Gleanings from Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers


6 Entries

A brother came to see Abba Macarius the Egyptian, and said to him, "Abba, give me a word, that I may be saved." So the old man said, "Go to the cemetery and abuse the dead." The brother went there, abused them and threw stones at them; then he returned and told the old man about it. The latter said to him, "Didn't they say anything to you?" He replied, "No."

The old man said, "Go back tomorrow and praise them." So the brother went away and praised them, calling them, "Apostles, saints, and righteous men." He returned to the old man and said to him, "Did they not answer you?" The brother said, "No."

The old man said to him, "You know how you insulted them and they did not reply, and how you praised them and they did not speak; so you too, if you wish to be saved, must do the same and become a dead man. Like the dead, take no account of either the scorn of men or their praises, and you can be saved." "The Desert Christian," by Sr. Benedicta Ward, (New York: MacMillan, 1975), p. 132

Abba David said, "Abba Arsenius told us the following, as though it referred to someone else, but in fact it referred to himself. An old man was sitting in his cell and a voice came to him which said, 'Come, and I will show you the works of men.' He got up and followed. The voice led him to a certain place and showed him an Ethiopian cutting wood and making a great pile. He struggled to carry it but in vain. Instead of taking some off, he cut more wood which he added to the pile. He did this for a long time

. Going on a little further, the old man was shown a man standing on the shore of a lake drawing up water and pouring it into a broken receptacle, so that the water ran back into the lake. The voice said to the old man, 'Come and I will show you something else.' He saw a temple and two men on horseback, opposite one another, carrying a piece of wood crosswise. They wanted to go in through the door but could not because they held their piece of wood crosswise. Neither of them would draw back before the other, so as to carry the wood straight; so they remained outside the door. The voice said to the old man, 'These men carry the yoke of righteousness with pride, and do not humble themselves so as to correct themselves and walk in the humble way of Christ. So they remain outside the Kingdom of God. The man cutting the wood is he who lives in many sins and instead of repenting he adds more faults to his sins. He who draws the water is he who does good deeds, but mixing bad ones with them, he spoils even his good works. So, everyone must be watchful of his actions, lest he labor in vain." "The Desert Christian," by Benedicta Ward, (New York; Macmillan, 1975), p. 15-16

Abba John the Dwarf said to a certain brother about the soul which wishes to be converted, "There was in a city a courtesan who had many lovers. One of the governors approached her, saying, "Promise me you will be good, and I will marry you." She promised this and he took her and brought her to his house. Her lovers, seeking her again, said to one another, "That lord has taken her with him to his house, so if we go to his house and he learns of it, he will condemn us. But let us go to the back, and whistle to her. Then, when she recognizes the sound of the whistle she will come down to us; as for us, we shall be unassailable." When she heard the whistle, the woman stopped her ears and withdrew to the inner chamber and shut the doors." The old man said that this courtesan is our soul, that her lovers are the passions and other men; that the lord is Christ; that the inner chamber is the eternal dwelling; those who whistle are the evil demons, but the soul always takes refuge in the Lord. Sr. Benedicta Ward, "The Sayings of the Desert Fathers," (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications, 1975), pp. 85-89

On one occasion, a certain excellent man, who feared God in his life and works, and who was living in the world, went to Abba Poemen. Some of the brethren, who were also with the old man, were asking him questions, wishing to hear a word from him.

Then Abba Poemen said to the man who was in the world, "Speak a word to the brethren," but he begged him saying, "Forgive me, father, but I came to learn." And the old man pressed him to speak and, as the force of his urging increased, he said, "I am a man living in the world, and I sell vegetables, and because I do not know how to speak from a book, listen ye to a parable.

"There was a certain man who had three friends, and he said to the first, 'Since I desire to see the Emperor come with me,' and the friend said unto him, 'I will come with thee half the way.' And the man said to the second friend, 'Come, go with me to the Emperor's presence,' and the friend said to him, 'I will come with thee as far as his palace, but I cannot go with thee inside.'

"And the man said the same unto his third friend, who answered and said, 'I will come with thee, and I will go inside the palace with thee, and I will even stand up before the Emperor and speak on thy behalf.'"

Then the brethren questioned him, wishing to learn from him the meaning of the riddle, and he answered and said unto them, "The first friend is abstinence, which leadeth as far as one half of the way. The second friend is purity and holiness, which lead to heaven. And the third friend is loving-kindness, which establishes a man before God and speaketh on his behalf with great boldness." E. A. Wallis Budge, "The Paradise of the Holy Fathers, vol. II," (Seattle, St. Nectarios Press, 1984), p. 102

The natural property of the lemon tree is such that it lifts its branches upwards when it has no fruit, but the more the branches bend down the more fruit they bear. Those who have the mind to understand will grasp the meaning of this. St. John Climacus, "The Ladder of Divine Ascent," (Boston: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1978), Step25: On the Destroyer of the Passions, Most Sublime Humility, Which is rooted in Spiritual Perception

An eagle was flying in the heights and delighting in the beauty of the word, and he thought: "I cover great expanses, and I see valleys and mountains, seas and rivers, meadows and forests. I see towns and settlements, and how men live; while here a village rooster knows nothing except his own yard. I shall fly to him and tell him about the life of the world."
The eagle flew onto the roof of the country house and saw how gallantly and merrily the rooster was strolling amidst his hens. And the eagle began to speak to the rooster of the world's beauty and wealth. At first, the rooster listened with attention, but did not understand anything. The eagle, seeing that the rooster did not understand anything, was saddened, and it became hard for him to speak with the rooster; while the rooster, not understanding what the eagle was saying, began to be bored, and it became hard for him to listen to the eagle.
Thus it happens when a learned man speaks with an unlearned man, but even more when a spiritual man speaks with an unspiritual man. A spiritual man is like the eagle, while an unspiritual man is like the rooster; the mind of a spiritual man meditates on the law of the Lord day and night and by prayer ascends to God, while the mind of an unspiritual man is attached to the earth or occupied with thoughts. And when a spiritual man meets an unspiritual man, intercourse for them both is boring and difficult. REF:Fr Seraphim Rose, "Letters"

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