Saint Agathon of Egypt, Stylite

2 March is the Feast of Saint Agathon of Egypt, Stylite
agathon 3
“The Monk Agathon of Egypt, a contemporary of the Monk Makarios the Great (Comm. 19 January), pursued asceticism in a skete monastery in Egypt. He was distinguished by an especial meekness, accounting himself most sinful among men. One time monks from afar came to the monk Agathon for spiritual talk and asked him: “Art thou Father Agathon?” “Ye see before you a sinful servant of God”, – answered the monk. “It is rumoured, that thou art a man proud and intemperate”, – replied the monks. “Completely true”, agreed the saint. “We have heard also, that thou art a liar that loveth to gossip about others”. “This also is true”, – assented Saint Agathon. “They say moreover, that thou art an heretic?” – the monks persisted, but immediately they met with an objection: “In vain, I am not an heretic”. When they asked the monk why, having accepted upon himself other vices, that he refused this last one, the saint explained: “These vices it is impossible not to ascribe to myself, since every man by his nature falls into sin, and all of us, through the corruption of our nature, are involuntarily captivated by vices; but heresy is apostacy from God, a deliberate renunciation of the True God”.
To the question about which ascetic deeds are more important for salvation, the external or the inner, the monk Agathon answered: “A man is like a tree; the outer or bodily concerns itself with leaves, whereas the inner soul grows fruit. But just as Holy Scripture asserts, that “every tree which does not bear good fruit, shalt be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Mt 3: 10), so then it is evident from this, that the greater attention ought to concern the fruit. But a tree also has need for its leaves, so as to sustain the life-bearing sap and by the shade of its leaves offer protection to the tree and its fruit from the desiccating heat”.
The monk Agathon died in about the year 435. For three days before his end the monk sat in silence and concentration, as though disturbed about something. To the perplexed questioning of the monks he answered, that he saw himself at the Judgement in front of Christ. “How is it possible that thou, father, should fear judgement?” – they asked him. “I through my strength have kept the commandments of the Lord, but as a man how might I be certain, that my deeds have been pleasing to God?”. “Dost thou not trust that thy good deeds which thou hast accomplished, are pleasing to God?” – asked the monks. “I have no hope until such time as I see God. Human judgement is one thing, but Divine judgement is another matter”. Having said this, the saint expired to the Lord.
[Trans. Note: “Agathon” in Greek means “Good”, just as also “Makarios” means “Blessed”; – there is a didactic thread woven into the fabric of many of the Saints vitae teaching this or that moral point or insight. Thus, whether or not Saint Agathon started monastically with such a name is less relevant than having finished with it. The opening dialogue with the monks from afar takes on a deeper dimension when set in perspective of: “Art thou Brother Good”, – “Ye see before you a sinner” “guilty of all the sins ye allege and more” “but God forbid, no heretic!”].”
Our only source of information about Agathon is the SYNAXARION, which gives a
summary of his life at 14 Tut, the probable day of his death. He was born at Tinnis, as E.
Amélineau correctly saw (1893, pp.507-508), and not at Tanis, as the name is translated by R. Basset(PO 1, pt. 3, p. 265) and J. Forget (CSCO 78, p. 15); at this period Tanis, the ancient
Pharaonic town, was no more than a village called Sa al-Hajar (Ramzi, 1954-1968, Vol. 1, pt. 2, p. 116, and Amélineau, 1893, pp. 413-14).
Agathon’s parents were Christians, and he remained with them to the age of forty. He then left for Mareotis, and from there went to Scetis, where he was led by an angel in the form of a monk to the monastery of Saint Macarius. He became the disciple of ABRAHAM AND GEORGE OF SCETIS and remained with them for three years. Abraham and George spent three days in prayer over the skhema (monastic garment) that Agathon received from the hands of the hegumenos Anba Yu‘annis.
Agathon led a life of great austerity, engaged in prayer and in reading the Life of Saint Symeon the Stylite. Greatly influenced by this Life, he resolved after ten years at Scetis to imitate it. He asked the permission of the elders, who approved, then left Scetis and
established himself near Sakha in the Delta, where the faithful raised a column for him. It is said that he accomplished many miracles there.
He died at the age of one hundred, having lived forty years in the world, ten in the desert, and fifty as a stylite (Evelyn-White, 1932, p.281).
According to the Life of John Kame (ed. Davis, 1920, pp. 24-25), Agathon introduced into
Scetis the use of the canonical hours. The ancient custom was to recite together only Vespers and the night office.
Amélineau, E. La Géographie del’ Egypte à l’é epoque copte. Paris,
Davis, M. H.The Life of Abba John Khamé. PO 14, pt. 2. Paris,1920.
Evelyn-White, H. G. The History of the Monasteries of Nitria and of Scetis. The Monasteries of the Wadi’N Natrun, pt. 2. New York,1932.
Muhammad Ramzi. al-Qamus al-Jughrafi. Cairo, 1954-1968”

See also


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