Originally Published in Death to the World Issue #3, 1994
1. The life and death of Abba Poemen, the solitary.
One day, I went down to Rouba to visit Abba Poemen the grazer. When I found him, I told him the thoughts which troubled me. When night fell, he left me in a cave. It was winter and that night it got very cold indeed; I was freezing. When the elder came at dawn, he said to me: “What is the matter, child?”
I said: “Forgive me, father; I had a very bad night because of the cold.”
He said to me: “Indeed child? I did not feel the cold.”
This amazed me, for he was naked. I asked him of his charity to tell me how he did not fee the cold. He said: “I lion came down and lay beside me; he kept me warm. But I tell you, bother: I shall be devoured by wild beasts.”
I asked him why and he told me: “Because when I was in our homeland”—we were both from Galatia—”I was a shepherd. I was hostile to a stranger who came by, and my dogs devoured him. I could have saved him, but I did not. I left him to his fate and the dogs killed him. I know that I too must die that way.”
Three years later, that elder was devoured by wild beasts as he himself had foretold.
When I was living at the Monastery of Abba [Father] Firminos, a robber came to Abba Zosimos and bogged him: “Of your charity, for God’s sake, make me a monk, for I am the author of many murders. Make me a monk so that for the rest of my life I may resist my evil doings.”
The elder gave him instruction, made him a monk, and provided him with the holy habit. A few days later, the elder said to the new monk: “Believe me, my child, you cannot stay here. If the governor hears about you, he will arrest you. Or maybe your enemies shall pass this was and kill you. But pay heed to me; I will take you to a community some distance from here.” He took him to the community of Abba Dorotheos, near Gaza and to Maiouma. He spent nine years there, learning the entire Psalter and all the conventions of Monastic observance. The he went back to the Monastery of Abba Firminos and said to the Elder: “Abba, have pity on me, sir; give me back my worldly clothes and take the monastic habit from me.”
Distressed by these words, the elder said to him: “Whatever for, child?” The other answered: See now, father; as you know, I have been nine years in the community. I have fasted to the full extent of my ability; I have practiced self-discipline; I have lived under obedience with complete serenity and in the fear of God. I believe that, of His goodness, God has pardoned my many evil deeds. Yet everyday I see an infant which says to me: “Why did you slay me?” I see him in Church, I see him in the refectory, always saying the same thing to me. The vision never leaves me untroubled for an hour at a time. This is why I must to go away Father; I must die from that infant, for I killed it without a reason.” He took his clothes, put them on, and went out of that monastery. He went to Diospolis. The following day he was arrested and beheaded.2