Sayings of the Fathers: Arsenios

1. Abba Arsenios, while still living in the palace, prayed to God, saying, Lord, show me the way, how I can be saved. And a voice came to him, saying, Arsenios, flee men, and you will be saved.

2. He, having withdrawn to the solitary life, prayed again, saying the same thing. And he heard a voice saying to him, Arsenios, flee, be silent, be still. For these are the root of sinlessness.

3. It happened once to Abba Arsenios that the demons were afflicting him in his cell. When his servants returned to him, they were standing outside the cell, and heard him crying aloud to God and saying, O God, do not leave me. I have done nothing good before You, but permit me, according to Your goodness, to make a beginning of it.

4. They said about him, that just as none in the palace wore finer clothing than him, so no one in the Church wore more worthless than him.

5. Someone said to the blessed Aresenios, How do we, with so much education and wisdom, not understand, and these farmers and Egyptians acquire so much goodness? Abba Arsenios said to him, We understand nothing from our education in the world, but these farmers and Egyptians acquire goodness through their own hard work.

6. Once Abba Arsenios asked a certain Egyptian elder about his own thoughts (λογισμων). Another saw him, saying, Abba Arsenios, How do you, having such a good Latin and Greek education, ask this farmer about your thoughts? And he said to him, I have a Latin and Greek education, but I do not even know the alphabet of this farmer.

7. Once, the blessed Archbishop Theophilos came to Abba Arsenios, with a certain magistrate. And he asked the elder to hear a word from him. And the elder was silent a little while, and answered him, And if I speak to you, will you keep it? And they agreed to keep it. And the elder said to them, If you hear Arsenios is somewhere, you will not approach.

8. Again, another time the Archbishop, wanting to come to him, first sent to know if the elder would receive him. And he made clear to him, If you come, I will receive you. And if I receive you, I will receive all. And then I will no longer remain here. The Archbishop heard these things and said, If I chase him away by going, I will no longer go to him.

9. A brother asked Abba Arsenios to hear a word from him. And the elder said to him, As much as your ability is, struggle, so your inner work will be according to God, and you will conquer your external passion.

10. Further, he said, If we seek God, He will appear to us, and if we hold onto Him, He will stay beside us.

11. Someone said to Abba Aresenios, My thoughts afflict me, saying, You can neither fast nor work. At least look after those who are sick, for even this is love. But the elder, knowing the seed of the demons, said to him, Withdraw, eat, drink, sleep, and do not work. Only do not leave the cell. For he knew that the endurance of the cell returns the monk to his routine (or “order” ταξιν).

12. Abba Arsenios said that a wandering monk in foreign lands should not meddle, and rest (or “settle down” αναπαυεται).

13. Abba Markos said to Abba Arsenios, Why do you flee us? The elder said to him, God knows that I love you, but I cannot be with God and with men. The thousands and myriads above have one will, but men have many wills. So I cannot leave God, and go with men.

14. Abba Daniel said about Abba Arsenios that he would spend the whole night awake, and when it came to be about dawn, he would by nature fall asleep. He would say to sleep, Come, you wicked servant. And he would sit sleeping a little while, and immediately wake up.

15. Abba Arsenios said that it was sufficient for a monk to sleep one hour, if he is a fighter (αγωνιστης).

16. The elders said that once a few small dried figs were given to Sketis, which were like nothing, and they did not send to Abba Arsenios, so he would not feel an insult. And hearing this, the elder did not go to the gathering (συναξιν), saying, You have banished me by not giving to me of the blessing which God has sent to the brothers, which I was not worthy to receive. And they all heard and were helped by the humility of the elder. And the priest went, took him the little dried figs, and brought him to the gathering with joy.

17. Abba Daniel said that however many a year he remained with us, we would make for him every year only one measure of bread, and when we would come to him, we would eat of it.

18. Further, he said about the same Abba Arsenios that he would never change the water for palm branches more than once a year, but only add to it. For he wove rope and sewed until the sixth hour. And the elders entreated him, saying, Why do you not change the water for palm branches that smells? And he said to them, Because instead of the incense and the spices that I enjoyed in the world, I must bear this smell.

19. Further, he said when he heard that all the kinds of summer fruits were ripe, he would say about them, Bring me some. And would taste only once a little from each of them, giving thanks to God.

20. Abba Arsenios was sick once in Sketis. He lacked everything, even a piece of linen. And he had nothing to buy any with. He received charity (or “a love-gift” αγαπην) from someone, and said, I thank you, Lord, that you considered me worthy to receive charity through your name.

21. They said about him that he had his cell at a distance of thirty-two miles, and he did not leave it very easily, for others did errands for him. And when Sketis was laid waste, he left weeping, and said, The world has lost Rome, and the monks, Sketis.

(to be continued)

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