Deir el-Quruntul - DOUKA


(48) In the caves near Jericho, which in ancient times belonged to the Amorraeans — they hewed these caves to hide in them on the mountain of Douka, when they fled from Joshua son of Nun, who pillaged their homes —there came to live in one of the caves a certain Elpidius, a Cappadocian, who in the end was deemed worthy of the priesthood, and had belonged to the monastery of the country-bishop Timothy of Cappadocia, a very capable man. This (Elpidius) displayed such a measure of ascetic discipline, as to obscure all the other (ascetes). He lived for 25 years eating only on Saturdays and Sundays; all the night long he stood chanting psalms. Like a queen-bee in the middle of her swarm, the whole brotherhood gathered around him — I myself lived with him— and thus he colonised that mountain; and one could see there the different kinds of ascetic life (practised by the single anchorites). Once this Elpidius was stung by a scorpion while he was chanting psalms by night, and we chanted with him. He tread upon it, but did not change position, taking no heed of the pain caused by the scorpion. One day a brother had a piece of vine twig in his hand; Elpidius took it and drove it into the earth in the spot where he was sitting, near the brow of the mountain, as though he was planting it, though it was not the right season. This twig grew and became a vine (so big) that it covered the whole church.

Together with Elpidius also reached perfection Aenesius, a man worth of mention and his brother Eustathius. Blessed Elpidius was so advanced in impassibility and he macerated his body so, that the frame of his bones showed through. Among the stories told by his faithful disciples about his virtue, it is said that for 25 years he never turned to the west, though the entrance of his cave was on the top of the mountain; neither did he ever see the sun over his head decline to the west after the sixth hour, nor did he behold the stars that rise in the west, never during all those 25 years. From the day he entered the cave until his burying day he never descended from the mountain (of Douka).

(49) The immortal Elpidius had a disciple called Sisinnius, who came from the servile station, but was made a freeman by his faith; he was a Cappadocian by birth. Indeed it is proper to indicate the origin (of these holy men), to the glory of Christ who ennobles us and leads us to the true nobility. This Sisinnius, after having spent six or seven years with Elpidius, finally enclosed himself in a tomb, and spent three years, inside this tomb in uninterrupted prayers, neither sitting down or lying back, night or day, nor walking out. This man was deemed worth of charismatic power against the devils. At present he has gone back to his mother country, where he was deemed worthy of priesthood and gathered a brotherhood of men and women. With the austerity of his life he drove away the lust of his own male sex, and with his temperance he muzzled the feminine softness of the women, so that was fulfilled what is written: “In Christ there is neither male nor female” <Galat. 39:28>, Sisinnius is also extremely hospitable, though he has no possessions at all, to the shame of the niggardly rich.

(transl. Leah Di Segni)

The great asceticism of Elpidius, Aenesius and Sisinnius at the monastery of Douka, from a collection of anecdotes written in AD 420.
Key quotation(s): 
Galat. 39:28