Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers

The first quote is St. Ephraem's prayer at the end of his Life of Saint Mary the Harlot. The rest are from the Apophthegmata Patrum:

Have mercy upon me, Thou that alone are without sin, and save me, who alone art pitiful and kind: for beside Thee, the Father most blessed, and Thine only begotten Son who was made flesh for us, and the Holy Ghost who giveth life to all things, I know no other, and believe in no other. And now be mindful of me, Lover of men, and lead me out of the prison-house of my sins, for both are in They hand, O Lord, the time that Thou shalt bid me go out from it elsewhere. Remember me that am without defence, and save me a sinner: and may Thy grace, that was in this world my aid, my refuge, and my glory, gather me under its wings in that great and terrible day. For Though knowest, Thou who dost try the hearts and reigns, that I did shun much of evil and the byways of shame, the vanity of the impertinent and the defence of heresy. And this not of myself, but of Thy grace wherewith my mind was lit. Wherefore, holy Lord, I beseech Thee, bring me into Thy kingdom, and deign to bless me with all that have found grace before Thee, for with Thee is magnificence, adoration, and honour, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

A certain brother while he was in the community was restless and frequently moved to wrath. And he said within himself, "I shall go and live in some place in solitude; and when I have no one to speak to or to hear, I shall be at peace and this passion of anger will be stilled." So he went forth for himself with water and set it on the ground, but it happened that it suddenly overturned. He filled it a second time, and again it overturned; and he filled it a third time and set it down, and it overturned again. And in a rage he caught up the jug and broke it. Then when he had come to himself, he thought how he had been tricked by the spirit of anger and said, "Behold, here I am alone, and nevertheless he has conquered me. I shall return to the community, for in all places there is need for struggle and for patience and above all for the help of God." And he arose and returned to his place.

A brother asked a certain old man, saying, "Would you have me keep two gold pieces for myself against some infirmity of the body?" The old man, seeing his thought, that he was wishful to keep them, said, "Even so." And the brother going into his cell was torn by his thoughts, saying, "Do you think the old man told me the truth or not?" And rising up he came again to the old man, in penitence, and asked him, "For God's sake tell me the truth, for I am tormented thinking on these two gold pieces." The old man said to him, "I saw that you were set on keeping them. So I told you to keep them; but indeed it is not good to keep more than the body's need. If you had kept the two gold pieces, in them would have been your hope. And if it should happened that they were lost, how should God have any thought for us? Let us cast our thoughts upon God; since it is for him to care for us."

A certain old man dwelt in the desert, and his cell was far from water, about seven miles; and once when he was going to draw water, he flagged and said to himself, "What need is there for me to endure this toil? I shall come and live near the water." And saying this, he turned about and saw one following him and counting his footprints; and he questioned him, saying, "Who are you?" And he said, "I am the angel of the Lord, and I am sent to count your footprints and give you your reward." And when he heard him, the old man's heart was stout, and himself more ready, and he set his cell still farther from that water.

The abbot Cyrus of Alexandria, questioned as to the imagination of lust, made answer: "If you have not these imaginings, you are without hope. For if you do not have imagination thereof, you have the deed itself. For he who fights not in his own mind against sin, nor gainsays it, sins in the flesh. And he who sins in the flesh, has no trouble from the imagination thereof."

An old man saw one laughing, and said to him, "In the presence of Heaven and earth we are to give account of our whole life to God; and you laugh?"

Athanasius of holy memory sought the abbot Pambo to come down from the desert to Alexandria; and when he had come down, he saw there a woman that was an actress, and he wept. And when those who stood by asked him why he had wept, he spoke. "Two things," said he, "moved me. One, her perdition; the other, that I have not so much concern to please God as she has to please vile men."

1 comment:

  1. "that I have not so much concern to please God as she has to please vile men".

    Wow. That really struck me.

    Re: the guy who moved away from water. I dont get what that story means. Why is God rewarding him for living far away from water?