June 19, 2018

Life and Sayings of Holy Abba Zeno the Wonderworker

Venerable Zeno (Feast Day - June 19)


What is common in Zeno, is that he was mortal in life?
He departed to the Angels in the life beyond.


Zeno was a famous disciple of Abba Silvanus, on Sinai. Like other monks in the early days in Egypt, he moved about a good deal in Egypt, Syria and Palestine. At the end of his life he settled near Gaza and in 451 he shut himself up and would see no one until he reposed in peace at the age of 62. The Synaxarion of Constantinople says that because of his exceeding obedience, and extreme asceticism and poverty, he became a wonderworker and sign-bearer, vanquishing demons from people.


1. Abba Zeno, the disciple of blessed Silvanus said, ‘Do not live in a famous place, do not settle close to a man with a great name, and do not lay foundations for building yourself a cell one day.’

2. It was said of Abba Zeno, that from the outset he never wished to receive anything from anyone at all. Those who brought him something came away hurt that he had not accepted anything. Others came to him, wanting to receive some token from a great old man and he had nothing to give them so they too came away hurt. The old man said, ‘What shall I do, since those who bring things are hurt just as much as those who wish to receive something? I know what seems right to me: when someone brings me something, I will accept it and I will give it to anyone who asks me for something.’ So he did that and was at peace and satisfied everyone.

3. An Egyptian brother came to see Abba Zeno in Syria, and accused himself to the old man about his temptations. Filled with admiration, Zeno said, ‘The Egyptians hide the virtues they possess and ceaselessly accuse themselves of faults they do not have, while the Syrians and Greeks pretend to have virtues they do not have, and hide the faults of which they are guilty.’

4. Some brothers came to see him and asked him, ‘What does this saying in the book of Job mean: “Heaven is not pure in his presence?” ‘ (Job 15.15) The old man replied, ‘The brothers have passed over their sins and inquired about heavenly things. This is the interpretation of this saying: “God alone is pure,” therefore he said, “Heaven is not pure.”'

5. It was said of Abba Zeno, that when he was living in Scetis, he came out of his cell by night, going in the direction of the marshes. He spent three days and three nights wandering at random. At last, tired out, his strength failing him, he fell down as though he were dying. Behold, a little child stood before him with bread and a jar of water and said to him, ‘Get up, and eat.’ He stood up and prayed, thinking that it was a delusion. The other said to him, ‘You have done well.’ And he prayed a second, and then a third time. The child said again, ‘You have done well.’ Then the old man stood up, took some food and ate. The child said to him, As far as you have walked, so far are you from your cell. So then, get up, and follow me.’ Immediately he found himself in his cell. So the old man said to the child, ‘Enter, and let us pray.’ But when the old man went inside, the other vanished.

6. Another time, the same Abba Zeno was walking in Palestine and he was tired. He sat down near a cucumber plant to eat and he said to himself, ‘Take a cucumber and eat it. Truly it is only a little thing.’ But he answered himself, ‘Thieves are taken away to punishment. Examine yourself therefore, to see if you can bear punishment.’ He got up and stood in the sun for five days. When he was quite burnt he said, You cannot bear punishment,’ and he said to Zacharias [67 his thoughts, ‘Since you cannot bear punishment, do not steal, and do not eat.’

7. Abba Zeno said, ‘If a man wants God to hear his prayer quickly, then before he prays for anything else, even his own soul, when he stands and stretches out his hands towards God, he must pray with all his heart for his enemies. Through this action God will hear everything that he asks.’

8. In a village there was said to be a man who fasted to such a degree that he was called ‘the Faster’. Abba Zeno had heard of him, and he sent for him. The other came gladly. They prayed and sat down. The old man began to work in silence. Since he could not succeed in talking to him the Faster began to get bored. So he said to the old man, ‘Pray for me, Abba, for I want to go.’ The old man said to him. ‘Why?’ The other replied, ‘Because my heart is as if it were on fire and I do not know what is the matter with it. For truly, when I was in the village and I fasted until the evening, nothing like this happened to me.’ The old man said, ‘In the village you fed yourself through your ears. But go away and from now on eat at the ninth hour and whatever you do, do it secretly.’ As soon as he had begun to act on this advice, the Faster found it difficult to wait until the ninth hour. And those who knew him said, ‘The Faster is possessed by the devil.’ So he went to tell all this to the old man who said to him, ‘This way is according to God.’

From the Sayings of Abba Longinus

4. Another time, they brought him one possessed by a demon. He said to those who were escorting him: ‘I can do nothing for you; but go instead to Abba Zeno.’ So Abba Zeno began to put pressure onto the demon to cast it out. The demon began to cry out: ‘Perhaps, Abba Zeno, you think I am going away because of you; look, down there Abba Longinus is praying, and challenging me and it is for fear of his prayers that I go away, for to you I would not even have given an answer.’