March 24, 2017

Life and Sayings of our Holy Fathers Karion and Zachariah of Scetis

Holy Abba Karion and Abba Zachariah (Feast Days - November 24 & March 24)

The Life and Sayings of Holy Abba Karion

Karion was a married man, an Egyptian, with a wife and two children. He left his family in order to become a monk in Scetis. During a famine, his wife sent the boy, Zachariah, to his father and he was brought up in the desert. The presence of the boy caused some comment but he proved to be a monk of zeal and discernment and even of greater spiritual understanding than his father.

1. Abba Karion said, 'I have labored much harder than my son Zachariah and yet I have not attained to his measure in humility and silence.'

2. There was a monk in Scetis called Abba Karion. He had two children which he left with his wife when he withdrew from the world. Later, there was a famine in Egypt, and his wife came to Scetis, destitute of everything, bringing the two little children (one was a boy, called Zachariah, the other was a girl). She waited in the marsh land, at a distance from the old man. (For there was a marsh beside Scetis, and they had built churches and wells there.) Now it was the custom in Scetis, that when a woman came to talk with a brother or with someone else whom she had to see, that they should sit far away from one another while they talked. So the woman said to Abba Karion, 'You have become a monk and now there is a famine; who is going to feed your children?' Abba Karion said to her, 'Send them to me.' The woman said to the children, 'Go to your father.' When they got close to their father, the little girl ran back to her mother but the boy stayed with his father. Then the old man said to his wife, 'That is good. Take the little girl and depart; I will look after the boy.' So he was brought up in Scetis and everyone knew that he was his son. As he grew older, they murmured in the fraternity about him. Hearing of it, Abba Karion said to his son, Zachariah, 'Get up; we will go away from here, because the fathers are murmuring.' The young man said to him, 'Abba, everyone here knows that I am your son, but if we go somewhere else, we can no longer say that I am your son.' But the old man said to him, 'Rise, let us go away from here.' So they went to the Thebaid. There they were given a cell and stayed there several days. But down there the same murmuring recurred about the child. Then his father said to him, 'Zachariah, get up, we will go to Scetis.' A few days after their arrival in Scetis once again they murmured about him. Then young Zachariah went to the lake which was full of nitre, undressed, went down to it and jumped in, up to the nose. He remained there many hours, as long as he could, until his body was changed and he became like a leper. He came out, and put on his clothes again and went back to his father who scarcely recognized him. When he went to communion as usual, Abba Isidore, the priest of Scetis, had a revelation of what he had done. When he saw him, he was filled with wonder. Then he said to him, 'Last Sunday the boy Zachariah came and communicated like a man; now he has become like an angel.'

3. Abba Karion said, 'A monk who lives with a boy, falls, if he is not stable; but even if he is stable and does not fall, he still does not make progress.'

The Life and Sayings of Holy Abba Zachariah

Zacharias was the son of Abba Karion who brought him up in the desert of Scetis. Makarios and Moses consulted the boy and his wisdom was recognized also by Poemen. He seems to have died young.

1. Abba Makarios said to Abba Zachariah, 'Tell me, what is the work of a monk?' He said to him, 'How is it that you are asking me, Father?' Abba Makarios said, 'Zachariah, my child, you inspire me with confidence. It is God who urges me to ask you.' Then Zachariah said to him, 'Father, in my opinion, he is a monk who does violence to himself in everything.'

2. Going to draw water one day, Abba Moses found Abba Zacharias praying beside the well and the Spirit of God rested above him.

3. One day Abba Moses said to brother Zachariah, 'Tell me what I ought to do?' At these words the latter threw himself on the ground at the old man's feet and said, 'Are you asking me, Father?' The old man said to him, 'Believe me, Zachariah, my son, I have seen the Holy Spirit descending upon you and since then I am constrained to ask you.' Then Zachariah drew his hood off his head put it under his feet and trampled on it, saying, 'The man who does not let himself be treated thus, cannot become a monk.'

4. While he was sitting one day in Scetis, Abba Zachariah had a vision. He went to tell his father, Karion, about it. The old man, who was an ascetic, did not understand this matter. He got up and beat him soundly, saying that it came from the demons. But Zachariah went on thinking about it, and he went by night to Abba Poemen, to tell the matter to him and how his heart burned within him. Then the old man, seeing that this came from God, said to him, 'Go to such and such an old man and whatever he tells you to do, do it.' Zachariah went to the old man and even before he could ask anything, he forestalled him, telling him everything that had happened and saying that this vision came from God. 'But go,' he said, 'and submit yourself to your father.'

5. Abba Poemen said that Abba Moses asked Abba Zacharias, who was at the point of death, 'What do you see?' He said, 'Is it not better to hold my peace, Father?' And he said, 'Yes, it is better to hold your peace, my child.' At the hour of his death, Abba Isidore who was sitting there looked towards heaven and said, 'Rejoice, Zachariah, my son, because the doors of the kingdom of heaven are opened to you.'