Saint Agathon of Egypt, a contemporary of St Macarius the Great (January 19) and a disciple of St Lot (October 22), he lived in asceticism in a skete in Egypt. He was distinguished by exceptional meekness, accounting himself the most sinful of men.
Once, monks who had heard of his discernment came to St Agathon to see if they could make him lose his temper. They asked him, “Are you Abba Agathon, a fornicator and a proud man?”
“Yes, that is true,” the monk replied.
“Are you the Agathon who is always talking nonsense?” the monks inquired.
“I am,” the saint agreed.
“Are you Agathon the heretic?” the monks persisted.
St Agathon said, “I am not a heretic.”
They asked the saint why he agreed with them when they accused him of vices, but then denied this last charge. Agathon replied, “I accepted the first accusations, since that was beneficial for my soul. But heresy is separation from God, and I do not wish to be separated from God.”
Astonished at his discernment, they returned to their monastery, edified.
When asked which was more important for salvation, bodily asceticism or interior vigilance, St Agathon said, “Man is like a tree. Bodily asceticism is the foliage, but interior vigilance is the fruit. Holy Scripture says that “every tree which does not bring forth good fruit shall be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Mt.3:10). Therefore, we should focus our attention on the fruit. But a tree also needs the protection of its foliage, which is bodily asceticism.”
St Agathon died in about the year 435. For three days before his repose the monk sat in silence and concentration, as though disturbed about something. When the monks questioned him, he answered that he saw himself before the Judgment Seat of God. “How is it possible that you, Father, should fear judgment?” they asked him.
“I have done my best to keep the commandments of the Lord, but I am a man. How can I be certain that my deeds have been pleasing to God?”
“Do you not trust that all the good deeds which you have accomplished are pleasing to God?” asked the monks.
“I have no such hope until I see God. His judgment is not man’s judgment.” Having said this, the saint departed to the Lord.
St Agathon is commemorated on January 8 on the Greek calendar.