Thursday, April 30, 2009

Reap What You Sow

A brother said to Poemen, "If I give my brother something, for instance a piece of bread, the demons made the gift worthless by making me think that it was done to please men."

Poemen said to him, "Even if it is done to please men, we still ought to give our brothers what they need." Then he told him this parable:

"In a town there were two farmers. One of them sowed seed, and gathered a poor harvest; the other was idle and did not sow, and had no harvest to gather. If famine came, which of them would survive?"

The brother answered, "The one who sowed seed, even if the harvest was poor."

"It is the same for us," said Poemen. "We sow a few seeds, and they are poor, but in the time of famine we shall not die."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pray Without Ceasing

Bishop Epiphanius of Cyprus, of holy memory, was told this by the abbot of his monastery in Palestine:

"By your prayers we have our rule; we carefully observe the offices of terce, sext, none and vespers."

But Epiphanius rebuked him and said, "Then you are failing to pray at other times. The true monk ought to pray without ceasing (I Thessalonians 5:17). He should always be singing psalms in his heart."

~~ Illustration from A Child's Book of Saints (1898) by William Canton (1845-1926)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Allois said, "If you really want to, by the evening of one day you can reach a measure of godliness."

~~Photo of Sunset in Todi, Italy, by Frank Logue

Monday, April 27, 2009


Arsenius of blessed memory said, "A monk living in a place that is not his native country will never be half-hearted, and so will be at peace."

~~Half-Hearted, acrylic by Greg Johnson

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sin and Guilt

A brother said to Poemen, "If I see my brother sin is it really right not to tell anyone about it?"

Poemen answered, "When we cover our brother's sin, God covers our sin. When we tell people about our brother's guilt, God does the same with ours."

~~Guilt by Terry McCallum

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Nothing Done For Show

Once a brother came to Theodore of Pherme, and spent three days asking him for advice. Theodore did not answer, and he went sadly away.

So, Theodore's disciple asked him, "Abba, why didn't you speak to him? Look, he has gone away sad."

Theodore replied, "As a matter of fact, I said nothing to him because he's only interested in getting credit by repeating what others have said to him."

~~Photo by Frank Logue

Friday, April 24, 2009

If The Heavens Fell

A brother asked Theodore, "If you suddenly hear the sound of falling masonry, are you frightened, abba?"

Theodore said, "If the heavens fell down on the earth, Theodore would not be afraid." For he had prayed to God that fear might be taken from him. That was why the brother questioned him.

~~Photograph, The Sky is Falling, by Mahesh Thapa

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Give Unto Others

One of the monks told this story about John the Persian, how because of his many virtues he attained a deep simplicity and innocence. He lived in the part of Arabia that is near to Egypt. Once he borrowed a shilling from another monk and bought linen with which to make things.

A brother came and asked him, "Abba, give me a little linen and I will make myself a shirt to wear." John gave it to him gladly.

Then another brother came and asked him for a little linen, so he could make himself a coat and John gave it to him. Many others came and he gave simply and cheerfully.

Later, the owner of the borrowed shilling arrived and asked for his money back. John said to him, "I will get it for you." When he could not find anything with which to pay, he went to Jacob the steward to ask him for a shilling. Along the way, he found a shilling lying on the ground. He did not touch it, but said a prayer and went back to his cell.

Again the owner of the shilling he had borrowed came and began to speak harshly to him asking for his money. John said, "I will give it back to you." Then he went away again and found and found the shilling still lying on the ground; again he prayed and went back to his cell.

Then the owner began to be demanding and John said, "Wait for me just once more and I will bring you your shilling." He went to that place where he had found the shilling lying on the ground. He said a prayer and picked it up and went to Jacob, and said, "Abba, on my way here I found this shilling lying on the ground. Of your kindness, tell all our neighbors, to see if anyone has lost it."

Then Jacob summoned everyone and announced the find, but they could discover no one who had lost it. Then John said to Jacob, "If no one has lost it, give it to that monk there, because I owe him a shilling."

Jacob was astonished that when John was being pressed to pay his debt he had not picked the shilling up at once when he had found it and used it in payment.

There was another remarkable thing about John. If anyone came to borrow something from him, he did not take it in his own hands and lend it, but said, "Come in, take what you need." When a borrower brought anything back, John used to say, "Put it back where you found it." If a man borrowed something and did not bring it back, John said nothing to him about it.

~~Legend of Saint Francis, Saint Francis Giving his Mantle to a Poor Man by Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


A hermit asked a brother, "Do you often talk with women?"

The brother said, "No," and added, "My temptations come from paintings old and new, memories of mine which trouble me through pictures of women."

The hermit advised him, "Do not fear the dead but flee the living; flee from consenting to sin or commiting sin, and take a longer time over your prayers."

~~Memories by Martine Jardin

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Daniel said of Arsenius that when he heard all the apples were ripe, he would say, "Bring them to me." Then Arsenius would take one small bite of each kind, giving thanks to God.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Dining on Charity

There was a story that once when some brothers were eating together at a love-feast, one of the brothers at the table laughed. When John saw it, he wept and said, "What do you think that brother has in his heart, that he could laugh when he ought to weep because he is dining on charity?"

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Monk's Grief

They said of Arsenius that his cell was thirty miles away, and that he did not leave it readily, but others did his errands. But, when the monks were driven out of the place called Scetis, he went away, weeping, and saying, "The world destroyed Rome, and the monks Scetis."

~~Photo by Griffin Logue

Saturday, April 18, 2009

What Makes a Monk?

Macarius said to Zacharias, "Tell me, what makes a monk?"

Zacharias said, "Isn't it wrong for you to be asking me?"

Macarius replied, "I am sure I should ask you, Zacharias my son. There is something that urges me to ask you."

Zacharias said to him, "As far as I can tell, abba, I think that anyone who controls himself and makes himself content with just what he needs and no more, is indeed a monk."

Friday, April 17, 2009

Fruit of the Vine

In that place when Ephraim of holy memory was a boy, he saw in sleep, or by revelation, that a vine was planted on his tongue and it grew and filled the whole earth with very great fruitfulness so all the birds of the air came and ate the fruits of that vine and spread the fruit further.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hosts of Angels

Mark said to Arsenius, "Why do you go away from us?"

Arsenius replied, "God knows I love you. But I cannot be with God and with men. The countless hosts of angels have only a single will, while men have many wills. So, I cannot leave God, and be with men."

~~Myriads of God's hosts protrayed by Walter Russell in The Bible and Its Story, Vol 5.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Healer

They said of Isidore, the priest in Scetis, that if anyone had a monk who was sick or weak or insolent and wanted to send him away, he would say, "Bring him to me." Then he would take him and cure him by his patience.

~~The Healer by Marius Michael-George

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Riches to Rags

They said of Arsenius that while he was in the Emperor's palace he was the best-dressed person there and while he was leading the life of a monk, no one was clothed in worse rags.

~~photo by Nathaniel Chongsiriwatana

Monday, April 13, 2009

O for Obedience

They said that Silvanus had a disciple in Scetis called Mark, who possessed the virtue of obedience in large measure. He was a copyist of old manuscrips: and Silvanus loved him for his obedience.

Silvanus also had seven other disciples, and they were sad that he loved Mark more than them. When the nearby hermits heard that he loved Mark above the others, they took it badly.

One day when they visited him, Silvanus took them with him out of his cell, and began to knock on the door of each of his disciples, saying, "Brother, come out, I have work for you." Not one of them appeared immediately.

When he came to Mark's cell, he knocked, saying, "Mark," and as soon as Mark heard the voice of Silvanus he came out and Silvanus sent him on an errand.

So, Silvanus said to the other hermits, "Where are my other disciples?" He went into Mark's cell, and found a book he had just begun to copy, and he was making the letter O, but when he had heard the voice of Silvanus, he had not finished the line of the O.

The visitors said, "You are right, abba, and we also love the one whom you love, for God loves him too."

Sunday, April 12, 2009


A brother came to Poemen in the second week of Lent and told him his thoughts, and found peace of mind from his answer. Then he said, "I almost didn't come to see you today."

Poemen asked him why and he explained, "I was afraid that the door wouldn't be opened as it is Lent."

Poemen answered him, "It is not wooden doors we were taught to shut; the door we need to keep shut is the mouth."

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Evagrius said, "When a distracting thought comes into your head, do not cast around here and there about it in your prayer, but simply repent and so you will sharpen your sword against your assailant."

Friday, April 10, 2009


Allois said, "Until you can say in your heart, 'Only God and I are in the world,' you will not be at peace."

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Hard Work

Evagrius once said to Arsenius, "How is it that we educated and learned men have no goodness but Egyptian peasants have a great deal?"

Arsenius answered, "We have nothing because we go chasing worldly knowledge. These Egyptian peasants have got their goodness by hard work."

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Secret to Eternal Rest

Joseph asked Poemen, "Tell me how to become a monk."

Poemen said, "If you want to find rest in this life and the next, say at every moment, 'Who am I?' and judge no one."

~~Over Eternal Rest, 1894, by Russian artist Isaak Levitan (1860-1900).

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Nothing Done for Show

Zeno, the disciple of Silvanus, said, "Never stay in a well known place nor sit with a famous man, or lay a foundation on which you might sometime build yourself a cell."

~~I was looking for a picture to illustrate this and was failing when I found this. This "Praying Monk" from Italy, circa 1870, is actually a nutcracker made out of hammerwood.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Temper, temper

Ammonas said that for fourteen years in Scetis he had been asking God day and night to give him strength to control his temper.

~~Temper by Jere Smith, 2005

Sunday, April 5, 2009

More Than Anything

Theodore, surnamed Pherme, had three good books. He went to Macarius, and said, "I have three good books and I am helped by reading them. Other monks also want to read them, and they are helped by them. Tell me what to do."

Macarius replied, "Reading books is good, but possessing nothing is more than anything."

When Theodore heard this, he went and sold the books, and gave the money to the poor.

~~Italian monk reading (ca. 1826-1828) by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot (Parigi 1796-Ville d'Avray 1875)

Saturday, April 4, 2009


When Cyrus of Alexandria was asked about the temptation of lust, he said, "If you are not tempted, it is because you are sinning. The man who does not fight sin at the stage of temptation is sinning already in his body. The man who is sinning in his flesh has no trouble from temptation."

~~Love and Lust by Simeon Solomon (b. October 9, 1840 in London – d. August 14, 1905 in St. Giles's Workhouse). Solomon, an English Pre-Raphaelite painter, was the youngest of eight siblings, two of whom were also painters as was his mother.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Benefits of Odor

Daniel said that Arsenius only changed the water for his palm leaves once a year, otherwise he just added to it. He would make a plait of palm leaves and weave it until noon. The elders asked him why he would not change the water for the palm leaves, which was stinking.

He said to them, "When I was in the world I used incense and sweet-smelling ointments, so now I profit by this stink."

Thursday, April 2, 2009


When Archbishop Theophilus of holy memory was dying, he said, "Arsenius, you are blessed of God because you have always kept this moment before your eyes."

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Once Arsenius came to a place where there was a bed of reeds shaken by the wind. He said to the brothers, "What is this rustling noise?"

They said, "It is the reeds."

He said to them, "If a man sits in silence and hears the voice of a bird, he does not have quiet in his heart; how much more difficult is it for you, who hear the sound of these reeds?"