"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

Wednesday 29 June 2011

St Peter & St Paul 2011 Temporary Profession of Br Patrick Lobo (homily of Abbot Paul)

            “But you, who do you say I am?” This question that the Lord Jesus addressed to his disciples at Caesarea Philippi, he addresses to you, dear Br Patrick, in a very particular and personal way today. When, just now, you listened to my question, “What do you ask of God and of his holy Church?’ you replied by saying, “I ask for God’s merciful love and to share in the monastic way of life in your community.” In fact, you were really replying to the question of Jesus by saying with St Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

            Perhaps you’re already thinking, “That’s a bit far fetched,” and no doubt the congregation thinks that too. But is it? After all, did not Jesus come to show us God’s merciful love and to teach us how to live in community as God’s beloved children? What brings a man to a monastery and what makes him persevere in the life? What leads him to ask to be professed and to take vows? Surely it must be because the Lord has called you and you have heeded his call, that you have been given the precious gift of a vocation and have not refused it? Surely it can only be because you truly believe without doubting that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God?

            When, in a few moments’ time, you pronounce the vows of your First Profession as a Benedictine monk in this community of St Michael and All Angels at Belmont, the vows of Obedience, Conversatio Morum and Stability, what you will really be doing is proclaiming your faith in God, in the Holy Trinity and in the Incarnation, that Jesus is most surely the Son of the living God. Although today is a Solemnity, we priests and people will not be saying the Creed, because your Monastic Profession is a proclamation of belief, a confession of faith. As St Peter spoke on behalf of the Twelve, you will be saying on our behalf, “I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Saviour, the Son of the living God.”

            Writing to Timothy, St Paul said, “ The Lord stood by me and gave me power, so that through me the whole message might be proclaimed for all the pagans to hear.” When the Lord called you to the monastic life, he promised to stand by you and give you power so that your fidelity to Christ, to the Gospel, to the Church and to the Rule of St Benedict might bear witness to the whole world that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Please God, when you come to die, you will be able to say with St Paul, “I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith.”

Think of this too: a Benedictine monastery with its community of monks living out the Gospel life in obedience to the tradition of the Catholic Church is, like St Peter, that rock on which the Church is built, against which the gates of the underworld can never hold out. That is why, unless your faith is rock solid, you will not persevere in the monastic life. Hence the importance of personal prayer and lectio divina, of our daily Mass and Communion, of regular Confession, of living the common life to the full, of work and study, of being totally disposed to do the will of God according to the mind of the Church and the traditions of this monastery. It is essential that your faith be strengthened daily by obedience, self-discipline and penance. And in moments of difficulty, trial and temptation, for surely they will come, remember that the Lord will send his angel to save you as he did when St Peter was cast into prison for being a follower of Christ.

Dear Br Patrick, may Our Lady pray for you so that, like her, every day of your life you may always say yes to God, “Fiat. Let it be done unto me according to thy word.” May St Peter and St Paul intercede for you and St Benedict be your guide. May St Francis Xavier and St Patrick support and encourage you in your endeavour. I assure you that the community, your brethren, will always be here to help you and to pray for you, so “Look towards him and be radiant. Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Amen.

From the Sayings of the Desert Fathers

Abba Ammonas  was asked, 'What  is the  "narrow and hard  way?" (mt.  7.14) He
replied, 'The "narrow and hard way" is this,  to control your thoughts, and to
strip yourself of your own will, for the sake of God. THis is also the meaning
of the sentence, "Lo,  we have left  everything and followed you." (Mt. 19.27)

It was said of  him that he  had a hollow  in his chest  channelled out by the
tears which fell   from his eyes  all his  life  while he  sat  at his  manual
work. When Abba Poemen learned  that he was  dead, he said weeping, 'Truly you
are blessed, Abba Arsenius, for  you wept for  yourself in this world!  He who
does not weep for himself here below  will weep eternally  hereafter; so it is
impossible  not  to  weep,   either  voluntarily or  when   compelled  through
suffering.'  [i.e. the latter suffering in hell]

It was also said of him (Abba Arsenius) that on Saturday evenings, pre- paring
for the glory of Sunday, he would turn his back on the sun and stretch out his
hands in prayer  towards the  heavens, till once   again the sun shone on  his
face. Then he would sit down.

   + + +

It was said of Abba Ammoes that when he went  to church, he  did not allow his
disciple to walk beside him but onlly at a certain distance; and if the latter
came to ask him about his thoughts, he would move away from himm as soon as he
had replied, saying  to  him,  'It  is  for fear that,  after  edifying words,
irrelevant conversation should slip in, that I do not keep you with me.'

It was said of Abba Ammoes that he had fifty measures of wheat for his use and
had put them out in  the sun, Before   they were properly   dried off, he  saw
something in  that place which  seemed to him to be  harmful so he said to his
servants, 'Let us go away  from here.' But  they were grieved at this.  Seeing
their dismay he said to  them, 'Is it because of  the loaves that you are sad?
Truly,  I have seen monks fleeing,  leaving  their white-washed cells and also
their  parchments, and they  did  not close the doors,  but  went leaving them

Abba Abraham told of a man  of Scetis who was a  scribe and did not eat bread.
A brother came to beg him to copy a book. The old man whose spirit was engaged
in  contemplation, wrote, omitting  some phrases and  with no punctuation. The
brother, taking the book and wishing to  punctuate it, noticed that words were
missing. So he  said to the old man,  'Abba, there are some phrases  missing.'
The old man said to him,  'Go, and practise first that  which is written, then
come back and I will write the rest.'  [Scetis=Sheheet]

   + + +

There was in the Cells an old  man called Apollo.  If someone came to find him
about doing a piece of work, he would set out joyfully, saying, 'I am going to
work with Christ today,  for the salvation of my  soul, for that is the reward
he gives.'

Abba Doulas, the  disciple  of Abba  Bessarion said, 'One   day when  we  were
walking beside the sea I was thirstty and I said to Abba Bessarion, "Father, I
am very  thirsty." He said a prayer  and said to  me,  "Drink some of  the sea
water." The water proved sweet when I drank  some.  I even  poured some into a
leather bottle for  fear of being thirsty later  on. Seeing this, the old  man
asked me why I was taking some. I said to him, "Forgive  me, it is for fear of
being  thirsty   later on."  Then  the old  man  said,  "God is here,   God is
everywhere." '

A brother questioned Abba Poemen in this way, 'My  thoughts trouble me, making
me put my sins aside,  and concern myself with my  brother's faults'.  The old
man told him the following story about Abba Dioscorus (the monk), 'In his cell
he wept over himself, while his disciple was sitting in another cell. When the
latter came to see the old man he asked him, "Father, why are you weeping?" "I
am weeping  over my sins," the old  man answered him.  Then his disciple said,
"You do not have any sins, Father."  The old man replied, "Truly, my child, if
I were allowed to see my sins, three or four  men would not  be enough to weep
for them. "

   + + +

This is what Abba Daniel, the Pharanite, said, 'Our  Father abba Arsenius told
us of an  inhabitant of Scetis, of notable  life and of  simple faith; through
his  naivete he was  deceived and said,  "The  bread which  we  receive is not
really the body of Christ, but a symbol. Two old men having learnt that he had
uttered this saying, knowing that he was outstanding  in his way of life, knew
that he had not spoken through malice, but through simplicity. So they came to
find him and said, "Father, we have heard a proposition  contrary to the faith
on the part of someone who says that the bread which we receivve is not really
the body of  Christ, but a symbol." The  old man said,  "it is I who have said
that." Then  the  old men exhorted  him  saying, "Do not  hold  this position,
Father, but hold one  in conformity with that  which  the catholic  Church has
given us. We  believe,  for our part, that  the  bread itself is  the  body of
Christ as in  the beginning, God formed man  in his image,  taking the dust of
the earth, without anyone being able to say that  it is not  the image of God,
even though it  is not seen  to be so;  thus it is  with teh bread of which he
said that  it is his  body; and so we believe  that it is   really the body of
Christ." The  old man said to them,  "As long as  I have not been persuaded by
the thing itself, I shall not be fully convinced." So they  said, "Let us pray
God about this mystery throughout the whole  of this week  and we believe that
God will reveal it  to us." The old man  received this saying  with joy and he
prayed in these words, "Lord, you know that it is not through malice that I do
not believe and so that  I may not err through  ignorance, reveal this mystery
to me, Lord Jesus Christ." The old men  returned to their  cells and they also
prayed God,  saying, "Lord Jesus Christ, reveal  this mystery to the  old man,
that he may believe and not lose his  reward." God heard  both the prayers. At
the end of  the week they  came to church on Sunday  and sat all  three on the
same mat, the old man in the middle. Then their  eyes were opened and when the
bread was placed on the holy table, there  appeared as it  were a little child
to these three   alone. And when  the priest  put  out his  hand to break  the
breadd,  behold an  angel descended from  heaven with  a  sword and poured the
child's blood into  the chalice. When   the priest cut   the bread into  small
pieces, the  angel also cut  the child  in pieces.  When    they drew near  to
receive the  sacred elements the  old man  alone  received a morsel  of bloody
flesh. Seeing  this he was afraid and  cried out, "Lord,   I believe that this
bread is your flesh and this chalice  your blood." Immediately the flesh which
he held in his  hand became bread, according to  the  mystery and he  took it,
giving thanks to God. Then  the old men  said to him,  "God knows human nature
and that man cannot eat raw flesh and that is why he has changed his body into
bread and his blood into  wine, for those who receive  it in faith."Then  they
gave thanks to God for the old man, because he had allowed him not to lose the
reward of his labour. So   all three returned with joy   to their own  cells.'

   + + +

It was said of Abba Helladius that he spent twenty years in the Cells, without
ever raising his eyes to see the roof of the church.

(Abba Epiphanius) added, 'A man who receives something from another because of
his poverty or his need  has therein his  reward, and  because he is  ashamed,
when he repays it he  does so in  secret. But it is the  opposite for the Lord
God; he receives in secret, but  he repays in the presence  of the angels, the
archangels and the righteous.'

It was said concerning Abba  Agathon that some monks came  to find him  having
heard tell  of his great  discernment.  Wanting to  see  if he would  lose his
temper they  said  to him  'Aren't  you that   Agathon who is   said to  be  a
fornicator and   a  proud man?'  'Yes,  it  is very true,'  he  answered. They
resumed,  'Arn't you  that Agothon who   is always talking  nonsense?' 'I am."
Again they said 'Aren't you Agothon the heretic?' But at that he replied 'I am
not a heretic.'  So  they asked him,  'Tell us why  you accepted everything we
cast you, but repudiated this last  insult.' He replied 'The first accusations
I take to myself for that is  good for my soul. But  heresy is separation from
God. Now I have no with  to be separated  from God.' At  this saying they were
astonished at his discernment and returned, edified.

(Abba Evagrius) said; 'Take away temptations and no one will be saved.'

   + + +

An Egyptian brother came to see Abba Zeno in Syria, and accused himself to the
old  man about  his temptations. Filled    with admiration, Zeno   said, ' The
Egyptians hide the virtues they  possess and ceaselessly accuse themselves  of
faults they do not have, while the Syrians  and Greeks pretend to have virtues
they do not have, and hide the faults of which they are guilty.'

In a village there was said to be  a man who  fasted to such  a degree that he
was called 'the Faster'. Abba Zeno had heard of him, and he  sent for him. The
other came gladly.  They prayed and  sat  down. The old man  began  to work in
silence. Since he could not succeed in talking to  him the Faster began to get
bored. So he said  to the old  man 'Pray for me, Abba,  for I want to go.' The
old man said to him. 'Why?' The other replied,  'Because my heart  is as if it
were  on fire and I do  not know what is the  matter with it.  For truly, this
when  I was in the village  and I fasted  until the evening, nothing like this
happened to me.'  The old man said, 'In  the village you fed yourself  through
your ears. But goo away and from now on eat at the ninth  hour and watever you
do, do it secretly.' As soon as he had begun to act on this advice, the Faster
found it difficult to wait until the ninth hour. And those  who knew him said,
'The Faster is possessed by the devil.' So he went to tell this to the old man
who said to him, 'This way is according to God.'

One day Abba Moses said  to brother Zacharias,  'Tell me what  I ought to do?'
At  these words the latter threw  himself on the  ground at the old man's feet
and  said, 'Are you asking me,  Father?' The old  man said to him 'Believe me,
Zacharias, my son, I have  seen the Holy Spirit descending  upon you and since
then I am constrained to ask you.' Then  Zacharias drew his  hood off his head
put it under his feet and  trampled on it,  saying, 'The man  who does not let
himself be treated thus, cannot become a monk.'

Abba Zeno said, 'If a man wants God to hear his prayer quickly, then before he
prays for anything else, even  his own soul,  when he stands and stretches out
his hands  towards God, he   must pray with  all his   heart for his  enemies.
Through this action God will hear everything that he asks.'

   + + +

Abba Gerontius of Petra said that many, tempted  by the pleasures of the body,
commit fornication, not    in  their body   but in  their   spirit, and  while
preserving their bodily virginity, commit prostitution in their soul. 'thus it
is  good, my well-beloved, to do  that which is  written and  for  each one to
guard his own heart with all possible casre.' (prov. 4.23)

One day Abba  Arsenius consulted an  old Egyptian monk  about his own thoughts
Someone noticed this and said to him, 'Abba Arsenius, how is  it that you with
such a good Latin and Greek education, ask this  peasant about your thoughts?'
He replied, 'I have indeed been taught Latin and Greed, but I do not know even
the alphabet of this peasant.'

Abba Elias, the  minister, said, 'What  can sin do  where  there is penitence?
And of what use is love where there is pride?'

   + + +

(Abba  Isaiah) said to  those  who were  making a  good  beginning by  putting
themselves under the direction of the  holy Fathers, 'As  with purple dye, the
first colouring is never lost.' And, 'Just as young  shoots are easily trained
back and bent, so it is with beginners who live in submission.'

(Abba Isaiah)  also said that when there  was an agape  and the  brethren were
eating  in the church  and talking to  one another, the  priest of Pelusia re-
primanded them in these words, 'Brethren, be quiet.  For I have seen a brother
eating with you and  drinking as many cups as  you and his prayer is ascending
to the presence of God like fire.'

(Abba Isaiah) also said 'When God wishes to take pity on a soul and it rebels,
not bearing anything and doing its own will, he then allows  it to suffer that
which it does not want, in order that it may seek him again.'

   + + +

The old men said to Abba Agothon to Abba Elias, in Egypt, 'He is a good abba.'
The  old man answered  them,  'In comparison  with his own  generation, he  is
good.' They said to him, 'And what is he in comparison with the ancients?'  He
gave them this  answer, 'I   have said to    you that in  comparison with  his
generation he is good but as to that of the ancients,  in Scetis I have seen a
man who,  like Joshua the son of  Nun could  make  the sun stand still  in the
heavens.' At these words they were astounded and gave glory to God.

(Abba  Theodore) said 'If  you are friendly  with someone who  happens to fall
into the  temptation  of fornication, offer  him  your hand,  if you can,  and
deliver him from it. But if  he falls into heresy and  you cannot persuade him
dto turn from it, separate yourself quickly  from him, in  case, if you delay,
you too may be dragged down with him into the pit.

A brother came  to Abba Theodore and began  to converse with him about  things
which he  had never yet put into  practice. So the old man   said to him, 'You
have not yet found  a ship nor  put your cargo aboard it  and before  you have
sailed, you have already arrived at the city. Do the work first; then you will
have the speed you are making now.'

   + + +

Abba Theodore of Pherme  said, 'The man  who remains standing when he repents,
has not kept the commandment.'

A brother said to Abba Theodore, 'I wish  to fulfil the commandments.' The old
man told him that Abba Theonas had said to him, 'I want to fill my spirit with
God.' Taking some flour to the bakery, he had made loaves which he gave to the
poor who asked  him for them;   others asked for   more, and he gave them  the
baskets, then the cloak he was wearing, and he came back to  his cell with his
loins girded with his cape. Afterwards he took himself to task telling himself
that he had still not fulfilled the commandment of God.'

The same Abba Theophilus, the archbishop, came to Scetis one day. The brethren
who  were assembled said  to Abba Pambo,  'Say something to the Archbishop, so
that he may be edified.' The old man said to them, 'If he is not edified by my
silence, he will not be edified by my speech.'

   + + +

It was said about (abba Theodore) that, though he  was made a deacon at Scetis
he refused to exercise  the office and fled to  many places from it. Each time
the old men brought him back to Scetis, saying, 'Do not leave your deaconate.'
Abba Theodore said to them, 'Let me pray God  that he may  tell me for certain
whether I  ought to take my part  in the liturgy.' THen he  prayed God in this
manner, 'If it is your will then I should stand in this place, make me certian
of it.' Then appeared to him a column of  fire, reaching from earth to heaven,
and a voice said to him, 'IF you can become like this pillar, go be a deacon.'
On hearing this he decided never to accept the office. When  he went to church
the brethren bowed before him saying, 'If you do  not wish to  be a deacon, at
least hold   the chalice.' But  he refused,  saying, 'If you   do not leave me
alone, I shall leave this place.' So they left him in peace.

Abba Theodore of Scetis said,  'A thought comes   to me which troubles me  and
does not leave me free; but not being able to lead me to  act, it simply stops
me progressing in virtue;  but a vigilant man would  cut it off  and get up to

Abba  Theodor said,  'Privation of  food  mortifies the   body  of the  monk.'
Anotherold man said, 'Vigils mortify it still more.'

   + + +

Amma Theodora said,  'Let us strive  to enter by the narrow  gate, Just as the
trees, if they have not stood before the winter's storms cannot bear fruit, so
it is with us; this present age is a storm and it is  only through many trials
and temptations that we can obtain an inheritance in the kingdom of heaven.'

The  same amma said that a  teacher ought to  be a stranger  to the desire for
domination,  vain-glory,  and pride;  one should not  be able  to  fool him by
flattery,  nor   blind him by  gifts,  nor  conquer him  by  the  stomach, nor
dominate   him by anger;   but  he should   be patient, gentle   and humble as
far as possible; he must be tested  and without partisanship, full of concern,
and a lover of souls.

She  also said taht  neither asceticism, nor vigils nor  any kind of suffering
are able to save, only true  humility can do that. There  was an anchorite who
was able to  banish the demons;  and he asked  them, 'What makes you go away?'
'Is it fasting?' They replied, 'We do not eat  or drink.' 'Is it vigils?' They
replied, 'We do not sleep.' 'Is it separation from the world?' 'We live in the
deserts.'  'What power sends you away  then?' They said, 'Nothing can overcome
us,  but only  humility.'  'Do you see  how  humility  is victorious over  the

   + + +

It was said of Abba John the  Dwarf that he  withdrew and livead in the desert
at Scetis  with an old man of  Thebes. His abba, taking a   piece of dry wood,
planted it and said to him, 'Water it every day with a  bottle of water, until
it bears fruit.' Now the  water was so far away  that he had  to leave in  the
evening and return the following  morning. At the  end of three years the wood
came  to life and bore fruit.  Then the  old  man took some  of  the fruit and
carried it to the church saying to  the brethren, 'Take and eat  the fruit of 

It was  said  of Abba John  the  Dwarf, that  one   day he  said  to his elder
brother,'I should like  to be free  of all care, like the  angels,  who do not
work, but ceaselessly offer worship to God.' So he took off hsi cloak and went
away   into the desert.  After a  week  he came  back  to his brother. When he
knocked on the  door, he heard  his brother say,  before he opened it 'Who are
you?' He said, 'I am John, your brother.' But  he replied, 'John has become an
angel, and henceforth he is  no longer among  men.' Then the other begged  him
saying. 'It is I.' However, his brother did not let him in, but left him there
in distress until morning. Then, opening the door, he said to  him, 'You are a
man  and you  must   once agian work  in  order   to eat.' Then   John  made a
prostration before him, saying, 'Forgive me.'

One day   when  he was  sitting in  front  of the   church, the brethren  were
consulting  him about their thoughts. One  of the old men who  saw it became a
prey to jealousy and said to him, 'John, your vessel is  full of poison.' Abba
John said  to him, 'That  is very true, abba; and  you have said that when you
only see the outside, but if you were able to  see the inside, too, what would
you say then?'

   + + +

Some brethren came  one  day to  test him to  see  whether  he would  let  his
thoughts get dissipated and  speak of the  things of this  world. They said to
him  'We give thanks  to God that  this year there has been  much rain and the
palm trees  have been  able to drink,   and their shoots  have grown,  and the
brethren have found manual work.' Abba  John said to them, 'So  it is when the
Holy Spirit descends into  the hearts of  men; they are  renewed and  they put
forth leaves in the fear of God.'

It was said of him (Abba John the Dwarf) that one  day he was weaving rope for
two baskets, but  he made it into one  without noticing, until  it had reached
the wall, because his spirit was occupied in contemplation.

Abba John said, 'I  am lke a man sitting  under a  great  tree, who  sees wild
beasts   and  snakes coming  against him  in   great numbers.  When  he cannot
withstand them any longer, he runs to climb the tree and is  saved. It is just
the same with me;  I sit in  my cell and  I am aware  of evil  thoughts coming
against  me, and when I have  no more strength  against them, I take refuge in
God by prayer and I am saved from the enemy.'

   + + +

Abba  Poemen said of  Abba John the  Dwarf that he had prayed  God to take his
passions away from him  so that he might become  free  from care. He  went and
told an old man this; 'I find myself in peace, without an enemy,' he said. The
old man said to him, 'Go beseech God to stir up warfare so that you may regain
the affliction and humility that you used to have, for it  is by warefare that
the soul makes progress.'  So he besought  God and  when  warfare came,  he no
longer prayed that it might be taken  away, but said,  'Lord, give me strength
for the fight.'

Abba John said, 'We  have put the light burden  on one side,  that is  to say,
self-accusation, and we have  loaded ourselves with  a  heavy one, that  is to
say, self-justification.'

He also said, 'Humility and the fear of God are above all virtues.' 

   + + +

Abba John gave this advice, 'Watching  means to sit in the  cell and be always
mindful of God. This is what is meant by, "I was on the watch  and God came to
me."  (Matt. 25:36)

One of the Fathers said of him, 'Who is this John, who by his humility has all
Scetis hanging from his little finger?'

Abba John the Dwarf said, 'There was a spiritual old man  who lived a secluded
life.  He  was  held  in  high estimation in   the  city and  enjoyed  a great
reputation. He  was told that  a certain old  man, at the  point of death, was
calling for him, to embrace him before he  fell asleep. He thought to himself,
if I go by day, men will run after me, giving me great honour, and I shall not
be at peace in  all that. So  I will go in the  evening in the darkness  and I
shall escape everyone's notice. But lo, two angels were sent by God with lamps
to give him light. Then the whole city came out to see his glory.  The more he
wished to Flee from glory, the more he was glorified. In this was accomplished
that which is  written: "He  who  humbles himself will  be  exalted." '  (Luke

   + + +

Abba John the Dwarf  said, 'a house  is not built by geginning  at the top and
working down. You must begin  with the fundations in order  to reach the  top.
They siad  to him, 'What  does this saying  mean?' He said, 'The foundation is
our neighbour, whom we must win, and that is  the place to  begin. For all the
commandments of Christ depend on this one.'

Abba Poemen said  that Abba John  said that  the saints are   like a group  of
trees, each bearing  different  fruit, but watered from  the  same source. The
practices of one saint differ from those of another, but it is the same Spirit
that works in all of them.

Abba John said to his brother,  'Even if we are entirely  despised in the eyes
of men, let us rejoice that we are honoured in the sight of God.'

   + + +

The old man  (abba John the Dwarf)  said,  'You know that  the  first blow the
devil gave  to Job was  through his possessions;  and he saw  that he  had not
grieved him nor separated him from God. Whith  the second blow, he touched his
flesh, but the  brave athlete did  not sin by  any word that  came out of  his
mouth in that either. In  fact, he had within his  heart that which is of God,
and he drew on that source unceasingly.'

An   old man came to abba   John's cell and   found  him asleep  with an angel
standing above him, fanning him. Seeing this,  he withdre. When jAbba John got
up, he  siad to his  disciple, 'Did anyone  come in  while I was  asleep?'  he
said, 'Yes, an old man.' Then Abba John knew that  this old man was his equal,
and that he had seen the angel.

   + + +

(Abba Isidore) said,  'When I was  younger and remained  in my  cell I set  no
limit to prayer; the night was for me as much the time of prayer as the day.'

Abba Isidore went one day to see Abba Theophilus, archbishop of Alexandria and
when  he returned to  Scetis the trethren asked him,  'What is going on in the
city?' But he said to them, 'Truly, brothers, I did not see the face of anyone
there, except that of the archbishop.' Hearing this they were very anxious and
said to him, 'Has there  been a disaster  there, then, abba?'  He said 'Not at
all,  but the thought  of looking at  anyone did not get the  better of me' At
these   words they  were  filled with   admiration,  and strengthened in their
intention of guarding kthe eyes from all distraction.

(Abba Isidore  of Pelusia) said,  'Prize virtues  and  do not be the  slave of
glory; for the former are immortal, while the latter soon fades.'

He also said, 'The  heights  of humility are  great  and so are the  depths of
boasting;  I  advise you to attend  to  the  first and not  to  fall  into the

   + + +

Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, 'Abba as far as  I can I say
my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as
far as I can, I  purify my thoughts.  What else can   I do?' then the old  man
stood up and stretched  his hands towards  heaven. His fingers became like ten
lamps of fire and he said to him, 'If you will, you can become all flame.'

(Abba James) said, 'Just as a lamp lights up a  dark room, so  the fear of God
when it  penetrates the heart of a  man illuminates him,  teaching him all the
virtues and commandments of God.'

He also said, 'We do not need words only, for, at the  present time, there are
many words  among men, but  we need works,  for this is  what is required, not
words which do not bear fruit.'

   + + +

Abba John of the Cells told us this story: 'There was in Egypt a very rich and
beautiful courtesan, to whom  noble and powerful people came.  Now one day she
happened to be near the church and she wanted  to go in.  The sub- deacon, who
was standing at the  doors, would not allow her  to enter saying, "You are not
worthy to enter the house of God,j jfor you  are impure." The Bishop heard the
noise of their argument and came out. Then the courtesan said to him, "He will
not let me enter the church." So the Bishop said to her,  "You are not allowed
to enter it, for you are not pure."  She was filled  with compunction and said
to him, "Henceforth I will not commit fornication any  more." The jbishop said
to her, "If you bring your wealth here, I shall know that  you will not commit
fornication any more." She brought  her wealth and  the bishop burnt it all in
the  fire. Then she  went into the  church, weeping  and  saying, "If this has
happened to  me  below, what  would I not   have suffered above?" So  she  was
converted and became a vessel of election.'

(Abba Isidore  the priest)  said, 'If you  fast regularly,  do not be inflated
with pride, but if you think  hightly of yourself  because of it, then you had
better eat meat.  It is better for a man to eat meat than  to be inflated with
pride and to glorify himself.'

It was said of Abba John the Persian thast when some evildoers came to him, he
took   a basin and  wanted to  wash  their feet.  But  they   were filled with
confusion, and began to do penance.

   + + +

From Palistine, Abba   Hilarion went to the mountain   to  abba Anthony.  Abba
Anthony  said to him,  'You are welcome,   torch which awakens  the day.' Abba
Hilarion said, 'Peace to you, pillar of light, giving light to the world.'

The holy Fathers were making predictions about the  last generation. They said
'What have we ourselves done?' One of  them, the great abba Ischyrion replied,
'We  ourselves have fulfilled  the commandments of  God.'  The others replied,
'And those who come after us, what will they do?' He said, 'They will struggle
to achieve half our works.' They said, 'And to those who come after them, what

Abba Copres said, 'blessed is he who bears affliction with thankfulness.'

   + + +

One day,  the inhabitants of Scetis assembled  together to discuss Melchizedek
and they forgot to invite Abba Copres. Later on they called  him and asked him
about this matter.  Tapping  his mouth  three times, he  said 'Alas  for  you,
Copres! For that which God commanded you do,  you have put  aside, and you are
wanting  to learn something  which you have not been  required to know about.'
When they heard these words, the brothers fled to their cells.

Abba Cyrus of Alexandria was asked about the temptation of fornication, and he
replied, 'If you do not think about it, you have  no hope, for  if you are not
thinking about it, you are doing it. I mean, he who does not fight against the
sin and sresist  it in his spirit will  commit the sin  physically. It is very
true that he  who is fornicating in fact  is not worried about thinking  about

   + + +

Some of the monks who are  called Euchites went  to Enaton to see Abba Lucius.
the Old man asked  them, 'What is your manual  work?' They said  , 'We  do not
touch manualj work but as the Apostle says,  we pray without ceasing.' The old
man asked them  if they did  not eat and they replied  they did. So he said to
them  "'When you are eating, who  prays for you then?' Again  he asked them if
theydid  not sleep and they replied  they did. and he said  to them, 'When you
are a asleep, who prays for you  the?' They could not find  any answer to give
him. He said  to them, 'Forgive me, but  you do not act as  you speak. I  will
show you how, while doing my manual  work, I pray  without interruption. I sit
down with God, soaking my  reeds and plaiting  my ropes, and  I say "God, have
mercy on me, according  to your great goodness and  according to the multitude
of your mercies,  save me from my sins."  ' So he  asked them if this were not
prayer and they replied it was. Then he said  to them, 'So  when I shave spend
the whole  day working and praying, making  thirteen  pieces of money  more or
less,  I put two pieces of  money outside the door and  I pay for my food with
the rest of the mony. He who takes the two pieces of maney prays for me when I
am eating and when I  am sleeping; so   , by the  grace of  God, I fulfil  the
precept to pray without ceasing.'

   + + +

They said of Abba Macarius the Great  that he became, as it  is written, a god
upon  earth, because, just as God  protects the world,  so Abba Macarius would
cover the faults which he saw, as though he did  not see them; and those which
he heard, as though he did not hear them.

   + + +

The angel when giving the  rules of monasticism  to St. Pachomius said to him:
"... He  laid down that   in the course   of the day   they should make twelve
prayers, and  at  the lamp-lighting  time twelve, and   in  the nightly vigils
twelve, and at the ninth hour  three. When the multitude goes  to eat, he laid
down that a psalm should be sung before each prayer.  As Pachomius objected to
the angel that the prayer were too few ..."

   + + +

The same Abba  Macarius while he  was in Egypt  discovered a  man who owned  a
beast of burden  engaged in plundering Macarius' goods.  So he came up to  the
thief as if he was a stranger and he helped him to load the animal. He saw him
off in great peace of soul saying,  'We have brought  nothing into this world,
and we cannot take anything out of  the world.' (1Tim.6.7)  'The Lord gave and
the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.' (Job 1.21)

Abba Macarius was asked, 'How should one pray?' The  old man said 'There is no
need at all to make long discourses; it  is enough to  stretch out one's hands
and say, "Lord, as you will, and as you know, have mercy." And if the conflict
grows fiercer say, "Lord, help!" He knows very well what we  need and he shews
us his mercy.'

A brother went to Abba  Matoes and said to him,  'How is it  that the monks of
Scetis  did more thatn  the Scriptures  required in loving  their enemies more
than themselves?' Abba Matoes said to him, 'As  for me I  have not yet managed
to love those who love me as I love myself.'

   + + +

It was said  of Abba Silvanus  that at Scetis he had  a dijsciple called  Mark
whose obedience was great.  He was a scribe. The  old man loved him because of
his  obedience. He had  eleven other disciples  who were hurt because he loved
him more than them. When  they knew this,  the elders were  sorry about it and
they came one day  to him to  reproach him about  it. Taking them with him, he
went to knock at each  cell, saying, 'Brother  so  and so,  come here; I  need
you,' but none of them came immediately. Coming to Mark's cell, he knocked and
said, 'Mark.' Hearing the  old man's voice,  he jumped up immediately  and the
old man sent him off to serve and said to the elders,  'Fathers, where are the
other brothers?'  Then he went  into Mark's  cell and picked   up his book and
noticed  that he had  begun to write the letter  'omega' ["w"] but when he had
heard  the old man,  he had not  finished writing it.   Then  the elders said,
'Truly, abba, he whom you love, we love too and God loves him.'

   + + +

Abba Poemen said of Abba Nisterus that he was like the  serpent of brass which
Moses made for the healing of the people:  he possessed all virtue and without
speaking, he healed everyone.

Abba Xanthias said,  'The thief was on  the  cross and he  was  justified by a
single word; and Judas who was counted in the number jof the apostles lost all
his labour in one single night  and descended from  heaven to hell. Therefore,
let no-one boast of  his good works,  for all  those  who trust  in themselves

|_    This article is one  of many more articles  about the  Coptic Orthodox
   |     Church, the Christian Apostolic Church of Egypt. These articles can be
   |     obtained electronically from Copt-Net Repository,  using anonymous FTP
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