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PostPosted: Tue Jun 25, 2013 3:44 pm 
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The Desert Fathers were holy men of the late 3rd and 4th Centuries who went to live in the desert, and they are generally regarded as the first monks in community. The Egyptian Desert was the Desert Fathers' most common choice of locale. At first they lived mostly alone, but later formed loose-knit communities - and even later, close-knit ones. Around them emerged a large collections of writings and stories, many of which are memorable and enlightening. I have selected a few for you here.

For those of you not familiar with 'A Mystic's Journal', I would encourage you to read the Journal entries on supernatural fragrances - for the fragrances started when we began to read poems written by the Desert Fathers in meditation class some years ago.


1. On Humility and the problem of evil: The Abbot Antony, being at a loss in his meditation on the depth of the judgments of God, prayed, saying, “Lord, how comes it that some die in so short a space of life, and some live to the further side of decrepit old age: and wherefore are some in want, and others rich with various means of wealth, and how are the unrighteous rich and the righteous oppressed by poverty?” And a voice came to him saying, “Antony, turn thine eyes upon thyself: for these are the judgments of God, and the knowledge of them is not for thee.”

2. On the need of the learned to respect the wisdom of ordinary people : At one time the Abbot Arsenius Was taking counsel with an old man of Egypt about his thoughts. And another, seeing him said, “Abbot Arsenius, how is it that thou, who art so great a scholar of Latin and Greek, dost take counsel of this common countryman?” And he answered, “I have indeed apprehended the learning of the Greeks and the Latins as this world goes: but the alphabet of this countryman I have not yet been able to learn.”

3. On the need to leave vengeance to God: One of the brethren that had been insulted by another, came to Abbot Sisois and told him the scorn that had been put upon him, and said, “I am set to revenge myself , Father.” And the old abbot began to entreat him to leave vengeance to God. But he said, “I shall not rest till I stoutly avenge myself.” So the abbot said to him, “Since thou hast made up thy mind once for all, now let us pray,” and rising, the abbot began to pray in these words: “God, Thou art no longer necessary to us that Thou needst be anxious for us: for we ourselves, as this brother hath said, are able to avenge ourselves.” But when the brother heard it, he fell at the abbot’s feet seeking his pardon, and promised that he would contend no more with the man against whom he was angered.

4. On poverty and obeying the word of God: A certain monk, Serapion, owned a Gospel manuscript: and he sold it and gave to the hungry, following the memorable saying: for, he said, “I sold the same Word that said to me, ‘Sell what thou hast and give to the poor.’”

5. On humility as a foil against the devil: The devil appeared to a certain brother, transformed into an angel of light, and said to him, “I am the angel Gabriel and I am sent unto thee.” But the brother said, “Consider well if you were not in fact sent to some other: for I am not worthy that an angel should be sent to me.” And the devil was no more seen.


Quotes by the Desert Fathers


For God is silence, and in silence is he sung by means of that psalmody which is worthy of Him. I am not speaking of the silence of the tongue, for if someone merely keeps his tongue silent, without knowing how to sing in mind and spirit, then he is simply unoccupied and becomes filled with evil thoughts: … There is a silence of the tongue, there is a silence of the whole body, there is a silence of the soul, there is the silence of the mind, and there is the silence of the spirit.


Poem n° 3359 : Desert Fathers. Source : John the Solitary in The Syrian Fathers on Prayer and the Spiritual Life" (Cistercian Studies 101; Kalama-zoo 1987). [Malayalam adaptation by G.Chediath, 1990; Persian tr.Tehran 1997(-); French translation of Introduction and selections by M.Moubarakah and J. Obeid, in Parole de l'Orient 26 (2001), 201-266; complete French translation forthcoming].



For he was a man full of discernment and the good odour of the Holy Spirit.


Quote / Poem n° 3354 : Desert Fathers. Source : An Abba of Rome (probably Arsenius): The sayings of the Desert Fathers : the alphabetical collection. Trans. Benedicta Ward, SLG. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications Inc., 1984, 1975, p. 210, An Abba of Rome, 2



It was said of Abba Sisoes that when he was at the point of death, while the Fathers were sitting beside him, his face shone like the sun. He said to them, "Look, Abba Anthony is coming." A little later he said, "Look, the choir of prophets is coming." Again his countenance shone with brightness and he said, "Look, the choir of apostles is coming." His countenance increased in brightness and lo, he spoke with someone. Then the old men asked him, "With whom are you speaking, Father?" He said, "Look, the angels are coming to fetch me, and I am begging them to let me do a little penance." The old man said to him, "You have no need to do penance, Father." But the old man said to them, "Truly, I do not think I have even made a beginning yet." Now they all knew that he was perfect. Once more his countenance suddenly became like the sun and they were all filled with fear. He said to them, "Look, the Lord is coming and he's saying, 'Bring me the vessel from the desert'" (cf. 2 Cor. 4:7). Then there was as a flash of lightening and all the house was filled with a sweet odour.


Quote / Poem n° 3353 : Desert Fathers. Source : Abba Sisoes: The sayings of the Desert Fathers : the alphabetical collection. Trans. Benedicta Ward, SLG. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications Inc., 1984, 1975, pp. 214-215, Sisoes 14



The monk must die to everything before leaving the body, in order not to harm anyone.


Quote / Poem n° 3352 : Desert Fathers. Source : Abba Moses: The sayings of the Desert Fathers : the alphabetical collection. Trans. Benedicta Ward, SLG. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications Inc., 1984, 1975, p. 141, Moses 2



The teacher ought to be a stranger to the desire for domination, vain-glory, and pride; one should not be able to fool him by flattery, nor blind him by gifts, nor conquer him by the stomach, nor dominate him by anger; but he should be patient, gentle and humble as far as possible; he must be tested and without partisanship, full of concern, and a lover of souls.


Quote / Poem n° 3350 : Desert Fathers. Source : Amma Theodora: The sayings of the Desert Fathers : the alphabetical collection. Trans. Benedicta Ward, SLG. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications Inc., 1984, 1975, pp. 83-84, Amma Theodora 5


The true monk should have prayer and psalmody continually in his heart.


Quote / Poem n° 3349 : Desert Fathers. Source : Epiphanius, Bishop of Cyprus: The sayings of the Desert Fathers : the alphabetical collection. Trans. Benedicta Ward, SLG. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications Inc., 1984, 1975, p. 57, Epiphanus 3



When we turn our spirit from the contemplation of God, we become the slaves of our passions.


Quote / Poem n° 3348 : Desert Fathers. Source : Abba Theonas: The sayings of the Desert Fathers : the alphabetical collection. Trans. Benedicta Ward, SLG. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications Inc., 1984, 1975, p. 80, Theonas 1



If we keep remembering the wrongs which men have done us, we destroy the power of the remembrance of God…


Quote / Poem n° 3347 : Desert Fathers. Source : Abba Macarius the Great: The sayings of the Desert Fathers : the alphabetical collection. Trans. Benedicta Ward, SLG. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications Inc., 1984, 1975, p. 136, Macarius 36


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