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January 10, 2018

Holy Abba Ammonios

Holy Abba Ammonios (Feast Day - January 10)


The virtuous divine lamp has been quenched,
Shut is the fleshly lamp of Ammonios.

In the Lausiac History of Palladius there are two individuals named Ammonios that today's commemoration can refer to. Below is the history of both, not knowing which of the two is being commemorated today.

1. Now this man Ammonios and his three brothers [i.e., Dioscorus, Eusebius, and Euthymius, who were called the “Tall Brothers” by Sozomen] and his two sisters were disciples of Abba Pambo; and when they had attained unto the perfection of divine life and conversation they departed from the desert, and founded two monasteries, I mean, one for men and one for women, but they placed the monastery of the women at a sufficient distance from that of the men, for Ammonios did not greatly love the intercourse of speech. It was for this reason that a certain city desired that he should be its bishop, and the people thereof drew nigh unto the blessed man Timothy, Bishop of Alexandria, and entreated him to make the blessed Ammonios their bishop; and Timothy [who sat from 381–385] told them to bring Ammonios unto him and that he would make him their bishop. Then they took with them much people, and they went unto Ammonios to bring him, and when he saw them he tried to find means to take to flight. But when he saw that he was unable to escape from them, he tried to persuade them, with many oaths, that he would not accept it, but he was unable to make them give up their intention. And when they would not be persuaded by him, he seized a razor and cut off his left ear at the root, and said unto them, “Now I am indeed persuaded that I cannot be that which you are urging me to be, for the Law also commands, ‘The man whose ear has been cut off shall not draw nigh unto the altar’” (Leviticus 26:17); so they left him and went and informed the Bishop, who said unto them, “This law is observed among the Jews, but even if his nose was split and he had fine qualities I would make him Bishop.” Then the people went to Ammonios again and entreated him to come, and when the pious man would not be persuaded by them, they wanted to take him and to make him come by force; but he said unto them, “If you do not leave me I will also slit my tongue”; and when they heard this they left him and departed.

Concerning this man Ammonios so wonderful a thing as the following is said. Whenever a carnal thought entered his mind he never spared his body, but he would make a piece of iron hot on the fire and lay it upon his members, so that they might always be in a state of wounds. From his youth up his rule was as follows: whatsoever had been cooked by fire he would never eat. He could repeat the books of the Old and New Testaments by heart, and he used to read also the books which were composed by excellent men, by Origen, and by Didymus, and by Pierius, and by Stephen containing about ten thousand six hundred sayings; concerning this the great fathers who lived in the desert bear witness. It is also said that this man possessed the power of foretelling events, and living in his cell he was so great a comforter to the brethren who lived in the desert that no other man could be compared with him. Now the blessed Evagrius, who was clothed with the Spirit, and was skilled in examining thoughts, used to say, “I never saw any man who had attained more closely unto impassibility than Ammonios.”

Once a certain need of those who were dwelling in the desert called the blessed man Ammonios, and Rufinus who was at that time the prefect also greatly persuaded him, and he went up to Constantinople. And with him there were also the holy bishops, and other monks who had come from various provinces to be present at the service of restoration of a certain martyrium which Rufinus had built. And Rufinus wished him to receive him after holy baptism at the service of restoration of the temple which he had built, and so the blessed man received him from the bishops who had baptized him. Thus, as was right, Rufinus paid to the blessed man Ammonios the honour which is due to a life of asceticism, and he used to listen to him in everything; and after a short time he died and was buried in the martyrium which is called the “Martyrium of Rufinus,” and many helpful acts took place at his grave on behalf of those who were worthy of help.

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2. And we also saw there a certain Abba whose name also was Ammonios, and he possessed a number of small houses which were exceedingly beautiful, and a courtyard, and a well of water, and other things for use; and a certain brother, who wished earnestly to obtain mercy, came to him, and said unto the blessed man, “Build me a little house wherein I may dwell.” Then the holy man, like one who was going forth to do this, ordered him not to depart from these chambers until he could find one which would be convenient for him; and he left to him everything he had, together with the chambers, and went and shut himself up in a house which was far away from that place. And if the brethren who came to him seeking to have mercy shown to them were many, he would assemble the whole brotherhood, and tell one to draw water, and another to bring bricks, and a house for them would be completed in a day. Then the brethren would invite those who were ready to inhabit the chambers to refresh themselves in the church, and whilst they were resting there he would fill his cloak, and baskets also, with bread and with other things which they would want to make use of, and would carry them to the new house, and it was not known to any man that he was the source (or head) of the gifts of each one of them. And at eventide the brethren who were ready to take up their abode in these new chambers would come there, and would find ready before them whatsoever they required.