Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Abba Pachomios and the Phantom

And it came to pass once when Abba [Pachomios], and Theodore whom he loved, were walking through the monastery by night, that they saw suddenly a great phantom, which was full of the deepest deceit; now that which appeared was in the form of a woman, and its beauty was of so indescribable a character that no man was able to tell the beauty, or the form, or the appearance, which belonged to that phantom, and even Theodore, who looked at that phantom, was exceedingly perturbed, and his face changed color. And when the blessed man saw that he was afraid, he said unto him, “Be of good cheer in the Lord, O Theodore, and fear not,” and the holy man, having said these things unto him, commanded him to pray with him, that the phantom which was striking wonder into them might be driven away. And as they were praying the phantom came nearer and nearer and took a solid form, and when it, and the company of devils which ran before it, drew nigh, for their prayer did not drive it back, it came forward and said unto them, “Why do you labor in vain? You are unable at this present to do anything whatsoever against me, for I have received authority from God, Who sustains the universe, to tempt whomsoever I please; and I have abundance of time in which to do this, for this I have asked from God.”

Then Pachomios asked her, saying, “Where are you from? And who do you wish to tempt?” And the phantom answered and said, “I am the daughter of the Calumniator, whose great power cannot be described, and unto me the whole company of the devils is subject. It was I who brought down the holy stars to the earth, and it was I who snatched Judas from the Apostolic power. I have received authority to make war against you, O Pachomios, for I am not able to endure the reproach of the devils, and no man has made me as weak as you. You have made me to be trampled under foot by youths, and by old men, and by young men, and you have gathered together against me a congregation such as you have, and have set for them a wall which shall never fall the fear of God, so that my ministers are not able to approach with boldness and freedom unto anyone of you. Now all these things have happened unto me because of the Word of God Who was made man, for it is He Who has given you power to trample upon all our might, and to hold us in derision.”

And when the holy man Pachomios asked her, “Have you come to tempt me alone according to what you are saying?” she said unto him, “I have come to tempt you, and all those who are like you.” Pachomios said unto her, “So then you will tempt Theodore also?” And she said, “I have received authority over you, and over Theodore, but I am never able to come near you.” And when Pachomios had said unto her, “Why?” she said unto them, “If I were to make war with you [two], you would have an occasion for help and not for injury, and especially would it be so in your case, O Pachomios, who with the eyes of your body are worthy to be a spectator of the glory of God; but you will not live forever for those for whom at present you make yourselves a wall through your prayers, and whom you help; and the time will come after your death when I shall have dominion over those whom you now protect against me, for you have made me to be trodden under foot by this multitude of monks.”

Then Abba said unto her, “How do you know that those who shall come after us will not serve the Lord more truly than do we, and that they will not be able to confirm and strengthen those who come after us in the fear of God more than do we?” And the phantom said unto him, “I do know this.” And Abba said unto her, “You lie by your wicked head, because you have no knowledge whatsoever beforehand of the things which are going to take place, for unto God alone belongs foreknowledge; you are then the chief of falsehood.” And the phantom answered and said unto him, “True, I have no knowledge whatsoever of anything by foreknowledge, even as you say, for it belongs to God alone to know what is going to happen beforehand, but I told you that I had knowledge because [I judged] by analogy.” And the blessed man said unto her, “How can you judge by analogy?” And she said unto him, “By the things which have already taken place I am able to judge of what will take place in the future.” Then Abba said unto her, “How?” And she said unto him, “I know that the beginning of every matter is in love and knowledge, and it receives confirmation from the things which are provided, and especially through the divine care and the calling of heaven, and by the will of God it becomes confirmed by wonderful things and signs, and it is confirmed also by various powers which are exercised therein; but when that beginning waxes old and becomes grey, it falls away from growth, and when growth has fallen away [i.e. ceased], it perishes of old age, or languishes through sickness, or decays through neglect.”

And afterwards Abba asked her, saying, “Why have you come, according as you say, to tempt these great [saints] and not all the brethren? If it is as you say, the destruction of souls rests with yo to work, and you surpass in power all the devils, and you must have all this power so that you might be able to strive against men like these.” And the phantom answered and said unto him, “I have already told you that when the strength of the Sustainer of creation, the Redeemer Christ, appeared upon the earth, we were brought so low that, like a sparrow, we were mocked and laughed at by men such as these who are clothed with the Spirit, and who seek to learn the Lord; but although we have become feeble through Him, we do not cease to work as much as we possibly can [against you], and we never cease from opposing you by every means in our power. And we sow the seed of our wickedness near the soul of him that strives with us, and this we do especially when we see that he receives [it], and if we see that he really permits us to embrace him, then do we inflame him with fierce lusts, and we encompass him like mighty ones and cruel devils, whom it is exceedingly difficult to defeat. But if he is not willing to receive our seed, and will not, through his faith in God, and the watchfulness of his mind, accept with pleasure the things which are offered unto him by us, we dissolve away even as smoke is dissipated in the air. This is the reason why I am not permitted to wage war with all the monks, and I do not do so because all possess not perfection. For if it were permitted to me to wage war against them all, I should be enabled to lead astray many of those who lean upon you.”

And the blessed man said unto her, “Fie upon your wickedness which never sleeps! You will never cease to stir yourselves up against the race of the children of men until the divine and unpolluted grace of God descends from heaven and destroys you.” Then, having said these things, Abba commanded the phantom to depart unto the place whither it had been commanded to go, and never again to approach with her feet his monastery. And when the morning was come, he cried out unto all the great brethren, and related unto them all the things which he had seen and heard from the destroying devils, and unto the other brethren who were living in the other great monasteries he sent letters, and informed them, in the fear of God, by means of these concerning the vision [which he had seen].

From The Paradise of the Holy Fathers, vol. 1, ch. 14.