Saturday, January 31, 2009

Holy Tears

It was said about Arsenius that whenever he was doing manual work he kept a cloth at his chest because of the tears that streamed from his eyes.

Woodcut, L'État d'une homme retombant dans le péché mortel, by Christoph van Sichem the Elder; the beasts that are symbolic of the sins have fled, and the heart is filled by the Holy Spirit, flames, and tears.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Fish Out of Water

Antony said, "Fish die if they stay on dry land, and in the same way monks who stay outside their cell or remain with secular people fall away from their vow of quiet. As a fish must return to the sea, so we must to our cell, in case by staying outside, we forget to watch inside."

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Way to Perfection

Pambo said to Antony, "What shall I do?"

Antony said, "Do not trust in your own righteousness. Do not go on sorrowing over a deed that is past. Keep your tongue and your belly under control."

~~photo by Frank Logue

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Staying Put

Amma Matrona said, "We carry ourselves wherever we go and we cannot escape temptation by mere flight."

~~sculpture by Christianna Hunnicutt

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Man on Fire

A brother went to the cell of Arsenius in Scetis, and looked in through the window, and saw him like fire from head to foot. (He was a brother worthy to see such sights.) When he knocked, Arsenius came out, and saw the brother standing there amazed, and said to him, "Have you been knocking long? Did you see anything?"

He answered, "No." After talking with him Arsenius sent him on his way.

~~photo by Sakana, 2005

Monday, January 26, 2009

Love is Patient

The brothers said that Gelasius had a parchment book worth 18 shillings, containing the whole of the Old and New Testaments. The book was put in the church so that any monk who wanted to could read it. But a traveling monk came to visit the hermit and when he saw the book, he coveted it, stole it, and took it away. The hermit knew who the thief was, but he did not give chase or try to catch him.

The thief went to a city and looked for a buyer. He found a man who wanted it, and began by asking 16 shillings for it. The man, who wished to beat him down, said, "Let me have it first to show it to someone and get advice, and then I will pay whatever is the right price." So the monk gave him the book for this purpose.

The buyer took the book to Gelasius to discover whether it was a good bargain and worth this high price. He told Gelasius the price the seller was asking.

The hermit said, "Buy it. It is a good bargain, and worth that much."

So the buyer returned to the seller, but insteaf of doing what Gelasius had told him, he said, "I showed this book to Gelasius and he told me it was too highly priced and not worth what you said."

The thief said, "Did the hermit tell you anything else?"

The buyer answered, "Nothing."

Then the thief said, "I don't want to sell it. " Stricken to the heart, he went to the hermit, did penance, and asked him to take the book back, but Gelasius would not. Then the monk said, "Unless you take it back, I shan't have peace of mind."

Then the hermit said, "If you can't have peace of mind unless I take it back, I will do so."

The brother remained with Gelasius until his death, and made progress by learning from his patience.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

God's Love Knows No Bounds

Antony said, "Now I no longer fear God, I love him, for love casts out fear (1 John 4:18)."

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Antony said, "I saw the devil's snares set all over the earth, and I groaned and said, 'What can pass through them?' I heard a voice saying, 'Humility.'"

Friday, January 23, 2009

Desert Hospitality

Cassian said, "We came to another hermit and he invited us to eat, and though we had eaten he urged us to eat more. I said I could not. He replied, 'I have already given meals to six different visitors, and have eaten with each of them, and I am still hungry. And you who have only eaten once are so full that you cannot eat with me now?'"

~~photo by Victoria Logue

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Welcoming Death

Agatho said, "A monk ought not to let his conscience accuse him of anything."

When Agatho was on his death-bed, he lay for three days with his eyes open, without moving. The brothers nudged him, saying, "Abba, where are you?"

He said, "I am standing before the judgement of God."

They said to him, "Are you afraid?"

He said, "I worked as hard as I could to keep the commandments of God but I am only human, and I do not know if my works will be pleasing in God's sight."

The brothers said to him, "Don't you trust in your work? They were in accordance with God's will."

He said, "I can't rely on that when I come before God, for the judgement of God is not the judgement of men." When they still tried to make him talk, he said to them, "Please don't talk to me, I'm busy." At these words, he breathed forth his soul with joy. They saw him welcoming death as one greets a dear friend. In everything Agatho was vigilant, and he used to say, "No one can achieve any of the virtues without taking care."

~~photo by Griffin Logue

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Sunrise on Mount Sinai
They said on Saturday evening Arsenius used to turn his back to the setting sun and stretch out his hands towards heaven and pray until, at dawn on Sunday, the rising sun lit up his face, and then he sat down again.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Antony said, "Some wear out there bodies by fasting; but because they have no discretion this only puts them further away from God."

Monday, January 19, 2009


Aresenius, of blessed memory, once said to Alexander, "When you've finished your palm leaves, come and have supper with me. But if pilgrims arrive, eat with them."

Alexander worked away gently and unhurriedly. At suppertime, he had not finished his palm leaves. Though he was hungry, he wanted to obey to obey the order of Arsenius and so he went on until he finished the palm leaves. Arsenius noticed he was late and had his own supper for he thought perhaps pilgrims had come, and that Alexander was eating with them. Alexander finally finished his task and in the evening came to see Arsenius.

Arsenius said to him, "Did pilgrims visit you?"

He said, "No."

Arsenius said, "Then why didn't you come?"

Alexander replied, "Because you told me to come when I had finished the palm leaves. I did what you told me and did not come because I have only just finished the work."

Aresnius admired the excellence of his obedience, and said to him, "You should lay aside your work sooner, so as to say your psalms, and fetch water for yourself, otherwise your body will soon grow weak."

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Judge Not

A brother sinned and the presbyter ordered him to go out of church. But Bessarion got up and went out with him, saying, "I, too, am a sinner."

~~The White Crucifixion by Marc Chagall. I know it's modern but it speaks to me, strongly, of Jesus dying for our sins.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Showing Off

Antony once heard about how a young monk showed off on a journey. He saw some old men walking wearily along the road, and he ordered some donkeys to appear and carry them home. When the old men told Antony about this he said, "I think that monk is like a rich ship laden with cargo, but it is not yet certain that it will reach port in safety."

Shortly afterwards, Antony began to weep, and pull his hair, and groan. When his disciples saw it, they said, "Why are you weeping, abba?" He replied, "A great pillar of the church has just fallen." He said this about the young monk, and added, "Walk over and see what has happened."

So his disciples went, and found the young monk sitting on his mat and weeping for a sin he had committed. When he saw Antony's disciples, he said, "Tell the abba to pray God to give me just ten days, and I hope to be able to satisfy Him." Within five days the young monk was dead.

~~photo by Frank Logue

Friday, January 16, 2009


Bessarion said that for forty nights he had stood among thorns and that he had not slept.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Possessing Nothing

Daniel told this story about Arsenius. An official once came to bring him the will of a kinsman who was a senator and had left Arsenius a large bequest. Arsenius took the will in his hands and wanted to tear it up. But the official fell at his feet, and said, "Please do not tear it up; they will blame me." Arsenius said to him, "I died before he did. Now that he is dead, how can he make me his heir?" He gave back the will, and would accept nothing.

~~photo by Frank Logue

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Keep a Close Guard upon the Heart

Monastery at Petra
Gerontius of Petra said, "Many people who are tempted by pleasures of the flesh do not sin with the body but lust with the mind; they keep their bodily virginity but lust in their heart. It is better then, beloved, to do what is written, "Let everyone keep a close guard upon his heart" (Proverbs 4:23).
~the monastery at Petra, Jordan

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Some brothers from Scetis wanted to visit Antony, and set out in a ship to go there. On board they met an old man who also wanted to go to Antony, but he did not belong to their party. During the voyage they talked about the sayings of the fathers and the Scriptures, and then the manual work that they did, but the old man said nothing at all. When they came to the landing-place, they realized the old man also was going to see Antony. When they arrived, Antony said to them, "You found good company on your journey in this old man." He said to the old man, "You found good companions in these brothers." The old man said, "Yes, they are good, but their house has no door. Anyone who wants to goes into the stable and steals the donkey." He said this because they had said the first thing that came into their heads.

Monday, January 12, 2009


A brother asked Ammon, "Speak a word to me." He said to him, "Go and meditate like the criminals in prison. They keep asking, where is the judge? When will he come? And because they are waiting for him they dread their punishment. The monk should always be waiting for his trial, chiding his soul, saying: 'Alas, how shall I stand before the judgment seat of Christ? How shall I give an account of my actions?' If you always meditate like this, you will be saved."

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Be Silent

Arsenius, when he was still in the palace, prayed to God, saying, "Lord, show me the way of salvation." A voice came to him saying, "Arsenius, flee from men, and you will be saved." As he left for the monastic life, he prayed again, saying the same words; and he heard a voice saying to him, "Arsenius flee, be silent, pray always, for these are the roots of sinlessness."

~ icon Hagia Hesychia (Holy Silence) written by Father William Hart McNichols

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Pleasing God

Somebody asked Antony: "What shall I do in order to please God?" He replied: "Do what I tell you, which is this: wherever you go, keep God in mind; whatever you do, follow the example of holy Scripture; wherever you are, stay there and do not move away in a hurry. If you keep to these guide-lines you will be saved."

~~photo by Victoria Logue

Friday, January 9, 2009


Those unclean and unspeakable thoughts (of blasphemy) come at us when we are praying, but, if we continue to pray to the end, they will retreat, for they do not struggle against those who resist them.

Anyone disturbed by the spirit of blasphemy and wishing to be rid of it should bear in mind that thoughts of this type do not originate in his own soul but are caused by that unclean devil who once said to the Lord: "I will give you all this if only you fall down and adore me" (Matthew 4:9). So let us make light of him and pay no regard whatever to his promptings. Let us say: "Get behind me, Satan! I will worship the Lord my God and I will serve only him" (Matthew 4:10).

~ Saint John Climacus in Ladder of Divine Ascent

John Climacus (525 – 30 March 606), also known as John of the Ladder, John Scholasticus and John Sinaites, was a 7th century Christian monk at the monastery on Mount Sinai. He was born in Syria, and came to the monastery when he was about 16 years old. After the death of his mentor, Martyrius, John, withdrew to a hermitage at the foot of the mountain. In 600, when he was about seventy-five years of age, the monks of Sinai persuaded him to put himself at their head. He acquitted himself of his functions as abbot with the greatest wisdom, and his reputation spread so far that pope Gregory the Great wrote to recommend himself to his prayers, and sent him a sum of money for the hospital of Sinai, in which the pilgrims were wont to lodge. Four years later he resigned his charge and returned to his hermitage to prepare for death. He wrote a number of instructive books, including the Scala (Climax) or Ladder of Divine Ascent, composed at the request of John, Abbot of Raithu, a monastery situated on the shores of the Red Sea.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


One of the monks, called Serapion, sold his book of The Gospels and gave the money to those who were hungry, saying: I have sold the book which told me to sell all I had and give to the poor.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


When asked by Melania the Elder how she persevered through harsh conditions and the difficult inner journey, Alexandra replied, "From early dawn to the ninth hour I weave linen, and recite the psalms and pray; and during the rest of the day I commemorate in my heart the holy fathers, and I revolve in my thoughts the histories of all the Prophets and Apostles, and Martyrs, and during the remaining hours I work with my hands and I eat my bread, and by means of these things I am comforted whilst I await the end of my life in good hope."

~~photo by Griffin Logue

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Once some brethren went out of the monastery to visit the hermits who lived in the desert. They came to one who received them with joy and seeing that they were tired, invited them to eat before the accustomed time and placed before them all the food he had available. But that night when they were all supposed to be sleeping the hermit heard the cenobites talking among themselves and saying: These hermits eat more than we do in the monastery. Now at dawn the guests set out to see another hermit, and as they were starting out their host said: Greet him from me, and give him this message: Be careful not to water the vegetables. When they reached the other hermitage they delivered this message. And the second hermit understood what was meant by the words. So he made the visitors sit down and weave baskets, and sitting with them he worked without interruption. And in the evening when the time came for lighting the lamp, he added a few extra psalms to the usual number, after which he said to them: we do not usually eat every day out here, but because you have come along it is fitting to have a little supper today, for a change. Then he gave them some dry bread and salt, then added: Here's a special treat for you. Upon which he mixed them a little sauce of vinegar, salt and oil, and gave it to them. After supper they got up again and started in on the psalms and kept on praying almost until dawn, at which the hermit said: Well, we can't finish all our usual prayers, for you are tired from your journey. You had better take a little rest. And so when the first hour of the day came, they all wanted to leave this hermit, but he would not let them go. He kept saying: Stay with me awhile. I cannot let you go so soon, charity demands that I keep you for two or three days. But they, hearing this, waited until dark and then under the cover of night they made off.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Meekness and Humility

Man becomes fearful of judging others and looks upon every other person as better than himself. And if he sees other people, be they adulterers or unrighteous, he considers them as better than himself ~ a fact that he truly feels in his hidden conscience and not something just claimed in his outward speech. This he does from a heart free of all impurities. He looks upon everything as good, for he looks and thinks with God's mind.

~St. Isaac the Syrian, Bishop of Nineveh
~~photo by Frank Logue

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Live in Peace

Amma Theodora said, "It is good to live in peace, for the wise man practices perpetual prayer. It is truly a great thing for a virgin or a monk to live in peace, especially for the younger ones. However, you should realize that as soon as you intend to live in peace, at once evil comes and weighs down your soul through accidie, faintheartedness, and evil thoughts. It also attacks your body through sickness, debility, weakening of the knees, and all the members. It dissipates the strength of soul and body, so that one believes one is ill and no longer able to pray. But if we are vigilant, all these temptations fall away. There was, in fact a monk who was seized by cold and fever every time he began to pray, and he suffered from headaches, too. In this condition, he said to himself, 'I am ill, and near to death; so now I will get up before I die and pray.' By reasoning in this way, he did violence to himself and prayed, When he had finished, the fever abated also. So, by reasoning in this way, the brother resisted, and prayed and was able to conquer his thoughts."

Saturday, January 3, 2009


It was said of Abbot Agatho that for three years he carried a stone in his mouth until he learned to be silent.
~~photo by Victoria Logue

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Nature of Prayer

~~icon of Saint Macarius the Great from Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Boston, Massachusetts

We ought to pray, neither according to any bodily habit nor with a habit of loud noise nor out of a custom of silence or on bended knees. But we ought soberly to have an attentive mind, waiting expectantly on God until he comes and visits the soul by means of all of its openings and its paths and senses.

And so we should be silent when we ought and to pray with a cry, just as long as the mind is concentrated on God . . . so also the soul should be totally concentrated on asking and on a loving movement toward the Lord, not wandering and dispersed by its thoughts but with concentration wait expectantly for Christ.

And thus he will enligten, teaching one how to ask, giving pure prayer that is spiritual and worthy of God and bestowing the gift of worship "in spirit and in truth" (John 4:24). . . . God who teaches us how truly to pray. In this way the Lord finds rest in the well-intended soul, making it a throne of glory and he sits on it and takes his rest.

Macarius of Egypt (300-391) was an Egyptian Christian monk and hermit. He is also known as Macarius the Elder, Macarius the Great and The Lamp of the Desert. Saint Macarius founded a monastery that bears his name, the Monastery of Saint Macarius the Great, which has been continuously inhabited by monks since its foundation in the fourth century. Today it belongs to the Coptic Orthodox Church. The entirety of the Nitrian Desert is sometimes called the Desert of Macarius, for he was the pioneer monk in the region. The ruins of numerous monasteries in this region lend credence to the local tradition that the cloisters of Macarius were equal in number to the days of the year.

The Monastery of Saint Macarius the Great in Wadi El-Natroun, Egypt

Thursday, January 1, 2009

What Good Work Shall I Do?

A brother asked one of the elders: what good thing shall, I do and have life thereby? The old man replied: God alone knows what is good. However, I have heard it said that someone inquired of Father Abbot Nisteros the great, the friend of Abbot Anthony, asking: What good work shall I do? And that he replied: Not all works are alike. For Scripture says that Abraham was hospitable and God was with him. Elias loved solitary prayer, and God was with him. And David was humble, and God was with him. Therefore, whatever you see your soul to desire according to God, do that thing, and you shall keep your heart safe.

~~photo by Griffin Logue