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

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Hour of his Death

They used to say of Pambo that in the hour of his death he said to the holy men standing round, "From the time that I came into this solitude, and built my cell and lived in it, I do not remember having eaten anything I have not worked for. I have not said anything that I regretted saying. But still I go to the Lord, as one who has not yet made a beginning in the service of God."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Purify Your Heart

A brother asked Poemen about the words, "Do not render evil for evil" (I Thessalonians 5:15).

He said to him, "The passions work in four stages: first in the heart, then in the face, third in words, fourth in deeds -- and it is in deeds that it is essential not to render evil for evil. If you purify your heart, passion will not show in your expression, but if it does, take care not to speak about it; if you do speak, cut the conversation short in case you render evil for evil."

~~Pure Heart by Lisa Rough

Monday, November 9, 2009

Love One Another

A hermit was asked, "How is it that some struggle in their religious life, but do not receive grace like our predecessors?"

He replied, "Because then love was the rule, and each one drew his neighbor upward. Now love is growing cold, and each of us draws his neighbor downward, and so we do not deserve grace."

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Remain Patient

One of the hermits said that he had heard holy men say that there are young men who show old men how to live and they told this story.

There was a drunken old hermit, who wove a mat a day, sold it in the next village, and drank as much as he could buy with the money. Then a young monk came to live with him, and he also wove a mat a day.

The old hermit took this mat as well, sold it, bought the wine with the price of both, and brought back to the monk only a little bread for the evening meal. This went on for three years and the brother said nothing.

At the end of three years the monk said to himself, "I have very little bread here and nothing else, I will go away." But then he had second thoughts, and said to himself, "Where can I go? I will stay here, and for God's sake continue with this communal life."

Immediately an angel of the Lord appeared to him, and said, "Don't go away, we shall come for you tomorrow."

That day the monk begged the old hermit, "Don't go out, today they will come to take me away."

At the the time when the old hermit usually went out to the village, he said to the monk, "They won't come today, my son, it's late already."

The monk used every argument to show that they would come and even while he was talking, he died in peace.

The old hermit wept, and said, "I'm filled with grief, my son; I have lived negligently for so many years, and you through patience have saved your soul in so short a time." Thereafter the old hermit became sober and serious.

~~Patience by Karina Gherbst

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Nodding Off

Cassian told a story of a hermit who was living in the desert. He asked God to grant that he should never fall asleep when the conversation was edifying but that if anyone spoke with back-biting or hate, he should nod off at once so that he would not hear poisonous words.

He said that the devil strives hard to make men speak idle words, and fights against letting anyone hear any spiritual teaching.

He gave the following example of this: Once when I was talking to some brothers for the good of their souls they became so drowsy that they could not even keep their eyelids open. I wanted to show them that this is the devil's work, so I started gossiping: and at once they sat up and began to enjoy what I was saying.

But I said, sadly, "We were talking of heaven just now, and your eyes were closing in slumber: but the moment the talk became frivolous, you all began to listen eagerly. I beg you then, dear brothers, since you know that this is the work of the devil, be watchful and beware of falling asleep when you are hearing about spiritual things."

Friday, November 6, 2009


Once a magistrate came to see Simon and the clergy who went on ahead said to him, "Abba, get ready, for the judge has heard of you and is coming to be blessed by you."

So, Simon covered himself with sackcloth and took bread and cheese in his hand, and sat down in his doorway and began to eat it.

The magistrate arrived with his retinue. When they saw Simon they despised him and said, "Is this the hermit about whom we heard such great things?" They turned around and went straight home.

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Some Greeks once came to give alms in the city of Ostrancinus: and they asked the stewards of the church to show them who was in the most need. The stewards led them to a leper to whom they offered money.

But he did not want it, and said, "Look here, I have a few palm leaves to work, and I plait them, and so I get enough to eat."

Then the stewards took them to the house of a widow who lived with her daughters. When they knocked on the door, one of the daughters ran to open it although she was naked. Her mother had gone out to work as a laundress. They offered the daughter clothing and money.

But she refused to accept it, and said that her mother had told her, "Trust in God's will. Today I have found work to supply us with enough to live on."

When the mother came back, they asked her to accept alms but she refused and said, "I have my God to care for me. Do you want to take him away from me now?"

They realized her faith, and glorified God.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Face the Wind

Amma Syncletica said, "Those in the world who commit crimes are thrown into prison against their will. For our sins, let us put ourselves under guard, and by willingly accepting it now we shall avoid punishment in the future.

"If you fast, you should beware of thinking that it is by weakening your body that you have fallen ill, for people who do not fast fall ill in the same way.

"If you have begun some good work, you should not be turned from it by the enemy's attempts to hinder you, indeed your endurance will overthrow the enemy.

"Sailors beginning a voyage set the sails and look for a favorable wind, and later they meet a contrary wind. Just because the wind has turned, they do not throw the cargo overboard or abandon ship; they wait a while and struggle against the storm until they can set a direct course again.

"When we run into headwinds, let us put up the cross for our sail, and we shall voyage through the world in safety."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Night Watch

Theodore said, "The monk's body grows weak if he only eats a little bread." But someone else said, "It grows weaker still if he keeps watch at night."

Monday, November 2, 2009

Obey God's Word

The brothers went to Felix, who had with him some secular visitors, and they asked him to give them a word. But he said nothing. When they went on asking, he said to them, "Do you want to hear a word?"

They replied, "Yes, abba."

So he said, "I have no word for you now. When an elder is asked to speak, and the brothers do what he tells them, God gives the elder something to say. But now there are brothers who ask for a word, but do not obey the word they hear and then God takes away His grace from the elder, and he has nothing to say, for He who gives it is not there."

When the brothers heard this, they groaned and said, "Pray for us, abba."

~~Message Sent Pray For Us by Michael Bacol

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Murky Water

This story was told: There were three friends, serious men, who became monks. One of them chose to make peace between men who were at odds, as it is written, "Blessed are the peacemakers" (Matthew 5:9).

The second chose to visit the sick. The third chose to go away to be quiet in solitude.

Now the first, toiling among contentions, was not able to settle all quarrels and, overcome with weariness, he went to him who tended the sick, and found him failing in spirit and unable to carry out his purpose. So the two went away to see him who had withdrawn into the desert, and they told him their troubles. They asked him to tell them how he himself had fared.

He was silent for awhile, and then poured water into a vessel and said, "Look at the water," and it was murky. After a little while he said again, "See now, how clear the water has become."

As they looked into the water they saw their own faces, as in a mirror. Then he said to them, "So it is with anyone who lives in a crowd; because of the turbulence, he does not see his sins: but when he has been quiet, above al in solitude, then he recognizes his own faults."