The simplicity and sincerity of the apophthegms of the elders from the desert are many times puzzling. Behind the common, simple, apparently clear words huge worlds can open up, if you ask boldly, inquisitively and patiently. From abba Pimen remained a saying which in the classic translation of the Patericon published at Alba Iulia sounds as follows:
`If the man keeps his order he is not troubled.` Another translation speaks about the man who keeps his rule. The core word of which it depends the understanding of this apophthegm is taxis, with a wide semantic content.
For this reason in Latin it is translated by order and Benedicta Ward, when she translates this apophthegm in English, speaks about the man who keeps his place in life and Lucien Regnault speaks too about the one who keeps his place or position.
Surely some translations are more accurate than others, every one of them is more or less close of the original but many times all these versions altogether succeed to offer us a complex understanding of the wide meanings the words of the elders have. The first Romanian translations of the Patericon (which unavoidably settle a certain interpretative tradition) are born in the monachal environment. Here the norm or the rule is the schedule of prayer of every man, which gives rhythm to the entire life. But the rule is more than this, it is the order which reigns around us and which comprises more or less the whole world. This order must be respected for descoverying the freedom it brings with it. The temptation of nihilism probably doesn`t spare anyone. At this phase the order of the world is constraining, suffocating, unbearable. However abba Pimen says something obvious: Order brings with it freedom. Only within an order you can walk on treaded paths and you are not forced to begin from zero every day, to reinvent the wheel every morning and build up all the time your identity without having any foundation.
This view is completed by the Western translations which catch from taxis the meaning of social hierarchy, of position of the man in the world. We must take into account that the Patericon is not a social manifest but a book written by monks for monks.
Some rebels who chose to live a radical form of freedom far away from the world. Nobody compelled them to go there, they did that for following the irrepressible call of God for freedom. There in the desert they understood that there is a way which is accessible for everyone to change the world: by changing everyone his own self. To be able for real to dedicate yourself to the polishing of your self by prayer and contemplation you must give up on the exterior aims, to respect your place in order to be able to invest all your energies in the inner life.
Therefore the rule or the order is the path to freedom and peace. In the moment you can set yourself in order, you integrate it so it becomes your own nature and you discover a form of untroubled freedom which is inaccessible otherwise. The word of abba Pimen is today more vivid that anytome because it resounds in an unbalanced orderless world where chaos bursts in the most unexpected places and moments. A world which longs after order without even knowing it.
Pr. Paul Siladi