Thursday, December 31, 2009

Laughing at Death

They told the story of a hermit who was dying in Scetis. The brothers stood round his bed, clothed him, and began to weep. But he opened his eyes and began to laugh; this happened three times. So the brothers asked him, "Abba, why are you laughing when we are weeping?"

He told them, "I laughed the first time because you fear death; I laughed the second time because you are not ready for death; I laughed the third time because I am passing from labor to rest, and yet you weep." As he said this, he closed his eyes and died.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

A Living Example

Hyperichius said, "He who teaches others by his life and not by his speech is truly wise."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Be Obedient to the Grace of God

A hermit said to a brother, "Do not measure yourself against your brother, saying that you are more serious or more chaste or more understanding than he is. But be obedient to the grace of God, in the spirit of poverty, and in love unfeigned. The efforts of a man swollen with vanity are futile. It is written, 'Let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall' (I Corinthians 10:12); 'let your speech be seasoned with salt' (Colossians 4:6) and so you will be dependent on Christ."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Examine Your Conscience

A hermit said to a brother, "When a proud or a vain thought enters your mind, examine your conscience to see if you are keeping God's commandments; ask yourself if you love your enemies; if you rejoice in your enemy's triumph, and if you are sad at his downfall; do you know yourself to be an unprofitable servant and a sinner beyond all others? But not even then must you think that you have corrected all your faults; to entertain such a thought as that would undo all the other good you have done."

~~Proud Cheetah by Wycliffe Ndwiga

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Disparage Not Your Brother

Hyperichius said, "It is better to eat meat and drink wine than to eat the flesh of the brothers by disparaging them."

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Play the Fool

A hermit said, "When you flee from the company of other people, or when you despise the world and worldlings, take care to do so as if it were you who was being idiotic."

Friday, December 25, 2009

Luke 14:11

A hermit said, "He who is praised and honored above what he deserves suffers grievous loss. He who receives no honor at all among men, shall be glorified hereafter."

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Lower Than Every Created Being

A brother said to Sisois, "I look into my own mind and I see that it is recollected and intent upon God."

Sisois said to him, "It is nothing special that your mind should be with God. The great thing is to see yourself to be lower than every created being. Bodily toil will put that right, and lead you on the way to humility."

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Speak Right With Your Heart

Poemen said, "If a man appears silent in speech but is condemning other people in his heart, he is really talking incessantly. Another man may seem to talk all day, but he is keeping silence since he always speaks in a way that is right with his heart."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Practice What You Preach

Poemen said, "Experience is good. By experience men are tested."

He also said, "If a man preaches but does not practice what he preaches, he is like a well of water where everyone can quench their thirst and wash off their dirt, but which cannot clean away the filth and dung that is around it."

~~Wishing Well by Dan A. Diaz

Monday, December 21, 2009

Lost Time

A hermit said, "If you lose gold or silver, you can find something as good as you lost. But the man who loses time can never make up what he has lost."

~~Lost Time II by Dae-Yeon Kim

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The King's Highway

Joseph asked Poemen, "How should we fast?"

Poemen said, "I suggest that everyone should eat a little less than he wants, every day."

Joseph said to him, "When you were a young man, didn't you fast for two days on end?"

Poemen said, "I used to fast for three days on end, even for a week. But the great hermits have tested all these things, and they found it is good to eat something every day, but on some days a little less. They have shown us that this is the king's highway, for it is easy and light."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Protect Me From My Tongue

Sisois once said with confidence, "For thirty years I have not prayed to God without sin. When I pray, I say, 'Lord Jesus Christ, protect me from my tongue.' Even now, it causes me to fall every day."

Friday, December 18, 2009

Arm Yourself Against Demons

Amma Syncletica said, "We ought to be armed at all points against the demons. They come at us from outside and if the soul is weak we invite them in. Sometimes a ship is crushed by the battering of heavy seas; sometimes it is sunk because bilge water rises slowly within it. In the same way we are sometimes sunk because we have done evil deeds, and sometimes because our thoughts are evil. So we must both watch for the assaults of unclean spirits, and also cleanse the thoughts of our hearts."

~~Cross the Storm by Evgueny Solodky

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dear Prudence

Some brothers once asked Silvanus, "What way of life did you follow to be endowed with such prudence?"

He answered, "I have never let any bitter thought remain in my heart."

~~Prudence by Shawn McNulty

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Serve and Be Served

Once some monks came to Scetis, and John the Short was with them. During supper, an eminent presbyter got up to give them each a little water to drink. No one accepted it except John the Short.

The others were surprised and said, "How is it that you, the least of all, dared to accept the ministry of a great old man?"

He replied, "When I get up to hand water round, I am glad if everyone takes it, because I have been able to do them a service and will have a reward. That's why I took it just now, to let the one who offered it have his reward; perhaps he would have been sad if no one accepted it."

They all admired his discretion.

~~Glass of Water with Coffee Pot by Jean Baptiste Simeon Chardin, 1760

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Close the Door

A brother said to Sisois, "I want to guard my heart."

Sisois replied, "How can we guard the heart if our tongue leaves the door of the fortress open?"

Monday, December 14, 2009


Some of the hermits used to say, "Whatever you hate for yourself, do not do it to someone else. If you hate being spoken evil of, do not speak evil of another. If you hate him who tries to make you despised, or wrongs you, or takes away what is yours, or anything like that, do not do such things to others. To keep this is enough for salvation."

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Help Your Brother

A hermit said, "I never wanted work to be useful to me while causing loss to my brother, for I have this hope that what helps my brother will bring fruit to me."

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Double Charity

A brother said to a hermit, "If I see a monk about whom I have heard that he is guilty of a sin, I cannot make myself invite him into my cell. But if I see a good monk, I bring him in gladly."

The hermit said, "If you do good to a good brother it is nothing to him, but to the other give double charity, for he is sick."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Make No Display

A hermit was fasting and not eating bread, and he went to visit another hermit. By chance, some other pilgrims also came to visit this hermit, and he made them a little vegetable soup.

When they sat down to eat, the fasting hermit took a single pea which he dipped in the soup and chewed it.

When they got up from the table, the hermit that was hosting them took the fasting hermit aside and said, "Brother, if you visit someone, don't make a display there of your way of life. If you want to keep your own rule, stay in your cell and never go out."

The brother accepted the advice, and thenceforth behaved like other people and ate what was put before him.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Making Progress

A hermit said, "We do not make progress because we do not realize how much we can do. We lose interest in the work we have begun, and we want to be good without even trying.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Restrain your Anger

One of the brothers asked Isidore, the priest of Scetis, "Why are the demons so afraid of you?"

He said, "Ever since I became a monk, I have been trying not to let anger rise as far as my mouth."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bless the Beasts . . .

A brother asked Alonius, "What is humility?"

The hermit said, "To be lower than brute beasts and to know they are not condemned."

Monday, December 7, 2009

Control Your Hunger

A brother felt hungry at dawn, and struggled not to eat till nine o'clock. When nine o'clock came, he made himself wait till noon. At noon, he dipped his bread and sat down to eat, but then got up again, saying, "I will wait till three." At three o'clock he prayed, and saw the devil's work going out of him like smoke; and his hunger ceased.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Vessels of Passion

A brother said to Sisois, "Why do my passions not leave me?"

He said to him, "Because the vessels that fill those passions are within you. Empty them and the passions they cause will go away."

~~Vessels by Paige Russell

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cool as a Cucumber

They said of one hermit that he sometimes longed to eat a cucumber. So he took one and hung it in front of him where he could see it. He was not overcome by his longing, and did not eat it, but tamed himself and repented that he had wanted it at all.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Put Your Thoughts Aside

Poemen said, "If a thought about your bodily needs comes to you, and you put it aside; and then it comes again, and you put it aside, what will happen if it comes a third time? You will not notice it, and it will do you no harm."

~~Thoughts by Martine Rhyner

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Take Heed in Calm Seas

Syncletica said, "We have no security in this world. Paul said, 'Let him that thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall' (I Corinthians 10:12).

"We are sailing on uncharted seas, as the psalmist David said, 'Our life is like a sea.' Yet some seas have dangerous reefs, some are full of sharks, some seas are calm. It seems as if we are sailing in calm waters, while men of the world are sailing in rough weather. We are sailing in daylight, led by the sun of righteousness, while they are being driven along in the night of ignorance. Yet if often happens that worldly men, sailing in darkness and through storms, are so afraid of danger that they save the ship by calling upon God and by watchfulness, while we, in our calm waters, become careless, leave the proper course of righteousness, and are sunk."

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Every Day, Every Hour

Moses asked Silvanus, "Can a monk live every day as though it were the first day of his monastic life?"

Silvanus answered, "If you are truly committed to your way of life, you can live every day, every hour, as though it were the first day or hour of your monastic life."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Lend a Helping Hand

Theodore of Pherme said, "If a friend of yours is tempted, give him a helping hand if you can and pull him back. But if he falls into heresy, and persists in spite of your efforts, go away quickly, cut off his friendship. For if you stay with him, you may be dragged with him into hell."