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Benedicta Ward - The Sayings of the Desert Fathers

Benedicta Ward - The Sayings of the Desert Fathers

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desert fathers
desert fathers

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Published by: Nana Nana on Feb 26, 2013
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Paphnutius, born early in the fourth century was influenced by Anthony
the Great and became a disciple of Isidore and of Macarius. He was
trained first in a cenobitic monastery, then became a solitary. He was
called 'the Buffalo 'for his love of solitude. When Cassian visited Egypt,
he was head of the four monasteries of the desert.

1. Abba Paphnutius said, 'When I was walking along the road,
I happened to lose my way and found myself near a village and I
saw some people who were talking about evil things. So I stood still,
praying for my sins. Then behold an angel came, holding a sword
and he said to me, "Paphnutius, all those who judge their brothers
perish by his sword, but because you have not judged, but have
humbled yourself before God, saying that you have sinned, your
name is written in the book of the living!"'

2. It was said of Abba Paphnutius that he did not readily drink
wine. One day he found himself on the road facing a band of
robbers who were drinking wine. The captain of the band was
acquainted with him and knew that he did not drink wine. Seeing
how weary he was, he filled him a cup of wine and holding his
sword in his hand he said to him, 'If you do not drink this, I will
kill you.' So the old man, knowing that he was fulfilling the com-
mandment of God and in order to win the confidence of the robber,
took the cup and drank it. Then the captain asked his forgiveness,
saying, 'Forgive me, abba, for I have made you unhappy.' But the
old man said, 'I believe that, thanks to this cup, God will have mercy
on you now and in the age to come.' Then the robber captain said,
'Have confidence in God that from now on I shall not harm any-
one.' So the old man converted the whole band by giving up his own
will for the Lord's sake.

3. Abba Poemen said that Abba Paphnutius used to say, 'During
the whole lifetime of the old men, I used to go to see them twice


[ 203

a month, although it was a distance of twelve miles. I told them each
of my thoughts and they never answered me anything but this,
"Wherever you go, do not judge yourself and you will be at

4. There was at Scetis with Paphnutius a brother who had to
fight against fornication and he said, 'Even if I take ten wives, I shall
not satisfy my desire.' The old man encouraged him, saying, 'No,
my child, this warfare comes from the demons.' But he did not let
himself be persuaded and he left for Egypt to take a wife. After a
time it happened that the old man went up to Egypt and met him
carrying baskets of shell-fish. He did not recognize him at all, but
the other said to him, 'I am so and so, your disciple.' And the old
man, seeing him in such disgrace, wept and said, 'How have you lost
your dignity and come to such humiliation? No doubt you have
taken ten wives?' And groaning, he said, 'Truly I have only taken
one, and I have a great deal of trouble satisfying her with food.' The
old man said, 'Come back with us.' He said, 'Is it possible to repent,
abba?' He said that it was. And leaving everything, the brother
followed him and returned to Scetis, and thanks to this experience
he became a proved monk.

5. There was a brother who lived in the desert of the Thebaid
and the thought crossed his mind, 'Why do you live here in this
useless way? Get up and go to the monastery and there you will
make progress.' So he went and found Abba Paphnutius and told
him about this thought. The old man said to him, 'Go and stay in
your cell; make only one prayer in the morning and one in the
evening and one at night. When you are hungry, eat, when you are
thirsty, drink; when you are tired, sleep. But stay in the cell and take
no notice of this thought.' The brother went and found Abba John
and told him what Abba Paphnutius had said and Abba John said,
'Don't pray at all, just stay in the cell.' So the brother went and
found Abba Arsenius and told him all about it and the old man said
to him, 'Do as the others have told you. I have nothing to say but
that,' and he went away satisfied.

6. Amma Sarah sent someone to say to Abba Paphnutius, 'Have
you really done the work of God by letting your brother be de-
spised?' and Abba Paphnutius said, 'Paphnutius is here with the

204 ]


Sayings of the Desert Fathers

intention of doing the work of God, and he has nothing to do with
anyone else.'*

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