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ANBA ONNOPHRIOS

The Life of Abba Onnophrios Anchorite

The life and the conversations of our holy father, who was glorious in every way, "Abba Onnophrios" the anchorite who's life ended on the sixteenth day of Paone in the peace of God. May God bless us. Amen.

A certain brother who was an anchorite and who’s name was Papnoute made a discourse to the God loving brethren and these where the words which he addressed to them:

I, your brother, was thinking one day and determined to go into the inner desert so I might see if there were any brethren who where monks living in the most remote parts of it. I marched four days and four nights and I neither ate bread or drank water. I marched on into the inner desert, at the end of the further number of days I journeyed into the mountain. When four days had passed by I felt pain and I stretched out my hands to heaven and prayed. I saw a man coming toward me and he gave me strength. In short, when four days had passed I journeyed on into the desert. Straightway I looked and I saw a man in the distance. He was an exceedingly terrifying object for his hair was spread over his body like that of a panther. He was naked, his private parts were covered with leaves. When he had come close to me I was afraid, I went up on a pinnacle of the mountain thinking that he was a man in delirium.

When he had come he cast himself for a little time under the shadow of the pinnacle of the mountain. He was greatly distressed because of the pain which he was suffering. He was in great danger of dying of hunger and thirst. He lifted up his eyes to the pinnacle of the mountain and when he saw me he cried out saying, "Come down to me oh you holy man I also am a man of the mountain like you and I am living in the desert because of my sins ." I said to myself, "You art a friend of God." I sat down before him to tell me his name and he said unto me, "Onnophrios is my name and behold I have lived in this desert for sixty years. I wander about in the mountains like the wild animals and I never see any man who recognizes me. I lived at one time in a habitation of monks in the mountain of Shmun of the Thebaid and the name of that monastery was Erete. We all lived together, each of us were of the same mind and peace dwelt in our midst. We lived with each other a life of quiet contemplation, giving glory onto God.

I passed nights in vigil with them and I learned the rules of God with them. There chief men where perfect as Angles of the Lord. I heard them speaking about our father Elijah the Thishbite, saying that he was completely powerful in God. There lived in this desert John the Baptist, who of all those who have been born of women, none have arisen who is greater than he. He lived in the desert place until the day of the manifestation of Israel. I said to him, "My fathers, are not then those who are in the desert more excellent than we are? For behold we see each other daily, we partake of the sacraments together and we make use of the food which is prepared for us. When we are thirsty we take water to drink, when we are weak our brethren reach out there hands to help us. When we wish for the loan of a vessel to eat from we make use of those belonging to each other for the love of God, but where shall those who are living in the desert for Gods sake find man if trouble come upon them? If they are hungry where can they find food? If they are thirsty where can they find water to drink?"

He replied, " When they began to lead the life of the anchorite they rejoice exceedingly because of hunger and thirst and the excellence of there manner of life. The adversary who fights with them to tempt them thereby does not wish them to continue the life of the anchorite for he knows the reward is great which they will receive from God when they shall come forth from the body. When they are preaching ascetic labors, the compassion of God comes upon them and He makes the Angel to serve them in respect to there food. He brings for them water out of the rock for it is written in Isaiah 40:31,

"Those who abide patiently in the Lord renew there strength they shall spread out there wings like the eagles in flight they shall fly away and shall not fall. They shall journey and shall not suffer hunger. "

He said water shall be brought to them out of the rock. When they suffer hunger he will make the grass which is in the field to be sweet to there mouths even as honey is sweet. If tribulation comes upon them or danger rise up against them straightway they spread out their hands and they pray to King Jesus, until there comes to them speedily His help which he sends forth and straightway he strengthens them. Because of the integrity of their heart in respect to him." Have you never heard that which is written, "The Lord will not forsake his people, and the patient endurance of the miserable man shall not fail utterly?" and again, "The poor man cries out and the Lord hears and delivers him in all his tribulation the Lord gives onto every man according to what he has suffered . Blessed is the man who shall do the will of God upon the earth! I say unto thee that the angels shall serve him from the time he when enters the body and they shall comfort him at all times in his needs." And to me your brother, when I had heard these things from these perfect man of God they, became like unto honey which is sweet in my belly. A mighty ecstasy took place within me when I became like onto those who's minds are carried away unto another world. I rose up straightway and took a few bread cakes with me, sufficient for the four days journey, so that I might eat them until I arrived at the place which God should appoint for me. When I had come forth from the monastery I looked and I saw a being of light before me. I was afraid, I thought in my mind that I would turn back to the place to which I came first of all and remain there.

When he knew that I was afraid he said unto me "Fear not for I am the angel that dwelt with thee and has traveled with you from your childhood. This stewardship which the Lord has appointed to thee, you shall be able to fulfill." When I had come onto the mountain and I had journeyed in the desert for six or seven miles I saw that there was a cave. I turned towards it for I saw that there was a man inside it. A very great saint of God came out to me, now his form or behavior was goodly, there was a fine graciousness over his countenance. When I had seen him, I made homage unto him. He raised me up and he saluted me. He said onto me, " You are Onnophrios my fellow worker in the Lord, come in, the Lord be with thee. You shall succeed in the good work where unto He has invited you".

I went inside and I sat down there with him for a few days. I learned the rules of the doctrine of God from him and he taught me the regulation which governed the life of the monk in the desert. When he saw that I was acquainted with the hidden and terrible fighting which exists in the desert, he said unto me, "Rise up my son and let me take thee to a desolate place in the inner desert and you shall abide therein by thyself for Gods sake, since God has appointed thee to this work, you must dwell in the desert. " Straightway he rose up and journeyed with me into the desert for a distance of four days journey. At the end of the four days we came to a small hut and he said unto me "This is the place that the lord has appointed thee to live in." And he sat down with me for a month of days until I understood the good work which it was meant for me to do. Afterwards he departed from me and we never saw each other again until this year when I saw him once on the day whereon he lied down the body.

I buried him inside the place wherein he was, and I "Papnoute" said unto him "My good and beloved father at the beginning when you first come to this place did you suffer from the weather?" and the blessed old man said onto me, "I suffered greatly on several occasions from hunger and thirst. The heat outside in the day time and the great cold by night, and my flesh was wasted away by the dews of heaven. When God saw that I endured patiently in my good strife of fasting and that I gave my heart to ascetic practices, he made holy angels serve me and bring to me my daily food. An angel gave it to me evening by evening and he stood by my body. The palm tree yielded onto me each year twelve bunches of dates and I ate one bunch every month. Moreover he made the herbs (grass) which grow in the desert to be sweet to my mouth even as honey. For it is written "Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word which comes forth from the mouth of God does man live." If you do the will of God, he shall take care of you in every place.

For he has said in the holy Gospel, "Take no care for what raiment you shall eat or for what you shall drink. For what raiment you shall clothe thyself for your Father which is in the heaven knows of what things you have need without your asking Him. Seek you his kingdom and his righteousness and these things shall be added onto you." When I had heard these I marveled exceedingly and I said unto him " Oh my holy father where do you partake of the sacrament on the Sabbath day and on the first day of the week?" and he said onto me, "Oh my holy father an Angel of God comes and he administers to me the sacrament on the Sabbath day and on the first day of the week. The angel comes and administers the sacrament to everyone who is in the desert, and who lives there for Gods sake and sees no man. He gives on to them consolation and moreover when they desire to see anyone they are taken up onto the hights of heaven and they see all the saints and they greet them. Thereby their hearts receive lights and they rejoice and are glad with God in those good things.

When they see them they receive consolation They continue to feel comforted for a very long time, and if they are transferred to another world through the joy which they have seen they do not even remember that the world exists. When I heard these things I rejoiced exceedingly that I was held to be worthy to hear them from him. I forgot all the sufferings which I had endured when I was journeying in the desert, strength came unto my body and renewed power came onto my body and to my soul. I said to him, "Blessed am I that I am held worthy to see your holy face and to hear your sweet words." Then he said to me," Raise up oh my brother and let us depart to the place wherein we are to be. " We rose up and we journeyed along together, two or three miles. This blessed old man and athlete was one to marvel at exceedingly.

We journeyed and came to a hut. When we had entered into the hut he stood up and prayed with me. When we had finished the prayers we gave the "Amen." We sat down together talking about the majesty of God. At the time when the sun was about to set I looked and saw a loaf of bread and a vessel of water. He said unto me, "Raise up my brother and eat and drink this small quantity of water for I see that you art exhausted by hunger and thirst and by the toil of the road." I said onto him, "As God almighty lives I will neither eat nor drink unless we stretch ourselves out and eat the bread together. When I continued to press him with difficulty he agreed and we stretch ourselves out together. We divided the bread and ate and put back some of it back. The two of us drank from the vessel of water and we were satisfied and we left some it in the vessel of the water. We passed the whole night in prayer, we prayed to God until the morning.

When it was morning I saw that his face had changed and it was altogether transformed. It was like unto that of another man and it seemed to be wholly of fire. His form terrified me exceedingly, and he said unto me, "Fear not oh my brother in God for the Lord has sent thee to care for my body and bury it. In a day or two I shall fulfill my stewardship and shall go to the place of everlasting rest." Now that day was the sixteenth day of the month of Paone, and he also said unto me, "When you depart unto Egypt, proclaim the remembrance of me as a sweet smelling thing to the brethren. Whosoever shall make an offering in my name and keep me in remembrance, Jesus himself will bring him in the first hour of a thousand years." And I said unto him " If he be a poor man he will not be able to give an offering in my name." He replied, "Let him feed a poor brother in my name." I asked, " If he be a poor man he will not be able to feed him will you not take him into the feast at the first hour of a thousand years?"

He replied, " Let him give a little scent in my name ." I said, "If he be a poor man he will not be able to give scent in your name because of his poverty. Oh my good father let your grace be with us all for whatsoever you shall ask of God, He shall give unto thee." He said, "Let him stand up and say three times prayers to God in my name. The Lord Jesus shall bring him to the thousand years and he shall receive and inheritance with all the saints." And I said unto him "Oh my holy father if I am worthy of it, I should like to be present in your holy abode when you shall cease to be in this body." He said, "Certainly you shall my son for you have not been appointed to the stewardship, but the Lord has appointed thee to console the holy brethren who live in the desert. Proclaim their sweet odor among the brethren who worship God for the benefit of those hearken onto thee. Get thee forth to Egypt oh my son and continue to carry on the good work."

Straightway I fell down upon the ground and I said unto him, "Bless me oh my father that I may be made to stand before God, as I have been held worthy to see thee in the other world before the Lord Jesus the Christ." He said, "Oh my son may not God cause thee to grieve about any matter whatsoever, and may he strengthen thee in his love, so that your eyes may receive the light of his Godhead. That you may neither lean to one side nor fall, but may end successfully the work whereon to you have set your hand. May the angels shelter thee and deliver thee from the plotting of the Jews, and may no accusations fall upon thee when you have to meet God." And when he had made an end of saying these things he rose up and prayed to God with sighing and many tears. Afterwards he lied himself upon the ground and he completed his stewardship in God. He yielded up his spirit into the hand of God on the sixteenth day of the month of Paone. I heard the voice of the angels singing hymns before the blessed Abba Onnophrios and there was great joy at his meeting God.

I took off the garment wherewith I was clothed and tore it unto two pieces. In the one I wrapped up the holy man for burial and the other I used as raiment so that I might not be naked. I placed his body down in a cleft in the rock and I heard the sound of a multitude of angels rejoicing and crying out, "Alleluia" I said my prayer over him and I rolled several stones upon it. I stood up and prayed a second time and straightway the palm tree fell down. I marveled exceedingly at what had taken place. I ate what was left of the bread and I drank of the water which was left to us. When I perceived that it was not according to the will of God for me to remain in this place, I spread out my hands and I prayed unto the Lord. Behold the man who had come to me in the first and who had given me strength, came to me again as he had done before. When we had talked together for a long time… he said unto me "Oh our brother establish your heart with a little bread for you have traveled from a place a far off." After that I came into Egypt after a journey of three days and I described unto the brethren what had happened unto me.

They wrote down these things which they had heard from me, Abba Papnoute, and quickly put them in a book which they sent to -shiet- where it was deposited in the church for the benefit of those who should read or hear it. They glorified God, and blessed His saints through the grace and love to man of our Lord Jesus Christ to whom be glory, and to His good Father and the holy spirit for ever and ever. AMEN.


CLICK FOR LINKS TO OTHER ANCHORITES

ANBA POULA: THE ANCHORITE
ANBA TOMAS: THE ANCHORITE
ANBA KARRAS: THE ANCHORITE
ANBA MOUSA: THE ANCHORITE
ANBA STRATIOS: THE ANCHORITE
ST. ANASIMON: THE ANCHORITE QUEEN
ANBA MISAEL: THE ANCHORITE
POPE KEROLLIS: COPTIC SAINTS

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