Wednesday, October 30, 2002

The Victory of Thais: from the desert

There once was a courtesan from Egypt, whose scandalous sinful life was so notorious that even the saintly elderly bishop Paphnutius heard about it. The courtesan's name was Thais.

Called by the Spirit to a daring attempt to bring this notorious courtesan to her senses, Bishop Paphnutius went to see her, and asked to speak to her in private; she answered, "there is no one here but God." The bishop was very surprised that Thais acknowledged God's existence; she explained that she had been brought up as a Christian and had learned and believed that truth.

The bishop continued the conversation with great gentleness, and Thais began to tremble with deep remorse for her previous way of life. Resolving to renounce her past, she threw into a bonfire her extravagant wardrobe and all the other luxurious possessions she had gained through her life as a courtesan. At the holy bishop's recommendation, she entered a convent where she embraced total solitude, prayer, and strict penance to expiate her sins.

Just a few years later, Paul the Simple, a disciple of the great Abba Anthony, had a vision of the angels preparing a grand and splendid place in heaven. Paul assumed it was the place of his father Abba Anthony, but a voice corrected him: "Not so: this place is for Thais, the penitent.

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