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The King Asks For A Blessing From Abba Shenoute

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abba shenuteIn a word, great signs and a multitude of miracles were worked by our father abba Shenoute, truly the true prophet and the bearer of the Holy Spirit. When they were spread abroad, they filled the face of the whole earth so that his renown even reached the ears of the pious kings. They were told: ‘There is a man in the south of Egypt called Shenoute. Whatever he says truly comes to pass’. And the king said: ‘He is obviously a holy man of the Lord’. So the king, who loved God, was not at all negligent, but instead wrote a letter to my father the prophet abba Shenoute written in this form:

 

I, Theodosius the Younger, an unworthy king to whom the Lord God has given the kingdom despite my unworthiness, write to you, O holy abba Shenoute, truly the man of God! I salute you, O my holy father, and beseech you to hasten to come to us, so that we and all my citizens might be worthy of your blessing. The kingdom and the entire senate is looking forward to your holy visit to us. So do not be negligent, our holy father, but come to us. We thirst for you and your holy teachings, according to the things which those who have come to us tell us about the graces with which God has favoured you. Remember us in your holy prayers. Farewell in the name of the holy Trinity.

He sealed the letter and gave it to his personal courier, who was called Eudoxius, and wrote another to the duke of the city of Antinoou. So the courier went to Egypt, and when he had gone south, he entered the city of Antinoou and gave the letters to the duke. They then arose and came to the monastery of my father the holy abba Shenoute, and after receiving his blessing, they sat down. The courier then brought out the letters of the king and presented them to, my father abba Shenoute.

When my father received the letters and began to read, he reached the passage where it was written: ‘Make haste to come to us in the royal capital’. He was then greatly grieved and deeply afflicted in his heart, and said to the courier: ‘What does the king want with me? I am a monk living in this monastery for the sake of God, praying and supplicating for my sins’. The courier said to my father: ‘My lord and holy father, he wishes to enjoy your blessing’. My father said to him: ‘Look, perhaps you will be able to excuse me, for truly, I am an old man’. The courier said to him: ‘My holy father, do not hinder this business. In truth, I will not be able to obstruct the command of my lord the king’. Our father the prophet said to him: ‘Go now and rest for a little while, you and the men who came with you, and take what you need from the food which the brothers use’.

When evening came, our holy father abba Shenoute went into the sanctuary, stretched out his hands, and prayed to God that he would show him what he should do. And when he gave the ‘amen’, behold! a shining cloud snatched him up, flew away with him to the royal capital, and left him in the middle of the palace in the place where the king was; and there came a great light to where the king was sleeping.

The king leaped up and said to my father: ‘What sort of thing are you, for I am much disturbed!’ My father abba Shenoute said: ‘I am Shenoute the monk, for whom you sent. What do you want with me, a sinner, that you trouble your soldiers to fetch me, a feeble monk?’ The king said to him: ‘How did you get here, my holy father, and how many days were you on the journey?’ My father said to the king: ‘It was Christ Jesus, the son of the living God in whom we believe, together with his good Father and the Holy Spirit, who brought me here to you … .The king said to him: ‘My holy father, where did you leave the courier and the soldiers I sent with him?’ My holy father abba Shenoute replied and said to the king: ‘I left them sleeping in the monastery’. The king, with great faith, said: ‘Truly, before this day I had heard with my ears of the miracles of your holy and blessed paternity, but today I have seen them face to face!’

Again my father said to him: ‘And for what reason have you sent for me?’ The king said to him: ‘I sent for your holiness because I, together with the royal house and the whole city, want to enjoy your holy blessing and your blessed prayers’. My father said to him: ‘May Jesus Christ bless you, O king who loves God, and all your city; may he establish your throne like that of your holy fathers Arcadius and Honorius; may he perfect you all in the faith of your fathers, confirming and guarding the precepts and faith of our fathers the apostles’.

The king said to my father: ‘Stay with us a few days, my holy father, so that we may enjoy you to the full’. My father said to him: ‘It is necessary for me to go. Of your charity, write a letter in your name which I can give to the courier so that he and those with him may return to you in peace, and not trouble me in trying to bring me to you yet again’. Then Theodosius the king wrote a letter in this form:

I, Theodosius the king, write to Eudoxius the courier: as soon as you receive these letters from our father the prophet abba Shenoute, the priest, monk, and archimandrite, who, in a way which God alone knows, came to me this very night to the place where I sleep, make haste to return, and do not try again to bring him to us.

He also wrote to him on certain other secret matters which were just between the king and the courier, sealed the letter with his ring, and gave it to our father. Him he embraced, and after he had received his blessing, sent him away in peace. Thereupon, the cloud again lifted up my father and took him to the monastery the same night, and that same night, before the break of day, he was at worship with the brothers in the monastery. And no one knew that he had gone to the king and returned to his monastery.

When morning came, the courier said to my holy father the superior: ‘Of your charity, arise and let us go, so that you do not bring upon me a grave offence and the anger of my lord the king’. My father said to the courier: ‘Look, my son, will you go to the king and say to him: “He is an old man”?’ The courier said to him: ‘If you do not come willingly, I will take you against your will’.

When my father realised that he would take him by force and that he would not go back to the king leaving him there, he then put his hand in his habit, brought out the king’s letter and handed it to the courier. When the latter took it and looked it over, he recognized it as the king’s, and looked at the face of my holy father abba Shenoute. My father said to him: ‘Open it and read it!’ And when he began to read it and came upon the matters which were a secret between himself and the king, he went out of his mind. My father immediately made the sign of the cross over him until he regained his senses.