December 29, 2014

Life and Sayings of Holy Abba Benjamin of Nitria

Venerable Benjamin (Feast Day - December 29)


You left behind this life in old age in a goodly manner,
And Benjamin was united with the good.

By Bishop Palladius

And there was also in the mountain of Nitria a marvelous man whose name was Benjamin, who attained to a high state of perfection in the ascetic life, for he had fasted and toiled for eighty years. Now he was held to be worthy of the gift of the craft of the physician, and from every wound (or stripe) upon which he laid his hand, and which Christ blessed or gave him the power to heal, straightway every pain departed. 

And this man, who was worthy of such a gift, collected water in his body for eight months before his death, and he was so much swollen that he might well have been called a second Job. And Dioscurus took us, that is to say, the blessed Origen and myself, and said unto us, “Come and see a new Job, who while suffering from such a severe disease of the body as this heals others.” And Benjamin gave thanks concerning his affliction beyond measure, and glorified God continually, and his soul rejoiced and was glad in the hope which it laid up for the saints.

Now when we had gone and seen the swelling of his body we found that it had become so large that a man could not with all his hand encircle one of his fingers; and being unable to look upon such a terrible affliction through disease we turned away our eyes. Then the blessed man Benjamin said unto us, “My sons, pray that the inner man may not collect water. Even when this my body was in health it in no wise helped me, and now that it is sick it in no wise hinders me.” 

Now during the last eight months of his illness they made a broad chair for him, and he used to sit therein always, because he was not able to lie down upon a bed by reason of the necessity of his belly and of the other members of his body. And whilst he himself lived in such suffering, through all his affliction he was healing others, and it is for this reason that I am compelled to narrate to you concerning the affliction of this righteous man, so that when such an affliction as this happens unto the righteous, we may not hold the matter to be hard. Now when this blessed man died, the whole of the framework of the doorway had to be removed to enable them to bring out his body from his cell, for his body was very large indeed.

From The Paradise Of The Holy Fathers, Ch. 12.

Sayings of Abba Benjamin

1. Abba Benjamin said, "When we returned to Scetis, once the harvest was over, in payment they brought each of us a plaster vessel containing a pint of oil from Alexandria. When the time of harvest came again, the brothers brought what was left to the church. For my own part, I had not uncorked my vessel but had taken a little by piercing it with a stiletto, imagining in my heart that I had achieved something splendid. But when the brothers brought their plaster vessels as they were while mine was pierced, I was as ashamed as though I had committed fornication."

2. Abba Benjamin, priest of the Cells, said, "One day at Scetis we went to an old man, intending to take him a little oil but he said to us, 'Look at the little vessel you brought me three years ago; it has remained there where you put it.' At these words we wondered at the old man's virtue."

3. The same abba said, "We went to another old man who detained us for a meal and he offered us oil of horse-radish. We said to him, 'Father, give us rather a little good oil.' At these words he crossed himself and said, 'I did not know there was any other kind.'"

4. As he was dying, Abba Benjamin said to his sons, “If you observe the following, you can be saved: ‘Be joyful at all times, pray without ceasing, and gives thanks for all things.’”

5. Abba Benjamin said to his disciples, “Walk on the royal path and count off the miles, and do not be discouraged.”