Thursday, December 31, 2009

Laughing at Death

They told the story of a hermit who was dying in Scetis. The brothers stood round his bed, clothed him, and began to weep. But he opened his eyes and began to laugh; this happened three times. So the brothers asked him, "Abba, why are you laughing when we are weeping?"

He told them, "I laughed the first time because you fear death; I laughed the second time because you are not ready for death; I laughed the third time because I am passing from labor to rest, and yet you weep." As he said this, he closed his eyes and died.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Living Example

Hyperichius said, "He who teaches others by his life and not by his speech is truly wise."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Be Obedient to the Grace of God

A hermit said to a brother, "Do not measure yourself against your brother, saying that you are more serious or more chaste or more understanding than he is. But be obedient to the grace of God, in the spirit of poverty, and in love unfeigned. The efforts of a man swollen with vanity are futile. It is written, 'Let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall' (I Corinthians 10:12); 'let your speech be seasoned with salt' (Colossians 4:6) and so you will be dependent on Christ."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Examine Your Conscience

A hermit said to a brother, "When a proud or a vain thought enters your mind, examine your conscience to see if you are keeping God's commandments; ask yourself if you love your enemies; if you rejoice in your enemy's triumph, and if you are sad at his downfall; do you know yourself to be an unprofitable servant and a sinner beyond all others? But not even then must you think that you have corrected all your faults; to entertain such a thought as that would undo all the other good you have done."

~~Proud Cheetah by Wycliffe Ndwiga

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Disparage Not Your Brother

Hyperichius said, "It is better to eat meat and drink wine than to eat the flesh of the brothers by disparaging them."

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Play the Fool

A hermit said, "When you flee from the company of other people, or when you despise the world and worldlings, take care to do so as if it were you who was being idiotic."

Friday, December 25, 2009

Luke 14:11

A hermit said, "He who is praised and honored above what he deserves suffers grievous loss. He who receives no honor at all among men, shall be glorified hereafter."

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Lower Than Every Created Being

A brother said to Sisois, "I look into my own mind and I see that it is recollected and intent upon God."

Sisois said to him, "It is nothing special that your mind should be with God. The great thing is to see yourself to be lower than every created being. Bodily toil will put that right, and lead you on the way to humility."

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Speak Right With Your Heart

Poemen said, "If a man appears silent in speech but is condemning other people in his heart, he is really talking incessantly. Another man may seem to talk all day, but he is keeping silence since he always speaks in a way that is right with his heart."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Practice What You Preach

Poemen said, "Experience is good. By experience men are tested."

He also said, "If a man preaches but does not practice what he preaches, he is like a well of water where everyone can quench their thirst and wash off their dirt, but which cannot clean away the filth and dung that is around it."

~~Wishing Well by Dan A. Diaz

Monday, December 21, 2009

Lost Time

A hermit said, "If you lose gold or silver, you can find something as good as you lost. But the man who loses time can never make up what he has lost."

~~Lost Time II by Dae-Yeon Kim

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The King's Highway

Joseph asked Poemen, "How should we fast?"

Poemen said, "I suggest that everyone should eat a little less than he wants, every day."

Joseph said to him, "When you were a young man, didn't you fast for two days on end?"

Poemen said, "I used to fast for three days on end, even for a week. But the great hermits have tested all these things, and they found it is good to eat something every day, but on some days a little less. They have shown us that this is the king's highway, for it is easy and light."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Protect Me From My Tongue

Sisois once said with confidence, "For thirty years I have not prayed to God without sin. When I pray, I say, 'Lord Jesus Christ, protect me from my tongue.' Even now, it causes me to fall every day."

Friday, December 18, 2009

Arm Yourself Against Demons

Amma Syncletica said, "We ought to be armed at all points against the demons. They come at us from outside and if the soul is weak we invite them in. Sometimes a ship is crushed by the battering of heavy seas; sometimes it is sunk because bilge water rises slowly within it. In the same way we are sometimes sunk because we have done evil deeds, and sometimes because our thoughts are evil. So we must both watch for the assaults of unclean spirits, and also cleanse the thoughts of our hearts."

~~Cross the Storm by Evgueny Solodky

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dear Prudence

Some brothers once asked Silvanus, "What way of life did you follow to be endowed with such prudence?"

He answered, "I have never let any bitter thought remain in my heart."

~~Prudence by Shawn McNulty

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Serve and Be Served

Once some monks came to Scetis, and John the Short was with them. During supper, an eminent presbyter got up to give them each a little water to drink. No one accepted it except John the Short.

The others were surprised and said, "How is it that you, the least of all, dared to accept the ministry of a great old man?"

He replied, "When I get up to hand water round, I am glad if everyone takes it, because I have been able to do them a service and will have a reward. That's why I took it just now, to let the one who offered it have his reward; perhaps he would have been sad if no one accepted it."

They all admired his discretion.

~~Glass of Water with Coffee Pot by Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin, 1760

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Close the Door

A brother said to Sisois, "I want to guard my heart."

Sisois replied, "How can we guard the heart if our tongue leaves the door of the fortress open?"

Monday, December 14, 2009


Some of the hermits used to say, "Whatever you hate for yourself, do not do it to someone else. If you hate being spoken evil of, do not speak evil of another. If you hate him who tries to make you despised, or wrongs you, or takes away what is yours, or anything like that, do not do such things to others. To keep this is enough for salvation."

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Help Your Brother

A hermit said, "I never wanted work to be useful to me while causing loss to my brother, for I have this hope that what helps my brother will bring fruit to me."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Double Charity

A brother said to a hermit, "If I see a monk about whom I have heard that he is guilty of a sin, I cannot make myself invite him into my cell. But if I see a good monk, I bring him in gladly."

The hermit said, "If you do good to a good brother it is nothing to him, but to the other give double charity, for he is sick."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Make No Display

A hermit was fasting and not eating bread, and he went to visit another hermit. By chance, some other pilgrims also came to visit this hermit, and he made them a little vegetable soup.

When they sat down to eat, the fasting hermit took a single pea which he dipped in the soup and chewed it.

When they got up from the table, the hermit that was hosting them took the fasting hermit aside and said, "Brother, if you visit someone, don't make a display there of your way of life. If you want to keep your own rule, stay in your cell and never go out."

The brother accepted the advice, and thenceforth behaved like other people and ate what was put before him.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Making Progress

A hermit said, "We do not make progress because we do not realize how much we can do. We lose interest in the work we have begun, and we want to be good without even trying.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Restrain your Anger

One of the brothers asked Isidore, the priest of Scetis, "Why are the demons so afraid of you?"

He said, "Ever since I became a monk, I have been trying not to let anger rise as far as my mouth."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bless the Beasts . . .

A brother asked Alonius, "What is humility?"

The hermit said, "To be lower than brute beasts and to know they are not condemned."

Monday, December 7, 2009

Control Your Hunger

A brother felt hungry at dawn, and struggled not to eat till nine o'clock. When nine o'clock came, he made himself wait till noon. At noon, he dipped his bread and sat down to eat, but then got up again, saying, "I will wait till three." At three o'clock he prayed, and saw the devil's work going out of him like smoke; and his hunger ceased.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Vessels of Passion

A brother said to Sisois, "Why do my passions not leave me?"

He said to him, "Because the vessels that fill those passions are within you. Empty them and the passions they cause will go away."

~~Vessels by Paige Russell

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cool as a Cucumber

They said of one hermit that he sometimes longed to eat a cucumber. So he took one and hung it in front of him where he could see it. He was not overcome by his longing, and did not eat it, but tamed himself and repented that he had wanted it at all.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Put Your Thoughts Aside

Poemen said, "If a thought about your bodily needs comes to you, and you put it aside; and then it comes again, and you put it aside, what will happen if it comes a third time? You will not notice it, and it will do you no harm."

~~Thoughts by Martine Rhyner

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Take Heed in Calm Seas

Syncletica said, "We have no security in this world. Paul said, 'Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall' (I Corinthians 10:12).

"We are sailing on uncharted seas, as the psalmist David said, 'Our life is like a sea.' Yet some seas have dangerous reefs, some are full of sharks, some seas are calm. It seems as if we are sailing in calm waters, while men of the world are sailing in rough weather. We are sailing in daylight, led by the sun of righteousness, while they are being driven along in the night of ignorance. Yet if often happens that worldly men, sailing in darkness and through storms, are so afraid of danger that they save the ship by calling upon God and by watchfulness, while we, in our calm waters, become careless, leave the proper course of righteousness, and are sunk."

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Every Day, Every Hour

Moses asked Silvanus, "Can a monk live every day as though it were the first day of his monastic life?"

Silvanus answered, "If you are truly committed to your way of life, you can live every day, every hour, as though it were the first day or hour of your monastic life."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Lend a Helping Hand

Theodore of Pherme said, "If a friend of yours is tempted, give him a helping hand if you can and pull him back. But if he falls into heresy, and persists in spite of your efforts, go away quickly, cut off his friendship. For if you stay with him, you may be dragged with him into hell."

Monday, November 30, 2009

In Due Measure

Evagrius said, "A wandering mind is strengthened by reading, and prayer. Passion is dampened down by hunger and work and solitude. Anger is repressed by psalmody and long-suffering and mercy. But all these should be at the proper times and in due measure. If they are not used at the wrong times and to excess, they are useful for a short time. But what is only useful for a short time, is harmful in the long run."

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Serving Self

Once at a feast day in Celia the brothers were eating their meal in church. But one of them said to the server, "I eat nothing cooked, only salted."

The serving monk called to another brother in front of the whole crowd, "This brother doesn't eat what is cooked, bring him the salt."

But one of the brothers stood up and said to him, "It would have been better for you to eat meat today in your cell than to have heard this said in front of many brothers."

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Two Shillings

A brother asked a hermit, "Would you like me to keep two shillings for myself, in case I fall ill?"

The hermit, seeing that in his heart he wanted to keep them, said, "Yes."

The brother went into his cell, but he was worried, asking himself, "Did he tell me the truth or not?" He got up and went back to the hermit, bowed down and asked him, "For the Lord's sake tell me the truth, for I am worrying about these two shillings."

The hermit said to him, "I told you to keep them because I saw you intended to do so anyway. But it is not good to have more than the body needs. If you keep the two shillings, you will put your hope in them. If by chance they are lost, then God will no longer be interested in your needs. Let us cast all our care upon the Lord, for He cares for us."

Friday, November 27, 2009

An Ear of Wheat

Isaac the presbyter of Celia said, "I know a brother who was harvesting and wanted to eat an ear of wheat. He said to the owner of the field, 'Will you let me eat one ear?'

When the owner heard it, he wondered, and said, 'The whole field is yours, abba, why do you ask me?'

That brother was as scrupulous as that."

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Helping Hands

When Chame was dying, he said to his sons, "Do not live with heretics. Do not take any notice of judges. Do not open your hands to get, but let them be stretched out to give."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


They used to say about Poemen that when he was ready to go out to the meeting for prayer, he first sat by himself for an hour in self-examination, and then went out.

~~Deep Silence by Joseph Eagle and EagleZen

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Grow in the Lord

Amma Syncletica said, "The same thing cannot at once be seed and a full-grown bush. So men with a worldly reputation cannot bear heavenly fruit."

Monday, November 23, 2009

Put On the Full Armor

Hyperichius said, "Temptations come to us in all kinds of ways. We ought to put on the full armor, and then we shall seem to them to be expert soldiers when they attack us."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Trust in the Lord

They said there was a working gardener who gave away all profit in alms, and kept for himself only enough to live on. Later on, Satan tempted him and said, "Store up a little money, as a provision to spend when you are old and infirm."

So he made a store of coins in a big pot. It happened that he fell ill, and his foot became gangrenous, and he spent all his coins on doctors, but grew no better. An experienced doctor told him, "Unless we amputate your foot, the gangrene will spread through your whole body." So they decided to amputate it.

But the night before the operation, the gardener came to his senses, and was sorry for what he had done, and groaned and wept saying, "Lord, remember my earlier good works when I worked in the garden and served the poor."

Then an angel of the Lord stood before him and said, "Where is your store of coins? Where has your trust in them gone to?

Then he understood and said, "I have sinned, Lord, forgive me, I will not do it again." Then the angel touched his foot, and it was healed at once. He got up at dawn and went to the fields to work. At the appointed time the surgeon came with his instruments to amputate the foot.

The people told him, "He went out at dawn to work in the fields." The doctor was astonished and went out to the field where he was working, and he saw him digging, and glorified God who had restored his health.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Sisois said, "Be despised; put your self-will behind your back; be free of worldly concerns, and you will have peace."

~~Serenity by Ann Self

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Sponge of the Monastery

The holy bishop Basil told this story: In a certain monastery of nuns there was a girl who pretended she was mad and possessed by a devil. The others felt such contempt for her that they never ate with her, which pleased her very much.

She took herself to the kitchen and used to perform all the most menial tasks; she was, as the saying is, "the sponge of the monastery," but in fact she was fulfilling the Scriptures where it says, "If any man among you seems to be wise in this world, let him become a fool that he may be wise" (I Corinthians 3:18).

She wore a rag around her head, while all the others had their hair closely cropped and wore cowls, and she used to serve them dressed like that. Not one of the four hundred ever saw her chew in all the years of her life. She never sat down at table or ate a scrap of bread, but she wiped up with a sponge the crumbs from the tables and was satisfied with the scouring of pots.

She was never angry with anyone, nor did she grumble or chatter, either a little or much, although she was maltreated, insulted, cursed, and loathed.

Now an angel appeared to holy Piterion, the famous anchorite dwelling at Porphyrite and said to him, "Why do you think so much of yourself for being pious and dwelling in a place such as this? Do you want to see someone more pious than yourself, a woman? Go to the women's monastery at Tabennisi and there you will find one with a cloth on her head. She is better than you are. While being knocked about by many she has never let her attention turn from God. But you live here alone and let your attention wander about in cities."

So Piterion, who had never left his cell, asked those in charge to allow him to enter the monastery of women. They let him in, since he was well on in years and, moreover, had a great reputation. So he went in and insisted on seeing all of them. The woman he wanted to see did not appear.

Finally he said to them, "Bring them all to me, for the one I want to see is missing."

They said, "We have a sister in the kitchen who is touched in the head" (that is what they call the afflicted ones).

He told them, "Bring her to me. Let me see her."

They went to call her, but she did not answer, either because she had heard what was happening or because it had been revealed to her. They seized her forcibly and told her, "The holy Piterion wants to see you" (for he was famous).

When she came in he saw the rag on her head and, falling down at her feet, he said, "Bless me!"

She too fell down at his feet and said, "Bless me, my lord."

All the women were amazed at this and said, "Abba, do not let her insult you. She is touched."

Piterion then spoke to all the women, "You are the ones who are touched! This woman is an amma (which is what they call spiritual mothers) to both you and me and I pray that I may be counted as worthy as she on the Day of Judgment."

Hearing this, they fell at his feet, confessing various things, one saying how she had poured the leavings of her plate over her; another how she had beaten her with her fists; another how she had blistered her nose. So they confessed various and sundry outrages. After praying for them, he left.

After a few days she was unable to bear the praise and honor of the sisters, and all their apologizing was so burdensome to her that she left the monastery. Where she went and where she disappeared to, and how she died, nobody knows.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Deathbed Forgiveness

A brother who lived near a great hermit was said to enter his cell from time to time and steal the contents. Though the hermit saw him do so, he did not rebuke him, but struggled to produce more than usual, saying, "I believe that the brother is in need."

While he worked harder than usual he tightened his belt and ate less. When the hermit was on his deathbed, the brothers stood round him. He looked at the thief, and said, "Come here and touch me." He grasped his hands and kissed them, saying, "I thank these hands of yours, my brother; it is because of them that I go into the kingdom of heaven."

The thief was stricken with remorse and did penance, and he became a true monk, and followed the example of that great hermit.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Blame Yourself

Theophilus of holy memory, the bishop of Alexandria, once went to the mount of Nitria, and a hermit of Nitria came to see him. The bishop said, "What have you discovered in your life, abba?"

The hermit answered, "To blame myself unceasingly."

The bishop said, "That is the only way to follow."

~~ Blame Game 3 by Donnyhood

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Shepherd of Sheep

When Poemen was a young man, he once went to a hermit to ask him three questions. When he arrived at the hermit's cell he forgot one of his three questions, and went back home. He was just reaching out his hand for the key of his cell when he remembered the question which he had forgotten. He left the key lying there, and went back to the hermit.

The hermit said to him, "You have traveled fast to get here, brother."

Poemen explained, "When I was stretching out my hand for the key, I remembered the question; so I did not open my cell door, but immediately returned to you."

The distance between the cells was very great. The hermit said to him, "You live up to your name of "Poemen," which means shepherd of sheep; your name shall be famous throughout Egypt."

Monday, November 16, 2009

An Open Treasury . . .

Syncletica said, "An open treasury is quickly spent; any virtue will be lost if it is published abroad and is known about everywhere. If you put wax in front of a fire it melts; and if you pour vain praises on the soul it goes soft and weak in seeking goodness."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Build a Strong Foundation

A brother said to a hermit, "If a monk fall to sin, he is punished like a person who has fallen from a higher state to a lower, and must work hard until he rises again. But he who comes from the world, is like a beginner advancing to a higher state."

The hermit replied, "A monk falling into temptation is like a ruined house. If he is a serious, sober person, he can rebuild this ruin. He will find the right materials for the building, and he will lay foundations, collect stone and sand, and everything else he needs, and so his building will grow rapidly higher. But the builder who did not dig foundations, and has none of the right materials, will go away just hoping that someday the house will be built.

"If the monk falls into temptation, and turns to the Lord, he has the best materials, that is, meditation on the law of God, psalmody, work with his hands, prayer, and silence, which are the foundations of his building. A newcomer will find himself low down on the ladder of religion until he has learnt all of these."

~~The Ruined House by Trey Ratcliff

Saturday, November 14, 2009

God Cares for Us

Someone brought a hermit who was a leper some money and said, "Take this to spend, for you are old and ill."

The hermit replied, "Are you going to take me away from Him who has fed me for sixty years? I have been ill all that time, and have needed nothing because God has fed me and given me what I need." And he would not accept the money.

~~Francis Cleans the Leper by Doug Williams

Friday, November 13, 2009

Lighten Your Burden

Hyperichius said, "Keep praising God with hymns, and meditating continually, and so lighten the burden of the temptations that attack you. A traveler carrying a heavy burden stops from time to time to take deep breaths, and so makes the journey easier and the burden light."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lay Siege to Your Soul's Enemies

John the Short said, "If a king wants to take a city filled with his enemies, he first captures their food and water, and when they are starving he subdues them. So it is with gluttony. If a man is sincere about fasting and his hunger, the enemies that trouble his soul will grow weak."

~~Nazgul Siege by Mikko Kinnunen