Saturday, 17 October 2009

Things are not always what they seem ....

'The Verba Seniorum, the Sayings of the Fathers, are the kernel of the desert tradition. To come to them through Jerome, Rufinus, Palladius, Cassian, is like coming to the Gospels through the Epistles, to the oral as distinct from the literary tradition. ..... the source is one, the desert of Scete, to which one journeyed only by the signs and courses of the stars:  and the voices are for the most part, the voices of men who lived there between the middle of the fourth and the middle of the fifth century.....'    'The Desert Fathers' translated by Helen Waddell, published by Constable (London) 1936"

Book X  -   Of  Discretion
'At one time there came from the city of Rome a monk that had had a great place in the palace, and he dwelt in Scete near by the church and he had with him one servant that ministered unto him.  And the priest of the church, seeing his infirmity and knowing that he was a man delicately nurtured, used to send him such things as the Lord gave him or were brought into the church.  And when he had spent twenty-five years in Scete, he became a man of contemplation, of prophetic spirit and notable.  And one of the great Egyptian monks, hearing of his fame, came to see him, hoping to find a more austere discipline with him. And when he had come in he greeted him: and they prayed, and sat down.  But the Egyptian, seeing him softly clad, and a bed of reeds and a skin spread under him and a little head-rest under his head, and his feet clean with sandals on them, was inwardly scandalised, because in that place it was not the custom so to live, but rather in stern abstinence.  But the old Roman, having discernment and vision, perceived that the Egyptian was scandalised within himself, and said to his servant, "Make us good cheer today, for the sake of this Father who hath come."  And he cooked a few vegetables that he had, and they rose up at the fitting time and did eat:  he had also a little wine, by reason of his infirmity, and they drank it.  And when evening was come, they said the twelve psalms, and slept:  and in like fashion during the night.  And rising in the morning the Egyptian said, "Pray for me."  And he went away not edified.
           And when he had gone a little way, the old Roman, desiring to heal his mind, sent after him and called him back.  And when he had come, he again welcomed him joyfully, and questioned him, saying, "Of what province art thou?" And he answered, "I am an Egyptian." And he said to him, "Of what city?" And he answered, "I am of no city at all, nor have I ever dwelt in any city." And he said to him, "Before thou wert a monk, what didst thou do in the place where thou didst dwell?" And he answered, "I was a herd in the fields." And he said to him, "Where didst thou sleep?" And he answered, "In the field." And he said, "Hadst thou any coverlet?" And he answered, "What should I do with bedding,  sleeping in the fields?" And he said, "How didst thou sleep?" And he answered, "On the bare ground." And he said, "What didst thou eat in the field, and what kind of wine didst thou drink?" And he answered, "I ate dry bread, and any sort of salt fish if I could come by it, and I drank water." And the old man said, "It was hard toil." And he said, "Was there a bath on the estate where thou couldst wash thyself?" And he said, "Nay, but I used to wash in the river, when I wished to." And when the old man had drawn all this from his replies and understood the manner of his former life and his toil, being wishful to profit him he told him of his own past life when he was in the world, saying, "I, this poor man that you see, am of that great city, Rome, and held the highest place in the palace, beside the Emperor." And when the Egyptian heard him begin to speak, he was struck with compunction, and listened eagerly to hear what he would say.  And he went on: "So then, I left Rome and came into this solitude." And again he said, "I,  whom you see, had great houses and much wealth, and despising them I came to this small cell." And again he said, "I, whom you see, had beds decked with gold and coverlets most precious: and for these God hath given me this mattress of papyrus and this skin. And my garments were costly beyond price, and for them I use these poor rags." Again he said, "In the keeping of my table, much gold was expended: and for this He gives me these few herbs and a small cup of wine. Many were the slaves who served me, and for these lo! God had put compassion in this one man's heart, to tend me.  For a bath I pour a little water on my feet, and I wear sandals because of my infirmity.  And again for the pipe and lyre and other kinds of music wherein I delighted at my feasts, I say to myself  twelve psalms by day, and twelve by night.  But for those sins of mine that I then sinned, I offer now in quiet this poor and useless service unto God.  Wherefore consider, Father, and be not scandalised because of my infirmity."  And the Egyptian, hearing these things and turning upon himself, said, "Sorrow upon me, that I out of much tribulation and heavy toil, did rather come to rest and refreshing in the monastic life, and what I had not, I now have: but thou from great worldly delight art come of thine will into tribulation, and from high glory and riches art come into humility and poverty." And he went away mightily profited, and became his friend, and would often come to him to learn of him: for he was a man of discerning, and filled with the fragrance of the Holy Ghost.

From' The Desert Fathers' translated by Helen Waddell, published by Constable (London) 1936


Thoughts from St Alphonsus for every day of the year' compiled by Rev C McNeiry C.SS.R

'When devotion towards Mary begins in a soul, it produces the same effect that the birth of this most holy Virgin produced in the world.  It puts an end to the night of sin, and leads the soul into the path of virtue.'    (October 17th)

May God bless, and Our Lady guide and protect, our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.