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One day the Venerable Macarius of Egypt was walking about the desert and found a dried-out human skull lying on the ground. Turning it over with his staff, the saint heard a sound, as though from a distance. Then Macarius asked the skull: "What manner of man were you?""I was the chief of the pagan priests that dwelt in this place," it replied. "When you, O Abba Macarius, who are full of the Spirit of God, pray for us, taking pity on us that are in the torments of hell, we then receive a certain relief.""And what manner of relief do you receive?" asked Macarius. "And tell me, what torments are you subjected to?""As far as heaven is above the earth," replied the skull with a groan, "so great is the fire in the midst of which we find ourselves, wrapped in flame from head to toe. At this time we cannot see each others' faces, but when you prayest for us, we can see each other a little, and this affords us some consolation."On hearing this reply, the venerable one wept and said: "Cursed is that day when man broke the divine ordinance!" And once again he asked the skull: "Are there any other tortures worse than yours?""Beneath us, much farther down, there are many others," it replied."And who are found in such unbearable torments?" asked Macarius."We who did not know God, yet experience the mercy of God a little," answered the skull. "But they that knew the name of God, yet rejected Him and did not keep His commandments, undergo much heavier and worse torments below."After this St. Macarius took the skull, buried it in the ground and departed.