Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Evagrius said, "A monk was told that his father had died. He said to the messenger, 'Do not blaspheme. My Father cannot die.'"

Monday, March 30, 2009

King of Righteousness

Daniel told the story of a hermit who used to live in the lower parts of Egypt, and who said in his simplicity that Melchizedek was the Son of God. Now, when the blessed man, Theophilus, the archbishop of Alexandria, heard of it, he sent a message asking that the monks bring this hermit to see him.

When Theophilus saw him, he realized this hermit was a man of vision and that everything that he asked for God had given him, and that he had only said this out of his simplicity.

The archbishop dealt with him wisely, in the following manner, saying, "Abba, pray to God for me, because I have begun to think that Melchizedek was the Son of God. And, it cannot be true, for the high priest of God was a man. But, because I had doubts in my mind about this, I sent for you to pray to God for me that he may reveal the truth of the matter to you."

Then, because the hermit had confidence in the power of prayer, he said firmly to the archbishop, "Wait three days, and I will ask God about this and then I shall be able to tell you who Melchizedek was."

So, the hermit went away and after three days, returned, and said to the blessed Archbishop Theophilus, Melchizedek was a man."

The Archbishop said to him, "How do you know that, abba?"

The hermit said, "God showed me all the Patriarchs, one by one, and they passed before me one after the other, from Adam to Melchizedek, and an angel said to me, 'This is Melchizedek.' That is indeed how the truth of this matter appeared to me."

The hermit went away and he, himself, proclaimed that Melchizedek was a man, and the blessed Theophilus rejoiced greatly.

"Melchizedek blesses Abraham" from The Story of the Bible by Charles Foster (Illustrations by F.B. Schell and others). Melchizedek is derived from the Hebrew Melech or king and Tzadiq or righteous.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Morning Star and Pillar of Light

Hilarion once came from Palestine to Antony on the mountain and Antony said to him, "Welcome morning star, for you rise at break of day."

Hilarion said, "Peace be to you, pillar of light, for you sustain the world."

Saturday, March 28, 2009

May It Be Well With You

John the Less of the Thebaid, a disciple of Ammon, was said to have lived for twelve years serving a hermit who was ill, sitting on a mat near him. But the hermit was always cross with him, and although John worked a long time for him, he never said, "May it be well with you."

But when the hermit was on his deathbed, in the presence of the brothers of the place, he held John's hand and said, "May it be well with you. May it be well with you."

The hermit commended John to the others, saying, "He is an angel, not a man."

~~Photo of "Doves" in Assisi by Frank Logue

Friday, March 27, 2009


Some demons once came neaer Arsenius in his cell, and they were troubling him. Then some brothers who usually ministered to him arrived. As they stood outside the cell, they heard him crying aloud to the Lord, "Lord, do not leave me, though I have done nothing good in your sight. Grant me, Lord, by your loving kindness, to make at least the first beginnings of good."

The Temptation of Saint Anthony by Grunewald; 1515. Panel from the Isenheim altarpiece: oil on wood; Musee d'Unterlinden, Colmar

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Virtue of Obedience

They said of John, the disciple of Paul, that he was full of the virtue of obedience. There was a tomb in which lived a dangerous lioness.

Paul saw the dung of the lioness lying around and said to John, "Go and fetch that dung."

John said to him, "What shall I do, abba, about the lioness?"

Paul said, as a joke, "If she comes at you, tie her up and bring her here."

So, John went there in the evening, and the lioness rushed at him. John obeyed Paul, and ran to catch her, so the lioness turned and fled. John chased her, shouting, "Wait! My abba told me to tie you up." He eventually caught her and tied her up.

Paul sat a long time waiting for him, and was getting very anxious because he was late. But at last John came, and brought the lioness with him, tied up. Paul marveled at the sight, but wanting to humble him, he beat him and said, "You fool, have you brought me that silly dog?" And he immediately untied the lioness and drove her away.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Commandments of God

In Scetis, there once went out an order that they should fast for a week, then celebrate Easter. During the week, some brothers happened to come into Egypt to visit Moses, and he cooked a little vegetable stew for them.

The nearby hermits saw the smoke, and said to the clergy of the church, "What is that smoke? Moses must be disobeying the order, and cooking in his cell."

The clergy said, "We will talk to him when he comes."

On Saturday, the clergy, who knew the greatness of his way of life, said to Moses in front of the entire congregation, "Moses, you have broken a commandment of men: but you have kept the commandments of God valiantly."

~~Photo of wheat in Tuscany by Frank Logue

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Evagrius said, "If your attention falters, pray. As it is written, pray in fear and trembling (cf. Phillipians 2:12), earnestly and watchfully. We ought to pray like that, especially because our unseen and wicked enemies are trying to hinder us forcefully."

~~Pray for Peace by Hiyalah Indiga

Monday, March 23, 2009

What do you think of me?

At first Ammoi said to Aesius, "What do you think of me?"

Aesius said, "You are like an angel, abba."

Later on, Ammoi asked again, "What do you think of me?"

Aesius replied, "You are like Satan, for even if you speak a good word, it is like a sword to me."

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Strongly Flowing Fountain

As a handful of sand thrown into the ocean, so are the sins of all flesh as compared with the mind of God. Just as a strongly flowing fountain is not blocked by a handful of earth, so the compassion of the Creator is not overcome by the wickedness of his creatures. As the flame of a fire cannot be prevented from ascending upwards, so the prayers of the compassionate cannot be held back from ascending into heaven.

~ Isaac of Syria

~~Photo of fountain near the Parthenon in Rome, Italy, by Frank Logue

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Inner Conflict

Antony said, "God does not let inner conflicts be stirred up in this generation, because he knows they are too weak to bear it."

~~Acrylic, Conflict, by Goyce Kakegamic, 2006

Friday, March 20, 2009

Mister Sandman

In Scetis a brother was once found guilty. They assembled the brothers, and sent a message to Moses telling him to come. But he would not come. Then the presbyter sent again, saying, "Come, for the gathering of monks is waiting for you."

Moses got up and went . He took with him an old basket, which he filled with sand and carried on his back. They went to meet him and said, "What does this mean, abba?"

He said, "My sins run out behind me and I do not see them and I have come here today to judge another."

They listened to him and said no more to the brother who had sinned but forgave him."

~~From the oil-painting, The Sandman, by Maxfield Parrish, owned by Michael M. Van Beuren.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Whitewashed Tomb

Archbishop John had a disciple named Eulogius. Eulogius was a presbyter and he used to fast for two days at a time, and sometimes ate nothing but bread and salt for a whole week, so he had a great reputation.

He went to see Joseph at Panephysis because he believed he would find more demanding discipline under him. Joseph welcomed him, and of his charity made ready what he had for them to eat. But the disciples of Eulogius said, "The presbyter only eats bread and salt."

Joseph began to eat without comment. The visitors spent three days in silence, and they did not even hear the sound of psalms or prayers, for the disciples of Joseph were saying the office in private.

Finally, Eulogius and his disciples went away, not edified. But, by the providence of God, a mist came over the plain and they wandered in circles and by mistake they came back to Joseph's cell. Before they knocked on the door, they heard the singing of psalms going on inside and they waited a long time outside listening.

Then they knocked on the door, and Joseph welcomed them again. Eulogius was thirsty and his disciples picked up a jug of water and gave it to him to drink. But the jug contained salt water mixed with fresh water and he could not drink it. When Eulogius had thought about this he began to ask Joseph to show him his way of life, saying, "How is it, abba, that at first you didn't sing any psalms but began after we had gone away? And why was the water salt when I tried to drink it?"

Joseph replied, "My disciple is away at work and I made a mistake and put salt in the water jug."

But Eulogius went on asking him, wanting to know the truth. So Joseph told him the truth, "That little cup is for the wine that we use in charity when we have guests. This is for the water that the brethren drink every day."

With these words, he taught him to have discretion, and cleansed him from merely human motivation. So Eulogius became like other people, and in future ate what was put before him. He learnt to be severe only in secret, and said to Joseph, "Indeed your work is a work of love."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


A hermit who was anxious went to Theodore of Pherme and told him all about it.

Theodore said to him, "Humble yourself, put yourself in subjection, go live with others."

So the hermit went to a mountain, and there lived with a community. Later, he returned to Theodore and said, "Not even when I lived with other men did I find rest."

Theodore replied, "If you're not at rest as a hermit, nor when you're in a community, why did you want to be a monk? Wasn't it in order to suffer? Tell me, how many years have you been a monk?"

He said, "Eight."

Theodore said, "Believe me, I've been a monk for seventy years, and I've not been able to get a single day's peace. Do you expect to have peace after only eight years?"

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Let Us Go Hence

They told this story about Agatho. He and his disciples spent a long time building his cell. When they finished it he lived in it, but in the first week he saw a vision which seemed harmful to him. So he said to his disciples what the Lord said to his apostles, "Rise, let us go hence" (John 14:31).

But the disciples were exasperated and said, "If you meant the whole time to move from here, why did we have to work so hard and spend so long in building you a cell? People will begin to be shocked by us and say: 'Look they are moving again, they are restless and never settle.'"

When Agatho saw that they were afraid of what people would say, he said, "Although some may be shocked, there are others who will be edified and say, 'Blessed are they, for they have moved their abode for God's sake, and left all their property freely.' Whoever wants to come with me, let him come; I am going anyway."

They bowed down on the ground before him, and begged to be allowed to go with him.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bruised Reed

There once was a brother who was very eager to seek goodness. Being very disturbed by the demon of lust, he came to a hermit and told him about his thoughts. The hermit was inexperienced and when he heard all this, he was shocked, and said he was a wicked brother, unworthy of his monk's habit because he had thoughts like that.

When the brother heard this, he despaired, left his cell and started on his way back to the world. But, by God's providence, Apollo met him. Seeing he was so upset and sad, he said to him, "Son, why are you so unhappy?"

The brother was very embarrassed, and at first said nothing. But when Apollo pressed him to say what was happening to him, he admitted everything and said, "It is because lustful thoughts trouble me. I confessed them to that hermit, and he says I now have no hope of salvation. So I have despaired, and am on my way back to the world."

When Apollo heard this, he went on asking questions like a wise doctor, and gave him this counsel, "Do not be cast down, son, nor despair of yourself. Even at my age and with my experience and with my experience of the spiritual life, I am still troubled with thoughts like yours. Do not fail now; this trouble cannot be cured with our efforts, but only by God's mercy. Do as I say and go back to your cell."

The brother did so. Then Apollo went to the cell of the hermit who had made the brother despair. He stood outside the cell, and prayed to the Lord with tears, saying "Lord, you permit men to be tempted for their good; transfer the war that brother is suffering to this hermit: let him learn by experience in his old age what many years have not taught him, and so let him find out how to sympathize with people undergoing this kind of temptation."

As soon as he ended his prayer, he saw a man standing by the cell firing arrows at the hermit. As though he had been wounded, the hermit began to totter and lurch like a drunken man. When he could bear it no longer, he came out of his cell, and set out on the same road by which the young man had started to return to the world.

Apollo understood what had happened, and went to meet him. He came up to him and said, "Where are you going? Why are you so upset?"

When the hermit saw that the holy Apollo understood what had happened, he was ashamed and said nothing.

Apollo said to him, "Go back to your cell and see in others your own weakness and keep your own heart in order. For either you were ignorant of the devil in spite of your age, or you were contemptuous, and did not deserve to gain strength by struggling with the devil as all other men must. But struggle is not the right word, when you could not stand up to his attack for one day. This has happened to you because of the young monk. He came to you because he was being attacked by the common enemy of us all. You ought to have given him words of consolation to help him against the devil's attack but instead you drove him to despair. You did not remember the wise man's saying, which orders us to deliver the men who are drawn towards death, and not to cease to redeem men ready to be killed. You did not remember our Savior's parable, 'You should not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax' (Matthew 12:20). No one can endure the enemy's clever attacks, nor quench, nor control the leaping fire natural to the body, unless God's grace preserves us in our weakness. In all our prayers we should ask for His mercy to save us, so that he may turn aside this scourge which is aimed even at you. For he makes a man to grieve, then lifts him up to salvation he strikes, and his hand heals; he humbles and exalts; he gives death and then life; he leads to hell and brings back from hell (I Samuel 2:6).

So Apollo prayed again, and at once the hermit was set free from his inner war. Apollo urged him to ask God to give him a wise heart, in order to know how best to speak.

~~Watercolor, Reed Reflections, by Jean Accola

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Daniel said of Aresenius, "All the years he lived near us, we gave him the minimum amount of food to last each year, and every time we went to visit him, he shared it with us."

~~photo by Frank Logue

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Judgment Day

Elias said, "I fear three things: the first, the time before my soul leaves my body; the second, the time before I meet God face to face; the third, the time before he pronounces his sentence upon me."

~~Painting of Christ at Judgment Day from the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C.

Friday, March 13, 2009

An Open Door

Archbishop Theophilus of blessed memory once came with a certain judge to see Arsenius. The archbishop questioned Arsenius, wanting to hear some wisdom from him.

For a while, the hermit was silent, and then he replied, "If I tell you something, will you do it?"

They promised that they would so he said to them, "Wherever you hear Arsenius is, do not go there."

Another time the archbishop wanted to see him, and sent a message first to ask if he would open the door to him.

Arsenius sent a message back, saying, "If you come here, I will open the door to you. But if I have opened the door to you, I must open it to all, and then I shall no longer be able to live here."

When he heard this, the archbishop said, "Since my visit upsets him, I will not go to see the holy man again."

~~The Open Door, Salt print from a calotype negative, April 1844 by William Henry Fox Talbot

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Gregory said, "God asks three things of anyone who is baptized: to keep the true faith with all his soul and all his might; to control his tongue; to be chaste in his body."

~~ Painting, Baptism, by He Qi

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Saint Isaac the Syrian said, "Meditation on the scriptures teaches the soul to discourse with God."

~~Painting, Meditation, by Goro Fujita, 2005

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Solitary Life

Amma Matrona said, "Many people living secluded lives on the mountain have perished by living like people in the world. It is better to live in a crowd and want to live a solitary life than to live a solitary life but all the time be longing for company."

~~photo by Victoria Logue

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Body of Christ

Daniel the disciple of Arsenius used to talk about a hermit is Skete, saying that he was a great man but simple in faith, and in his ignorance he thought and said that the bread which we receive is not in very truth the Body of Christ, but a symbol of His Body.

Two of the monks heard what he said but because of his sublime works and labors, they imagined that he said it in innocence and simple-mindedness; and so they came to him and said unto him, "Abba, someone told us something that we do not believe; he said that this bread that we receive is not in very truth the Body of Christ, but a mere symbol."

He said to them, " I said that."

They begged him, saying, "You mustn't say that, abba; according to what the Catholic Church has handed down to us, even so do we believe, that is to say, this bread is the Body of Christ in very truth, and is not a mere symbol. It is the same as when God took dust from the earth, and made man in His image; just as no one can say that he is not the image of God, so also with the bread of which He said, 'This is My Body' is not to be regarded as a merely commemorative thing; we believe that it is indeed the Body of Christ."

The hermit said, "Unless I can be convinced by the thing itself I will not listen to this."
Then the monks said to him, "Let us pray to God all week about this mystery, and we believe He will reveal the truth to us."

The hermit agreed to this with great joy, and each went to his cell. Then the hermit prayed, saying, "O Lord, you know that it is not out of wickedness that I do not believe, so in order that I may not go astray through ignorance, reveal to me, Lord Jesus Christ, the truth of this mystery."

The other two brothers prayed to God and said, "Lord Jesus Christ, give this hermit understanding about this mystery, and we believe that he will not be lost." God heard the prayer of the two monks.

When the week was over they came to the church and the three of them sat down by themselves on one seat, the hermit between the other two. The eyes of their understanding were opened, and when the time of the mysteries arrived, and the bread was laid upon the holy table, there appeared to the three of them as it were a child on the table.

Then the priest stretched out his hand to break the bread, and behold the angel of the Lord came down from heaven with a knife in his hand, and he killed the child and pressed out his blood into the cup. When the priest broke off from the bread small pieces, the hermit went forward to receive communion and a piece of living flesh smeared and dripping with blood was given to him.

Now when he saw this he was afraid and he cried out loudly, saying "Lord, I believe the bread is Your Body, and that the cup is Your Blood."

At once, the flesh that was in his hand became bread, and he took it and gave thanks to God.

The brothers said to him, "God knows the nature of men, and that we are unable to eat living flesh, and so He turneth His Body into bread, and His Blood into wine for those who receive Him in faith."

Then they gave thanks to God for the hermit, because He had not let Satan destroy him, and the three of them went back to their cells joyfully.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Love God

Amoun of Nitria came to Antony, and said to him, "I see that I have more to suffer than you; how is it that your reputation among men is greater than mine?"

Antony said, "It is because I love God more than you do."

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Cup of Poison

The brothers surrounded John the Short when he was sitting in front of the church, and each of them asked him about their thoughts. When he saw this, another hermit was jealous, and said, "John, your cup is full of poison."

John answered, "Yes, abba it is. But you said that when you could only see the outside; I wonder what you would say if you saw the inside."

~~St. John the Evangelist with the Poisoned Cup by Alonso Cano

Friday, March 6, 2009

Holy Scripture

Once some brothers came to visit Antony, and Joseph was with them. Antony, wanting to test them, began to speak about holy Scripture. He asked the younger monks first the meaning of text after text, and each of them answered as well as he could.

To each he said, "You have not yet found the right answer."

Then he said to Joseph, "What do you think is the meaning of this word?"

He replied, "I don't know."

Antony said, "Indeed Joseph alone has found the true way, for he said he did not know."

~~ The text reads: The Byble, that is to say all the holy Scripture: in whych are contayned the Olde and New Testamente truly and purely translated ino English London: imprynted by Jhon Daye and William Seres, 1549

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Fruit of Obedience

They told this story of John the Short. He went to live with a hermit from Thebaid, who was living in the desert of Skete. His abba once took a dead stick and planted it, and told him, "Pour a jug of water over its base every day until it bears fruit."

Water was so far from their cell that John had to go off every evening to fetch it and it was dawn before he returned. At the end of three years the stick turned green, and bore fruit.

The hermit picked some of the fruit and took it to church, and said to the brothers, "Take and eat of the fruit of obedience."

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Wedding Feast

Cassian said, We came from Palestine to Egypt, and visited one of the hermits. After he had welcomed us, we asked him, "When you receive guests, why don't you fast? In Palestine they do."

He answered, "Fasting is always possible but I cannot keep you here forever. Fasting is useful and necessary, but we can choose to fast or not fast. God's law demands from us perfect love. I receive Christ when I receive you, so I must do all I can to show you love. When I have said goodbye to you, I can take up my rule of fasting again. 'The sons of the bridegroom cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them; when he is taken from them, then they can fast' (Matthew 9:15)."

~~A still from one of my favorite films, which portrays a story of an amazing gift of hospitality, Babette's Feast.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Doulas' Tales of Bessarion

BessarionDoulas, the disciple of Bessarion, said, "I once went into the cell of my abba, and found him standing up, praying, with his hands outstretched to heaven. He stayed like that for fourteen days.

At the end he called me and said, "Come with me."

We went out and went through the desert. I grew thirsty, and said to him, "Abba, I am thirsty." He took off his cloak and went a stone's throw away; he prayed and brought me the cloak full of water.

We went to the city of Lycus, and visited John, and greeted him and prayed. Then they sat down and began to talk about a vision that they had seen. Bessarion said, "The Lord has commanded the destruction of the pagan temples."

So, it was done and they were destroyed.

~~Sometimes called Bessarion the Great or Bessarion the Wonder Worker, Saint Bessarion (circa 4th Century) was an Egyptian who became a monk at Skete under Anthony of Egypt. Bes, as he is also known, was later a disciple of Macarius the Great. Before founding his own monastery, Bessarion wandered among the cells of Skete. He is said to have kept vigil 40 nights in a row and to have slept sitting or standing for 40 years. He is also said to have had a vision of Theophilus of Alexandria destroying the pagan temples and to have changed salt water into fresh without aid of scientific equipment. His disciple, Doulas, whose name means slave, recorded the stories and sayings of Bessarion.

Monday, March 2, 2009

For the Soul's Good

They say of Ammoi that when he went to church, he did not let his disciple walk beside him, but made him follow a long way behind. If the disciple came near to ask him something, he gave him a brief answer and sent him back at once, saying, "I'm afraid that while we are talking for the soul's good, some irrelevant words will be spoken; that is why I don't let you walk by my side."

~~Icon of a monk by Ann Lang

Sunday, March 1, 2009


A brother said to Antony, "Pray for me."

He answered, "Neither I nor God will have mercy on you unless you do something about it yourself and ask God's help."

~~Photograph, Prayer, by Mark Kitaoka, June 20, 2006, Moments of Humanity Series