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)

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