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The Monk Pimen the Great

Com­mem­o­rat­ed on August 27

The Monk Pimen the Great was born in about the year 340 in Egypt. With his two broth­ers, Anu­bias and Paisias, he went into one of the Egypt­ian monas­ter­ies, and all three accept­ed monas­tic ton­sure. The broth­ers were such strict ascetics, that when their moth­er came to the monastery to see her chil­dren, they did not come out to her from their cells. The moth­er stood there for a long time and wept. Then the Monk Pimen said to her through the closed door of the cell: “If thou bear­est with the tem­po­ral part­ing from us now, then in the future life wilt thou see us, since we do hope upon God the Lover-of-Mankind!”. The moth­er was hum­bled and returned home.

Fame about the deeds and virtues of the Monk Pimen spread through­out all the land. One time the gov­er­nor of the dis­trict want­ed to see him. The Monk Pimen, shun­ning fame, rea­soned thus: “If dig­ni­taries begin com­ing to me with respect, then also many of the peo­ple will start com­ing to me and dis­turb my qui­et, and I shalt be deprived of the grace of humil­i­ty, which I have found only with the help of God”. And so he relayed a refusal to the mes­sen­ger. For many of the monks, the Monk Pimen was a spir­i­tu­al guide and instruc­tor. And they wrote down his answers to serve to the edi­fi­ca­tion of oth­ers besides them­selves. A cer­tain monk asked: “Ought one to veil over with silence the sin of a trans­gress­ing broth­er, if per­chance one see him?” The elder answered: “If we reproach the sins of broth­ers, then God will reproach our sins, and if thou seest a broth­er sin­ning, believe not thine eyes and know, that thine own sin is like a wood-beam, but the sin of thy broth­er is like a wood-splin­ter, and then thou wilt not come into dis­tress and temp­ta­tion”. Anoth­er monk turned to the saint, say­ing: “I have griev­ous­ly sinned and I want to spend three years at repen­tance. Is such a length of time suf­fi­cient?” The elder answered: “That is a long time”. The monk con­tin­ued to ask, how long a peri­od of repen­tance did the saint reck­on nec­es­sary for him – a year or forty days? The elder answered: “I think, that if a man repen­teth from the depths of his heart and posits a firm intent to return no more to the sin, then God would accept also a three-day repen­tance”. To the ques­tion, as to how to be rid of per­sis­tent evil thoughts, the saint answered: “If a man has on one side of him fire, and on the oth­er side a ves­sel with water, then if he starts burn­ing from the fire, he takes water from the ves­sel and extin­guish­es the fire. Like to this are the evil thoughts, sug­gest­ed by the ene­my of our sal­va­tion, which like a spark can enkin­dle sin­ful desires with­in man. It is nec­es­sary to put out these sparks with the water, which is prayer and the yearn­ing of the soul for God”.

The Monk Pimen was strict at fast­ing and did not par­take of food for the space of a week or more. But oth­ers he advised to eat every day, only but with­out eat­ing one’s fill. For a cer­tain monk, per­mit­ting him­self to par­take of food only on the sev­enth day but being angry with a broth­er, the saint said: “Thou wouldst learn to fast over six days, yet can­not abstain from anger for even a sin­gle day”. To the ques­tion, which is bet­ter – to speak or be silent, the elder said: “Whoso doth speak on account of God, doeth well, and whoso is silent on account of God – that one doth act well”. And more­over: “It may be, that a man seems to be silent, but if his heart doth judge oth­ers, then always is he speak­ing. But there are also those, who all the day long speak with their tongue, but with­in them­self they do keep silence, since they judge no one”. 

The saint said: “For a man it is nec­es­sary to observe three pri­ma­ry rules: to fear God, to pray often and to do good for peo­ple”. “Mal­ice in turn nev­er wipes out mal­ice. If some­one doeth thee bad, do them good, and thine good will con­quer their bad”. One time, when the monk with his stu­dents arrived at an Egypt­ian wilder­ness-monastery (since he had the habit to go about from place to place, so as to shun glo­ry from men), it became known to him, that the elder liv­ing there was annoyed at his arrival and also was jeal­ous of him. In order to over­come the mal­ice of the her­mit, the saint set off to him with his brethren, tak­ing along with them food as a present. The elder refused to come out to them. There­upon the Monk Pimen said: “We shall not depart from here, until we are grant­ed to see and pay respect to the holy elder”, – and he remained stand­ing in the bright heat at the door of the cell. See­ing such per­se­ver­ance and lack of mal­ice on the part of the Monk Pimen, the elder received him gra­cious­ly and said: “It is right what I have heard about you, but I see in you the good deeds and an hun­dred times even more­so”. Thus did the Monk Pimen know how to extin­guish mal­ice and pro­vide good exam­ple to oth­ers. He pos­sessed such great humil­i­ty, that often with a sigh he said: “I shalt be cast down to that place, whith­er was cast down Satan!”

One time there came to the saint a monk from afar, to get his guid­ance. He began to speak about sub­lime mat­ters dif­fi­cult to grasp. The saint turned away from him and was silent. To the bewil­dered monk they explained, that the saint did not like to speak about lofty mat­ters. Then the monk began to ask him about the strug­gle with pas­sions of soul. The saint turned to him with a joy­ful face: “Here now thou well hath spo­ken, and I must­needs answer”, – and for a long while he pro­vid­ed instruc­tion, as to how one ought to strug­gle with the pas­sions and con­quer them.

The Monk Pimen died at age 110, in about the year 450. Soon after his death he was acknowl­edged as a saint pleas­ing to God and received the title “the Great” – as a sign of his great humil­i­ty, mod­esty, upright­ness and self-deny­ing ser­vice to God.

© 1996–2001 by trans­la­tor Fr. S. Janos.