Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Temptress

Once when Arsenius was living in Canopus, a virgin, a very rich lady, and one that feared God, came from Rome hoping to see him. Theophilus the archbishop received her. She asked him to arrange with Arsenius for him to meet her.

Theophilus went to Arsenius and said, "A lady has come from Rome and she wants to see you." Arsenius refused to receive her.

When the lady heard this she gave orders for her camels to be saddled, and said, "I believe that with the help of God I will see him. In my city of Rome there are many people to see but I have come here in order to see saints."

When she reached the hermit's cell, by the providence of God he was standing outside it. When the lady saw him she fell at his feet. Arsenius helped her up with indignation and looking directly at her said, "If you want to see my face, look closely; here it is."

But, she was too ashamed to raise her eyes. Arsenius said to her, "Haven't you heard about my way of life? That is what you should be trying to see. Why have you dared to come all the way across the sea; you are a woman and ought not to be going about at all. Have you done this so that you can go back to Rome and say to other women, ' I have seen Arsenius'? In that way you will turn the sea into a highway with women coming to see me."

She said, "If by God's will I return to Rome, I will not let any other women come here. But pray for me and remember me always."

Arsenius replied, "I pray God that he will blot the memory of you from my heart."

When she heard that, she went away in distress. When she got back to Alexandria, she began in her sorrow to be ill of a fever. The archbishop was told that she was ill, and came to comfort her. He asked her what was the matter and she said, "I wish I had never come here. I said to Arsenius, 'remember me' and he said, 'I pray God that your memory may be blotted from my heart,' and now I am dying of sorrow."

Theophilus said to her, "Do you not realize that you are a woman, and the enemy uses women to attack holy men? That is why he said what he did. He prays for your soul all the time."

So, her worry was resolved, and she returned contentedly to her home.

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