Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Ship to Sail In

A brother spoke with Theodore and began to talk about matters of which he had no experience. Theodore said to him, "You've not yet found a ship to sail in, nor put your luggage aboard, nor put out to sea, and you're already acting as if you were in the city which you mean to reach. If you make some attempt to do the things you are discussing, then you can talk about them with understanding."

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Endure the Fight

Poemen said about John the Short that he asked the Lord to take away his passions. So his heart was at rest, and he went to a hermit and said, "I find that I am at peace, with no war between flesh and spirit."

The hermit said to him, "Go and ask the Lord to stir up a new war in you. Fighting is good for the soul."

When the conflict revived in him, he no longer prayed for it to be taken away, but said, "Lord, grant me the strength to endure this fight."

~~Spiritual Warfare by Laurie Cooper

Friday, May 29, 2009

Poverty and Obedience

Isaac said to the brothers, "Pambo and our predecessors used to wear old and much-patched clothes. You wear good clothes. Go away, you do not belong here." When they were starting out for the harvest, he said, "I shall give you no more orders, for you never obey me."

Photo by Frank Logue; statue of Saint Francis at San Damiano, Italy

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Demon of Lust

Poemen said, "As a bodyguard is always standing by to protect the Emperor, so the soul should always be ready to fight the demon of lust."

~~Lust by William Blake

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Leave It Be

Once Agatho was going on a journey with his disciples. One of them found a small bag of green peas on the road, and said to him, "Abba, if you say so, I will pick it up."

Agatho looked at him in astonishment and said, "Did you put it there?"

The brother replied, "No."

Agatho said, "Why do you want to pick up something you did not put down?"

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Consuming Fire

Some of the monks asked Macarius of Egypt, "Why is your body dry, whether you eat or fast?"

He said to them, "A wooden poker which turns over and over the brushwood in the fire is itself being slowly burnt away. So if a man cleanses his mind in the fear of God, the fear of God also consumes his body."

Monday, May 25, 2009


Evagrius said, "Cut the desire for many things out of your heart and so prevent your mind being dispersed and your stillness lost."

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Man of All Virtues

John the Short said: "I will invent a man composed of all the virtues. He would rise at dawn every morning, take up the beginning of each virtue, and keep God's commandments. He would live in great patience, in fear, in long-suffering, in the love of God; with a firm purpose of soul and body; in deep humility, in patience, in trouble of heart and earnestness of practice.

He wold pray often, with sorrow of heart, keeping his speech pure, his eyes controlled. He would suffer injry without anger, remaining peaceful, and not rendering evil for evil, not looking out for the faults of others, not puffing himself up, meekly subject to every creature, renouncing material property and everything of the flesh.

He would live as though crucified, in struggle, in lowliness of spirit, in good will and spiritual abstinence, in fasting, in penitence, in weeping.

He would fight against evil, be wise and discreet in judgment and chaste in mind. He would receive good treatment with tranquility, working with his own hands, watching at night, enduring hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness and labor.

He would live as though buried in a tomb and already dead, every day feeling death to be near him."

Saturday, May 23, 2009

You Have Done Well

It was said about Zeno that when he was living in Scetis he went out of his cell at night, going towards the marshes. He spent three days and three nights there wandering at random. At last, tired out, his strength failed him, and he fell down as though dying when suddenly a little child stood before him with bread and a jar of water and said to him, "Get up, and eat."

Zeno stood up and prayed , thinking it was an illusion. The child said to him, "You have done well." Zeno prayed a second, and then a third time. The child said again, "You have done well."

Then the hermit got up, took some of the food and ate. The child said to him, "As far as you have walked, so far are you from your cell. So, then get up and follow me." Immediately he found himself in his cell.

Then the hermit said to the child, "Come in and let us pray." But when Zeno went inside, the other had vanished.

Friday, May 22, 2009

For the Good of All

Once when John was going up from Scetis with other monks, their guide lost his way in the night. The brothers said to John, "What shall we do, abba, to prevent ourselves from dying in the desert, now that this brother has lost his way?"

John said, "If we say anything to him, he will be upset, so I will pretend that I am worn out, and say I can't walk any further, and must stay here til daylight."

He did so, and the others said, "We won't go on either, we'll stay with you here." They stayed there 'til dawn, so that they should not blame the monk who had guided them wrongly.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Patience of Moses

At a meeting of monks in Scetis, the hermits wanted to test Moses. So they poured scorn on him, saying, "Who is this black man who is here with us?"

Moses heard them but said nothing. When the meeting had dispersed, the monks who had insulted him asked him, "Weren't you upset inside?"

He replied, "I was upset, and I said nothing."

Moses was a black man from Ethiopia who was often teased about the color of his skin. He accepted such humor happily, aware of the affection with which it was offered. He was a released slave who lived as a robber in Egypt until he became a monk as a disciple of Isidore. He was ordained a priest and had many disciples. He went to Petra at the end of his life and was killed there with some of his followers by the barbarian invaders.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Not Worth A Fig

The hermits said that once someone gave the brothers in Scetis a few figs: but because they were so few, they did not give any to Arsenius, for fear he should be offended by the smallness of the present. When he heard this, he did not go out as usual to the service with the brothers, and said, "You have excommunicated me, by not giving me the food which the Lord sent to the brothers; it was because I was not worthy to receive it."

They were edified by this humility, and the priest took him some figs, and brought him back to the congregation content.

~~Italian Harvest - Figs by Doris Allison

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Promise of Humility

Syncletica said, "It seems to me that for those who live in monasteries obedience is a higher virtue than chastity, however perfect. Chastity is in danger of pride, obedience has the promise of humility."

~~Madonna of Humility by Giovanni di Paolo (also known as Giovanni di Paolo di Grazia or Giovanni del Poggio) from the Sienese school (b. ca. 1403, Siena - d. 1483, Siena).

Monday, May 18, 2009

Peace Be With You

A brother came to a hermit, and as he was taking his leave, he said, "Forgive me, abba, for preventing you from keeping your rule."

The hermit answered, "My rule is to welcome you with hospitality, and to send you on your way in peace."

~~photo by Frank Logue

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Darting Flame

Isaiah said, "A priest at Pelusium was holding a love feast: and when the brothers in church were eating and talking, he rebuked them saying, 'Be quiet, my brothers. There is one brother eating among you whose prayer is going up to God like a darting flame.'"

Saturday, May 16, 2009

All Eyes

When he was dying, Bessarion said, "A monk ought to be like the Cherubim and Seraphim, all eye."

~~Mandala, Mystical Green Eyes, by Paul Heussenstamm

Friday, May 15, 2009


Mark asked Arsenius, "It is right, isn't it, to have nothing unnecessary in one's cell? I saw a brother who had nothing but a few cabbages, and he was rooting them out."

Arsenius said, "It is right, but each should do what is right for his own way of life. If he is not strong enough to endure without the cabbages, he will plant them again."

~~Cabbages by Elizabeth Brandon

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Good Mourning

Once a brother in a community sinned. In the same region there was a hermit who had not gone out of his cell for a long time. The abbot of the community went to the hermit and told him of the monk's offense. The hermit said, "Expel him."

So, the monk was expelled from the community, and he flung himself into a ditch and wept. Some other monks happened to go by on their way to see Poemen, and they heard the sinful monk groaning in the ditch. They climbed down and found him despairing with grief and they asked him to go with them to see Poemen. He would not, saying, "I shall die here."

The brothers went to Poemen and told him about it. He asked them to go back to the monk and say, "Poemen wants you." They did what he said, and the monk came to Poemen. When he saw how the monk was suffering, Poemen got up and kissed him, and hospitably invited him to eat with him.

Meanwhile, Poemen sent one of his brothers to the hermit with this message, "I have heard of you and for many years I have wanted to meet you, but we were both too idle to arrange a meeting. But now, by God's will, let us take this chance; make the tiring journey so that we can meet." Poemen had a rule about not going out of his cell.

When the hermit heard the message, he said, "He would not have sent to me unless God had inspired him to do so." He got up and went.

They greeted each other gladly and sat down. Poemen said to him, "There were two men and they were each mourning for a dead man. But one left the dead man he was mourning for, and went to weep for the other's."

The old hermit was stricken when he heard this, and remembered what he had done. He said, "Poemen is in heaven. I am only on the earth."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

To And Fro

A brother asked Theodore of Pherme, "Is it a good idea for me to go without bread for several days?"

He said, "You would do well. I have sometimes done that."

The brother then said, "Maybe I should take a few peas to the mill and make some vegetable meal?"

Theodore replied, "If you go to the mill, why not make yourself some bread? There is no need to be carrying things to and fro."

~~The Mill by Rembrandt

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


They said about Theodore and Lucius from the town of Alexandria that for fifty years they strengthened themselves like this. They used to say, "When this winter is over, we will move from here." And in the summer they would say, "At the end of the summer let us go away."

Those renowned monks lived their whole life devotedly in this way.

~~photo by Frank Logue

Monday, May 11, 2009

Monks Live Here

It was said that a monk once came to the congregation at Cellia and went to see Isaac wearing a small hood.

Isaac rebuked him, saying, "This is where monks live. You are a man of the world, you cannot stay here."

~~St. Bishoy monastery in Wadi Natroun, Egypt

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Certain Death

Mathois used to say that a brother came and told him that the slanderer was worse than the fornicator. Mathois replied, "This is a hard saying."

Then the brother said to him, "What do you think about the matter?"

Mathois said, "Slander is bad, but it can be cured quickly; the slanderer can do penance and say, 'I have spoken wrongly,' and it is over. But lust is certain death."

~~From the illustration, Punishing the Lustful. Punishment in Hell for the deadly sin of lust is to be smothered in fire and brimstone.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

God is the Friend of Silence

They said of Agatho that for three years he kept a stone in his mouth in order to teach himself silence.

~~Nicholas Lochoff (d.1948) after Fra Angelico (Florentine, 1400?-1455)St. Peter Martyr Enjoining Silence. Original (after 1438)in the Cloister of San Marco, Florence Fresco

Friday, May 8, 2009

Lantern Light

Jacob said, "Like a lantern giving light in a dark little room, so the fear of God comes into a man's heart and enlightens it, and teaches him all that is good and the commandments of God."

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Temptress

Once when Arsenius was living in Canopus, a virgin, a very rich lady, and one that feared God, came from Rome hoping to see him. Theophilus the archbishop received her. She asked him to arrange with Arsenius for him to meet her.

Theophilus went to Arsenius and said, "A lady has come from Rome and she wants to see you." Arsenius refused to receive her.

When the lady heard this she gave orders for her camels to be saddled, and said, "I believe that with the help of God I will see him. In my city of Rome there are many people to see but I have come here in order to see saints."

When she reached the hermit's cell, by the providence of God he was standing outside it. When the lady saw him she fell at his feet. Arsenius helped her up with indignation and looking directly at her said, "If you want to see my face, look closely; here it is."

But, she was too ashamed to raise her eyes. Arsenius said to her, "Haven't you heard about my way of life? That is what you should be trying to see. Why have you dared to come all the way across the sea; you are a woman and ought not to be going about at all. Have you done this so that you can go back to Rome and say to other women, ' I have seen Arsenius'? In that way you will turn the sea into a highway with women coming to see me."

She said, "If by God's will I return to Rome, I will not let any other women come here. But pray for me and remember me always."

Arsenius replied, "I pray God that he will blot the memory of you from my heart."

When she heard that, she went away in distress. When she got back to Alexandria, she began in her sorrow to be ill of a fever. The archbishop was told that she was ill, and came to comfort her. He asked her what was the matter and she said, "I wish I had never come here. I said to Arsenius, 'remember me' and he said, 'I pray God that your memory may be blotted from my heart,' and now I am dying of sorrow."

Theophilus said to her, "Do you not realize that you are a woman, and the enemy uses women to attack holy men? That is why he said what he did. He prays for your soul all the time."

So, her worry was resolved, and she returned contentedly to her home.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Three Rules

They used to say about Theodore of Pherme that he kept these three rules before all others: poverty, abstinence, and avoiding the company of other people.

~~Photo by Victoria Logue

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

From the Mouth of God

One of the monks saw in a dream a company of angels coming down from heaven by the commandment of God, and one of them held in his hand a scroll that was written on the inside and on the outside, and the angels said to each other, "Who is fit to be entrusted with this?"

Then some of them mentioned one man, and others another, and others answered and said, "Indeed those you mention are holy and righteous, but not sufficiently so to be trusted with this thing."

After they had considered many names of the saints, they finally said, "No one is fit to be entrusted with this except Ephraim."

Then the hermit who was having this vision saw that they gave the scroll to Ephraim. When he got up in the morning he heard they were saying, "Ephraim is teaching and the words flow from his mouth like water from a fountain."

Then the hermit who had seen the vision realized that whatever Ephraim said came from the Holy Spirit.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Sleep With A Clear Conscience

Agatho said, "I tried never to go to sleep while I kept a grievance against anyone. Nor did I let anyone go to sleep while he had a grievance against me."

~~Photo of the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome by Frank Logue

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Offer Your Shirt Also

When Macarius was living in Egypt, one day he came across a man who had brought a donkey to his cell and was stealing his possessions. As though he was a passer-by who did not live there, he went up to the thief and helped him load the beast, and sent him peaceably on his way, saying to himself, "We brought nothing into this world (I Timothy 6:7) but the Lord gave; as He willed, so it is done: blessed be the Lord in all things."

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The Alphabet of the Peasant

Arsenius once asked an old Egyptian monk for advice about his temptations. Another monk who saw this said, "Arsenius, how is it that you, who are so learned in Greek and Latin, are asking that uneducated peasant about your temptations?"

Arsenius answered, "I have a lot of worldly knowledge of Greek and Latin but I have not yet been able to learn the alphabet of this peasant."

Friday, May 1, 2009


Once Mark's mother came to see him with many attendants. When the hermit went out to receive her, she said, "Abba, tell my son to come here to me, so that I can see him."

The hermit went to Mark's cell, and said to him, "Go on, your mother wants to see you."

Mark was dressed in a torn piece of sackcloth patched with rags, and his head and face were dirty from the smoke of the cooking fire. He came out obediently, but closed his eyes, and greeted his mother and her attendants, saying, "I hope you are well."

None of them, not even his mother, knew who he was. Again she sent a message to the hermit, saying, "Abba, send me my son, I want to see him."

He said to Mark, "Didn't I tell you to go and let your mother see you?"

Mark said to him, "I went as you said, abba. But please, don't give me that order again, for I am afraid of being disobedient to you."

The hermit went and said to his mother, "Your son is the man who came out and greeted you with 'I hope you are well.'" He comforted her, and sent her on her way.

~~Bronze Pokora / Humbleness, 1993, by Zoubek Olbramh.