Saturday, February 28, 2009


When Isaac of Thebaid visited a community, he saw that one of the brothers was sinful, and passed sentence on him.

But, when he was returning to his cell in the desert, the angel of the Lord came and stood in front of the door of his cell, and said, "I will not let you go in."

Isaac asked, "Why not?"

The angel of the Lord replied, "God sent me to ask you, 'Where do you tell me to send that sinful brother whom you sentenced?'"

At once Isaac repented, saying, "I have sinned, forgive me."

The angel said, "Get up, God has forgiven you. In the future take care to judge no man before God has judged him."

~~Christ Pantocrator from St. Catherine's Monastery in the Sinai (550 C.E.)

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Dagger of Praise

They said of Arsenius and Theodore of Pherme that they hated fame and praise more than anything. Arsenius avoided people likely to praise him. Theodore did not avoid them, but their words were like daggers to him.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


A brother asked Agatho, "I have been instructed to go somewhere, and I have serious doubts about the place where I have been told to go. I want to obey the order and yet I am frightened of the inner struggle that will follow."

Agatho replied, "Agatho was like that. He obeyed orders and so he won the battle."

~~photo by Griffin Logue

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Virtue of Prayer

Virtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance, suppresses anger, restrains pride and envy, draws down the Holy Spirit in to the soul and raises man to heaven.

St. Ephraim the Syrian


O Lord and Master of my life
take from me the spirit of sloth,
faint-heartedness, lust of power
and idle talk.
But give rather,
the spirit of chastity,
humility, patience and love to thy servant.
Yea, O Lord and King,
grant me to see my own errors
and not to judge my brother;
for Thou art blessed unto the ages of ages.

Ephraim the Syrian (c. 306 – 373) was a deacon, prolific Syriac language hymn writer and theologian of the 4th century. He is venerated by Christians throughout the world, and especially among Syriac Christians as a saint. Ephraim wrote a wide variety of hymns, poems and homilies in verse, as well as prose biblical commentaries. These were works of practical theology for the edification of the church in troubled times. So popular were his works, that, for centuries after his death, Christian authors wrote hundreds of pseudepigraphous works in his name. Ephraim's works witness to an early, vibrant expression of Christian faith, little touched by the European modes of thought, and more engaged with eastern methods of discourse.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Just One Penny

Once when Arsenius was in Scetis he became ill, and he needed just one penny. He had not got one, so he accepted it as alms from someone else, and said, "Oh God, thank you! For your name's sake you have made me worthy to come to this, that I should have to ask for alms."

Monday, February 23, 2009


Arsenius said, "One hour's sleep is enough for a monk if he is a fighter."

~~Oil, Sleep by Randolphlee McIver, 1981

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Age Does Not Equal Wisdom

Cassian said, "Moses the Hermit told us, 'It is good not to hide our thoughts; we ought to disclose them to discreet and devout elders; but not to those who are old merely in years, for many have found final despair instead of comfort by confessing to those whom they saw to be old, but who were in fact inexperienced.'"

~~photo by Frank Logue

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Heaven and Hell

Evagrius said, "While you sit in your cell, recall your attention, and remember the day of your death and you will see that your body is decaying. Think about the loss. Feel the pain. Shrink from the vanity of the world outside. Be retiring, and be careful to keep your vow of quiet, and you will not weaken.

Remember the souls in hell. Meditate on their condition, the bitter silence and the moaning, the fear and the strife, the waiting and the pain without relief, the tears that cannot cease to flow.

Remember, too, the day of resurrection, imagine God's terrible and awful judgment. Bring into your sight the confusion of sinners before God and His Christ, before angels and archangels and powers, and all the human race, punishment, everlasting fire, the worm that never dies, the darkness of Tartarus ~ and above them all the sound of gnashing teeth, dread and torments.

Bring before your eyes the good laid up for the righteous, their confidence before God the Father and Christ His Son, before angels and archangels and the powers, and all the people in the kingdom of heaven and its gifts, joy and peace. Remember all this.

Weep and lament for the judgment of sinners, keep alert to the grief they suffer; be afraid that you are hurrying towards the same condemnation. Rejoice and exult at the good laid up for the righteous. Aim at enjoying the one, and being far from the other.

Do not forget this whether you are in your cell our outside it. Keep these memories in your mind and so cast out of it the sordid thoughts that harm you."

Friday, February 20, 2009

See No, Hear No, Speak No Evil

Antony said, "He who sits alone and is quiet has escaped from three wars: hearing, speaking, seeing: but there is one thing against which he must continually fight: that is, his own heart."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Safe harbor

Evagrius said, "Some of our predecessors used to say that a dry and regular diet combined with love will soon bring a monk to the harbor where the storms of passion do not enter."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Not Easily Distracted

It was said concerning Amma Sarah that for sixty years she lived beside a river and never lifted her eyes to look at it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

On The Way

Abbot Pambo questioned Abbot Anthony saying: "What ought I to do?"

And the Elder replied, "Have no confidence in your own virtuousness. Do not worry about a thing once it has been done. Control your tongue and your belly."

Monday, February 16, 2009

He That Loves Me

For this reason we must first beg of God with struggle in the heart through faith that he grant us to discover his riches, the true treasure of Christ in our hearts, in the power and energy of the Spirit. In such a way, first by finding the Lord to be our help within us and our salvation and eternal life, we may be of help and profit to others also, insofar as possible and attainable, by drawing upon Christ, the treasure within, for all goodness of spiritual discourses and in teaching the heavenly mysteries.

Thus the goodness of the Father was pleased to wish to dwell within every believer who asks this of him. Christ says: "He that loves me, he will be loved by my Father and I will love him and I will manifest myself to him" (John 14:21). And again: "I and my Father will come and make our mansion in him" (John 14:23).

Thus the infinite kindness of the the Father decreed; thus the incomprehensible love of Christ was pleased. Thus the ineffable good of the promised Spirit. Glory to the ineffable passion of the Holy Trinity.

Those who have been deemed worthy to become children of God and to be reborn by the Holy Spirit from above, who have within themselves Christ, illuminating and bringing them rest, are guided in many and various ways by the Spirit. They are invisibly acted upon in the heart, in the spiritual tranquility, by grace.

~Homilies of Saint Macarius the Great

~~photo by Victoria Logue

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lover of Souls

Amma Theodora said, "A teacher should not be fooled by flattery, nor blinded by gifts, conquered by the stomach, nor dominated by anger. A teacher should be patient, gentle and humble as far as possible; successfully tested and without partisanship, full of concern and a lover of souls."

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Lest We Toil in Vain

Daniel used to say that Arsenius told him a story, as if he were speaking of some other man, and it went like this: Whilst a certain hermit was sitting in his cell, a voice came to him which said, "Come here, and I will show you the works of the children onf men."

So, he got up and went out. The voice led him out and showed him a man cutting wood; he made up a large bundle and wanted to take it away, but he could not do so. Then, instead of making the bundle smaller, he went and cut down some more wood, and added it to the first, and this he did many times.

When he had gone on a little further, the voice showed him a man who was standing by a pit drawing up water; he poured it out into a certain hollowed out place, and when he had poured the water into it, it ran back into the pit.

Again the voice said to him, "Come, and I will show you other things."

Then he looked, and, behold, there was a temple, and two men on horseback were carrying a piece of wood as wide as the temple between them. They wanted to go in through the door, but the width of the wood did not let them do so, and they would not humble themselves to go in one after his companion to bring it in end-wise, and so they remained outside the door.

Now these are the men who bear the yoke of righteousness with boasting, and they will not be humble enough to correct themselves and go in by the humble way of Christ, and therefore they remain outside the kingdom of God.

The man who was cutting wood is the man who labors at many sins, and who, instead of repenting and diminishing his sins, adds other wickednesses to them.

Now he who was drawing water is the man who does good works, but because other things are mingled in his good works they are lost.

It is right for us to be watchful in all we do, lest we toil in vain.

~~The Wood Cutter by Kasimir Malevich (1878-1935).

Friday, February 13, 2009

Love Your Neighbor

Antony said, "Our life and our death are with our neighbor. If we do good to our neighbor, we do good to God; if we cause our neighbor to stumble, we sin against Christ."

~~Fabric art, Neighbor Serving Neighbor by Vincent Crosby

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Written in the Dust

At a meeting of hermits in Cellia, Evagrius made a speech. Then the priest there said, " Evagrius, we know that if you were in your own country, perhaps you would already be a bishop, ruling over many, but here you are only a pilgrim."

Evagrius was pierced to the heart at these words, but he bent his head calmly and without haste and looked at the ground, then wrote in the dust with his finger, and said, "Truly, brothers, that is right. But, as it is written, 'I have spoken once and I will no more answer' (Job 40:5)."

~~photo by Frank Logue

To Our Last Breath

Antony said to Poemon, "Our greatest work is to lay the blame for our sins upon ourselves before God, and to expect to be tempted to our last breath."

~~Painting Deep Breath by Melanie Weidner, 2005

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Word for God's Sake

Abraham came to see Ares, and while they were sitting together, a brother came and asked Ares, "Tell me, what must I do to be saved?"

The hermit said, "Go, eat bread and salt every evening for a whole year, then come back, and I will talk to you again."

So, the brother went away and did so, and at the end of a year came again to see Ares. By chance, Abraham was with him again. This time Ares said to the brother, "Go, fast for a year, and eat every second day."

When he had gone, Abraham said to Ares, "Why, when you put a light yoke on all the brothers, have you laid such a grievous burden on this brother?"

Ares replied, "Other brothers come to ask questions and go away just as they came. But this brother comes to hear a word for God's sake, and he is one who works hard for the Lord and takes the greatest trouble to do whatever I tell him. That is why I speak the word of God to him."

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Do Clothes Make the Man?

Some of the hermits once came to Joseph in Panephysis, to ask him if they should break their fast when they received brothers as guests, to celebrate their coming. Before they asked their question, Joseph said to them, "Think about what I am going to do today."

He put two seats made of reeds tied in bundles, one on his left and the other on his right, and said, "Sit down."

Then he went into his cell and put on rags; he came out, and walked past them, and then went into his cell again and put on his ordinary clothes. The visitors were astonished, and asked him what it meant.

He said to them, "Did you see what I did?"

They said, "Yes."

He said, "Did the rags change me for the better?"

They said, "No."

Joseph said, "Did good clothes change me for the worse?"

They said, "No."

He said, "So I am myself whether I wear good clothes or rags. I was not changed for better or for worse because I changed my clothes. That is how we ought to be when we receive guests. It is written in the Holy Gospel, 'Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's' (Matthew 22:21). When visitors come we should welcome them and celebrate with them. It is when we are by ourselves that we ought to be sorrowful."

When they heard this they were amazed that he knew what they intended to ask him, and they praised God.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Pray to God

The brothers asked Agatho, "Abba, which virtue in our way of life needs most effort to acquire?"

He said to them, "I may be wrong, but I think nothing needs so much effort as prayer to God. If anyone wants to pray, the demons try to interrupt the prayer, for they know that prayer is the only thing that hinders them. All the other efforts in a religious life, whether they are made vehmently or gently, have room for a measure of rest. But we need to pray until our dying breath. That is the great struggle."

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Divine Within

A brother asked Arsenius to give him advice. He said to him, "As far as possible, try hard to make your inner progress as God would have it, and by this, overcome the passions of the body."

He also said, "If we seek God, He will appear to us; If we grasp Him, He will stay with us."

~~God Enthroned from the Nuremberg Chronicle. The two artists who were responsible for overseeing the design and illustration of the Chronicle were Michael Wohlgemut (1434-1519) and his stepson Wilhelm Pleydenwurff (c. 1450-1494).

Saturday, February 7, 2009

As Taut As A Bow

Some brothers came to Antony to tell him their dreams and to find out whether they were true or whether they were illusions of the demons. They had set out with a donkey which had died on the journey. When they reached Antony, before they told him anything, he said, "Why did your donkey die on the journey?"

They said, "How did you know that, Abba?"

He said, "The demons showed it to me."

They said to him, "That is just what we have come to consult you about. We, too, have dreams which have often come true; and we do not want to be misled about this." Antony had answered them by taking his example from the donkey, showing them that such dreams are caused by demons.

A hunter happened to come by and saw Antony talking in a relaxed way with the brothers, and he was shocked. Antony wanted to show the hunter how we should sometimes be less austere for the sake of the brothers, and said to him, "Put an arrow in your bow and draw it."

He did so, and Antony said, "Draw it further," and he drew it further. He said again, "Draw it yet further," and he drew it some more.

Then the hunter said to him, "If I draw it too far, the bow will snap."

Antony answered, "So it is with God's work. If we always go to excess, the brothers quickly become exhausted. It is sometimes best not to be rigid."

The hunter was ashamed when he heard this, and profited much from it. The brothers were encouraged and went home.

~~Sculpture by Ulysse Gemignani (German 1907-1973) "Hercules, Greek Archer" Circa 1930,

Friday, February 6, 2009


Once a brother in the community of Elias fell when he was tempted. He was expelled from the community, and went to the mountain to Anthony. When he had been with him for some time, Anthony sent him back to his community, but when they saw him, they sent him away again. So he went back to Anthony and said, "They won't have me Abba."

So Anthony sent a message to them saying, " A ship was wrecked in the ocean and lost its cargo, and with great difficulty the empty ship was brought to land. Do you want to run the ship that has been rescued onto the rocks and sink it?"

They realized that Anthony had sent him back, and at once accepted him.

~~photo by Frank Logue

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Empty House

The monks praised a brother to Antony. Antony went to him and tested him to see if he could endure being insulted. When he saw that he could not bear it, he said to him, "You are like a house witih a highly decorated outside, but burglars have stolen all the furniture by the back door."

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Once when Antony was living in the desert his soul was troubled by boredom and irritation. He said to God, "I want to be made whole and my thoughts do not let me. What am I to do about this about this trouble, how shall I be cured?"

After a while he got up and went outside. He saw someone like himself sitting down and working, then standing up to pray; then sitting down again to make a plait of palm leaves, and standing up again to pray. It was an angel of the Lord sent to correct Antony and make him vigilant. He heard the voice of the angel saying, "Do this and you will be cured."

When he heard it, he was very glad and recovered his confidence. He did what the angel had done, and found the salvation that he was seeking.

~~photo by Frank Logue

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Give It ALL Away

A brother was leaving the world, and though he gave his goods to the poor he kept some for his own use. He went to Antony, and when Antony knew what he had done, he said, "If you want to be a monk, go to the village over there, buy some meat, hang it on your naked body and come back here."

The brother went, and dogs and birds tore at his body. He came back to Antony, who asked him if he had done what he was told. He showed him his torn body. Then Antony said, "Those who renounce the world but want to keep their money are attacked in that way by demons and torn in pieces."

Monday, February 2, 2009

Night Vigil

Daniel said about Arsenius that he used to keep vigil all night. He would stay awake all night, and about dawn when nature seemed to force him to sleep, he would say to sleep, "Come, you bad servant," and he would snatch a little sleep sitting down, but very soon he would get up again.

~~image by Ryan Bliss, 2006

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Three Bodily Inclinations

Antony said, "I think the body has a natural movement within itself, which obeys the orders of the mind, a kind of inclination of which the body's actions are only symptoms. There is a second movement in the body, caused by eating and drinking, by which the blood is heated and excited. That is why Saint Paul said, 'Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess' (Ephesians 5:18), and again the Lord commanded his disciples in the Gospel, 'See that your hearts are not overcharged with surfeiting and drunkeness' (Luke 21:34). There is a third movement which comes from the deceit and envy of demons against those who are trying to live a good life. It is a help to know that there are three bodily inclinations ~ from nature, from too much food, and from the demons."

~~One of three small panels on Saint Anthony by Italian painter Bernardo Parentino (ca.1437-1531). This is the third and most disturbing scene, which shows the Saint being subjected to a beating and ill-treatment by the devils, who appear in the most monstrous forms, with the intention of incarnating the vices, which, under animal disguises, try to attack the virtuous man; one of these is in the act of tearing up a book of prayer and perhaps the Rule of the Anchorite.