November 29, 2017

Holy Abba Pityroum of Egypt, Disciple of Saint Anthony

Venerable Pityroum (Feast Day - November 29)


Willingly he advanced towards you O my Christ,
Pityroum the worker of the will.

History of the Monks of Egypt
(Ch. 19)

By St. Jerome

And we also saw in the Thebaid a certain high mountain which lay by the river, and it was an exceedingly terrible mountain with high barren peaks, and in the caves thereof there dwelt many monks; and these men had as Abba one Pityroum, who was a disciple of the holy man Anthony. He was the third who had received that place from Anthony, and he used to perform many mighty deeds, and to carry on the persecution of devils openly; and since he was the man who had received the place of Anthony, the blessed and great man, and of Ammonius his disciple, he received also, and rightly so, the inheritance of his labors.

Now Pityroum spake many other things, and he discoursed with power, especially on the gift of discerning spirits, saying, “There are certain demons which cling to the passions, and on several occasions they turn our good desires into evil; therefore, O my sons, those of you who wish to drive away demons must first of all bring into subjection your lusts, for a man must vanquish not only every lust, but he must drive away the devil thereof. It is right that you should overcome your lusts little by little, so that in the same way you may drive away the demons which appertain thereto. There is a demon which belongs to a wasteful and dissolute life, and he who is able to conquer the desire thereof is also able to drive away that demon.”

And this man used to eat twice a week, that is to say on Sunday, and on Thursday, and his food consisted of a little flour and some water which he baked into a thin cake; and he was unable to eat anything else, because his nature was thus.

Lausiac History
(Ch. 34)

By Bishop Palladius of Helenopolis

In this monastery [of Tabennesi] there was another virgin who feigned madness and possession by a demon. And they detested her so much that they would not even eat with her, she preferring this. She would wander about in the kitchen and do every kind of menial work, and she was, as they say, "the monastery sponge," fulfilling in fact the words of Scripture: "If any one seem to be wise among you in this world, let him become foolish that he may be wise." She fastened some rags on her head - all the rest had the tonsure and wore cowls - and served in this guise. None of the 400 sisters ever saw her chewing during the years of her life. She never sat at table, nor partook of a piece of bread, but wiping up the crumbs from the tables and washing the kitchen pots she was content with what she got in this way. Never did she insult anyone nor grumble nor talk either little or much, although she was cuffed and insulted and cursed and execrated.

Now an angel appeared to the holy Pityroum, an anchorite of high reputation who dwelt in Porphyrites, and said to him: "Why are you proud of yourself for being virtuous and dwelling in a place like this? Do you want to see a woman who is more virtuous than you? Go to the Monastery of the Tabennesiot women and there you will find a woman wearing a crown on her head. She is better than you. For though she dwells with so great a crowd, she has never let her heart go away from God. But you sit here and wander in imagination through the different cities." And he who had never gone out went off to that monastery and besought the elders to let him go to the monastery of the women. They were emboldened to let him in, since he was famous and advanced in years.

And having gone in he demanded to see them all. But she did not appear. At last he said to them: "Bring me all, for there is one lacking." They said to him: "We have one within in the kitchen, a fool." For thus they style the mentally afflicted. He said to them: "Bring her also to me. Let me see her." They went off to call her. She did not answer, perhaps perceiving what was the matter, or even having had a revelation. They dragged her forcibly and said to her: "The holy Pityroum wants to see you;" for he was famous. When she came, he perceived the rag on her forehead and fell at her feet and said to her: "Bless me." She also fell at his feet in like manner, saying: "Do you bless me, Master." They were all amazed and said to him: "Father, do not let her insult you, she is a fool." Said Pityroum to them all: "You are fools. For she is mother both of me and you" - for thus they call the spiritual women - "and I pray to be found worthy of her in the day of judgment."

Having heard these words they fell at his feet, all confessing in different ways: one that she had poured the rinsings of the plate over her; another that she had beaten her with her fist; another that she had applied a mustard-plaster to her nose. And, in a word, all confessed outrages of one kind or another. So after praying for them he went away. And after a few days, unable to bear her glory and the honor bestowed by the sisters, and burdened by their apologies, she left the monastery. And where she went, or where she disappeared to, or how she died, no one knows.