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Moses, called the Robber or the Negro, was a released slave who lived as a robber in Nitria; late in life he became a monk and was trained by Isidore the Priest.  he was ordained priest and became one of the great fathers of Scetis.  On the advice of Macarius he retired to Petra; he was martyred with seven others by barbarian invaders.

Abba Moses said, “The man who flees and lives in solitude is like a bunch of grapes ripened by the sun, but he who remains amongst men is like an unripe grape.”

The magistrate heard about Abba Moses one day and he went to Scetis to see him.  They told the old man.  He got up and fled to the marsh.  Some people met him and said to him, “Old man, tell us where the cell of Abba Moses is.”  He said to them, “What do you want with him?  He is a fool.”  So the magistrate went back to the church and said to the ministers, “I heard people talk about Abba Moses and I went to see him, but there was an old man going into Egypt who crossed our path and we asked him where Abba Moses’ cell is, and he said to us, ‘What do you want with him?  He is a fool.'”  When they heard this, the clergy were offended and said, “What kind of an old man was it who spoke like that about the holy man to you?”  He said, “An old man wearing old clothes, a big black man.”  They said, “It was Abba Moses himself and it was in order not to meet you that he said that.”  The magistrate went away greatly edified.

At Scetis Abba Moses used to say, “If we keep the commandments of our Fathers, I will answer for it on God’s behalf that the barbarians will not come here.  But if we do not keep the commandments of God, this place will be devastated.”

One day, when the brethren were sitting beside him, he said to them, “Look, the barbarians are coming to Scetis today; get up and flee.”  They said to him, “Abba, won’t you flee too?” He said to them, “As for me, I have been waiting for this day for many years, that the word of the Lord Christ may be fulfilled which says, ‘All who take the sword will perish by the sword.'” (Matt. 26:52).  They said to him, “We will not flee either, but we will die with you.”  He said to them, “That is nothing to do with me; let everyone decide for himself whether he stops or not.”  Now there were seven brothers there and he said to them, “Look, the barbarians are drawing near to the door.”  Then they came in and slew them.  But one fled and hid under the cover of a pile of rope and he saw seven crowns descending and crowning them.

A brother questioned Abba Moses saying, “I see something in front of me and I am not able to grasp it.”  The old man said to him, “If you do not become dead like those who are in the tomb, you will not be able to grasp it.”

Abba Poemen said that a brother asked Abba Moses how someone could consider himself as dead towards his neighbour.  The old man said to him, “If a man does not think in his heart that he is already three days dead and in the tomb, he cannot attain this saying.”

It was said of Abba Moses at Scetis that when he had arranged to go to Petra, he grew tired in the course of the journey and said to himself, “How can I find the water I need there?”  Then a voice said to him, “Go, and do not be anxious about anything.”  So he went.  Some Fathers came to see him and he had only a small bottle of water.  He used it all up in cooking lentils for them.  The old man was worried, so he went in and came out of his cell, and he prayed to God, and a cloud of rain came to Petra and filled all the cisterns.  After this, the visitors said to the old man, “Tell us why you went in and out.”  The old man said to them, “I was arguing with God, saying, “You brought me here and now I have no water for your servants.”  This is why I was going in and out; I was going on at God till he sent us some water.”


Excerpt from The Sayings of the Desert Fathers translated by Benedicta Ward, SLG. Published by Cistercian Publications in Trappist, KY 1984.