Tag Archive: Abba Arsenius


[Abba Antony] said: “From our neighbour are life and death. If we do good to our neighbour, we do good to God: if we cause our neighbour to stumble, we sin against Christ.”

~ Sayings of the Desert Fathers, 17.2

Abba Mark said to Abba Arsenius: “Why do you run away from us?” The old man said: “God knows I love you. But I cannot be with God and with men. The countless hosts of angels have but a single will, while men have many wills. So I cannot let God go, and come and be with men.”

~ Sayings of the Desert Fathers, 17.5

I’ve mentioned before how the sayings of the desert fathers are practical wisdom. As such, they can appear contradictory. Practical wisdom is situational, prudential. Sometimes Abba Antony is right, sometimes Abba Arsenius. It depends on the person and the context when the wisdom of one applies compared to another. Continue reading

Abba Arsenius was once asking an old Egyptian for advice about his temptations. And another, who saw this, said: “Abba Arsenius, how is it that you, who are so learned in the Greek and Latin languages, come to be asking that uneducated countryman about your temptations?” He answered: “I have acquired the world’s knowledge of Greek and Latin: but I have not yet been able to learn the alphabet of this uneducated man.”

~ Sayings of the Desert Fathers 15.7

A, B, C … learning the alphabet of a language (or system of symbols, as the case may be), is the first step toward literacy in that language. One cannot read a single word if one does not know the letters of the language. One must simply memorized them; their names and sounds cannot be deduced from their shapes. Alphabetic languages often have memorable songs to help, but the task is still large and requires discipline and memory. Nevertheless, as this story teaches, there is a language whose alphabet is far more important to learn and which surpasses the value and achievement of learning any other. Continue reading