Chapter XXXIX (continued) Book X
(Cosmas etc begins further down this page)
And then she began to talk to him along these lines:
"How long have you been in the monastery, brother?"
"Seventeen years", he said.
"Have you ever had a woman?" she asked.
"No," he said.
"And do you really want to undo the labour of all those years for the sake of one single hour? How many tears have you shed in the struggle to keep your flesh pure and unstained for Christ our Lord? And do you want all that labour to go for nothing for the sake of a brief pleasure? In any case, if I should listen to you and you should sin with me, have you got the wherewithal to take me in and provide for me? "
"Truly, I'm telling no lies, if you overcome me you will be the cause of many evils."
"In the first place, you will lose your soul, and in the second place my life will be required at your hands. For in the name of him who said 'Don't make me a liar' (1 John.1.10), I swear to you that if you overcome me I shall immediately hang myself, and you will be found guilty of murder, and you will be judged as a murderer. So, before you become the cause of so much evil go back to your monastery in peace, and pray for me."
The brother came to his senses, had second thoughts, and went back to his monastery straight away. He prostrated himself in front of the abbot, and asked for pardon. And he begged that never again might he go outside the monastery. He spent three months in deep heartfelt contrition, after which he passed away to the Lord.
The life of COSMAS, the eunuch
A story told us by abba Basileus, a presbyter of Bicantium -
When I was at Theopolis with patriarch Gregory, abba Cosmas visited us, a eunuch from the Laura of Pharan. He was an outstandingly religious man, extremely zealous in upholding the true faith and teachings, well versed in the knowledge of the divine Scriptures. He had hardly been there for more than a few days when he died, and the patriarch ordered his precious relics to be buried in his own monastery next to a certain bishop. I went there one day to pay my respects to the tomb of the old man, and found a poor man lying on the tomb asking alms of those going in to the church. When he caught sight of me he prostrated himself three times as he prayed to the old man.
"Abba", he said to me, "this old man whom you buried these two months past was assuredly a very great person."
"How do you know that?" I asked
" Well, sir," he replied, "I was paralysed for twelve years but God cured me through him. And whenever I am in trouble he comes to me and brings me consolation and peace. And here's another miracle of his: from the day in which you buried him until now I hear him crying out each night to the bishop [buried next to him] 'Don't touch me, you heretic. Don't come near me, you enemy of the holy Catholic Church of God.' Hearing this cry from the one who healed me, I went to the patriarch and told him everything exactly as it had happened, and begged him to lift the body of the old man from the place where it was and bury it elsewhere.
"'Believe me, my son,' said abba Gregory the patriarch, 'abba Cosmas cannot come to any harm from any heretic. All this has come to pass so that we should take note of the old man's virtue and zeal for the faith. As he was in this life so he is now that he is laid to rest. And he lets us know his opinion about the bishop, lest we should think that he had been orthodox and Catholic.'"
Abba Basileus also told us about a time when he was visiting this same old man in the Laura of Pharan.
"I was wondering, the other day," the old man said to Basileus, "what the Lord meant when he said to his disciples 'Let him sell his coat and buy a sword' (Luke 22.36) and when the disciples said 'Here are two swords' he said 'It is enough' (Luke 22.38). I was quite perplexed by these sayings and could not understand what they meant. I was so fixated on them that I left my cell even in the midday heat to go to the Laura of Turrius in order to question abba Theophilus on the subject. As I was going through the desert near Calamon I saw an enormous reptile coming down the hill towards Calamon. He was so big that as he moved his back curved up like an arched vault, and he left footprints behind him in the earth even deeper. But I passed over these footprints unharmed, and I realised that the devil was trying to put a stop to my enquiry. The prayers of the old man had come to my aid. So I managed to get to Abba Theophilus and told him of my worries.
"'The two swords signify the two kinds of life, active and contemplative,' said Theophilus. 'He who has both of these will achieve perfection.'"
I myself visited this same abba Cosmas when he was in the Laura of Pharan, and I stayed there for twelve years. He was talking to me once for my soul's health and mentioned something from the sayings of holy Athanasius, archbishop of Alexandria.
"If you come across something from the works of Athanasius," he said, "and you haven't got any paper with you to write it down on, write it on your clothing." This was typical of how great was the zeal which this old man had for our holy fathers and teachers.
This abba Cosmas was also said to have remained standing from first Vespers through the night till Sunday morning, singing psalms and reading, both in his cell and in church, never sitting down once, until at last when the services were complete, he would sit and read the Gospels until the [last] Collect was said.
The life of abba PAUL, from Nazarbus
We saw another old man in this Laura, an abba called Paul, a holy and most gentle man devoted to God, and of great abstinence. I don't remember ever having met anyone who was so blessed with the gift of tears and the power of giving comfort. Tears were always dripping from his eyes. This holy old man completed fifty years living in solitude without speaking, content with the [daily] portion of bread given him by the church. He came from Nazarbus.
The life of abba ANAXANONTES, the servant of God.
We met abba Anaxanontes in the same place, a tenderhearted and most abstemious man, who lived in his own cell a solitary life of such strictness that he would make twenty small pieces of bread (oblationen minutorum viginti) last for four days. Indeed, sometimes that would be all he would eat for a whole week. Towards the end of his life this venerable man contracted an illness of the stomach and bowel, so we took him to the house for the sick in the holy city which was under the direction of the patriarch. We were with him one day when abba Conon, the prior of the Laura of our holy father Saba, sent to him six coins and a linen cloth containing the Blessed Sacrament (sudarium unam habens benedictionem) and a message to say that he also was ill and asked pardon for not coming personally. The old man accepted the Sacrament but sent the coins back.
"If God wishes me to continue in this life, father," he said, "I already have ten coins. When I have spent them I will let you know, and then you can send me these other ones. However, as you will soon know, father, in two days I shall be dead"
And so it came to pass.
We took him back to the Laura of Pharan and buried him there. He was a blessed man. He shared a cell with the blessed Eutochius, and when they were both dead their hermitage came to an end.
The horrid death of the ungodly THALELAEUS, archbishop of Thessalonica.
There was an archbishop of Thessalonica called Thalelaeus, who feared neither God nor the judgment in store for him. Having no respect for Christian dogma and caring nothing for his priestly honour and dignity, he was a wolf instead of a shepherd. Denying the holy and consubstantial Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, he disgracefully worshipped idols. The rulers of the church at that time condemned him unanimously, and drove him from his see. But it was not long before this worthless, wicked and totally godless man wanted to get his priestly dignity back. So in accordance with the saying of Solomon that all things obey money (Ecles.10.19), he went back to his own city of Constantinople where there were Princes who were willing to 'justify the wicked for reward and take away the righteousness of the righteous' (Isaiah 5.23). But God does not desert his holy Church. As Thalelaeus defied the Apostolic canons by refusing to accept the sentence passed upon him, so God condemned him. For on the day when Thalelaeus in magnificent dress was going to the Emperors so that they might issue an order that he should be reinstated, it so happened that he had a stomach upset and answered a call of nature by going to his private latrine in order to empty his bowels. When he had not emerged after two or three hours some of his assistants went in to tell him that it was time for him to leave, and found the unfortunate man upside down in the pit, with his feet sticking up in the air. When those associates of the ungodly Arius pulled him out they found that the enemy of God had been snuffed out in a horrible and eternal death.
He had been trusting in the help of Princes in the hope of tyrannically infiltrating the Church of God. But an angel of great and marvellous counsel, the angel of the holy Church of God, scattered away into oblivion those interior passions of his which had given birth to such nefarious wickedness. He relied on the help of Princes in the hope of bringing to pass things even worse than they were before. The man had no intention of walking in the way of righteousness, he had dealings with a demon of impurity, and occasioned harm to the Church of God. But the ruling angel of the Church of Thessalonica, together with the powerful Martyr Demetrius, prevented this unprofitable servant, and left him in the place where he was found, hanging by his feet pierced by nails, giving proof of the judgment whereby he was punished, and how fearful a thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10.31)
The life of an old MONK who lived near the city of Antinoe, and how he prayed for the dead.
When we visited the Thebaid, an old man told us about a monk of great virtue who had lived in a cell outside Antinoe for seventy years. He had ten disciples one of whom was very lazy. The old man frequently corrected him and warned him.
"Brother have a care for your soul", he would say. "You will have to die, and unless you amend your ways you will fall into the place of punishment."
But the brother continued to be disobedient and took no notice of what the old man said. After a while the brother did die, and the old man grieved greatly, knowing that the brother had died in a state of great carelessness and laziness.
"O Lord Jesus Christ, our true God" he prayed, "Reveal to me the state of that brother's soul." And in a deep trance he saw a river of fire, and a great crowd of people in that fire, and the brother immersed up to the neck in the midst of them.
" Haven't I begged you to avoid this punishment, my son", the old man said, "by taking thought for the health of your soul?"
"I give thanks to God, father," he replied, "that at least my head is at peace. It is thanks to your prayers that I am standing on the head of a bishop!"
The life of an anchorite MONK on the Mount of Olives, and his veneration of an icon of MARY, the most holy birthgiver of God.
Abba Theodorus Aeliotes told us about an anchorite on the Mount of Olives, a great (spiritual) athlete, battling strenuously with the spirit of fornication.
"Why can't you leave me alone?" he cried with a loud moan one day when the demon was attacking him particularly strongly. "You've been with me all my life. Get away from me!"
The demon suddenly appeared visibly before him.
"Swear to me," he said, "that you won't tell anyone what I am about to say to you, and I won't bother you any further."
"By him who lives in the high heavens," he replied, "I swear not to tell anyone what you say to me."
"Stop venerating this icon," the demon said, "and then I will stop attacking you."
Now this icon consisted of a lifelike painting of our holy lady Mary the birthgiver of God carrying our Lord Jesus Christ.
"Give me time to think about this," said the anchorite.
The next day he let this same abba Theodorus know about it. He told him everything that had happened. Theodorus was at that time living in the Laura of Pharan.
"It was very wrong of you, dear abba," the old man said to the anchorite, "to swear an oath to the demon. Nevertheless you have done the right thing in telling me about it. What you need to do now is to make sure you have no truck with any dealings in that realm, lest you renounce the worship of God, our Lord Jesus Christ and his mother." He went on to say a great deal more to strengthen and comfort him before leaving him in his cell.
The demon appeared to the anchorite once more.
"What's this, you wicked old man?" he said. "Didn't you swear to me that you would not tell anybody? So why have you told all to that person who visited you? I'm telling you, you will be condemned as a perjurer in the day of judgment."
"I know that I have sworn an oath and broken it," the anchorite replied, "but that oath sworn in the name of my God and Creator I have broken in order that I should not be obedient to you. But as for you, the prime source of false counsel and perjury, you will not be able to escape the punishment prepared for you."
The wonderful vision of abba CYRIACUS of the Laura of Calamon, and the two books of the ungodly Nestorius.
We visited abba Cyriacus, a presbyter of the Laura of Calamon near the River Jordan, who told us the following tale -
One day I saw in a dream a woman dressed in purple whose looks immediately inspired trust, and with her two venerable men of dazzling appearance. And I knew that the woman was our Lady, the holy birthgiver of God, and the two men with her John the Baptist and John the Evangelist. I went outside and begged them to come in and offer prayer in my cell, but they would not. I stayed like that for a long time, begging and praying, 'Let not the humble be turned away with confusion' (Psalms74.21), and many other such prayers. When she saw me persisting in prayer and repeating the same request she replied to me quite severely:
"You have an enemy of mine in your cell, and you still want me to come in?" she said. Upon which she disappeared.
I earnestly began to accuse myself and examine my conscience as to whether I had allowed some sin against her to enter my mind, for there was no one else in my cell. Only me. I argued away mentally for a long time but could not find any way in which I could have sinned against her. I could see that this was making me very depressed so I went and picked up a book, hoping that reading might drive away my mournful thoughts. The book I picked up was one I had borrowed from the blessed Isychius, a presbyter of the church of Jerusalem, but as I turned the book over I noticed that two treatises of the ungodly Nestorius were written at the end of it. I immediately recognised that this was the enemy spoken of by our Lady, the birthgiver of God, Mary ever virgin. I immediately got up and took the book back to the person who had lent it to me.
"Take you book back, brother," I said to him, "for it has not done me as much good as it has harm."
He wanted to know what harm it had done, so I told him the whole of what happened, whereupon he became so inflamed with zeal for God that he immediately tore the two Nestorian treatises out of the volume and consigned them to the fire.
"There shall no enemy of our Lady the holy birthgiver of God, Mary ever virgin, remain in my house" he said.
The miracle of the HOLY BIRTHGIVER OF GOD against Gaianus the mime, who blasphemed against her in the theatre.
Heliopolis is a city in Phoenician Lebanon, where a certain mime called Gaianus put on a blasphemous show for the people, blaspheming especially against the holy birthgiver of God.
"What harm have I done to you?" asked the holy birthgiver of God, who appeared to him one day. "Why are you insulting me and blaspheming against me in front of so many people?"
However he made no attempt to amend his ways, but blasphemed all the more. The holy birthgiver of God appeared to him again and reproved him.
"Stop, I beg you," she said, "stop doing your own soul so much harm."
But his blasphemy became even worse. She appeared to him a third time, with much the same reproof. Again he refused to repent, again he uttered more blasphemies. She appeared to him again during his midday nap, saying nothing, but pointing to his feet and his hands. When he woke up he found that his feet and his hands were crippled. And this unfortunate man, lying there crippled, admitted to everyone the reason for his condition and how it had happened to him, and that the crucifying punishment for his blasphemies had been nothing but merciful.
Another miracle of the HOLY BIRTHGIVER OF GOD in which Cosmiana, the wife of the patrician Germanus, was persuaded to return from the Severian heresy to the true faith of Christ.
Anastasius the presbyter told us this story. He was the guardian of the holy tomb from which our Lord and God Jesus Christ rose from the dead. One Sunday evening he was approached by Cosmiana, the wife of the patrician Germanus, asking to be allowed to venerate alone the holy and life-giving memorial to our Lord Jesus Christ. But when she approached the sacred shrine our Lady the holy birthgiver of God appeared visibly to her accompanied by several other women.
"You are not one of us," she said. "How dare you enter here? You may not go in. You are not one of us." She was an adherent of that brainless Severian heresy, but she implored insistently that she might be found worthy of entering in.
"Believe me, woman," said the holy birthgiver of God, "you shall not enter here unless you are in communion with us."
When she realised that it was because she was a heretic she was not allowed to enter, and that entry would continue to be forbidden unless she returned to the holy Catholic and apostolic Church of Christ our God and Lord, she immediately summoned a deacon who brought the holy chalices from which she received the holy body and precious blood of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ. And then without any let or hindrance she was counted worthy of adoring the holy and venerable tomb of our Lord Jesus Christ.
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