CHRISTIANITY AND HERMITS
Abba Anthony (ca. 251-356) said to Abba Poemen, "This is the great work of a man, always to take the blame for his own sins before God and to expect temptation to his dying breath."
Abba Anthony said, "I saw the snares that the Enemy spreads out over the world, and I said groaning, `What can get through from such snares?' Then I heard a voice saying to me, `Humility'."
He said also, "He who wishes to live in solitude in the desert is delivered from three conflicts: hearing, speech, and sight. There is only one conflict for him, and that is with fornication."
Some brothers came to find Abba Anthony to tell him about the visions they were having, and to find out from him if they were true or if they came from the demons. They had a donkey which died on the way. When they reached the place where the old man was, he said to them before they could ask him anything, `How was it that the little donkey died on the way here?' They said, `How do you know about that, Father?' And he told them, `The demons showed me what happened.' So they said, `That was what we come to ask you about, for fear we were being deceived, for we have visions which often turn out to be true.' Thus the old man convinced them, by the instance of the donkey, that their visions came from demons.
Abba Pityrion, the disciple of Abba Anthony, said, "If anyone wants to drive out the demons, he must first subdue the passions. For he will banish the demon of the passion which he has mastered. For example, the devil accompanies anger; so if you control your anger the devil of anger will be banished. And so it is with each of the passions."
Abba Andrew said, "These three things are appropriate for a monk: exile, poverty, and endurance in silence."
One of the old men said, "When Saint Basil [the Great (ca. 330-379)} came to the monastery one day, he said to the abbot, after the customary exhortation, `Have you a brother here who is obedient?' The other replied, `They are all your servants, master, and strive for their salvation.' But he repeated, `Have you a brother who is really obedient?' Then the abbot led a brother to him and Saint Basil used him to serve during the meal. When the meal was ended, the brother brought him some water for rinsing his hands, and Basil said to him, `Come here so that I also may offer you water.' The brother allowed the bishop to pour the water. Then Basil said to him, `When I enter the sanctuary, come, that I may ordain you deacon.' When this was done, he ordained him priest, and took him with him to the bishop's palace because of his obedience."
Abba [John] Cassian [360-435] related the following, "The Holy Germanus and I went to Egypt to visit an old man. Because he offered us hospitality, we asked him, `Why do you not keep the rule of fasting, when you receive visiting brothers, as we have received it in Palestine?' He replied, `Fasting is always at hand but you I cannot have with me always. Furthermore, fasting is certainly a useful and necessary thing, but it depends on our choice, while the Law of God lays it upon us to do the works of charity. Thus, receiving Christ in you, I ought to serve you with all diligence, but when I have taken leave of you, I can resume the rule of fasting again. For Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them, but when the bridegroom is taken from them, then they will fast in that day (Gospel of Mark 2. 19-20).'"
The brothers surrounded the same Abba John who was at the point of death and ready to depart eagerly and joyously to God. They asked him to leave them a concise and salutary saying as their inheritance, which would enable them to become perfect in Christ. Groaning he said to them, `I have never done my own will, nor taught anything which I had not previously carried out.'
May 25, 2009 1:41 PM
John Paul Adams, CSUN