The Holy Spirit, out of compassion for our weakness, comes to us even when we are impure. And if only He finds our intellect truly praying to Him, He enters it and puts to flight the whole array of thoughts and ideas circling within it, and He arouses it to a longing for spiritual prayer.
~ Evagrios, On Prayer
This reminds me of Jesus’s words to Nicodemus: “The wind blows where it wills; you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from, or where it is going. So with everyone who is born from spirit” (John 3:8).
Evargios seems at once broader and narrower in his meaning, however. He’s not clearly talking about baptism, whereas, in context, that is how Jesus’s words have traditionally been understood. Those who are baptized are “born again” or “born from above” (the Greek could mean either). We are born of the flesh from our mothers, but spiritually born again through baptism. Continue reading
Abba Evagrius said: “A wandering mind is strengthened by reading, and prayer. Passion is dampened down by hunger and work and solitude. Anger is repressed by psalmody, and long-suffering, and mercy. But all these should be at the proper times and in due measure. If they are used at the wrong times and to excess, they are useful for a short time. But what is only useful for a short time, is harmful in the long run.”
~ Sayings of the Desert Fathers, 10.20
When one reads early Christian responses to Jewish practices like Kosher diet or Sabbath observance or circumcision, especially that of St. Paul, perhaps, one can get the impression that he contradicts himself. At some points, he says that so long as someone does these things with a good conscience, it is pleasing to God. At other times, he talks about how none of these things have any spiritual profit. I think this saying from Abba Evagrius gives us some insight into what that early Christian perspective really was about: prudence. Continue reading
If you are a theologian, you will pray truly. And if you pray truly, you are a theologian.
~ Evagrios the Solitary (of Pontus), 153 Texts on Prayer 61
Abba Evagrios (=”Evagrius”) gives a different definition of “theologian” than what is often the popular one. I have studied theology and even received a degree or two, but I do not accept the title of theologian. A theologian, according to Evagrios, is not primarily one who has read many books, but one who can truly pray. And that I struggle to do, and what I manage hardly matches up to his description. Continue reading
Abba Evagrius said that there was a brother who had no possessions but a Gospel, and sold it to feed the poor. And he said a word which is worth remembering: “I have even sold the word which commands me to sell all and give to the poor.”
~ Sayings of the Desert Fathers 6.5
Poverty is one of three particularly monastic disciplines, though I think in a more moderate form they can apply to everyone. The three are poverty, as I said, and virginity and obedience. These may quite possibly be the three least favorite things of our society. Continue reading
[Abba Evagrius] said: “A certain monk was told that his father had died. He said to the messenger[,] ‘Stop blaspheming. My father cannot die.'”
~ Sayings of the Desert Fathers 1.5
Family is a wonderful thing. Yesterday Kelly and Brendan and I attended a family reunion in southern Indiana. It was a five and half hour drive. We left Friday. We got back this evening. It was a long trip but a good one. Brendan (our six month old) was a real trooper. He is such a good baby. If seeing family and having such a patient baby weren’t enough of a blessing, this weekend Brendan quite clearly started saying, “Dada” (and “Mama”). It even seems intentional about 75% of the time. “Dada”—my son knows my name, and he can say it. And it’s possibly the cutest thing ever. Continue reading