Verba Seniorum
The Latin Systematic Collection






That nothing should be done for show

De eo quod nihil per ostensionem fieri debeat.





1. Abba Antony once heard this about a young monk and the piece of show he wrought on a journey. He saw some old men wearily walking along the road, and he ordered donkeys up to carry them until they reached home. When the old men told this to Abba Antony, he said: “I think that monk is like a ship laden with a rich cargo but not yet certain of reaching port in safety.” And shortly afterwards, Abba Antony began to weep, and pull his hair, and groan. When his disciples saw it, they said: “Why are you weeping, Abba?” And the old man answered: “A great pillar of the church has just fallen.” He said this about the young monk, and added: “Come, walk over to him, and see what has happened.” So his disciples went, and found the monk sitting on his mat and weeping for the sin which he had committed. When he saw Abba Antony’s disciples, he said: “Tell the old man to pray God to give me an armistice for only ten days, and I hope to be able to satisfy him.” Within five days he was dead.

1. Audivit aliquando abbas Antonius de quodam juvene monacho quia signum quoddam hujusmodi fecerit 592 in via, id est, cum vidisset quosdam senes iter agentes et laborantes in ambulando, onagris jussit ut venirent et portarent eos, donec pervenirent ad se; illi autem senes indicantes hoc abbati Antonio, dixit abbas Antonius: Videtur mihi monachus iste similis esse navi oneratae omnibus bonis, de qua incertum est utrum pervenire possit in portum. Et post aliquantum temporis, subito coepit  [0905C] abbas Antonius flere, el trahere sibi capillos, et lugere. Quod cum vidissent discipuli ejus, dicunt ei: Quid ploras, abba? Et respondit senex: Magna columna ecclesiae cecidit modo. Dicebat autem hoc de monacho illo juvene, et adjecit: Ambulate ad eum, et videte quod factum est. Perrexerunt igitur discipuli ejus, et invenerunt monachum illum super mattam sedentem, et flentem peccatum quod fecerat. Videns autem discipulos senis, ait eis: Dicite seni ut obsecret Deum decem tantum dierum dari mihi inducias, et spero me satisfacturum ei. Qui intra quinque dies mortuus est.



2. The monks praised a brother to Abba Antony. But Antony went to him and tested whether he could endure abuse. And when he perceived that he could not bear it, he said: “You are like a house with a highly decorated facade, where burglars have stolen all the furniture out of the back door.”

2. Laudatus est quidam frater a monachis apud abbatem Antonium: ille autem cum venisset ad eum, tentavit si portaret injuriam; et cum cognovisset  [0905D] quia non posset ferre, dixit ei: Similis es domui quae a facie quidem ornata est, de retro vero a latronibus despoliata.



3. They said of Abba Arsenius and Abba Theodore of Pherme that they hated reputation and praise above everything. Abba Arsenius avoided people likely to praise him. Abba Theo­dore did not avoid them, but their words were like daggers to him.

3. Dicebant de abbate Arsenio et abbate Theodoro de Pherme, quia super omnia humanam gloriam odio haberent: abbas enim Arsenius non cito occurrebat alicui: abbas vero Theodorus occurrebat quidem, sed ut gladius erat ei.



4. Archbishop John had a disciple named Eulogius. Eulogius was a presbyter who fasted for two days at a time, and sometimes ate nothing but bread and salt for a whole week: wherefore he had a high reputation. He came to Abba Joseph at Panephysis because he believed he would find harder discipline under him. The old man welcomed him, and of his charity made ready what he had to eat. But the disciples of Eulogius said: “The presbyter only eats bread and salt.” Abba Joseph silently began to eat. They spent three days in silence, hearing not even the sound of psalm or prayer (for they said the office secretly): and then Eulogius and his disciples went away, nothing edified. But by God’s providence a mist came over the plain: and they wandered in a circle and came back in error to the old man Joseph’s cell. Before they knocked on the door, they heard the singing of psalms within: and they waited a long while outside, listening. Then they knocked on the door, and the old man welcomed them again. Eulogius was thirsty: and his disciples picked up a jug of water and gave it to him to drink. But the jug had sea-water mixed with fresh, and he could not drink it. Eulogius considered this in his mind, and then began to ask the old man to show him his system, saying: “How is it, Abba, that first you did not sing any psalms, and then you began after we had gone away? And why was the water salt when I tried to drink it?” The old man said: “My disciple is away at work and I made a mistake and put sea-water in.” But Eulogius went on asking the old man, wanting to know the truth. And the old man told him: “That little chalice is for wine which we use in charity to guests. This is for the water which the brethren drink every day.” With these words he taught him to have mental discretion, and drove out of him the merely human motives: and he be­came like other people, and in future ate what was put be­fore him. And he learnt to be severe in secret, and said to the old man: “Truly, yours is a labour of love.”

4. Eulogius quidam nomine, discipulus fuit Joannis archiepiscopi: qui Eulogius presbyter erat, et abstinens atque jejunans biduanas levando [(32) [0989B] Biduanas levando.] Sic ante, libello VII, num. 24, biduanas abstinere. Infra, libello X, n. 44, biduanas levando. Nempe abstinebant aliquando biduo, aliquando triduo, aliquando dintius, et cum jejunium  [0989C] solverent, dicebantur levare biduanas vel triduanas, videlicet abstinentias.] , aliquando etiam et usque hebdomadam trahebat jejunium, panem tantum et salem comedens; et per hoc laudabatur ab hominibus. Qui venit ad abbatem  [0906A] Joseph in loco qui dicitur Panepho, credens se aliquam duriorem continentiam invenire apud eum. Et suscipiens eum senex cum gaudio, quod habebat fecit ei pro charitate parari. Dixerunt autem discipuli Eulogii: Non comedit presbyter nisi panem et salem, abbas autem Joseph tacitus manducabat. Qui cum fecissent tres dies, non audierunt eos aut psallentes aut orantes, occultum enim erat opus illorum, et exierunt nihil aedificati. Deo autem dispensante facta est caligo, et errantes de via reversi sunt ad senem: et priusquam pulsarent ostium, audierunt psallentes; et cum exspectassent diu ut audirent, postea pulsaverunt, et suscepit eos iterum senex gaudens. Hi autem qui cum Eulogio erant, propter cauma tulerunt surisculam, et dederunt ei ut biberet: erat autem  [0906B] aqua permista de mari et flumine, et non potuit bibere. Qui cum haec in animo suo cogitaret, coepit rogare senem, ut disceret ejus institutum, dicens: Quid est hoc, abba, quia primo non psallebatis, sed nunc coepisti posteaquam nos sumus egressi, et quia cum aquam bibere volui, inveni eam salsam? Dicit ei senex: Frater aliquis motus est, et per errorem miscuit aquam marinam. Eulogius vero rogabat senem, volens agnoscere veritatem. Et dixit ei senex: Parvus ille calix ad vinum est quod charitas providet, hic autem ad aquam quam assidue fratres bibunt. Et his verbis docuit eum habere discretionem cogitationum, et abscidit ab eo omnia humanitus moventia mentem ejus; et factus est communis, manducans de caetero omnia quae apposita sunt ei. Didicit etiam  [0906C] ipse in secreto operari, et dixit seni: Pro certo in charitate est opus vestrum.



5. Abba Zeno (the disciple of Abba Silvanus) said: “Never stay in a well-known place nor sit with a famous man, nor lay a foundation on which you might sometime build yourself a cell.”

5. Dixit abbas Zenon discipulus abbatis Silvani: Nunquam maneas in loco nominato, neque sedeas cum homine habente magnum nomen, neque mittas fundamentum, ut aedifices tibi cellam aliquando.



6. Once a brother came to Abba Theodore of Pherme, and spent three days asking him for a word. But the Abba did not answer, and he went away sadly. So Abba Theodore’s disciple asked him: “Abba, why did you not speak to him? Look, he has gone away sad.” And the old man said: “Believe me, I said nothing to him because his business is getting credit by retailing what others have said to him.”

6. Venit aliquando frater quidam ad abbatem Theodorum de Pherme, et fecit tres dies rogans eum ut audiret ab eo sermonem. Ille autem non respondit ei, et egressus est tristis. Dicit ergo ei discipulus suus: Abba, quare ei non es locutus, et ecce egressus est tristis? Et dixit senex: Crede mihi, quia non dicebam ei sermonem, quoniam negotiator est, alienis verbis vult gloriari.



7. Another brother asked Abba Theodore: “Would you like me to eat no bread for several days?” And the old man said: “You would do well. I have sometimes done that.” And the brother said: “Should I take a few peas to the mill and make vegetable meal?” And Abba Theodore said: “If you go to the mill, make yourself bread. What need is there of this carrying to and fro?”

7. Alter frater interrogavit ipsum abbatem Theodorum,  [0906D] dicens: Vis aliquantis diebus non manduco panem? Et dixit senex: Bene facis, nam et ego feci sic. Et dixit ei frater: Volo portare modicum cicer ad pistrinum, et facere inde farinam? Et dixit ei abbas Theodorus: Jam si ad pistrinum vadis, fac tibi panem; et quid opus est ista adjectio?



8. Another brother asked the same old Abba Theodore, and he began to talk and enquire about matters of which he had no experience. And the old man said to him: “You have not yet found a ship to sail in, nor put your luggage aboard, nor put out to sea, and are you already in the city which you mean to reach? If you make some attempt at a thing you are discussing, you will discuss it as it truly is.”

8. Alius frater interrogavit eumdem senem abbatem Theodorum, et coepit loqui et exquirere de rebus quas necdum fuerat operatus. Et dixit ei senex: Adhuc nec tibi navem invenisti, nec vasa tua in eam posuisti, nec navigare coepisti, et jam in illa civitate, ubi disponebas pervenisti? Cum ergo prius operatus fueris rem de qua loqueris, tunc ex ipsa re loquere.



9. Abba Cassian25 said that a brother came to Abba Serapion. And the old man encouraged him in the usual way to offer prayer. But he said that he was a sinner, and unworthy of the monk’s habit, and so refused. Serapion wanted to wash his feet, but he used the same words and would not allow it. Serapion gave him supper, and then began to exhort him in charity, saying: “Son, if you want to make progress, stay in your cell, keep a watch upon yourself and attend to the work of your hands. Nothing is more profitable to you than staying in your cell.” But when the brother heard him, he was bitterly angry, and the old man could not help seeing the change in his face. So Abba Serapion said to him: “Just now you were saying ‘I am a sinner’ and accusing yourself of living like an unworthy monk. Then why were you angry when I warned you charitably? If you truly would be humble, learn to carry like a man the burdens which others lay upon you, and do not shower terms of abuse over yourself.” When the brother heard this, he did penance before the old man, and went away with much profit.

 [0907A] 9. Tunc dixit abbas Cassianus quia venit frater quidam ad abbatem Serapionem, et 593 hortabatur eum senex, ut secundum morem faceret orationem; ille autem dicens se esse peccatorem, et ipsius monachi habitu indignum, non acquiescebat. Voluit etiam ejus pedes lavare, et eisdem iterum verbis usus, nullatenus acquievit. Fecit autem illum gustare, et coepit senex in charitate monere eum, dicens: Fili, si vis proficere, permane in cella tua, et attende tibi ipsi et operibus manuum tuarum; non enim tibi tantum procedere expedit, quantum sedere. Ille autem haec audiens, ita exacerbatus est, et vultum mutavit, ut nec latere posset senem. Dixit ergo ei abbas Serapion: Usque modo dicebas, Peccator sum, et accusabas teipsum tanquam indignum jam vivere; et quia  [0907B] te cum charitate monui, ita exacerbari debuisti? Si enim re vera humilis vis esse, quae tibi ab alio imponuntur, disce portare viriliter, et non odiosa verba effundere tibi ipsi. Hoc autem audiens frater, poenitentiam gessit coram sene, et multum proficiens discessit.



10. Once a provincial judge heard of Abba Moses and went to Scete to see him. They told the old man that he was on his way, and he rose up to flee into a marsh. The judge and his train met him, and asked: “Tell me, old man, where is the cell of Abba Moses?” And the old man said: “Why do you want to see him? He is a fool and a heretic.”The judge came to the church, and said to the clergy: “I heard of Abba Moses and came to see him. But an old man on his way to Egypt met me, and I asked him where was the cell of Abba Moses. And he said: ‘Why are you looking for him? He is a fool and a heretic.’ “ And the clergy were distressed and said: “What sort of person was your old man who told you this about the holy man?” And they said: “He was an old man, tall and dark, wearing the oldest possible clothes.” And the clergy said: “That was Abba Moses. And he told you this about him­self because he did not want you to see him.” And the judge went away much edified.

10. Audivit aliquando judex provinciae de abbate Moyse  (Ruff., l. III, n. 119) , et perrexit in Scythi ut videret eum; et nuntiaverunt quidam seni de adventu ejus, et surrexit ut fugeret in paludem; et occurrit ei ille judex cum suis, et interrogavit eum, dicens: Dic nobis, senex, ubi est cella abbatis Moysi? Et dicit eis: Quid vultis eum inquirere? homo fatuus est et haereticus. Et veniens judex ad ecclesiam, dixit clericis: Ego audiens de abbate Moyse, veni ut viderem  [0907C] eum; et ecce occurrit nobis senex pergens in Aegyptum, et interrogavimus eum ubi esset cella abbatis Moysi, et dixit nobis: Quid eum quaeritis? fatuus est, et haereticus. Audientes autem clerici, contristati sunt, dicentes: Qualis est senex ille, qui haec de sancto homine locutus est ad vos? Et illi dixerunt: Senex vetustissimo vestimento utens, longus et niger. Et illi dixerunt: Ipse est abbas Moyses; et quia noluit videri a vobis, ideo haec vobis ipse de se dixit. Et multum aedificatus judex discessit.



11. A brother asked Abba Mathois: “If I go to live in such | and-such a place, what would you have me do there?” The old man said: “If you live there, do not try to make a reputation for yourself on some pretext—like saying: ‘Either I will not join the congregation or I will not eat this and that.’ This is the sort of thing that creates a bubble reputation, and afterwards you will suffer from crowds. When people hear that sort of thing they flock there.”

11. Frater interrogavit abbatem Mathoen dicens: Si abiero manere in loco aliquo, quomodo vis ut agam ibi? Dicit ei senex: Si habitaveris in loco, ne velis tibi illic nomen facere de aliqua re, dicendo, Aut non venio in conventu fratrum, aut non manduco hoc  [0907D] vel illud; haec enim vanum nomen tibi faciunt, sed postea importunitatem patieris; quoniam homines ubi hoc audierint, ibi current.



12. Abba Nesteros the Great was walking in the desert with a brother when they saw a dragon and ran away. The brother said: “Are you afraid, father?” The old man answered: “I am not afraid, my son. But it was good to run away from the dragon, for otherwise I should have had to run away from vanity.”

12. Abbas Nisteron major ambulabat in eremo cum aliquo fratre, et videntes draconem, fugerunt. Dicit ei frater: Et tu times, Pater? Respondit senex: Non timeo, fili; sed expedit quia draconem videns fugi, quoniam non habui effugere spiritum vanae gloriae.



13. A provincial judge once wanted to see Abba Poemen and the old man would not allow it. The judge arrested his sister’s son as a criminal and imprisoned him, saying: “If the old man comes to ask for him, I will release him.” And the lad’s mother came to Abba Poemen her brother and began to weep outside the door of his cell. Stlicken with grief, she began to reproach him, saying: “You may have a heart of cold steel, you may be pitiless, but at least have mercy on your kin and relent.” But he told her: “Poemen is the father of no children.” And she went away. When the judge heard this he sent a messenger to say: “You have only to order his release and I will release him.” The old man sent back the messenger with this message: “Try his case legally. If he ought to die, let him die. If he is innocent, do as you say.”

13. Voluit aliquando judex provinciae videre abbatem Pastorem, et non acquiescebat senex  (Ruff., l. III, n. 20) . Judex autem tenuit filium sororis ejus velut malefactorem, et redegit eum in carcerem, dicens: Si venerit senex et rogaverit pro eo, dimittam  [0908A] eum. Et venit mater pueri ad fratrem suum abbatem Pastorem, et coepit flere ad ostium ejus; ille autem omnino non dedit ei responsum; illa vero compulsa dolore, increpabat eum, dicens: Et si viscera ferrea habes, et nulla te compassio movet, flectat te saltem miseratio sanguinis tui. Ille autem mandavit ei: Pastor filios non generavit. Et ita discessit. Audiens autem judex misit, dicens: Vel verbo jubeat, et ego eum dimittam. Senex autem remandavit ei, dicens: Examina causam secundum legem; et si dignus est morte, moriatur; si autem non est, fac quomodo vis.



14. Abba Poemen also said: “Teach your heart to keep what your tongue teaches others.” He also said: “Men try to appear excellent in their preaching; they are less excellent in practising what they preach.”

14. Dixit iterum abbas Pastor: Doce cor tuum servare quae docet alios lingua tua. Dixit iterum: Quia homines ad loquendum perfecti videri volunt,  [0908B] et in operando id quod loquuntur minores sunt.



15. Once Abba Adelphius, who was bishop of Nilopolis, came to Abba Sisois on the mountain of Abba Antony. When he was just leaving, he made him eat at dawn—but it was a fast day. And when they brought the table, some brothers knocked at the door. The old man said to his disciple: “Give them a few buns, because they are weary.” And Abba Adelphius said to him: “Dismiss them for a time, or they will say ‘Abba Sisois ate at dawn.”‘ And Abba Sisois looked at him, and said to the brother: “Go, give them some.” So when they saw the cooked food they said: “Have you got visitors? Is even the old man eating with you?” And the brother said: “Yes.” Then they began to be sad and say: “God forgive you, that you have let the old man eat at this hour. Do you not know that he has gone into a severe discipline for a great many days?” When the bishop heard this, he began to do penance before the old man and said: “Forgive me, Abba, my thought was human, you did what is of God.” And Abba Sisois said to him: “Unless God glorifies man, man’s glory cannot last.”

15. Venit aliquando abbas Adelphius, qui fuit episcopus Nilopoleos, ad abbatem Sisoi in montem; et quia discessurus erat, fecit eos gustare a mane, erat vero jejunium; et cum ponerent mensam, ecce fratres pulsaverunt. Dixit autem senex discipulo suo: Da eis modicas zippulas, quia de labore sunt. Et dicit ei abbas Adelphius: Dimitte interim, ne dicant: Quia abbas Sisois a mane comedit. Et intendit eum senex, et dixit fratri: Vade tu, da eis. Cum ergo vidissent pultes, dixerunt: Ne peregrinos aliquos habetis? Putas et senex vobiscum comedit? Et frater: Etiam. Coeperunt ergo contristari et dicere: Ignoscat vobis Deus, quia senem permisistis ista hora manducare; an nescitis quia plurimos dies laboraturus est?  [0908C] Audiens haec episcopus, coepit coram sene poenitentiam agere, dicens: Ignosce mihi, abba, quia ego quidem humanum aliquid cogitavi, tu autem quod Dei est fecisti. Et dicit ei abbas Sisois: Nisi Deus glorificaverit hominem, gloria hominum nunquam stat.



16. Abba Ammon (of the place called Raythu) brought this enquiry to Abba Sisois: “When I read the Scripture, I am tempted to make elaborate comments and so prepare myself to answer questions on it.” The old man said: “There is no need. It is better to speak the word simply, with a good conscience and a pure mind.”

16. Interrogavit abbas Ammonas de loco qui dicitur Raythum, abbatem Sisoi dicens: Quando lego Scripturas, vult cogitatio mea ornare sermonem, ut paratus sim ad interrogata respondere. Et dixit ei senex: Non est opus, sed magis de puritate mentis 594 provide tibi securitatem edicendi sermonem.



17. Once a provincial magistrate came to see Abba Simon. And Abba Simon took the leather belt which he wore and climbed a palm-tree to clean it with the palm leaves. When the judge’s party came up, they said: “Where is the old hermit of this wilderness?” And he answered: “There is no hermit here­abouts.” So the judge went away.

17. Venit aliquando judex provinciae videre abbatem Simonem, et ille tulit lorum quo cingebatur, et ascendit in arborem palmae, ut purgaret eam. Illi  [0908D] autem venientes dixerunt ei: Ubi est senex, qui hac in solitudine habitat? Et ille respondit: Non est hic solitarius aliquis. Et cum hoc dixisset, discessit judex.



18. Another time a magistrate came to see him. And the clergy who went in front said to him: “Abba, be ready: for the judge has heard of you and is coming to be blessed by you.” And he covered himself with his sackcloth and took bread and cheese in his hand, and sat down in his doorway and began to eat it. The magistrate arrived with his retinue. And when they saw the old man, they were contemptuous of him and said: “Is this the hermit about whom we heard such great things?” And they turned round and went straight home.

18. Alia iterum vice alter judex venit videre eum, et praecedentes clerici dixerunt ei: Abba, paratus esto, quia judex audiens de te venit ut benedicatur a te. Et ille dixit: Etiam ego praeparabo me. Et cooperiens se sacco suo, et tollens in manu sua panem et caseum, sedit in ingressu cellulae suae, et coepit manducare. Venit ergo judex cum officio suo, et videntes eum spreverunt, dicentes: Hic est monachus solitarius de quo talia audiebamus? Et statim discesserunt et reversi sunt ad se



19. Saint Syncletice said: “An open treasury is quickly spent. And any virtue will be annihilated if it is published abroad and becomes famous. If you put wax in front of a fire it melts; and if you pour vain praises on the soul, it goes soft and weak in seeking goodness.”

 [0909A] 19. Dixit sancta Syncletica: Sicut thesaurus manifestus cito expenditur, ita et virtus quaelibet, cum innotuerit vel publicata fuerit, exterminabitur  (Ruff., t. III, n. 114) . Sicut enim cera solvitur a facie ignis, ita et anima laudibus inanitur, et amittit virtutum rigorem.



20. She also said: “The same thing cannot at once be seed and full grown bush. So men with a worldly reputation cannot bear heaven’s fruit.”

20. Dixit iterum: Sicut impossibile est, uno eodemque tempore et herbam esse et semen, ita impossibile est ut saecularem gloriam habentes, coelestem faciant fructum  (Ruff., l. III, num. 113; Pasch., c. 13, n. 2) .



21. Once at a feast day in Cellia, the brothers were eating their meal in church. But one of them said to the server: “I eat nothing cooked, but salt.” And the serving monk called to another brother in front of the whole crowd: “This brother does not eat what is cooked, bring him the salt.” But one of the old men stood up and told him: “Today it would have been better for you to eat meat in your cell than to have heard this said in front of so many brothers.”

21. Aliquando in Cellis festivitate celebrata, edebant fratres in ecclesia  (Ruff., l. III, n. 54, nomine Theodori) . Erat autem ibi frater quidam, qui dixit ministranti:  [0909B] Ego non manduco coctum aliquid, sed sal. Et vocavit minister alium fratrem coram multitudine, dicens: Ille frater non comedit coctum, affer ei sal. Surrexit autem quidam senum, et dixit ei: Expedierat tibi hodie in cella tua comedere carnes, quam audiri hanc vocem coram tantis fratribus.



22. A man was being abstinent and not eating bread, and he went to visit an old man. By chance some other pilgrims arrived there and the old man made them a little vegetable soup. When they sat down to eat, the fasting brother took a single pea which he dipped in the soup and chewed it. When they rose from the table, the old man took him to one side and said: “Brother, if you visit someone, do not display to him your manner of life. If you want to keep your own rules, stay in your cell and never go out.” The brother accepted the advice, and thenceforth behaved like other people and ate what was put before him.

22. Erat quidam abstinens a cibis, et non manducans panem; venit ad quemdam senem. Opportune autem illic etiam alii supervenerant peregrini, et fecit senex modicum pulmentum propter eos. Et cum sedissent manducare, frater ille abstinens posuit sibi soli cicer infusum, et manducabat. Et cum surrexissent a mensa, tulit eum senex secreto, et dixit ei: Frater, si venis ad aliquem, non ostendas illi conversationem tuam; si autem conversationem tuam tenere vis, sede in cella tua, et nusquam  [0909C] exeas. Ille autem acquiescens verbis senis, factus est communis vitae in id quod cum fratribus in venisset.



23. An old man said: “If a man takes thought for the mor­row, it cuts away his fertility of spirit and leaves him dry.”

23. Dixit senex: Humana providentia omnem pinguedinem hominis amputat, et relinquit eum siccum.



24. An old man said: “Make yourself in many things a fool in fleeing the company of men, or in mocking the world and the men of the world.”

24. Dixit senex: Aut fugiens fuge homines, aut irridens mundum et homines qui in mundo sunt, stultum temetipsum in pluribus facito.







Verba Seniorum
The Latin Systematic Collection






That we should judge no man

De eo quod non oporteat judicare quemquam.





1. A brother in the community of Abba Elias was once tempted. And being expelled from the community, he went away to the mountain to Abba Antony. And when he had stayed there with him for some time, Antony sent him back to his old community. But when they saw him, they drove him out again. Again he went to Abba Antony and said: “They will not have me, father.” So the old man sent a message to them, saying: “A ship was wrecked in the ocean and lost its cargo, and with great difficulty the lightened ship was brought to land. Do you want to run a rescued ship aground and sink it?” They saw that Abba Antony had sent him back, and at once accepted him.

1. Contigit aliquando fratri in congregatione abbatis Eliae tentatio, et expulsus inde, abiit in montem ad abbatem Antonium. Et cum mansisset aliquanto tempore apud eum, remisit eum ad congregationem  [0909D] unde exierat. Illi autem videntes eum, iterum expulerunt; qui similiter perrexit ad abbatem Antonium, dicens: Noluerunt me suscipere, Pater. Misit ergo senex ad eos, dicens: Navis naufragium tulit in pelago, et perdidit onus quod portabat, et cum labore vacua navis perducta est ad terram. Vos ergo liberatam navim in terram vultis submergere? Illi autem cognoscentes, quia eum abbas Antonius remisisset, statim susceperunt eum.



2. A brother sinned, and the presbyter ordered him to go out of church. But Abba Bessarion rose up and went out with him, saying: “I too am a sinner.”

2. Quidam frater peccaverat, et jussit eum presbyter exire de ecclesia. Surrexit autem Besarion, et exivit cum eo, dicens: Et ego peccator sum.



3. Abba Isaac of the Thebaid came to a community and saw one of the brothers to be blameworthy, and sentenced him. But when he had gone out to the desert, the angel of the Lord came and stood in front of the door of his cell, and said: “I will not let you go in.” He asked: “Why not?” And the angel of the Lord answered: “God sent me to say this to you: ‘Where do you command me to send that blameworthy brother whom you sentenced?’ “ And at once Abba Isaac did penance, saying: “I have sinned, forgive me.” And the angel said: “Arise, God forgives you. But in future take care you judge no man before God has judged him.”

3. Venit abbas Isaac de Thebaida in congregationem  [0910A] fratrum, et vidit quemdam de fratribus culpabilem, et adjudicavit eum  (Ruff., l. III, n. 137) . Cum autem exisset ad eremum, venit angelus Domini, et stetit ante ostium cellae ejus, dicens: Non te dimitto intrare. Ille autem rogabat, dicens: Quae est causa? Et respondens angelus Domini, ei dixit: Deus me misit ut dicerem tibi: Ubi jubes ut mittam illum fratrem culpabilem, quem addixisti? Et statim abbas Isaac poenitentiam egit, dicens: Peccavi, ignosce mihi. Et dixit angelus: Surge, ignoscit tibi Deus; sed custodi de caetero ne adjudices quemquam, priusquam Deus adjudicet eum.



4. In Scete a brother was once found guilty. They assembled the elders, and sent a message to Abba Moses telling him to come. But he would not come. Then the presbyter sent, saying: “Come, for a meeting of monks is waiting for you.” Moses rose up and went. He took with him an old basket which he filled with sand and carried on his back. The people who went to meet him said: “What is this, father?” The old man said to them: “My sins are chasing me, and I do not see them—have I come today to judge the sins of someone else?” They listened to him, and said nothing to the erring brother, but pardoned him.

4. Frater aliquando in Scythi inventus est culpabilis, et fecerunt seniores conventum, et miserunt ad abbatem Moysem, dicentes ut veniret; ille autem  [0910B] venire noluit. Misit autem ad eum presbyter, dicens: Veni, quia plebs fratrum te exspectat. Et ille surgens venit. Tollens autem secum sportam vetustissimam, implevit eam arena, et post se portavit. Illi vero exierunt ei obviam, dicentes: Quid hoc est, Pater? Dixit autem eis senex: Peccata mea sunt post me currentia, et non video ea, et veni ego hodie judicare aliena peccata? Illi autem audientes, nihil locuti sunt fratri, sed ignoverunt ei.



5. Abba Joseph asked Abba Poemen: “Tell me how to be­come a monk.” The old man said: “If you want to find rest in this life and the next, say at every turn ‘Who am I?’ and judge no man.”

595 5. Interrogavit abbas Joseph abbatem Pastorem, dicens: Dic quomodo monachus fiam. Et dixit ei senex: Si vis requiem invenire et in hoc et in futuro saeculo, in omni causa dic: Quis sum ego? et ne judices quemquam.



6. A brother asked Abba Poemen: “If I see my brother sin, is it good to tell no one about it?” The old man said: “When­ever we cover our brother’s sin, God will cover our sin. When­ever we tell people about our brother’s guilt, God will do the same with ours.”

6. Frater quidam interrogavit eum iterum, dicens:  [0910C] Si videro culpam fratris mei, bonum est celare eam? Dixit ei senex: Quacunque hora tegimus peccatum fratris nostri, teget etiam Deus nostrum; et quacunque hora prodiderimus culpas fratrum, et Deus nostras similiter prodet.



7. Once a brother in a community stumbled. In the same region there lived a hermit who for a long time had not gone out of his cell. The abbot of the community went to the hermit and told him of the monk’s offence. The hermit said: “Expel him.”So the monk was expelled from the community, and flung himself in a ditch and wept. Some other monks happened to pass that way to see Abba Poemen, and they heard him groan­ing in the ditch. They climbed down and found him in des­perate grief: and they asked him to go to the old hermit. But he refused, saying: “I shall die here.” The brothers went to Abba Poemen and told him about it. He asked them to go back to the monk and say: “Abba Poemen summons you.” They did what he said, and the monk came to Abba Poemen. The old man saw how he was suffering, and rose up and kissed him, and hospitably invited him to take supper. But Abba Poemen sent one of his brothers to the hermit with this message: “I have heard of you, and for many years have wanted to meet you, but we were both too lazy to arrange a meeting. But now, by God’s will and this opportunity, make the tiring journey so that we can meet.” For Poemen was under a rule of not going out of his cell. When the hermit heard the message, he said: “He would not have sent to me unless God had inspired him to it.” And he rose up and went. They greeted each other with pleasure and sat down. Abba Poemen said to him: “There were two men in one place, and they were each mourning for a dead man. But one left his own dead, and went away to weep for the other’s.” And the old hermit was stricken at the saying, and remembered what he had done. And he said: “Poemen is up in heaven, I am down on earth.”

7. Offendit aliquando frater in congregatione. Erat autem in ipsius locis quidam solitarius, qui jam longo tempore foris non exibat. Veniens autem abbas de congregatione illa ad eum, indicavit de fratre illo qui offenderat. Et ille dixit: Expellite eum. Expulsus autem frater de congregatione, misit se in fossatum  [(33) [0989C] Fossatum.] Fossatum vel fossatus hic videtur capi pro fossa, forte pro palude, ex qua materiam pro cellis suis et sportis conficiendis deferebant. Aliud est fossatum in re castrensi.] , et fiebat ibi: contigit autem ut alii fratres euntes ad abbatem Pastorem audirent eum in fossatu plorantem: qui descendentes ad eum invenerunt eum in magno dolore constitutum, et rogaverunt eum ut  [0910D] iret ad senem illum solitarium; et non acquievit, dicens: In hoc loco moriar ego. Venientes autem fratres ad abbatem Pastorem, narraverunt ei de eo. Et rogavit eos ut irent ad eum, dicentes: Abbas Pastor vocat te ad se. Quod cum ei dixissent, perrexit ad eum. Et videns eum senex afflictum, surrexit et osculatus est eum, et adgaudens ei rogabat ut sumeret cibum. Misit autem abbas Pastor unum de fratribus suis ad illum solitarium, dicens: Audiens de te, multi anni sunt quod te videre volui, et pro pigritia nostra amborum non potuimus nos invicem videre: modo autem, Deo volente et occasione facta, fatiga te usque huc, ut nos videre possimus; erat enim non egrediens de cella sua. Quod cum audisset,  [0911A] dicebat: Nisi Deus inspirasset seni illi de me, non misisset ad me. Et surgens venit ad eum. Et salutantes se invicem cum gaudio sederunt. Dixit autem ei abbas Pastor: Duo homines erant in loco uno, et ambo habebant mortuos suos. Reliquit autem unus mortuum suum, et abiit plorare illius alterius. Audiens autem haec senex, compunctus est in sermone ejus, et recordatus est quod fecerat, et dixit: Pastor sursum in coelo, ego autem deorsum in terra.



8. A brother asked Abba Poemen: “What am I to do, for I become a weaklingjust by sitting in my cell?” The old man said: “Despise no one: condemn no one: abuse no one: and God will give you quietness, and you will sit tranquil in your cell.”

8. Frater quidam interrogavit abbatem Pastorem, dicens: Quid facio, quia pusillanimis fio dum sedeo? Dixit ei senex: Nullum spernas neque condemnes, et nulli obloquaris, et Deus praestabit tibi requiem, et erit sessio tua sine perturbatione  (Ruff., l. III,  [0911B] n. 100; Pasch., c. 39, n. 2; Append. Mart., n. 39) .



9. Once there was a meeting of monks in Scete, and the fathers discussed the case of a guilty brother. But Abba Pior said nothing. Afterwards he rose up and went out; he took a sack, filled it with sand, and carried it on his shoulders. And he put a little more sand in a basket, and carried it in front of him. The fathers asked him: “What are you doing?” He answered: “The sack with a lot of sand is my sins: they are many, so I put them on my back and then I shall not weep for them. The basket with a little sand is the sins of our brother; and they are in front of me, and I see them and judge them. This is not right. I ought to have my own sins in front of me, and think about them, and ask God to forgive me.” When the fathers heard this, they said: “Truly this is the way of salvation.”

9. Factus est aliquando conventus in Scythi, et loquebantur Patres de quodam fratre culpabili  (Ruff., l. III, n. 136) . Abbas autem Pior tacebat: postea autem surgens egressus est, et tollens saccum, implevit eum arena, et portabat eum in humeris suis; et mittens in sportella modica de eadem arena, portabat etiam ipsam in ante. Interrogatus autem a Patribus quid hoc esset? Ille respondit: Saccus iste qui multum habet arenae, mea peccata sunt; et quoniam multa sunt, posui ea supra dorsum, ne doleam pro ipsis et plorem; ista autem arena modica peccata sunt istius fratris, et sunt ante faciem meam, et in ipsis exerceor judicans fratrem; quod non oportet ita fieri, sed mea magis peccata ante me esse, et de ipsis  [0911C] cogitare, et rogare Deum ut ignoscat mihi. Audientes autem Patres, dixerunt: Vere haec est via salutis.



10. An old man said: “Judge not the adulterer if you are chaste—or you will break the law of God likewise. For he who said ‘Do not commit adultery’ also said ‘Judge not.’ “

10. Dixit senex: Non judices fornicatorem, si castus es; quoniam similiter legem praevaricaris. Etenim qui dixit: Non forniceris, dixit: Ne judices.



11. The presbyter of a church came to a hermit to con­secrate the offering for him to communicate. But another man came to the hermit and made accusations against that presbyter. The next time that the presbyter came to consecrate as usual, the hermit was scandalized and would not let him in. The presbyter saw it and went away. And then the hermit heard a voice saying: “Men have taken my judgement into their own hands.” And he was rapt, and saw a vision of a well of gold and a bucket of gold, and a rope of gold, and plenty of drinking water. And he saw a leper emptying and refilling the bucket: and he wanted to drink himself, but did not because the leper had emptied it. Then the voice came a second time to him and said: “Why do you not drink this water? What does it matter who fills it? For he only fills it, and pours it out again.” Then the hermit came back to his normal mind, and under­stood what the vision had meant. He called the presbyter and made him consecrate the offering as before.

11. Ad quemdam solitarium venit presbyter cujusdam basilicae, ut consecraret ei oblationem ad communicandum. Veniens autem quidam ad illum solitarium, accusavit apud ipsum eumdem presbyterum. Qui cum ex consuetudine iterum venisset ad eum, ut consecraret oblationem, scandalizatus ille solitarius non aperuit ei. Presbyter autem hoc viso discessit. Et ecce vox facta est ad solitarium, dicens: Tulerunt sibi homines judicium meum. Et factus est  [0911D] velut in excessu mentis, et videbat quasi puteum aureum, et situlam auream, et funem aureum, et aquam bonam valde. Videbat autem et quemdam leprosum haurientem et refundentem in vase, et cupiebat bibere, et non poterat propter quod leprosus esset ille qui hauriebat. Et ecce iterum vox ad eum, dicens: Cur non bibis ex aqua hac? quam causam habet qui implet? implet enim solummodo et effundit in vase. In se autem reversus solitarius, et considerans virtutem visionis, vocavit presbyterum, et fecit eum sicut et prius sanctificare sibi oblationem.



12. Two brothers in a community lived a saintly life, and had made such progress that they could see the grace of God in each other. It happened that one of them went out of the monastery on a Friday and saw a man eating, though it was morning. He said to him: “Are you eating at this hour on a Friday?” On the Saturday the usual celebration of mass was held. And his brother saw that the grace which had been given him had departed from him, and he was distressed. He went to the cell and said: “What have you done, brother? I did not see the grace of God in you as I used to do.” And he said: “I am not aware of having sinned, either in deed or thought.” His brother said: “Did you say an idle word to someone?” And he remembered, and said: “Yes. Yesterday I saw someone eating food in the morning, and I said to him: ‘Are you eating at this hour on a Friday?’ That is my sin. Be severe with me for a fortnight and we will beg God to forgive me.” They did so. And after a fortnight the brother saw the grace of God again coming upon his brother. And they were comforted, and gave thanks to God who alone is good.

12. Fuerunt duo fratres magnae vitae in congregatione, et meruerunt videre singuli gratiam Dei in alterutrum. Factum est autem aliquando ut unus ex eis  [0912A] egrederetur in sexta feria extra congregationem, et videret quemdam mane comedentem. Dixit autem ei: Hac hora manducas in sexta feria? Die autem sequenti facta est celebratio missarum secundum consuetudinem. Intuens vero frater ejus, vidit gratiam quae 596 ei data fuerat discessisse ab eo, et contristatus est. Qui cum venisset in cellam, dicit ei: Quid fecisti, frater, quia non vidi, sicut pridem, gratiam Dei in te? Ille autem respondens dixit: Ego neque in actu, neque in cogitationibus conscius mihi sum alicujus mali. Dicit ei frater ejus: Nec sermonem odiosum aliquem locutus es? Et recordatus dixit: Etiam. Hesterna die vidi quemdam comedentem mane, et dixi ei: Hac hora manducas in sexta feria? Hac est peccatum meum; sed labora mecum  [0912B] duas hebdomadas, et rogemus Deum ut mihi indulgeat. Fecerunt ita; et post duas hebdomadas vidit frater gratiam Dei iterum venientem super fratrem suum, et consolati sunt, Deo, qui solus bonus est, gratias referentes.



13A. A holy man wept bitterly when he saw someone sinning, and said: “He today: I tomorrow.” However grave a sin is brought to your notice, you must not judge the culprit, but believe yourself to be a worse sinner than he.








Verba Seniorum
The Latin Systematic Collection






On discretion

De discretione.





1. Abba Antony said: “Some wear down their bodies by fasting. But because they have no discretion, it puts them further from God.”

1. Dixit abbas Antonius: Quia sunt quidam conterentes corpora sua in abstinentia; sed quia non habuerunt discretionem, longe facti sunt a Deo.



2. Some brothers came to Abba Antony to tell him their dreams and discover whether they were true or were the illusions of demons. They had with them a donkey, who died on the journey. When they arrived at the old man, he said (before they told him): “Why did your donkey die on the journey?” And they said: “How do you know, father?” And he said: “The demons showed me.” They said to him: “Indeed we came to ask you on the subject. We have seen dreams which have often come true: and we did not want to go astray.” The old man satisfied them, taking his example from the donkey, and showing them that these dreams are caused by demons. A hunter happened to come through the brush and saw Abba Antony talking gladly with the brothers, and was displeased. The old man wanted to show him how we should sometimes be less austere for the sake of the brethren, and said to him: “Put an arrow in your bow, and draw it.” He did so. And he said: “Draw it further:” and he drew it. He said again: “Draw it yet further:” and he drew it. The hunter said to him: “If I draw it too far, the bow will snap.” Abba Antony answered: “So it is with God’s work. If we go to excess, the brothers quickly become exhausted. It is sometimes best not to be rigid.” The hunter was penitent when he heard this, and profited much from it. And the brothers, thus strengthened, went home.

2. Fratres quidam venerunt ad abbatem Antonium, ut nuntiarent ei phantasias quas videbant, et cognoscerent ab eo utrum verae essent, an a daemonibus illuderentur. Habebant autem asinum secum, et  [0912C] mortuus est eis in via. Cum ergo venissent ad senem, praevenit eos, dicens: Quomodo mortuus est ille asinus in via? Dicunt ei: Unde scis, Pater? Et ille dixit: Daemones mihi ostenderunt. Dicunt ei: Et nos propterea venimus interrogare te, quia vidimus phantasias, et plerumque fiunt in veritate, ne forte erremus. Et satisfecit eis senex, sumpto exemplo de asino, ostendens quia a daemonibus fiunt ista. Supervenit autem quidam venationem faciens in silvam agrestium animalium, et viderat abbatem Antonium gaudentem cum fratribus, et displicuerat ei. Volens autem senex ei ostendere quia oportet aliquando condescendere fratribus, dicit ei: Pone sagittam in arcu tuo, et trahe; et fecit sic. Et dixit ei: Iterum trahe; et traxit. Et rursus dixit ei: Trahe adhuc;  [0912D] et traxit. Dixit ei venator: Si supra mensuram traxero, frangetur arcus. Dicit ei abbas Antonius: Ita est et in opere Dei: si plus a mensura tendimus, fratres cito deficiunt; expedit ergo una et una relaxare rigorem eorum. Haec audiens venator compunctus est, et multum proficiens in sermone senis, discessit; et fratres confirmati, reversi sunt in locum suum.



3. A brother said to Abba Antony: “Pray for me.” And the old man answered: “Neither I nor God will have mercy on you unless you take trouble about yourself and ask God’s help.”

3. Frater dixit abbati Antonio: Ora pro me. Et respondit ei senex: Nec ego tui misereor, nec Deus, nisi pro teipso sollicitus fueris et poposceris a Deo.



4. Abba Antony also said: “God does not let inner wars be stirred in this generation, because he knows that they are too weak to bear it.”

4. Dixit iterum abbas Antonius: Quia non permittit Deus bella excitari in generatione hac, quoniam scit quia infirmi sunt et portare non possunt.



5. Abba Evagrius once said to Abba Arsenius: “How is it that we educated and learned men have no virtue, and Egyptian peasants have a great deal?” Abba Arsenius answered: “We have nothing because we go chasing worldly knowledge. These Egyptian peasants have acquired virtues by hard work.”

5. Dixit aliquando abbas Evagrius abbati Arsenio:  [0913A] Quomodo nos excitati eruditione et scientia nullas virtutes habemus, hi autem rustici in Aegypto habitantes tantas virtutes possident? Respondit abbas Arsenius: Nos quia mundanae eruditionis disciplinis intenti sumus, nihil habemus; hi autem rustici Aegyptii ex propriis laboribus acquisierunt virtutes.



6. Abba Arsenius of blessed memory said: “A foreign monk not living in his native province will be half-hearted in nothing, and so will be at rest.”

6. Dicebat beatae memoriae abbas Arsenius: Peregrinus monachus in alia provincia habitans, nullis rebus se medium faciat, et quietus erit.



7. Abba Mark asked Abba Arsenius: “Is it good not to have any comfort in one’s cell? I saw a brother who had a few cabbages, and he was rooting them out.” And Abba Arsenius said: “It is good. But each man should do what is right for his own discipline. If he has not strength to endure that, he will plant them again.”

7. Interrogavit abbas Marcus abbatem Arsenium, dicens: Bonum est non habere aliquam in cella consolationem. Vidi enim quemdam fratrem habentem parvum olus in cella, et eradicabat ea. Et dixit abbas Arsenius: Bonum quidem est, sed secundum exercitationem hominis uniuscujusque agendum est:  [0913B] etiam si non habuerit virtutem hujusmodi tolerare, iterum plantaturus est ea.



8. Abba Peter, the disciple of Abba Lot, told this story. “I was once in the cell of Abba Agatho, when a brother came to him and said: ‘I want to live with the monks; tell me how to live with them.’ The old man said: ‘From the first day you join them, remember you are a pi]grim all the days of your life, and do not be too confident.’ Abba Macarius said to him: ‘What does confidence do?’ The old man said: ‘It is like a fierce drought. When it is so dry, everyone flees the land because it destroys even the fruit on the trees.’ Abba Macarius said: ‘Is bad confidence like that?’ Abba Agatho said: ‘No passion is worse than confidence—it is the mother of all passion. It is best for the monk’s progress that he should not be confident, even when he is alone in his cell.’ “

8. Narravit abbas Petrus  (Ruff., l. III, n. 128; Pasch., c. 42, n. 1) , qui fuit discipulus abbatis Lot, dicens: Eram aliquando in cella abbatis Agathonis, et venit frater quidam ad eum, dicens: Volo habitare cum fratribus, sed dic mihi quomodo habitem cum eis. Dicit ei senex: Sicut in prima die quando ingrederis ad eos, ita custodi peregrinationem tuam omnibus diebus vitae tuae, nec assumas fiduciam. Dicit ei abbas Macarius: Quid enim facit fiducia? Dicit ei senex: Sic est sicut aestus grandis, qui quando exarserit, omnes fugiunt a facie ejus, quia aestus etiam arborum fructus corrumpit. Dixit abbas Macarius: Sic mala fiducia est? Respondit abbas Agathon:  [0913C] Non est pejor altera passio quam fiducia; genitrix est enim omnium passionum. Convenit ergo operatio monacho, non sumere fiduciam, vel si solus sit in cella.



9. Abba Daniel said: “When Abba Arsenius was dying, he charged us thus: ‘Do not make a love-offering for me. For if I have made any love-offering for myself during my life, I shall find it.’ “

9. Dicebat abbas Daniel: Quia cum moriturus esset abbas Arsenius, delegavit nobis, dicens: Videte ne velitis pro me agapem facere; quoniam si feci ego pro meipso, id invenio  (Ruff., l. III, n. 163) .



10. They said of Abba Agatho that some people went to him because they heard he was a man of much discretion. And wanting to test whether he was irritable, they said to him: “Are you Agatho? We have heard of you that you are an adult­erer and an arrogant man.” And he answered: “It is true.” And they said to him: “Are you that Agatho who gossips and slanders?” And he answered: “I am.” And they asked him: “Are you Agatho the heretic?” And he answered: “I am no heretic. And they asked him: “Tell us, why did you patiently endure us when we so abused you, but did not endure when we said you were a heretic?” And he answered: “I assented to the first charges against myself—it is for the good of my soul. But I did not agree when you said I was a heretic because that is to be separated from God, and I do not want to be separated from God.” They admired his discretion, and went away edified.

10. Dicebant de abbate Agathone  (Ruff., l. III, n. 21)  quia abierunt quidam ad eum, audientes quia magnae discretionis vir esset; et volentes eum probare si irasceretur, dicunt ei: Tu es Agatho? Audivimus de te, quia fornicator es, et superbus. Et ille respondit: Etiam sic 597 est. Et dixerunt ei: Tu es Agatho verbosus et detractor? Et respondit: Ego  [0913D] sum. Dicunt ei iterum: Tu es Agatho haereticus? Et respondit: Non sum haereticus. Et rogaverunt eum, dicentes: Dic nobis cur tanta dicentibus nobis in injuria tua patienter tuleris; hunc autem sermonem, quia diximus, Haereticus es, non sustinuisti? Et ille respondit, et dixit ei: Illa prima mihi ascribo, utilitas enim animae meae est: quod autem dixistis haereticum me esse, ideo non acquievi, quia separatio est a Deo, et non opto separari a Deo. Illi audientes admirati sunt discretionem ejus, et aedificati discesserunt.



11. Abba Agatho was asked: “Which is more difficult, bodily discipline, or the guard over the inner man?” The Abba said: “Man is like a tree. His bodily discipline is like the leaves of the tree, his guard over the inner man is like the fruit. Scripture says that ‘every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire.’ [Matt. 3: 10] So we ought to take every pre caution about guarding the mind, because that is our fruit. Yet we need to be covered and beautiful with leaves, the bodily discipline.” Abba Agatho was wise in understanding, earnest in discipline, armed at all points, careful about keeping up his manual work, sparing in food and clothing.

11. Interrogatus est idem abbas Agatho: Quid est majus, labor corporis, aut custodia interioris hominis? Dicit abbas: Homo similis est arbori; corporalis  [0914A] igitur labor velut folia arboris, custodia autem interioris hominis fructus est. Quoniam ergo, secundum quod scriptum est, Omnis arbor non faciens fructum bonum excidetur, et in ignem mittetur  (Matth. III) , oportet propter fructum nostrum omnem in nobis sollicitudinem esse, hoc est mentis custodiam. Opus tamen habemus etiam tegumento et ornatu foliorum, quae sunt labor corporis. Erat autem abbas Agatho sapiens ad intelligendum, et impiger ad laborandum, et sufficiens in omnibus, intentus etiam assidue ad laborem manuum, parcus in cibo atque vestimento.



12. In Scete there was a meeting to discuss a matter; and after the decision was taken, Abba Agatho came and said: “You have not made a good decision.” They said to him: “Who are you, that say this?” And he answered: “The son of man. For it is written, ‘If ye truly speak righteousness, judge ye the thing that is right, O ye sons of men.’ [Cf.Ps.58:1]

12. Idem abbas Agatho cum fuisset conventus pro quadam causa in Scythi, et fuisset causa ipsa ordinata, postea venit, et dicit eis: Non bene ordinastis  [0914B] causam. Illi autem dixerunt ei: Tu quis es, qui vel loquaris? Et ille respondit: Filius hominis; scriptum est enim: Si vere utique justitiam loquimini, justa judicate, filii hominum  (Psal. LVII) .



13. Abba Agatho said: “If an angry man raises the dead, God is still displeased with his anger.”

13. Dixit abbas Agatho: Iracundus si mortuos suscitet, non placet Deo propter iracundiam suam.



14. Three old men came to Abba Achillas, and one of them had a bad reputation. The first old man said: “Abba, make me a fishing-net.” And he said: “I will not.” And the second said to him: “Will you give us a memento of yourself to keep in our community?” And he answered: “I have no time.” Then the third, who had the bad reputation, said to him: “Make me a fishing-net, and so I shall have a blessing from your hands, Abba.” And at once he answered: “I will do it.” But the first two, whom he had refused, said privately to him: “Why did you refuse our requests and consent to his?” The old man answered: “I said to you that I would not do it because I had no time, and you were not vexed. But if I did not do it for this man, he would say ‘the old man has heard my reputation and for that reason has refused to make me a net.’ So immedi­ately I set to work with the string, to soothe his soul and prevent him being sad.”

14. Venerunt aliquando tres senes ad abbatem Achillem, et unus ex eis habebat opinionem malam. Dicit autem ei unus de senibus: Abba, fac mihi unam sagenam ad piscandum. Et ille dixit: Non facio. Et alius dixit ei: Fac nobis, ut habeamus memoriam tui in monasterio nostro. Et ille respondit: Non mihi vacat. Dixit ei tertius ille, qui habebat malam opinionem: Mihi fac sagenam, ut habeam de manibus tuis benedictionem, abba. Et ille statim  [0914C] respondit ei: Ego tibi faciam. Dixerunt autem ei secreto duo priores, quibus non acquieverat: Quomodo sic, quia nobis rogantibus noluisti facere, et huic dixisti: Ego tibi faciam? Respondit eis senex: Vobis ideo dixi, Non facio, quia non mihi vacat, et non contristabimini; huic autem si non fecero, dicturus est, quia de opinione mea, quae mala est, audivit senex, et ideo noluit facere sagenam; et statim incidebamus funem ad sedandum animum ejus, ne tristitia absorberetur hujusmodi.



15. They said of one old man that for fifty years he ate no bread and drank little water. And he said: “I have destroyed lust and greed and vanity.” When Abba Abraham heard that he had said this, he came to him and said: “Was it you who said this?” And he answered: “Yes.” And Abba Abraham said to him: “Supposing you go into your cell and find a woman on your mat, could you not think she was a woman?” And he said: “No: but I attack my thought, so as not to touch her.” Abba Abraham said: “Then you have not killed lust, but the passion is still alive; you have imprisoned it. Suppose you were walking along a road and saw stones on one side and gold in jars on the other, could you think the gold and the stones of the same value?” And he answered: “No: but I resist my thought, so as not to pick it up.” And Abba Abraham said to him: “Then the passion still lives but you have imprisoned it.” And he went on: “If you heard that one brother loved you and spoke well of you, and another brother hated you and slandered you, and they both came to visit you, would you give them both the same welcome?” And he said “No: but I torture my soul, to treat him who hates me just as well as him who loves me.” And Abba Abraham said to him: “Then passions are alive: only in some measure holy men have got them chained.”

15. Dicebant de quodam sene, quia fecerit quinquaginta annos neque panem comedens, neque facile aquam bibens  (Ruff. l. III, n. 117) ; et dicebat: Quia exstinxi fornicationem, et avaritiam, et vanam gloriam. Et quia abbas Abraham audierat  [0914D] quod haec dixisset, venit ad eum, et dixit ei: Tu dixisti hunc sermonem? Et ille respondit: Etiam. Et dixit ei abbas Abraham: Ecce intras in cellam tuam, et invenis supra mattam tuam mulierem, potes non cogitare quia mulier est? Et dixit: Non; sed impugno cogitationem meam, ut non tangam mulierem illam. Dixit abbas Abraham: Ecce igitur non fornicationem interfecisti, quia vivit passio ipsa, sed alligata est. Iterum si ambulas in via, et vides lapides et testas vasorum, et in ipsis jacens aurum, quod videris, potes velut lapides reputare? Et respondit: Non; sed resisto cogitationi meae ne colligam illa. Et dicit ei abbas Abraham: Ecce ergo vivit passio; sed alligata est. Et dixit iterum abbas  [0915A] Abraham: Si audieris de duobus fratribus, quia unus diligit te et bona de te loquitur, alius autem odit et detrabit tibi, et venerint ad te, utrosque aequaliter suscipis? Et dixit: Non; sed extorqueo animo (sic), ut similiter bene faciam ei qui me odit, sicut illi qui diligit me. Et dixit ei abbas Abraham: Vivunt ergo passiones, sed tantum a sanctis viris quodammodo religantur.



16. One of the fathers said that an old man was working earnestly in his cell, wrapt in his mat. He went to visit Abba Ammon, who saw him using his mat, and said to him: “This is not good for you.” And the old man said: “Three thoughts trouble me. One tries to drive me to live somewhere else in the desert: the second that I should go out and find a foreign country where no one knows me: the third, that I should shut myself in my cell, see no one, and eat every other day.” Abba Ammon said to him: “None of these three would profit you. Stay in your cell, and eat a little every day, keeping aiways in your heart the words of the publican in the Gospel,29 and you can be saved.”

16. Narravit quidam Patrum quia senex aliquis erat in cella studiose laborans, et vestiebatur matta: qui cum perrexisset ad abbatem Ammonam, vidit eum abbas Ammonas utentem matta, et dixit ei: Hoc tibi nihil prodest. Et dixit ei ille senex: Tres cogitationes mihi molestae sunt: una, quae me compellit ut alicubi in eremo recedam; alia, ut  [0915B] peregrina petam, ubi me nemo cognoscat; tertia, ut includam me in cella, ut nullum videam, et post biduum comedam. Dicit ei abbas Ammonas: Nihil tibi ex his tribus expedit facere, sed magis sede in cella tua, et comede parum quotidie, habens semper in corde tuo publicani illius qui in Evangelio legitur sermonem  (Lucae XVIII) , et ita poteris salvus esse.



17. Abba Daniel said: “If the body is strong, the soul withers. If the body withers, the soul is strong.” He also said: “If the body is fat, the soul grows lean: if the body is lean, the soul grows fat.”

17. Dicebat abbas Daniel: Quia quantum corpus viruerit, tantum anima exsiccatur; et quantum siccatum fuerit corpus, 598 anima tantum virescit. Dixit iterum abbas Daniel: Quia quantum corpus fovetur, tantum anima subtiliatur, et quantum fuerit corpus subtiliatum, tantum anima fovetur.



18. Abba Daniel also said that when Abba Arsenius was in Scete, there was a monk who stole the property of the old men. Abba Arsenius, wanting to do him good and free the old men from being troubled, took him to his cell and said: “If you will stop stealing, I will give you whatever you want.” And he gave him gold, money and trinkets, and everything he found in his bag. But the monk stole again. The old man, seeing that he was always troubling them, expelled him, and said: “If you find a brother committing crime through bodily infirmity, you must bear with him. But if he does not stop after being warned, expel him. He hurts his own soul, and also disturbs everyone who lives there.”

18. Narravit iterum abbas Daniel, quia quando  [0915C] erat in Scythi abbas Arsenius, erat ibi monachus quidam rapiens ea quae habebant senes: abbas autem Arsenius volens eum lucrari, et senibus quietem praestare, tulit eum in cellam suam, et dicit ei: Quidquid vis ego tibi dabo, tantum non rapias; et dedit ei aurum, et nummos, et rescellas [(34) [0989C] Rescellas.] Etiam hoc eodem libello, n. 76, occurrunt rescellae. Diminutivum est a res. Inde formabant, reculas, rescellas.] , et omne quod in responso [(35) [0989C] Responso.] Ita manuscriptus Audomaren. et editio Parisiensis. Alii editores reposuere, expensu, quod ab iis factum puto, ut quam minimum a vestigiis Ms. in quo responsum invenerunt recederent. Divinabam primo, in reposito quod infra, libello XIII, num. 15, usurpetur repositio in simili re: «et vidit repositionem, in qua panes haberi solebant.» Sed vix dubito interpretem invenisse in Graeco prosfwnavrion, quod responsum quidem significat ea notione qua vulgo capitur, pro responsione. Sed hic videtur capi pro fiscella seu sporta. Sane ita Graecum hoc vocabulum  [0989D] usurpat Edessenus monachus in Elencho Agareni: Kaiţ metaţ mikrouđ ajpevsteilen aujthţn bovskein touv˙ kamhvlou˙ kataţ thţn twđn 1ArjrJavbwn sunhvqeian ejpiferomevnhn toţ ojywvnion aujtoiđ˙ ejn prosfwnarivw÷ ejpiţ touđ wćmou aujthđ˙: «Et paulo post misit ipsam pascere camelos juxta consuetudinem Arabum asserentem ipsis obsonium in prosphonario in humero suo.» Iterum postea: Kaiţ labouđsa ejn twđ÷ prosfwnarivw÷ kataţ toţ suvnhqe˙ eJspevra˙ thţn twđn kamhvlwn kovpron, kaiţ aćnwqen touđ moucameţt, hýlqen ejn thđ÷ oijkiva÷ touđ kurivou aujthđ˙: «Et accipiens in prosphonario juxta morem consuetum vesperi camelorum fimum, et desuper muchamet, venit in domum heri sui.]  suo habebat, dedit ei. Ille autem iterum rapiebat. Senes vero videntes quia non quievit, expulerunt eum, dicentes: Quia si invenitur frater habens de infirmitate corporis aliquid, oportet sustinere eum; si autem furatus et admonitus non quiescit, expellite eum: quoniam animae suae detrimentum facit, et omnes in eo loco habitantes conturbat.



19. Soon after Abba Evagrius had become a monk, he went to an old man and said: “Abba, speak to me a word by which I may be saved.” He said: “If you would be saved, when you go to visit a man, do not speak until he asks you a question.” Evagrius was stricken by this word, and did penance before the old man, and satisfied him, saying: “Believe me, I have read many books, and never found such learning.” And he went away much profited.

19. Venit in initio conversationis suae abbas Evagrius  [0915D] ad quemdam senem, et dixit: Dic mihi, abba, sermonem quo salvus fiam. Ille autem dixit ei: Si vis salvari, quando ad aliquem vadis, non prius loquaris antequam te ille inquirat. Evagrius autem compunctus in hoc sermone, poenitentiam egit in conspectu senis, et satisfecit ei, dicens: Crede mihi, multos Codices legi, et talem eruditionem nunquam inveni. Et multum proficiens exiit.



20. Abba Evagrius said: “A wandering mind is strengthened by reading, and prayer. Passion is dampened down by hunger and work and solitude. Anger is repressed by psalmody, and long-suffering, and mercy. But all these should be at the proper times and in due measure. If they are used at the wrong times and to excess, they are useful for a short time. But what is only useful for a short time, is harmful in the long run.”

20. Dixit abbas Evagrius: Mentem nutantem vel errantem solidat lectio, et vigiliae, et oratio: concupiscentiam vero ferventem madefacit esuries et labor et sollicitudo: iracundiam autem perturbatam reprimit psalmodia, et longanimitas, et misericordia, sed haec opportunis temporibus, et mensura  [0916A] adhibita; si autem inopportune vel sine mensura fiunt, ad parvum tempus proficiunt; quae autem parvi temporis sunt, noxia magis quam utilia erunt.



21. Abba Ephraem was passing by when a harlot (she was someone’s agent) began to make every effort to attract him to unlawful intercourse: or, if she failed in this, at least to stir him to anger. For no one had ever seen him angry or brawling. He said to her: “Follow me.” When they came to a crowded place, he said to her: “Come now, I will lie with you as you wanted.” “God be merciful to me a sinner,” [Luke 18: 13]. She looked round at the crowd and said: “How can we do it here, with all these people standing round? We should be ashamed.” He said: “If you blush before men, should you not blush the more before God, who discloses the hidden things of darkness?” And she went away without her pleasure, confused and nonplussed.

21. Transeunte aliquando abbate Ephraem, una prostituta ex immissione cujusdam coepit ei blandiri  (Idem., l. I, in Vita Ephraem, cap. 7) , cupiens eum, si possset, ad turpem commistionem illicere; vel si hoc non posset, saltem ad iracundiam provocaret, quoniam nunquam eum vidit quisquam irascentem vel litigantem. Ipse autem dixit ad eam: Sequere me. Cum venissent autem in loco populoso, dicit ei: Veni huc, et sicut voluisti, commisceor tecum. Illa autem videns multitudinem, dicit ei: Quomodo possumus hic hoc facere, tanta multitudine hic astante? confundemur enim. Ipse autem  [0916B] ait: Si homines erubescis, quanto magis erubescere debemus Deum, qui revelat occulta tenebrarum  (I Cor. IV) ? Illa autem confusa et confutata recessit absque opere voluptatis suae.



22. Some brothers once came to Abba Zeno and asked him: “What is meant by the text in the book of Job ‘Heaven is not pure in God’s sight’?”  The old man answered: “These brothers have left their sins, and search the heavenly places. The meaning of that text is that since God alone is pure, it may be said that not even heaven is pure in his sight.”

22. Venerunt aliquando ad abbatem Zenonem quidam fratres, et interrogaverunt eum, dicentes: Quid est quod scriptum est in libro Job: Nec coelum mundum esse in conspectu Dei  (Job. XV) ? Respondit autem senex dicens: Reliquerunt homines peccata sua, et coelestia scrutantur. Haec autem est interpretatio sermonis, quem requisistis, ut quoniam Deus solus est mundus, dictum sit nec coelum mundum esse in conspectu ejus.



23. Abba Theodore of Pherme said: “If a friend of yours i5 tempted by lust, give him a helping hand if you can and pull him back. But if he falls into heresy, and persists in spite of your efforts, go away quickly, cut off his friendship. For if you dally with him, you might be dragged with him into the deeps.”

23. Dixit abbas Theodorus de Pherme: Si habes amicitias cum aliquo, et contigerit eum in tentationem  [0916C] fornicationis incurrere; si potes, da ei manum, et retrahe illum sursum: si autem in errore aliquo fidei incurrerit, nec tibi acquiescit, revertere cito, incide amicitias ejus abs te, ne forte remorans traharis cum eo in profundum.



24. Once Abba Theodore came to Abba John, who had been born a eunuch. While they were talking, Abba Theodore said: “When I was in Scete, I devoted myself to the soul’s work, and treated the body’s work, so to speak, as a side-issue. But now it is vice versa: I treat the soul to work as though it was the side­issue.”

24. Venit aliquando memoratus abbas Theodorus ad abbatem Joannem, qui erat eunuchus ex nativitate. Et cum loquerentur, dixit abbas Theodorus: Quando eram in Scythi, opus animae erat opus nostrum, opus autem manuum tanquam in transitu habebamus; nunc autem factum est opus animae, velut cum in transitu factum est opus.



25. Once one ofthe fathers came to Abba Theodore and said: “Look, that brother has gone back to the world.” And Abba Theodore said to him: “Do not be surprised at that. Be surprised when you hear that a man has been able to escape the Jaws of the enemy.

25. Venit aliquando quidam Patrum ad eumdem abbatem Theodorum, et dixit ei: Ecce quidam frater reversus est ad saeculum. Et dixit ei abbas Theodorus:  [0916D] In hoc non admireris; si quando audieris quia praevaluit quis effugere de ore inimici, hoc admirare.



26. Abba Theodore said: “Many choose the repose of this world before God gives them his rest.”

26. Dixit memoratus abbas Theodorus: Multi eligunt in hoc saeculo temporalem quietem, antequam praestet eis Dominus requiem.



27. They said of Abba John the Short that he once said to his elder brother: “I wanted to be free of trouble as the angels are free, labouring not, and serving God unceasingly.” He stripped himself of his clothes and went into the desert. After a week there, he went back to his brother. And when he knocked on the door, his brother answered without opening it, and said: “Who’s there?” He said: “I am John.” And his brother answered: John has become an angel, and is no longer among men.” But he went on knocking and saying: “It is I.” And his brother did not open the door, but left him out till morning as a punishment. At last he opened the door and said: “Ifyou are a man, you need to work again in order to live. If you are an angel, why do you want to come into my cell?” And he did penance, and said: “Forgive me my sin, brother.”

27. Dicebant de abbate Joanne statura brevi, quia dixerit aliquando fratri suo majori: Volebam esse securus sicut angeli sunt securi, nihil operantes, sed sine intermissione servientes Deo; et spolians se quo vestitus erat, abiit in eremo  (Ruff. l. III, n. 56) . Et facta ibi hebdomada una, reversus est ad fratrem suum; et dum pulsaret ostium, respondit ei antequam aperiret, dicens: Quis es tu? Et ille dixit:  [0917A] Ego sum Joannes. Et respondit frater ejus, et dixit ei: Joannes angelus factus est, et ultra inter homines non est. Ille autem pulsabat dicens: Ego sum. Et non aperuit ei, sed dimisit eum affligi. Postea vero aperiens dixit ei: Si homo es, opus habes iterum operari, ut vivas; si autem angelus es, quid quaeris intrare in cellam. Et ille poenitentiam agens, dixit: Ignosce mihi, frater, quia peccavi.



28. Once some old men came to Scete, and Abba John the Short was with them. During supper, an eminent presbyter rose to give them each a little cup of water to drink. No one except John the Short accepted it. The others were surprised, and said: “How is it that you, the least of all, dared to accept the ministry of a great old man?” And he said: “When I get up to give the water round, I am glad if everyone takes it, because I have been able to do them a service and will have a reward. That is why I took it just now, to let the minister have his reward; perhaps he would have been sad if no one had accepted it.” And they all admired his discretion.

599 28. Venerunt aliquando senes in Scythi, et erat cum eis abbas Joannes Nanus; et dum comederent, surrexit quidam presbyter vir magnus, ut daret per singulos vasculum aquae parvum ad bibendum; et nemo acquievit accipere ab eo, nisi solus Joannes Brevis. Admirati sunt autem caeteri, et dixerunt ei: Quomodo tu cum sis omnium minor, praesumpsisti  [0917B] ministerio uti viri senis et magni? Et dicit eis: Ego quando surgo dare aquam, gaudeo si omnes biberint, ut mercedem acquiram; nunc igitur propterea ego suscepi, ut faciam ei qui surrexit invenire mercedem, ne forte etiam contristetur nullo sumente ab eo. Haec cum dixisset, admirati sunt omnes de discretione ejus.



29. Abba Poemen once asked Abba Joseph, saying: “What am I to do, when temptations approach me? Do I resist them, or let them come in?” The old man said: “Let them come in, and then fight them.” So he went back to his cell at Scete. And it happened that a man from the Thebaid told the brothers in Scete that he had asked Abba Joseph the question: “When temptation ap­proaches, do I resist it, or do I let it come in?” And he said to him: “On no account let it come in, but cut it straight off.” When Abba Poemen heard that Abba Joseph had said this to the man from the Thebaid, he rose and went back to Abba Joseph at Panephysis and said to him: “Abba, I entrusted my thoughts to your care: and you said one thing to me, and the opposite to a monk from the Thebaid.” And the old man said: “You know that I love you?” And he answered: “Yes.” And he said: “Did you not tell me to say what I thought as though I was talking for my own good? If temptations come in, and you deal with them there, they will prove you. I said this to you as I should say it to myself. But there are other men whom it is bad that passions should come near, and they should cut them straight off.”

29. Interrogavit aliquando abbas Pastor abbatem Joseph, dicens: Quid faciam, quando approximant mihi aliquae tentationes; resisto illis, an permitto intrare? Dicit ei senex: Dimitte intrare, et pugna cum eis. Revertens ergo in Scythi sedebat; et contigit ut veniens quidam a Thebaida in Scythi narraret fratribus, se interrogasse abbatem Joseph: Quando approximat mihi tentatio, resisto ei, an dimitto intrare?  [0917C] et dixerit ei: Omnino non dimittas tentationem in te, sed cito abscinde eam. Audiens autem abbas Pastor, quia sic dixerit huic, qui venerat a Thebaida, abbas Joseph surgens iterum abiit in Panepho ad abbatem Joseph, et dicit ei: Abba, ego tibi commisi cogitationes meas, et tu aliter dixisti mihi, aliter autem fratri de Thebaida. Et dicit ei senex: Scis quia diligo te? Et respondit: Etiam. Nonne tu mihi dixisti, ut sicut mihi ipsi, ita tibi dicerem quod sentirem? Etenim si intraverint tentationes, et dederis atque acceperis cum eis, probatiorem te faciunt; ego autem velut mihi ipsi sic tibi locutus sum: sunt autem aliqui quibus nec approximare expedit passiones, sed statim debent abscindere eas.



30. Abba Poemen said: “In Lower Heracleon I once came to Abba Joseph, and he had in his monastery a very beautiful mulberry tree. In the morning he said to me: ‘Go fetch yourself some mulberries, and eat.’ It was Friday. So I did not eat, as it was a fast day. And I asked: ‘For the Lord’s sake, tell me why you said to me “go, eat.” I did not go because it was a fast day, but I was ashamed to disobey your command: for I think you had some reason for it.’ But he replied: ‘ELlders do not at first speak straightly to brothers, but say some very twisted things. And if they see that the brothers do these twisted things, then they only speak what is good for them, because they know that the brothers will obey them in everything.’ “

 [0917D] 30. Item dixit abbas Pastor: Veni aliquando in Heracleo inferiore ad abbatem Joseph, et habebat in monasterio suo arborem sycomorum pulchram nimis; et dicebat mihi a mane: Vade, et collige tibi, et manduca. Erat autem sexta feria. Ego autem non comedi propter jejunium; et rogavi eum dicens: Dic mihi propter Dominum rationem hujus rei, quia dicebas mihi: Vade, manduca. Ego quidem propter jejunium non abii, sed erubescebam, quia mandatum tuum non feceram, cogitans quia sine ratione mihi haec non praeceperas. Ille autem respondit: Patres seniores non loquuntur ab initio fratribus recta, sed magis distorta; et si viderint quia ea quae torta sunt faciunt, jam eis non loquuntur nisi quae expediunt,  [0918A] agnoscentes quoniam in omnibus obedientes sunt.



31. A brother asked Abba Joseph: “What shall I do? I cannot bear to be troubled, nor to work, nor to give alms.” And the old man said to him: “If you cannot do any of these, at least keep your conscience from every sin against your neighbour, and you will be saved: for God seeks the soul that does not sin.”

31. Frater interrogavit abbatem Joseph, dicens: Quid faciam, quia nec molestiam ferre possum, nec laborare, et dare eleemosynam? Et dicit ei senex: Si non potes horum nihil facere, vel serva conscientiam tuam ab omni malo proximi tui, et ita salvus eris; Deus autem animam sine peccato quaerit.



32. Abba Isaac from the Thebaid said to his brothers: “Do not bring children here. Children were the reason why four churches in Scete were deserted.”

32. Dixit abbas Isaac Thebaeus fratribus suis: Pueros hic non adducatis, quia propter pueros in Scythi quatuor ecclesiae eremus factae sunt.



33. Abba Longinus asked Abba Lucius: “I have three ideas, the first is to go on a pilgrimage.” And the old man answered: “If you do not control your tongue whensoever you travel, you will be no pilgrim. But control your tongue here, and you will be a pilgrim without travelling.” Abba Longinus said: “My second idea is to fast two days together.” And Abba Lucius answered: “The prophet Isaiah said: ‘Even if you bend your neck to the ground, your fast will not so be accepted’: (Cf. Isa. 58:5­32)  You should rather guard your mind from evil thoughts.” And Abba Longinus said: “My third idea is to avoid the sight of men.” And Abba Lucius answered: “Unless you first correct your sin by liv}ng among men you will not be able to correct yourself when you 1ive alone.

33. Interrogavit abbas Longinus abbatem Lucium, dicens: Habeo tres cogitationes: unam ut ad peregrinationem vadam. Et respondit et senex: Si non tenueris linguam tuam ubicunque perrexeris, non eris peregrinus. Sed refrena hic linguam tuam, et  [0918B] eris etiam hic peregrinus. Et dixit ei abbas Longinus: Alia cogitatio mea est, ut jejunem biduanas levando. Et respondit ei abbas Lucius: Isaias propheta dixit: Si curvaveris velut circulum cervicem tuam, nec sic erit acceptum jejunium tuum  (Isaiae LVIII) ; sed magis contine mentem tuam a cogitationibus malis. Et dixit abbas Longinus: Tertium est dispositum meum, ut declinem hominum aspectus. Et respondit ei abbas Lucius: Nisi prius correxeris vitam tuam inter alios conversando, neque solus habitans corrigere te praevalebis.



34. Abba Macarius said: “If we remember the ill which men have done us, we cut off from our minds the power of recollect­ing God. But if we remember the ill which the devils raise, we shall be undisturbed.s) 32

34. Dixit abbas Macarius: Si recordamur mala quae inferuntur nobis ab hominibus, amputamus menti nostrae virtutem recordandi Deum; si autem recordamur malorum quae daemones excitant, erimus  [0918C] imperforabiles   (Pasch., c. 37, n. 4; Append. Mart., n. 15) .



35. Abba Mathois said: “Satan knows not which passion will seduce the soul, and so he scatters his tares in it without direc­tion. At one time he throws in the seeds of lust, at another the seeds of slander, and the rest in the same way. And wheresoever he sees a soul drawn towards one of the passions, he ministers to that soul. If he knew what was most tempting to a soul, he would not scatter such a variety of temptations.”

35. Dixit abbas Mathois: Nescit Satanas qua passione seducatur anima, et ideo seminat quidem in ea ziziniam suam, sed metere nescit: spargit aliquando semina fornicationum, aliquando detractionum, et caeterarum similiter passionum; et in qua passione viderit animam declinantem, hanc ei ministrat; nam si sciret ad quid proclivis est anima, non ei diversa vel varia seminaret.



36. They told this story of Abba Nathyra, who was the disciple of Abba Silvanus. When he was living in his cell on Mount Sinai, he regulated his life with moderation and allowed himself what his body needed. But after he was made bishop in Pharan, he sorely afflicted his spirit with severe austerities. And his disciple said to him: “Abba, when we were in the desert, you were not wont to torment yourself like this.” And the old man said to him: “My son, there we had solitude, and quiet, and poverty: and so I wanted to discipline my body in such a way that I did not fall sick. For if I had fallen sick, I would have needed assistance which I could not have upon Mount Sinai. But now we are in the world; and there are many oppor­tunities of sin. And if I fall ill, there are friends who will help me, and prevent me from falling away from a monk’s purpose.”

36. Narraverunt de abbate Nathyra, qui fuit discipulus abbatis Silvani, quia cum sederet in cella sua in monte Sina, mediocriter gubernavit vitam suam de his quae erant necessaria corpori  (Append. Pallad., c. 20, n. 18) . Quando autem factus est episcopus in  [0918D] Pharan, multum coartabat animam suam in duritia continentiae. Et dicit ei discipulus suus: Abba, quando eramus in eremo non te ita 600 cruciabas. Et dicit ei senex: Fili, illic solitudo erat, et quies, et paupertas, propterea volebam gubernare corpus meum, ne infirmarer, et quaererem quod non habebam: nunc autem hic saeculum est, et occasiones sunt excedendi plurimae; et si in infirmitatem incurrero, sunt hic qui succurrant, ne propositum monachi perdam.



37. A brother asked Abba Poemen: “I am troubled in spirit, and want to leave this place.” And the old man said: “Why?” And he said: “I have heard unedifying stories about one of the brothers.” And the old man said: “Are the stories true?” And he said: “Yes, Father. The brother who told me is a man of trust.” And the old man answered: “The brother who told you is not a man of trust. For if he was so, he would not have told you these stories. When God heard the cry of the men of Sodom, he did not believe it until he had gone down and seen with his own eyes.” And the brother said: “I too have seen it with my own eyes.” When the old man heard this, he looked down and picked off the ground a wisp of straw: and he said: “What is this?” And he answered: “Straw.” Then the old man reached up and touched the roof of the cell, and said: “What is this?” And he answered: “It is the beam that holds up the roof.” And the old man said: “Take it into your heart, that your sins are like this beam: and that brother’s sins are like this wisp of straw.” When Abba Sisoes heard this saying, he marvelled, and said: “How shall I bless you, Abba Poemen? Your words are like a precious jewel, full of grace and glory.”

37. Frater interrogavit abbatem Pastorem, dicens: Perturbatio mihi fit, et volo derelinquere locum istum. Et dicit ei senex: Pro qua causa? Et ille dixit: Quia audio verba de quodam fratre, quae me  [0919A] non aedificant. Et dicit ei senex: Non sunt vera quae audisti? Et dixit ei: Etiam, Pater, vera sunt: nam frater qui dixit mihi, fidelis est. Et respondens dixit: Non est fidelis qui tibi dixit; nam si esset fidelis, nequaquam diceret tibi talia: Deus autem audiens vocem Sodomorum, non credidit, nisi descenderet et videret oculis suis  (Gen. XVIII) . Et ille dixit: Et ego vidi oculis meis. Haec audiens senex, respexit in terram, et tenuit parvam festucam, et dicit ei: Quid est hoc? Et ille respondit: Festuca est. Iterum intendit senex ad tectum cellae, et dicit ei: Quid est hoc? Et ille respondit: Trabes est, quae portat tectum. Et dixit ei senex: Pone in corde tuo quia peccata tua sic sunt sicut trabes haec; illius autem fratris de quo loqueris, velut haec parva festuca. Audiens  [0919B] autem abbas Sisois hunc sermonem, admiratus est, et dixit: In quo te beatum faciam, abbas Pastor? Verumtamen velut pretiosus lapis, ita verba tua gratia et gloria plena sunt.



38. Some neighbouring priests once came to the monastery of Abba Poemen. Abba Anub went in and said to him: “Let us invite these priests to receive the gifts of God here in charity.” But Abba Poemen stood in silence for a long time, and made no reply: and Abba Anub went out sadly. The men sitting round said to Abba Poemen: “Why did you not answer him?” And Abba Poemen said to them: “I have no reason to do so: for already I am dead. Dead men do not speak. Do not blame me, that I am here in your company.”

38. Venerunt aliquando presbyteri regionis illius ad monasteria vicina, in quibus etiam erat et abbas Pastor; et intravit abbas Anub, et dixit ei: Rogemus presbyteros istos hodie accipere hic in charitate dona Dei. Ille autem stans diu non dedit ei responsum; abbas vero Anub contristatus exiit. Dixerunt autem abbati Pastori, qui juxta eum sedebant: Quare non dedisti ei responsum? Et dicit eis abbas Pastor: Ego causam non habeo; jam enim mortuus sum. Mortuus enim non loquitur; non igitur reputetis me, quia hic vobiscum sum.



39. A brother once went out on a pilgrimage from the monastery of Abba Poemen, and came to a hermit, who lived in charity towards all and received many visitors. The brother told the hermit stories of Abba Poemen. And when he heard of Poemen’s strength of character, he longed to see him. The brother returned to Egypt. And after some little time, the hermit rose and went from his country to Egypt to see the brother who had visited him: for he had told him where he lived. When the brother saw the hermit, he was astonished, and very glad. The hermit said to him: “Of your charity towards me, take me to Abba Poemen.” And the brother raised him up and showed him the way to the old man. And the brother told Abba Poemen this about the hermit, “A great man of much charity, and particular honour in his own province, has come here wanting to see you.” So the old man received him kindly. And after they had exchanged greetings, they sat down. But the hermit began to talk of the Holy Scripture, and of the things of the spirit and of heaven. But Abba Poemen turned his face away, and answered nothing. When the hermit saw that he would not speak with him, he was distressed and went out: and he said to the brother who had brought him there: “My journey was useless. I went to the old man and he does not deign to speak to me.” The brother went to Abba Poemen, and said: “Abba, it was to talk with you that this great man came here, a man of much honour in his own land. Why did you not speak to him?” The old man answered: “He is from above, and speaks of the things of heaven. I am from below, and speak of the things of earth. If he had spoken with me on the soul’s passions, I would willingly have replied to him. But if he speaks of the things of the spirit, I know nothing about them.” So the brother went out and told the hermit: “The reason is that the old man does not easily discuss Scripture. But if anyone talks to him about the soul’s passions, he answers.” Then the hermit was stricken with penitence, and went to the old man and said: “What shall I do, Abba? My passions rule me.” And the old man gazed at him with gladness and said: “Now you are welcome: you have only to ask and I will speak with understanding.” And the hermit was much strength­ened by their discourse, and said: “Truly, this is the way of charity.” And he thanked God that he had been able to see so holy a man, and returned to his oxvn country.

 [0919C] 39. Abiit quidam frater aliquando de monasterio abbatis Pastoris in peregre  (Ruff., lib. III, n. 114) , et applicuit ad quemdam solitarium; erat enim ille habens cum omnibus charitatem, et multi veniebant ad eum. Nuntiavit autem ei frater ille quaedam de abbate Pastore: qui audiens virtutem animi ejus, desideravit eum videre. Cum reversus autem fuisset frater ille in Aegypto, post aliquantum tempus surgens supradictus solitarius, venit ut peregrinus in Aegyptum ad eumdem fratrem, qui prius applicuerat apud ipsum, dixerat enim ei ubi maneret. Videns autem ille, miratus est et valde gavisus. Dixit autem ei ille solitarius: Ostende charitatem quam habes in me, et duc me ad abbatem Pastorem. Et tollens eum, duxit ad senem, et nuntiavit ei de eo, dicens;  [0919D] Quidam magnus homo, et multam charitatem habens, et honorem plurimum in provincia sua, venit desiderans videre te. Suscepit ergo eum cum gratulatione senex, et salutantes se invicem resederunt. Coepit autem loqui peregrinus ille frater de Scripturis sanctis, et de rebus spiritualibus atque coelestibus; abbas autem Pastor avertit faciem suam, et non dedit ei responsum. Videns autem ille quia non loqueretur ei, contristatus exiit, et dicit fratri illi qui eum adduxerat: In vanum iter istud assumpsi; veni ad senem, et ecce nec loqui mecum dignatur. Intravit autem frater ad abbatem Pastorem, et dicit ei: Abba, propter te venit magnus hic vir, habens tantam gloriam in loco suo, quare non locutus es cum eo?  [0920A] Respondit ei senex: Iste de sursum est, et de coelestibus loquitur; ergo autem de deorsum sum, et de terrenis loquor; si ergo mihi locutus fuisset de passionibus animae, ego utique responderem ei; si autem de spiritualibus, ego haec ignoro. Exiens ergo frater dixit illi: Quia senex non cito de Scripturis loquitur, sed si quis ei loquitur de passionibus animae, respondet ei. Ille autem compunctus intravit ad senem, et dixit ei: Quid faciam, abba, quia passiones animae dominantur mei? Et intuens eum senex gaudens, dixit ei: Modo bene venisti; nunc aperiam os meum de his, et implebo illud bonis. Ille autem valde aedificatus dicebat: Vere haec est via charitatis. Et gratias agens Deo, quia tam sanctum virum videre meruit, reversus est in regionem suam.



40. A brother asked Abba Poemen and said: “I have com­mitted a great sin, and I would do penance for three years.” But Abba Poemen said to him: “That is a long time.” And the brother said: “Do you order me one year’s penance?” And again the old man said: “That is a long time.” Some of the people who were nearby said: “A penance of forty days?” Again the old man said: “That is a long time.” And he added: “I think that if a man is penitent with his whole heart, and determined not to sin that sin again, God will accept a penance of even three days.”

 [0920B] 40. Frater interrogavit abbatem Pastorem, dicens: Feci peccatum grande, et volo triennio poenitere. Dixit autem ei abbas Pastor: Multum est. Et dixit ei frater: Jubes annum unum? Et dixit iterum senex: Multum est. Qui autem praesentes erant dicebant: Usque ad quadraginta dies? Senex iterum dixit: Multum est. Et adjecit dicens: Ego puto, quia si ex toto corde homo poenituerit, et non apposuerit facere iterum unde poenitentiam agat, etiam triduanam poenitentiam suscipiat Deus.



41. Abba Ammon questioned him on the subject of the impure thoughts bred within a man’s heart, and on the subject of vain desire. And Abba Postnen said: “Shall the axe boast unless the woodman wield it? 33 Do not reach out your hands for these things, and they shall do you no harm.”

41. Interrogavit eum abbas Ammon de immundis cogitationibus, quas cor hominis generat; et de vanis desideriis. Et dixit ei abbas Pastor: Nunquid gloriabitur 601 securis sine eo qui incidit cum ipsa  (Isai. X) ? Et tu ergo non eis porrigas manus, et  [0920C] otiosae erunt.



42. Abba Isaiah asked him about the same subject. Abba Poemen said: “Clothes, left too long in a chest, become rotten. If our bodies do not bring those thoughts forward, then at length they will rot or be destroyed.”

42. Interrogavit eumdem sermonem abbas Isaias. Dicit abbas Pastor: Sicut capsa plena vestibus, si dimissa fuerit tempore longo, putrefiunt vestes in ea, ita sunt et cogitationes in corde nostro; si non fecerimus ea corporaliter, tempore longo exterminabuntur et putrefient.



43. Abba Joseph asked him about the same subject. And Abba Poemen said: “Ifyou shut a snake or a scorpion in a box, in the end it will die. And the wicked thoughts, which the demons scatter, slowly lose their power if the victim has endur­ance.”

43. Interrogavit abbas Joseph de eadem re; et dixit abbas Pastor: Sicut quis claudens serpentem vel scorpionem in vase, et obturat eum, procedente tempore omnino moritur; ita malignae cogitationes, quae studio daemonum pullulant, patientia eius cui immittuntur paulatim deficiunt.



44. Abba Joseph asked Abba Poemen: “How should we fast?” And Abba Poemen said: “I would have everyone eat a little less than he wants, every day.” AbbaJoseph said to him: “When you were a young man, did you not fast for two days on end?” And the old man said to him: “Believe me, I used to fast three days on end, even for a week. But the great elders have tested all these things, and they found that it is good to eat something every day, but on some days a little less. And they have shown us that this is the king’s highway, for it is easy and

44. Interrogavit abbas Joseph abbatem Pastorem, dicens: Quomodo opus est jejunare  (Ruff., lib. III,  [0920D] n. 45) ? Et dixit abbas Pastor: Ego volo ut quotidie manducans subinde paululum subtrahat sibi, ne satietur. Dicit ei abbas Joseph: Ergo quando eras juvenis, non jejunabas biduanas levando? Et dixit ei senex: Crede mihi, quia et triduanas, et hebdomadam; sed et haec omnia probaverunt senes magni; et invenerunt quia bonum est quotidie manducare, per singulos dies parum minus; et ostenderunt nobis viam hanc regalem, quia levior est et facilis.



45. Abba Poemen said: “Do not live in a place where some are jealous of you: you will make no progress there.”

45. Dixit abbas Pastor: Non habites in loco ubi vides aliquos habentes adversum te zelum, quia ibi non proficies.



46. A brother came to Abba Poemen, and said to him: “I sow seed in my field, and make a love-feast with the crop.” The old man said: “You do a good work.” And he went away with purpose, and invited more to the love-feast which he was making. When Abba Anub heard this, he said to Abba Poemen: “Are you not afraid of God that you spoke so to the brother?” And the old man said nothing. But two days later Abba Poemen sent  to the brother and called him to his cell. And he said to him, in the hearing of Abba Anub: “What did you ask me the other day? My mind was elsewhere.” The brother said: “I sow my field, and make a love-feast with the crop.” And Abba Poemen said to him: “I thought you were talking about your brother, who is a layman. What you are doing is not a monk’s work.” The brother was sad when he heard this, and said: “This is the only kind of work that I can do or know: I cannot stop sowing seed in my field.” When he had gone away, Abba Anub began to do penance before Abba Poemen, and said: “Forgive me.” Abba Poemen said to him: “Look, I knew from the beginning that it was not a monk’s work. But I spoke to his soul’s need, and stirred his soul to an increase of charity; and now he has gone away melancholy, yet he will go on with the same work.”

46. Frater venit ad abbatem Pastorem, et dicit ei: Semino agrum meum, et facio ex ipso agapem. Dicit  [0921A] ei senex: Bonum opus facis. Et discessit cum proposito animi, et adjiciebat ad agapem quam faciebat. Hoc autem audiens abbas Anub, dixit abbati Pastori: Non times Deum, quia sic locutus es fratri illi? Et tacuit senex. Post duos autem dies misit abbas Pastor ad fratrem illum, et vocavit eum ad se, et dixit ei, audiente abbate Anub: Quid me interrogasti illa die? quia mens mea alibi erat. Et dixit ei frater: Hoc dixi, quia semino agrum meum, et de hoc quod colligo, ex ipso facio agapem. Et dixit ei abbas Pastor: Putavi quia de fratre tuo illo, qui laicus est, diceres; si autem tu facis haec, non est opus monachi. Ille autem contristatus est audiens, et dixit: Aliud opus non facio nec scio, nisi hoc; et non possum seminare agrum meum? Cum autem discessisset, coepit abbas Anub poenitentiam agere apud abbatem  [0921B] Pastorem, dicens: Ignosce mihi. Dixit ei abbas Pastor: Ecce ab initio sciebam, quia non est opus monachi, sed secundum animum ejus locutus sum ei, et excitavi animum ejus ad profectum charitatis; nunc autem abiit tristis, et tamen istud opus facit.



47. A brother asked Abba Poemen: “What is the meaning of the text ‘Whoever is angry with his brother without a cause’?” 34 And he answered: “It is if you are angry with your brother for any trouble whatsoever that he tries to lay upon you—that is anger without a cause, and it is better to pluck out your right eye and cast it from you. But if anyone wants to separate you from God, be angry with him.”

47. Frater quidam interrogavit abbatem Pastorem, dicens: Quid est illud quod scriptum est: Qui irascitur fratri suo sine causa  (Matth. V in Graeco) ? Et ille respondit: Ex omni re qua te gravare voluerit frater tuus, si irasceris adversus eum, donec oculum tuum dexterum ejicias, et a te projicias, sine causa irasceris ei; si autem aliquis voluerit te separare a Deo, pro hoc irascere



48. Abba Poemen said: “If a man sins and denies it, saying ‘I have not sinned’Ho not blame him, or you will break his purpose to amend. If you say: ‘Do not be cast down, my brother, but keep a watch on it in future,’ you stir his heart to be penitent.”

 [0921C] 48. Dixit abbas Pastor: Si peccaverit homo et non negaverit, dicens, Peccavi; non increpes eum, quia frangis propositum animi ejus. Si autem dixeris: Non contristeris, frater, sed observa de caetero, excitas animum ejus ad poenitentiam.



49. The same father said: “Experience is good. By experience men are tested.”

49. Dixit iterum qui supra: Bonum est experimentum. Experimento enim homines probatiores sunt.



50. He also said: “If a man preaches but does not practise what he preaches, he is like a well of water where everyone can quench their thirst and wash their dirt, but which cannot clean away the filth and dung that is around it.”

50. Item dixit qui supra: Si quis docet aliquid et non facit quod docet, similis est puteo qui omnes ad se venientes satiat et delet sordes, seipsum autem purgare non potest; sed omnis spurcitia et immunditia in eo est  (Ruff., l. III, n. 183) .



51. He also said: “He who knows himself is a man.” He also said: “One man seems silent of speech, but is con­demning other people within his heart—he is really talking incessantly. Another man seems to talk all day, yet keeps his silence: for he always speaks in a way that is useful to his hearers.”

51. Dixit iterum ipse: Est homo qui seipsum agnoscit. Dixit iterum: Quia est homo qui videtur ore  [0921D] tacere, cor autem ejus condemnat alios; hic ergo sine cessatione loquitur. Est et alius a mane usque ad vesperam loquens, et taciturnitatem tenet; hoc autem ideo dixit, quia nunquam sine audientium utilitate locutus est.



52. He also said: “Suppose there are three men living to­gether. One lives a good life in quietness, the second is ill but gives thanks to God, the third ministers to their needs with sincerity. These three men are alike; it is as if they were all doing one work.”

52. Iterum dixit: Quia si sunt tres in unum, ex quibus unus bene quiescat, alius infirmetur et gratias agat, tertius vero ministret eis ex sincera voluntate, hi tres similes sunt, velut etiam si unius sint operis.



53. He also said: “Wickedness cannot drive out wickedness. If anyone hurts you, do him good: and so by your good work you will destroy his wickedness.”

53. Iterum dixit: Malitia nequaquam expellit malitiam; sed si quis tibi male facit, tu bene fac ei, ut per bonum opus tuum destruas malitiam ipsius  (Ruff., l. III, n. 79 Pasch., c. 7, n. 3) .



54. He also said: “The grumbler is no monk. The man who gives evil for evil is no monk: the irritable man is no monk.”

 [0922A] 54. Dixit iterum: Qui querulosus est, monachus non est; qui malum pro malo reddit, monachus non est; qui iracundus est, monachus non est.



55. A brother came to Abba Poemen and said to him: “Many thoughts come into my head and put me in peril.” And the old man drove him out into the open air, and said: “Open your lungs and hold your breath.” And he answered: “I cannot do it.” And the old man said to him: “Just as you cannot stop air coming into your breast, you cannot stop thoughts coming into your mind. Your part is to resist them.”

55. Frater venit ad abbatem Pastorem, et dicit ei: Multae cogitationes veniunt in anima mea, et periclitor in eis. Et ejecit eum senex sub aere nudo, et dicit ei: Expande sinum tuum et apprehende ventum. Et ille respondit: Non possum hoc facere. Et dicit ei senex: Si hoc non potes facere, nec cogitationes prohibere potes ne introeant, sed tuum est eis resistere.



56. A brother asked him: “I have been left a fortune, what am I to do with it?” And Abba Poemen said to him: “Go, and come back in three days, and I will tell you.” The brother came back as he was told, and the old man said: “What can I tell you, brother? If I say, Give it the church, they will dine off it. If I say, Give it to your relations, you will have no profit. If I say, Give it to the poor, you will be safe. So go and do what you like with it, I can give you no reasons for choosing.”

56. Frater quidam interrogavit eum dicens: Dimissa est mihi omnis haereditas, quid 602 facio ex ea? Et dicit ei abbas Pastor: Vade, et post tres dies veni, et dico tibi. Venit autem sicut praefinivit, et  [0922B] dicit ei senex: Quid tibi habeo dicere, frater? Si dixero, Da eam in ecclesiam, clerici sibi facient convivia ex ea; si autem dixero, Da eam parentibus tuis, non est tibi merces; si vero dicam, Da pauperibus, securus eris. Quidquid ergo vis, vade, fac, ego causas non habeo  (Pasch., c. 36, n. 4, nomine Sisois; Append. Mart., n. 7) .



57. Abba Poemen also said: “If a thought about your bodily needs comes to you, and you put it aside; and then it comes again, and you put it aside, what will happen? If it comes a third time, you will not heed it, and it will do you no harm.”

57. Dixit iterum abbas Pastor: Si venerit tibi cogitatio de rebus corpori necessariis, et delegaveris semel; et iterum venerit, et delegaveris, quid fiat? jam tertio si venerit, non intendas ei, otiosa est enim.



58. A brother said to Abba Poemen: “If I see something, do you want me to tell you?” The old man said to him: “It is written, ‘If a man answers before he has heard, it is foolishness to him and discredit.’ 35 If you are asked, speak: if not, say nothing.”

58. Frater quidam dixit abbati Pastori: Si video rem aliquam, vis ut dicam illam? Dicit ei senex: Scriptum est: Qui responderit verbum antequam audiat,  [0922C] stultitia ei et opprobrium est  (Eccli. XI) . Si ergo interrogatus fueris, dic; sin alias, tace.



59. Abba Poemen told a saying of Abba Ammon: “One man carries an axe all his life but cannot cut down a tree: another knows how to use it, and cuts down the tree with a few strokes.” He used to say that the axe was discretion.

59. Dixit iterum abbas Pastor, quia dixerat abbas Ammon: Est homo qui portat toto tempore vitae suae securim, et non potest dejicere arborem; est autem alter habens usum incidendi, et in paucis plagis dejicit arborem. Dicebat autem securim discretionem esse.



60. He also said: “The will of a man is a brazen wall, and a stone hurled between himself and God. If he puts it aside, he can say the words of the psalm: ‘In my God I shall go over a wall’ and, ‘as for my God, his way is undefiled.’ 36 If righteous­ness helps the will, then a man does good.”

60. Iterum dixit: Voluntas hominis murus est aereus, et lapis percutiens inter ipsum et Deum. Si ergo reliquerit haec, dic ei et ipse, quod in psalmo scriptum est: In Deo meo transgrediar murum; et: Deus meus, impolluta via ejus  (Psal. XVII) . Si enim justitia subvenerit voluntati, laborat homo.



61. A brother asked Abba Poemen: “I am suffering the loss of my soul by being with my abba. What do you order me? Should I continue to stay with kim?” And Abba Poemen knew that kis soul was being harmed by his abba, and was astonished that he asked whether he ought to stay with him. And he said to him: “If you want to stay, do so.” And the brother went away and stayed with his abba. But he came a second time to Abba Poemen, and said: “I am burdening my soul.” And Abba Poemen did not say to him: “Leave the abba.” He came a third time, and said: “Believe me, henceforth I shall no longer stay with him.” And the old man said: “Now you are saved: come, and stay with kim no longer.” And he went on: “A man who sees kis soul being harmed, has no need to ask. A man ought to ask about his secret thoughts, to get them tested by the elders. But there is no need to ask about obvious sins: they must at once be cut off.”

61. Frater interrogavit abbatem Pastorem, dicens:  [0922D] Damnum animae meae patior, quod sum cum abbate meo. Quid ergo jubes? Maneo adhuc apud ipsum? Et sciebat abbas Pastor, quia laederetur anima ejus per abbatem suum, et admirabatur quare vel interrogabat eum, si manere deberet cum illo. Et dixit ei: Si vis, esto. Et discedens, mansit apud eum. Venit autem iterum dicens abbati Pastori: Gravo animam meam. Et non dixit ei abbas Pastor: Discede ab eo. Venit tertio, et dixit: Crede mihi, jam non ero cum eo. Et dicit ei senex: Ecce modo salvatus es, vade, et non sis ultra cum eo. Dixit enim abbas Pastor eidem: Homo qui vidit damnum pati animam suam, non opus habet interrogare. Etenim de occultis cogitationibus interrogat quis, ut seniores  [0923A] probare possint; de manifestis autem peccatis non est opus interrogare, sed statim abscindere.



62. Abba Abraham, who was a disciple of Abba Agatho, once asked Abba Poemen: “Why do the demons attack me?” And Abba Poemen said to him: “Do the demons attack you? The demons do not attack us when we follow our self-wills, because then our wills become demons and themselves trouble us to obey them. If you want to know the kind of people witk whom the demons fight, it is Moses and men like kim.”

62. Interrogavit abbas Abraham, qui erat abbatis Agathonis discipulus, abbatem Pastorem, dicens: Quare me sic daemones impugnant? Et dicit ei abbas Pastor: Te impugnant daemones? Non pugnant nobiscum daemones, quando voluntates nostras facimus; quia voluntates nostrae daemones factae sunt, et hae sunt quae tribulant nos ut faciamus eas. Si autem vis scire quales sunt cum quibus daemones pugnant; cum Moyse et similibus ejus.



63. Abba Poemen said that a brother asked Abba Moses: “How does a man mortify himself? Is it by his neighbour?” And he answered: “Unless a man has it in his keart that he has been shut in a tomb for three years, he cannot attain to mortification.”

63. Dixit abbas Pastor, quia frater quidam interrogaverit abbatem Moysem, dicens: Qualis homo mortificat se? homo a proximo suo? Et respondit ei: Nisi posuerit homo in corde suo quia triennium habet  [0923B] in sepultura, non attingit ad hoc verbum  (Ruff., l. III, n. 102; Pasch., c. 43, n. 2, nomine Silvani; Append. Mart., n. 108) .



64. A brother asked Abba Poemen and said: “How ought a brother to sit in his cell?” And the old man said: “To sit in the cell is, externally, to work with the hands, eat once a day, keep silence and meditate; and, internally, to make progress by carrying a reproach wheresoever you may be, and keeping the hours of prayer, and keeping a watch on the secret thoughts of the heart. If it is time to stop working with the hands, fall to prayer and finish it in tranquillity. The end of it all is to keep company with men of good life, and avoid the company of the wicked.”

64. Frater interrogavit abbatem Pastorem, dicens: Quomodo oportet monachum sedere in cella? Et dixit ei senex: Sedere in cella, quantum ad id quod in manifesto est, hoc est, ut faciat opus manuum, et semel comedat, et taceat, et meditetur; occulte enim proficere in cella, hoc est, ut portet unusquisque opprobrium suum in omni loco quocunque perrexerit, et ut ministerii horas custodiat, et de occultis non negligat. Si autem contigerit tempus ut vacet ab opere manuum, intret ad ministerium operis Dei, et id sine aliqua perturbatione consummet. Finis  [0923C] autem horum est ut comitatum simul conversantium bonorum teneas, et revoceris a malorum comitatu.



65. Two brothers once came to Abba Pambo. And one of them asked kim: “Abba, I fast for two days, and then eat two large buns. Do you tkink I am saving my soul, or losing it?” And the other said: “With my hands I make two vegetable stews every day, and I keep a little for food, and give the rest away in alms: do you think I shall be saved or lost?” And although they pressed him for an answer he did not reply. After four days they were on the point of going. And the clergy said to them: “Do not be distressed, God will reward you. This is always the way of the old man, he does not talk easily, unless God gives him something to say.” So they went in to the old man and said: “Abba, pray for us.” And he said to them: “Do you want to go away?” And they said: “Yes.” And he gazed at them; and supposing himself in their place, he wrote upon the ground and said: “Pambo fasts for two days and eats two large buns: do you think this makes him a monk? No.” Then he said: “And Pambo makes two vegetable stews every day and gives them away to the poor: do you think this makes him a monk? Not yet.” He was silent for a little, and then said: “These works are good. But if you act conscientiously to your neighbour, that is the way to be saved.” And so the brothers were edified, and went away joyfully.

65. Venerunt aliquando duo fratres ad abbatem Pampo, et interrogavit unus ex eis, dicens: Abba, ego biduo jejuno, et duos paximates manduco; putas salvo animam meam, an seducor? Et alter dixit: Ego colligo de opere manuum mearum duas siliquas diurnas, et parum ex eis retineo ad victum, aliud autem expendo in eleemosynam; putas salvus ero, an seducor? Et cum plurimum rogarent eum, ille non respondebat eis. Post quatuor autem dies cum discessuri essent, rogabant eos clerici, dicentes: Nolite tristari, fratres, Deus vobis praestabit mercedem; sic est enim consuetudo hujus senis, non cito  [0923D] loquitur, nisi Deus ei dederit quod dicat. Intraverunt ergo ad senem, et dixerunt ei: Abba, ora pro nobis. Et ille dixit eis: Ambulare vultis? Et dixerunt: Etiam. Et intuens eos, in semetipso accipiens opera eorum, scribebat in terram, et dicebat: Pambo biduo jejunat, et duos paximates manducat; putas in hoc est monachus? Non. Iterum dicebat: Et Pambo laborat in die duas siliquas, et dat eas in eleemosynam; putas in hoc est monachus? Necdum. Et paululum reticens, dixit ad eos: Bonum quidem operaris, sed si custodias conscientiam 603 tuam cum proximo tuo, ita salvaberis. In his ergo sic aedificati fratres, cum gaudio discesserunt.



66. A brother asked Abba Pambo: “Why do the spirits pre­vent me doing good to my neighbour?” The old man said: “Do not talk like that, or you will make God a liar. Say ‘I do not at all want to be kind.’ For God came down and said: ‘I have given you the power of treading upon scorpions and snakes, and over all the might of the enemy.’ 37 Why then do you not trample on the unclean spirits?”

66. Frater quidam interrogavit abbatem Pambo, dicens: Quare me prohibent spiritus quidam facere  [0924A] bona proximis? Dixit ei senex: Non sic loquaris, alioquin Deum mendacem facies; sed dic magis: Omnino misericordiam facere nolo. Praeveniens enim Deus dixit: Dedi vobis potestatem calcandi super scorpiones et serpentes, et super omnem virtutem inimici  (Lucae X) , cur ergo tu immundos spiritus non conculcas?



67. Abba Palladius said: “The soul which is being trained according to the will of Christ should either be earnest in learn­ing what it does not know, or should publicly teach what it knows. If it wants to do neither, though it could, it is mad. The first step on the road away from God is contempt for teaching, when it has no desire for the foods of the soul which truly loves God.s~ 38

67. Dixit abbas Palladius: Oportet animam secundum Christi voluntatem conversantem, aut discere fideliter quae nescit, aut docere manifeste quae novit; si autem utrumque, cum possit, non vult, insamae morbo laborat. Initium enim recedendi a Deo, fastidium doctrinae est, et cum non appetit illud quod semper anima esurit quae diligit Deum (Pallad., epist. ad Lausum, titulo Heraclidis, in edit.  [0924B] Herveti).



68. A brother said to Abba Sisois: “Why do my passions not leave me?” And the old man said to him: “Because the vessels of those passions are within you. Give them a pledge and they will go away.”

68. Frater dixit abbati Sisoi: Quare non recedunt a me passiones? Et dicit ei senex: Quia vasa earumdem passionum intra te sunt; sed da eis pignus suum, et discedent.



69. A brother came to Abba Silvanus on Mount Sinai. And when he saw the brothers working, he said to the old man: “Labour not for the meat which perisheth”: and “Mary hath chosen the best part.” 39 And the old man said to his disciple: “Call Zacharias, and put this brother in a cell where there is nothing.” And when three o’clock came, he kept looking at the door, to see when they would send someone and summon him to eat. But no one spoke to him. So he rose and went to the old man and said: “Abba, do not the brethren eat today?” And the old man said: “Yes, they have eaten already.” And the brother said: “Why did you not call me?” And the old man answered: “You are a spiritual person and do not need food. We are earthy, and since we want to eat, we work with our hands. But you have chosen the good part, reading all day) and not wanting to take earthly food.” When the brother heard this he prostrated himself in penitence and said: “Forgive me, Abba.” And the old man said: “I think Mary always needs Martha, and by Martha’s help Mary is praised.”

69. Venit quidam frater ad abbatem Silvanum in monte Sina, et vidit fratres laborantes, et dixit seni: Nolite operari cibum qui perit  (Joan. VI) ; Maria autem optimam partem elegit  (Lucae X) . Et dicit senex discipulo suo: Voca Zachariam, et mitte fratrem istum in cellam, ubi nihil est  (Ruff., l. III, n. 55) . Et cum facta fuisset hora nona, intendebat ad ostium, si mitterent et vocarent eum ad manducandum; et cum nemo loqueretur ei, surgens venit ad senem, et dicit ei: Abba, hodie fratres non comederunt? Et  [0924C] dixit ei senex: Etiam jam comederunt. Et dicit ei frater: Et quare me non vocasti? Et respondit senex: Tu homo spiritalis es, et non indiges hoc cibo; nos autem carnales sumus et volentes manducare, propterea operamur manibus nostris; tu vero bonam partem elegisti, legens tota die, et nolens sumere cibum carnalem. Qui cum haec audisset, prostravit se ad poenitentiam, dicens: Ignosce, mi abba. Et dixit senex: Puto opus habet omnino Maria Martham, per Martham enim Maria laudatur.



70. Saint Syncletice said: “Merchants toil in search of riches and are in danger of their lives from shipwreck: the more wealth they win, the more they want; and they think of no worth what they have already, but bend their whole mind to what they have not yet. But we have nothing, even of what we ought to seek, and we do not even want to possess what we need, because we fear God.”

70. Dixit sancta Syncletica: Qui sensibiles divitias de labore et periculis maris colligunt, quando multa lucrantur, tunc plura desiderant, et quae habent, velut nihilum reputant; ad ea vero quae necdum  [0924D] habent omnem intentionem animi tendunt. Nos autem et eorum quae quaerenda sunt, nihil habemus, et nolumus possidere quae necessaria sunt propter timorem Dei.



71.. She also said: “There is a useful sorrow, and a des­tructive sorrow. Sorrow is useful when we weep for sin, and for our neighbour’s ignorance, and so that we may not relax our purpose to attain to true goodness: these are the true kinds of sorrow. Our enemy adds something to this. For he sends sorrow without reason, which is something called accidie. We ought always to drive out a spirit like this with prayer and psalmody.”

71. Dixit iterum: Est tristitia utilis, et est tristitia quae corrumpit. Tristitia ergo utilis est, ut pro peccatis ingemiscamus, et pro ignorantia proximorum, et ut non cadamus a proposito, ut perfectionem bonitatis attingamus: hae sunt species verae tristitiae. Est enim et adversarii nostri ad haec quaedam conjunctio. Immittit enim tristitiam sine aliqua ratione, quam taedium appellaverunt. Oportet ergo talem spiritum saepius orando et psallendo magis depellere.



7IB. She said: “ ‘Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.’ But you wait until the sun is going down on your life; you do not know how to say: ‘Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.’ Why do you hate the man who has harmed you? It is not he who has harmed you but the devil. You ought to hate the sickness, not the sick man.”




72. She also said: “The devil sometimes sends a severe fast, too prolonged—the devil’s disciples do this as well as holy men. How do we distinguish the fasting of our God and King from the fasting of that tyrant the devil? Clearly by its moderation. Throughout your life, then, you ought to keep an unvarying rule of fasting. Do you fast four or five days on end and then lose your spiritual strength by eating a feast? That gladdens the devil. Everything which is extreme is destructive. So do not suddenly throw away your armour, or you may be found un­armed in the battle and made an easy prisoner. Our body is like armour, our soul like the warrior. Take care of both, and you will be ready for what comes.”

72. Dixit iterum: Est enim ex immissione diaboli  [0925A] extensa dura abstinentia, nam et sequaces ejus faciunt hoc; quando ergo discernimus divinam et regalem abstinentiam a tyrannica atque diabolica? Manifestum est quia mediocri tempore conversationis tuae una regula jejunii sit tibi. Non subito quatuor aut quinque dies continuos jejunas, et iterum multitudine ciborum solvis virtutem? hoc enim laetificat diabolum. Semper enim quod sine mensura est, corruptibile est. Noli ergo subito arma tua expendere, ne nudus inventus in bello facile capiaris; arma vero nostra corpus nostrum est, anima vero nostra miles est. Utrisque ergo diligentiam praesta, ut paratus sis ad id quod necesse est.



73. Two old men came from the Pelusium country to the Abbess Sarah. On their way they said to each other: “Let us humble this old woman.” And they said to her: “Take care that your soul be not puffed up, and that you do not say: ‘Look, some hermits have come to me, a woman!”‘ And the Abbess Sarah said to them: “I am a woman in sex, but not in spirit.”

73. Venerunt aliquando duo senes de partibus Pelusii ad abbatissam Saram. Et cum ambularent,  [0925B] dicebant ad invicem: Humiliemus vetulam istam. Et dicunt ei: Vide ne extollatur animus tuus, et dicas: Quia ecce solitarii viri veniunt ad me, quae mulier sum. Et dixit eis abbatissa Sara: Sexu quidem mulier sum, sed non animo.



74. Abbess Sarah also said: “If I asked God that all men should be edified in me, I should be doing penance at the door of everyone. I pray rather that my heart should be pure in all things.”

74. Iterum dixit abbatissa Sara: Si poposcero a Deo ut omnes homines aedificentur in me, invenior ante januas singulorum poenitentiam agens; sed magis oro ut cor meum cum omnibus purum sit.



75. Abba Hyperichius said: “The man who teaches men by his life and not his speech is the true wise man.”

75. Dixit abbas Hyperichius: Ille est vere sapiens, qui facto suo docet alios, non qui verbis.



76. There once came from the city of Rome a monk who had held a high place in the palace. He lived near the church in Scete, and had with him a servant who ministered to him. The priest of the church saw that he was infirm and knew that he was accustomed to comfort: and so he passed to him whatever the Lord gave him or was given to the church. After he had lived in Scete for twenty-five years, he became celebrated as a contemplative with the spirit of prophecy. One of the great Egyptian monks heard of his reputation and came to see him in the hope that he would find a more austere way of life. He came into the cell and greeted him: and after they had prayed they sat down. But the Egyptian saw his soft clothing, and a bed of reeds, and a blanket under him, and a little pillow under his head, and his clean feet with sandals on them; and he was inwardly scandalized. In Scete they never used to live like this, but practised a sterner abstinence. But the old Roman, with his gift of contemplation and second sight, saw that the Egyptian monk was inwardly scandal­ized. And he said to his servant: “Make us a good meal today, for this abba who has come.” And he cooked the few vegetables which he had, and they rose and ate at the proper hour: and he had a little wine by reason of his infirmity,’and they drank that. And at evening they said twelve psalms, and went to sleep afterwards: and the same in the night. But at dawn the Egyptian rose, and saying: “Pray for me,” he went away, not edified at him. And when he had gone a little way off, the old Roman wanted to heal his mind, and sent after him and called him back. And he said: “What is your province?” And he answered: “I am an Egyptian.” And he said: “Of what city?” And he answered: “Of no city, I never lived in a city.” And he said: “Before you were a monk, how did you earn your living?” And he answered: “I was a herdsman.” And he said to nim: “Where did you sleep?” He answered: “In the fields.” And he said: “Had you any mattress?” And he answered: “How should I have a mattress for sleeping in a field?” And he said: “And how did you sleep?” He answered: “On the ground.” And he said: “What did you eat when you were in the fields? And what wine did you drink?” And he answered: “What kind of food and drink do you find in a field?” And he said: “How then did you live?” He answered: “I ate dry bread, and salt fish if there were any, and I drank water.” And the old man said: “A hard life.” And he said: “Was there a bath on the farm where you worked?” And the Egyptian said: “No: I washed in the river, when I wanted.” And when the old man had extracted these answers, and knew how he lived and worked before he became a monk, he wanted to help him: and so he described his own past life in the world. “This wretch in front of you came from the great city of Rome, where I had an important post at the palace in the Emperor’s service.” And when the Egyptian heard this first sentence, he was stricken, and began to listen attentively. And he went on: “So I left Rome, and came into this desert.” And he said: “I, whom you see, had great houses and wealth: and I scorned them, and came to this little cell.” And he said: “I, whom you see, had beds ornamented with gold, with costly coverings: and instead of them God gave me this bed of reeds and this blanket. My clothes were rich and expensive: and instead of them I wear these tatters.” And he said: “On my di}mer-table I used to spend much money: and instead of it he has given me these few vegetables and this little cup of wine. Many servants used to wait upon me, and instead the Lord has given this one man alone a spirit penitent enough to look after me. Instead of a bath I dip my feet in a little bowl of water, and I use sandals because of my infirmity. For the pipe and the lyre and all the varieties of music which used to delight me at dinner, I say twelve psalms in the day, and twelve psalms in the night. But for the sins which once I committed, I now offer this poor and useless service to God in quietness. See then, Abba, do not be scandalized at my infirmity.” And when the Egyptian heard it, he came to himself and said: “I am a wretch. I came from a hard life of labour to be at rest in the monk’s way of life: and now I have what I did not have before. But you have come of your own accord to this hard life, and have left the comforts of the world: you came from honour and wealth to loneliness and poverty.” And he went away with much profit; and he became his friend, and used to go to the old man for his soul’s good, for he was a man of discerning, and was full of the fragrance of the Holy Spirit.

76. Venit aliquando monachus quidam ab urbe Roma, qui in palatio magnum locum habuit, et habitabat in Scythi in vicinitate ecclesiae; habebat autem secum unum servum qui ministrabat ei. Videns  [0925C] autem presbyter ecclesiae infirmitatem ejus, et cognoscens quia de deliciis esset vir ille, id quod ei Dominus donabat, vel quod in ecclesiam intrabat, transmittebat ei. Qui cum fecisset (sic) viginti quinque annis in Scythi, factus est vir contemplator, praevidens et nominatus. Audiens autem quidam de magnis monachis Aegyptiis opinionem ejus, venit videre eum, sperans corporalem conversationem plus apud eum arduam invenire. Qui cum intrasset, salutavit eum; et 604 facientes orationem sederunt. Videns autem Aegyptius vestitum mollibus rebus, et budam de papyro, et pellem stratam sub ipso, et modicum capitale de cartica [(36) [0989D] Budam de papyro, etc., capitate de cartica.] Ita constanter Manuscripti. Quaedam editiones loco budam habent mattam, et omittunt de cartica. Difficile de utroque dicere, cum vix alibi reperiantur. Certum est, per budam intelligi stratum seu stramentum, ut  [0990A] hoc ipso numero mox vocatur. Glossarium Camberonense Ms.: Buda, stramentum lecti de biblo, id est, papyro. Glossae Isidori: Buda, historia. Lego, storea. Nam historia pro storea ad eum modum dictum, quo Hispania pro Spania.  Quid proprie cartica sit, non habeo dicere. Joannes Meursius in Glossario Graecobarbaro in Kartzaţ citat Cartica ex Glossarum Arabicolatinarum excerptis 643 sine interpretatione. Et in Excerptis ex veteri Lexico Graecolatino, Carticula, deiđpnon; quae significatio huc non facit. Apud Cassianum, collatione I, cap. 23, habes embrimium seu embrymium, pro cervicali monachorum in Aegypto, atque ita describit: «Psiathiis admonens incubare, embrimiis pariter capiti nostro cervicalium vice suppositis, quae crassioribus papyris in longos gracilesque fasciculos coaptatis, sesquipedali intervallo molliter nexa, nunc quidem humillimum sedile ad scabelli vicem fratribus in synaxi considentibus praestant, nunc vero subjecta cervicibus dormientiam praebent capiti non nimie  [0990B] durum sed tractabile aptumque fulmentum. Ad quos monachorum usus haec idcirco vel maxime opportuna habentur et congrua, quod non solum sint aliquatenus mollia, parvoque et opere praeparentur et pretio, utpote passim papyro per ripas Nili fluminis emergente, quam cuique volenti in usum assumere, nemo prohibeat desecare; sed et quod ad removendum, seu cum necesse fuerit, admovendum, habilis materiae, levisque naturae sint.»]  sub caput ejus, sed et pedes mundos habentem cum caligulis, scandalizatus est intra se de eo, quia in loco illo non erat consuetudo  [0925D] taliter conversandi, sed magis duram abstinentiam habere consueverant. Senex autem ille Romanus habens contemplationem sive praevidentiae gratiam, intellexit quia scandalizatus est intra se de eo Aegyptius monachus, et dicit ministro suo: Fac nobis hodie propter abbatem qui venit, bonam diem. Et coxit parva olera quae habebat, et surgentes hora competenti comederunt: habuit etiam et modicum vini propter infirmitatem suam, et illud biberunt. Et cum factum esset vespere, dixerunt duodecim psalmos, et dormierunt; similiter autem et nocte. Surgens autem mane Aegyptius dixit ei: Ora pro me. Et egressus est, non aedificatus in eo. Et cum paululum discessisset, volens cum ille senex Romanus  [0926A] sanare, misit post ipsum et revocavit eum. Qui cum venisset, cum gaudio iterum suscepit eum, et interrogavit eum, dicens: Ex qua provincia es? Et ille dixit: Aegyptius sum. Et dixit ei: Cujus civitatis? Et respondit: Ego omnino non fui de civitate, nec habitavi aliquando in civitate. Et dixit ei: Antequam monachus esses, quid operabaris in possessione qua manebas? Et ille respondit: Custos eram agrorum. Et dicit ei: Ubi dormiebas? Respondit: In agro. Et dixit: Habebas aliquid stratus? Et respondit: Ego in agro habui habere stramenta in quibus dormirem? Et dixit: Et quomodo dormiebas? Respondit: In terra nuda. Et dixit: Quid manducabas in agro, aut quale vinum bibebas? Iterum respondit: Quae sunt escae aut qualis potus in agro? Et dixit: Quomodo  [0926B] ergo vivebas? Respondit: Manducabam panem siccum, et si inveniebam quodcunque de salsamentis, et bibebam aquam. Et dixit senex: Grandis labor. Et dixit: Erat ibi vel balneum in possessione, ubi lavareris? Et ille dixit: Non, sed in flumine lavabar, quando volebam. Cum ergo haec omnia ab eo senex responsione ejus exegisset, et cognovisset modum prioris vitae ejus atque laboris, volens eum proficere, narravit ei suam vitam praeteritam, quam habebat cum esset saecularis, dicens: Me miserum quem vides, de magna illa civitate Roma sum, habens in palatio maximum locum apud imperatorem. Et cum audisset Aegyptius initia verborum ejus, compunctus est, et sollicite quae dicebantur audiebat. Et ille adjecit: Reliqui ergo Romam et veni in solitudinem  [0926C] istam. Et iterum dixit: Me quem vides, habui domos magnas et pecunias multas, et contemnens eas, veni in istam parvam cellam. Iterum dixit: Me quem vides, lectos vestitos ex auro habui, habentes pretiosissima stramenta; et pro his dedit mihi Deus stramentum hoc de papyro et hanc pellem. Sed et vestes meae inaestimabili pretio dignae erant, et pro his utor has viles rescellas. Iterum dixit: In prandio meo multum auri expendebatur; et pro illo mihi dedit modica olera haec et parvulum calicem vini. Erant autem et qui serviebant mihi plurimi servi, et ecce pro illis uni isti Dominus compunxit, ut serviret mihi. Pro balneo autem perfundo modico aquae pedes meos, et caligulis utor propter infirmitatem meam. Et rursus pro calamis et cithara vel alio musico  [0926D] opere, quo delectabar in conviviis meis, dico mihi duodecim psalmos in die, et duodecim in nocte. Sed et pro peccatis meis, quae ante faciebam, modo cum requie exhibeo parvum et inutile ministerium Deo. Vide ergo te, abba, ut non scandalizeris propter infirmitatem meam. Et haec audiens Aegyptius atque in semetipsum reversus, dixit, Vae mihi, quia ego de multa tribulatione et plurimo labore saeculi magis ad repausandum in conversationem monachi veni, et quod non habebam tunc, modo habeo; tu autem multa ex delectatione saeculi voluntate propria in tribulationem venisti, et ex multa gloria atque divitiis venisti in humilitatem et paupertatem. Ex quo multum proficiens discessit, et factus est ei  [0927A] amicus, et saepe veniebat ad eum suae utilitatis causa; erat enim vir discernens, et repletus bono odore Spiritus sancti.



77. An old man said: “All this talking is unnecessary. Nowadays everyone talks: and what is needed is action. That is what God wants, not useless talking.”

77. Dicebat senex: Non necesse est verborum tantum; sunt enim plurima verba in hominibus tempore hoc, sed opera necessaria sunt; hoc enim Deus quaerit, non verba, quae non habent fructum



78. A brother asked some of the fathers whether a man suffered pollution if he thought on vileness. When they were asked this question, some said: “Yes”: and some said: “No: for if he were polluted we ordinary people could not be saved. If we think of vile actions but do them not, this brings salvation.” The questioner was discontented with the fathers’ diverse answers, and he went to an experienced old man and asked him. And the old man replied: “Everyone is required to do accord­ing to his capacity.” Then the brother asked the old man: “For the Lord’s sake, explain this saying to me.” And the old man said: “Look, suppose there was a jug of value. And two brothers came in, one of whom had a great capacity for a disciplined life, and the other a small capacity. Suppose that the mind of the more disciplined man were moved at the sight of the jug and he said inwardly ‘I would like to own that jug’—but the thought does not remain, and he quickly drives away the desire—then he would not be polluted. But if the less disciplined man coveted the jug and was strongly moved by an impulse to take it, and yet did not take it, he would not be polluted.”

78. Frater aliquis interrogavit quosdam Patrum: Si polluitur aliquis quando res sordidas cogitat. Et cum de hoc inquisitio fieret apud eos, alii dicebant: Etiam polluitur; alii dicebant: Non; quia si polluitur, non possumus salvari nos, qui idiotae sumus; sed hoc pertinet ad salutem, si ea quae cogitamus, corporaliter non fecerimus. Ille autem frater qui interrogaverat, non sibi sufficere judicans variam responsionem  [0927B] Patrum, abiit ad senem probatiorem, et interrogavit eum de hoc. Et respondit ei senex: Secundum mensuram uniuscujusque requiritur ab eo. Rogavit ergo frater ille 605 senem, dicens: Peto propter Dominum, absolve mihi hoc verbum. Et dicit ei senex: Ecce forte jacet hic vas aliquod desiderabile. Et dicit senex: Intraverunt duo fratres, ex quibus unus habebat mensuras magnas exercitatae vitae, alter vero parvas. Si ergo cogitatio illius perfecti mota fuerit ad aspectum vasis illius, et dixerit intra se: Volebam habere vas istud, et non permanserit in hoc, sed cito absciderit hujusmodi appetitum, non est pollutus; si vero qui necdum ad majores mensuras attigit, concupierit vas illud, et exercitatus fuerit cum cogitatione sua desiderio  [0927C] compellente, et tamen non tulerit illud, non est inquinatus.



79. An old man said: “If a man lives in a place but does not harvest the crops of that place, the place drives him out because he has not done the work of that place.”

79. Dixit senex: Si quis manserit in aliquo loco, et non fecerit fructum loci illius, locus ipse expellit eum, utpote quia non fecit fructum loci illius.



80. An old man said: “If a man does anything according to his self-will, and not according to God’s will, he can afterwards return to the Lord’s way, if he did it in ignorance. But the man who obeys his self-will and not God’s, and will not listen to admonition, but thinks he knows, will hardly be able to come to the Lord’s way.”

80. Dixit senex: Si quis fecerit rem aliquam sequens voluntatem suam, quaerens quod non est secundum Deum, si id tamen per ignorantiam fecerit, postea oportet eum reverti ad viam Domini. Qui autem tenet voluntatem suam, non secundum Deum, et neque ab aliis vult audire, sed velut scitum se putat; qui hujusmodi est, vix perveniet ad vlam Domini.



81. An old man was asked: “What is meant by the text ‘Narrow and strait is the way’?” And the old man answered: “Narrow and strait is the way by which a man does violence to his thoughts and for God’s sake breaks down his self-will. This is what was written of the apostles, ‘Lo, we have left all, and followed thee.’ “ 40

81. Interrogatus est senex: Quid est, quod legitur, Via angusta et arcta  (Matth. VII) ? Et respondit senex, dicens ei: Angusta et arcta via haec est, ut  [0927D] cogitationibus suis homo violentiam faciat, et abscidat propter Deum voluntates suas. Hoc est etiam quod scriptum est de apostolis: Ecce nos reliquimus omnia, et secuti sumus te  (Matth. XIX) .



82. An old man said: “As the order of monks is more honour­able than that of men of the world, so the travelling monk ought to be in every way a mirror for the monks of the places where he stays.”

82. Dixit senex: Sicut ordo monachorum honoratior est saecularibus, ita peregrinus monachus speculum debet esse localibus monachis per omnem modum.



83. One of the fathers said: “If a labourer remains where there are no other labourers, he can make no progress. The true labourer struggles that the work may not deteriorate. If an idle man works with a labourer the idle man becomes less idle; and if he does not make progress, at least he does not get idler by seeing someone working.”

83. Dixit quidam Patrum: Si manserit operarius in loco ubi non sunt operarii, non potest proficere; haec est enim virtus operarii, certare ut ab opere non minuatur. Nam et piger si manserit cum operario, proficit; et si non proficit, non tamen descendit inferius.



84. An old man said: “If a man has words but no works, he is like a tree with leaves but no fruit. Just as a tree laden with fruit is also leafy, the man of good works will also have good words.”

 [0928A] 84. Dixit quidam senex: Quia homo si verbum quidem habeat, opera autem non habeat, assimilatur arbori habenti folia, fructum autem non. Sicut enim arbor fructibus plena etiam foliis viret, ita et sermo consequitur hominem qui habet opera bona.



85. An old man said that a man once committed a grave sin. Stricken with penitence, he went to confess to an old man. He did not tell him what he had done, but put it in the form of a question: “If such a thought rose in a man’s mind, would he be saved?” The old man, who had no discretion, answered: “You have lost your soul.” When the brother heard this, he said: “Well, if I perish, I will go to the world.” But on his way he considered the matter and decided to tell his temptations to Abba Silvanus, who possessed great discretion in these matters. The brother went to him and did not tell him what he had done, but again put it in the form of the question: “If such a thought arose in a man’s mind, would he be saved?” Silvanus began to speak to him with texts from Scripture, and said: “That judgement does not fall on people tempted to sin.” The brother perceived the force of the saying, and took hope, and told him what he had done. When Abba Silvanus learnt what he had done, he acted like a skilled physician and put on his soul a poultice made of texts from Scripture, showing him that repentance is available for them who in truth and in charity turn to God. After some years Abba Silvanus met the old man who had driven the brother to despair, and told him what had happened, and said: “That brother, who despaired because of your words, and had gone back to the world, is now a bright star among the brothers.” He told him this so that we may know how perilous it is when a man confesses his thoughts or sins to people without discretion.

85. Dixit senex, quia aliquando quidam lapsus in gravi peccato, et compunctus ad poenitentiam, abiit indicare haec seni cuidam, et non dixit ei quod fecerat, sed quasi interrogavit, dicens: Si alicui ascendat cogitatio talis, habet salutem? Ille vero, quia nesciebat discretionem, respondit ei: Perdidisti animam tuam. Hoc audiens frater, dixit: Ergo si perii, vado ad saeculum. Pergens autem ille, deliberavit ire et indicare cogitationes suas abbati Silvano, erat enim hic Silvanus magnus discretor. Veniens ergo  [0928B] ad eum frater, non dixit ei quod fecerat, sed iterum eo modo quo et prius seni illi dixerat; hoc est, Si ascenderint alicui tales cogitationes, habet salutem? Aperiens autem abbas Silvanus os suum, coepit de Scripturis dicere ei: Non omnino judicium tantum est de cogitationibus quam de peccato. Audiens autem frater, et suscipiens virtutem dictorum in animo, sumpta spe, indicavit etiam ei actum suum. Audiens autem abbas Silvanus quod egerat, tanquam bonus medicus posuit cataplasma animae ejus de divinis Scripturis assumptum, dicendo esse poenitentiam his qui pro charitate revera convertuntur ad Deum. Post aliquot autem annos contigit abbatem memoratum ad illum senem applicari, qui ei desperationem fecerat, et narravit ei ista, et dixit: Ecce frater ille,  [0928C] qui de responso tuo desperaverat, et ad saeculum redierat, velut stella splendida est in medio fratrum. Haec autem ideo retuli, ut sciamus quale periculum est quando aliquis sive cogitationis, sive actuum aliquid peccati indicat his qui discretionem nesciunt.



86. An old man said: “We are not condemned if ill thoughts enter us, but only if we use them ill. Through our thoughts we may suffer shipwreck, through our thoughts we may attain a crown.”

86. Dixit quidam senex: Non quia intrant cogitationes malae in nobis, condemnamur ex eo, sed si male utimur cogitationibus. Fit enim ut per cogitationes naufragium patiamur, et iterum de cogitationibus coronemur.



87. An old man said: “Do not give to or receive from men of the world. Take no notice of a woman. Do not have confidence for long in a boy.”

87. Dixit aliquis senex: Non des et accipias cum saecularibus hominibus, et non habeas notitiam cum muliere, nec habeas fiduciam diu cum puero.



88. A brother asked an old man: “What shall I do, for I am troubled by many temptations, and know not how to repel them?” The old man said: “Do not fight against them all, but against one of them. All the temptations of monks have a single head. You must consider what it is, what kind of tempta­tion, and fight it. And in this way all the other temptations will be defeated.”

88. Frater quidam interrogavit senem, dicens: Quid faciam, quia multae cogitationes sollicitant me, et  [0928D] nescio quomodo repugnem eis? Dixit senex: Non repugnes contra omnes, sed contra unam. Omnes enim cogitationes monachorum unum habent caput; necessarium ergo est considerare quae et qualis sit et adversus illam reniti; ita enim et residuae cogitationes humiliantur.



89. An old man said against evil thoughts: “I beg you, my brothers, control your thoughts as you control your sins.”

89. Adversus cogitationes malas dixit quidam senex: Obsecro, fratres, sicut compressimus actus malos, comprimamus etiam cogitationes.



90. An old man said: “Anyone who wants to live in the desert ought to be a teacher and not a learner. If he still needs teaching, he will suffer harm.”

90. Dixit quidam senex: Qui vult habitare eremum, debet esse doctor, non qui doceri egeat, ne detrimentum sustineat.



91. An old man was asked by a brother: “How do I find God? With fasts, or labour, or watchings, or works of mercy?” The old man replied: “In all that you have said, and in dis­cretion. I tell you that many have afflicted their body, but have gained no profit because they did it without discretion. Even if our mouths stink with fasting, and we have learnt all the Scriptures, and memorized the whole Psalter, we still lack what God wants—humility and charity.”

606 91. Interrogatus est senex a quodam fratre dicente: Quomodo invenio Deum? utrum in jejuniis,  [0929A] an in laboribus, vel in vigiliis, aut in misericordia. Et respondit: In his quae numerasti, et in discretione. Dico enim tibi quia multi afflixerunt carnem suam, et, quia sine discretione hoc faciebant, abierunt vacui nihil habentes. Os nostrum de jejunio fetet, scripturas omnes didicimus: ex corde David consummavimus, et quod Deus requirit non habemus, scilicet humilitatem.



92. A brother asked an old man: “Abba, look: I ask my elders questions, and they speak to me for the salvation of my soul, and I can remember nothing that they say. Is it any use asking questions when I profit nothing? I am deep in impurity.” There were two empty vessels nearby. And the old man said: “Go, and take one of those vessels away and put oil in it, and rinse it, and pour out the oil, and put the vessel back.” And he did so. And he said: “Do it again.” And he did it. And after he had done it several times, the old man said: “Now, take both vessels and see which is the cleaner.” And he answered: “The one into which I put oil.” The old man said: “So it is with the soul which asks questions. Although it remembers nothing that it hears, it will be cleaner than the soul which never asks questions.”

92. Frater interrogavit senem, dicens: Abba, ecce ego rogo seniores et dicunt mihi de salute animae meae, et nihil retineo de verbis eorum; quid autem vel rogo eos nihil proficiens? Totus enim sum in immunditia  (Ruff., l. III, n. 178) . Erant autem duo vasa vacua. Et dixit ei senex: Vade, et aufer unum ex vasis istis, et mitte in eo oleum, et accende intus stupam, et refunde oleum, et pone vas  [0929B] in locum suum. Et fecit sic. Et dixit ei: Fac iterum sic. Et cum fecisset hoc saepius, dixit ei senex: Affer modo utraque vasa, et vide quod eorum mundius sit. Et respondit: Illud ubi oleum misi. Cui senex dixit: Sic est et anima de bis quae interrogat. Quamvis enim nihil retineat eorum quae audit, tamen plus ipsa mundabitur quam illa quae omnino nec interrogat quidquam.



93. A brother was sitting quietly in his cell, and demons wanted to seduce him in the guise of angels. And they stirred him up to go out to the congregation in church, and they showed him a light. But he went to an old man and said: “Abba, angels come to me with light, and stir me to go to the congregation.” And the old man said to him: “Heed them not, my son: they are demons. When they come to stir you out, say: ‘I go when I want, and do not listen to you.’ “ He accepted the command and returned to his cell. On the next night the demons came again as usual to stir him. He answered as he had been told: “I go when I want, and do not listen to you.” And they said to him: “That wicked old man has trapped you. A brother came to him to borrow money; and, although he had some, he lied and said that he had none, and would give him nothing; that shows you he is a deceiver.” At dawn the brother rose and came to the old man and told him what had happened. The old man said to him: “It is true. I had money, and I did not give to the brother who wanted to borrow some. I knew that if I gave it to him, I should be harming his soul. I thought it better to transgress one com­mandment than ten. If he had received money from me, we should have come into trouble on his account. So do not listen to the demons who want to seduce you.” And the brother went back to his cell, much comforted by the words of the older man.

93. Frater sedebat in cella sua quiescens, et volebant daemones seducere eum sub specie angelorum, et excitabant eum ut iret ad collectam, et lumen ostendebant ei: ille autem venit ad quemdam senem, et dixit ei, Abba, veniunt angeli cum lumine, et excitant me ad collectam. Et dicit ei senex: Non  [0929C] audias eos, fili, quoniam daemones sunt; et quando veniunt excitare te, dic: Ego quando volo surgo, vos autem non audio. Accipiens autem praeceptum senis, reversus est ad cellam suam. Et sequenti nocte iterum daemones secundum consuetudinem vementes excitabant eum. Ille vero, sicut praeceptum sibi fuerat, respondebat eis, dicens: Ego quando volo surgo, vos autem non audio. Et illi dicunt ei: Malus senex ille falsator seduxit te, ad quem venit frater volens mutuare pecuniam; et cum haberet, mentitus est ei, dicens se non habere, et non dedit ei; ex hoc ergo cognosce quia falsator est. Surgens ergo frater diluculo venit ad senem, et nuntiavit ei haec ipsa. Senex vero dixit ei: Verum est quia habebam, et quia venit frater volens mutuare, et non  [0929D] dedi ei, sed sciebam quia si darem ei, damnum animae ipsius faciebam. Cogitavi ergo unum mandatum praeterire, quam praevaricari decem, ex quibus ad tribulationem potuissemus venire pro illo, si a me pecuniam accepisset. Tu autem daemones, qui te seducere volunt, ne audias. Et multum confortatus de verbis senis, abiit ad cellam suam.



94. Three brothers once came to an old man in Scete. One of them asked him: “Abba, I have memorized the Old and New Testaments.” And the old man answered: “You have filled the air with words.” And the second asked him: “I have written the Old and New Testaments with my own hand.” But the old man said: “And you have filled the window-ledge with manu­scripts.” And the third said: “The grass is growing up my chimney.” And the old man answered: “And you have driven away hospitality.”

94. Venerunt aliquando tres fratres ad quemdam senem in Scythi, et unus ex his interrogavit eum, dicens: Abba, commendavi Vetus et Novum Testamentum memoriae. Et respondit senex, et dixit: Replesti verbis aerem. Et secundus interrogavit eum, dicens: Vetus et Novum Testamentum ego scripsi per me ipsum. Dixit autem et huic: Et tu  [0930A] replesti fenestras de chartis. Et tertius dixit: Mihi in focularem herbae ascenderunt. Et respondit senex, et dixit: Et tu expulisti a te hospitalitatem.



95. Some of the fathers told this story of a great old man. If anyone came to ask a word of him, he used to say with great confidence: “Look, I am acting in place of God and sitting in his judgement seat: what do you want me to do for you? If you say to me, ‘Have mercy upon me,’ God says to you, ‘Ifyou want me to have mercy on you, you must have mercy on your brothers and then I will have mercy on you. If you want me to forgive you, you must forgive your neighbour.’ Then is God the cause of guilt? God forbid. It is in our power, if we do not want to be saved.”

95. Narraverunt quidam Patrum de quodam sene magno, quia si veniebat aliquis interrogare eum sermonem, ille cum magna fiducia dicebat: Ecce ego suscipio porsonam Dei, et sedeo in sede judicii, quid ergo vis ut faciam tibi? Si ergo dixeris mihi, miserere mei; dicit tibi Deus: Si vis ut miserear tui, miserere et tu fratribus tuis, et ego misereor tui. Si autem vis ut ignoscam tibi, ignosce et tu proximo tuo. Nunquid a Deo est causa? Absit; sed in nobis est, si volumus salvari.



96. They said of an old man in Cellia that he was a great worker. While he was at a work, a holy man happened to come to his cell; and when he was outside the door, he heard the old man within battling with his thoughts, and saying: “Am I to lose everything because of a single word?” The man out­side thought that he was quarrelling with someone else, and knocked on the door to go in and make peace between them. But when he went in and saw no one else there, he had faith in the old man, and said: “With whom were you quarrelling, Abba?” He replied: “With my thoughts. I have memorized fourteen books; and when I was outside I heard one little word. And when I came to say the divine office, I had forgotten all fourteen books and could remember only the one word which I heard outside. And that is why I am quarrelling with my thoughts.”

96. Dicebant de quodam sene in Cellis quia erat magnus laborator. Cum faceret opus suum, contigit alium quemquam sanctum virum venire ad cellam  [0930B] ejus, et audivit eum de foris litigantem cum cogitationibus, et dicentem: usquequo propter unum verbum omnia illa amitto? Ille autem foris stans, putabat quia cum aliquo alio litigaret, et pulsavit ut intraret et pacificaret eos; et ingrediens et videns quia nemo alius erat intro, habens etiam fiduciam apud senem, dixit ei: Cum quo litigabas, abba? Ille respondit: Cum cogitationibus meis, quia quatuordecim libros memoriae commendavi, et unum verbum modicum audivi foris, et cum venissem facere opus Dei, omnia illa perdidi, et hoc solum quod foris audieram venit in memoria mea in hora ministerii mei, et propterea litigabam cum cogitatione mea.



97. Some brothers from a monastery came into the desert to see a hermit: and he received them gladly. And as is the way of hermits, he saw that they were tired with their journey and made a meal for them, though it was not the proper time for a meal, and so refreshed them with what he had in his cell. And in the evening they said twelve psalms, and twelve more in the night. While the old man was keeping watch, he heard them saying: “Hermits have more rest in the desert than do monks in the monastery.” In the morning they were departing to visit a neighbouring hermit. And he said to them: “Grect him for me, and tell him: ‘Do not water the vegetables.’ “ The neighbouring hermit understood the message, and kept them working until evening without any food. And at evening he prolonged the divine office to great length, and then said: “Let us rest a little for your sakes. You are tired after your labours.” And he said: “We do not usually eat today, but let us eat a little for your sake.” And he brought them dry bread and salt, and said: “Look, we have a feast today because you have come”: and he added a little sour wine to the mixture. And they rose, and began to sing psalms until dawn. And he said: “Because you travellers are here, you must rest a little, and that prevents us keeping the rule.” And at daybreak, they wanted to go hastily. But he asked them to stay, and said: “Spend a little time with me: or at least, for the commandment’s sake, keep the hermit’s way of life with me for three days.” But when they saw that he was not letting them rest, they stole away in secret.

97. Fratres de congregatione venerunt in eremo,  [0930C] et applicuerunt ad quemdam eremitam, et suscepit eos cum gaudio. Et sicut est consuetudo eremitis, videns eos de labore fatigatos, posuit mensam extra horam; et quod habuit in cella apposuit eis, et repausavit eos. Et quando factum est sero, dixerunt duodecim psalmos, similiter et nocte; cum autem senex vigilaret, audivit eos inter se 607 dicentes: Quia solitarii viri plus repausant in eremo quam nos in congregatione. Mane autem cum ambulaturi essent ad alium vicinum ejus, dixit eis: Salutate eum pro me, et dicite ei: Non adaques olera. Ille autem cum hoc audisset, intellexit verbum, et tenuit eos usque sero laborantes jejunos. Cum autem sero factum esset, fecit prolixum opus Dei, et posuit ea quae habebat, et dixit: Cessemus modice propter  [0930D] vos, quia de labore estis fatigati. Et dixit iterum: Quotidie manducare non solemus, sed propter vos gustemus modicum. Et apposuit eis panem siccum et sal, et dixit: Ecce propter vos festivitatem habemus hodie; et misit parum aceti in salibus illis. Et surgentes coeperunt psallere usque mane. Et dixit: Propter vos non possumus adimplere regulam nostram, ut modice pausetis, quia peregrini estis. Mane autem facto, volebant fugere: ille autem rogabat eos, dicens: Manete aliquantum temporis nobiscum; sin alias, vel propter mandatum, dies tres secundum consuetudinem eremi facite nobiscum. Illi autem videntes quia non relaxaret eos, fugerunt occulte.



98. A brother asked one of the fathers: “If by chance I oversleep, and am late for the hour of prayer, I am ashamed that others will hear me praying so late, and so I become reluctant to keep the rule of prayer.” And the old man said: “If ever you oversleep the dawn, rise when you wake, shut the door and the windows, and say your office. For it is written ‘The day is thine and the night is thine.’ God is glorified whatever time it is.”

 [0931A] 98. Frater interrogavit quemdam Patrem, dicens: Si contigerit gravari me somno, et transierit hora ministerii mei; anima mea prae verecundia non vult implere opus suum. Et dixit senex: Si te contigerit usque mane dormire, quando evigilas, surge, claude ostium et fenestras tuas, et fac opus tuum; scriptum est enim: Tuus est dies, et tua est nox  (Psal. LXXIII) ; in omni enim tempore glorificatur Deus.



99. An old man said: “One man eats a lot and is still hungry. Another eats a little and has had enough. The man who eats a lot and is still hungry has more merit than the man who eats a little but enough for him.”

99. Dicebat aliquis senex: Quia est homo comedens multa et adhuc esuriens; est etiam alter homo qui pauca comedit, et satiatur. Majorem autem habet mercedem ille qui plus comedit, et esuriens manet, ab illo qui parum comedit, et satiatur  (Ruff., l. III, n. 48, Pasch., c. 1, n. 3) .



100. An old man said: “If some distressing controversy rises between you and another, and the other denies it and says: ‘I said no such thing,’ do not argue with him or say: ‘You did say it.’ For he will be exasperated, and will say: ‘Very well: I did say it.’ “

100. Dixit quidam senex: Si contigerit inter te et  [0931B] alium sermo aliquis tristis, et negaverit ille, dicens: Non dixi sermonem hunc, ne certes cum eo, et dicas: Dixisti, quia exacerbatur, et dicet tibi: Etiam dixi.



101 A brother asked an old man: “My sister is poor. If I give her alms, am I giving alms to the poor?” The old man said: “No.” The brother said: “Why, Abba?” And the old man replied: “Because your kinship draws you a little towards her.

101. Frater aliquis interrogavit senem, dicens: Soror mea pauper est, si do ei eleemosynam, non est sicut unus de pauperibus? Et dixit senex: Non. Dixit autem frater: Quare, abba? Et respondit senex: Quia sanguis ipse trahit te modicum.



102. An old man said: “A monk ought not to listen to dis­paragement: he ought not to be disparaged: and he ought not to be scandalized.”

102. Dixit senex: Quia oportet monachum neque auditorem esse obtrectantium, neque obtrectari, neque scandalizari.



103. An old man said: “Do not be pleased at everything which is said, and do not agree with everything that is said. Be slow to believe, and quick to say what is true.”

103. Dixit quidam senex: Non omnia quae dicuntur placeant tibi, neque omni sermoni consentias. Tardius crede, et quod verum est, citius dic.



103A. An old man said that even though holy men had to endure much in the desert they had already received some portion of the heavenly rest. But he meant it for those who are free from worldly cares.




103B. An old man said: “If a monk knows a person with whom he would make progress, but in a place where the life would be hard, he is an atheist if he does not go there.”




103C. A brother asked a boy monk: “Is it good to speak or keep silence?” The boy said to him: “If the words are idle, leave them unsaid. If good, find room for them and speak. But even if the words are good, do not prolong what you say but cut it short: and so you will have peace of mind.”




104. An old man said: “Sometimes a text enters the heart of a brother as he is sitting in his cell: and the brother, meditating inwardly upon the text, cannot understand its meaning and is not drawn by God to true understanding. Then demons come to his help, and show him whatever meaning suits them.”

 [0931C] 104. Dixit quidam senex: Si ascenderit in corde fratris sedentis in cella verbum, et revolvens frater verbum in animo, non potuerit ad mensuram verbi pertingere, neque tractus fuerit a Deo, assistunt ei daemones, et ostendunt ei de verbo illo quod ipsi volunt.



105. One of the old men said: “When first we used to meet each other in the assembly and talk of what was helpful to our souls, we became ever more withdrawn from the things of sense, and mounted to the heavenly places. But now we meet, and spend our time in gossip, and each drags the other downwards.”

105. Dicebant quidam senum: Quando congregabamur initio ad invicem, et loquebamur aliquid quod utile esset animabus nostris, efficiebamus seorsum et seorsum, et ascendebamus in coelum; nunc autem congregamur, et in obtrectationibus occupamur, et unus alterum trahimus in profundum



106. Another of the fathers said: “If our inner man behaves with seriousness, it can control the outer man: but if the inner man does not, what other means is there of controlling the tongue?”

106. Dixit alter quidam Patrum: Si quidem interior homo noster sobrie agit, potest etiam exteriorem custodire; si vero non est ita, qua possumus virtute  [0931D] custodiamus linguam.



107. He also said: “We need to labour in praise of God because we have come into the desert. If we are not labouring with our body, we may labour mightily in God’s praise.”

107. Item qui supra dixit: Opus spirituale necessarium est, quia in hoc venimus. Magnus enim labor est ore dicere quod non fit opere corporali.



108. Another father said: “A man ought always to be work­ing at something in his cell. If he is busy with the divine office, the devil comes to him day after day, but finds no resting-place there. And if he succeeds in conquering him and taking him prisoner, God’s spirit often comes again. But if we are sinners and do not let God’s spirit come to us, he goes away.”

108. Alter quidam Patrum dixit: Quia omnino oportet hominem habere intra cellam opus, quod laboret; si autem in opere Dei occupatur, venit ad eum diabolus die inter diem, sed non invenit locum in quo maneat. Si autem rursus dominando ei inimicus in captivitatem redegerit eum, venit iterum spiritus Dei frequenter; sed si nos ei non facimus locum propter malitiam nostram, discedit.



109. Some Egyptian monks once went down to Scete to see the elders of that place. And they saw them famished with a long fast and so wolfing their food: and they were scandalized at them. But the priest saw it and wanted to heal their minds and send them away edified. And he preached to the people in the church, saying: “My brothers, prolong your fast yet fur­ther.” The Egyptian visitors wanted to leave, but he kept them. When they had fasted one day and then a second, they were much weakened; for he had made them fast for two days with­out a break. (But in Scete the monks fast for a week.) On Saturday the Egyptians sat down to eat with the old men. And they reached voraciously for their food. And one of the old men checked their hands, and said: “Eat like monks, in a disciplined way.” One ofthe Egyptians threw off his restraining hand, and said: “Leave go. I am dying, I have not eaten cooked food all the week.” And the old man said to him: “If you are so weak at a meal after a fast of only two days, why were you scandalized at brothers who always keep their abstinence for a week at a time?” And they did penance before them, and went away gladly, edified at their abstinence.

109. Descenderunt aliquando monachi de Aegypto in Scythi, ut viderent seniores loci illius. Et cum  [0932A] vidissent eos extenuatos fame, de nimia abstinentia impatienter comedere, scandalizati sunt in eis. Hoc autem presbyter agnoscens, voluit sanare eos, et ita dimittere, et praedicavit in ecclesia plebi, dicens: Jejunate et extendite abstinentiam vestram, frames. Volebant autem Aegyptii, qui illic venerant, discedere, et retinuit eos. Cum autem jejunassent primo aporiati sunt, fecerat enim eos biduo jejunare continuio. In Scythi autem habitantes jejunaverunt hebdomadam; et facto Sabbato, sederunt manducare Aegyptii cum senibus. Turbantibus autem se ad manducandum Aegyptiis, unus de senibus tenuit manus eorum, dicens: Cum disciplina manducate, quomodo monachi. Unus autem ex Aegyptiis repulit manus ejus, dicens: Dimitte me quia morior, tota hebdomada  [0932B] nihil coctum comedi. Et dixit ei senex: Si vos biduo intervallo manducantes ita defecistis, quare in fratribus scandalizati estis, qui semper hebdomadas 608 eo ordine levando abstinentiam servant. Illi autem poenitentiam coram eis egerunt, et aedificati in abstinentia eorum abierunt cum gaudio.



110. A brother who renounced the world and took the monk’s habit, immediately shut himself up in a herrnitage, saying: “I am a solitary.” When the neighbouring elders heard of it, they came and threw him out of his cell, and made him go round the cells of the brothers and do penance before them, and say: “Forgive me. I am no solitary but have only lately begun to be a menk.”

110. Frater quidam renuntians saeculo, et accipiens habitum monachi, statim reclusit se, dicens: Solitarius volo esse. Audientes autem vicini seniores, venerunt et ejecerunt eum, et fecerunt circuire cellas fratrum, et poenitentiam coram singulis agere, et dicere: Ignoscite mihi, quia non sum solitarius sed adhuc initium monachi nuper assumpsi.



111. Some old men said: “If you see a young man climbing up to heaven by his own will, catch him by the foot and pull him down to earth: it is not good for him.”

111. Dixerunt quidam senes: Si videris juvenen voluntate sua ascendentem in coelum, tene pedem  [0932C] ejus, et projice eum in terram, quia non ita expedit ei.



112. A brother said to a great old man: “Abba, I wanted to find an old man after my own heart, and die with him.” And the old man said: “Your search is good, my Lord.” The brother reiterated his desire, not understanding the irony of the old man. But when the old man saw that he thought this was a good idea, he said to him: “If you find an old man after your own heart, you want to live with him?” And the brother said: “Yes. I wholeheartedly want this, if I can find one according to my mind.” Then the old man said to him: “You do not want to follow the will of an old man: you want to follow yours, and so you will be comfortable with him.” But the brother saw the sense of what he said, and rose and prostrated himself in penitence, saying: “Forgive me. I was very proud of myself for saying something good, when in truth there was nothing good about me.”

112. Frater dixit cuidam seni magno: Abba, volebam invenire senem aliquem juxta voluntatem meam, et morari cum ipso. Et dixit ei senex: Bene quaeris, domine meus. Ille autem affirmabat hujusmodi esse desiderium suum, non intelligens quod locutus est senex ille. Sed cum videret eum senex aestimantem quod bene sentiret, dixit ei: Ergo si invenis senem secundum voluntatem tuam, vis manere cum eo? Et ille dixit: Etiam omnino hoc volo, si invenero secundum voluntatem tuam. Dixit ergo ei senex: Non ut tu sequaris voluntatem senis illius sed ut ille tuam voluntatem sequatur, et ita in eo repauses. Sensit autem frater ille quod dicebat, et surgens  [0932D] prostravit se ad poenitentiam, dicens: Ignosce mihi, quia valde gloriabar, aestimans me bene dicere, cum nihil tenerem boni.



113. Two earthly-minded brothers renounced the world. The younger was the first to begin the converted life. One of the fathers came to stay with them, and they brought a basin of water for him to wash. And the younger came to wash the feet of the old man. But the old man took his hand and motioned him away, and made the elder do it: it is the custom for the first men in a monastery to do this. But the brothers standing near said: “Abba, the elder brother is the younger in religion.” The old man answered: “And I take away the first place from the younger, and give it to him who is older in years.”

113. Duo fratres carnales renuntiaverunt saeculo, quorum unus, qui aetate minor erat, primus coeperat conversari; et cum venisset apud eos quidam Patrum, et applicuisset apud eos, posuerunt pelvim. Et venit qui minor erat aetate ut lavaret pedes seni, senex autem tenens manum ejus removit eum, et eum qui major aetate fuerat, fecit implere opus, quod primi in monasterio facere consueverant. Dixerunt autem ei astantes fratres: Abba, ille minor in conversatione primus est. Respondit eis senex: Et tollo primatum minoris, et trado ei qui aetate praecedit.



114. An old man said: “The prophets wrote books. Our fathers came after them, and worked much at them, and then their successors memorized them. But this generation has come, and it copies them on papyrus and parchment and leaves them unused on the window-ledge.”

 [0933A] 114. Dixit quidam senex: Prophetae conscripserunt libros; patres autem nostri venerunt post eos, et operati sunt in eis plurima, et iterum successores illorum commendaverunt eos memoriae. Venit autem generatio haec quae nunc est, et scripsit ea in chartis atque membranis, et reposuit in fenestris otiosa.



115. An old man said: “The cowl we use is the symbol of innocence. The amice which covers neck and shoulders is the symbol of a cross: the girdle, the symbol of courage. Let us live our lives in the virtues symbolized by our habit. If we do everything with earnestness, we shall not fail.”

115. Dicebat senex: Quia cucullum, quo utimur signum est innocentiae; superhumerale quo humeros et cervicem alligamus, signum est crucis; zona vero qua cingimur, signum est fortitudinis. Conversemur ergo juxta id quod habitus noster significat, quia omnia cum desiderio facientes, nunquam deficiemus.



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