St. Arsany was born in Rome, about 350 A. D. His parents were Christian & very rich.. They taught him the different subjects concerning Church matters. He was later nominated as a Deacon. He was familiar with Latin, Greek knowledge, & Christian virtues in general.
The Teacher of the Kings' Sons
One day, king "Theodosios the Great" asked for a virtuous wise man to teach his two children "Anorious" & "Arcadious", and he found nobody like St. Arsany, who was full of wisdom & virtues. He did a good job in teaching them Christian and knowledge in general..
The way to Egypt.. to Holiness
St. Arsany used to pray in tears always for God in order to teach him His righteous way.. His way of salvation. Then, one day he heard a voice clearly saying: "Arsany.. Arsany.. Run away from people, and you'll be saved."
He was about Forty of age at that time when he -secretly- left Rome with all its glory, left his great positions there, his name, belongings, in short, ALL his past life, and came to Alexandria, Egypt. Then to "Sheheat Wilderness".
The Beginning of His Monastic Life
From the beginning, St. Arsany showed great eagerness for learning.
* Once while he was asking an old monk about something, another monk came and asked him: "How come do you; Father Arsany, who knows much about the great Greek & Roman knowledge, ask this illiterate monk about your thoughts?!".
St. Arsany told him with true modesty: "You're right about my great knowledge of Greek & Roman literature.. But the "Alpha Vita" that this Egyptian knows very well, I have not learned yet..!". (He meant the way to virtues).
It is said that St. Arsany was very intelligent and nimble, he did not need a direct guidance, but he learned from every single event that happened.
* It was not the monks' habit to select the good beans from the ones ruined by mite.. Once upon a time, St. Arsany was eating beans with other monks, and he was selecting the good beans to eat. When the head of the monastery noticed that, he did not like it.. so he wanted to teach St. Arsany a lesson.
He picked one of the monks and excused him saying: "Please endure what I am going to do to you.. Go and sit beside Arsany, and choose the good beans from the bad". The monk obeyed directly, and did what he has been told. Then the head of the monastery came to him and slapped him on his face saying: "How come do you choose the good beans for yourself and leave the bad for your brothers?!!".
Then St. Arsany bowed to him & to the monk saying: "This slap was not meant for you, but it was addressed to Arsany's cheek!". Then added: "Here he is: Arsany, the teacher to the kings' sons, don't know how to eat beans with the Egyptian monks"!!
Some Other Stories About St. Arsany
* A messenger came to him from Rome with a will from one of his deceased relatives, giving him all his possessions.. Then St. Arsany asked the messenger:
- "When did this man died?"
- "A year ago."
- "But I died 11 years ago!! And the dead doesn't inherit the dead!!".
* He used to repel Satan's wars by praying a lot.. So, one day the devils came to him in the shape of angels, blessing him for his holiness and determination (in order to make him commit the sin of pride). But he cried for God: "Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me: O Lord, make haste to help me. Let them be ashamed and confounded together that seek after my soul to destroy it; let them be driven backward and put to shame that wish me evil..
"Oh Lord.. Don't let me down.. for I did not do you any good at all.. But give me the strength now to do your own will, and to start doing what is right."
Just then all the devils evaporated in the air.. And St. Arsany always used to ask God to show him the right way, then he heard the same old voice again: "Arsany.. Keep your serenity, and go away from people, then you'll be saved".
# He used always to remind himself saying: "Arsany.. Arsany.. Remember what you are out for". In order not to lose the way, and never deviate from the hard way..
# His routine was:
+ when the sun rose, he started to pray
+ then worked in braiding palm leaves till 6:00
+ then he engaged himself in reading till 9:00
+ then again to prayer
* In Sundays & in the Feasts, he used to stand in the desert, giving his back to the sun, and started praying with his hands up till the sun rose over on his face!!!
* A noble women once came to him from Rome after hearing about his holiness, and before she was leaving after talking with him for a while, she asked him to remember her in his prayers.. But St. Arsany said to her: "I hope God erases your memory from my mind!".
She was very angry and sad because of these words, so she went to Pope Theofelos telling him about that. The Pope explained to her that what St. Arsany's words meant, was his fear that the devil could use her against him.
* He was very cautious of talking, and when he was asked about it, he answered:
"Often have I spoken and regretted,
but for silence I never did".
* St. Arsany was very humble, and lived over what he was getting from selling his own hand work (braiding palm leaves), and gave the rest of the money to the poor.
He used to cry a lot (to repent his sins...), and in the church he used to stand behind a certain pillar crying, till that column had a small gully from his tears!
And his eyelashes started to fall from crying too much!!
(P. S.: this pillar still stands here in Egypt; at El-Baramous Monastery).
* It was said that when he used to stay at the royal palace in Rome, nobody wore more precious clothes than him.. Whereas after getting to the way of monasticism, no one wore less than he did!
* When braiding palm leaves, one had to wet them in order to be soft enough. The water must be changed regularily, but St. Arsany used to change this water only once a year! And whenever it was less, he just added water over that rotten water. (as a kind of austerity!).
When St. Macarious the Alexandrian came to him once, he asked him about that, St. Arsany answered: "Truly I say unto you, that I can't stand this smell too, but I over burden myself with this bad smell instead of the pure smells that I got pleasure of using them in the world!".
* He told his disciples a vision, which was seen by another monk :
"One day while an old monk was sitting in his room, he heard a voice telling him: "Go out, and I'll show you the peoples' deeds".
"When he went out he saw a black man cutting firewood, and when he started to lift it up he couldn't. And instead of lessening the weight, he added on it!! So he couldn't hold it again, and so on..!
"Then he walked a little while and saw another man beside a well, taking water out of it and pouring it on a punctured pot, so the pot was never filled!!
"Again he saw two horsemen holding a column together, and every one of them was holding it from his side, but when they came to the door, no one of them humbled himself to go behind or after his friend in order to enter the column vertically, so they stayed out!!!"
Then St. Arsany started to explain this vision:
+ The firewood holder is like a man full of sins, and instead of repenting, he does more and more sins!
+ The man who was trying to fill the pot, is like a man who is used to giving donations, but that money is taken from people by force, so his reward is wasted!!
+ And the people who were holding the column, are the ones who are holding our Lord Jesus Christ's yoke, with no humbleness or modesty, so they stay out of the Kingdom of the Lord!!!
* Once two strangers came to "Cheheat wilderness" to see St. Arsany, they knocked, and St. Arsany opened the door for them, but he kept silent all the time.. till they were sad, and went away..
On their way back, they went to the place where St. Moses The Black lived (who used to be a thief). They knocked, and he met them very well, talked to them, and fed them too…
When they left him, one asked the other about the saint he preferred. The stranger told him that the Egyptian satisfied him better.
Another monk heard that, he was very confused, and prayed a lot for God to tell him the right thing saying: "Please Lord.. Uncover this matter to me.. Some people run away from people for the sake of Your Name; and others accept and meet them, for the sake of Your Name too?!!!"
Then he saw a vision showing two ships, and on board of one was St. Arsany sailing in serenity accompanied by the spirit of the Lord.. And on board of the other ship St. Mosses, accompanied by God's Angels, and they were feeding him honey.
His Last Days
When St. Arsany became older, about 97 years old, there came the time of the Holy Fast, so he went to his special room to stay there these 40 days, eating a little every three days..
While he was praying and meditating, the devils were very angry because of that, and they wanted to enter his room, but they couldn't because he was praying, so they started to make a bad noise outside to disturb him, but he scolded them saying: "Why do you make this noise you enemies of truth?! If you have the power, then come.. enter.., or else fade away.. I am the servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, who destroyed all your powers". And when he said that, the devils ran away with disgrace.
After that, he was visited by the Divine Care, then he started to study the Bible more, praying a lot, and crying.. And in Lazarus Saturday, he was visited by his disciples, and he opened to them, and talked to them..
When he knew that his departure was soon to come, he went out to visit his disciples as usual, and he told them: "Dear sons.. Let it be known unto you that my time had come. And I advise you not to care for anything but your own salvation". His tears were flowing.. So everybody cried a lot, and bid him farewell..
After seven days, while his disciples were beside him, he started to cry telling them that his hour had come.. But they were very surprised of his terrified shape, so they asked him: "Even you Father fear death?!!" He answered: "The truth I say to you: the fear of this hour is with me since I've came to the monasticism".
Then he crossed over his body, and peace returned to his face, and died.
After that a great light column appeared over the place, and his face shone.. Everybody then knew about his death, and many people came (monks and laymen) to take the blessing from his body, and a lot of sick people recovered.
He died on the 13th of Bachance, (May, 21st 445 A. D.)
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