Deir Ḥajla - GERASIMUS


The following appears in Augoustinos’ edition of ‘The life of Euthymius’ in Nea Sion 12 (1912), pp. 564-566, between 31 and 32. Schwartz considered the passage interpolated and excluded it from his edition. However, though obviously out of place, Gerasimus’ story may be an authentic piece of Cyril’s authorship. Two different versions of the Greek text were published by K.M. Koikylides (Jerusalem 1902), pp. 40-45, and by B. Flusin (Paris 1983), pp. 228-231. The following translation is based on Flusin’s edition.


(1) Now I shall come to the great Gerasimus. Our great father Gerasimus, became a coloniser and patron of the desert of the Jordan, having founded there a very large laura with 70 anchorites, with a coenobium built in its middle. He decreed that the beginners should stay in the coenobium and learn the monastic discipline, while those who were perfect in God’s eyes, excellent in the ascetic labours and superior to most in their ascent to God, such men he settled in the cells, giving them the following rules. For five days of the week each must live in seclusion in his own cell, eating nothing but bread and dates, and (drinking) water. On Saturday and Sunday they come to the church and take part in the divine mysteries, then eat a cooked meal in the coenobium, accompanied by a little wine. (Gerasimus) did not permit to anybody to light a lamp in his cell, to make himself a hot drink or to eat cooked food; but all were poor and humble. Each of (the anchorites) would bring his weekly work to the coenobium on Saturday, and on Sunday evening he would receive his weekly allowance - loaves of bread, dates, water and palm-leaves - and go back to his cell. And they were so unconcerned with all things human - in a word, dead to the worldly life and alive only for God - that nobody had in his cell any material thing, except the merest necessities: a tunic, a mantle and a cowl. Each had one rush-mat for his bedding and one earthen jar, that served both for drinking and for soaking the palm-leaves.

(2) Great Gerasimus handed down (to his anchorites) the custom of leaving the cells open, whenever they went out, so that anyone could take whatever he needed, without being prevented by anybody; and, if the occupant of the cell was not in, the person in need should not care. You could have seen them live in an apostolic way; for also those who lived in the desert had but one heart and one soul, and nobody would say that something he had was his own, but all was common to all.

(3) This is one of the anecdotes told about great Gerasimus. Some of his anchorites came to him, saying: “Give us permission to make ourselves a hot drink, to eat cooked food and to light a lamp during the nocturnal office, so that we can read”. But he answered: “If you even desire to drink eucration <a warm mixed drink used by the monks>, eat cooked food and read under a lamp, you had better stay in the coenobium; for I shall not permit this while I am alive”. The people of Jericho, hearing that the (fathers) of Abba Gerasimus were leading a marvellous life, used to come and visit them on them abundant relief. But some of the bravely struggling ascetes, seeing the laymen, would flee, knowing that abstinence is the mother of chastity; for it repulses the unclean thoughts and drives back the heaviness of sleep; and above all, the holy father himself handed down to them, by deed and by word of mouth, the treasure of abstinence. For it is said that Gerasimus had so perfectly conquered gluttony, that during the entire Lent he would live without food, content with the bread of Communion every Sunday.

(4) After he had struggled in such a wonderful way, and guided and enlightened his disciples, Gerasimus died: his death occurred on March 5 of the 13rd indiction during the second consulate of Zenon <AD 475>.

(transl. Leah Di Segni)

Gerasimus founds a laura with a coenobium built in its middle; his institutions and his death, AD 475.