyone which causes defilement to the soul but it is what comes out of the heart that drags people to destruction.' (Matthew 15.18). See what he says next - 'evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornication, theft, false witness and blasphemies.' So if anyone has not tasted the sweetness of heaven and is not following God with a whole heart he will turn back to evil things. Who is it who can truly say, 'I am become as a beast of burden before you, and I am always with you.'?" (Psalms 73.22)

Chapter XLI
The necessity of acquiring virtues

VII.xli.1. A brother said to one of the old men, "Instruct me, father." 

And he replied, "You need to begin to take pleasure in fighting against self. Unsheathe your sword and prepare for battle."
"I feel extremely reluctant to do that" (lit. my thoughts do not permit me), he replied.
"It is written," the old man said, "'Call upon me in the day of trouble. I will rescue you and you will praise my name.' (
Psalms 81.7) So call upon God and he will rescue you."
VII.xli.2. (
Also in V.x.94, but a shorter version) Two brothers came to a holy old solitary in Scete and the first one said, "Abba, I have committed the whole of the old and new testaments to memory."
The old man said, "You have made a cloud of words around yourself."

The other said, "I have written out the whole of the old and new testaments by my own efforts."

The old man said, "You have blocked up the windows (sc. 'of your mind') with books. Don't you know who it was who said, 'The kingdom of heaven lies not in words but in uprightness'? (1 Corinthians 4.20) And again, 'It is not the hearers of the law who are justified before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.' (Romans 2.13) This is where you need to look to find the way to salvation."
He also said, "'The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and humility with patience'. (
Psalms.111.10). For those who grasp hold of these things and practice them little else matters."

Chapter XLII
How to live in community

VII.xlii.1. (
Slightly different in III.198 & V.x.8)
A young brother asked abba Agathon, "I would like to go and live in a community. How should I conduct myself among them?"
The old man replied, "Observe this above all: From your first day there begin as you mean to go on for the rest of your life, and fulfil the days of your pilgrimage in peacefulness. Take care lest at any time you become presumptuous in what you say. Remember what the Apostle says, 'No one fighting for Christ entangles himself in the things of this world'" (
1 Timothy 2.4).

VII.xlii.2. Again Agathon said, "If you live with somebody be like a pillar of stone, which does not get angry when injured nor gets conceited when praised."

VII.xlii.3. (Also in V.xv.30) Abba {Pimenius had a question for abba Nestoro, as they were sitting together in the coenobium.
"How is it that you developed this virtue, father, that whatever sort of trouble there might be in the
coenobium you neither say anything about it nor interfere in it?"
Nestoro was unwilling to reply, but the old man pressed him until he did.

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