Friday, December 28, 2012

Some "Sayings"

I love reading the “Sayings of the Desert Fathers”, but sometimes I am left scratching my head. For instance, there’s this one about Mark, Disciple of Abba Silvanus:
On another occasion Mark decided to leave Scetis and go to Mount Sinai and live there. His mother sent his abba a message, begging him with tears to send her son out to see her. So the old man made him go. But as he was putting on his sheepskin to go and preparing to take leave of the old man, he suddenly burst into tears and did not go out after all.


But this one, about Abba Matoes, hits the mark for me:

A brother questioned Abba Matoes saying, “What am I to do? My tongue makes me suffer, and every time I go among men, I cannot control it, but I condemn them in all the good they are doing and reproach them with it. What am I to do?”

The old man replied, “If you cannot contain yourself, flee into solitude. For this is a sickness. He who dwells with brethren must not be square, but round, so as to turn himself towards all.”

He went on, “It is not through virtue that I live in solitude, but through weakness; those who live in the midst of men are the strong ones.”

Just preceding that one was this:

A brother questioned Abba Matoes saying, “Give me a word.”

He said to him, “Go, and pray God to put compunction in your heart, and give you humility; be aware of your faults; do not judge others but put yourself below everyone; do not be friendly with a boy nor with an heretical friend; put freedom of speech from from you; control your tongue and your belly; drink only a small quantity of wine, and if someone speaks about some topic, do not argue with him but if he is right, say, “yes”; if he is wrong, say, “you know what you are saying,” and do not argue with him about what he has said. That is humility.”

I have argued for some time that I should live in solitude because of my inability to do exactly what the Abba is saying in these last two passages.

Of course, I suppose one does not develop the virtues unless there is opportunity to practice them. Still…  

Anyway, at this point, I avoid “social” situations as best I can. 

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