Old men who did signs (congtinued),Book VI
(Superlative Observnce further down page)
VI ii.3. Another time when we were going to visit another old man it was drawing towards sunset. And the old man prayed, "I pray you Lord that the sun may stand still till we reach your servant." And so it happened.
VI ii.4. Once a brother infested by a demon in Scete came along and prayers were said for him in church, but the demon persisted and would not go out of him. The clergy of that place said to each other, "What shall we do about this demon? Nobody will be able to cast it out except Abba Besarion, but if we go and ask him about it he will be sure to stay away from church. So then let's do this: Tomorrow he will be in church with everyone else. Let's put the brother with the demon in Besarion's place, and when he comes in we will stand up to pray and say to him, 'Stir that brother up, abba.'"
And that is what they did. When the old man came in next morning they stood up to pray and said to him, "Stir that brother up, abba." And the old man said to the afflicted brother, "Get up, go out." And immediately the demon came out of him and he was made whole from that hour.
VI.ii.5. The old men once in conversation with Abba Elias said that Abba Agathon was a good man.
And the old man said, "Yes, according to today's standards he is a good man."
"And what about the standards of old, then?" they asked.
And he replied, "I told you he was a good man by today's standards, but in comparison with the standards of old, I don't mind telling you, I have seen a man in Scete who could make the sun stand still in the sky, like Joshua the son of Nun" (Joshua 10.13)
And his audience was silenced and gave glory to God.
VI.ii.6. The story is told of Abba Macarius the Greater that as he was coming up out of Scete carrying his wicker baskets he sat down overcome with exhaustion and prayed, "Lord, as you can see, I can't go on." And straight away he was lifted up and found himself on the other side of the river.
VI.ii.7. A certain man in Egypt had a paralysed son whom he took to the cell of blessed Abba Macarius. Ignoring his tears he put him down outside the door, and departed. When the old man looked out and saw him weeping he said, "Who brought you here?"
He replied, "My father carried me here and then went away."
The old man said, "Get up and go after him." And he was healed immediately and went after his father and returned to his own home.
VI.ii.8. Abbot Sisois said, "When I was in Scete with Abba Macarius we went out together reaping. And there was a widow woman picking up the ears after us who never stopped weeping, so the old man called to the owner of the field and asked what was the matter with that old woman who never stopped weeping. He replied that the woman's husband had died without telling her where a certain sum of money was hidden, and the person to whom the money was owed wanted to bring her and her children into slavery. And the old man told him to tell the woman to come and see him during siesta. And when she had come the old man asked her why she was weeping. She replied that her husband had died without telling her where he had put some money which he had been given to look after.
"The old man said, 'Come and show me where your husband is buried'. And taking some brothers with him he went with her to that place. 'You go back inside your house,' he said, and as the brothers offered up prayers he cried out to the dead man, 'Where have you hidden that pledged money?'
"And there came the reply, 'It is hidden in my house under the foot of the bed.'
"And the old man said, 'Sleep now in peace until the day of Resurrection.'
"When the brothers saw this they fell down at his feet, but he said to them, 'This has not happened because of me - I am nothing. But God has done this for the sake of this widow and her children. This is the great thing, that God wills everyone to be without sin, and if anyone asks for this he will receive it.' Then he came and told the widow where the money was hidden, which she took and gave to the creditor and so saved her children from slavery."
And all who heard this story were amazed.
VI.ii.9. Abba Emilis was once passing through a certain place where a monk was being held in custody accused of murder. The old man went and questioned him, and having found out who had accused him, he said to the guards, "Where is the dead body?"
They showed him where, and the old man went up to it, asking all those around to start praying. As he lifted up his hands to God in prayer, the dead man came to life.
In the presence of all he asked, "Tell us, who was it killed you?"
He replied, "I went in to the church to ask the priest to look after some money of mine. He it was who got up and killed me, and then carried me off and threw me into the cell of this abba. I beg you, please get the money from him and give it to my children."
The old man said to him, "Go, sleep in peace, till the Lord brings resurrection." And once more he fell asleep.
VI.ii.10. (Also in III.168 & VII.xiv.1) Abba Pastor was being visited by a number of the brothers when a kinsman of his approached, bringing with him his son who had been facially disfigured by the action of the devil. When he saw that crowd of monks he picked up his son and sat down outside weeping. It happened that one of
He replied, "I am a relative of Abba Pastor, and I have with me this son of mine, disfigured as you can see. I wanted to bring him to the old man to ask him to cure him, but I am afraid he won't want to see me. If he knows I am here he will not be pleased and will drive me away. But seeing your gathering here I have made bold to come. Take pity on me, abba, and do what you can to bring my son inside and pray for him."
The old man took the boy inside with him and prudently did not take him to Abba Pastor straight away, but went first of all to the most junior of the brothers, asking him to sign the boy with the cross. He got all the brothers in order of seniority to do the same till at last he brought him to Abba Pastor. Abba Pastor, however did not want to touch him, but they all protested saying, "We have all done it, father, so why not you?"
The old man groaned aloud, but he got up and prayed, "God have mercy on this man moulded in your image and let the enemy no longer have dominion over him."
He signed him with the cross, and he was cured, and was given back to his father.
VI.ii.11. One of the fathers spoke of a certain Abba Paul, who lived near the Thebaid in the lower parts of Egypt. This Paul was able to pick up so-called horned asps, serpents and scorpions, and tear them apart with his bare hands. Seeing this the brothers asked him what he had done to be granted this grace, and he replied, "Forgive me, brothers, but if anyone is completely pure everything is subject to him, as it was to Adam in Paradise, before he disobeyed the commandment of God."
VI.ii.12. When Julian the Apostate was invading Persia he sent a demon back westwards to report on what was happening there. But when it arrived at a certain spot where there was a hermit it stopped short for ten days and was unable to go any further because of the ceaseless prayer which the hermit was offering. It returned to its sender having achieved nothing. Julian asked it why it had stopped and it replied that it had had to stop and turn back having done nothing because it had waited ten days for the monk Publius to stop praying and let him pass.
"He didn't stop," he continued, " and so I couldn't pass and I turned back with nothing done."
In a dreadful rage Julian cried that he would exact vengeance on him when he returned. But in the providence of God he was slain a few days after, whereupon one of the army commanders with him turned back immediately, sold all that he had, gave it to the poor, and joined that old man to become a monk, and so found his peace in God.
VI.ii.13. A man was journeying once with his son to Abba Sisois in Abba Antony's mountain when the son died on the way. The father did not grieve, however, but with great faith carried his son onwards until they both lay face down in front of the old man to ask his blessing. The father got up and left his son at the foot of the old man and went outside the cell. The old man thought that the son must have been doing an extra penance, lying there still at his feet, and said to him, "Get up, you can go now."
He did not know that the son was actually dead. The son got up immediately and went out, and when his father saw him he was awestruck, went in to the old man and fell down and worshipped him, explaining what had happened. The old man was upset at hearing this, for it had not come about of his own will. The old man's disciple told the father not to mention this to anyone until after the old man had died.
VI.ii.14. Abraham, the disciple of this same Abba Sisois, was once being tempted by a demon, and when the old man saw how he was being battered he got up and stretched out his hands towards God, saying, "O God, whether you will or no, I shall not lower my hands until you cure him." And that brother was forthwith cured.
VI.ii.15. An aged solitary near the River Jordan went into a cave to shelter from the heat and found a lion inside, who began to roar and show his teeth. But the old man said to him, "Why are you trying to crowd me out? There is plenty of room enough for both you and me. But if you don't want that, well, go then." The lion was unable to endure this treatment and went.
VI.ii.16. When a certain old man stopped for a rest as he was on the way to Terenuthin from Scete some people saw how thirsty he was and brought him some wine. Others who had heard of his reputation brought a man possessed by a demon to him. The demon began to revile him, saying, "You're bringing me to this wine-bibber?" The old man in his humility was unwilling to exorcise him, but nevertheless because of the demon's aggressiveness he cried, "I believe in Christ that before I have finished drinking this wine you shall have gone out of him." As he began to drink the demon cried out, "You are burning me!" and before he had finished drinking, by the grace of Christ the demon fled.
VI.ii.17 (A shorter version of III.28) One of the fathers sent his disciple to draw water from a well some way off from their cell, but he forgot to take a rope with him. When that brother got near the well and realised that he had forgotten the rope he said a prayer and then cried, "O well, O well, my abba has told me to fill this vessel with water." And the water began to rise up to the top of the well so that the brother was able to fill his vessel before the water fell back again to its own level.
Libellus 3: The superlative observances of some holy people.
VI.iii.1 Abba Dulas told a story of how he and Abba Besarion when journeying in the desert happened on a certain cave which they went into and found a monk sitting and making mats out of palm leaves who seemed to be unwilling to look at them, or welcome them, or say anything to them at all. Abba Besarion said, "Let's go. This brother seems to want in his soul to keep silence."
They went on their way and paid a visit to Abba John. On their return journey as they passed the cave of that brother Abba Besarion said, "Let us go in and see whether the Lord has inspired him to speak with us."
They went in and found that he was resting in final peace.
"Come, brother," Abba Besarion said to Abba Dulas, "let us gather up his body. The Lord has sent us here for the very purpose of being able to bury him."
But when they picked him up they found that he was in fact a woman.
And Besarion marvelled, saying, "See how women too can fight against the devil in the desert, putting to shame those of us who live in communities." And they departed glorifying God who cares for those who love him.
iii.2 Abba Vindemius related how Abba Macarius had told the following story:
When I was in Scete two young pilgrims came to me, one of whom had just begun to grow a beard while the other was as yet beardless.
"Where is the cell of Abba Macarius?" they asked.
I said to them, "What do you want to see him for?"
They replied, "We heard about him, and have come to Scete in order to see him."
"Well, I am he" I said.
They made a deep reverence and said, "We want to stay with you."
But when I saw how delicate they were, obviously
The elder said, "Well, if we can't stay here we will go on some where else."
I thought to myself, "What can I do to them to put them off? Perhaps hard physical labour will drive them away from me."
So I said to them, "Come then, build yourself a cell if you can."
They replied, "We will, if you show us how."
So I gave them some tools and a basket full of bread and salt. I showed them a cliff face and said, "Excavate that, gather rushes from the marsh to make a roof, then go and sit inside."
I thought that they would be put off by this hard work. But they asked me, "What do we do then?"
And gathering some palm leaves from the marsh I showed them how to begin and what to do next. I said to them, "Make baskets and take them to the church stewards, and they will keep you supplied with bread."
Then I left them, and they patiently carried out all that I had told them and did not come back to me for the next three years. I persevered in leaving them alone, but kept on wondering to myself what they were up to, and why it was that they had not come back to me to ask about what was going on inside them. Some people came to me from quite a long way off, but these two who were so close came not at all. Nor did they go to anyone else, except to go to church in silence to receive communion. So I fasted for a week and prayed to God that he would show me their manner of working. After that seven day fast I went to them to see what they were doing. When I knocked on the door they opened it and greeted me in silence. I said the prayer and sat down. The elder then made a sign to the younger to go out, while he himself sat down to his weaving, saying nothing. At about the ninth hour he knocked [on a board] and the younger came in with a small dish of pulse. At a sign from the elder he brought out a table, laid on it three small loaves and stood there in silence.
So I said; "Come then, let us eat."
So we arose and ate, and he brought a vessel from which we drank. When evening came they said to me; "Will you be leaving us?"
But I said, "No, I would like to sleep here tonight."
So they put out a mat for me on one side and another for themselves in the corner on the other side. They loosened their belts and tunics and lay down to sleep together on their mat opposite me. After they had lain down I prayed to God to show me their manner of working. And the roof of the cell opened up and a light as bright as day burst in, although they were not aware of that light. When they thought that I was asleep the elder nudged the younger in the side, and they got up, girded themselves and stretched out their hands to heaven. I could see them, though they could not see me. And I saw demons like flies buzzing round the younger brother. Some came and settled on his mouth, others on his eyes. And I saw an angel of the Lord with a fiery sword flying around them, striking at those demons. But they were not able to come near the elder. Towards morning they went back to bed. I pretended to wake up and they did likewise.
The elder said nothing except "Shall we say the twelve psalms?"
And I said, "Yes, indeed."
The younger sang five psalms and with every word a tongue of fire came out of his mouth and flew up to heaven. Likewise when the elder opened his mouth to sing the psalms a fiery cloud came out of his mouth and reached up to heaven. I too added a little opus dei from my heart, in tune with them.
As I left I said, "Pray for me", and they wordlessly signified that they would. And from all this I understood that the elder had become perfected, while the younger was still battling, even though safe from harm. A few days later the elder died, and the younger followed three days later. And whenever any of the fathers came to visit Macarius after that he would take them to those brothers' cell, saying, "Come and see the martyrdom of those two young pilgrims."
VI.iii.3. Two of the fathers begged God to show them what level of progress they had arrived at. And a voice came to them, saying, "In a certain village in Egypt there are a lay person and his wife, Eucharistius and Maria - you have not yet got anywhere near them."
The two old men therefore went to the village and found their way to that man's dwelling, where they met his wife.
"Where is your husband?" they asked.
"He is a shepherd," was the reply, "and he is out feeding the sheep."
And she invited them in to the house. Late in the day Eucharistius came back with his sheep, and when he saw the two old men he got the table ready and poured water into a basin to wash their feet. But they said to him, "We shan't taste of any of your food until you have told us about your way of life."
Eucharistius humbly said to them, "I am a shepherd and this is my wife."
They pressed him further, begging him to tell them all, but he would not say any more, until they said to him, "It is the Lord who has sent us to you."
At this word he was overawed, and said, "This flock of sheep was handed on to us from our parents, and whatever profit God gives us from them we divide into three. One part we give to the poor, one part we keep for the refreshment of pilgrims, and the third part we use ourselves. And although I have taken a wife I do not have sex with her. She also is a virgin, and we sleep separately from each other. We only wear ordinary clothing during the day - at night we wear sackcloth. Up till now nobody else has known about this."
When the two fathers heard this they marvelled, and departed glorifying God.
VI.iii.4. Once when Abba Macarius of Egypt came from Scete to the monastery of Abba Pambo in Mount Nitria on a day when the liturgy was celebrated the seniors there asked him for a few enlightening words.
He replied, "I am not yet a true monk, though I have seen true monks. Some time ago when in my cell in Scete I was persistently getting thoughts that I should go into the desert and think about what I should see there. For five years I tried to ignore these thoughts lest they should have been inspired by the demons, but when they had persevered such a long time I at last went into the desert and came to a lake with an island in the middle of it. Various desert animals came to drink from it, including two men completely naked. I was frightened - I thought they were spirits! But when they saw me and how frightened I was they spoke to me, saying,
"'Don't be afraid. We are just men like you.'
"So I said to them, 'Where do you come from? And how is it that you have come into the desert?'
"They replied, 'We used to live in a cenobium, but came to an agreement with each other forty years ago to come out here.'
"One of them was an Egyptian and the other an Libyan. And they began to ask me how the world was going and whether the waters of the Nile were still rising at their accustomed time to fill the world with plenty. I assured them that this was so and began to question them also. 'How does one become a monk?' I asked.
"They replied, 'Unless you renounce the whole world you cannot become a monk.'
"I replied that I was not very strong and I could not do as they did, but they answered, 'If you can't do as we do then just sit in your cell and weep for your sins.'
"I went on to ask them didn't they feel the cold in the winter and the heat in the summer, but they replied that God had given them the gift of not feeling either winter cold or summer heat. This is the reason that I said to you that I was sorry, brothers, but I have not yet become a monk."
VI.iii.5. Abba Sisois lived alone in Antony's mountain. Having told his servant to leave him alone he had not seen any other human being for ten months. Walking around the mountain one day he came across a local man hunting wild animals. The old man asked him where he came from and how long he had been there, and he replied, "To tell you the truth, abba, I have been here eleven months and you are the first person I have seen."
Hearing this the old man went back to his cell and rebuked himself, saying, "Look at yourself, Sisois; you think you have achieved something and you haven't yet done as much as this man who isn't even a monk!"
VI.iii.6 This same Abba Sisois always sat in his cell keeping his door shut. And it is said that when he was on his death bed with the fathers round about him his face shone like the sun, and he said to them, "Abba Antony is here".
And a little while after he said, "The company of prophets is here."
And again his face shone even brighter as he said, "The band of the Apostles is here."
And his face shone twice as much as before as he appeared to be carrying on a conversation with somebody. The old men asked him whom he was talking with, and he replied that he was asking the angels coming to carry him away if he could be spared something of his due punishment.
The seniors said to him; "You don't deserve any punishment, father."
And he replied, "Truly, I don't know whether I have escaped even the beginning of punishment." And everyone realised that he had arrived at a state of perfection.
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