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TPL (Text) -- 10

Sayings of the Holy Monks

91 It is necessary to cross-question the ways of the monks who have travelled before [us] correctly and to accomplish [our own labours] in accordance with those ways. There are many things that one can find both said and done well by them. Among which things, this also one of them says: ‘The drier and not irregular diet conjoined to charity more quickly introduces the monk into the harbour of dispassion.’ The same one freed of apparitions one of the brothers who was disturbed at night, ordering him to minister to the sick with fasting. Having been asked, he said: ‘For by nothing thus as by [acts of] mercy are such passions extinguished.’

92 One of the wise men of that time came to the just Anthony and said: ‘Father, how do you endure to the end deprived of the consolation which comes from books?’ He said: ‘My book, philosopher, is the nature of things which have come to be and it is here present whenever I wish to read the words which are of God.’

93 The Egyptian Elder Makarios, ‘the vessel of election’ [Acts 9, 15], asked me: ‘Why is it that, when we entertain rancour towards men, we destroy the power of the soul to remember [God], whereas we remain uninjured if we harbour rancour towards the demons?’ And when I was at a loss for an answer and asked to learn the reason, he said: ‘Because the first is contrary to the nature, while the second is according to the nature, of the temper.’

94 I met at high noon exactly the holy father Makarios and, greatly burning from thirst, I requested water to drink. He said: ‘Let the shade be sufficient for you. For many now travelling by land or sailing by sea are deprived even of that.’ Then after I had put words through their paces for him concerning continence, he said: ‘Courage, child. In all of twenty years, neither bread nor water nor sleep have I taken to satiety. For I have eaten my bread by weight; I have drunk water by measure; and, inclining myself to the walls, I have snatched some small part of sleep.’

95 One of the monks was advised of the death of his father. He said to him who brought the news: ‘Stop blaspheming! For my Father is immortal.’

96 One of the brothers asked one of the Elders if he would order him to eat together with his mother and sisters when he visited his home. He said: ‘You will not eat with a woman.’

97 One of the brothers had acquired a Book of the Gospels only, and selling this he gave the proceeds to the hungry for food, afterwards uttering this saying worthy of remembrance. He said: ‘For I have sold the very word which said to me “Sell what you have and give to the poor.”’ [Matt. 19, 21.]

98 There is close to Alexandria an island which lies in the northern part of the lake called ‘Maria’. There dwells on that island a monk who is the most experienced of the host of gnostics. This very man declared that all those things that are done by monks are done for five causes: for the sake of God, for the sake of nature, for the sake of custom, for the sake of necessity or for the sake of manual labour. That same person used to say, again, that virtue is in its nature one and that it is moulded in the powers of the soul. He said: ‘For the light of the sun is without form; it is its nature, however, to be conformed to the doors through which it enters in.’

99 Another, again, of the monks said: ‘For this I strip away the pleasures, so that I stop the pretexts of temper. For I know the temper ever to be battling on behalf of the pleasures and greatly disturbing my mind and chasing away gnosis.’ One of the Elders used to say that charity does not know how to keep reserves of food or money. The same said: ‘I do not know myself to have been deceived by the demons twice in the same thing.’

100 It is not possible to love all the brothers equally; it is possible, however, to meet with them dispassionately, being free of rancour and hatred. The priests are to be shown charity after the Lord, those who purify us by means of the Holy Mysteries and who pray for us. Our Elders are to be honoured as the angels are, for they are those who anoint us for the arena and who heal the bites of the savage beasts.

But, now, let so much have been said by me to you concerning the practical life, most beloved brother Anatolios, as much as by the grace of the Holy Spirit, gleaning, we have found in the crop while our grape was aripening. If the ‘Sun of Justice’ [Mal. 3, 20] in his zenith shines on us and the cluster of grapes becomes ripe, then we also shall drink its wine which ‘makes glad the heart of man’ [Ps. 103, 15], through the prayers and intercessions of the just Gregory, who planted me, and of the holy fathers who now are watering me and by the power of him who increases me [cf. 1 Cor. 3, 6–7], Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom the glory and the power to the Ages of Ages. Amen.

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