The Harlot & the Saint – St. Paesia & St. John the Short
Bear with me for a minute, you’re not longer you. You’re a saint – no, seriously, you are. You’re a monk living in the fourth century in the prolific desert of Scetis or “Sheheet” as it’s called in arabic. By this time you’re a father of many younger monks and you’re not only responsible to lead them to salvation – you’re also responsible for your own life of prayer and maintaining your seclusion. While you go about your normal day (weaving baskets and praying- ofcourse!), a few elders come up to you and exclaim that they need you to visit Paesia the Harlot.
Okay. Who the what when? Let’s give a little backstory, because hearing that is a little jarring for a saintly man like you! Paesia lives in Alexandria (about a 4-day walk from where you are in Scetis). She lost her parents very early on and decided to make her house a hospice for the monks of Scetis to stay in when they visit Alexandria. This is no ordinary feat for an orphaned child, this is the making of a saint right here – right? Wrong. Well, sort of. She soon ran out of money, figures she didn’t diversify her portfolio before she squandered her inheritance! Having no money and barely able to find food for herself to survive – little Paesia naturally stopped supporting the monks of the desert and regrettably turned to prostitution.
Now, this is where you come in. The elders of Scetis felt that since she gave all she could for charity, they ought to offer her charity and help her out of this problem she’s in. There’s a lesson there, friends! They didn’t go speak to her personally – they did recognize the need to reach out to her – but they also went to, arguably, the wisest elder in Scetis at the time – saint John the Short. That’s you.
Off to Alexandria
Alright. For the sake of time I’m not even going to discuss how awkward visiting a prostitute must be for a monk – and I’m not even going to address how dangerous it is either. Abba John went to Paesia’s place and asked to see her. Naturally, he was asked to leave by her doorman – saint John said he has a thing that might interest her. Having heard this, Paesia exclaimed that these desert monks tend to find pearls and various priceless artifacts – she let him in.
Paesia was in bed, ready to do what she usually does to make money. Saint John walked in quietly, sat beside her – keeping a safe distance, and looked her in eye. “What did Jesus ever do to you, for you to behave this way?” – Said John, then he immediately started weeping. The scarred scarlet woman was surely scared to open up – but seeing this act of compassion by Abba John helped her ease a little.
Shocked, Paesia asked John “Why are you crying, Father?”. “I see Satan controlling you, how could I not cry?” He replied. “Is there any hope for me, Father?” She asked, Abba John then said that there is hope, but not in that place of sin. She got up with him, making no arrangements for her possessions or wealth she got up and left with Abba John. When they stopped in the desert, he made her a pillow of sand and marked it with the sign of the cross – then walked down a bit and did the same for himself. A few hours into the night – Abba John looked up to see a shining pillar from where she slept to heaven – and angels bearing her soul. He threw himself on the ground – even after this glorious sight he wondered if she was saved – worried that she had no time to live a life of repentance.
Pearls in the desert
The Elders of Scetis
Saint John the Little
Paesia; The Harlot Turned Saint