a word from the desert
- Abba John said of Abba Anoub and Abba Poemen and the rest of their brethren who come from the same womb and were made monks in Scetis, that when the barbarians came and laid waste that district for the first time, they left for a place called Terenuthis until they decided where to settle. They stayed in an old temple several days. Then Abba Anoub said to Abba Poemen, “For love’s sake do this: let each of us live in quietness, each one by himself, without meeting one another the whole week.” Abba Poemen replied, “We will do as you wish.” So they did this.
Now there was in the temple a statue of stone. When he woke up in the morning, Abba Anoub threw stones at the face of the statute and in the evening he said to it, “Forgive me.” During the whole week he did this. On Saturday they came together and Abba Poemen said to Abba Anoub, “Abba, I have seen you during the whole week throwing stones at the face of the statue and kneeling to ask it to forgive you. Does a believer act thus?” The old man answered him, “I did this for your sake. When you saw me throwing stones at the face of the statue, did it speak, or did it become angry?” Abba Poemen said, “No.” “Or again, when I bent down in penitence, was it moved, and did it say, ‘I will not forgive you?’” Again Abba Poemen answered, “No.” Then the old man resumed, “Now we are seven brethren; if you wish us to live together, let us be like this statue, which is not moved whether one beats it or whether one flatters it. If you do not wish to become like this, there are four doors here in the temple, let each one go where he will.”
Then the brethren prostrated themselves and said to Abba Anoub, “We will do as you wish, Father, and we will listen to what you say to us.” Abba Poemen added, “Let us live together to the rest of our time, working according to the word which the old man has given us.” He made one of them housekeeper and all that he brought them, they ate and none of them had the authority to say, “Bring us something else next time,” or perhaps, “We do not want to eat this.” Thus they passed all their time in quietness and peace.
Dear Friends of the Desert,
As 2012 draws to a close, so too must “a word from the desert.” As you know, my postings have not been forthcoming in the past several months, and I have received inquires from many dear friends regarding future postings. Unfortunately, the dictates of life prevent me from posting in any sort of regular way. I am grateful for the kind feedback I have received over the years, and for the many new friends I have made, both near and far. I hope that in some small way, the postings have been as beneficial to you as they have been to me. My guiding principal in selecting a “word” has always been that the reading is something that I need to profit from on that particular day. If you have been blessed in any way by these sayings from the ancient (and modern) spiritual fathers and mothers, please remember this unworthy sinner and my family in your prayers.
Later today I hope to post a short bibliography of sources that I have used over the years, as well as some suggested online sources. Until then, two brief words that might be applicable to the New Year:
“The great Macedonius, the first of their deacons and a man zealous for God, told me: It is said of angels that they do not, or as some would have it, that they cannot fall. But men fall, yet they can quickly rise again as so often as this may happen to them. Devils, and devils only, never rise one they have fallen.”
St. John Climacus, The Ladder of Spiritual Perfection 4
Abba Poemen said concerning Abba Pior that every day he made a new beginning.