Book X (continued)
The wonderful charity of a certain holy FATHER
In this same monastery of Turrius there was an old man who was a great lover of almsgiving, even to the extent of holy nakedness. For one day a beggar came to his cell seeking alms. The old man had nothing to give him but one loaf which he offered to the beggar.
"It's not bread I want but clothing," said the beggar.
The old man wanted to help him so he took him by the hand and led him inside his cell. The beggar could not see anything inside but what the old man stood up in, but driven by his virtuous nature the old man opened the only moneybag he had by taking off everything he wore, saying: "Take these, good sir, and I will seek elsewhere for what I need."
The life of BARNABAS, the anchorite.
There was an anchorite in the holy caves of Jordan called Barnabas. As he went down one day to drink at the Jordan he got a thorn in his foot. He left it there, bearing always pain in his foot. He would not let any doctor see it, so that eventually it festered, and he had to go down to the monastery at Turrius where he accepted a cell. Daily the festering in his foot got worse, but those who came to see him said that the more he suffered outwardly the stronger he became in spirit.
After abba Barnabas left his cave to go to Turrius another anchorite went into this cave and as he entered he saw an angel standing by the altar which Barnabas had built and consecrated.
"What is your purpose here?" he asked the angel.
"God has entrusted it to me because it has become holy," replied the angel.
The life of abba AGIODULUS
Abba Peter, a presbyter of the monastery of our holy father Saba, told us this story about Abba Agiodulus:
When he was superior of the monastery of the blessed Gerasimus it so happened that one of the brothers who lived there died. The old man was unaware of this until the prior sounded the signal, the brothers lifted the body and at last he saw the body in the middle of the church. He was then greatly upset, because he had not been able to pay his respects to him before departing from this world. He went up to the bier whereon the deceased was lying and said: "Rise, brother, and give me the kiss of peace." He straightway rose up and kissed the old man.
"Sleep now," the old man then said, "until your resurrection by Christ the Son of God."
This same abba Agiodulus was once passing by the banks of the Jordan and began thinking and wondering what had happened to the stones which Joshua had set in the middle of the Jordan for those whom he was leading through it (Joshua 4.9). And as he was thinking, suddenly the waters divided this way and that, and he saw the twelve stones. He prostrated himself on the ground, gave thanks to the Lord and went his way.
A saying of abba OLYMPIUS
"Give me a word," a brother asked abba Olympius, a presbyter of the monastery of St Gerasimus.
"Have no dealings with heretics," he said, "guard your tongue and your stomach, and wherever you go say constantly: 'I am a stranger and a pilgrim'"
The life of abba MARK, the anchorite.
Abba Mark the anchorite, who lived near the monastery of Penthucula for sixty-three years, had the ability to fast for a whole week, so that many thought he was not made of flesh and blood at all. He worked day and night, but gave everything [he earned] to the poor. He accepted nothing from anyone. Some faithful men heard of him and came offering him blessed bread (agape).
"I can't accept that," he said. "These hands of mine provide food for me and all who come to me."
The BROTHER who was attacked by the spirit of fornication and became leprous.
Abba Polychronius also told us about a brother living in the coenobium of Penthucula who was very careful of himself, and continent. But once when he was attacked by the spirit of fornication he found that he was not able to fight against it, so he left the monastery and went to Jericho where he satisfied his desires. Soon afterwards, as he was going in to a harlot's house, he found that he was covered in leprosy. He returned immediately to the monastery, giving thanks to God and saying: "God has stricken me with this chastisement that my soul might be saved." And he gave great glory to God.
A miraculous deed of abba CONON
It was said of abba Conon that one day as he was going to Betamarim, he met some Jews who wished to kill him and ran towards him with drawn swords. As they approached, waving their swords at him, their hands suddenly became motionless, suspended on high. The old man said a prayer, freed their hands and sent them on their way, giving thanks to God.
A story which abba NICHOLAUS told about himself and his companions.
There was an old man called Nicholaus living in the monastery of abba Peter near the holy Jordan who told us the following story:
Once when I was in Raythum three of us were sent on a journey to the Thebaid. In going through the desert we took a wrong path and found ourselves in the middle of a vast sandy expanse. Our water supply ran out after a few days and we were parched with thirst. Fainting from thirst and the heat we were not able to go any further. but having come across some tamarisk trees in the desert we each threw ourselves down in the shade of the trees, expecting to die of our thirst. Stretched out in the shade I fell into an ecstasy and saw a fishpond full of flowing water, and two men standing beside a wooden vessel on the edge of the pond.
"Be kind to me, sir," I asked one of them, "and let me have a little bit of water, for I am fainting away."
"Give him some," the other said.
"No, let us not give him any," was the reply, "for he is lazy and doesn't look after himself."
"Even if he is lazy and negligent," said the other, "let us give him some for hospitality's sake."
And then they did give to me and my companions.
As soon as we had drunk we felt our strength reviving and travelled for three more days without drinking anything until we arrived at a populated area.
The life of the old man MACNUS.
They say that the old man Macnus of the monastery of abba Peter lived fifty years in his cave, drinking no wine and eating only bread made from bran. But every week he communicated three times.
The life of another OLD MAN in the monastery of Laura, who slept among lions.
Abba Polychronius the presbyter told us about another old man in the Laura of abba Peter who quite often went off and wandered about on the banks of the Jordan, and if he came across a lion's den he would sleep there. One day he picked up two lions' cubs in his cloak and brought them into the church.
"If we were keeping the commandments of our Lord Jesus Christ", he said to the brothers, "these animals should really be frightened of us. But because of the sin which affects us all we seem bound to be frightened of them."
The brothers went back to their cells greatly impressed by this magnificent deed.
A story that abba ELIAS told about himself
Abba Elias told us that at one time he was living in a cave near the monastery of the Eunuchs in the holy Jordan region in order to avoid being in communion with Archbishop Macarius of Jerusalem.
"One day at about the sixth hour," he said, "with a boiling heat beating down from above (it was during the month of August), there was a knock on the door of his cave. I went out to find a woman there and I asked her what she wanted. She said that she was following the same kind of life as me and that her cave was about a mile away, and she pointed towards the south.
"'I have been wandering about in this desert,' she said, 'and I am fainting with thirst because of this terrible heat. It would be kind of you, father, if you could let me have a little water.'
"I fetched my water jar, gave her a drink and sent her on her way. But after she had gone the devil began to attack me, putting lustful thoughts about her into my head. I was overcome, my burning desire was more than I could bear, and I picked up my walking stick and went out after her, in that heat which was so fierce that the stones were red hot, determined to fulfil my evil desires. But when I was still about two hundred yards (stadium = 606¾ English feet) from her cave, still burning with the heat of lust, I suddenly went into a trance and I was dragged down into a hole which opened up in the earth. I could see a putrid corpse lying there, decaying with an incredibly powerful stink, and I saw a man in sober garments pointing to it and saying: 'Look, this is how man woman and child end up, enjoy them how you will, and however great your lust for them. Think how your sin would deprive you of the kingdom of heaven. How pitiable the human state! (Vae humanae miseriae) To forfeit the reward of all your labour for the sake of one hour of pleasure.'
"I fell to the ground, overcome by the exceedingly great stink. But this awe-inspiring man who had appeared to me came and lifted me up. And I returned to my cell, thanking God."
The conversion of a certain SOLDIER through a miracle which God performed in him, and his profitable life.
One of the fathers told us what a certain soldier had told him during the war waged in Africa by the Romans against the Mauritanians. Beaten by the barbarians, many were killed. He himself was chased by a barbarian who shook his spear with the intention of killing him. Realising this he prayed to God: "Lord God, who appeared to your handmaiden Thecla and delivered her from the hands of the ungodly, save me also in my need. If I am rescued from this bitter death, I will go into the desert and live the solitary life."
He turned around and there was not a barbarian in sight. He went immediately to the Laura of Cupatha and remained there in a cave for thirty-five years, thanking God for his protection.
The death of an ANCHORITE and his murderer
Abba Gerontius, the prior of the monastery of our holy father Euthymius, told Sophronius Sophista and me the following story:
"Once when three of us were walking up into the mountains on the other side of the Dead Sea, another anchorite came walking along by the seashore. It so happened that some Saracens met him as they travelled through those regions, and after they had passed him one of them turned back and cut off the anchorite's head. We could see all this from a distance as we were climbing the mountain. As we were weeping and mourning for the death of the anchorite we suddenly saw a bird swooping down from above, which picked the Saracen up, carried him up high and dropped him to the ground, causing his death."
The life of another old man called CONON
There was another old man called Conon, a Cilician, in the coenobium of our holy father Theodosius. For thirty years he kept to a way of life which was to eat bread and water only once a week and to pray without ceasing. He never went outside the church.
The life of the monk THEODULUS
We saw another old man in the same monastery called Theodulus who had once been a soldier. He fasted every day and never slept lying down.
The life of an OLD MAN living in the cells of Cuziba.
There was an old man living in the cells of Cuziba, about whom the seniors of the place told us the following.
When he was living in his own village, if he knew of anyone who failed through laziness to cultivate his field, it was his custom to take seed and go by night without the owner's knowledge to sow the field for the poor. When he went to the desert and lived in the cells of Cuziba he carried out similar works of mercy. He would go along the road from Jordan to the holy City carrying bread and water, and if ever he saw anyone flagging from weariness he would carry their load even up as far as the Mount of Olives. He would then do the same for others on the road back to Jericho. You could have seen the old man sometimes carrying a large load sweating under the burden, sometimes carrying a small child on his shoulders, or even two quite often. He never rested. He would repair the shoes of either men or women, carrying with him everything needed for that. He gave others some of his water to drink, to others he gave bread. To anyone lacking clothing he gave the cloak off his back. It was lovely to see this old man working every day of his life. And if he found anyone dead on the road he would say the usual psalms and prayers over them and bury them.
A BROTHER of the monastery of Cuziba, and the words of the sacred offering, also of the abbot JOHN
There was a brother in the coenobium of Cuziba who had learned the words and ceremonial of the sacred offering. We were told about him by that Abbot Gregory who had once been a member of the palace guard watching over the Prince. One day this brother was sent to fetch the bread and wine (benedictiones), and as he was returning to the monastery he uttered the words of the sacred offering [i.e. "Canon of the Mass", or "Prayer of Consecration"] as if he were singing some ritual formula (quasi versus aliquos caneret). The deacon placed this bread and wine on the altar, but when abba John the presbyter offered it (he who afterwards was bishop of Caesarea Palestine) he did not perceive the usual descent of the Holy Spirit. He was very upset and wondered whether the Holy Spirit had turned away from him because of some mental sin. He returned to the sacristy weeping, and fell flat on his face. But an angel of the Lord appeared to him saying: "The brother who fetched the offerings (oblationes) said the words of the sacred offering over them as he was on his way, which was the reason for them being already sanctified and perfected." From then on the superior decreed that no one should learn the words of the sacred offering unless he were ordained for this purpose, nor should anyone say them anywhere or at any time apart from a consecrated place.
The life of brother THEOPHANES and his marvellous vision, and of communicating with heretics.
There was an old man of great merit in God's eyes called Cyriacus, who belonged to the laura of Calamon near the River Jordan. A pilgrim brother called Theophanes from the region of Dora came to him for counsel about his thoughts of fornication. The old man encouraged and instructed him with advice about modesty and chastity, which greatly edified the brother.
"Truly, father," he said, "if it weren't that in my part of the country I am in communion with the Nestorians I would love to stay with you."
When the old man heard the name of Nestor he was so overcome with fear that this brother would be damned that he fell down and prayed, and begged him to abandon this most evil and pernicious heresy and return to the holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
"There is no hope of being saved unless we truly feel and believe that Holy Mary is the birthgiver (genetrix) of God," he said, "and this is true."
"That's all very well, father," said the brother, "but all the heretics say the same, that unless we are in communion with them we cannot be saved. Unfortunately I don't know what to do. So pray to God for me that I may be quite certain which is the true faith."
The old man was delighted to hear what the brother was saying.
"Come and sit in my cave," he said, "and put your whole trust in God that he will reveal to you of his mercy what is the true faith."
He left the brother in his own cave and went out by the Dead Sea, praying to God for the brother. About the ninth hour of the next day the brother saw someone of truly awesome appearance standing next to him.
"Come, and see the truth," he said, and led him to a dark and stinking place throwing up flames of fire, and in the flames he saw Nestorius, Eutyches, Apollinaris, Dioscuros, Severus, Arius, Origen and others like them.
"This is the place prepared for the heretics, blasphemers, and those who follow their teachings," he said to the brother. "So then, if you like the look of this place persist in your teachings, but if you would prefer to avoid this punishment return to the holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, as the old man told you. For I tell you, even if a person practises all the virtues there are, unless he believes rightly he will be crucified in this place."
At these words the brother came to himself. He went back to the old man and told him all that he had seen, and returned to the communion of the holy Catholic Church. He stayed with the old man, and after four years with him he rested in peace.
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