Sayings of the Fathers: Arsenios (3)

32. Abba Arsenios was once dwelling in the lower parts [of Egypt], and being crowded there, he decided to leave the cell. So without taking anything from it, he walked from there to his disciples in Pharan, Alexander and Zoïlos. And he said to Alexander, Get up and sail upriver. And he did so. And he said to Zoïlos, Come with me until the river, and find me a boat I will sail downriver to Alexandria, and then you also sail upriver to your brother. And Zoïlos, troubled by the statement, was silent. And so they were separated from one another. So the elder went down to the region of Alexandria, and he was ill with a severe sickness. But these servants said to one another, Perhaps one of us annoyed the elder, and because of this he separated from us? But they could discover nothing between them, nor had they been disobedient at any time. And when he was healthy, the elder said, I will return to my Fathers. And so sailing upriver, he went to Petra, where his servants were. And while he was near the river, a little Ethiopian girl came, and grabbed onto his sheepskin cloak. And the elder rebuked her. Then the little girl said to him, If you are a monk, go to the mountain. And the elder, stabbed with remorse at the saying, said to himself, Arsenios, if you are a monk, go to the mountain. And in this place, Alexander and Zoïlos met him. And, with them falling at his feet, the elder also threw himself down, and each of them was weeping. And the elder said, Did you not hear I was sick? And they said to him, Yes. So the elder said, Then why did you not come to see me? And Abba Alexander said that, Your separation from us was not persuasive (?), and many have not been helped, saying that, If they had not been disobedient of the elder, he would not have separated from them. He said to them, So now the people will be saying that, The dove, not finding anywhere to rest its feet, also returned to Noah, to the ark. Thus, they were healed. And he remained with them until his end.

33. Abba Daniel said, Abba Arsenios told us, as though it was about someone else, but it was probably him, that when some elder was sitting in his cell, a voice came down to him, saying, Come, and I will show you the works of men. And rising, he went out. And he led him to a certain place, and showed him an Ethiopian cutting wood, and making a large load. And he tried to lift it, but could not. And instead of taking away from it, again he cut wood, and added to the load. And he did this for a long time. And a little further on, he again showed him a man standing at a lake, and drawing water from it, and pouring into a container with holes, and the same water flowed back out to the lake. And he said to him again, Come, I will show you something else. And he saw a temple, and two men sitting on horses, one next to the other, and they were holding a piece of wood sideways. And they wanted to go into the gate, but could not, because of the piece of wood being sideways. Neither would humble himself before the other to carry the wood straight. And so these remained outside the gate. These are, he said, like those carrying the yoke of righteousness with pride, and do not humble themselves to be corrected and to walk in the humble Way of Christ. So they also remain outside the Kingdom of God. And the man cutting wood is in many sins, and instead of repenting, he adds further lawless deeds upon his sins. And the man drawing water is one who is indeed doing good works, but since he has a mixture of evil among them, in this he has lost even his good works. So every man must be watchful (νηφειν) toward his works, lest he labor for nothing.

34. The same told that once some of the Fathers from Alexandria came to see Abba Arsenios, and one of them was the godly and elderly Timothy, Archbishop of Alexandria, who is called the Poor, and he had one of the younger brothers with him. But the elder had a weakness then, and did not want to meet them, lest others would come and crowd him in. And he was then in Petra of Troe. So they turned back, feeling annoyed. And it happened there was an attack of barbarians, and he went to dwell in the lower parts [of Egypt]. And hearing this, they again went to see him. And he received them with joy. And the brother who was among them said to him, Do you not know, Abba, that we came to meet you in Troe, and you did not receive us? And the elder said to him, You have tasted bread, and drunk water, but indeed, child, neither bread nor water did I taste, nor indeed did I sit down, punishing myself, until I thought that you arrived at your place, because it was also by me that you were annoyed. But forgive me, brothers. And they went away comforted.

35. The same said that, Once Abba Arsenios called me, and said to me, Comfort your father, so that when he goes to the Lord, he will pray for you, and so it may be good for you.

36. They say about Abba Arsenios, that once when he was ill at Sketis, the priest came, and took him to the church, and put him on a pallet, with a small pillow for his head. And behold, one of the elders came to meet him, and seeing him on the pallet, and the pillow under him, he was scandalized, saying, Is this Abba Arsenios? And lying down on these things? The same priest, taking him aside, said to him, What was your work, in your village? And he said, I was a shepherd. And how, he said, did you live your life? And he said, I lived in great suffering. And he said to him, So now how do you live in the cell? And he said, I am more comfortable. And he said to him, Do you see this Abba Arsenios? He was the father of the Emperor when he was in the world, and thousands of servants with gold sashes, all wearing necklaces and clothing all of silk, were standing around him, and beneath him were very costly spreads. So when you were a shepherd, you did not have in the world the comfort that you now have. But this one no longer has the luxury which he had in the world. So behold, you are comforted, that one is afflicted. And when he heard these things, he was stabbed with remorse, and made apology (or “repentance” μετανοιαν), saying, Forgive me, Abba. I have sinned. For truly this is the true Way, that this one came to humility, but I to comfort. So the elder went away, strengthened.

37. One of the Fathers went to Abba Arsenios, and when he knocked at the door, the elder opened it, thinking that it was his servant. And when he saw it was someone else, he fell upon his face. And he said to him, Get up, Abba, so I may greet you. And the elder said to him, I will not get up until you have gone away. And even after much pleading, he would not rise until after he had left.

(to be continued)

Patristics Carnival II

Phil Snyder of hyperekperissou and I have come to the realization that perhaps it’s a bit too early for a Patristics Carnival. We didn’t receive a single nomination message in three whole months. Of course, with all those weekly roundups on patristic topics that Phil has been doing, it’s not surprising that someone might think there was nothing left to recommend! Phil has been remarkably thorough, keeping on top of numerous blogs, perhaps animated by the first blush of new love for the subject.

In any case, I don’t know when the next Patristics Carnival will be. Below, find links to the now weekly Patristic Roundups that Phil has been doing throughout the past three months, December 2006 through February 2007, with the most recent at the top. They are far more complete than any summary compilation I would wish to attempt here, even aside from the fact that there are simply too many links to comfortably include in one post. I very much appreciate all the time and effort that Phil has obviously put into these, and I hope everyone else appreciates it, too. Let us all thank Phil that he has taken the words of Casablanca’s Captain Louis Renault and made something better of them than they were orginally intended: “Round up the usual suspects!” Enjoy, if you haven’t already.

Patristics Roundup: February 22 – 28, 2007
Patristics Roundup: February 15 – 21, 2007
Patristics Roundup: February 8 – 14, 2007
Patristics Roundup: February 1 – 7, 2007
Patristics Roundup: January 25 – 31, 2007
Patristics Roundup: January 18 – 24, 2007
Patristics Roundup: January 11 – 18, 2007
Patristics Roundup: January 4 – 10, 2007
Patristics Roundup: December 28, 2006 – January 3, 2007
Patristics Roundup: December 21 – 27, 2006
Patristics Roundup: December 6 – 13, 2006

Sayings of the Fathers: Arsenios (2)

22. Abba Markos asked Abba Arsenios, saying, Is it good for someone not to have a comfort (παρακλησιν) in his cell? For I know such a brother who had a small herb garden, and he uprooted it. And Abba Arsenios said, Indeed it is good, but according to the maturity of the man. For if he does not have the strength in this matter, he will again plant others.

23. Abba Daniel, a disciple of Abba Arsenios, related this, saying that one day he found himself near Abba Alexander, and he was seized with sorrow, and laid himself down staring upward because of the sorry. And it happened that the blessed Arsenios came to speak with him, and saw him lying down. So, when he spoke, he said to him, And who was that worldly man (or “non-monastic” κοσμικος) that I saw here? Abba Alexander said to him, Where did you see him? And he said, As I was coming down from the mountain, approaching here to the cave, and I saw someone lying down and staring upward. And he made repentance, saying, Pardon me; it was me, for sorrow had seized me. And the elder said to him, So that was you? Good. I thought that it was a worldly man, and for this reason, I asked.

24. Another time, Abba Arsenios said to Abba Alexander that when you have cut your palm leaves, come dine with me, but if guests come, eat with them. Now, Abba Alexander would work well and carefully. And when the time came, he still had palm leaves, and wanting to obey the word of the elder, he waited to finish the palm leaves. So Abba Arsenios, when he saw that he was late, ate, thinking perhaps he had guests. Then Abba Alexander, as soon as he finished, came by. And the elder said to him, Did you have guests? He said, No. He said to him, Why then did you not come? And he said, Because you said to me, when you have cut your palm leaves, come, and obeying your word, I did not come until just now since I have finished. And the elder marvelled at his precision, and said to him, Break your fast right now, so you will maintain your order (or “routine” συναξιν), and also take some water, or else your body will become weak.

25. Once Abba Arsenios came near a place, and there were reeds there, and they were moved by the wind. And the elder said to the brothers, What is this commotion? And they said, They are reeds. So the elder said to them, If someone’s condition is the living of a life of stillness, and he hears the song of a sparrow, that heart does not have stillness. How much worse if you have the commotion of these reeds.

26. Abba Daniel said that some brothers, wanting to visit the Thebaid for the linen factories (λιναρια), said, Because of the excuse that we may also see Abba Arsenios. And Abba Alexander came in and told the elder, Brothers have come from Alexandria wanting to see you. The elder said, Learn from them what is the reason they have come. And learning that they were visiting the Thebaid for the linen factories, he reported it to the elder. And he said, They will certainly not see the face of Arsenios, because they did not come for me, but because of their work. Let them rest, and send them away in peace, saying to them that the elder cannot meet them.

27. A certain brother came to the cell of Abba Arsenios in Sketis, and waited at the door, and saw the elder all like fire, for the brother was worthy to see this. And when he knocked, the elder came out, and saw that the brother was amazed. And he said to him, Have you been knocking a long time? Did you see anything here? And he said, No. And having talked with him, he sent him away.

28. Once when Abba Arsenios was dwelling in Canopus, a very wealthy God-fearing virgin of a senatorial family came from Rome to see him. And the Archbishop Theophilos met her, and she implored him to ask the elder to receive her. And going to him, he asked him, saying, Someone of senatorial rank has come from Rome, and wants to see you. But the elder would not accept to meet her. So when he reported these things to her, she ordered an animal saddled, saying, I have faith in God that he will see me, for I go not to see a man, for there are also in our city many men, but I go to see a prophet. And when she came near to the cell of the elder, by the plan of God, the elder happened to be outside the cell. And seeing him, she fell at his feet. But he raised her up with anger, and looked at her, saying, If you want to see my face, behold, look. But she, from shame, could not look at his face. And the elder said to her, Have you not heard of my works? It is necessary to understand these things. And how have you undertaken to make this journey? Do you not know that you are a woman? That you ought not to be going anywhere? Or is it so you may return to Rome, and say to the other women, I have seen Arsenios, and they will make the sea a road of women coming to me? And she said, If the Lord wills, I will not permit anyone to come here. But pray for me, and remember me always. And answering, he said to her, I pray to God that he remove the memory of you from my heart. And hearing these things, she left, greatly upset. And when she returned to the city, from the grief she caught a fever. And it was told to the blessed Theophilos the Archbishop that she was ill. And coming to her, he sought to learn what it was that bothered her. And she said to him, If only I had not moved from here. For I said to the elder, Remember me, and he said to me, I pray to God that he will remove the memory of you from my heart. And behold, I die from grief. And the Archbishop said to her, Did you not know that you are a woman, and through women the enemy wars with the saints? Because of this, the elder spoke thus. But for your soul, he will pray continually. And thus her thought (λογισμος) was healed and she returned to her own with joy.

29. Abba Daniel related about Abba Arsenios that once a magistrate came, bringing to him the will of some senatorial relative of his, who had left him a very large inheritance. And taking it, he wanted to rip it up. And the magistrate fell at his feet, saying, I beg of you, do not not rip it up, since my head may be taken off. And Abba Arsenios said to him, I died before that person, for he has only just died. And he sent back an answer, without accepting.

30. They also say about him, that late in the day on Sabbaths, with Sundays coming on, he would turn his back on the sun, and stretch out his hands to the heavens praying, until once again the sun would shine on his face, and then he would sit.

31. They say about Abba Arsenios and Abba Theodore of Pherme, that, more than all the others, they hated the praise of men. For as Abba Arsenios would not readily meet anyone, so Abba Theodore would indeed meet them, but was like a sword.

(to be continued)