Monastic Stories

The brother who would not leave a sinful brother and won back his soul

Abba John the anchorite said: I have heard Abba Stephen the Moabite say that when he was in the community of St. Theodosius, two brothers were there who had sworn an oath to each other that they would never be separated from each other, either in life or in death.

While they were in the community and a source of edification for all, one of the brothers was attacked by a yearning for fornication. Unable to withstand this attack, he said to his brother, "Release me, brother, for I am driven towards fornication and I want to go back to the world."

The other brother began to beg and entreat him, saying, "Oh, brother, do not destroy all you have endured." He replied, "Either come with me so that I can do the deed, or release me to go my own way."

The brother did not want to release him, so he went into the city with him. The afflicted brother went into the house of fornication while the other brother stood outside. Taking up dust from the ground, he threw it on his own head, reproaching himself.

When the brother who had gone into the brothel came out again, have done the deed, the other brother said to him, "My brother, what have you gained by this sin, and what have you not lost by it? Let us go back to our place." The other replied, "I cannot go back again into the wilderness. You go. I am staying in the world."

When the first had done all he could and still failed to persuade the other to follow him into the desert, he too remained in the world with his brother. They both worked as laborers to support themselves. It was about this time that Abba Abraham built his own monastery, the one known as "The Monastery of the Byzantines" at Olivet, west of Jerusalem. The two brothers came there and worked as laborers, for which they received wages.

The one who had fallen prey to fornication would take both their wages and go off to the city each week where he would squander their earnings in riotous living. The other brother would fast all day long, performing his work in profound silence, not speaking to anybody. When the workmen noticed that he neither ate nor spoke each day but was always deep in thought, they told the saintly Abraham about him and his way of life.

Then the great Abraham summoned the workman to his cell and asked him, "Where are you from, brother, and what kind of work do you do?" The brother confessed all to him, "It is because of my brother that I put up with all this, in the hope that God will look upon my affliction and save my brother." When the godly Abraham heard this, he said to the brother, "The Lord has granted you the soul of your brother too."

Abba Abraham dismissed the brother who left his cell, and behold! there was his brother, crying, "My brother, take me into the desert so I can be saved." He immediately took him and went to a cave near to the holy Jordan.

After a little while, the sinful brother, having made great spiritual progress in the things that are God's, departed this life. The other brother, faithful to the oath, remained in the cave, and eventually he too died there.

St. John Moschos, Lemonarion (The Spiritual Meadow) 97

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St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas