Sisoes the Great (feast Day 6th of July) contemplating on the tomb of Alexander the Great
Sisoes, the great ascetic, before the tomb of Alexander, King of the Greeks, who was once covered in glory. Astonished, he mourns for the vicissitudes of time and the transience of glory, and tearfully declaims thus:
'The mere sight of you, tomb, dismays me and causes my heart to shed tears, as I contemplate the debt we, all men, owe. How can I possibly stand it? Oh, death! Who can evade you?'
This Saint, great and renowned among the ascetics of Egypt, lived in the fourth century in Scete of Nitria. After the death of Saint Anthony the Great, he left Scete to live in Saint Anthony's cave; he said of this, "Thus in the cave of a lion, a fox makes his dwelling." When Sisoes was at the end of his long life of labours, as the Fathers were gathered about him, his face began to shine, and he said, "Behold, Abba Anthony is come"; then, "Behold, the choir of the Prophets is come"; his face shone yet more bright, and he said, "Behold, the choir of the Apostles is come." The light of his countenance increased, and he seemed to be talking with someone. The Fathers asked him of this; in his humility, he said he was asking the Angels for time to repent. Finally his face became as bright as the sun, so that the Fathers were filled with fear. He said, "Behold, the Lord is come, and He says, 'Bring Me the vessel of the desert,'" and as he gave up his soul into the hands of God, there was as it were a flash of lightning, and the whole dwelling was filled with a sweet fragrance.
Apolytikion in the First Tone
Thou didst prove to be a citizen of the desert, an angel in the flesh, and a wonderworker, O Sisoes, our God-bearing Father. By fasting, vigil, and prayer thou didst obtain heavenly gifts, and thou healest the sick and the souls of them that have recourse to thee with faith. Glory to Him that hath given thee strength. Glory to Him that hath crowned thee. Glory to Him that worketh healings for all through thee.
Kontakion in the Fourth Tone
In thy struggles, thou wast as an earthly Angel, shining light upon the minds of all the faithful ceaselessly with thy divine signs; and for this cause, righteous Sisoes, we honour thee faithfully.
Here are some of the wise sayings and illustrious deeds of this great Father of the desert:
St. Sisoes taught the monks: "Regardless in what way temptation comes to man, a man should give himself to the will of God and to recognize that temptation occurred because of his sins. If something good happens, it should be said that it happened according to God's Providence."
One monk asked Sisoes: "How can I please God and be saved?" The Saint answered: "If you wish to please God, withdraw from the world, separate yourself from the earth, put aside creation, draw near to the Creator, unite yourself to God with prayers and tears and then you will find rest in this time and in the future."
Another monk asked Sisoes: "How can I attain humility?" The saint replied: "When a person learns to recognize every man as being better than himself, with that he attains humility."
Ammon complained to Sisoes that he could not memorize the wise sayings that he read in order to repeat them in conversation with men. The Saint replied to him: "That is not necessary. It is necessary to attain purity of mind and speak from that purity placing your hope in God."
Another brother asked Abba Sisoes, "I have fallen, Abba; what shall I do?" The elder said to him, "Get up again." The brother said, "I have gotten up again, but again have I fallen." The elder said, "Get up again and again." So the brother asked, "How many times?" The elder replied, "Until you are taken up either in virtue or in sin. For a man presents himself to judgment in that state in which he is found."
One day a man came wanting to be a monk and he had a son. Sisoes commanded him to throw the son into the river, which he was only just stopped from doing by the brothers who brought the Elder's counter-command. He went on to become a proficient monk having learned the value of obedience as a means to attaining humility.
Another man from the world came to Sisoes with his son, who died on the way. The father prostrated himself before the Abba, leaving the boy's corpse there. Thinking the child had merely failed to get up again after the prostration, Sisoes commanded him to arise; which he did, and went out, whole. Sisoes was distressed for he did not intend to raise the dead; he charged everybody to keep silent concerning this matter for as long as he lived.
A brother who had been wronged by another brother came to see Abba Sisoes. He said to him, "My brother has hurt me and I want to avenge myself." The old man begged him, saying, "No, my child, leave vengeance to God." The brother said, "I shall not rest until I have avenged myself." The Elder said, "Brother, let us pray." Then he stood up and said, "God, we no longer need You to care for us, since we do justice for ourselves." When he heard these words, the brother prostrated himself before the Elder's feet and said, "I will no longer seek justice from my brother. Forgive me, Abba."