Chapter XXVI, Eulogius (continued) Book VIII
Antony's Vision begins further down page)
"Don't delay any longer, my brothers," he said, "but go in peace and stay together. Cast out all the malice that the demon has injected into you, and return to your cell in brotherly love, where you have been for such a long time. God himself will aid you. This time of testing has been at the instigation of Satan because he knows that you are nearly at the end of your journey. But you will receive crowns, you because of him and he because of you. Don't think anything other than that. If the Angel when he comes does not find you in the same place, it could be that you might lose the crown."
They hastened back to their own cell in perfect charity with each other. Blessed Eulogius passed over to the Lord forty days later, and the cripple died three days after that, mutilated in body but firm and robust in spirit, commending himself into the hands of God.
Cronius stayed a little longer in the Thebaid, and then went down to the monastery in Alexandria, where he learned that the funeral of the blessed Eulogius had indeed taken place on the fortieth day and that of the cripple three days later. He was so amazed that he picked up the Gospels and laid them down in the midst of the brothers and swore an oath so that they would believe what he was saying. He told them how Antony had foreseen it all and related everything that had happened.
"I acted as interpreter for them," he said, "for the blessed Antony knew no Greek, but I knew both languages. By the grace of Christ I was able to speak to the blessed Eulogius and the cripple in Greek and tell them what the great man had said, and tell the great and blessed Antony in Egyptian what both of them had said."
THE VISION WHICH ABBA ANTONY SAW
(This story is told also in Book VII.xix.4) Cronius also told us that on that same night Antony had told him of a vision that he had seen.
"I had prayed for a whole year that I might be shown the places of both the just and the unjust, and then I saw a gigantically tall black man whose head reached up to the clouds. His hands were stretched up to heaven, but below him was a lake as big as the sea. I saw human souls flying up like birds. Some of them were carried up over his head and his arms by Angels, but those whom he caught in his hands, he threw into the lake. And a voice came to me, saying, "The souls you see flying over the head of the giant are the souls of the just whom the Angels are taking up into paradise; the others, caught in the hands of the black man, are sent down to hell. These are they who were overcome by the desires of the flesh, and walked in hateful paths, and loved injustice."
THE LIFE OF PAUL THE SIMPLE
(cf II.xxxi) The Servant of Christ, Hierax, as well as Cronius and several other brothers, told me the story I am going to tell you about Paul the Simple. He was a peasant farmer of transparently innocent and simple life, and he had taken a most beautiful woman for a wife who nevertheless was of very lax morals. Led by providence to an outcome which he was in fact half hoping for, he came back from the fields unexpectedly one day, went inside, and found her and a man together. When he saw her and the man she was having sex with he gave a forthright and heartfelt laugh.
"Fine, fine," he said. "This means that she is no longer any responsibility of mine. In Jesus' name I acknowledge her no longer. Go, take her with you, and her children, for I am leaving to become a monk."
Without saying anything to anybody else he took an eight day journey to holy Antony and knocked on his door.
"What do you want?" asked Antony when he came to the door.
"To become a monk," replied Paul.
"You must be at least sixty. You can't become a monk," said Antony. "Live in the town, work for your living, trusting in the grace of God. You would not be able to cope with all the trials of solitude."
"Whatever you told me to do I would do it," the old man replied.
"I have told you," said Antony. "You are old. You can't be a monk. Go away. Or if you do really want to be a monk go to a cenobium where there are many brothers to support you in your frailty. I am here all by myself, fasting for five days before eating." And with these words he tried to drive Paul away.
Refusing to admit him, Antony shut the door and for three days did not go outside, not even to answer the call of nature. But the old man stayed where he was.
On the fourth day he really had to go outside, but when he opened the door and went out he saw Paul still there and said, "Go away, old man. Why do you keep on bothering me? You can't stay here."
"I don't intend to stay anywhere else except here," said Paul.
Antony looked at him and saw that he had nothing with him to sustain life, no bread, no water or anything else, and he had now been fasting for four days.
"He is so unused to fasting he might die," thought Antony, "and I will be to blame." And so he took him in.
"If you can be obedient and do what I tell you," said Antony, "you'll be all right."
"I will do whatever you say," Paul replied.
Antony in those days followed just as rigorous a way of life as he did when young. In order to test the Paul's mettle he said to him, "Stay here and pray, while I go in and fetch something for you to work with." He then went into his inner room and watched Paul through the window. For the rest of the week he stayed there without moving, even though scorched by the heat. At the end of the week he brought some palm branches which he had soaked in water.
"Take these and weave a rope as you see me doing," he said. The old man wove until the ninth hour, completing fifteen arms-lengths with great difficulty. Antony inspected what he had done and was not satisfied with it.
"You've done that very badly," he said. "Undo it and do it again." It was now the seventh day that this elderly man had been fasting, but Antony was treating him severely like this to see whether he would give up and abandon the life of a monk. But he just took the branches and rewove them, and with great labour put right the unevenness with which he done them at first. Antony saw that he had neither grumbled, nor been downcast, nor turned aside, nor become resentful to the slightest degree, and he began to feel sorry for him. And as the sun set he said, "Well, little father, shall we break some bread together?"
"If you think that's right, abba," replied Paul, thus leaving the decision to Antony without jumping up eagerly at the mention of food. Antony began to change his mind.
"Get the table ready then," he said. And he did so. Antony put the bread on the table, four six-ounce rolls. He put one to soak for himself (for they were dry) and three for Paul. Antony sang a psalm which he knew, and when he had repeated it twelve times he also said a prayer twelve times. This he did in order to test Paul further. But the old man prayed too, as promptly and eagerly as the great Antony himself. (I really think that he would rather feed on scorpions than live falsely.)
"Sit down," the great Antony said to Paul after the twelve prayers, "but we won't eat until vespers. Wait till the bread is eatable." The time for vespers came and Paul still had not eaten, when Antony said, "Get up. We'll pray and then sleep." They left the table and did so. Half way through the night Antony woke Paul for prayers and went on with them right through to the ninth hour. But at last when vespers came and the table had been prepared and they had sung and prayed they sat down to eat.
Antony ate one roll and did not pick up another one. The old man was eating more slowly and still had the roll which he had started. Antony waited till he had finished and said, "Come, little father, eat another roll."
"If you have another one, I will," said Paul, "but not if you won't."
"I've had quite sufficient for one who is a monk," said Antony.
"Since I want to be a monk," said Paul, "that's enough for me too, then." And he got up and said twelve prayers and sang twelve psalms. After the prayers they slept a little for the first part of the night, then rose and sang psalms again till dawn.
He then sent him out to wander in the desert.
"Come back after three days," he said.
This he did.
When some brothers came on a visit he paid close attention to Antony and did whatever Antony wanted.
"See to the visitors' needs and keep silence," he said, "and don't eat anything till they have started on their journey back."
At the end of the third week in which Paul had not eaten anything the brothers asked him why he kept silent, to which he replied nothing at all.
"Why keep silent?" said Antony. "Speak to the brothers." So he spoke.
Once when Antony was given a jar of honey he told Paul to break the jar. He did so and the honey spilled.
"Now scrape up the honey with this shell," he ordered, "but don't get any dirt mixed up in it."
Once he ordered him to draw water all day.
When his garment got a bit tattered, he told him to just get used to it.
In the end this man had grasped such firm hold on obedience by the divine grace given him, that he was able to command the demons. When the great Antony saw that this man had promptly carried out everything he had asked him to do in the way he ordered his life, he said, "See if you can keep on doing this day by day, brother, and stay with me."
"I don't know what else you can show me," said Paul. "I do whatever I see you doing, quite easily and without any strain, the Lord being my helper."
On another day Antony admitted 'in the name of Jesus' that he had indeed become a monk. The great and blessed Antony had become convinced that the soul of this servant of Christ had become almost perfected in all things, even though he was somewhat simple. After a few months Antony was moved by the grace of God to build a cell for him three or four miles away from his own cell, and said to him, "See now, by the help of the grace of Christ you have become a monk. Now live by yourself, and even take on the demons."
So a year after Paul the Most Simple came to live with him, he was highly experienced in a disciplined way of life and was found worthy to battle against the demons and against all kinds of diseases.
One day there was brought to Antony a young man vexed beyond measure by one of the most powerful and savage demons, who railed against heaven itself with curses and blasphemies.
Antony had a look at the young man and said to those who had brought him, "This is not a task for me. I have not yet been given the grace to deal with this very powerful type of demon. Paul the Simple has the gift of dealing with this one." The great Antony went to Paul, that most excellent man, taking them all with him.
"Abba Paul," he said, "Cast out this demon from this person so that he may return home cured and glorify God."
"Why not you?" asked Paul.
"It is not for me," said Antony. "I have other concerns." And the great Antony left the boy there and returned to his cell.
The unassuming old man stood up and poured out a strong prayer to challenge the demon and said, "Abba Antony says, 'Depart from this man'"
"I will not, you disgusting, pompous old man," said the demon, with many curses and blasphemies. Paul put on his sheepskin and belaboured him in the back, crying, "'Go out,' abba Antony says."
The demon abused both Paul and Antony with curses, saying, "You are disgusting old men, lazy and greedy, never content to mind your own business. What have you got in common with us? Why are you browbeating us?"
"Either go now," said Paul, "or I will call upon the power of Christ to bring destruction upon you."
But this unclean demon railed against Jesus also with curses and blasphemies
"I am not going," he shouted.
This made Paul get angry with the demon. He went outside. It was midday - when the Egyptian heat bears comparison with the furnace of Babylon. The holy old man stood up straight, like a statue, on top of a rock, and prayed, "O Jesus Christ, you were crucified under Pontius Pilate, take note that I will not come down from this rock, nor will I eat or drink even if I die, until you hear me and cast out this demon from this man and liberate him from the unclean spirit." And even as the simple and humble Paul was praying, before he had even finished, the demon cried out, "I'm going, I'm going, driven out by force, overcome by tyranny. I'm getting out of this man and won't come back any more. It is the simplicity and humility of Paul which has driven me out and I don't know where to go."
The moment he went he changed into an enormous dragon about seventy cubits long which crept off towards the Red Sea. Thus were fulfilled the words of Holy Scripture, 'The righteous man shows his faith by what he does' (Proverbs 12.17), and 'On whom shall I look, says the Lord, if not on him who is gentle and humble and trembles at my words?' (Isaiah 66.2). Although lesser (humiliores) demons can be cast out by the faith of men in authority (principales), it takes humble (humiles) men to be able to put to flight the demons of greatest power (principales).
Such were the miracles of the humble Paul the Simple, and there were many others he did, even greater than these. He was known as Simple by all the brothers.
THE LIFE OF ABBA PACHON
There was a certain Pachon living in Scete who had reached the age of seventy. It so happened that I had become tormented by a desire for a woman and I was labouring under thoughts and visions at night. It was all I could do to refrain from leaving the desert because of this temptation, so great was this turbulence of mind that was fiercely attacking me. I did not tell any of my neighbours about this, not even Evagrius my superior, but unknown to anyone I went into the desert where I wandered about among the older brothers in Scete for fifteen days. Among them I came across the holy man Pachon. When I realised how sincere he was and how skilled he was in the discipline of his life, I was emboldened to open up my heart to him.
"Don't think that this is anything strange or unusual," this holy man said to me. "It is not caused by voluptuousness, laziness or carelessness - your own character bears witness to that. You make do with the minimum of what is necessary, you have not made a habit of consorting with women. It is more likely the case that this is coming to you from the devil, because of your search for purity. There are three ways in which the enemy drives one towards fornication. Sometimes if the flesh has been too delicately pandered to it runs riot and takes control, sometimes thoughts can provoke assent in the mind, sometimes it is a demon in person who harasses us through envy. This what I have found as a result of the many cases I have seen.
"Look at me now, an old man. I've been forty years in this cell working out my salvation, and I have arrived at this age being tempted right up to the present day. And I solemnly declare that for twelve years from the age of fifty onwards there had not been a single day or night when I was not attacked. I began to think that God had forsaken me, so fiercely did the devil show his power against me. I felt I would rather go mad and die than do something disgraceful driven by vice and bodily desires.
"I went out from my cell into the desert and found a hyena's cave. I stripped and stayed in that cell all day in the hope that the hyenas would come and devour me. After vespers, as the scripture says, 'The sun knows it is time to set. You bring on the darkness and it is night when all the wild beasts come out. The young lions roar and strike, seeking their meat from God.' (Psalms 104.19-21). And the wild beasts did indeed come out at that time, male and female, and sniffed at me from head to toe as they prowled around me. Just as I was expecting that they would devour me they went away. Even though I lay there all night I was not devoured. I realised that God had certainly spared me, and I got up and went back to my cell.
"But after a few days the devil returned and attacked me even more fiercely than before, so that I could hardly refrain from blaspheming. He changed himself into the image of an Ethiopian girl that I had seen gathering ears of corn in the days of my youth. It seemed as if she came and sat on my knee, and got me so excited that I thought I had had sex with her. I gave her a box on the ear and she vanished. I'm telling you this, believe me. For two years I wasn't able to bear the smell given off by my hand.
"For these reasons I became so weak and despondent of mind that I acknowledged defeat and gave up all hope. I wandered off into the empty desert, where I came across a small asp. I picked it up and placed it on my genitals so that I might be bitten and die. I put its head on my manhood, the source of all my troubles, so that thanks to providence I might be bitten. And then I heard a voice saying in my thoughts. 'Come, Pachon, put up a fight! I have allowed this power to be exercised over you lest you become puffed up and arrogant in spirit. Maybe now you can overcome your desires, accept your own weakness, trust not in the way you have organised your life, but rely only on the help of God.' Thus admonished and strengthened I returned to my cell and stayed there with confidence from then on. I was no longer worried about the outcome of the battle, but lived out my days in peace. When the demon realised how much I despised him he was disconcerted, and bothered me no longer."
With this advice he confirmed me in my own strife against Satan, instructed me in the nature of the battle and prepared me by his teaching for the attacks of the demon. And so he sent me back home, telling me to be of good courage in all things.
THE LIFE OF ABBA STEPHAN
Stephan was a Libyan and lived for sixty years on the borders of Marmarica and Mareotis. When his disciplined life had become thoroughly developed he became well known for his powers of discernment, and was given this gift that if anyone came to him with whatever kind of trouble they never left him without this trouble being entirely removed. The blessed Antony knew him well. He lived right through to our time, but I never visited him because he was so far away. But the holy Ammon and Evagrius visited him, and they told me that they found him to have an advanced infection in his testicles, and a large cancer, known in Greek as a phagidaina, in his penis. They said that even as he was being attended to by a doctor he was working with his hands weaving palm branches and talking to us at the same time, while the surgeon was treating the rest of his body. This outstanding person, by the grace of God, obviously had such patience that he was affected no more than if it were somebody else's body that was undergoing surgery. Even when the knife was slicing bits off his members he might simply have been having a haircut, so little did he react.
"We were half revolted and half terrified," they said, "that the life of such a great man should be violated by such a terrible disease and be subject to such excisions by the doctors, but the blessed Stephan realised what we were thinking and said, 'Don't be upset by this, my sons. Nothing that God wills is ever meant for evil but for an ultimate good. Perhaps it is the case that these members deserve punishment. Better to be punished now than after departing from this world.' With these words he encouraged us and helped us to be indifferent to pain and bear calamity cheerfully."
I have told you all this so that it won't seem strange to you when good people suffer afflictions.
VALENS WHO FELL FROM GRACE.
Valens was a Palestinian by race but a Corinthian by inclination, in that he shared the vice which St Paul attributed to the Corinthians when he said, 'You are puffed up' (1 Corinthians 5.2). After coming into the desert he lived for several years among us before he was deceived by the devil and gave way to pride. Little by little he was beguiled into thinking himself to be brilliant and important, conversing with angels who ministered to his special needs. He claimed that once he was working in the gloom when he lost the needle which he was using to stitch up a basket. When he could not find it a demon made a light for him and the needle came to hand. From such incidents as this he conceived a highly inflated opinion of himself and became so self-important that he even felt that he had no need to participate in the Sacraments. But the Lord had mercy on him and saw to it that his failings should quickly become known to the whole fraternity. It so happened that some guests offered some presents to the brothers in church. The holy Macarius, our presbyter, accepted them and distributed a handful of them to each person in the cells round about. When it came to Valens' turn the person delivering them was subjected to verbal abuse.
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