Wednesday, September 30, 2009

All the World's a Stage

Athanasius of holy memory asked Pambo to come down from the desert to Alexandria. When Pambo arrived, he saw a woman that was an actress, and he wept.

The bystanders asked him why he wept.

He said, "Two things grieved me. The first was her condemnation; the second, that I take less trouble pleasing God than she takes about pleasing the worst of mankind."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Solitary Life

Matrona said, "Many solitaries living in the desert have been lost because they lived like people in the world. It is better to live in a crowd and want to live a solitary life than to live in solitude and be longing all the time for company.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Three Works of the Soul

Poemen said, "To be on guard, to meditate within, to judge with discernment: these are the three works of the soul."

~~Neshema/Soul by Jeffrey Schrier

Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Multitude of Angels

It happened that Moses, who lived in Petra, was struggling with the temptation to fornication. Unable stay any longer in the cell, he went and told Isidore about it. He advised him to return to his cell. But he refused, saying, "Abba, I cannot."

Then Isidore took Moses out onto the terrace and said to him, "Look towards the west."

He looked and saw hordes of demons standing about and making a noise before launching an attack.

Then Isidore said to him, "Look towards the east."

He turned and saw an innumerable multitude of holy angels shining with glory. Isidore said, "See, these are sent by the Lord to the saints to bring them help, while those in the west fight against them. Those who are with us are more in number than they are against us" (cf. Kings 6:16).

So Moses gave thanks to God, plucked up courage and returned to his cell.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

For God's Sake

Paphnutius is said to have seldom drunk wine but once on a journey he came upon a meeting place of robbers while they were drinking. The chief of the robber band recognized him and knew that he would no drink wine, but he saw that he was tired out.

So, he filled a cup with wine, held a naked sword in his other hand, and said, "If you don't drink, I'll kill you."

Paphnutius knew that the robber chieftain was trying to obey the commandment of God: and in his desire to help him, he took the cup and drank.

Then the robber chief did penance before him, and said, "I'm sorry, abba, that I grieved you."

The hermit said to him, "I believe that because of this cup my God will have mercy upon you in this world and the next."

The robber chieftain replied, "I believe in God and from now on I'll harm no one."

The hermit won over the whole band of robbers, because for God's sake he let himself fall into their power.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Bearing Temptation

Some brothers came to a holy hermit who lived in the desert and outside the hermitage they found a boy tending the sheep and using uncouth words.

After they had told the hermits their thoughts and profited from his reply, they said, "Abba, why do you allow those boys to be here, and why don't you order them to stop hurling abuse at each other?"

He said, "Indeed, my brothers, there are days when I want to order them to stop it, but I hold myself back, saying, if I can't put up with this little thing, how shall I put up with serious temptation, if God ever lets me be so tempted? So, I say nothing to them, and try to get into the habit of bearing whatever happens."

~~Young shepherds with their flock by Robert Eberle.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Once Epiphanius the bishop from Cyprus sent a message to Hilarion, and asked him, "Come, let me see you before I die."

When they had met and greeted each other, part of a chicken was set before them. The bishop took it and gave it to Hilarion. The hermit said to him, "No, thank you, abba. From the time I took the habit, I have not eaten anything that has been killed."

Epiphanius said to him, "From the time I took the habit, I have let no one go to sleep who still had something against me, and I have never gone to sleep with an enemy in the world."

Hilarion said to him, "I beg your pardon. Your devotion is greater than mine."

~~Devotion II by Poon Tai To

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Austerity of the Desert

There was a bishop of the city of Oxyrhynchus called Affy. They said that while he was a monk, he treated his body very severely. When he became a bishop, he wanted to continue in his city the austerities that he had practiced in the desert, but he could not.

So, he fell prostrate before God and said, "Do you think, my Lord, that your grace has left me because I have become a bishop?"

He was answered, "No, but in the desert you had no man to help you, and God alone sustained you. Now you are in the world, and have men to help you."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sincere Obedience

The hermits used to say, "From those who have not long been converted to monastic life, God demands nothing so much as sincere obedience."

Monday, September 21, 2009

Pray Earnestly

A hermit once visited Mount Sinai. When he was going away, a brother met him, and groaned, saying, "Abba, we are afflicted by drought. There has been no rain."

The hermit said, "Why don't you pray and ask God for it?"

He replied, "We've been praying and asking God constantly, and still there is no rain."

The hermit said, "I don't think you are praying earnestly enough. Shall we see whether that is the case? Let us stand and pray together." He stretched out his hands to heaven and prayed; and at once rain fell.

The brother was afraid at the sight, and fell down and worshiped him. But the hermit fled from that place.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Contemplation of God

They said of John the Short that he once made enough rope for two baskets, and twisted it all into one basket, but he did not see what he was doing until he tried to hang it up, for his mind was occupied in the contemplation of God.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Theodore said, "Many choose the repose of this world before God gives them His rest."

~~Glen of Repose by Nanette Oleson

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Grace of God

Two brothers in a community lived a holy life, and had made such progress that they could see the grace of God in each other. It happened that one of them went out of the monastery on a Friday morning and saw a man eating. He said to him, "Why are you eating at this hour on a Friday?"

On Saturday, the usual celebration of mass was held. His brother saw that the grace which had been given the other had left him, and he was distressed. He went to his cell and said, "What have you done, brother? I do not see the grace of God in you as I used to."

He said, "I am not aware of having sinned, either in deed or in thought."

His brother said, "Did you say an unnecessary word to someone?"

Then he remembered, and said, "Yes. Yesterday I saw someone eating food in the morning, and I said to him, 'Are you eating at this hour on a Friday?' That is my sin. Do penance with me a fortnight and we will beg God to forgive me."

They did so. After a fortnight the brother saw the grace of God again coming upon his brother and they were comforted and gave thanks to God who alone is good."

Thursday, September 17, 2009


A provincial judge once wanted to see Poemen and he would not allow it. So the judge arrested Poemen's nephew as if he were a criminal and imprisoned him, saying, "I will release him when Poemen comes to ask about him."

The boy's mother came to her brother, Poemen, and began to weep outside the door to his cell. Bitterly unhappy, she began to reproach him, saying, "You may have a heart of steel, you may be pitiless, but at least have some mercy on your kin and relent."

But her told her, "Poemen is not a father of children." So she went away.

When the judge heard this, he sent a messenger to say, "You have only to ask and I will release him."

Poemen sent back this message, "Try his case legally. If he ought to die, let him die. If he is innocent, do as you say."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Genuine Monk

Poemen said, "The character of the genuine monk only appears when he is tempted."

~~St. Paul the Hermit by Mattia Preti

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Burying Place

A brother asked Poemen, "What should I do?"

He said, "When Abraham entered the land of promise, he built himself a grave, and bought the land as a burying place for posterity."

The brother said to him, "What is this burying place?

Poemen said, "A place of weeping and sorrow."

~~Photo by Frank Logue

Monday, September 14, 2009

When Two or Three are Gathered . . .

A brother was attacked by lust. He began to struggle and to fast more, and for fourteen years guarded himself against this temptation and did not give into it. After that, he went to the community and told them all what he was suffering. A decree was made, and for a week they all fasted on his behalf, praying to God continually; and so his temptation ceased.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cut Away Bodily Pleasure

Evagrius quoted a hermit as saying, "I cut away bodily pleasure in order to get rid of occasions for anger. I know that it is because of pleasure that I have to struggle with anger, my mind being disturbed, and my understanding dissolved."

~~Final Entry by F. Rassouli

Saturday, September 12, 2009


One of the holy men named Philagrius lived in Jerusalem and worked hard to earn himself enough to eat. When he was standing in the market square trying to sell what he had made, a bag containing a great many coins fell on the ground near him by accident.

Philagrius found it, and stood there thinking, "The one who lost this must soon come back." Shortly thereafter, the man who had lost it did come back, very gloomy. So Philagrius took him aside and gave him back his bag.

The owner wanted to give him some of the money, but the hermit would not take anything. Then the owner began to call out, "Come and see what the man of God has done." But Philagrius escaped unnoticed, and went out of the town, so they should not know what he had done, nor pay him honor.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Flee From the Body

Poemen said, "The beginning of evil is to diversify the mind."

He also said, "It is good to flee from the things of the body. When a man is engaged in conflict about the body, he is like a man standing on the edge of a very deep pool, into which his enemy can knock him the moment he sees him. But, when he has put aside bodily things, he is like a man standing a long way from the pool, where, if the enemy drags him along to throw him in, God will help him while he is being dragged there."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Let Your Heart Be At Peace

A brother asked a hermit, "Tell me somethng good that I may do it and live by it."

The hermit said, "God alone knows what is good. But I have heard that one of the hermits asked the great Nisteros, who was a friend of Antony, 'What good work shall I do?' and he replied, 'Surely all works please God equally? Scripture says, Abraham was hospitable and God was with him; Elijah loved quiet and God was with him; David was humble and God was with him.' So whatever you find you are drawn to in following God's will, do it and let your heart be at peace."

~~photo by Victoria Logue

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Nature of Water

John said, "One day we went into Syria to see Poemen for we wanted to ask him about hardness of heart. But he did not know Greek and we did not have an interpreter. When he saw we were embarrassed, he began to speak in Greek, saying, 'The nature of water is soft, the nature of stone is hard; but if a bottle is hung above a stone letting the water drip down, it wears away the stone. It is like that with the word of God; it is soft and our heart is hard, but if a man hears the word of God often, it will break open his heart to the fear of God.'"

~~Image of Antelope Canyon by E.J. Peiker

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Matthew 5:41

One of the fathers said, "If anyone asks you for something and you give it to him, even if you are forced to give it, let your heart go with the gift, as it is written, 'If a man forces you to go with him one mile, go with him two' (Matthew 5:41). This means that if you are asked for anything, give it with a willing heart."

Monday, September 7, 2009

Luke 6:27-31

Some robbers once came to a hermitage and said, "We've come to take everything out of your cell."

The hermit said, "Take whatever you see, my sons." So they took what they found in the cell, and went away. But they missed a little bag that was hidden in the cell. The hermit picked it up and ran after them, shouting, "My sons, you missed this, take it."

They were amazed at his patience and restored everything, and did penance to him. They said to each other, "Truly this is a man of God."

~~Robin Hood and the Men of the Greenwood, illustration by N.C. Wyeth, 1917

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Fool

They say of Ammon that some people asked him to arbitrate in their quarrel but the hermit took no notice of them. So, a woman said to her neighbor, "What a fool this hermit is!"

Ammon heard her; and called her, and said, "You can't imagine how hard I have tried in different deserts to be thought of as a fool! But now that you have recognized that it is part of my nature to be foolish, you have made all my efforts to pretend to folly pointless."

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Obey Scripture

The hermits used to say, "God demands this of Christians: to obey the inspired Scriptures, which contain the pattern of what they must say and do, and agree with the teaching of the orthodox bishops and teachers."

Friday, September 4, 2009

Losing the Reward

One of the hermits said, "There are some who do good, yet the devil insinuates a mean spirit into them, so that they lose the reward of all the good they do. Once when I was living in Oxyrhynchus with a priest who was generous in almsgiving, a widow came to ask him for a little barley."

He said to her, "Go and fetch some, and I will weigh it for you."

She brought him some. But when he weighed the measure she had taken, he said, "It is too much," and so he made the widow ashamed.

After she had gone, I said, "Priest, did you lend barley to that widow, or what?"

He said, "No, I gave it to her."

So, I said, "If you wanted to make her a gift, why were you so exact about the measure that you made her ashamed?"

~~The Widow's Mite by John Everett Millais, 1870.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Cleanse Yourself of Harmful Thoughts

One of the hermits said, "No one can see his face reflected in muddy water; so the soul cannot pray to God with contemplation unless it is first cleansed of harmful thoughts."

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Growing in the Holy Spirit

Some of the brothers once came to test John the Short, to see if it was true that he never let his mind wander among earthly thoughts, and never spoke about worldly matters.

They said to him, "Thanks be to God, it has rained hard this year, and the palm trees have had enough water to begin to grow; the brothers who are the harvesters will find fruit from their hard work."

John said to them, "So it is when the Holy Spirit comes down into the hearts of good men. They grow green and fresh, and in the fear of God put forth leaves."

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Man is Like a Tree

Agatho was asked, "Which is more difficult, bodily discipline or guard over the inner self?"

He said, "Man is like a tree. His bodily discipline is like the leaves of a tree, his guard over the inner self is like the fruit. Scripture says that 'every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire' (Matthew 3:10). So, we ought to take every precaution about guarding the mind, because that is our fruit. Yet we need to be covered and beautiful with leaves, which is bodily discipline."

Agatho was wise in understanding, earnest in discipline, armed at all points, careful about keeping up his manual work, sparing in food and clothing.