Friday, January 4, 2013

Abba Mark: Don't Judge the Priest

There is an interesting story about Abba Mark the Egyptian in the Sayings of the Desert Fathers. Abba Mark was tempted by the devil to distrust and disparage the priest who brought him communion in his cell, which Abba Mark did not leave for 30 years.

[The devil] brought it about that a demoniac went to the old man, under the pretext of asking for prayers. [He] cried out, “Your priest smells of sin, do not let him come near you any more.”

But Mark, filled with the spirit of God, said to him, “My son, everyone rids himself of impurity, but you bring it. It is written: ‘Judge not for that you be not judged.’  However even if he is a sinner, the Lord will save him, for it is written: ‘Pray for one another that you may be healed.’”

When he had said this and when he had prayed, he drove the devil out of the man and sent him away healed.

When the priest came…the old man received him with joy. Seeing the absence of malice in the old man, the good God showed him a marvel. When the priest prepared himself to stand before the holy table, this is what the old man related:

“I saw the angel of the Lord descend from heaven and place his hand on the priest’s head and he became like a pillar of fire. I was filled with wonder at this sight, and I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Man, why are you astonished at this? In truth, if an earthly king does not allow his nobles to stand in his presence in soiled garments, but only arrayed in glory, how much more will the divine power purify the servants of the holy mysteries who stand before the heavenly glory?’”

And the noble athlete of Christ, Mark the Egyptian, became great and was judged worthy of this grace because he had not judged the priest.

Ah, it is so difficult for me not to judge certain priests! I must learn to see the priest as God sees him. Of course, the priest is a sinful man…and I am a sinful woman. God will cleanse us both through the mystery of His incarnate Son and the Eucharist.

Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.

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