Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Histories of the Natural Brethren Paesius and Isaiah

Palladius tells of two brothers who, upon receiving a rich inheritance, decided to become Christians and dedicate their lives to monasticism. The one brother gave everything he had to the poor, found a handicraft to support himself, and lived a life of asceticism and prayer. The other brother kept his money, but used it to build a monastery and to provide hospitality to everyone in need.

After these two brothers died, a quarrel came up among the brethren over which of the two was greater-- the one who had followed the Biblical command to give all to the poor, or the one who had followed the Biblical command to care for strangers. They went to Rabba Pambo with this question, and he declared that "They are both perfect. One man made manifest the work of Abraham by his hospitality, and the other the self-denial of Elijah." (109)

Not content with this answer, the brethren pressed Pambo further and he insisted that each brother had lightened the load of the other, each in his unique manner. The brethren kept insisting that one or the other must be greater, and finally Pambo told them that he would ask God.

Several days later, Rabba Pambo came back to the brethren and told them, "I have seen them both standing in the Paradise of Eden, as it were in the presence of God." (109)

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