From Becoming Fire: Through the Year with the Desert Fathers and Mothers
When I had traveled some days’ distance, I came upon a well of water. I sat down for a little while because I was tired and there were large trees growing by the well. When I had rested awhile and slept a bit, I stayed there and walked among the trees. I was amazed and thought to myself, “Who planted these here?” There were date-palms laden with fruit, and citron and pomegranate and fig trees and apple trees and grapevines, nectarine trees and other trees that gave off a sweet fragrance. The well produced water and watered all the trees growing there.
Now while I was marveling at the trees and looking at them and their fruit, suddenly four young men appeared in the distance, handsome in their appearance. They were dressed in fine sheepskin garments which they wore wrapped around them. When they came up to me they said to me, “Greetings, Paphnutius, our beloved brother!” I prostrated myself at their feet and greeted them, but they raised me up and embraced me. They were very much at peace and were like those who come from the other world, so much joy and comfort did they bring to me. They set about gathering fruit from the trees and they placed it in my mouth. And as for me, my heart rejoiced because of the affection they showed toward me. I spent seven days with them eating fruit from the trees.
I asked them, “Where have you come here from and what region are you natives of?”
They said to me: “Our brother, God has sent you to us so we can tell you about our whole manner of life, for we ourselves are natives of a city of Egypt called Pemje. Our fathers were magistrates of the city and they sent us to school to have us educated. Now we were all in school together where we were like-minded fellows. When we had finished our education in the school we were sent to college. When we had been thoroughly and well educated in the wisdom of this world, we then wanted to be instructed in the wisdom of God. Now it happened one day when we were talking together about these things, a good inspiration stirred us to action. The four of us rose and set off into the desert so we could live in quiet contemplation until we saw what the Lord had determined for us. We took with us a few loaves of bread, enough for seven days.”
*Continued on December 16.