Abba Ammonas was asked, 'What is the "narrow and hard way?" (mt. 7.14) He
replied, 'The "narrow and hard way" is this, to control your thoughts, and to
strip yourself of your own will, for the sake of God. THis is also the meaning
of the sentence, "Lo, we have left everything and followed you." (Mt. 19.27)
It was said of him that he had a hollow in his chest channelled out by the
tears which fell from his eyes all his life while he sat at his manual
work. When Abba Poemen learned that he was dead, he said weeping, 'Truly you
are blessed, Abba Arsenius, for you wept for yourself in this world! He who
does not weep for himself here below will weep eternally hereafter; so it is
impossible not to weep, either voluntarily or when compelled through
suffering.' [i.e. the latter suffering in hell]
It was also said of him (Abba Arsenius) that on Saturday evenings, pre- paring
for the glory of Sunday, he would turn his back on the sun and stretch out his
hands in prayer towards the heavens, till once again the sun shone on his
face. Then he would sit down.
+ + +
It was said of Abba Ammoes that when he went to church, he did not allow his
disciple to walk beside him but onlly at a certain distance; and if the latter
came to ask him about his thoughts, he would move away from himm as soon as he
had replied, saying to him, 'It is for fear that, after edifying words,
irrelevant conversation should slip in, that I do not keep you with me.'
It was said of Abba Ammoes that he had fifty measures of wheat for his use and
had put them out in the sun, Before they were properly dried off, he saw
something in that place which seemed to him to be harmful so he said to his
servants, 'Let us go away from here.' But they were grieved at this. Seeing
their dismay he said to them, 'Is it because of the loaves that you are sad?
Truly, I have seen monks fleeing, leaving their white-washed cells and also
their parchments, and they did not close the doors, but went leaving them
Abba Abraham told of a man of Scetis who was a scribe and did not eat bread.
A brother came to beg him to copy a book. The old man whose spirit was engaged
in contemplation, wrote, omitting some phrases and with no punctuation. The
brother, taking the book and wishing to punctuate it, noticed that words were
missing. So he said to the old man, 'Abba, there are some phrases missing.'
The old man said to him, 'Go, and practise first that which is written, then
come back and I will write the rest.' [Scetis=Sheheet]
+ + +
There was in the Cells an old man called Apollo. If someone came to find him
about doing a piece of work, he would set out joyfully, saying, 'I am going to
work with Christ today, for the salvation of my soul, for that is the reward
Abba Doulas, the disciple of Abba Bessarion said, 'One day when we were
walking beside the sea I was thirstty and I said to Abba Bessarion, "Father, I
am very thirsty." He said a prayer and said to me, "Drink some of the sea
water." The water proved sweet when I drank some. I even poured some into a
leather bottle for fear of being thirsty later on. Seeing this, the old man
asked me why I was taking some. I said to him, "Forgive me, it is for fear of
being thirsty later on." Then the old man said, "God is here, God is
A brother questioned Abba Poemen in this way, 'My thoughts trouble me, making
me put my sins aside, and concern myself with my brother's faults'. The old
man told him the following story about Abba Dioscorus (the monk), 'In his cell
he wept over himself, while his disciple was sitting in another cell. When the
latter came to see the old man he asked him, "Father, why are you weeping?" "I
am weeping over my sins," the old man answered him. Then his disciple said,
"You do not have any sins, Father." The old man replied, "Truly, my child, if
I were allowed to see my sins, three or four men would not be enough to weep
for them. "
+ + +
This is what Abba Daniel, the Pharanite, said, 'Our Father abba Arsenius told
us of an inhabitant of Scetis, of notable life and of simple faith; through
his naivete he was deceived and said, "The bread which we receive is not
really the body of Christ, but a symbol. Two old men having learnt that he had
uttered this saying, knowing that he was outstanding in his way of life, knew
that he had not spoken through malice, but through simplicity. So they came to
find him and said, "Father, we have heard a proposition contrary to the faith
on the part of someone who says that the bread which we receivve is not really
the body of Christ, but a symbol." The old man said, "it is I who have said
that." Then the old men exhorted him saying, "Do not hold this position,
Father, but hold one in conformity with that which the catholic Church has
given us. We believe, for our part, that the bread itself is the body of
Christ as in the beginning, God formed man in his image, taking the dust of
the earth, without anyone being able to say that it is not the image of God,
even though it is not seen to be so; thus it is with teh bread of which he
said that it is his body; and so we believe that it is really the body of
Christ." The old man said to them, "As long as I have not been persuaded by
the thing itself, I shall not be fully convinced." So they said, "Let us pray
God about this mystery throughout the whole of this week and we believe that
God will reveal it to us." The old man received this saying with joy and he
prayed in these words, "Lord, you know that it is not through malice that I do
not believe and so that I may not err through ignorance, reveal this mystery
to me, Lord Jesus Christ." The old men returned to their cells and they also
prayed God, saying, "Lord Jesus Christ, reveal this mystery to the old man,
that he may believe and not lose his reward." God heard both the prayers. At
the end of the week they came to church on Sunday and sat all three on the
same mat, the old man in the middle. Then their eyes were opened and when the
bread was placed on the holy table, there appeared as it were a little child
to these three alone. And when the priest put out his hand to break the
breadd, behold an angel descended from heaven with a sword and poured the
child's blood into the chalice. When the priest cut the bread into small
pieces, the angel also cut the child in pieces. When they drew near to
receive the sacred elements the old man alone received a morsel of bloody
flesh. Seeing this he was afraid and cried out, "Lord, I believe that this
bread is your flesh and this chalice your blood." Immediately the flesh which
he held in his hand became bread, according to the mystery and he took it,
giving thanks to God. Then the old men said to him, "God knows human nature
and that man cannot eat raw flesh and that is why he has changed his body into
bread and his blood into wine, for those who receive it in faith."Then they
gave thanks to God for the old man, because he had allowed him not to lose the
reward of his labour. So all three returned with joy to their own cells.'
+ + +
It was said of Abba Helladius that he spent twenty years in the Cells, without
ever raising his eyes to see the roof of the church.
(Abba Epiphanius) added, 'A man who receives something from another because of
his poverty or his need has therein his reward, and because he is ashamed,
when he repays it he does so in secret. But it is the opposite for the Lord
God; he receives in secret, but he repays in the presence of the angels, the
archangels and the righteous.'
It was said concerning Abba Agathon that some monks came to find him having
heard tell of his great discernment. Wanting to see if he would lose his
temper they said to him 'Aren't you that Agathon who is said to be a
fornicator and a proud man?' 'Yes, it is very true,' he answered. They
resumed, 'Arn't you that Agothon who is always talking nonsense?' 'I am."
Again they said 'Aren't you Agothon the heretic?' But at that he replied 'I am
not a heretic.' So they asked him, 'Tell us why you accepted everything we
cast you, but repudiated this last insult.' He replied 'The first accusations
I take to myself for that is good for my soul. But heresy is separation from
God. Now I have no with to be separated from God.' At this saying they were
astonished at his discernment and returned, edified.
(Abba Evagrius) said; 'Take away temptations and no one will be saved.'
+ + +
An Egyptian brother came to see Abba Zeno in Syria, and accused himself to the
old man about his temptations. Filled with admiration, Zeno said, ' The
Egyptians hide the virtues they possess and ceaselessly accuse themselves of
faults they do not have, while the Syrians and Greeks pretend to have virtues
they do not have, and hide the faults of which they are guilty.'
In a village there was said to be a man who fasted to such a degree that he
was called 'the Faster'. Abba Zeno had heard of him, and he sent for him. The
other came gladly. They prayed and sat down. The old man began to work in
silence. Since he could not succeed in talking to him the Faster began to get
bored. So he said to the old man 'Pray for me, Abba, for I want to go.' The
old man said to him. 'Why?' The other replied, 'Because my heart is as if it
were on fire and I do not know what is the matter with it. For truly, this
when I was in the village and I fasted until the evening, nothing like this
happened to me.' The old man said, 'In the village you fed yourself through
your ears. But goo away and from now on eat at the ninth hour and watever you
do, do it secretly.' As soon as he had begun to act on this advice, the Faster
found it difficult to wait until the ninth hour. And those who knew him said,
'The Faster is possessed by the devil.' So he went to tell this to the old man
who said to him, 'This way is according to God.'
One day Abba Moses said to brother Zacharias, 'Tell me what I ought to do?'
At these words the latter threw himself on the ground at the old man's feet
and said, 'Are you asking me, Father?' The old man said to him 'Believe me,
Zacharias, my son, I have seen the Holy Spirit descending upon you and since
then I am constrained to ask you.' Then Zacharias drew his hood off his head
put it under his feet and trampled on it, saying, 'The man who does not let
himself be treated thus, cannot become a monk.'
Abba Zeno said, 'If a man wants God to hear his prayer quickly, then before he
prays for anything else, even his own soul, when he stands and stretches out
his hands towards God, he must pray with all his heart for his enemies.
Through this action God will hear everything that he asks.'
+ + +
Abba Gerontius of Petra said that many, tempted by the pleasures of the body,
commit fornication, not in their body but in their spirit, and while
preserving their bodily virginity, commit prostitution in their soul. 'thus it
is good, my well-beloved, to do that which is written and for each one to
guard his own heart with all possible casre.' (prov. 4.23)
One day Abba Arsenius consulted an old Egyptian monk about his own thoughts
Someone noticed this and said to him, 'Abba Arsenius, how is it that you with
such a good Latin and Greek education, ask this peasant about your thoughts?'
He replied, 'I have indeed been taught Latin and Greed, but I do not know even
the alphabet of this peasant.'
Abba Elias, the minister, said, 'What can sin do where there is penitence?
And of what use is love where there is pride?'
+ + +
(Abba Isaiah) said to those who were making a good beginning by putting
themselves under the direction of the holy Fathers, 'As with purple dye, the
first colouring is never lost.' And, 'Just as young shoots are easily trained
back and bent, so it is with beginners who live in submission.'
(Abba Isaiah) also said that when there was an agape and the brethren were
eating in the church and talking to one another, the priest of Pelusia re-
primanded them in these words, 'Brethren, be quiet. For I have seen a brother
eating with you and drinking as many cups as you and his prayer is ascending
to the presence of God like fire.'
(Abba Isaiah) also said 'When God wishes to take pity on a soul and it rebels,
not bearing anything and doing its own will, he then allows it to suffer that
which it does not want, in order that it may seek him again.'
+ + +
The old men said to Abba Agothon to Abba Elias, in Egypt, 'He is a good abba.'
The old man answered them, 'In comparison with his own generation, he is
good.' They said to him, 'And what is he in comparison with the ancients?' He
gave them this answer, 'I have said to you that in comparison with his
generation he is good but as to that of the ancients, in Scetis I have seen a
man who, like Joshua the son of Nun could make the sun stand still in the
heavens.' At these words they were astounded and gave glory to God.
(Abba Theodore) said 'If you are friendly with someone who happens to fall
into the temptation of fornication, offer him your hand, if you can, and
deliver him from it. But if he falls into heresy and you cannot persuade him
dto turn from it, separate yourself quickly from him, in case, if you delay,
you too may be dragged down with him into the pit.
A brother came to Abba Theodore and began to converse with him about things
which he had never yet put into practice. So the old man said to him, 'You
have not yet found a ship nor put your cargo aboard it and before you have
sailed, you have already arrived at the city. Do the work first; then you will
have the speed you are making now.'
+ + +
Abba Theodore of Pherme said, 'The man who remains standing when he repents,
has not kept the commandment.'
A brother said to Abba Theodore, 'I wish to fulfil the commandments.' The old
man told him that Abba Theonas had said to him, 'I want to fill my spirit with
God.' Taking some flour to the bakery, he had made loaves which he gave to the
poor who asked him for them; others asked for more, and he gave them the
baskets, then the cloak he was wearing, and he came back to his cell with his
loins girded with his cape. Afterwards he took himself to task telling himself
that he had still not fulfilled the commandment of God.'
The same Abba Theophilus, the archbishop, came to Scetis one day. The brethren
who were assembled said to Abba Pambo, 'Say something to the Archbishop, so
that he may be edified.' The old man said to them, 'If he is not edified by my
silence, he will not be edified by my speech.'
+ + +
It was said about (abba Theodore) that, though he was made a deacon at Scetis
he refused to exercise the office and fled to many places from it. Each time
the old men brought him back to Scetis, saying, 'Do not leave your deaconate.'
Abba Theodore said to them, 'Let me pray God that he may tell me for certain
whether I ought to take my part in the liturgy.' THen he prayed God in this
manner, 'If it is your will then I should stand in this place, make me certian
of it.' Then appeared to him a column of fire, reaching from earth to heaven,
and a voice said to him, 'IF you can become like this pillar, go be a deacon.'
On hearing this he decided never to accept the office. When he went to church
the brethren bowed before him saying, 'If you do not wish to be a deacon, at
least hold the chalice.' But he refused, saying, 'If you do not leave me
alone, I shall leave this place.' So they left him in peace.
Abba Theodore of Scetis said, 'A thought comes to me which troubles me and
does not leave me free; but not being able to lead me to act, it simply stops
me progressing in virtue; but a vigilant man would cut it off and get up to
Abba Theodor said, 'Privation of food mortifies the body of the monk.'
Anotherold man said, 'Vigils mortify it still more.'
+ + +
Amma Theodora said, 'Let us strive to enter by the narrow gate, Just as the
trees, if they have not stood before the winter's storms cannot bear fruit, so
it is with us; this present age is a storm and it is only through many trials
and temptations that we can obtain an inheritance in the kingdom of heaven.'
The same amma said that a teacher ought to be a stranger to the desire for
domination, vain-glory, and pride; one should not be able to fool him by
flattery, nor blind him by gifts, nor conquer him by the stomach, nor
dominate him by anger; but he should be patient, gentle and humble as
far as possible; he must be tested and without partisanship, full of concern,
and a lover of souls.
She also said taht neither asceticism, nor vigils nor any kind of suffering
are able to save, only true humility can do that. There was an anchorite who
was able to banish the demons; and he asked them, 'What makes you go away?'
'Is it fasting?' They replied, 'We do not eat or drink.' 'Is it vigils?' They
replied, 'We do not sleep.' 'Is it separation from the world?' 'We live in the
deserts.' 'What power sends you away then?' They said, 'Nothing can overcome
us, but only humility.' 'Do you see how humility is victorious over the
+ + +
It was said of Abba John the Dwarf that he withdrew and livead in the desert
at Scetis with an old man of Thebes. His abba, taking a piece of dry wood,
planted it and said to him, 'Water it every day with a bottle of water, until
it bears fruit.' Now the water was so far away that he had to leave in the
evening and return the following morning. At the end of three years the wood
came to life and bore fruit. Then the old man took some of the fruit and
carried it to the church saying to the brethren, 'Take and eat the fruit of
It was said of Abba John the Dwarf, that one day he said to his elder
brother,'I should like to be free of all care, like the angels, who do not
work, but ceaselessly offer worship to God.' So he took off hsi cloak and went
away into the desert. After a week he came back to his brother. When he
knocked on the door, he heard his brother say, before he opened it 'Who are
you?' He said, 'I am John, your brother.' But he replied, 'John has become an
angel, and henceforth he is no longer among men.' Then the other begged him
saying. 'It is I.' However, his brother did not let him in, but left him there
in distress until morning. Then, opening the door, he said to him, 'You are a
man and you must once agian work in order to eat.' Then John made a
prostration before him, saying, 'Forgive me.'
One day when he was sitting in front of the church, the brethren were
consulting him about their thoughts. One of the old men who saw it became a
prey to jealousy and said to him, 'John, your vessel is full of poison.' Abba
John said to him, 'That is very true, abba; and you have said that when you
only see the outside, but if you were able to see the inside, too, what would
you say then?'
+ + +
Some brethren came one day to test him to see whether he would let his
thoughts get dissipated and speak of the things of this world. They said to
him 'We give thanks to God that this year there has been much rain and the
palm trees have been able to drink, and their shoots have grown, and the
brethren have found manual work.' Abba John said to them, 'So it is when the
Holy Spirit descends into the hearts of men; they are renewed and they put
forth leaves in the fear of God.'
It was said of him (Abba John the Dwarf) that one day he was weaving rope for
two baskets, but he made it into one without noticing, until it had reached
the wall, because his spirit was occupied in contemplation.
Abba John said, 'I am lke a man sitting under a great tree, who sees wild
beasts and snakes coming against him in great numbers. When he cannot
withstand them any longer, he runs to climb the tree and is saved. It is just
the same with me; I sit in my cell and I am aware of evil thoughts coming
against me, and when I have no more strength against them, I take refuge in
God by prayer and I am saved from the enemy.'
+ + +
Abba Poemen said of Abba John the Dwarf that he had prayed God to take his
passions away from him so that he might become free from care. He went and
told an old man this; 'I find myself in peace, without an enemy,' he said. The
old man said to him, 'Go beseech God to stir up warfare so that you may regain
the affliction and humility that you used to have, for it is by warefare that
the soul makes progress.' So he besought God and when warfare came, he no
longer prayed that it might be taken away, but said, 'Lord, give me strength
for the fight.'
Abba John said, 'We have put the light burden on one side, that is to say,
self-accusation, and we have loaded ourselves with a heavy one, that is to
He also said, 'Humility and the fear of God are above all virtues.'
+ + +
Abba John gave this advice, 'Watching means to sit in the cell and be always
mindful of God. This is what is meant by, "I was on the watch and God came to
me." (Matt. 25:36)
One of the Fathers said of him, 'Who is this John, who by his humility has all
Scetis hanging from his little finger?'
Abba John the Dwarf said, 'There was a spiritual old man who lived a secluded
life. He was held in high estimation in the city and enjoyed a great
reputation. He was told that a certain old man, at the point of death, was
calling for him, to embrace him before he fell asleep. He thought to himself,
if I go by day, men will run after me, giving me great honour, and I shall not
be at peace in all that. So I will go in the evening in the darkness and I
shall escape everyone's notice. But lo, two angels were sent by God with lamps
to give him light. Then the whole city came out to see his glory. The more he
wished to Flee from glory, the more he was glorified. In this was accomplished
that which is written: "He who humbles himself will be exalted." ' (Luke
+ + +
Abba John the Dwarf said, 'a house is not built by geginning at the top and
working down. You must begin with the fundations in order to reach the top.
They siad to him, 'What does this saying mean?' He said, 'The foundation is
our neighbour, whom we must win, and that is the place to begin. For all the
commandments of Christ depend on this one.'
Abba Poemen said that Abba John said that the saints are like a group of
trees, each bearing different fruit, but watered from the same source. The
practices of one saint differ from those of another, but it is the same Spirit
that works in all of them.
Abba John said to his brother, 'Even if we are entirely despised in the eyes
of men, let us rejoice that we are honoured in the sight of God.'
+ + +
The old man (abba John the Dwarf) said, 'You know that the first blow the
devil gave to Job was through his possessions; and he saw that he had not
grieved him nor separated him from God. Whith the second blow, he touched his
flesh, but the brave athlete did not sin by any word that came out of his
mouth in that either. In fact, he had within his heart that which is of God,
and he drew on that source unceasingly.'
An old man came to abba John's cell and found him asleep with an angel
standing above him, fanning him. Seeing this, he withdre. When jAbba John got
up, he siad to his disciple, 'Did anyone come in while I was asleep?' he
said, 'Yes, an old man.' Then Abba John knew that this old man was his equal,
and that he had seen the angel.
+ + +
(Abba Isidore) said, 'When I was younger and remained in my cell I set no
limit to prayer; the night was for me as much the time of prayer as the day.'
Abba Isidore went one day to see Abba Theophilus, archbishop of Alexandria and
when he returned to Scetis the trethren asked him, 'What is going on in the
city?' But he said to them, 'Truly, brothers, I did not see the face of anyone
there, except that of the archbishop.' Hearing this they were very anxious and
said to him, 'Has there been a disaster there, then, abba?' He said 'Not at
all, but the thought of looking at anyone did not get the better of me' At
these words they were filled with admiration, and strengthened in their
intention of guarding kthe eyes from all distraction.
(Abba Isidore of Pelusia) said, 'Prize virtues and do not be the slave of
glory; for the former are immortal, while the latter soon fades.'
He also said, 'The heights of humility are great and so are the depths of
boasting; I advise you to attend to the first and not to fall into the
+ + +
Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, 'Abba as far as I can I say
my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as
far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?' then the old man
stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten
lamps of fire and he said to him, 'If you will, you can become all flame.'
(Abba James) said, 'Just as a lamp lights up a dark room, so the fear of God
when it penetrates the heart of a man illuminates him, teaching him all the
virtues and commandments of God.'
He also said, 'We do not need words only, for, at the present time, there are
many words among men, but we need works, for this is what is required, not
words which do not bear fruit.'
+ + +
Abba John of the Cells told us this story: 'There was in Egypt a very rich and
beautiful courtesan, to whom noble and powerful people came. Now one day she
happened to be near the church and she wanted to go in. The sub- deacon, who
was standing at the doors, would not allow her to enter saying, "You are not
worthy to enter the house of God,j jfor you are impure." The Bishop heard the
noise of their argument and came out. Then the courtesan said to him, "He will
not let me enter the church." So the Bishop said to her, "You are not allowed
to enter it, for you are not pure." She was filled with compunction and said
to him, "Henceforth I will not commit fornication any more." The jbishop said
to her, "If you bring your wealth here, I shall know that you will not commit
fornication any more." She brought her wealth and the bishop burnt it all in
the fire. Then she went into the church, weeping and saying, "If this has
happened to me below, what would I not have suffered above?" So she was
converted and became a vessel of election.'
(Abba Isidore the priest) said, 'If you fast regularly, do not be inflated
with pride, but if you think hightly of yourself because of it, then you had
better eat meat. It is better for a man to eat meat than to be inflated with
pride and to glorify himself.'
It was said of Abba John the Persian thast when some evildoers came to him, he
took a basin and wanted to wash their feet. But they were filled with
confusion, and began to do penance.
+ + +
From Palistine, Abba Hilarion went to the mountain to abba Anthony. Abba
Anthony said to him, 'You are welcome, torch which awakens the day.' Abba
Hilarion said, 'Peace to you, pillar of light, giving light to the world.'
The holy Fathers were making predictions about the last generation. They said
'What have we ourselves done?' One of them, the great abba Ischyrion replied,
'We ourselves have fulfilled the commandments of God.' The others replied,
'And those who come after us, what will they do?' He said, 'They will struggle
to achieve half our works.' They said, 'And to those who come after them, what
will happen?' He said, 'THE MEN OF THAT GENERATION WILL NOT ACCOMPLISH ANY
WORKS AT ALL AND TEMPTATION WILL COME UPON THEM; AND THOSE WHO WILL BE
APPROVED IN THAT DAY WILL BE GREATER THAN EITHER US OR OUR FATHERS.'
Abba Copres said, 'blessed is he who bears affliction with thankfulness.'
+ + +
One day, the inhabitants of Scetis assembled together to discuss Melchizedek
and they forgot to invite Abba Copres. Later on they called him and asked him
about this matter. Tapping his mouth three times, he said 'Alas for you,
Copres! For that which God commanded you do, you have put aside, and you are
wanting to learn something which you have not been required to know about.'
When they heard these words, the brothers fled to their cells.
Abba Cyrus of Alexandria was asked about the temptation of fornication, and he
replied, 'If you do not think about it, you have no hope, for if you are not
thinking about it, you are doing it. I mean, he who does not fight against the
sin and sresist it in his spirit will commit the sin physically. It is very
true that he who is fornicating in fact is not worried about thinking about
+ + +
Some of the monks who are called Euchites went to Enaton to see Abba Lucius.
the Old man asked them, 'What is your manual work?' They said , 'We do not
touch manualj work but as the Apostle says, we pray without ceasing.' The old
man asked them if they did not eat and they replied they did. So he said to
them "'When you are eating, who prays for you then?' Again he asked them if
theydid not sleep and they replied they did. and he said to them, 'When you
are a asleep, who prays for you the?' They could not find any answer to give
him. He said to them, 'Forgive me, but you do not act as you speak. I will
show you how, while doing my manual work, I pray without interruption. I sit
down with God, soaking my reeds and plaiting my ropes, and I say "God, have
mercy on me, according to your great goodness and according to the multitude
of your mercies, save me from my sins." ' So he asked them if this were not
prayer and they replied it was. Then he said to them, 'So when I shave spend
the whole day working and praying, making thirteen pieces of money more or
less, I put two pieces of money outside the door and I pay for my food with
the rest of the mony. He who takes the two pieces of maney prays for me when I
am eating and when I am sleeping; so , by the grace of God, I fulfil the
precept to pray without ceasing.'
+ + +
They said of Abba Macarius the Great that he became, as it is written, a god
upon earth, because, just as God protects the world, so Abba Macarius would
cover the faults which he saw, as though he did not see them; and those which
he heard, as though he did not hear them.
+ + +
The angel when giving the rules of monasticism to St. Pachomius said to him:
"... He laid down that in the course of the day they should make twelve
prayers, and at the lamp-lighting time twelve, and in the nightly vigils
twelve, and at the ninth hour three. When the multitude goes to eat, he laid
down that a psalm should be sung before each prayer. As Pachomius objected to
the angel that the prayer were too few ..."
+ + +
The same Abba Macarius while he was in Egypt discovered a man who owned a
beast of burden engaged in plundering Macarius' goods. So he came up to the
thief as if he was a stranger and he helped him to load the animal. He saw him
off in great peace of soul saying, 'We have brought nothing into this world,
and we cannot take anything out of the world.' (1Tim.6.7) 'The Lord gave and
the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.' (Job 1.21)
Abba Macarius was asked, 'How should one pray?' The old man said 'There is no
need at all to make long discourses; it is enough to stretch out one's hands
and say, "Lord, as you will, and as you know, have mercy." And if the conflict
grows fiercer say, "Lord, help!" He knows very well what we need and he shews
us his mercy.'
A brother went to Abba Matoes and said to him, 'How is it that the monks of
Scetis did more thatn the Scriptures required in loving their enemies more
than themselves?' Abba Matoes said to him, 'As for me I have not yet managed
to love those who love me as I love myself.'
+ + +
It was said of Abba Silvanus that at Scetis he had a dijsciple called Mark
whose obedience was great. He was a scribe. The old man loved him because of
his obedience. He had eleven other disciples who were hurt because he loved
him more than them. When they knew this, the elders were sorry about it and
they came one day to him to reproach him about it. Taking them with him, he
went to knock at each cell, saying, 'Brother so and so, come here; I need
you,' but none of them came immediately. Coming to Mark's cell, he knocked and
said, 'Mark.' Hearing the old man's voice, he jumped up immediately and the
old man sent him off to serve and said to the elders, 'Fathers, where are the
other brothers?' Then he went into Mark's cell and picked up his book and
noticed that he had begun to write the letter 'omega' ["w"] but when he had
heard the old man, he had not finished writing it. Then the elders said,
'Truly, abba, he whom you love, we love too and God loves him.'
+ + +
Abba Poemen said of Abba Nisterus that he was like the serpent of brass which
Moses made for the healing of the people: he possessed all virtue and without
speaking, he healed everyone.
Abba Xanthias said, 'The thief was on the cross and he was justified by a
single word; and Judas who was counted in the number jof the apostles lost all
his labour in one single night and descended from heaven to hell. Therefore,
let no-one boast of his good works, for all those who trust in themselves
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