Excerpts from the Evergetinos
No one should despair ever, even if he has committed many sins, but should have
hope that through repentance,he shall be saved.
From the Holy Palladios
Our holy Father John, who lived in asceticism on a mountain near the city of Lycus and about
whom details are cited in another chapter, relates to us this about the need [for monks] to avoid many interactions with women [or nuns with men].
There once lived in the city, it was said, a young man who committed many and frightful sins.
However, this young man was piercingly censured by his conscience, on account of his manifold sins, and, with the help of God, came to repentance. Under the power of repentance, he went to a cemetery, where he established himself in one of the tombs and lamented for his former life, falling down with his face to the earth and continually groaning from the depths of his heart.
When he had passed a week in this state of unrelenting and persistent repentance, demons, who had before brought his life to destruction, gathered around one night making noise and shouting: "Who is this impious man, who used to pass his time in lustful things and immorality and now wants us to think that he is sober and a doer of good deeds? And he wants to be a Christian and become virtuous, now that he can no longer have fun and fulfill his pleasures? What good can he expect in his life, since he is filled with our evils?"Hey you! Will you not get up from there at all? Will you not come with us to your customary places of sin and depravity? Fallen women and wine await you; will you not come to indulge your desires? After all the sins that you have committed up to this day, all hope for salvation is lost to you, and therefore, O struggler, you will only march on full speed to your damnation if you continue killing yourself this way. Why are you so intent and in such a hurry to be damned?
Whatever transgression that there is, you committed it; together with us, you fell to every sin. Yet now you dare to flee our company? Do you not agree? Will you not go along with our offers?"
Meanwhile, however, the young man persisted in the sorrow of repentance and, appearing not to hear the exhortations of the demons, did not answer them at all. So the demons, seeing that they had accomplished nothing with their words, fell upon him, beat him cruelly, and, when they had wounded him all over, left him half-dead. But still the youth remained immovable in his place, groaning, and steadfast in his obdurate repentance.
During this time, the young man's relatives sought him out, finally finding him. Having learned the reason for his appearance—that is, of the brazen attack of the demons—, they tried to take him with them to their home. He, however, refused to abandon the place of his repentance.
The following night, the demons again attacked him and tormented him even more greatly. His
relatives visited him for a second time, though without persuading him to leave his place of
punishment and follow them. To their proposals on the matter, he answered patiently and with
"Do not pressure me. I prefer to die than to return to my former prodigal life."
The third night he almost died from the cruel torments of the demons, who attacked him with
greater severity than all of the other times.After that, the demons, having accomplished nothing with their threats and torments—for the young man would not change his mind at any scare tactic—, departed and left him alone.
Fleeing from him, they cried madly:"He conquered us! He conquered us! He conquered us!"
From that time on, nothing bad happened to the youth; rather, with a clean conscience he came to realize every virtue. Until the end of his life, he remained in the tomb, which he made his
hermitage, coming to be honored by God with the gifts of miraculous doings.
From the Life of St. Synkletike
The blessed Synkletike said: We should laud remiss and indolent souls who are easily exhausted in the struggle for good, as well as those souls who are easily discouraged and fall to despair. Indeed if such souls should display even the smallest good deed, we must praise it and marvel at it, giving them encouragement in their struggle for the good. Contrarily, the most serious and greatest of their faults we must characterize, in front of them, as the least and unworthy of note. For the Devil, who wishes to destroy all things, or rather to succeed at our spiritual destruction, resorts to the following ruse. On the one hand, with accomplished and ascetic monks, he tries to cover their sins and to make them forget them, so as to create pride in these men. On the other hand, he constantly exposes the sins of neophytes whose souls have not yet been strengthened in the ascetic life, before them and exaggerates these sins, so as to drive such neophytes to despair, until they abandon their ascetic efforts.
For this reason, then, these still irresolute souls we must care for with tenderness and remind them continually of the boundless compassion and kindness of God. Among other things, we must emphasize that our Lord is merciful and long-enduring and that he annuls his righteous judgments against wrong-doers, as long as they surely repent.
To render this teaching of ours convincing, we will bring forth examples from Holy Scripture, which will reveal to the souls of our listeners the endless compassion of the Lord towards those who have sinned and repented. For example, let us recall that Raab was a prostitute, but was saved through her faith; St. Paul was a persecutor, but through repentance became a chosen vessel; and the thief who was crucified together with Christ on Golgotha, who had stolen and murdered, first opened the door of Paradise with one word of repentance: "Remember me, Lord, when Thou comest into Thy Kingdom." Moreover, let us cite the instance of St. Matthew, who was appointed to the Apostolic ranks by the Lord and who, even though a former tax collector, relates the parable of the tax collector as well as that of the Prodigal Son. So in general, let us bring to mind all of the stories in this regard which emphasize the worth of repentance and which extol the compassion of God towards the repentant man.
On the other hand, we must correct those souls who are ruled by pride by providing them with
greater examples, just as we give the weaker souls encouragement, so as not to be ruled by despair. Let us take an example from the work of the best gardeners, who, when they see that a plant is of small stature and sickly, water it profusely and care for it greatly, so that it will grow and be strong; while, when they see in a plant the premature development of sprouts, they immediately trim the useless sprouts, so that the plant does not quickly wither. Likewise, physicians give rich nourishment to some patients, prescribing that they walk, while to others they give a strict diet and require them to remain at rest.
From the Holy Palladios
From various stories, I learned the following about St. Moses the Ethiopian, who was well known among the Fathers of the skete. It seems that he, before becoming a monk, was the servant of a certain freeman. His master, however, threw him out of his house, since Moses was very cantankerous and his manners were offensive and savage. When he was dismissed, Moses became a thief; and, because of his exceptional strength, he became the leader of other thieves.
Among his other exploits as a thief, which show his fierceness, it is told: He once got it into his
mind to get even with a certain shepherd, since the shepherd's sheepdogs had prevented him, one night, from carrying out a crime which he had planned. To this end, he carefully scouted out the region, in order to find the shepherd and his flock and to murder the shepherd.
As soon as he learned that the shepherd was on the other side of the Nile, he decided to go there to fulfill his criminal intent. At that time of the year, the river had flooded and the current had reached its high point. So, Moses took off his short tunic, which he happened to be wearing, put it on top of his head, held his knife in his teeth, and awesome and astonishing though it be, jumped into the river and, swimming, crossed to the other bank. When the shepherd from far off saw Moses come swimming towards where he was, he took off running and found a hiding place.
Therefore, Moses was unable to get even with the shepherd, as he had planned. So, he directed all of his mania against the herd. As though he had the shepherd in his hands, he seized the four best rams and tied them up, one-by-one. He then again crossed the Nile swimming. Afterwards, he came to a knoll, skinned the sheep, and lighted a fire where he roasted the best meat from the carcasses.
Simultaneously, he exchanged the skins for a good wine from Sain in Egypt and drank a great
amount. When he was more than filled with this food and had satisfied his anger, he departed for his hide-out, which was about fifty leagues distant.
Then this fearsome and mighty thief, after some time and thanks to a fortuitous event, accepted the visitation of Divine Grace, tasted of the salvific feeling of contrition, and repented for his former life. Indeed, so deep and sincere was his repentance, that he embraced the monastic life, went to the skete, enclosed himself in a cell, and gave himself over to severe and strict asceticism.
It is further said, indeed, that at the beginning of his monastic life, when he had settled in a cell, four thieves set upon him, evidently not knowing that the monk whom they had decided to rob was Moses. And so what happened during this attempted robbery of the former thief? Moses overcame them immediately with amazing ease, tied them up, and put them over his shoulders with such ease that it seemed as though he were picking up a sack of straw. He then proceeded to take them to the Church, where he said to the brothers:
"Since I no longer allow myself to do wrong to anyone, what do you advise me to do with these
four here, who attacked me in order to rob me?"
The astonished brothers of the skete untied the thieves and allowed them to go free.
Then the thieves themselves recognized Moses. And seeing his repentance, they, too, wished not to return to their former lives of thievery, and, following the example of St. Moses and abandoning the life of sin and crime, became monks and were distinguished for their struggles in asceticism and the virtuous life.
St. Moses, thereafter, exhibited the same perfect asceticism, about which yet other things are written in other books. He warred with great firmness against the demons and was distinguished in all the arenas of ascetic endurance, such that he was quickly ranked among the older and perfected Fathers, being ordained a Presbyter and enriched by the greatest gifts of the Holy Spirit. At his death, he left behind seventy disciples.
From The Evergetinos, Book I, Vol. I