Category: General


Overtired

Some old men came to see Abba Poemen, and said to him: Tell us, when we see brothers dozing during the sacred office, should we pinch them so they will stay awake? The old man said to them: Actually, if I saw a brother sleeping, I would put his head on my knees and let him rest.

~ Sayings of the Desert Fathers

I once visited Romania, and I had the opportunity to stay one night at a Transylvanian monastery. Of course, being me, I gladly accepted their hospitality. The grounds were beautiful—a former Soviet military outpost, actually, by a lake where a town used to be (also made by the Soviets). Dinner was light but satisfying. After dinner, at six o’clock, we attended vespers. At seven o’clock was vigil; it ended at midnight. Continue reading

Advertisements

The Delight of Weariness

[O]ur profession too has its own goal and end, for which we undergo all sorts of toils not merely without weariness but actually with delight; on account of which the want of food in fasting is no trial to us, the weariness of our vigils becomes a delight; reading and constant meditation on the Scriptures does not pall upon us; and further incessant toil, and self-denial, and the privation of all things, and the horrors also of this vast desert have no terrors for us.

~ St. Moses the Ethiopian, from the Conferences of St. John Cassian, 1.2

By “our profession,” Abba Moses here refers to monasticism, likely of the eremitic sort. Yet in this case, at least, that doesn’t mean that his teaching only has value for monks and hermits. Continue reading

Combatting Forgetfulness

An old man said: “Satan has three powers, which lead to all the sins. The first is forgetfulness, the second negligence, and the third concupiscence. If forgetfulness comes, it begets negligence: negligence is the mother of concupiscence: and by concupiscence a man falls. If the mind is serious, it repels forgetfulness, negligence does not come, concupiscence finds no entry— and so with help from Christ’s grace, he shall never fall.”

~ Sayings of the Desert Fathers, 11.46

There are many sayings like these in the ascetic writings of the Church. One could list basic causes of all sin ad infinitum. The important thing to remember is that these sayings arise not (merely, I should say) from abstract theorizing but from practical experience. Thus, this is what this old man has found. As the matter at hand is a practical one, arguments are not necessary, only self-examination. Is his experience, your experience? If so, then his solution might be your solution as well. Continue reading

‘Western Asceticism’ on Archive.org

I don’t usually write purely informational posts, but I thought this little factoid I somehow only now discovered would be worth sharing: Western Asceticism, the volume from which I always quote the Sayings of the Desert Fathers as well as a few of the Conferences of Cassian, and which also includes the Rule of St. Benedict, is completely and totally free on archive.org. You can download it in all sorts of formats, including a clean and searchable pdf of the text. Pretty cool!

You can find Western Asceticism on archive.org here.