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Medieval Sourcebook:
Palladius:
The Lausiac History


Contents


INTRODUCTORY PIECES

 

PREFACE TO THE LIFE OF THE HOLY FATHERS

[I] This book is a record of the virtuous asceticism and marvelous manner of life of those blessed and holy fathers, the monks and anchorites which inhabit the desert, (written) with a view of stirring to rivalry and imitation those who wish to realize the heavenly mode of life and desire to tread the road which leads to the kingdom of heaven. It contains also memoirs of aged women and illustrious God­inspired matrons, who with masculine and perfect mind have successfully accomplished the smuggles of virtuous asceticism, (which may serve) as a model and object of desire for those women who long to wear the crown of continence and chastity.

[2] This is how the book came to be written. A man, admirable in every way, very learned, of peaceable disposition, religiously disposed and devout­minded, liberal towards those who lack the necessaries of life, in respect of high distinctions preferred above many men of rank owing to the excellence of his character, and with all this guarded continually by the power of the Divine Spirit­such is the man who commanded us to write, or rather, if one must tell the truth, aroused our slothful mind to the contemplation of better things, to imitate and attempt to rival the ascetic virtues of our holy and immortal spiritual fathers and all who have lived to please God with­ much mortification of the body. [3] And so, having described the lives of these invincible athletes, we have sent them to him, proclaiming the conspicuous virtues of each of these great persons. I am referring to Lausus, the best of men, who by the favor of God has been appointed guardian of our godly and religious empire; it is he who is inspired with this divine and spiritual passion.

[4] I then, who am clumsy in utterance and have but a superficial acquaintance with spiritual knowledge and am unworthy to draw up a list of the holy fathers of the spiritual life, fearing the infinite greatness of the task set me, so much above my capacity, found the command intolerable, requiring as it did so much worldly wisdom and spiritual understanding. Nevertheless, respecting in the first place the eager virtue of the man who urged us to obey the command, and considering the benefit accruing to the readers, and fearing also the danger of a refusal albeit with a reasonable excuse, I first commended the noble task to Providence and then applied myself diligently to it. Sustained, as if on wings, by the intercession of the holy fathers, I attended the contests of the arena. I have described in a kind of summary only the main contests and achievements of the noble athletes and great men­not only illustrious men who have realized the best manner of life, but also blessed and highborn women who have practiced the highest life.

[5] I have been privileged to see with my own eyes the revered faces of some of these, but in the case of others, who had already been perfected in the arena of piety, I have learned their heavenly mode of life from inspired athletes of Christ. In the course of my journey on foot I visited many cities and very many villages, every cave and all the desert dwellings of monks, with all accuracy as befitted my pious intentions. Some things I wrote down after personal investigation, the rest I have heard from the holy fathers, and I have recorded in this book the combats of great men, and women more like men than nature would seem to allow, thanks to their hope in Christ. I now send the whole to you whose ears love divine oracles, to you, Lausus, who are the pride of excellent and God­beloved men, and the ornament of the most faithful and God­beloved empire, noble and Christ­loving servant of God. I have recorded to the best of my feeble powers the famous name of each of the athletes of Christ, male and female, describing a few short contests out of the many mighty ones engaged in by each, adding in most cases the family and city and place of residences

[6] We have also told of men and women who have reached the highest stage of virtue, but owing to vainglory, as it is called, the mother of pride, have fallen into the lowest pit and abyss of hell, and the triumphs of asceticism, so earnestly desired and so strenuously fought for, acquired by them after long periods of time and many labors, have been dissipated in an instant by pride and self­conceit. But by the grace of our Savior and the fore­knowledge of the holy fathers and the sympathy of spiritual affection they have been snatched from the nets of the devil and, helped by the prayers of the saints, have recovered their former life of virtue.

 

COPY OF A LETTER WRITTEN BY PALLADIUS THE BISHOP TO LAUSUS THE CHAMBERLAIN

[1] I congratulate you on your intention. Indeed I am justified in beginning my letter with congratulation, because, when all men are gaping after vain things and building their edifice with stones from which they got no joy, you yourself want to be taught words of edification For only the God of all is untaught, since He is self-orginate and has none other before Him. But all other things are taught, since they are made and created. The first orders (of angels) have the supreme Trinity as teacher, the second learn from the first, the third from the second, and so successively in order until the last. For those who are superior in judgment and virtue teach those who are inferior in knowledge.

[2] So then men who think they do not need teachers, or do not obey those who teach them in love, suffer from the disease of ignorance, the mother of arrogance. Their leaders on the road to destruction are those who have fallen from the heavenly life, the demons who fly in the air having fled from their teachers in heaven. For teaching does not consist in words and syllables­sometimes men possess these who are as vile as can be­but in meritorious acts of character, cheerfulness, intrepidity, bravery, good temper; add to these unfailing boldness, which generates words like a flame of fire.

[3] For if this had not been so, the great Teacher would not have said to His disciples: " Learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart.'' (Mt. 11:29) He does not train the apostles with elegant language, but with care for character, distressing none save those who hate the word and hate teachers. For the soul that is being trained according to God's purpose must be either learning faithfully what it does not know, or teaching clearly what it knows. But if it wants to do neither, though able to do them, then it is mad. For to be sated with teaching and unable to bear the word, for which the soul of him who loves God is always hungry, is the beginning of apostasy. Be strong then and of sound mind and play the man, and may God grant you to pursue closely the knowledge of Christ.

 

PROLOGUE

[1] Forasmuch as many have left behind for their age many and dyers writings concerning different epochs, some of them by an inspiration of heavenly God­given grace (writing);for the edification and safety of those who follow with loyal purpose the teachings of the Savior, others with sycophantic and corrupt intention having indulged in mad follies in order to encourage such as desire vain­glory, others again, inspired by a certain madness and the influence of the demon who hates good, and in their pride and wrath planning the destruction of light minded men and the soiling of the immaculate Catholic Church, having attacked the minds of the foolish to make them dislike the saintly life,

[2] it seemed good to me also (Lk 1:3), your humble servant, reverencing the command of your magnanimity, O man most eager to learn, a command issued with a view to spiritual progress, to publish this book in narrative form for your benefit, (telling my story) from the beginning. (When I thus decided), it was, I suppose, my thirty­third year in the society of the brethren and the twentieth year of my episcopate, and the fifty­sixth of my whole life. You were asking for accounts of the fathers, both male and female (saints), both those whom I had seen and those about whom I had heard and those with whom I lived in the Egyptian desert and Libya, the Thebaid and Syene, near which last are the so­called Tabennesiots, and again in Mesopotamia, Palestine and Syria, and the districts of the West­Rome and Campania and thereabouts. [3] (My aim is) that you may have (in my book) for the benefit of your soul a solemn reminder, an unfailing cure for forgetfulness; and that you may drive away by its help all drowsiness proceeding from irrational lust­, all indecision and pettiness in business affair;, all backwardness and pusillanimity in the domain of character, all resentment, worry, grief and irrational fear; and moreover the excitements of the world; and may tenth unfailing desire make progress in the purpose of piety, becoming a guide both to yourself, your companions, your subordinates, and the most religious Emperors. For by means of these meritorious works all lovers of Christ press on to be joined to God. Each day you will be expecting the departure of your soul, as it is written: [4] " It is good to depart and be with Christ,''(Phi. 1:23) and "Prepare thy works for thy departure and be ready in thy field." (Prov. 24:27) For he that keeps death always in mind, that it will come of necessity and will not tarry, shall not greatly fall. You will neither take amiss the guidance of my directions, nor will you despise the uncouthness and inelegance of my style; for indeed it is not the work of divine teaching to speak with studied elegance, but to persuade the mind with considerations of truth, as it is written: "Open thy mouth to the word of God," (Prov. 31:8) and again: "Miss not the discourse of the aged, for they also learned of their fathers." Ecclus. 8:9)

[5] I then, O man of God most eager to learn, following in part this precept, have been in contact with many of the saints. Putting aside considerations of prudence I have made journeys of thirty days, yes and twice as long. (I say it) as before God, traversing on foot in my journeys all the land of the Romans, I welcomed all the hardship of the way so long as I might meet some man that loved God, that I might gain what I had not got. [6] For if Paul, who was so far in advance of me, surpassing me in manner of life, knowledge, conscience and faith, undertook the journey from Tarsus to Judea to meet Peter, James and John; and if he tells of it with a kind of boastfulness, recounting his toils in order to stir to emulation those who live in sloth and laziness, saying: " I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas;" (Gal. 1:18) if he was not satisfied with the report of Peter's virtue, but longed for an actual meeting face to face­how much more was I, the debtor who owed ten thousand talents, bound to do this, not for any good I might do them, but for my own benefit? [7] For indeed those who wrote the lives of the Fathers, Abraham and his successors, Moses, Elijah and John, told their tale, not to glorify them, but to benefit their readers.

Knowing these things then, Lausus, most loyal servant of Christ, and impressing them on yourself, be patient with my folly, (which is designed) to preserve the pious disposition of your mind; for it is naturally exposed to waves of evil, both visible and invisible, and can enjoy calm only with the help of continuous prayer and spiritual self­culture. [8] For many of the brethren, pluming themselves both on their labors and charities and boasting of their celibacy or virginity and putting their trust in meditation on the divine oracles and acts of zeal, have yet failed to attain impassivity. Through lack of discernment, under the pretext of piety, they have fallen victim to a disease (which manifests itself) in acts of idle curiosity, from which spring officious or even evil activities, such as drive away good activities, the mother of spiritual self­culture.

[9] Play the man then, I beseech you, and do not increase your wealth. This policy you have already adopted, since of your own accord you have lessened it by distributing to those in need owing to the supply of virtue which is thereby gained Nor have you yielded to impulse and unreasonable premature decision and fettered your free choice with an oath to curry favor with men, as some have done who in a spirit of rivalry, that they may boast of not eating or drinking, have enslaved their free will by the constraint of an oath and have succumbed­ again miserably to the love of this world and accidie and pleasure and so have suffered the pangs of perjury. For if you partake reasonably and abstain reasonably you will never sin. [10] For reason, of all the emotions within us, is divine, banishing what is harmful and welcoming what is beneficial. "For the law is not mace for a righteous man." (I Tim. 1:9) For to drink wine with reason is better than to drink water with pride. And, please, look on those who drink wine with reason as holy men and those who drink water without reason as profane men, and no longer blame or praise the material, but count happy or wretched the minds of those who use the material well or ill. Joseph drank wine in Egypt long ago, but his mind suffered no harm, for he kept his thoughts under control. [11] But Pythagoras, Diogenes and Plato drank water; so did the Manic~heans and the rest of the band of soi­disant philosophers, and yet they reached such a pitch of vain­glory in their intemperance that they failed to know God and worshiped idols. The apostle Peter and his companions used wine to some extent, so that their Master, our Savior, was himself reproached on account of their participation, by the Jews' saying: "Why do not thy disciples fast as do the disciples of John ?,'(Mk. 2:18). Again insulting the disciples with reproaches they said: "Your Master eats and drinks with the publicans and sinners." (Mt. 9:11/Lk. 5:30) Clearly they would not have attacked them over bread and water. [12] And again, when they were unreasonably admiring water­drinking and blaming wine­drinking, the Savior said: "John came in the way of righteousness, neither eating nor drinking"­obviously meat and wine, for apart from the other things he could not have lived­"and they say, He bath a devil. The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a gluttonous man and a wine­bibber, and a friend of publicans and sinners" (Mt. 21:32 and 11:18, 19) ­because of his eating and drinking. What are we to do then? Let us follow neither those who blame nor those who praise, but let us either fast with John reasonably even if they say: "They have a devil," or let us drink wine wisely with Jesus, if the body needs it, even if they say: "Behold men gluttonous and wine­bibbers." [I3] For in truth neither is eating nor refraining anything, but faith extending itself in love to works. For when faith accompanies every action, he that eateth and drinketh because of faith is uncondemned, "for whatsoever is not of faith is sin." (Rom. 14:23) But when any one of those who sin says he partakes in faith or is doing anything else with unreasonable self­confidence and corrupted conscience, the Savior has given express orders, saying: "By their fruits ye shall know them.'' (Mt. 7:16) But that the fruit of those who live with reason and understanding, as the divine Apostle says, " is love, joy, peace, long­suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance," (Gal. 5:22)­this is granted by all. [14] For Paul himself said: "The fruit of the spirit is " so­and-so. But because he who sets himself to get such fruit will not eat meat or drink wine unreasonably or without definite aim or out of season, nor will he dwell with an uneasy conscience, again the same Paul says: "Every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things."(I Cor. 9:25) When the body is in health he abstains from fattening things, when it is weak or in pain or meets with griefs & or misadventures, he will make use of foods or drinks as medicines to heal what grieves him, and he will abstain from all that harms the soul anger, envy, vain­glory, accidie, detraction, and unreasonable suspicion­giving thanks to the Lord.

[15] Having then discussed the matter sufficiently above, I bring another exhortation to your desire of learning Flee, as far as is in your power, encounters with men whose presence confers no benefit and who beautify their skin in unseemly fashion, even if they be orthodox­not to speak of heretics! They do you harm by their hypocrisy, even when they seem to be dragging out a great age with their grey hair and wrinkles. For, even Supposing you come to no harm at their hands by reason of your noble character, you will suffer this lesser evil in becoming insolent and proud, and mocking at them, and this will do you harm. But go near a bright window and seek encounters with holy men and women, in order that by their help you may be able to see clearly also your own heart as it were a closely­written book, being able by comparison to discern your own slackness or neglect. [16] For the color of their faces with the bloom of grey hairs and the arrangement of their clothes and the modesty of their language and the reverence of their conversation and the grace of their thoughts will strengthen you, even if you should happen to be in a mood of accidie. "For a man's attire and his gait and the laugh of his teeth will proclaim what he is like," as Wisdom says.(Ecclus. 19:30)

So now I begin my tales. I shall leave unnoticed neither those in the cities nor those in the villages' or deserts. For the object of our inquiry is not the place where they have settled but the fashion of their plan' of life.

 

CHAPTER I: ISIDORE

[1] The first time that I set foot in the city of the Alexandrians, in the second consulate of the great Emperor Theodosius, who now lives with the angels because of his faith in Christ, I met in the city a wonderful man, distinguished in every respect, both as regards character and knowledge, Isidore the priest, hospitaller of the Church of Alexandria. He was said to have fought successfully his first youthful contests in the desert, and I actually saw his cell in the mountain of Nitria. But when I met him, he eras an old man seventy years of age, who lived another fifteen years and then died in peace. [2] Up to the very end of his life he wore no linen except a head­band, never had a bath, nor partook of meat. His slender frame was so well-knit by grace that all who did not know his manner of life expected that he lived in luxury. Time would fail me if I were to tell (Heb. 11:32) in detail the virtues of his soul He was so benevolent and peaceable that even his enemies the unbelievers themselves reverenced his shadow because of his exceeding kindliness. [3] So great a knowledge had he of the holy scriptures and the divine precepts that even at the very meals of the brethren he would have periods of absent­mindedness and remain silent. And being urged to tell the details of his ecstasy he would say: "I went away in thought on a journey, seized by contemplation." For my part I often knew him weep at table, and when I asked the cause of the tears I heard him say: " I shrink from partaking of irrational food, being myself rational and destined to live in a paradise of delight owing to the power given us by Christ." [4] He became known to all the Senate at Rome and to the wives of the nobles, when he paid his first visit in company with Athanasius the bishop, and on a second occasion with Demetrius the bishop; a man of great wealth and extensive property, he wrote no will when he came to die, and left neither money nor goods to his sisters, who were virgins. But he commended them to Christ, saying: " He that created you will provide for your life, as He has done for me." Now there was with his sisters a community of seventy virgins.

When I visited him as a young man and besought that I might be trained in the solitary life, since I was in the full vigor of my age and needed, not discourse, but bodily hardships, like a good tamer of colts he led me out from the city to the so­called Solitudes five miles away (and handed me over to Dorotheus).

 

CHAPTER II: DOROTHEUS

[I] HANDING me over to Dorotheus, a Theban ascetic who was spending the sixtieth year in his cave, he ordered me to complete three years with him­in order to tame my passions­for he knew that the old man lived a life of great austerity­bidding me return to him afterwards for spiritual instruction. But being unable to complete the three years owing to a breakdown in health, I left Dorotheus before the three years were up, for living with him one got parched and all dried­up. For all day long in the burning heat he would collect stones in the desert by the sea and build with them continually and make cells, and then he would retire in favor of those who could not build for themselves. Each year he completed one cell. And once when I said to him: " What do you mean, father, at your great age by trying to kill your poor body in these heats?" he answered thus: " It kills me, I kill it." For he used to eat (daily) six ounces of bread and a bunch of herbs, and drink water in proportion. God is my witness, I never knew him stretch his legs and go to sleep on a rush mat, or on a bed. But he would sit up all night long and weave ropes of palm leaves to provide himself with food. [3] Then, supposing that he did this for my~benefit, I made careful inquiries also from other disciples of his, who lived by themselves, and ascertained theta this had been his manner of life from a youth, and that he had never deliberately gone to sleep, only when working or eating he closed his eyes overcome by sleep, so that often the piece of food fell from his mouth at the moment of eating, so great was his drowsiness. Once when I tried to constrain him to rest a little on the mat, he was annoyed and said: " If you can persuade angels to sleep, you will also persuade the zealous man." [4] One day about the ninth hour he sent me to fill the jar at his well in view of a meal at the ninth hour. Well, as it happened, I went and saw an asp at the bottom of the well, and stopped drawing water and went away and said to him: "We are dead men, father, for I saw an asp in the well." But he smiled gravely and looked at me for a time, and then shaking his head said: "If the devil decides to become a serpent or tortoise in every well and to fall into our water­supply, will you refrain from drinking for ever ? " And he went out and drew the water himself, and was the first to swallow some of it, fasting, saying: "Where the cross passes, the evil of anything is powerless.''

 

CHAPTER III:  POTAMAENA 2

[I] THIS blessed man Isidore, who had met Antony of blessed memory, told me a story which is worth recording, which he had heard from Antony. There lived in the time of Maximianus the persecutor a very beautiful maiden called Potamiaena, a certain man's slave. Her master failed to seduce her, though he besought her eagerly with many promises. [2] At last mad with rage he handed her over to the then prefect of Alexandria, giving her up as a Christian and one who abused the times and the Emperors because of the persecutions, and suggesting this to him with the help of money: " If she falls in with my design, keep her without punishment." But if she should remain puritanical, he asked that she might be punished, lest continuing to live she should mock at his licentious ways. [3] She was brought before the tribunal and the fortress of her soul was attacked by various instruments of torture. For one of them, the judge had a great cauldron filled with pitch and ordered it to be heated. When the pitch was now bubbling and terribly hot, he gave her the choice: "Either go away and obey the wishes of your master, or know that I shall order you to be plunged into the cauldron." But she answered and said: "God forbid that there should be another such judge, who orders one to submit to licentiousness." [4] So in a fury he ordered her to be stripped and thrown into the cauldron; but she lifted up her voice and said: "By the head of your Emperor whom you fear, if you have decided to punish me thus, order me to be let down gradually into the cauldron that you may know what endurance the Christ, Whom you know not, bestows on me." And being let down gradually during a space of one hour she died where the pitch reached her neck.

 

CHAPTER IV: DIDYMUS 1

[I] VERY many indeed of the men and women who reached perfection in the Church of Alexandria were worthy (to inherit) the land of the meek.2 Among these was Didymus the blind author. I met him four times in all, visiting him at intervals during a period of ten years. He was 85 years old when he died. He was blind, having lost his sight at the age of four, so he told me, and he had never learned to read nor gone to school. (This was not necessary) for he had nature's teacher ­his own conscience­strongly developed. He was adorned with such a gift of knowledge, that, so it was said, the passage of scripture was fulfilled in him: " The Lord maketh the blind wise." (Ps. 155 (156):8, LXX Version) For he interpreted the Old and New Testament word by word, and such attention did he pay to doctrine, setting out his exposition of it subtly yet surely, that he surpassed all the ancients in knowledge. [3] Once when he tried to make me say a prayer in his cell and I was unwilling, he told me this story: "Into this cell Antony entered for the third time on a visit to me. I besought him to say a prayer and he instantly knelt down in the cell and did not make me repeat my words, giving me by his action a lesson in obedience. So if you want to follow in the steps of his life, as you seem to, since you are a solitary and living away from home to acquire virtue, lay aside your contentiousness." And he told me this also: "As I was thinking one day about the life of the wretched Emperor Julian, how he was a persecutor, and was feeling dejected ­and by reason of my thoughts I had not tasted bread even up to late evening­it happened that as I sat in my seat I was overcome by sleep and I saw in a trance white horses running with riders and proclaiming: 'Tell Didymus, to­day at the seventh hour Julian died. Rise then and eat' they said, 'and send to Athanasius the bishop, that he too may know.' And I marked," he said, " the hour and month and week and day, and it was found to be so."

 

CHAPTER V: ALEXANDRA

[I] He told me also of a maid­servant named Alexandra, who having left the city and shut herself up in a tomb, received the necessaries of life through an opening, seeing neither women nor men face to face for ten years. And in the tenth year she fell asleep, baring arrayed herself (for death): 1 and so the woman who went as usual to see her and got no answer informed use So we broke down the door and entering in found her fallen Asleep. [2] Concerning her also the thrice­blessed Melania, about whom I shall speak later, used to say: "I never saw her face to face, but standing by the opening I urged her to say the reason why she shut herself up in a tomb. And she called out to me through the opening: 'A man was distressed in mind because of me and, lest I should seem to afflict or disparage him, I chose to betake myself alive into the tomb rather than cause a soul made in the image of God to stumble.' [3] When I said," she continued, " 'How then do you endure never meeting any one, but struggling with accidie?' she replied: 'From early morn to the ninth hour I pray hour by hour, spinning flax the while. During the remaining hours I meditate on the holy patriarchs and prophets and apostles and martyrs. And having eaten my bread I remain in patience for the other hours, waiting for my end with cheerful hope."'

 

CHAPTER VI:  THE RICH VIRGIN

[1] BUT I must not omit from my story those also whose life has been characterized by pride, that I may praise those who have remained true and ensure the safety of my readers. There was a virgin at Alexandria of humble exterior but haughty inward disposition, exceedingly wealthy, but never giving an obol either to a stranger or a virgin or a church or a poor man. In spite of the frequent exhortations of the fathers she was not weaning herself from material things. [I] Now she had relations living, one of whom, her sister's daughter, she adopted, and night and day she kept promising the girl should have her money, having fallen away from her aspirations after heaven. For this is a form of the deceit of the devil, who afflicts us with pangs of avarice under the pretext of family affection. For it is common knowledge that he cares nothing about family ties, since he teaches men to murder brothers and mothers and fathers [3] But even if he seems to inspire anxiety for relations; he does not do so frown benevolent feelings towards them, but to practice the soul in unrighteousness, knowing the decree: " The unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God." (I Cor. 6:9) Now it is quite possible for a man without neglecting his own soul to be influenced by a godly consideration and give assistance to his kinsfolk if they are in want. But when a man subordinates his whole soul to the interests of his relations, he comes under this law, reckoning his soul " unto vanity." [4] But the sacred psalmist sings thus concerning those who care for their soul with fear: "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?,'­meaning (it is) rarely (any one does)­"or who shall stand up in his holy place ? He that has clean hands and is pure in heart, who did not lift up his soul unto vanity." (Ps. 23 (24): 3, 4) For as many as neglect the virtues, these lift up the soul unto vanity, believing that it is dissolved with the body.

[5] Wishing to bleed this virgin, so the story goes, and thus relieve her of her avarice, the most holy Macarius, the priest and superintendent of the hospital for cripples, devises this expedient. In his youth he had been a worker in precious stones­what they call a lapidary. So he goes and says to her: " Some precious stones, emeralds and sapphires, have fallen by fate into my hands, and I cannot say whether they are treasure trove or stolen property. They have not been valued, since they are beyond price, but any one who has the money can buy them for five hundred pounds. [6] If you decide to take them, you can get back your five hundred pounds from one stone and use the rest for the adornment of your niece." Excited (by his words) the virgin is caught by the bait and falls at his feet. " By your feet," she says, " let no one else get them." Then he invites her: " Come to my house and look at them." But she had not the patience (for this), but flings down the five hundred pounds before him, saying: " You want them, take them. For I do not want to see the man who sells them." [7] But he takes the five hundred pounds and gives them for the needs of the hospital. Time sped along and she was shy of reminding him (of the matter), for Macarius clearly had a great reputation in Alexandria a lover of God and charitable­he remained vigorous until he was a hundred, and we too passed some time with him. Finally, having found him in the church, she says to him: "I beg you, what decision have you come to about those stones for which I gave the five hundred pounds?" [8] But he answered thus: "The moment you gave me the money, I deposited it for the price of He stones. And if you would like to come and see them in the hospital­for there they are­come and look if they please you. If not, take back your money." So she came, very willingly. Now the hospital had women on the first floor and men on the ground floor. And having taken her there he brings her into the porch and says to her: " Which do you want to see first, the sapphires or the emeralds ? " She says to him: "As you please." [9] He takes her to the upper floor and shows her the women disabled in hard or feet with their disfigured faces and says to her: "Behold your sapphires!" Then he takes her dozers again and says to her, showing her the men: "Behold your emeralds. Do they please you ? If not, take back your money." So she turned and went out, and returning home fell ill from excess of grief, because she had not done this thing in a godly fashion. Afterwards she thanked the priest, when the maid for whom she was planning died childless after marriage.

 

CHAPTER VII: THE MONKS OF NITRIA 1

[I] So then, after my visit to the monasteries round Alexandria with their 2000 or so most noble and zealous members and my three years sojourn there, I left them and went to the mountain of Nitria. Between this mountain and Alexandria lies the lake called Maria sevens' miles in extent. Having sailed across this I came to the mountain on its south side in a day and a half. [2] Next to this mountain lies the great desert which stretches as far as Ethiopia and the Mazicae and Mauretania. On the mountain live some 5000 men with different modes of life, each living in accordance with his own powers and wishes, so that it is allowed to live alone, or with another, or with a number of others. There are seven bakeries in the mountain, which serve the needs both of these men and also of the anchorites of the great desert, 600 in all. [3] So, having dwelt on the mountain for a year and having received much benefit from the blessed fathers Arsisius the Great 3 and Poutoubastes and Asion and Cronius arid Sarapion and having been spurred on by hearing their many tales about the fathers, I penetrated into the innermost desert. In this mountain of Nitria there is a great church, by which stand three palm­trees, each with a whip suspended from it. One is intended for the solitaries who transgress, one for robbers if any pass that way, and one for chance comers; so that all who transgress and are judged worthy of blows are tied to the palm­tree and receive on the back the appointed (number of stripes) and are then released. [4] Next to the church is a guest­house, where they receive the stranger who has arrived, until he goes away of his own accord, without limit of time, even if he remains two or three years. Having allowed him to spend one week in idleness, the rest of his stay they occupy with work either in the garden, or bakery, or kitchen. If he should be an important person, they give him a book, not allowing him to talk to any one before the hour. In this mountain there also live doctors and confectioners. And they use Dine and wine is on sale: E5] All these men work with their hands at linen­manufacture, so that all are self­supporting. And indeed at the ninth hour it is possible to stand and hear how the strains of psalmody rise from each habitation so that one believes that one is high above the world in Paradise. They occupy the church only on Saturday and Sunday. There are eight priests who seine the church, in which, so long as the senior priest lives, no one else celebrates, or preaches, or gives decisions, but they all just sit quietly by his side.

[6] This Arsisius and many other old men­with him whom we saw were contemporaries of the blessed Antony. Some among them, they told me, had also known Amount of Nitria, whose soul Antony saw being taken up and conducted to heaven by angels. Arsisius used to say that he also knew Pachomius of Tabennisi, a prophet and archimandrite over 3000 men, of whom I shall speak later.

 

CHAPTER VIII: AMOUN OF NITRIA

[I] (ARSISIUS) used to say that Amoun lived in this wise. When he was a young man of about twenty­two he was constrained by his uncle to marry a wife­he (himself) was an orphan. Being unable to resist the pressure of his uncle, he thought it best to be crowned and take his seat in the nuptial chamber and undergo all the marriage rites. When all (the guests) were gone out, after settling 1 the pair to sleep on the couch in the bridal chamber, Amoun gets up and locks the door, then he sits down and calls his blessed companion to him and says to her: [2] "Come here, lady, and then I will explain the matter to you. The marriage which we have contracted has no special virtue. Let us then do well by sleeping in future each of us separately, that we may please God by keeping our virginity intact." And drawing from his bosom a little book, he read to the girl, who could not read at all, in the words of the apostle and the Saviour, and to most of what he read he added all that was in his mind and explained the principles of virginity and chastity; so that convinced by the grace of God she said: [3] "I too am convinced, my lord. And what further commands have you now?" "I command," he said, " that each of us lives alone in future." But she could not endure this, saying, "Let us dwell in the same house, but in different beds." So he lived in the same house with her eighteen years. During each day he occupied himself with his garden and balsam grove­for he prepared balsam. Balsam grows like a vine, requiring cultivation and pruning and much hard work. Then in the evening he would enter the house and offer prayers and eat with his wife; and then having said the night prayers would go out. [4] Such was their practice, and both having attained impassivity, the prayers of Amoun prevailed, and she says to him at last: "I have something to say to you, my lord; that, if you hearken to me, I may be convinced that you love me in a godly way." He says to her: " Say what you wish.') She says to him: " It is just that we should live apart­ you being a man and practicing righteousness, and I also eagerly following the same way as you. For it is absurd that you should live with me in chastity and yet conceal such virtue as this of yours." [5] But he, thanking God, says to her: "Then you keep this house; but I will make myself another house." And he went out and settled in the inner part of the mount of Nitria­for there were no monasteries there yet­and he made himself two round cells. And having lived twenty­two years more in the desert he died, or rather fell asleep. He used to see that blessed lady his wife twice each year.

The blessed Athanasius the bishop in his life of Antony told a marvelous story about this man, how that he came to the bank of the river Lycus with his disciple Theodorus, and shrinking from removing his clothes lest he should see him naked, he was found on the other side, having been carried across by angels without using the ferry. Such then was the life of the blessed Amoun and such his perfection that the blessed Antony saw his soul carried to heaven by angels. I crossed this river once in a ferry, but with fear; for it is a canal leading from the great Nile.

 

CHAPTER IX: OR

[I] IN this mountain of Nitria there was an ascetic named Or, to whose great virtue the whole brotherhood bore witness, and especially Melania, that woman of God, who came to the mountain before me. For my part, I never saw him alive. And they used to say this of him in their stories, that he hever lied, nor swore, nor abused any one, nor spoke without necessity.

 

CHAPTER X: PAMBO

[I] To this mountain also belonged the blessed Pambo, teacher of Dioscorus the bishop and Ammonius and Eusebius and Euthymius, "the (Tall) Brethren,'' also of Origen the nephew of Dracontius, a wonderful man. This Pambo possessed heroic virtues and great qualities, one of which was this: he was very suspicious of gold and silver, as Scripture demands. [a] For the blessed Melania told me this story: "In early days, when I came to Alexandria from Rome, I heard of his virtue and­the blessed Isidore having told me of him and having conducted me to him in the desert­I brought him a casket of silver containing silver to the weight of three hundred pounds and besought him to take a part of my goods. But he sitting still and weaving palm leaves merely blessed me in a sentence and said: ' May God give you your reward.' [3] And he said to his steward Origen: 'Take it and distribute it to all the brethren who live in Libya and the islands, for these monasteries are poorer (than the rest)'; instructing him to give to none of those in Egypt, because their country was more fertile. But I," she said, " remained standing, expecting to be honored or glorified by him because of my gift, but hearing nothing from him I said to him: 'That you may know, Sir, how much there is, it amounts to three hundred pounds.' [4] But he without even raising his head answered me: 'The One to Whom you brought them, my child, has no need of weights. For He Who weighs the mountains, much more does He know the weight of the silver. If you had given it to me, you would have done well to tell me; but if it was to God, Who did not scorn the two obols, then be silent.' (Mk 12:42, Lk 21:2) So," said she, " did the Lord manifest His power when I came to the mountain. [5] After a little while the man of God fell asleep, not from an attack of fever, nor Tom any illness, but while he was stitching up a basket, at the age of seventy. He had sent for me and­the last stitch being ready to be completed­he said to me when about to die: 'Receive the basket at my hands to remember me by, for I have nothing else to leave you."' Having prepared the body for burial and wrapped it in linen cloths she buried him, and then returned from the desert, keeping the basket with her till her death.

[6] This Pambo on his death­bed, at the very moment of his passing, is reported to have said this to the bystanders, Origen the priest and steward and Ammonius­famous men, both of them­and the rest of the brethren: " From the day that I came to this place in the desert and built my cell and inhabited it, I cannot remember having eaten ' bread for nought,' (2 Thess. 3:8) not earned by my hands. I have not had to repent of any word that I have spoken up to the present hour. And so I go to God, as one who has not even begun to be pious." [7] Prominent men, Origen and Ammonius, testified further to us, saying: " When he was asked about a word of Scripture or other practical matter never did he answer at once, but would say: 'I have not yet found (the answer).' Often he went three months even and gave no answer, saying he had not put his hand on it. Accordingly men receded his answers as come from God, so carefully were they framed, as God would approve them. For this one virtue he west said to possess even above the great Antony and above all others, namely exactness of language."

[8] The following incident is told of Pambo. Pior the ascetic came to see him, bringing his own bread, and being accused by Pambo, "Why have you done this ? " answered: " Lest I should burden you." Pambo gave him a silent lesson expressly. For after a while he went to see Pior and took with him his bread, having first moistened it, and when asked why he said: "I moistened it as well, lest I should burden you."

 

CHAPTER XI: AMMONIUS

[I] THIS Ammonius, Pambo's disciple, with his three brothers and two sisters, having reached the perfection of the love of God, made their home in the desert, the women living separately by themselves, and the men by themselves, so as to have a sufficient distance between them. But since Ammonius was exceedingly learned and a certain city coveted him for its bishop, a deputation waited on the blessed Timothy, beseeching him to ordain him as their bishop. [2] And he said to them: " Bring him to me and I will ordain him." When therefore they had gone with a force and he saw that he was caught, he besought them and swore that he would not accept ordination, nor depart from the desert.

 

MACARIUS OF EGYPT 1

[1] I HESITATE either to speak or write the many great and incredible events that happened in connection with those famous men, the two Macarii, lest I should incur the suspicion of being a liar; indeed the Holy Spirit has declared that "the Lord destroys all them that speak falsehood." (Ps. 5:6 (7)) So do not disbelieve me, most believing one, for I am not lying. Of these Macarii the one was an Egyptian by race, the other an Alexandrian, a seller of sweetmeats.

[2] First of all I will tell of the Egyptian, who lived a full ninety years. Of these he spent sixty in the desert, having retired there as a young man of thirty. And he was counted worthy to possess such great discernment that he was called the "aged youth." Because of this also he made the quicker progress. For when he was forty years old he received grace to contend against the evil spirits both by healing and forecasting the future. Also he was counted worthy of the priesthood.

[3] He had two disciples with him in the inner desert called Scete. There was always one of them at his service near at hand because of those that came to be healed, while the other rested in an adjoining cell. After some time had elapsed, having seen into the future with prophetic eye, he said to the man who waited on him, named John, who afterwards became a priest in the place of Macarius himself: " Listen to me, brother John, and bear with my warning; for you are being tempted and the spirit of covetousness is tempting you. [4] I have seen this, and I know that if you will bear with me you will be perfected in this place and glorified, ' neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling'; (Ps. 90 (91): 10) but if you will not listen to me, the end of Gehazi shall come upon you, of whose illness you are even now sick." Now it came to pass when fifteen or twenty years had elapsed after the death of Macarius that he disobeyed, and accordingly after robbing the poor fund contracted elephantiasis, so that there was not found on his body a whole part, on which one could put his finger. So this is what the holy Macarius prophesied. [5] Now concerning eating and drinking it is superfluous to relate, seeing that not even among the indolent is it possible to find gluttony or carelessness in these regions, owing both to the scarcity of necessaries and the zeal of the inhabitants. But concerning the rest of his asceticism I do speak, for he was said to be in a continual ecstasy and to spend a far longer time with God than with things sublunary. The following marvels are told of him.

[6] A certain Egyptian, enamored of a lady married to a husband, and being unable to seduce her, consulted a magician, saying: "Lead her to love me, or contrive that her husband reject her." And the magician having received a sufficient sum, used magic spells and arranged for her to take the form of a mare. The husband having come in and seen her was surprised that a mare lay on his bed. He weeps and laments; he talks to the animal, but gets no reply. He calls in the priests' of the village. [7] He brings them in, shows her to them, but does not discover what has happened. During three days she neither took fodder as a mare nor bread as a human being, thus deprived of both forms of nourishment. Finally, that God might be glorified and the virtue of the holy Macarius appear, it entered into her husband's heart to take her into the desert. And having put a halter on her as upon a horse, he led her into the desert. When they came near, the brethren stood by the cell of Macarius, struggling with the woman's husband and saying: [8] " Why did you bring this mare here?" He said to them: "That she may receive mercy." They said to him: "What is the matter?" The husband answered them: "She was my wife and was turned into a mare, and to­day is the third day that she has tasted nothing." They referred the matter to the saint, who was praying within. For God had revealed the matter to him and he was praying for her. The holy Macarius therefore answered the brethren and said to them: "You are horses, since you have the eyes of horses. [9] For she is a woman and has not been transformed, except in the eyes of deluded men." And he blessed water, and pouring it from the head downwards on to her bare skin he prayed. And immediately he made her appear to all as a woman. Then giving her food he made her eat and sent her away with her husband thanking the Lord. And he advised her thus: " Never give up the church, never stay away from the Communion. For these things happened to you because you did not attend the mysteries for five weeks."

[10] Here is another example of his asceticism. He made in the course of time a tunnel running under the ground from his cell for half a stade and finished it off at the end with a cave. And if ever a crowd of people troubled him, he would leave his cell secretly and go away to the cave and no one would find him. Now one of his zealous disciples told us this, and said that he used to say twenty­four prayers on his way to the cave and twenty­four as he returned.

[11] A report was prevalent concerning him that he raised a dead man, in order to persuade a heretic who did not acknowledge that there was a bodily resurrection. And this report was current in the desert.

Once a young man possessed with a devil was brought to him by his lamenting mother, bound to two young men. And the devil had this method of working. After eating three bushels of bread and drinking a beaker of water, he would belch out the food and dissolve it into vapor, for in this way what had been eaten and drunk was dissolved as it were by fire. [12] For there is a class (of demons) called fiery. Since there are differences among demons, as also among men, not of nature but of character. This young man then, not receiving enough food from his mother, often ate his own dirt and drank his own water. As then his mother wept and implored the saint, he took the lad and prayed over him beseeching God. And after a day or two, the malady having eased a little, the holy Macarius said to her: [I3] "How much do you want him to eat?" She replied: " Ten pounds of bread." So having rebuked her, saying this was too much, and having prayed over him with fasting for seven days, he put him on to (a regime) of three pounds, with obligation to work. And so having cured him he restored him to his mother. And this wonder God wrought through Macarius. I never met him, for he had fallen asleep a year before my entry into the desert.

 

CHAPTER XVIII: MACARIUS OF ALEXANDRIA 1

[1] BUT I did meet the other Macarius, the Alexandrian, a priest of the place called Cellia. I sojourned in this Cellia nine years. He survived for three years of my stay there. And some things I saw (for myself), some I heard from him, and some things again I heard from others. This then was the method of his asceticism. If ever he heard of any feat, he did the same thing, perfectly. For instance, having heard from some that the monks of Tabennisi all through Lent eat (only) food that has not been near the fire, he decided for seven years to eat nothing that had been through the fire, and except for raw vegetables, if any such were found, and moistened pulse he tasted nothing. [2] Having practiced this virtue to perfection, he heard about another man, that he ate a pound of bread. And having broken up his ration­biscuit and put it into a vessel with a narrow mouth, he decided to eat just as much as his hand brought out. And he would tell the story thus in a joking manner: " I seized hold of a number of pieces, but I could not extract them all at once by reason of the narrowness of the opening, for like a tax­gatherer it would not let me." So for three years he kept up this practice of asceticism, eating four or five ounces of bread and drinking as much water, and a pint of oil in the year.

[3] Here is another practice of his. He determined to dispense with sleep, and he told us how he did not go under a roof for twenty days, that he might conquer sleep, being burnt up by the sun's heat and shriveled up with cold by night. And he used to say this: " Unless I had soon gone under a roof and got some sleep, my brain would have so dried up as to drive me into delirium for ever after. And I conquered so far as depended on me, but I gave way so far as depended on my nature that had need of sleep."

[4] As he sat early in the morning in his cell, a mosquito settled on his foot and stung him. And feeling the pain he squashed it with his hand after it was full of blood. So, accusing himself for having taken vengeance, he condemned himself to sit naked for six months in the marsh of Scete, which is in the great desert. The mosquitos there are like wasps, and even pierce the hides of wild boars. So then he was bitten all over and developed so many swellings that some thought he had elephantiasis. Returning to his cell after six months, he was recognized by his voice that it was Macarius himself.

[5] Once he desired to enter the garden­tomb of Jannes and Jambres, so he told us. But this garden-tomb had once belonged to the magicians who had great power long ago with Pharaoh. Forasmuch then as they had the power for long periods, they built their work with stones faced four­square, and made their tomb there, and stored away much gold. They also planted trees, for the place is rather damp, and they dug a well besides. [6] Since therefore the saint did not know the way, he followed the stars by a kind of guesswork, crossing the desert, as one does at sea. Taking a bundle of reeds he planted them one each mile as landmarks in order to find his way as he returned. So having traveled nearly nine days he approached the place. Then the demon, who always withstands the athletes of Christ, collected all the reeds and put them at his head as he slept about a mile from the garden-tomb. [7] So he arose and found the reeds, God having allowed this perhaps to try him further, that he might not trust in reeds, (possibly an allusion to Mt. 11:7, "a reed shaken wiht the wind.") but in the pillar of cloud that led Israel forty years in the desert. He used to say: "Seventy demons came out from the garden­tomb to meet me, shouting and fluttering like crows against my face and saying: 'What do you want, Macarius ? What do you want, monk? Why have you come to our place? You can't stay here.' I told them,'' he said, "'Let me just go in and look round and go away.' [8] "So," he said, " I went in and found a little brazen jar suspended and an iron chain against the well, rusted already by time, and some pomegranates with nothing inside because they had been dried up by the sun." So then he turned back and went on his way for twenty days. But when the water which he was carrying failed him and also the loaves, he was in great distress. And when he was nearly collapsing there appeared to him a maiden, so he declared, wearing a pure white robe and holding a cruse dripping with water. [9] He said she was some distance, about a stade, away from him, and he went on for three days, gazing at her as she stood with the vessel and being unable to catch her up, as happens in dreams ;l but he lasted out sustained by the hope of drinking. After her appeared a herd of antelopes, one of which with a calf stopped­there are many in those regions. And he said that her udder was flowing with milk. So, creeping under her and sucking, he was satisfied. And the antelope went as far as his cell, giving him milk, but not allowing her own calf to suck.

[10] On another occasion, while digging a well near to some vegetable shoots, he was bitten by an asp. Now this beast is able to cause death. And having taken it with both hands he seized it by the jaws and pulled it in pieces, saying to it: "When God did not send you, how did you dare to come ? "

Now he had several cells in the desert: one in Scete, the great interior desert, and one in the Libyan desert, and one at the so­called Cellia, and one on Mount Nitria. Some of these are without windows, and in these he was said to sit during Lent in darkness. Another was too narrow for him to stretch out his feet in it. Another, in which he met his visitors, was more spacious.

[11] He healed so great a crowd of demoniacs that they cannot be counted. When we were there a highborn maiden was brought from Thessalonica, paralyzed for many years. He rubbed her for twenty days with holy oil 2 with his own hands, praying the while, and sent her back to her city restored to health. After she had gone she sent him many generous gifts.

[12] Having heard that the monks of Tabennisi had a splendid rule of life, he changed his clothes and put on the secular garments of a workman, and went a fifteen days' journey to the Thebaid, traveling through the desert. And having come to the monastery of the Tabennesiots he asked for their archimandrite, Pachomius by name, a man of great reputation and possessing the gift of prophecy­though the story of Macarius had not been revealed to him. So meeting him he said: " I pray you, receive me into your monastery that I may become a monk." [13] Pachomius said to him: "You have already reached old age, and you cannot be an ascetic. The brethren are ascetics and you cannot endure their labors. You will be offended and will depart, cursing them." And he did not receive him either the first day or the second, till seven days had passed. But he persisted in waiting, fasting (all the time), and at last he said to him: " Receive me, father, and if I do not fast as they do and work, order me to be driven out." He persuaded the brethren to admit him; now the total number (of the occupants) of the first monastery was 1,400 men and remains so up to this day. [14] Well, he entered. When a little time had passed, Lent came on and he saw each man practicing different ways of asceticism­one eating in the evening only, another every two days, another every five, another again standing all night but sitting down by day. So having moistened palm­leaves in large numbers, he stood in a corner and until the forty days were completed and Easter had come, ate no bread and drank no water, neither knelt down nor reclined, and apart from a few cabbage leaves took nothing, and them only on Sunday, that he might appear to eat. [I5] And if ever he went out in obedience to nature, he quickly came in again and took his stand, speaking to no one and not opening his mouth but standing in silence. And, apart from prayer in his heart and the palm­leaves in his hands, he was doing nothing. All the ascetics therefore, seeing this, raised a revolt against the superior, saying: " Where did you get this fleshless man from, to condemn us? Either drive him out, or know that we are all going." Pachomius, therefore, having heard the details of his observance, prayed to God that the identity of the stranger might be revealed to him. [I6] And it was revealed; and he took him by the hand and led him to the house of prayer, where the altar was, and said to him, "Here, good old man, you are Macarius and you hid it from me. For many years I have been longing to see you. I thank you for letting my children feel your fist, lest they should be proud of their ascetic achievements. Now go away to your own place, for you have edified us sufficiently. And pray for us." Then he went away, as asked.

[17] On another occasion he told us this story: " Having perfected every kind of life that I desired, then I had another desire. I desired to keep my mind for five days only undistracted from (the contemplation of) God. And, having determined this, I barred the cell and enclosure, so as not to have to answer any man, and I took my stand, beginning at the second hour. So I gave this commandment to my mind: " Do not descend from heaven. There you have angels, archangels, the powers on high, the God of all; do not descend below heaven." [18] And having lasted out two days arid two nights, I exasperated the demon so that he became a flame of fire and burned up all the things in the cell, so that even the little mat on which I stood was consumed with fire and I thought I was being all burned up. Finally, stricken with fear, I left ok on the third day, being unable to keep my mind free from distraction, but I descended to contemplation of the world, lest vanity should be imputed to me."

[19] Once I visited this holy Macarius and found a village priest lying just outside his cell, whose head was all eaten away by the disease called cancer, and the actual bone appeared on the crown of his head. He had come to be healed and Macarius would not grant him an interview. So I besought him: "I pray you, pity him and give him his answer." [20] And he said to me: " He does not deserve to be healed, for it has been sent him as a punishment. But if you want him to be healed, persuade him to give up taking services. For he was taking services, though living in fornication, and for this reason he is being punished and God is healing his soul." So when I said this to the afflicted man he consented, and swore that he would no longer exercise his priesthood. ­ Then he received him and said: " Do you believe that God is?" He said to him: "Yes." [21] "Were you able to mock God?" " No," he answered. He said: "If you recognize your sin and the chastening of God, on account of which you suffered this, reform yourself henceforward.' So he confessed his fault and gave a promise that he would sin no more nor take the service, but embrace the position of a layman. Then he laid his hands on him and in a few days he was cured and the hair grew and he went away healed.

[22] Before my eyes a young lad was brought to him possessed by an evil spirit. So, putting one hand on his head and the other on his heart, he prayed so much that he made him hang in mid­air. Then the boy swelled like a wine­skin and festered so that he became a mass of erysipelas.1 And having cried out suddenly, he produced water through all his senses, and calming down returned to his original size. So he anointed him with holy oil and handed him to his father, and having poured water upon him ordered that he should touch neither flesh nor wine for forty days. And so he healed him.

[23] One day vainglorious thoughts troubled him, driving him out from the cell and suggesting to him as if by a divine dispensation that he should visit the city of the Romans to cure the sick. For grace acted powerfully in him against (evil) spirits. And when for a long while he would not obey, but was being vehemently pressed, falling on the doorstep of his cell, he put his feet outside and said: .'' Drag me, demons, pull me. For I am not going with any feet. If you can take me, then I will go." He swore to them: " Here I lie until evening. Unless you shake me, I will not listen to you." [24] So, having lain there a long while, he got up, but when night came on they attacked him again, and having filled a two­bushel basket with sand and put it on his shoulders, he tramped about in the desert. Theosebius the Cosmetor, an Antiochian by race, met him and said to him: " What are you carrying, father? Give me the burden and don't trouble yourself." But he said to him: "I trouble my troubler. For he is insatiable and tempts me to go out." So having tramped about for a long time­ he went into his cell, having punished his body.

[25] This holy Macarius told me the following­for he was a priest. " I noticed at the time of distributing the mysteries that it was never I which gave the oblation to Marcus the ascetic, but an angel used to give it him from the altar. I saw only the knuckle of the donor's hand." Now this Marcus was a young man, who learned by heart the Old and New Testaments, exceedingly meek and continent beyond all others.

[26] One day having leisure­Macarius then being in extreme old age­I went off and sat by his door, thinking him superhuman, seeing that he was so old, and listened to what he said and what he did. He was quite alone inside; being already a hundred years old and having lost his teeth, he was fighting with himself and the devil and saying: "What do you want, bad old man ? See, you have had oil and have taken some wine. What do you want more, you white­haired glutton ? "-scolding himself. Then to the devil: " Do I owe you anything now? You won't­find anything. Go away from me." And, as if humming to himself, he was saying: "Here, you white­haired glutton, how long shall I be with you ?'' (Cf. Mt 27:17)

[27] Paphnutius his disciple told us, that one day a hyena took her whelp, which was blind, and brought it to Macarius. And having knocked with her head at the door of the enclosure, she entered, Macarius sitting outside (his cell), and threw the young one down at his feet. And he took it and spat on its eyes and prayed, and immediately it recovered its sight. (Cf. Lk 18:43) And its mother having suckled it took it and went away. [28] And on the next day she brought the saint the fleece of a large sheep. And the blessed Melania said this to me: "I got that fleece from Macarius as a gift to a visitor. And what marvel, if He who tamed the lions for Daniel, also made the hyena intelligent ? "

And he said, that from the day he was baptized. he never spat on the ground,! it being then sixty years from his baptism. [29] As to his bodily form, he was rather short, and beardless, having no hairs except on his lips and the tip of his chin. For owing to the excess of his asceticism the hairs of his beard did not even sprout.

One day, when I was suffering from accidie, I went to him and said: " Father, what shall I do ? Since my thoughts afflict me saying, 'You are making no progress, go away from here."' And he said to me: " Tell them, 'For Christ's sake I am guarding the walls,"

I have told you these few stories out of many relating to the holy Macarius.

 

CHAPTER XXVIII: A VIRGIN WHO FELL

AGAIN, I knew a virgin in Jerusalem who wore sackcloth for six years and shut herself up in a cell, taking none of the things that bestow pleasure. In the end she fell, abandoned (by God) because of her excessive arrogance. She opened the window and admitted the man who waited on her and sinned with him, because she had practiced asceticism not with a religious motive and for the love of God, but with human ostentation, which springs from vain­glory and corrupt intention. For, her thoughts being engrossed in condemning others, the guardian of her chastity was absent.

 

CHAPTER XXXII: PACHOMIUS AND THE TABENNESIOTS

[l] TABENNISI is a place, so­called, in the Thebaid, in which there lived a certain Pachomius, one of those who have lived in the straight way, so that he was counted worthy both of prophecies and angelic visions. He was exceedingly devoted both to his fellow­men and his brethren. Accordingly, to him as he sat in his cave an angels appeared and said: "You have successfully ordered your­ own life. So it is superfluous to remain sitting in your cave. Up ! go out and collect all the young monks and dwell with them, and according to the model which I now give you, so legislate for them;" and lie gave him a brass tablet on which this was inscribed­

[2] "Thou shalt allow each man to eat and drink according to his strength; and proportionately to the strength of the eaters appoint to them their labors. And prevent no man either from fasting or eating. However, appoint the tasks that need strength to those who are stronger and eat, and to the weaker and more ascetic such as the weak can manage. Make a number of cells within the enclosure and let three dwell in each cell. But let them all go to one building for their food. [3] Let them sleep not lying down full length, but let them make sloping chairs easily constructed and put their rugs on them and thus sleep in a sitting posture. And let them wear at night linen lebitons and a girdle. Let each of them have a worked goatskin cloak, without which they are not to eat. When they go to Communion on Saturday and Sunday, let them loosen their girdles and lay aside the skin cloak and go in with the cowls only." And he prescribed for them napless cowls, as for children, on which he ordered an imprint, the mark of a cross, to be worked in dark red. [4] And he ordered that there should be twenty­four sections, and to each order he assigned a letter of the Greek alphabet­alpha, beta, gamma, delta, and so on. So when the Supenor asked questions, orbusied himself with the affairs of the great multitude, he asked the second: "How is the Alpha sections" or, " How is the Zeta ? " or again: " Greet the Rho," and they followed a private meaning assigned to the letters. "And to the simpler and more unworldly thou shalt give the Iota, and to the more difficult and perverse thou shalt assign the Xi " [5] And so, in correspondence ninth the nature of their dispositions and manners and lives, he fitted the letters to each section, only the spiritual knowing what was meant. And it was written on the tablet: " A stranger of another monastery which has a different rule is not to eat with them, nor drink, nor enter into the monastery, unless he happens to be on a (genuine) journey." However, the man who has come to remain with them they do not allow to enter into the sanctuary for three years. But after a three years' probation and performance of the more toilsome labors, then he enters. [6] "As they eat let them cover their heads with their cowls lest one brother see another chewing. A monk is not allowed to talk at meals nor let his eye wander beyond his plate or the table." And he ordered them during the whole day to make twelve prayers, and twelve at the lamp­lighting, and twelve at the night­vigils, and three at the ninth hour. But when a group was about to eat he ordered a psalm to be sung before each prayer.

[7] When Pachomius objected to the angel that the prayers were few, the angel said to him: " I gave this rule so as to make sure in advance that even the little ones keep the rule and are not afflicted. But the perfect have no need of legislation, for by themselves in their cells they have surrendered the whole of their life to the contemplation of God. But I have legislated for as many as have not a discerning mind, in order that they, like house­servants fulfilling the duties of their station, may live a life of freedom."

Now there are a number of these monasteries which have observed this rule, amounting to 7000 mend But the first and great monastery is that where Pachomius himself dwelt, which itself also is the parent of the other monasteries; it has 1300 members. [8] Among them there was also the noble Aphthonius, who became my intimate friend, and is now second in the monastery. Him they send to Alexandria, since nothing can make him stumble, in order to sell their produce and buy necessaries. [9] But there are also other monasteries two hundred or three hundred strong. One of these, with 300 monks, I found when I entered the city of Panopolis. [In the monastery I found fifteen tailors, seven smiths, four carpenters, twelve camel­drivers, and fifteen fullers.]4 But they work at every kind of craft and with their surplus output they provide for the needs both of the women's convents and the prisons. [10] [They keep pigs too, and when I blamed the practice, they said: " In our tradition we have received this, that they are to be kept because of the chaff, and the refuse of the vegetables and other scraps that one throws away, lest they be wasted. And the pigs are to be killed and their meat sold, but the tit­bits are to be devoted to the sick and aged, because the neighborhood is poor and populous; for the tribe of the Blemmyes live near.] [11] But those who are to serve that day rise early and get to their work, some to the kitchen, others to the tables. They spend their time then until the meal­hour in arranging and preparing the tables, putting loaves on each, and charlock, preserved olives, cheese of cows' milk, [the tit­bits of the meat], and chopped herbs. Some come in at the sixth hour and eat, others at the seventh, others at the eighth, others at the ninth, others at the eleventh, others in the late evening, others every other day, so that each letter knows its own hour. [12] So also is it with their work. One works on the land as a laborer, another in the garden, another at the forge, another in the bakery, another in the carpenter's shop, another in the fuller's shop, another weaving the big baskets, another in the tannery, another in the shoemaker's shop, another in the scriptorium, another weaving the young reeds' And they learn all the scriptures by heart.

 

CHAPTER XXXIII: THE TABENNESIOT NUNS

[I] THEY also had a monastery of women with some 400 members; it had the same constitution and the same manner of life, except for the sheep­skin coat. And the women are on the far side of the river, the men opposite them. So when a virgin dies, the (other) virgins, having prepared her body for burial, act as bearers and lay it on the river bank. But the brethren, having crossed in a ferry boat, with palm­leaves and olive branches, take the body across, singing psalms the while, and bury it in their own cemetery. But apart from the priest and the deacon no man goes across to the women's monastery, and they only on Sunday.

[2] In this women's monastery the following thing happened. A tailor, living in the world, crossed the river in ignorance and sought work. A young­ sister came out­the place was deserted­and met him involuntarily and gave him the answer: "We have our own tailors." [3] Another sister saw the meeting; and when some time had elapsed and a contention arose, actuated by diabolic motives inspired by great wickedness and an outburst of temper; she denounced the other before the sisterhood. A few others also joined her from malice. So that sister, distressed at having endured a calumny of a kind that had never even entered her thoughts, and being unable to bear it, flung herself into the river secretly and lost her life. [4] Likewise the calumniator, recognizing that her calumny was wicked, and that she had committed this abomination, went and hung herself, she too being unable to bear (the shame of) the affair. So when the priest came the rest of the sisters told him the affair. And he ordered first that the sacrifice should not be offered for either of them; and as for those who had not kept the peace, since they had been accomplices of the calumniator and had believed the scandal, he separated them (from the rest) for seven years, depriving them of Communion.

 

CHAPTER XXXIV: THE NUN WHO FEIGNED MADNESS

[I] IN this monastery there was another virgin who feigned madness and possession by a demon. And they detested her so much that they would not even eat with her, she preferring this. She would wander about in the kitchen and do every kind of menial work, and she was, as they say, " the monastery sponge," fulfilling in fact the words of Scripture: " If any one seem to be wise among you in this world, let him become foolish that he may be wise." (I Cor. 3:18) She fastened some rags on her head­all the rest had the tonsure and wore cowls­and sewed in this guise. [2] None of the 400 sisters ever saw her chewing during the years of her life. She never sat at table, nor partook of a piece of bread, but wiping up the crumbs from the tables and washing the kitchen pots she was content with what she got in this way. Never did she insult any one nor grumble nor talk either little or much, although she was cuffed and insulted and cursed and execrated.

[3] Now an angel appeared to the holy Piteroum, an anchorite of high reputation who dwelt in Porphyrites, and said to him: "Why are you proud of yourself for being religious and dwelling in a place like this? Do you want to see a woman who is more religious than you ? Go to the monastery of the Tabennesiot women and there you will find a woman wearing a crown on her head. She is better than you. [4] For though she spars with so great a crowd, she has never let her heart go away from God. But you sit here and wander in imagination through the different cities." And he who had never gone out went off to that monastery and besought the masters to let him go to the monastery of the women. They were emboldened to let him in, since he was famous and advanced in years. [5] And having gone in he demanded to see them all. But she­did not appear. At last he said to them: " Bring me all, for there is one lacking." They said to him: " We have one within in the kitchen, a sale." For thus they style the mentally afflicted. He said to them: " Bring her also to me. Let me see her." They went off to call her. She did not answer, perhaps perceiving what was the matter, or even having had a revelation. They drag her forcibly and say to her: "The holy Piteroum Savants to see you"; for he was famous. [6] When she came, he perceived the rag on her forehead and fell at her feet and said to her: "Bless me." She also fell at his feet in like manner, saying: " Do you bless me, Master." They were all amazed and said to him: " Father, do not let her insult you, she is sale." Said Piteroum to them all: " Cot' are sale. For she is mother both of me and you" ­for thus they call the spiritual women­ "and I pray to be found worthy of her in the day of judgment." [7] Having heard these words they fell at his feet, all confessing in different ways: one that she had poured the rinsings of the plate over her; another that she had beaten her with her fist; another that she had applied a mustard­plaster to her nose. And, in a word, tall confessed outrages of one kind or another. So after praying for them he went away. And after a few days, unable to bear her glory and the honor bestowed by the sisters, and burdened by their apologies, she left the monastery. And where she went, or where she disappeared to, or how she died, no one knows.

 

CHAPTER XLII: JULIAN

[I HAVE heard of a certain Julian in the region of Edessa, a very ascetic man, who wore away his flesh till it was so thin that he carried about only skin and bone. At the very end of his life he was counted worthy of the honor of the gift of healing.]

 

CHAPTER XLIII: ADOLIUS

[I] AGAIN, I knew a man at Jerusalem named Adolius, a Tarsian by origin, who having come to Jerusalem followed eagerly the untrodden road, not that on which most of us walked, but carving out for himself a strange mode of life. For his asceticism was superhuman, so that the very demons, trembling at his austerity, dared not approach him. For by reason of his excessive abstinence and his vigils he was even suspected of being a phantom. [2] For in Lent he would eat at intervals of five days, and the whole rest of the time every other day. But his greatest act of asceticism was this. From evening until the time when the brotherhood began to assemble again in their houses of prayer he would continue on his feet singing psalms and praying, on the Mount of Olives, the hill of the Ascension whence Jesus was taken up; and whether it snowed­or rained or there was a white­ frost he remained undaunted. [3] So having completed his accustomed time he knocked at the cells of all the monks with his little waking­up knocker, collecting them into the houses of prayer and in each house singing one or two psalms with them antiphonally and praying with them. Then he went away to his own cell before daybreak, so that of a truth the brethren often had to undress him and wring out his clothes as if after the wash, and put other clothes on him. So then, after resting until the hour of psalmody, he applied himself (to worships until evening. And so this was the virtue of Adolius the Tarsian, who reached perfection in Jerusalem and died there.

 

CHAPTER XLIV: INNOCENT

[1] You have heard from many the story of the blessed Innocent, the priest of the Mount of Olives, but none the less you will hear it also from us who lived with him for three years. He was simple to an excess. Having been one of the dignitaries of the palace in the early days of the Emperor Constantius, he renounced the world, leaving his marriage, by which he had also a son, Paul by name, of the imperial bodyguard. [a] When the latter had sinned with the daughter of a priest, Innocent cursed his own son, beseeching God and saying: " Lord, give him such a spirit that his flesh may no longer find opportunity to sin "­thinking it better that he should struggle with a demon than with incontinence, which actually happened. At this present moment he is still on the Mount of Olives, wearing irons and chastised by the spirit. [33] How compassionate indeed this Innocent was, so that often he himself stole from the brethren and gave to the needy­I shall ­ seem to be talking nonsense if I tell the truth. And he was exceedingly innocent and simple, and was counted worthy of the gift (of power) over demons. As an example of this: Once a young man was brought to him before our eyes taken by a spirit and by paralysis, so that I, having seen him, wished publicly to repel the mother of the man who had been brought, since I despaired of his cure. [4] Well, it happened in the meantime that the old man having come up saw her standing and weeping and lamenting over the unspeakable misfortune of her son. So the good old man wept and, moved with compassion, took the young man and entered into his oratory, which he had built with his own hands, and in which relics of John the Baptist were laid. And having prayed over him from the third hour to the ninth, he restored the young man to his mother cured that same day, having driven out both his paralysis and the demon. His paralysis was such that the boy, when he spat, spat on his own back, so twisted was he.

[5] An old woman having lost a sheep came to him in tears. And having followed her he said: " Show me the place where you lost it." She led him to the neighborhood of the tomb of Lazarus.1 He stood and prayed. But the young men who had stolen it anticipated him by killing it. So while he prayed, no one confessing and the meat lying hidden in the vineyard, a crow came from somewhere and hovered over the place, took a morsel and flew off again. And the blessed one having marked the place found the slain animal, and so the young men who had killed it fell at his feet and confessed and paid, when asked, the proper price of the sheep.

 

CHAPTER XLV: PHILOROMUS

[I] WE met in Galatia the priest Philoromus, a most ascetic and enduring man, and stayed with him a long time. His mother divas a maidservant, his father a free man. But he showed such nobility in the Christlike mode of life that even those whose family record was unsurpassable revered his life and virtue. He renounced the world in the days of Julian the infamous Emperor, and spoke to him with boldness. Julian ordered him to be shaved and buffeted by boys. He endured the ordeal patiently and expressed his thanks to Julian, as he told us himself. [2] In his early days war against fornication and gluttony was his lot. He drove out these passions by shutting himself up and wearing irons, and by "abstinence from corn­bread and all things cooked by fire. After persevering in this course for eighteen years he sang the hymn of triumph to Christ. Attacked in divers ways by the spirits of wickedness, he abode in one monastery for forty years. He told us this: "For thirty­two years I touched no fruit." Once when timidity attacked him, in order to get rid of it, he shut himself up in a tomb for six years. [3] The blessed Basil, the bishop, took great care of him, rejoicing in his austerity and firmness. Even now he has not renounced the pen and the writing sheet,1 though perhaps in his eightieth year. He said: "From the time that I was initiated and born again until to­day, I have never eaten another's bread for nothing, but always scathe result of my own labors.' (Speaking) as in the presence of God, he convinced us that he had given to the cripples 20 pieces of money earned by the work of his hands, and had never wronged anyone. [4] He went on foot even as far as Rome itself to pray at the martyr­chapel of the blessed Peter He went also as far as Alexandria, to pray at the martyr chapel of Mark. Then he came also a second time to Jerusalem, having gone on his own feet and defrayed hi own expenses. And he said this: " I do not remember that I eras ever absent in mind from my God."]

 

MELANIA THE ELDER

CHAPTER XLVI: MELANIA THE ELDER

[1] The thrice­blessed Melania Divas a Spaniard by origin, but afterwards belonged to Rome. She was the daughter of Marcellinus the ax­consul, and wife of a certain man of high official rank, whom I do not quite remember. Having become a widow at twenty-two, she was favored with the divine love, and having said nothing to any one­for she would have been prevented­in the time when Valens had the rule in the empire, she had a guardian nominated for her son and took all her movable property and put it on a ship; then she sailed with all speed to Alexandria, accompanied by various highborn women and children. [a] After that, having sold her goods and turned them into money, she went to the mountain of Nitria, where she met the following fathers and their companions­Pambo, Arsisius, Sarapion the Great, Paphnutius of Scete, Isidore the Confessor, bishop~of Hermopolis, and Dioscorus. And she sojourned with them for half a year, travailing about in the desert and visiting all the saints. [3] But after this, when the prefects of Alexandria banished Isidore, Pisimius, Adelphius, Paphoutius and Pambo, with them also Ammonius Paroles, and twelve bishops and priests, to Palestine in the neighborhood of Dioczesarea, she followed them and ministered to them from her own money. But, servants being forbidden them, so they told me­for I met the holy Pisimius and Isidore and Paphnutius and Ammonius­wearing the dress of a young slave she brought them in the evenings what they required. But the consular of Palestine got to know of it, and wishing to fill his pocket thought he would terrify her. [4] And having arrested her he­threw her into prison, ignorant that she was a lady. But she told him: " For my part, I am So­and­So's daughter and So­and­So's wife, but I am Christ's slave. And do not despise the cheapness of my clothing. For I am able to exalt myself if I like, and you cannot terrify me in this way or take any of my goods. So then I have told you this, lest through ignorance you should incur judicial accusations. For one must in dealing with insensate folk be as audacious as a hawk." Then the judge, recognizing the situation, both made an apology and honored her, and gave orders that she should succor the saints without hindrance.

[5] After they were recalled she founded a monastery in Jerusalem, and spent twenty­seven years there in charge of a convent of fifty virgins. With her lived also the most noble Rufinus, from Italy, of the city of Aquileia, a man similar to her in character and very steadfast, who was afterwards judged worthy of the priesthood. A more learned man or a kinder than he was not to be found among mend [6] So these two during twenty­seven years receiving at their own charges those who visited Jerusalem in pursuance of a vow, bishops and monks and virgins, edified all who visited them, and they reconciled the schism of Paulinus, some 400 monks in all, and winning over every heretic that denied the Holy Spirit they brought him to the Church; and they honored the clergy of the district with gifts and food, and so continued to the end, without offending anyone.

 

CHAPTER LIV: THE ELDER MELANIA

[I] THOUGH I have told above in a superficial way of the wonderful and saintly Melania, nevertheless I will now weave into my narrative at this point what remains to be said. What stores of goods she used up in her divine zeal, as it were burning them in a fire, is not for me to dwell on, but for those who dwell in Persia. For no one escaped her benevolence, neither East nor West nor North nor South. [2] For thirty­seven years she had been giving hospitality, and at her own costs had succored both churches and monasteries and strangers and prisoners, her family and her son himself and her stewards providing the money. She persevered so long in the practice of hospitality that she possessed not even a span of land. She was not drawn (from her purpose) by desire for her son, nor did yearning after her only son separate her from love towards Christ. [3] But thanks to her prayers the young man attained a high standard of education and a good character and an illustrious marriage, and participated in the honors of the world; he had also two children. A long while after, hearing how her granddaughter was situated, that she was married and was proposing to renounce the world, afraid lest they should be injured by bad teaching or heresy or evil living, though an old woman of sixty years, she flung herself into a ship and sailing from Caesarea reached Rome in twenty days. [4] And having met there that most blessed and worthy man Apronianus, a pagan, she instructed him and made him a Christian, persuading him to be continent as regards his wife, Melania's niece named Avita. And having also strengthened the will of her own granddaughter Melania, with her husband Pinianus, and instructed her daughter in­law Albina, wife of her son, and having induced all these to sell their goods, she led them out from Rome and brought them into the holy and calm harbor of the (religious) life. And in so doing she fought with beasts a in the shape of all the senators and their wives who tried to prevent her, in view of (similar) renunciation of the world on the part of the other (senatorial) houses. But she said to them: " Little children, it was written 400 years ago, It is the last hour. Why do you love to linger in life's vanities? Perchance the days of antichrist will surprise you, and you will cease to enjoy your wealth and your ancestral property." [6] And having liberated all these she led them to the monastic life. And after instructing the younger son of Publicola she brought him to Sicily, and having sold all her remaining goods and receded their value, she came to Jerusalem. Then, having got rid of her possessions, within forty days she fell asleep in a good old age and profound meekness, leaving behind both a monastery in Jerusalem and an endowment for it.

[7] But when all these persons had left Rome there fell on Rome a hurricane of barbarians, which was ordained long ago in prophecies, and it did not spare even the bronze statues in the Forum, but sacking them all with barbaric frenzy delivered them to destruction, so that Rome, which had been beautified by loving hands for 1200 years, became a ruin. Then those who had been instructed (by Melania) and those who had opposed her instruction glorified God, Who had persuaded the unbelievers by a reversal of fortune, in that, when all the other families had been made prisoners, these ones only were preserved, having been made by Melania's zeal burnt­offerings to the Lord.

 

CHAPTER LV: SILVANIA (MELANIA continued)

[1] IT SO happened that we traveled together from Aelia to Egypt, escorting the blessed Silvania the virgin, sister­in­law of Rufinus the ex­prefect. Among the party there was Jovinus also with us, then a deacon, but now bishop of the church of Ascalon, a devout and learned man. We came into an intense heat and, when we reached Pelusium, it chanced that Jovinus took a basin and gave his hands and feet a thorough wash in ice­cold water, and after washing flung a rug on the

ground and lay down to rest. id] She came to him like a wise mother of a true son and began to scoff at his softness, saying: " How dare you at your age, when your blood is still vigorous, thus coddle your flesh, not perceiving the mischief that is engendered by it? Be sure of this, be sure of it, that I am in the sixtieth year of my life and except for the tips of my fingers neither my feet nor my face nor any one of my limbs have touched water, although I am a victim to various ailments and the doctors try to force me. I have not consented to make the customary concessions to the flesh, never in my travels have I rested on a bed or used a litter."

[3] Being very learned and loving literature she turned night into day by perusing every writing of the ancient commentators, including 3,000,000 (lines) of Origen and 2,500,000 (lines) of Gregory, Stephen, Pierius, Basil, and other standard writers. Nor did she read them once only and casually, but she laboriously went through each book seven or eight times. Wherefore also she was enabled to be freed from knowledge falsely so called (I Tim. 6:20) and to fly on wings, thanks to the grace of these books; elevated by kindly hopes she made herself a spiritual bird and journeyed to Christ.

 

 

CHAPTER LVI: OLYMPIAS

[I] THAT most venerable and devoted lady Olympias followed the counsel of Melania, attending­to her precepts and walking in her footsteps. She was the daughter of Seleucus the ex­count, grand­daughter of Ablavius the ex­prefect, and bride for a few days of Nebridius, the Prefect of the city, but the wife of no man. For she is said to have died a virgin, but the spouse of the Word of Truth. [2] She dispersed all her goods and gave to the­poor. She engaged in no mean combats for truth's sake, instructed many women, addressed priests reverently, and honored bishops; she was accounted worthy to be a confessor for truth's sake. The inhabitants of Constantinople reckon her life among the confessors, for she died thus and went away to the Lord in the midst of her struggles for God's honor.

 

CHAPTER LVII: CANDIDA

[I] ATTENDING to her precepts and imitating her like a mirror, the blessed Candida, daughter of Trajan the general, lived a worthy life and attained to the height of sanctity, paying honors both to churches and bishops. Having instructed her own daughter for the condition of virginity she brought her to Christ as a gift of her own body, afterwards following her own daughter in temperance and chastity and the distribution of her goods. [2] I knew her labour all night long with her hands at the mill to subdue her body; and she used to say: "Fasting is insufficient; I give it an ally in the shape of toilsome watching, that I may destroy the insolence of Esau.'' (Cf. Heb. 12:16) She abstained absolutely from anything with bloods and life in it, but taking fish and vegetables with oil on feast days, at other times she continued to content herself with a mixture of sour wine and dry bread.

[3] In emulation of her example the most venerable lady Gelasia, a tribune's daughter, walked in the path of religion, having put on the yoke of virginity. Her virtue is renowned in that the sun never went down on her irritation against man­servant or maid­servant or any one else.

 

CHAPTER LIX: AMMA TALIS AND TAOR

[I] IN this city of Antinoe there are twelve convents of women; in one of them I met Amma Talis, an old woman who had spent eighty years in asceticism, as she and the neighbors told me. With her dwelt sixty young women who loved her so greatly that no key even was fixed on the outer wall of the monastery, as in other monasteries, but they were kept in by love of her. Such a height of impassivity did the old woman reach that when I entered and sat down she came and sat by me and put her hands on my shoulders in a transport of freedom.

[a] In this monastery there was a disciple of hers by name Taor, a virgin who had been thirty years in the monastery; she would never accept a new habit or hood or shoes, saying: " I do not need them, lest I be forced also to go out." For all the others go oat on Sunday to church for the Communion; but she remains in the house clothed in rags, ceaselessly sitting at her work. But her looks were naturally so charming that even the most steadfast would almost have been deceived by her beauty, if she had not had her chastity as an exceedingly strong sentinel, and by her modesty had been compelling the unrestrained eye to reverence and fear.

 

CHAPTER LX: COLLYTHUS

[I] ANOTHER virgin was a neighbor of mine, but I did not see her face, for she never came out, so they say, from the day she renounced the world. But having completed sixty years of asceticism in company with her own mother (­superior), at last she was about to depart from this life. And the martyr of the place stood over her­Collythus was his name­and said to her: " Today you are going to travel to the Master and see all the saints. Come then and breakfast with us in the chapel." So she got up at twilight and dressed and took in her basket bread and olives and shredded herbs, after all those years going out, and she went to the chapel and prayed. [2] And having marked that moment of the whole day when no one was inside, she took her seat and called on the martyr, saying: " Bless my food, holy Collythus, and accompany me with thy prayers on the journey." Then having eaten and prayed again she went home about sunset. And having given her mother (­superior) a writing of Clement, author of the Stromateis, on the prophet Amos, she said: " Give it to the exiled bishop and say to him, Pray for me, for I am going on a journey." And she died that very night, with no fever nor pain in the head, but having decked herself for the funeral.

 

CHAPTER LXI: MELANIA THE YOUNGER 1

[I] SINCE I promised above to tell about the (grand­) daughter of Melania, I am constrained to pay the debt, for it is not just that men should disdain her youthfulness in respect of the flesh and leave on one side with no pillar to commemorate it such great virtue, virtue which, frankly, far surpasses that of old and zealous women. Her parents by using compulsion made her marry a man of the highest rank in Rome. Her conscience was always being pricked by the tales she heard about her grandmother, and (at last) she was so goaded that she felt unable to perform her marriage duty. [2] For, two male children having been born to her and both having died, she came to have such great hatred of marriage as to say to her husband Pinianus, son of Severus the exprefect: " If you choose to practice asceticism with me according to the fashion of chastity, then I recognize you as master and lord of my life. But if this appears grievous to you, being still a young man, take all my belongings and set my body free, that I may fulfil my desire toward God and become heir of the zeal of my grandmother, whose name I also bear. [3] For if God had wished us to have children, He would not have taken away my children untimely." After they had, struggled under the yoke a long while, at last God had pity on the young man and planted in him a zeal for renunciation, so that the word of Scripture was fulfilled in their case: " How knowest thou, O woman, that thou shalt save thy husband?'' (I Cor. 7:16) So having been married at thirteen and having lived with her husband seven years, in the twentieth year she renounced the world. And first she gave her silk dresses to the altars: this the holy Olympias has also done. [4] Then she cut up her other silks and made them into different church ornaments. And having entrusted her silver and gold to a certain Paul, a priest, a monk of Dalmatia, she sent them across the sea to the East, 10,000 pieces of money to Egypt and the Thebaid, 10,000 pieces to Antioch and its neighborhood, 15,000 to Palestine, 10,000 to the churches in the islands and the places of exile, while she herself distributed to the churches in the West in the same way. [5] All this and four times as much she snatched, if God will allow the expression, " out of the mouth of the lion," (II Tim. 4:17) Alaric by her faith. And she freed 8000 slaves who wished freedom, for the rest did not wish it, but preferred to be slaves to her brother; and she allowed him to take them all for three pieces of money. But having sold her possessions in the Spains, Aquitania, Tarragonia and the Gauls, she reserved for herself only those in Sicily and Campania and Africa and appropriated their income for the support of monasteries. [6] Such was her wise conduct with regard to the burden of riches. And her asceticism was as follows. She ate every other day­to begin with after a five days' interval­and assigned to herself a part in the daily work of her own slavewomen, whom also she made her fellow ascetics.

She had with her also her mother Albina, who lived a similar ascetic life and distributed her riches for her part privately. Now these ladies are dwelling on their properties, now in Sicily and now in Campania, with fifteen eunuchs (apparently to be interpreted literally; but perhaps metaphorically in allusion to Mt. 19) and sixty virgins, both free and slaved.

[7] Similarly also Pinianus her husband lives with thirty monks, reading and busying himself with the garden and solemn conferences. But in no small way did they honor us when we, a numerous party, went to Rome because of the blessed bishop John; they refreshed us both with hospitality and lavish equipment for the journey, thus winning for themselves with great joy the fruit of eternal life by their God­given works springing from a noble mode of life.

 

CHAPTER LXII: PAMMACHIUS

A KINSMAN of theirs, Pammachius by name, an exconsul, renounced the world in like manner and lived the perfect life. As for all his wealth, part of it he distributed while still alive and the rest he left to the poor at his death. Similarly also there was a certain Macarius, an ex­vicar, and Constantius, who became assessor of the prefects in Italy, distinguished and very learned men, who reached the highest degree of the love of God. I believe that they are still in the flesh after practicing the perfect life.

 

CHAPTER LXIII: THE VIRGIN AND ATHANASIUS

[I] I KNEW a virgin in Alexandria whom I met when she was about seventy years old. Now all the clergy bore her witness that when she was young, some twenty years old, and exceptionally lovely, she was to be shunned because of her beauty, lest she should make any one an object of blame through suspicion. So when it happened that the Arians conspired against the blessed Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, by means of Eusebius the prefect, when Constantius was Emperor, and they were calumniously accusing him of unlawful deeds, he avoided being judged by a corrupt tribunal and trusted no one, neither relation nor friend, nor cleric nor any one. [2] But when the prefect's men entered suddenly into the episcopal residence and sought him, he fled at midnight to this virgin, wearing only his tunic and cloak. But she was disconcerted at the affair and frightened. So he said to her: "Since I am sought by the Arians and am unjustly accused, I resolved to flee, lest I should bear a false reputation and involve in sin those who wish to punish me. [3] But God revealed to me to­night: 'With no one canst thou be saved except with this lady."' So with great joy she cast aside all hesitation and gave herself wholly to the Lord; and she hid that most holy Nan for six years, as long as Constantius lived, both washing his feet herself and ministering to his bodily requirements and arranging for all his needs, borrowing books and bringing them to him, and no man in all Alexandria during the six years knew where the blessed Athanasius was living. [4] Now when the death of Constantius was announced and came to his ears, he dressed himself fittingly and was found once more by night in the church; arid all were astonished and looked on him as a dead man come to life. Now his defense to his near friends was as follows: " This is why I did not take refuge with you, that you might the better swear (ignorance of my whereabouts), and also because of the search. But I fled to one whom no one could suspect, because she was beautiful and young, bearing two things in mind, her salvation­for I did help her­ and my reputation."

 

CHAPTER LXIV: JULIANA

[I] AGAIN there was a certain Juliana, a virgin of Cesarea in Cappadocia, said to be very learned and most faithful. When Origen the writer fled from the uprising of the pagans she received him, and supported him for two years at her own cost and waited on him. I found this written in a very old book of verses, in which had been written by Origen's hand: [2] " I found this book at the house of Juliana the virgin at Cesarea, when I was hidden by her. She used to say that she had received it from Symmachus himself, the Jewish interpreter."

I have inserted the virtuous acts of these women as part of my plan, that we may know that it is possible to gain excellence in many ways, if we desire.

 

CHAPTER LXV: HIPPOLYTUS

[I] IN another very old book inscribed with the name of Hippolytus, a disciple of the apostles, I found this story. There lived in the city of Corinth a high­born and most beautiful virgin who was practicing asceticism with a view to (a vow of) virginity. As the time for it approached, they denounced her to the pagan who was the magistrate then, at ­the time of the persecutors, that is, as one who blasphemed both the times and the emperors and spoke ill of the idols. At the same time also those who traffic in such things were praising her beauty. [I] So the magistrate, being erotic, received the denunciation gladly, like a horse pricking up his ears. And when after setting every device into operation he failed to persuade the woman, then, furious with her, he did not hand her over to punishment or torture, but put her in a brothel and commanded the man who kept the women: "Take her, and pay me three pieces of money a day as her hire." But he, to earn the requisite sum, intended to hand her over to all comers. So when those who hunt women in this way like so many hawks knew of it they visited this perdition­shop, and paying the tariff talked to her the language of seduction. [3] But she besought them with entreaties, saying: "I have a sore which is offensive, and I fear that you will hate me; give me a few days and you will get the chance of having me for nothing." So she besought God with petitions in those days. Wherefore also God beholding her chastity inspired a certain young man in the employ of the magister officiorum, fair in character and appearance, with a burning zeal for martyrdom. And having gone off with all outward appearance of lust he came late at night to the keeper of the women and gave him five coins and said to him: "Allow me to spend this night with her." [4] So he went in to the private chamber and said to her: "Get up, save yourself." And he made her take off her clothes and put his own on her, both the vests and cloak and all his masculine apparel, and said to her: "Veil yourself with the ends of the cloak and go out." And so she sealed herself (with the holy sign) and went out and was preserved uncorrupted and undefiled. Next day, therefore, the deed was known. The young official was arrested and thrown to the wild beasts, in order that by him the demon might be put to shame, in that he became a martyr in two senses, both for his own sake and for the sake of that blessed one.

 

CHAPTER LXVI: VERUS THE EX­COUNT

[I] IN Ancyra of Galatia, in the actual city, I met a certain Verus, a man of noble rank, and had considerable experience of him and his lady wife, Bosporia­he was an ex­count.1 They attained such a degree of good confidence that they defrauded even their children, considering the future in a practical manner. For they spent the revenues of their estates on the poor, though they have two daughters and four sons, to whom they give no portion, except to the married daughter, saying: "After we are gone all is yours." But receiving the produce of their estates they spend them on the churches of cities and villages. [a] And this, too, is a mark of virtue in them. A famine having arisen, and militating against natural affection, they brought heresies round to orthodoxy, in many places putting their granaries at the disposal of the poor for their feeding. But they have adopted in other ways an exceedingly grave and sparing manner of life; they wear very cheap clothes and live on the most frugal fare, practicing a godly sobriety, living for the most part on their farms and avoiding cities, lest haply through the pleasures of the city they should become involved in some of the city life and fall from their purpose.

 

CHAPTER LXVII: MAGNA

[I] IN this city of Ancyra many other virgins, some 2,000 or more, are eminent as women both of continence and distinction. Among them Magna takes a prominent place in religion, a most venerable woman; I do not know what to call her, virgin or widow. For having been forcibly linked with a husband by her mother, she wheedled him and put him off, so people say, and thus remained inviolate. [2] When he died a little later she gave herself wholly to God, attending in a serious spirit to her own houses, living a most ascetic and continent life, having her conversation such that the very bishops revered her for the excellence of her religion. While she provided for the needs, primary and secondary, of hospitals, the poor and bishops on tour, she ceased not to work in secret with her own hands and by means of her most faithful servants, and at nights she did not leave the church.

 

CHAPTER LXVIII: THE COMPASSIONATE MONK

[I] LIKEWISE in the city we found a monk who preferred not to be ordained to the priesthood, but had been led to the life after a short period of military service. He is spending his twentieth year in asceticism, in the following fashion. He lives with the bishop of the city, and is so humane and merciful that he goes his rounds even at nights, and has pity on those who are in need. [2] He neglects neither prison nor hospital, poor nor rich, but succors all, giving some advice about compassion, if without compassion; leading others onward; reconciling some and providing others with their bodily needs and clothing. And what generally happens in all great cities is found also in this one; for in the porch of the church a multitude of sick people laid on couches beg their daily food, some­ being married, others unmarried. [3] Well, it happened one day that the wife of a certain man was confined in the porch, at midnight in winter­time. So he heard her crying out in her pain, and abandoning his customary prayers went out and beheld her; finding no one he took the place of a midwife himself, not disdaining the unpleasantness of such occasions, compassion having made him not' sensitive. [4] His clothes in appearance are not worth an obol, and his food runs a good race with his clothes. He cannot endure to lean over a writing­tablet since compassion drives him from his studies. If any of the brethren gives him a book, he immediately sells it, answering thus to those who scoff at him: " How can I persuade my Master that I have learned His art unless I sell Him Himself in order to practice the art perfectly?"

 

CHAPTER LXIX: THE NUN WHO FELL

[I] A CERTAIN virgin ascetic living with two others practiced asceticism for nine or ten years. Seduced by a minstrel she fell and conceived and bore a child. Having come to hate her seducer intensely she was conscience­smitten to the depths of her soul, and reached such a degree of repentance that she completely lost heart and tried to starve herself to death. [2] And in her prayers she besought God, saying: " O great God, Who hearest the evils of every creature, and desires" neither the death nor destruction of those who stumble, if Thou wishest me to be saved, show me in this Thy marvels, and take away the fruit of my sin which I have borne, lest I employ a noose or fling myself over a precipice." Praying in these terms she was heard, for her child died not long after. [3] So from that day she never again met the man who had led her captive, but giving herself to the severest fasting for thirty years she served the sick and maimed. She importuned God so, that it was revealed to one of the holy priests: " Soand­so has pleased me more in her penitence than in her virginity." I write this lest we should despise those who genuinely repent.

 

CHAPTER LXX: A READER UNJUSTLY ACCUSED

[I] A VIRGIN once fell, the daughter of a certain priest in Cesarea of Palestine, and was taught by her seducer to accuse a certain reader in that city. And when she was now with child, being cross­examined by her father she denounced the reader. The priest confidently referred the matter to the bishop, and the bishop called his clergy together and had the reader summoned. The case was investigated. The reader was questioned by the bishop but would not confess. For how could that be told which had not happened?

[2] The bishop was angry and said to him sternly: " Do you not confess, you miserable and wretched man, full of uncleanness?" The reader answered: "I said the truth, that it is no concern of mine. For I am guiltless even of a thought about her. But if you wish to hear what is not true, then I have done it." When he said this, the bishop deposed the reader. Then he approached the bishop and besought him and said to him: "Well then, since I have fallen, bid her to be given me as wife. For neither am I a cleric any more nor is she a virgin." [3] So he gave her over to the reader, expecting that the young man would live with her, and that besides his intercourse with her could not be interrupted. Now the young man having taken her both from the bishop and her father put her in a nunnery and exhorted the deaconess of the sisterhood there to support her until her confinement So within a little while the days of her confinement were completed. The critical hour came­with groans, pangs, labors, visions of hell­and the babe was not delivered. [4] The first day passed, the second, third, seventh. The woman being in hell with the pain did not eat, drink, or sleep, but cried out, saying: "Woe is me, miserable woman that I am, I am in peril because I accused this reader falsely." The nuns go off and tell the father. The father, fearing to be condemned as a false accuser, keeps silence two more days! The young woman neither died nor was delivered. So when the nuns could no longer endure her cries they ran and told the bishop: " So­and­so has confessed in her cries days ago that she accused the reader falsely." Then he sends deacons to him and tells him: "Pray that she who accused you falsely may be delivered." [5] But he gave them no answer nor opened his door, but from the day he entered his house he had been praying to God. The father went away again to the bishop; prayers were said in the church, and not even then did she bring forth. [hen the bishop arose and went to the reader and knocking at the door went in to him and said to him: "Eustathius, arise, loose what you have fastened." And immediately the reader knelt down with the bishop and the woman brought forth.

Now his pleading and the persistency of his prayer were strong enough both to reveal the false accusation and to chastise the false accuser; that we may learn to persevere in prayers and to know their power.


Source.

I can't immediately identify the source of this text, but it seems to be the translation by WKL Clarke (London: SPCK, and NY: Macmillan, both 1918).


This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

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© Paul Halsall, September 1998 halsall@murray.fordham.edu