Book X (continued)
The life and death of GREGORIUS, of Byzantium and of GREGORIUS of Pharan, his disciple.
The fathers of this place told us about Gregorius of Byzantium and his disciple Gregorius of Pharan, who lived on an island in the Red Sea. The island had no water supply, but they carried water for their use from the mainland. They had a raft which they went out in to get water. One day they left the raft in the sea moored to a large stone, and at night time a huge wave broke the rope and the raft was lost. These fathers were left without any means of getting water. Eight months later some monks from Raythum came and found them both dead. And on the wall of their inner chamber were found written the following words: ABBA GREGORIUS OF PHARAN DIED HAVING GONE TWENTY-EIGHT DAYS WITHOUT WATER I HAVE GONE THIRTY-SEVEN DAYS WITHOUT DRINKING. We found that both their bodies were incorrupt, and took them to be buried in Raythum.
Two monks who came naked into church for Communion, unnoticed by anyone except abba STEPHEN.
When we visited abba Stephen the Cappadocian in Mount Sinai he told us the following story:
Some years ago when I was in Raythum I was in Church on Maundy Thursday, and after the offering of the sacred oblation with all the fathers present, I saw two anchorites come in. They were naked, but none of the fathers noticed their nakedness except me. When they had received the body and blood of the Lord they went out of the church and were about to go away. I went out as well, however, and prostrated myself before them.
"Do me a kindness," I said, "and take me with you," so they knew that I had seen them naked.
"No, stay where you are and be at peace," they said.
I begged them once more to take me with them.
"You can't come with us, " they said, "stay where you are. The place where you are is a good place."
But they did say a prayer with me, and then as I watched they walked on the water of the Red Sea and crossed over to the other side.
The life of abba ZOZIMUS, of Cilicia.
We travelled to where abba Zozimus was staying on Mount Sinai. He it was who had renounced the episcopate and retired to his cell. He was a man of great abstinence, and he old us this story:
When I was a young man I left Sinai and went to Ammoniaca with the intention of staying there, and I found an old man dressed in a monastic tunic (colobium de sibino). As soon as he saw me and before I could greet him he said, "Why have you come here Zozimus? You can't stay here. Go away."
"Please tell me, father," I said, realising that he knew me, and prostrating myself, "How is it that you know who I am?"
"Two days ago a man appeared to me and said, 'Look, a monk called Zozimus is about to visit you. Don't let him stay with you. It is my will to entrust the church of Babylon in Egypt to him."
The old man fell silent and left me, walking off about a stone's throw. He spent the next two hours in prayer then came back to me and kissed me on the cheek
"Beloved son," he said, "you are very welcome, for God has led you here in order to commit my body to the earth."
"How many years have you been here, abba?" I asked.
"I have completed forty-five years." And his countenance appeared to me as if lit up by fire. "Peace be with you, my son, and pray for me."
And saying this he gathered himself together and fell asleep. I dug a grave and buried him, and two days later I departed, glorifying God.
Another story of this man.
This old man also told us the following :
About twenty years ago I took my disciple Johannes with me to Porphyrites, intending to settle there. Having arrived we found two anchorites there and stayed near them. One of them called Paul was from Galatia, the other called Theodorus was from Malta and had been at the monastery of abbot Euthymius. They both wore clothing made from oxhide (ex pellibus bubalorum). I stayed there for nearly two years; we were all about four hundred metres (duobus stadiis) apart from each other. One day my disciple John sat down on a serpent which stung him so that he died, with blood pouring out of him profusely. In great anguish I went to the anchorites, who saw me coming, in great agitation and affliction. They called out to me before I had said anything to them at all;
"What's the matter, abba Zozimus?" they said, "Is your brother dead?"
"He is indeed dead", I said.
They came with me and saw where he was lying on the ground.
"Don't be so sad, abba Zozimus," they said. "Divine help is at hand."
They called out to the brother. "Brother Johannes, arise, your old man has need of you."
And immediately the brother got up from the earth. They carried out a search for the beast, and when they had found it they broke it in two.
"Abba Zozimus," they then said to me, "Go back to Sinai, for the Lord wishes to entrust the church of Babylon to your care."
We went back immediately. A few days after we had got back the abbot sent me and two others to serve (under the patriarch of) Alexandria. The most blessed Apollinaris of Alexandria made all three of us bishops, one to Heliopolis, one to Leontopoleos, and me to Babylon.
The lovely deed of abba SERGIUS the anchorite.
One of the fathers at Sinai told us about abba Sergius the anchorite.
When he was at Sinai he was put in charge of the burdones (?beasts of burden). On a journey one day they suddenly saw a lion on the pathway. Drivers and beasts (burdonarii burdonesque) took fright and fled. But abba Sergius took a eulogia (?sacred text) from his wallet and offered it to the lion
"Accept this eulogia of the fathers," he said, "and go back so that we can proceed."
The lion took the eulogia and departed.
The splendid response of abba ORENTUS of Mount Sinai.
The holy fathers of that place told us about abba Orentus, who came in to church one Sunday wearing a coarse woollen cloak inside out, so that outwardly it presented a most ugly sight. As he stood in choir some of the officials (dispensatores) approached him.
"Why have you come into church with your cloak inside out," they said to him, "shaming us in front of the strangers who are with us?"
"You have turned Sinai inside out," he replied, "without anyone saying anything to you, and yet you are asking me why I have turned my cloak inside out. Get away with you, put right what you have turned inside out and I will put right what I have turned inside out."
The life of abba GEORGIUS of holy Mount Sinai and of an OLD WOMAN from Phrygian Galatia.
Amma (abbatissa) Damiana, a solitary, the mother of Athenogenus, the bishop of Petra, told us about a certain abbot in the holy Mount Sinai called Georgius, a man of great virtue and abstinence. One Holy Saturday this Georgius as he sat in his cell conceived a great desire to celebrate Easter Day in the holy city, and to receive the holy mysteries in the church of the holy Resurrection of Christ our God. He spent the whole day turning this thought over in his prayers. When the evening was well advanced his disciple came to him.
"Father," he said, "give the word for us to go to the synaxis."
"You go," said the old man, "and when it is time for holy Communion come and tell me and then I'll come."
But when it came time for holy Communion in the church of the holy Resurrection, he found himself there near the blessed archbishop Peter, who gave him holy Communion along with the other presbyters. The Archbishop noticed him and turned to Menas, his syncellus or assistant
"When did the abbot of Mount Sinai arrive?" he asked.
"I didn't notice him throughout all the time of your prayers. I have only just seen him now."
"Go and tell him not to go away. I would like him to come and take food with me."
And he took this message to the old man.
"God's will be done," said Georgius.
When the service came to an end he worshipped at the holy shrine and found himself back in his cell. And his disciple was knocking on the door saying, "Come and receive Communion, father." So the old man went into the church with his disciple and once more received the holy mysteries
Meanwhile Peter the archbishop was saddened that he had not been obeyed, and when the solemnities were over he sent a message to abba Photinus, the bishop of Pharan and to the fathers of Sinai that Georgius should be sent to him. When the messenger had arrived and delivered the letter the old man sent to the patriarch three presbyters, that great man, abba Stephen of Cappadocia, whom we have mentioned above, abbot Zozimus whom we have also mentioned, and Dulcitius of Rome. They carried a letter from the old man:
"Far be it from me, my most holy lord, to hold your Angel (i.e. 'messenger') in contempt, but your beatitude should know that in six months time both you and I will pass over to Christ our Lord and God, and then I shall give you all due veneration."
The presbyters also told him that it was very many years since he was last in Palestine. They also brought a letter from the bishop of Pharan who likewise confirmed that for nearly seventy years he had not been away from Sinai. The holy and most gentle Peter then summoned all the bishops and clerics who had been there as witnesses, who said:
"We all saw him and greeted him with a holy kiss."
After six months were up the old man and the patriarch both rested in peace, just as the old man had prophesied.
Here is another story amma Damiana told us:
One Good Friday, before I was enclosed (as an anchoress), I went to (the church of) Saints Cosmas and Damian and spent the whole night there. Late during the night an old woman from Phrygian Galatia came in and gave everyone in the church two small coins (minuta). This was at the time when a niece of mine, and of the most faithful Emperor Mauritius, had come to pray in the holy city and had stayed there for the whole year, and I had taken her with me to Saints Cosmas and Damian, so that we were in church together.
"Look," I said, "here comes this old woman who gives everyone two small coins." (For she had often given them to me.) "Don't be proud. Take them."
"Must I accept hand-outs?" she said indignantly.
"Just take them. She is a holy woman of great virtue. She fasts all week, and whatever profit is left over from her work she distributes to those in church. She is an eighty-year-old widow. So take the two coins and give them to someone else, so long as you don't spurn this old woman's sacrificial offering."
As we were talking together the old woman came by, giving out the coins. She gave them to me without saying anything, but as she gave them to my niece she said, "Take these and buy food."
After she had gone we realised that God had revealed to her that I had told my niece to accept the coins and give them to the poor. So she sent one of her servants out to buy some lupini (?small buns) with the two coins and ate them. And she took God to witness that they tasted as sweet as homey, so that she was amazed and glorified God who gives such graces to his servants.
The life of ADELPHIUS bishop of Arabessus, and blessed JOHN CHRYSOSTOM
We went to visit abba Athanasius in the monastery of our holy father Saba. He told us that he had heard the following story being told by Athenogenus, the bishop of Petra, the son of amma Damiana:
My aunt (avia mea) Joanna had a brother called Adelphius, bishop of Arabessus. She herself was abbess of a monastery of women. This bishop went out one day to visit his sister in her monastery. As he went in to the courtyard (atrium) of the monastery he saw a sister possessed of a demon lying on the pavement. The bishop called out to his sister:
"Doesn't it worry you that this sister is being troubled and besmirched like this? You surely must know that as abbess you have authority over all your sisters?"
"What can I do against a demon?" she replied
"What do you think you have been doing all these years?" replied the bishop, who then made a prayer and cleansed that sister of the demon.
Athanasius also passed on to us this story just as bishop Adelphius' venerable sister Joanna had told it.
When the most holy bishop of Constantinople, John Chrysostom, was exiled to Cucusum he came to stay in our house, which was the means of giving us a great trust in God and love for him.
"When the most blessed John died in exile," my brother Adelphius said, "I was incredibly sad that such a great man, famous throughout the world, a shining light of the Church of God, should die in exile from his throne. So I begged God with many tears to reveal to me his present state, whether he had been numbered among the patriarchs. I prayed for a long time and was carried up into an ecstasy, and I saw a magnificent man holding out his hand to me and leading me into a most glorious and illustrious place where he showed me all the doctors of the church. I looked around everywhere, to see if I could find him whom I sought, my greatly beloved John. But after showing me all of them and identifying each one by name, he led me outside, still holding me by the hand. I followed him sadly, because I had not seen blessed John among the fathers and leaders of the Church. But as I was going out the doorkeeper stopped me.
"'What is the matter? Why are you sad?' he said. 'Nobody who ever comes in here goes out sad.'
"'The cause of my sadness,' I said, 'is that I did not see my beloved bishop John of Constantinople among all the other doctors.'
"'Do you mean John chief among penitents?'
"'Nobody alive in the flesh can see him. For he is right there by the throne of the Lord.'"
The life of a STYLITE
Abba Athanasius also told us that he had heard abba Athenogenus, the bishop of Petra, talking about a certain Stylite who lived in his region. Everyone who came to him had to speak to him from below as he had no ladder. If any brother ever said to him that he wanted to reveal his secret thoughts he would tell them in a gentle voice to come to the step of the column and he would go to a different place on the column where they could converse with each other, though the Stylite was always above and the brother below. But nobody else who was there was able to hear what they were saying.
Abba Athenogenus also said that there were two lay people very close to each other who were in the habit of visiting the Stylite together over many years. Neither of them ever went without the other. But it so happened one day that one of them came by himself without the other's knowledge. He knocked at the Stylite's door for many hours, but the old man would not open to him, so that eventually he gave up and went away. On his way back he met his friend who was also on his way to see the Stylite, so they joined up again and came back together. But when they knocked at the door the old man ordered that the one who had come last should go in alone. He went in, and asked the old man to let his companion in too. But the old man said that he was not able to receive him. For quite some time he refused all his pleading and perseverance, but said at last; "It is God who has turned him away. That is why I cannot receive him." And he died two days after they had returned home.
The teachings of ATHANASIUS and his wonderful vision
Abba Athanasius said: "Our fathers practised continence and poverty and detachment from all things up to the time of their death. But we have stuffed our stomachs and moneybags full."
He also said: "Our fathers made it their business to avoid distractions to the soul. But in our days we have them aplenty, as well as our manual work"
Abba Athanasius also told us this about himself:
"I was wondering once about what was worth striving for and what was not. And I went into an ecstasy, and someone came to me and told me to follow him. He led me into a place full of light and glory and set me in front of a doorway, the like of which it is beyond my power to describe, for we could hear inside a countless multitude praising God. We knocked on the door and someone inside heard us and called out:
"'What do you want?'
"'We want to come in,' said my guide.
"'No one who lives carelessly can enter here. But if you want to come in, go back and strive to be able to count all the vanities of the earth as nothing worth.'"
The life of abba ZACHAEUS of holy Sion
Procopius, a learned man (scholasticus) from Porphyrites, told us about abba Zachaeus:
My two sons fell ill in Caesarea, where there was a widespread epidemic. I was very worried about my sons that they might die, and I did not know what to do.
"Even if I send for them," I said to myself, "and bring them back here, it is still not possible to escape the wrath of God. But if I leave them there they may die and I shan't see them again."
Unable to make up my mind I said, "I will go to abba Zachaeus and do what he says."
So I went to holy Sion, which is where he had always lived, but could not find him. I went into the courtyard of (the church of) holy Mary the birthgiver of God and found him standing in a corner of the courtyard, where I told him about my sons. He heard me out, and then turning to the East he lifted up his eyes to heaven, saying nothing for the next two hours, until at last he turned towards me.
"Have faith and don't worry," he said, "Your sons will not die from this disease."
And it turned out as the old man said. As I have said, it was Procopius, a learned man, who told us this.
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