Orthodox River

A Discourse on Abba Philimon

It is said that Abba Philimon, the anchorite, lived for a long time enclosed in a certain cave not far from the Lavra of the Romans. There he engaged in the life of ascetic struggle, always asking himself the question which, it is reported, the great Arsenios used to put to himself: “Philimon, why did you come here?’ He used to plait ropes and make baskets, giving them to the steward of the Lavra in exchange for a small ration of bread. He ate only bread and salt, and even that not every day. In this way he took no thought for the flesh (cf. Rom. 13:14) but, initiated into ineffable mysteries through the pursuit of contemplation, he was enveloped by divine light and established in a state of joyfulness. When he went to church on Saturdays and Sundays he walked alone in deep thought, allowing no one to approach him lest his concentration should be interrupted. In church he stood in a comer, keeping his face turned to the ground and shedding streams of tears. For, like the holy fathers, and especially like his great model Arsenios, he was always full of contrition and kept the thought of death continually in his mind. When a heresy arose in Alexandria and the surrounding area, Philimon left his cave and went to the Lavra near that of Nikanor. There he was welcomed by the blessed Paulinos, who gave him his own retreat and enabled him to follow a life of complete stillness. For a whole year Paulinos allowed absolutely no one to approach him, and he himself disturbed him only when he had to give him bread. On the feast of the holy resurrection of Christ, Philimon and Paulinos were talking when the subject of the eremitical state came up.

Philimon knew that Paulinos, too, aspired to this state; and with this in mind he implanted in him teachings taken from Scripture and the fathers that emphasized, as Moses had done, how impossible it is to conform to God without complete stillness; how stillness gives birth to ascetic effort, ascetic effort to tears, tears to awe, awe to humility, humility to foresight, foresight to love; and how love restores the soul to health and makes it dispassionate, so that one then knows that one is not far from God.
He used to say to Paulinos: “You must purify your intellect completely through stillness and engage it ceaselessly in spiritual work. For just as the eye is attentive to sensible things and is fascinated by what it sees, so the purified intellect is attentive to intelligible realities and becomes so rapt by spiritual contemplation that it is hard to tear it away. And the more the intellect is stripped of the passions and purified through stillness, the greater the spiritual knowledge it is found worthy to receive. The intellect is perfect when it transcends knowledge of created things and is united with God: having then attained a royal dignity it no longer allows itself to be pauperized or aroused by lower desires, even if offered all the kingdoms of the world.
If, therefore, you want to acquire all these virtues, be detached from every man, flee the world and sedulously follow the path of the saints. Dress shabbily, behave simply, speak unaffectedly, do not be haughty in the way you walk, live in poverty and let yourself be despised by everyone. Above all, guard the intellect and be watchful, patiently enduring indigence and hardship, and keeping intact and undisturbed the spiritual blessings that you have been granted. Pay strict attention to yourself, not allowing any sensual pleasure to infiltrate. For the soul’s passions are allayed by stillness; but when they are stimulated and aroused they grow more savage and force us into greater sin; and they become hard to cure, like the body’s wounds when they are scratched and chafed. Even an idle word can make the intellect forget God, the demons enforcing this with the compliance of the senses.
“Great struggle and awe are needed to guard the soul. You have to divorce your self from the whole world and sunder your soul’s affection for the body. You have to become citiless, homeless, possessionless, free from avarice, from worldly concerns and society, humble, compassionate, good, gentle, still, ready to receive in your heart the stamp of divine knowledge. You cannot write on wax unless you have first expunged the letters written on it. Basil the Great teaches us these things. ‘The saints were people of this kind. They were totally severed from the ways of the world, and by keeping the vision of heaven unsullied in themselves they made its light shine by observing the divine laws. And having mortified their earthly aspects (cf. Col. 3:5) through self-control and through awe and love for God, they were radiant with holy words and actions. For through unceasing prayer and the study of the divine Scriptures the soul’s noetic eyes are opened, and they see the King of the celestial powers, and great joy and fierce longing burn intensely in the soul; and as the flesh, too, is taken up by the Spirit, man becomes wholly spiritual.

These are the things which those who in solitude practice blessed stillness and the strictest way of life, and who have separated themselves from all human solace, confess openly to the Lord in heaven alone.’ When the good brother heard this, his soul was wounded by divine longing; and he and Abba Philimon went to live in Sketis where the greatest of the holy fathers had pursued the path of sanctity. They settled in the Lavra of St John the Small, and asked the steward of the Lavra to see to their needs, as they wished to lead a life of stillness. And by the grace of God they lived in complete stillness, unfailingly attending church on Saturdays and Sundays but on other days of the week staying in their cells, praying and fulfilling their rule.

The rule of the holy Elder was as follows. During the night he quietly chanted the entire Psalter and the Biblical canticles, and recited part of the Gospels. Then he sat down and intently repeated ‘Lord have mercy’ for as long as he could. After that he slept, rising towards dawn to chant the First Hour. Then he again sat down, facing eastward, and alternately chanted psalms and recited by heart sections of the Epistles and Gospels. He spent the whole day in this manner, chanting and praying unceasingly, and being nourished by the contemplation of heavenly things. His intellect was often lifted up to contemplation, and he did not know if he was still on earth. His brother, seeing him devoted so unremittingly to this rule and completely transformed by divine thoughts, said to him: “Why, father, do you exhaust yourself so much at your age, disciplining your body and bringing it into subjection?” (cf. 1 Cor. 9:27).
And he replied: “Believe me, my son, God has placed such love for my rule in my soul that I lack the strength to satisfy the longing within me. Yet longing for God and hope of the blessings held in store triumph over bodily weakness.” Thus at all times, even when he was eating, he raised his intellect up to the heavens on the wings of his longing. Once a certain brother who lived with him asked him;

‘What is the mystery of contemplation?’ Realizing that he was intent on learning, the Elder replied: ‘I tell you, my son, that when one’s intellect is completely pure, God reveals to him the visions that are granted to the ministering powers and angelic hosts.’ The same brother also asked: “Why, father, do you find more joy in the psalms than in any other part of divine Scripture? And why, when quietly chanting them, do you say the words as though you were speaking with someone?’

And Abba Philimon replied: “My son, God has impressed the power of the psalms on my poor soul as He did on the soul of the prophet David. I cannot be separated from the sweetness of the visions about which they speak: they embrace all Scripture.” He confessed these things with great humility, after beg much pressed, and then only for the benefit of the questioner. A brother named John came from the coast to Father Philimon and, clasping his feet, said to him:

“What shall I do to be saved? For my intellect vacillates to and fro and strays after all the wrong things.’ After a pause, the father replied: ‘This is one of the outer passions and it stays with you because you still have not acquired a perfect longing for God. The warmth of this longing and of the knowledge of God has not yet come to you.’ The brother said to him: ‘What shall I do, father?’ Abba Philimon replied; ‘Meditate inwardly for a while, deep in your heart; for this can cleanse your intellect of these things.’ The brother, not understanding what was said, asked the Elder: ‘What is inward meditation, father?’ The Elder replied: “Keep watch in your heart; and with watchfulness say in your mind with awe and trembling ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me.’”

For this is the advice which the blessed Diadochos gave to beginners. The brother departed; and with the help of God and the Elder’s prayers he found stillness and for a while was filled with sweetness by this meditation. But then it suddenly left him and he could, not practice it or pray watchfully. So he went again to the Elder and told him what had happened. And the Elder said to him:
“You have had a brief taste of stillness and inner work, and have experienced the sweetness that comes from them. This is what you should always be doing in your heart: whether eating or drinking, in company or outside your cell, or on a journey, repeat that prayer with a watchful mind and an undeflected intellect; also chant, and meditate on prayers and psalms. Even when carrying out needful tasks, do not let your intellect be idle but keep it meditating inwardly and praying. For in this way you can grasp the depths of divine Scripture and the power hidden in it, and give unceasing work to the intellect, thus fulfilling the apostolic command “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). Pay strict attention to your heart and watch over it, so that it does not give admittance to thoughts that are evil or in any way vain and useless. Without interruption, whether asleep or awake, eating, drinking, or to company, let your heart inwardly and mentally at times be meditating on the psalms, at other times be repeating the prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me.” And when you chant, make sure that your mouth is not saying one thing while your mind is thinking about another.” Again the brother said: “In my sleep I see many vain fantasies.”

And the Elder said to him: “Don’t be sluggish or neglectful. Before going to sleep, say many prayers in your heart, fight against evil thoughts and don’t be deluded by the devil’s demands; then God will receive you into His presence. If you possibly can, sleep only after reciting the psalms and after inward meditation. Don’t be caught off your guard, letting your mind admit strange thoughts; but lie down meditating on the thought of your prayer, so that when you sleep it may be conjoined with you and when you awake it may commune with you (cf. Prov. 6:22). Also, recite the holy Creed of the Orthodox faith before you fall asleep. For true belief in God is the source and guard of all blessings.”

On another occasion the brother asked Abba Philimon: ‘In your love, father, explain to me the work in which your intellect is engaged. Then I too may be saved.’ And the Elder said:

‘Why are you curious about these things?’
The brother got up and, clasping and kissing the saint’s feet, he begged for an answer. After a long time, the Elder said:
“You cannot yet grasp it: for only a person established in righteousness can give to each of the senses the work proper to it. And you have to be completely purged of vain worldly thoughts before you are found worthy of this gift. So if you want such things, practice the inward meditation with a pure heart. For if you pray ceaselessly and meditate on the Scriptures, your soul’s noetic eyes are opened, and there is great joy in the soul and a certain keen and ineffable longing, even the flesh being kindled by the Spirit, so that the whole man becomes spiritual. Whether it is at night or during the day that God grants you the gift of praying with a pure intellect, undistractedly, put aside your own rule, and reach towards God with all your strength, cleaving to Him. And He will illumine your heart about the spiritual work which you should undertake.”

And he added: “A certain elder once came to me and, on my asking him about the state of his intellect, he said: “For two years I entreated God in my whole heart, unremittingly asking Him to imprint in my heart continuously and undistractedly the prayer which He Himself gave to His disciples; and seeing my struggle and patient endurance, the munificent Lord granted me this request.”

Abba Philimon also said this: ‘Thoughts about vain things are sicknesses of an idle and sluggish soul. We must, then, as Scripture enjoins, guard our intellect diligently (cf. Prov. 4:23), chanting undistractedly and with understanding, and praying with a pure intellect. God wants us to show our zeal for Him first by our outward asceticism, and then by our love and unceasing prayer; and He provides the path of salvation. The only path leading to heaven is that of complete stillness, the avoidance of all evil, the acquisition of blessings, perfect love towards God and communion with Him in holiness and righteousness. If a man has attained these things he will soon ascend to the divine realm. Yet the person who aspires to this realm must first mortify his earthly aspects (cf. Col. 3:5). For when our soul rejoices in the contemplation of true goodness, it does not return to any of the passions energized by sensual or bodily pleasure; on the contrary, it turns away from all such pleasure and receives the manifestation of God With a pure and undefiled mind.
“It is only after we have guarded ourselves rigorously, endured bodily suffering and purified the soul, that God comes to dwell in our hearts, making it possible for us to fulfill His commandments without going astray. He Himself will then teach us how to hold fast to His laws: sending forth His own energies, like rays of the sun, through the grace of the Spirit implanted in us. By way of trials and sufferings we must purify the divine image in us in accordance with which we possess intelligence and are able to receive understanding and the likeness to God; for it is by reforging our senses in the furnace of our trials that we free them from all defilement and assume our royal dignity. God created human nature a partaker of every divine blessing, able to contemplate spiritually the angelic choirs, the splendor of the dominions, the spiritual powers, principalities and authorities, the unapproachable light, and the refulgent glory. Should you achieve some virtue, do not regard yourself as superior to your brother, thinking that you have succeeded whereas he has been negligent; for this is the beginning of pride. Be extremely careful not to do anything simply in order to gain the esteem or goodwill of others. When you are struggling with some passion, do not flinch or become apathetic if the battle continues; but rise up and cast yourself before God, repeating with all your heart the prophet’s words, “O Lord, judge those who injure me (Ps. 35:1. LXX); for I cannot defeat them.”

And He, seeing your humility, will quickly send you His help. And when you are walking along the road with someone, do not indulge in idle talk, but keep your intellect employed in the spiritual work in which it was previously engaged, so that this work becomes habitual to it and makes it forget worldly pleasures, anchoring it in the harbor of dispassion.

When he had taught the brother these and many other things, Abba Philimon let him go. But after a short time the brother came back to him and began questioning him, saying:
“What must I do, father? During my night rule sleep weighs me down and does not allow me to pray with inner watchfulness, or to keep vigil beyond the regular period. And when I sing psalms, I want to take up manual work.”
Abba Philimon said: “When you are able to pray with inner watchfulness, do not engage in manual work. But if you are weighed down by listlessness, move about a little, so as to rid yourself of it, and take up manual work.”
The brother again asked him: ‘Father, are you not yourself weighed down by sleep while practicing your rule?’ He replied: ‘Hardly ever. But if sleep does sometimes lay hold on me a little, I move about and recite from the Gospel of John, from the beginning, turning the mind’s eyes towards God; and sleepiness at once disappears. I do the same with regard to evil thoughts: when such a thought comes, I encounter it like fire with tears, and it disappears. You cannot as yet defend yourself in this manner; but always meditate inwardly and say the daily prayers laid down by the holy fathers. By this I mean, try to recite the Third, Sixth, and Ninth Hours, Vespers and the night services.

And, so far as you can, do nothing simply to gain the esteem or goodwill of others, and never bear ill will towards your brother, lest you separate yourself from God. Strive to keep your mind undistracted, always being attentive to your inner thoughts. When you are in church, and are going to partake of the divine mysteries of Christ, do not go out until you have attained complete peace. Stand in one place, and do not leave it until the dismissal. Think that you are standing in heaven, and that in the company of the holy angels you are meeting God and receiving Him in your heart. Prepare yourself with great awe and trembling, lest you mingle with the holy powers unworthily.” Arming the brother with these counsels and commending him to the Lord and to the Spirit of His grace (cf. Acts 20:32), Abba Philimon let him go.
The brother who lived with the Abba also related the following: “Once, as I sat near him, I asked him whether he had been tempted by the wiles of the demons while dwelling in the desert. And he replied: “Forgive me, brother; but if God should let the temptations to which I have been subjected by the devil come to you, I do not think you would be able to bear their venom. I am in my seventieth year, or older. Enduring a great number of trials while dwelling in extreme stillness in solitary places, I was much tempted and suffered greatly. But nothing is to be gained by speaking of such bitter things to people who as yet have no experience of stillness. When tempted, I always did this: I put all my hope in God, for it was to Him that I made my vows of renunciation. And He at once delivered me from all my distress. Because of this, brother, I no longer take thought for myself. I know that He takes thought for me, and so I bear more lightly the trials that come upon me. The only thing I offer from myself is unceasing prayer. I know that the more the suffering, the greater the reward for him who endures it. It is a means to reconciliation with the righteous Judge. “Aware of this, brother, do not grow slack. Recognize that you are fighting in the thick of the battle and that many others, too, are fighting for us against God’s enemy. How could we dare to fight against so fearful an enemy of mankind unless the strong right arm of the Divine Logos upheld us, protecting and sheltering us? How could human nature “withstand his ploys? ‘Who’, says Job, ‘can strip off his outer garment? And who can penetrate the fold of his breastplate? Burning torches pour from his mouth, he hurls forth blazing coals. Out of his nostrils come smoke of burning soot, with the fire of charcoal. His breath is charcoal, a flame comes from his mouth, power lodges in his neck. Destruction runs before him. His heart is hard as stone, it stands like an unyielding anvil. He makes the deep boil like a cauldron; he regards the sea as a pot of ointment, and the nether deep as a captive. He sees every high thing; and he is king of all that is in the waters’ (Job 41:13, 19-22, 24, 31-32, 34. LXX).
This passage describes the monstrous tyrant against whom we fight. Yet those who lawfully engage in the solitary life soon defeat him: they do not possess anything that is his; they have renounced the world and are resolute in virtue; and they have God fighting for them. Who has turned to the Lord with awe and has not been transformed in his nature? Who has illumined himself with the light of divine laws and actions, and has not made his soul radiant with divine intellections and thoughts? His soul is not idle, for God prompts his intellect to long insatiably for light. Strongly energized in this way, the soul is not allowed by the spirit to grow flabby with the passions; but like a king who, full of fire and fury against his enemies, strikes them mercilessly and never retreats, it emerges triumphant, lifting its hands to heaven through the practice of the virtues and the prayer of the intellect.”
The same brother also spoke as follows about the Elder; “In addition to his other virtues, Abba Philimon possessed this characteristic: he would never listen to idle talk. If someone inadvertently said something which was of no benefit to the soul, he did not respond at all. When I went away on some duty, he did not ask: “Why are you going away?”; nor, when I returned, did he ask: “Where are you coming from?” Or “What have you been doing?” Once, indeed, I had to go to Alexandria by ship; and from there I went to Constantinople on a church matter. I said goodbye to the brethren at Alexandria, but told Abba Philimon nothing about my journey. After spending quite a time in Constantinople, I returned to him in Sketis. When he saw me, he was filled with joy and, after greeting me, he said a prayer. Then he sat down and, without asking me anything at all, continued his contemplation. “On one occasion, wanting to test him, for days I did not give him any bread to eat. And he did not ask for any, or say anything. After this I bowed low to him and said: “Tell me, father, were you distressed that I did not bring you your food, as I usually do?” And he replied: “Forgive me, brother, even if for twenty days you did not bring me any bread, I would not ask you for it: so long as my soul can last out, so can my body.” To such a degree was he absorbed in the contemplation of true goodness.’

He also used to say:
“Since I came to Sketis, I have not allowed my thought to go beyond my cell: nor have I permitted my mind to dwell on anything except the fear of God and the judgment of the age to be; for I have meditated only on the sentence which threatens sinners, on the eternal fire and the outer darkness, on the state of the souls of sinners and of the righteous, and on the blessings laid up for the righteous, each receiving ‘his own payment for his own labor’ (1 Cor. 3:8); one for his growing load of suffering, another for his acts of compassion and for his unfeigned love, another for his total shedding of possessions and renunciation of the whole world, another for his humility and consummate stillness, another for his extreme obedience, another for his voluntary exile. Pondering these things, I constrain all ‘other thoughts; and I can no longer be with people or concern my intellect with them, lest I be cut off from more divine meditations.”

He also spoke of a certain solitary who had attained dispassion and used to receive bread from the hand of an angel; but he grew negligent and so was deprived of this honor. For when the soul slackens the intellect’s concentration, darkness comes over it. Where God does not illumine, everything is confused, as in darkness; and the soul is unable to look only at God and tremble at His words.
“I am a God close at hand, says the Lord, not a distant God. Can a man hide himself in secret, and I not see him? Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord” (Jer. 23:23-24. LXX).

He also recalled many others who had similar experiences, among them Solomon. For Solomon, he said, had received such wisdom and been so glorified by men that he was like the morning-star and illumined all with the splendor of his wisdom; yet for the sake of a little sensual pleasure he lost that glory (cf. 1 Kings 11:1-11).

Negligence is to be dreaded. We must pray unceasingly lest some thought comes and separates us from God, distracting our intellect from Him. For the pure heart, being completely receptive to the Holy Spirit, mirrors God in His entirety.
‘When I heard these things’, said the brother, ‘and saw his actions, I realized that all fleshly passions were inoperative in him. His desire was always fixed on higher things, so that he was continually transformed by the divine Spirit, sighing with “cries that cannot be uttered” (Rom. 8:26), concentrating himself within himself, assessing himself, and struggling to prevent anything from clouding his mind’s purity and from defiling him imperceptibly. “Seeing all this and spurred to emulate his achievements, I was continually prompted to question him. “How, like you, can I acquire a pure intellect?” I asked. And he replied: “You have to struggle. The heart has to strive and to suffer. Things worth striving and suffering for do not come to us if we sleep or are indolent. Even earth’s blessings do not come to us without effort on our part. If you want to develop spiritually you must above all renounce your own will; you must acquire a heart that is sorrowful and must rid yourself of all possessions, giving attention not to the sins of others but to your own sins, weeping over them day and night; and you must not be emotionally attached to anyone. For a soul harrowed by what it has done and pricked to the heart by the memory of past sins, is dead to the world and the world to it; that is to say, all passions of the flesh become inoperative, and man becomes inoperative in relation to them. For he who renounces the world, ranging himself with Christ and devoting himself to stillness, loves God; he guards the divine image in himself and enriches his likeness to God, receiving from Him the help of the Spirit and becoming an abode of God and not of demons; and he acts righteously in God’s sight. A soul purified from the world and free from the defilements of the flesh, “having no spot or wrinkle” (Eph. 5:27), will win the crown of righteousness and shine with the beauty of virtue.
“But if when you set out On the path of renunciation there is no sorrow in your heart, no spiritual tears or remembrance of endless punishment, no true stillness or persistent prayer, no psalmody and meditation on the divine Scriptures; if none of these things has become habitual in you, so that whether you like it or not they are forced on you by the unremitting perseverance of the intellect; and if awe of God does not grow in your mind, then you are still attached to the world and your intellect cannot be pure when you pray. True devoutness and awe of God purify the soul from the passions, render the intellect free, lead it to natural contemplation, and make it apt for theology. This it experiences in the form of bliss, that provides those who share in it with a foretaste of the bliss held in store and keeps the soul in a state of tranquility.”

“Let us, then, do all we can to cultivate the virtues, for in this way we may attain true devoutness, that mental purity whose fruit is natural and theological contemplation. As a great theologian puts it, it is by practicing the virtues that we ascend to contemplation. Hence, if we neglect such practice we will be destitute of all wisdom. For even if we reach the height of virtue, ascetic effort is still needed in order to curb the disorderly impulses of the body and to keep a watch on our thoughts. Only thus may Christ to some small extent dwell in us. As we develop in righteousness, so we develop in spiritual courage; and when the intellect has been perfected, it unites wholly with God and is illumined by divine light, and the most hidden mysteries are revealed to it.

Then it truly learns where wisdom and power lie, and that understanding which comprehends everything, and ’length of days and life, and the light of the eyes and peace’ (Baruch 3:14). While it is still fighting against the passions it cannot as yet enjoy these things. For virtues and vices blind the intellect: vices prevent it from seeing the virtues, and virtues prevent it from seeing vices. But once the battle is over and it is found worthy of spiritual gifts, then it becomes wholly luminous, powerfully energized by grace and rooted in the contemplation of spiritual realities. A person in whom this happens is not attached to the things of this world but has passed from death to life. “The person pursuing the spiritual life and drawing close to God must, therefore, have a chaste heart and a pure tongue so that his words, in their purity, are fit for praising God. A soul that cleaves to God continuously communes with Him.”

“Thus, brethren, let our desire be to attain the summit of the virtues, and not to remain earth-bound and attached to the passions. For the person engaged in spiritual struggle who has drawn close to God, who partakes of the holy light and is wounded by his longing for it, delights in the Lord with an inconceivable spiritual joy.

It is as the psalm says: “Delight in the Lord, and may He grant you the petitions of your heart… May He reveal your righteousness like the light, and your judgment like the noonday’ (cf. Ps. 37:4, 6. LXX). For what longing of the soul is as unbearably strong as that which God promotes in it when it is purged of every vice and sincerely declares: ‘I am wounded by love’ (Song of Songs 5:8. LXX).
The radiance of divine beauty is wholly inexpressible: words cannot describe it, nor the ear grasp it. To compare the true light to the rays of the morning star or the brightness of the moon or the light of the sun is to fail totally to do justice to its glory and is as inadequate as comparing a pitch-black moonless night to the clearest of noons. This is what St Basil, the great teacher, learnt from experience and subsequently taught us.”

The brother who lived with Abba Philimon related these and many other things. But equally wonderful, and a great proof of his humility, is the fact that, although Abba Philimon had long been a presbyter and both his conduct and knowledge were of a celestial order, he held back from fulfilling his priestly functions to such an extent that in his many years of spiritual struggles he hardly ever consented to approach the altar, and in spite of the strictness of his life, he never partook of the divine mysteries if he had been talking with other people, even though he had not said anything worldly and he had spoken only to help those who questioned him. When he was going to partake of the divine mysteries, he supplicated God with prayers, chanting, and confession of sins. During the service, he was full of fear when the priest intoned (he words, “Holy things to the holy.’ For he used to say that the whole church was then filled with holy angels, and that the King of the celestial powers Himself was invisibly celebrating, transformed in our hearts into body and blood. It was on account of this that he said that we should dare to partake of the immaculate mysteries of Christ only when in a chaste and pure state, as it were outside the flesh and free from all hesitation and doubt; in this way we would participate in the illumination that comes from them. Many of the holy fathers saw angels watching over them, and so they maintained silence, not entering into conversation with anyone.

The brother also said that when Abba Philimon had to sell his handiwork, he pretended to be a fool, in case speaking and answering questions might lead him into some lie, or oath, or chatter, or some other kind of sin. Whenever anyone bought anything he simply paid what he thought fit. The Abba, this truly wise man, made small baskets, and accepted gratefully whatever was given, saying absolutely nothing.