Nobody should trust in himself but follow in everything the advice of the elders. And he should confess all the secrets of his heart sincerely without hiding anything (I)

1. of Paladius       

There was a certain Heron from Alexandria, a neighbor of mine, a handsome young man with a bright mind, a pure life, who was very thin because of his high ascetic strife, many of his acquaintances saying that he ate only once at three months in the meantime nourishing himself only with the Holy Eucharist and the wild plants if he found them somewhere. I

I saw this for myself once when I went with him and with the reposed Alvinos the Skete. The place was at a distance of about 40 miles and while we were traveling we ate and drank twice but that one did not taste anything. And while walking he recited psalms by heart (the longest one and other 15), the Epistle to the Hebrews, the book of Isaiah, a part of the book of prophet Jeremiah, saint Luke’s Gospel and the parables f Solomon and we could not keep the pace with him.

This one after big struggles and endeavours raised himself at a great height with that pride characteristic for madness and falling from there he became an example of pitiable fall because he boasted before the holy elders urged by the vain high opinion about himself cursing everybody and saying: `Those who follow your teachings are lost. We must not have other teachers except for Christ, since the Saviour Himself said: `Do not call anyone teacher on earth.`[2].

Thus the mind of this man as it happened with Valens, darkened so much because of the devastating pride that he fell from heights to the bottom ones and they put him in chains and he didn’t want to approach the Holy Eucharist.

In the end drawn by the devil as a strong fire descended in Alexandria, by God’s care to be healed by pain. There he fell into recklessness spending his time in theatres, hippodromes and pubs. Then he got possessed of lust and with his mind at the sin he spoke without cease to an actress. Being in that condition he got an excrescence on his dick and he was so sick for six months that his shameful parts got rotten and fell. Then he got cured and came to his senses and went back to the desert without his sexual organs. He remembered the previous ascetic way of living confessing to the fathers what had happened to him. But he didn’t have time to live as a monk because he died after a few days.

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       Another one called Ptolemeus first lived a very austere ascetic life. He lived beyond the skete in a place named The Ladder where no monk could live because it was at a distance of 18 miles of water. But that one had jugs and sponge and he gathered the dew that fell in December and January, put it in jugs and doing this he saved water in this way for 15 years. In this time he didn’t meet with anyone estranging himself of the teaching and the encounters with the holy fathers but also of the Holy Eucharist and he reached such a madness that he  fell in a shameful teaching called `automatism`[3]. The enemy made him say that things have no essence merely existing by the fact that the world moves.

First this thought was brought into his mind by the enemy of life and afterwards when it entered his soul the devil told him: If the things are like this why are you tormenting yourself in this way? What would be the use since there is no reward? And what reward would be for your great struggles and who would be the one to reward you? What judgment can be as the Scriptures threaten since nobody takes care of anything that is alive?

Being possessed by such satanic thoughts the wretched Ptolemeus gave up on his ascetic struggles and he wandered all over as a madman. And even today he is still wandering through Egypt full of greed and enslaved by drunkenness not taling with anyone and roaming silently through markets: pitiable sight in the eyes of the Christians and reason for ridicule for those who don’t know our way of living. This disaster affected Ptolemeus because of his foolish pride, because he thought he had more knowledge than the holy fathers without meeting them at all for being guided by their teaching. Being without guidance he fell in the depth of the spiritual death – because those who don’t have any guidance fall like leaves.[4].

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[1]   Psalm 118.

[2]   Mt. 23,10.

[3]   Philosophical doctrine of Epicurus, who as saint Hippolytus of Rome said, thought that God is eternal and imperishable but He doesn’t take care of the world; there is no providence or fate everything happens by itself haphazardly (against all heresies, P.G. 16, 3049 B).

[4]   Pr. 11,14.

Excerpt from the book EVERGHETINOS – Ist edition 2007  Holy Monastery Vatoped vol. I, Theme 20 – Metropolis Press Publishing, Athens, Greece, 2007.