Saint Paisius the Great lived in Egypt. His parents, Christians, distributed generous alms to all the needy.
After the death of her husband his mother, on the suggestion of an angel, gave her young son Paisius to the clergy of the church.
The youth Paisius loved monastic life and spent his time in one of the Egyptian sketes. Renouncing his own will, he lived under the spiritual guidance of Saint Pambo (July 18), finishing all the tasks assigned him. The Elder said that a new monk in particular needs to preserve his sight, in order to guard his senses from temptation. Paisius, heeding the instruction, went for three years with his eyes cast downwards. The saintly ascetic read spiritual books, and he was known for his ascetic fasting and prayer. At first he did not eat any food for a week, then two weeks. Sometimes, after partaking of the Holy Mysteries of Christ, he survived without food for seventy days.
Saint Paisius went into the Nitrian desert in search of solitude. There he lived in a cave carved out by his own hands. The saint was granted a wondrous vision: the Lord Jesus Christ revealed to him that through his labors the Nitrian wilderness would become inhabited by ascetics. He asked the Lord where the monks would obtain the necessities of life in the desert. The Lord said that if they would fulfill all His commandments, He Himself would provide all their necessities, and would deliver them from demonic temptations and cunning.
In time, a number of monks and laymen gathered around Saint Paisius, and a monastery was established. The most important rule of Saint Paisius was that no one would do anything by his own will, but in all things would fulfill the will of his elders.
Since his tranquility was being disturbed by so many people, the saint withdrew to another cave farther away. Once, he was transported to a paradisical monastery and partook of the immaterial divine food. After his ascetic labors for salvation, the Lord granted His saint the gift of prescience and healing the souls of men.
One of his disciples, with the saint’s blessing, went to sell his handicrafts in Egypt. On the way he encountered a Jew, who told the simple-minded monk that Christ the Savior is not the Messiah, and that another Messiah will come. Confused, the monk said, “Maybe what you say is true,” but he did not attribute any particular significance to his words. When he returned, he saw that Saint Paisius would not acknowledge his arrival, and he asked the reason for his anger. The saint said, “My disciple was a Christian. You are not a Christian, for the grace of Baptism has departed from you.” The monk repented with tears, and begged to have his sin forgiven. Only then did the holy Elder pray and ask the Lord to forgive the monk.
A certain monk on his own initiative left the desert and moved near a city. There he had encounters with a woman, who hated and blasphemed Christ the Savior. Under her influence, he not only left the monastery, but also scorned faith in Christ, and finally he reached a state of total disbelief.
Once, through the blessed Providence of God, Nitrian monks came by his home. Seeing them, the sinner remembered his own former life and he asked the monks to ask Saint Paisius to pray for him to the Lord. On hearing the request, the saint prayed fervently, and his prayer was heard. The Lord, appearing to His saint, promised to forgive the sinner. Soon the seduced monk’s woman companion died, and he returned to the desert where, weeping and distressed for his sins, he began to labor at deeds of repentance.
Saint Paisius distinguished himself by his great humility, and performed ascetic deeds of fasting and prayer, but he concealed them from others as far as possible. When the monks asked which virtue is the highest of all, the saint replied, “Those which are done in secret, and about which no one knows.”
Saint Paisius died in the fifth century at a great old age, and he was buried by the monks. After some time his relics were transferred by Saint Isidore of Pelusium (February 4) to his own monastery and placed beside the relics of his friend Saint Paul, with whom Saint Paisius was particularly close during his life.