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
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.