January 12, 2017

Life and Sayings of Holy Abba Elias the Wonderworker

Holy Abba Elias (Feast Day - November 3 and January 12)

Verses for November 3

The virtues of Elias were a chariot by which he advanced,
Entering the heavens like another Elias.

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Verses for January 12

Another Elias shows forth to be a wonderworker,
This wonderworker being Elias.

By Saint Jerome

(Lives of the Desert Fathers, Ch. 7)

And we also saw another priest in the desert of Antinoe, the metropolis of the Thebaid, whose name was Elias; he was about one hundred and ten years old, and the monks used to say that the spirit of Elias the Prophet rested upon him. 

Now this blessed man Elias was famous in the desert, for he had lived therein for seventy years, and it is wholly impossible to find a word which would adequately describe the sterility and desolation of that desert, and of the mountain in which he lived. He never went down to Shaina, but there was a narrow path along which a man could walk with the greatest difficulty and make his way to him guided by the rough stones which were placed on both sides of the way; and his dwelling was under a rock in the cave.

Now his appearance was terrible, for by reason of old age which had laid its hold upon him he trembled greatly; nevertheless he worked signs daily, and he never ceased to heal the sick. And the fathers told us concerning him that there was no man among them who could remember the time when he went up to live in the mountain. In his old age he used to eat three ounces of bread every evening, and three olives, but in his early manhood he partook of food only once a week, and subsisted thereon.

(From the Sayings of the Desert Fathers)

1. Abba Elias said, 'For my part, I fear three things: the moment when my soul will leave my body, and when I shall appear before God, and when the sentence will be given against me.'

2. The old men said of Abba Agathon to Abba Elias, in Egypt, 'He is a good abba.' The old man answered them, 'In comparison with his own generation, he is good.' They said to him, 'And what is he in comparison with the ancients?' He gave them this answer, 'I have said to you that in comparison with his generation he is good but as to that of the ancients, in Scetis I have seen a man who, like Joshua the son of Nun could make the sun stand still in the heavens.' At these words they were astounded and gave glory to God.

3. Abba Elias, the minister, said, 'What can sin do where there is penitence? And of what use is love where there is pride?'

4. Abba Elias said, 'I saw someone who was carrying a skin of wine on his arm, and, in order to make the demons blush, for it was a fantasy, I said to the brother, "Of your charity take off your cloak." He took off his cloak, and was not found to be carrying anything. I say that so that you may not believe even that which you see or hear. Even more, observe your thoughts, and beware of what you have in your heart and your spirit, knowing that the demons put ideas into you so as to corrupt your soul by making it think of that which is not right, in order to turn your spirit from the consideration of your sins and of God.'

5. He also said, 'Men turn their minds either to their sins, or to Jesus, or to men.'

6. He also said, 'If the spirit does not sing with the body, labor is in vain. Whoever loves tribulation will obtain joy and peace later on.'

7. He also said, 'An old man was living in a temple and the demons came to say to him, "Leave this place which belongs to us," and the old man said, "No place belongs to you." Then they began to scatter his palm leaves about, one by one, and the old man went on gathering them together with perseverance. A little later the devil took his hand and pulled him to the door. When the old man reached the door, he seized the lintel with the other hand crying out, "Jesus, save me." Immediately the devil fled away. Then the old man began to weep. Then the Lord said to him, "Why are you weeping?" and the old man said, "Because the devils have dared to seize a man and treat him like this." The Lord said to him, "You had been careless. As soon as you turned to me again, you see I was beside you." I say this, because itis necessary to take great pains, and anyone who does not do so, cannot come to his God. For he himself was crucified for our sake.'

8. A brother who followed the life of stillness in the monastery of the cave of Abba Savvas came to Abba Elias and said to him, 'Abba, give me a way of life.' The old man said to the brother, 'In the days of our predecessors they took great care about these three virtues: poverty, obedience and fasting. But among monks nowadays avarice, self-confidence and great greed have taken charge. Choose whichever you want most.'