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March 24, 2018

The Life of a Holy Woman from the Holy City of Jerusalem

By St. John Moschos

We visited Abba John Rutilus, the anchorite, who told us a story he had heard from John the Moabite:

'There was a certain holy woman in the holy city, who was very devout, and who walked in the will of God. The devil was envious of this virgin, and instilled in the heart of a certain young man an impure and diabolical passion for her. This wonderful virgin discerned the devil's wickedness and was troubled lest the young man lose his soul, so she took a blanket, and a few loaves (hard loaves to be prepared by steeping in water) and went to the desert, hoping not only that her departure would free the young man from his temptation and be the salvation of him, but also that she would find security in solitude.

A long time afterwards, lest her excellent way of life remain unknown, by the dispensation of God an anchorite saw her one day in the desert near Jordan.

"What are you doing in this desert, Amma?" he asked.

"Forgive me, Abba," she said, wishing that he would go away, "but I seem to have lost my way. For the love of God, be so kind as to direct me."

"Believe me, Amma, you haven't lost your way," he said, being inspired by God to discern what she was. "You have no need of a known path. Now you know that to tell lies is of the devil, so tell me the truth about why you have come here."

"Forgive me, Abba," she said, "but there was a youth who was in danger of perdition because of me, so I fled to the desert, thinking it better to die here rather than be a stumbling block to anyone, as the Apostle says."

"How long have you been here, then?"

"Seventeen years, by the grace of Christ."

"And how have you survived"

"See this blanket and these few loaves. They came into the desert with me, and God has shown such kindness towards me in my lowliness that they have been sufficient for me ever since, and have not grown any less. And you should know this, too, Abba, that God's benevolence has so protected me for these seventeen years that no man has ever seen me except you today, though I have been able to see them all."

The anchorite listened and glorified God.'

From The Spiritual Meadow, Ch. 179.