Monday, August 31, 2009

Judgment In Our Hands

The presbyter of a church used to come to a hermit to consecrate the Eucharist for him so that he could receive it. But someone else visited the hermit and said evil things about that presbyter.

The next time the presbyter came to consecrate as usual, the hermit was horrified and would not let him in. The presbyter saw it and went away.

Then the hermit heard a voice saying, "Men have taken my judgment into their own hands."

He saw a vision of a well of gold and a bucket of gold, and a rope of gold, and plenty of drinking water. He saw a leper emptying and refilling the bucket and wanted to drink but did not because it was a leper who had poured the water out.

Then a voice came and second time to him and said, "Why don't you drink this water? What does it matter who draws it? For, he only draws it and pours it out again."

Then the hermit came to himself, and understood what the vision had meant. He called the presbyter and made him consecrate the offering as before.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

No Reputation is a Good Reputation

A brother asked Mathois, "If I go to live in such-and-such a place, what do you suggest I do there?"

He said, "If you live there, don't try to make a reputation for yourself on some pretext, like saying either 'I will not join other monks' or 'I will not eat this and that.' This is the sort of thing that creates a bubble of reputation, and afterwards you will suffer from crowds. When people hear that sort of thing they flock there."

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Tale of Milidus

They said of Milidus, that while he was living on the frontiers of Persia with two disciples, two sons of the emperor came on their usual hunting expedition, and put nets around an area of forty miles, and speared whatever they trapped.

They found the monk and his disciples within this area. When they saw his hairy and forbidding face, they were astonished and said, "Are you a man or a demon?"

He said, "I am a sinful man, and I have come out here to repent of my sins. I worship Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God."

They said to him, "There is no god but sun, fire and water. Worship them and sacrifice to them."

He replied, "You are wrong, they are only creatures. I beg you, be converted and recognize the true God who made these and everything else."

But they mocked him and said, "Are you saying that the true God is a condemned and crucified man?"

"Yes," said Milidus, "I say that the true God is He who crucified sin and killed death."

So, they tortured Milidus and the two monks to force them to sacrifice. After many tortures they beheaded the two monks but they went on torturing Milidus day after day. Then, they fastened him in one place and fired arrows into him, one in front and one behind, so that he looked like a signpost.

He said to them, "Because you have conspired to shed innocent blood, tomorrow, at this very moment of the day, your mother shall lose her children and your care for her, and you will spill each other's blood with your own arrows."

They thought his words were nonsense and the next day went out again to hunt. It happened tht a stag escaped from their net, and they mounted their horses and chased him. Each fired an arrow which hit the heart of the other, and so they died as Milidus had forseen.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Monk's Treasure

Hyperichius said, "To accept poverty freely is the monk's treasure. Therefore, my brother, lay up treasure in heaven, where there will be endless time for rest."

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Barley Bread and Lentil Soup

They said of Dioscorus of Namisias made his bread out of barley, and his soup out of lentils. Every year he made one particular resolution: either not to meet anyone for a year, or not to speak, or not to taste cooked food, or not to eat any fruit, or not to eat vegetables. This was his system in everything. He made himself master of one thing, and then started on another, and so on each year.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Buying Quiet

A hermit said, "A monk should buy himself quiet and therefore be able to despise any bodily expense that may occur."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Legacy for Perfection

Cassian told this story about John, who was the father of a community because he was great in his way of life. When he was dying, he was cheerful, and his mind was set upon the Lord; his brothers stood around him and asked for a sentence that would sum up the way to salvation, which he could give them as a legacy by which they might rise to the perfection that is in Christ.

With a sigh, he said, "I have never obeyed my own will, and I never taught anyone to do anything which I did not do myself first."

~~Aquarian Awakening- The Perfection by Jack Haas

Monday, August 24, 2009

Keep the Commandments

When he was in Scetis, Moses used to say, "If we keep the commandments of our predecessors I will answer on God's behalf that the barbarians will not come here. But, if we do not keep the commandments of God, this place will be devastated."

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Love Thy Neighbor

Poemen said, "There is no greater love than that you should lay down your life for a neighbor. When you hear a complaint against you and you struggle with yourself, and do not begin to complain in return, when you bear an injury with patience and do not look for revenge, that is when you lay down your life for your neighbor."

~~Love Thy Neighbor by David Lanham

Saturday, August 22, 2009

They That Call Thee Blessed . . .

They said of a monk that the more bitterly anyone injured or assailed him, the more he was well disposed to that person, for he said, "People like this are a means to cure the faults of serious men. People who make them happy do their souls harm. For it is written, 'They that call thee blessed, deceive thee.'"

~~Inferno: Canto IV . . . "Onward, this said, he moved; And entering, led me with him, on the bounds of the first circle that surrounds the abyss. Here, as mine ear could note, no plaint was heard except of sighs, that made the eternal air tremble, not caused by tortures, but from grief felt by those multitudes, many and vast, of men, women, and infants.

Then to me the gentle guide: "Inquirest thou not what spirits are these which thou beholdest? Ere thou pass farther, I would thou know, that these of sin were blameless; and if aught they merited, it profits not, since baptism was not theirs, the portal to thy faith. If they before the Gospel lived, they served not God aright; And among such am I. For these defects, and for no other evil, we are lost; Only so far afflicted, that we live desiring without hope."

Sore grief assail'd my heart at hearing this, for well I knew suspended in that Limbo many a soul of mighty worth.

"Oh, tell me, sire revered! Tell me, my master!" I began, through wish of full assurance in that holy faith which vanuishes all error; "say, did e'er any, or through his own or other's merit, come forth from thence, who afterward was blest?"

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Heart of a Statue

John told this story: Anub and Poemen and some others who were born of the same mother were monks in Scetis. Some savage Mazicae came and sacked Scetis. The brothers fled and went to a place called Terenuthis; they stayed there a few days in an old temple while they discussed where to live.

Anub said to Poemen, "Of your kindness, let me live apart from you and our brothers, so that we do not see each other during this week."

Poemen said, "Let us do as you wish." So that is what they did.

There was a stone statue in the temple. Every day at dawn Anub got up and pelted the face of the statue with stones and every day at evening he said to it, "Forgive me." Every day for a week he did this: and on Saturday they met again.

Poemen said to Anub, "I saw you throwing stones at the face of the statue every day this week, and later doing penance to the statue. A true Christian would not have done that."

Anub answered, "I did it for your sake. When you saw me throwing stones at the statue's face, did it speak? Was it angry?"

Poemen said, "No."

Anub said, "When I did penance before the statue, was it moved in its heart? Did it say, 'I won't forgive you?'"

Poemen answered, "No."

Anub said, "Here we are, seven brothers. If we want to stay together, we must become like this statue, which is untroubled by the injuries done to it. If you will not become like this statue, see, there are four doors to this temple, and each of us may go in any direction he chooses."

At these words, they fell upon the ground before Anub, and said to him, "Let it be as you say, abba. We will do what you tell us."

Poemen described what happened afterwards, "We remained together all of our lives, doing our work and everything else as Anub directed us. He appointed one of us as steward, and we ate whatever he put before us; no one could have said: 'Bring us something else to eat,' or 'I will not eat that.' So we passed our lives in quiet and peace."

~~Photo by Griffin Logue

Thursday, August 20, 2009

To Have Plenty

A monk had a poor brother living in the world, to whom he gave all the profits from his work. But, the more he gave him, the poorer the brother became. So, the monk told the hermit what was happening. The hermit said to him, "If you'll take my advice, you won't give him anything else, but you'll say, 'Brother, I have given you what I had. It is your turn now to work and give me some of your produce.' Accept whatever he brings you, and give it to any poor pilgrim or needy person you find, and ask them to pray for him."

The monk listened to this advice, and followed it. When his brother from the world came, he spoke to him as the hermit had advised, and his brother went away sadly.

The next day, he brought the monk a few vegetables from his garden. The monk accepted them, and gave them to some hermits, asking them to pray for his brother. He received a blessing from them and returned home.

Later, his brother brought him vegetables and three loaves of bread which he accepted and gave away, and again received a blessing.

Now, the third time, his brother brought him expensive food, wine and fish. The monk was astonished at the sight, and called in poor men, and fed them. But, he said to his brother from the world, "Do you need as much food as all that?"

His brother said, "No, not exactly. When I used to accept presents from you, it was as though a fire came into my house and consumed it, but now, when I receive nothing from you, I have plenty and God blesses me."

So, the monk went and told the hermit what had happened. The hermit said to him, "Don't you know that a monk's work is a fire that consumes whatever it touches? It is best for your brother that he should earn a little money for his own efforts, and be prayed for by holy men: then he receives God's blessing, and he will have plenty."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Serenity of the Desert?

Abbot Arsenius lived in a cell thirty-two miles away from his nearest neighbor, and he seldom went out of it. The things he needed were brought there by disciples. But when the desert of Scete where he lived became peopled with hermits, he went away from there weeping and saying: Worldy men have ruined Rome and monks have ruined Scete.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ceaseless Prayer

A hermit used to say, "Ceaseless prayer soon heals the mind."

Monday, August 17, 2009


Theonas said, "Our mind is hindered and held back from contemplating God, because we are kept prisoner by our bodily passions."

~~Prisoner of my Own by Henrik, Shimoda7

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Book of Nature—Word of God

Frank's photo of an Egyptian oasis

A certain philosopher asked St. Anthony: Father, how can you be so happy when you are deprived of the consolation of books? Anthony replied: My book, O philosopher, is the nature of created things and any time I want to read the words of God, the book is before me.

~Photo of Egyptian Oasis: Frank Logue

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Endure Wicked Thoughts

Joseph questioned Poemen on the subject of the impure thoughts within the heart. Poemen said, "If you shut a snake or scorpion in a box, in the end it will die. Wicked thoughts, which the demons scatter, slowly lose their power if the victim has endurance."

~~Scorpion by Ozgur Ustundag

Friday, August 14, 2009

Practice What You Preach

Poemen said, "Teach your heart to follow what your tongue is saying to others." He also said, "Men try to appear excellent in preaching but they are less excellent in practising what they preach."

Thursday, August 13, 2009

As A Mother Hen . . .

Syncletica said, "If you live in a monastic community, do not wander from place to place; if you do, it will harm you. If a hen stops sitting on the eggs she will hatch no chickens. The monk or nun who goes from place to place grows cold and dead in faith."

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Is Absolute Poverty Perfect Goodness?

Syncletica of Blessed Memory was asked, "Is absolute poverty perfect goodness?"

She replied, "It is great good for those who can do it. Even those who cannot bear it find rest to their souls though they suffer bodily anxiety. As strong clothes are laundered pure white by being turned and trodden under foot in water, a strong soul is strengthened by freely accepting poverty."

~~Woman doing her laundry in river by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, 1798 - 1861

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Extinguished by Perseverance

A brother was obsessed by lust and it was like a fire burning day and night in his heart. But he struggled on, not examining the temptation nor consenting to it. After a long time, the fire left him, extinguished by his perseverance.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Never Relax Your Discipline

They said of Ammoi that though he was ill in bed for several years, he never relaxed his discipline and never went to the store cupboard at the back of his cell to see what was in it. Many people brought him presents because he was ill. But, even when his disciple, John, went in and out, he shut his eyes so as not to see what he was doing. He knew what it means to be a faithful monk.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Heart Must Be Broken

Hyperichius said, "The watchful monk works night and day to pray continually: but if his heart is broken and lets tears flow, that calls God down from heaven to have mercy."

~~Broken Heart by Peter Lidstrom

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Psalms 118:18, 66:12 & 29 and 4:1

Syncletica said, "When the devil does not use the goad of poverty to tempt us, he uses wealth for the same purpose. When he cannot win by scorn and mockery, he tries praise and flattery. If he cannot win by giving health, he tries illness. If he cannot win by comfort, he tries to ruin the soul by vexations that lead us to act against our monastic vows. He inflicts severe sicknesses on people whom he wants to tempt and so he makes them weak, and thereby shakes the love they feel toward God.

But, although the body is shattered and running a high temperature and thirsting unbearably, yet you, who endure all this, are a sinner; you should therefore remember the punishments of the next world, the everlasting fire, the torments of judgement. Then you will not fail in the sufferings of this present time, indeed you should rejoice because God has visited you.

Keep saying the famous text, 'The Lord hath chastened and corrected me: but he hath not given me over unto death' (Psalm 118:18).

Iron is cleaned of rust by fire. If you are righteous and suffer, you grow to a higher sanctity. Gold is tested by fire. When a messenger from Satan is given to you to be a thorn in your flesh, lift up your heart, for you have received a gift like that of Saint Paul. If you suffer from fever and cold, remember the text of the Scripture, 'We went through fire and water,' and 'thou broughtest us out into a place of rest' (Psalm 66:12).

If you have overcome suffering, you may expect rest, provided you are following what is good. Cry aloud the prophets words, 'I am poor and destitute and in misery' (Psalm 66:29).

Threefold suffering like this shall make you perfect. He said also, 'Thou hast set me at liberty when I was in trouble' (Psalm 4:1).

So let this kind of self-discipline test our souls, for our enemy is always in sight."

Friday, August 7, 2009

Psalm 9:10

Once a hermit fell ill. Because he had no one to look after him, he got up and ate whatever he could find in his cell. Though this happened for several days, no one came to visit him. Even after a month no one had come. Then the Lord sent an angel to take care of him. After the angel had cared for him for a week, the monks remembered him and said to each other, "Let us go and see if the hermit is ill."

They went to his cell: and the moment they knocked on his door, the angel left him. The hermit inside shouted, "Go away, my brothers." But, they lifted the door off its hinges and went in, and asked him why he had shouted. He said, "For a month I was ill and no one visited me. Now for a week an angel of the Lord has take care of me, but he went away the moment you arrived."

With these words, he died peacefully, and glorified God, saying: 'The Lord does not forsake them who trust in him' (Psalm 9:10).

~~Foresaken, 2007, by Sara Claire Chambless.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Psalm 58:1

In Scetis there was a meeting to discuss something; and after the decision was taken, Agatho came in and said, "You have not made a good decision."

They said to him, "Who are you to say that?"

He answered, "A son of man, for it is written, 'If ye truly speak righteousness, judge ye the thing that is right, O ye sons of men' (Psalm 58:1).

~~Son of Man, 1964, by Rene Magritte (1898-1967)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Psalm 18:29-30

Poemen said, "The will of man is a wall of brass, and a stone barrier between himself and God. If he puts it aside, he can say the words of the psalm, 'By the help of my God I shall leap over the wall' and, 'as for my God, his way is undefiled' (Psalm 18: 29-30). If good conduct helps the will, then a man will do good."

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Psalm 97:10

A hermit said, "This is the life of a monk: work, obedience, meditation, not to judge others, not to speak evil, not to murmur. For it is written, 'You who love God, hate the thing that is evil' (Psalm 97:10).

This is the monastic life: not to live with the wicked, not to see evil, not to be inquisitive, not to be curious, not to listen to gossip, not to use the hands for taking, but for giving; not to be proud in heart or bad in thought, not to fill the belly, in everything to judge wisely. That is the life of the true monk."

~~Monks of the Visoki Decani Monastery, which is situated in the western part of the UN- administered Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohia. It was built between 1327 and 1335 by the Serbian medieval king St. Stephen of Decani and was dedicated to the Ascension of the Lord. The monastery is settled in the picturesque valley of the Bistrica river surrounded by the mountains and forests of the Prokletije mountain range It is the largest and best preserved medieval monastery in Serbia.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Psalm 42:1

Poemen said, "It is written, 'As the hart longs for the waterbrooks, so longs my soul for you, O my God' (Psalm 42:1). Indeed the harts in the desert eat many snakes and when their venom makes them burn with thirst they come to the waters to assuage their burning thirst. It is the same for monks: in the desert, they are burned by the poison of the demons and they long for Saturday and Sunday to come so that they can go to the springs of water, that is, to the Body and Blood of the Lord, to be purified from the poison of the evil ones."

~~A Thicket of Deer at the Stream of Plaisir-Fontaine, 1866, by Gustave Courbet, 1819-1877

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Psalm 51:11

Poemen said, "Try, so far as you can, to wrong no man, and keep your heart pure towards everyone."

Psalm 51:11: Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Carry the Living

Someone who saw a religious person carrying a corpse on a bed, said, "Are you carrying dead men? Go and carry the living."