Abba Arsenios said once to abba Alexander: After you cut your rods come and eat with me and if you have guests eat with them.` Abba Alexander worked slowly and carefully and when the time came he still had work to do. So willing to keep the elder’s word, waited to finish it. Abba Arsenios seeing that he was late thought that he had guests and ate alone. When it was evening abba Alexander said: `I go.` Seeing him the elder said: `Did you have guests?` `No`, answered that one. The elder asked him again: `And why didn’t you come on time?` `Because you told me to come after I finish with the rods. Keeping your word I didn’t come because I have just finished now.` Hearing that the elder was surprised by his obedience and said: `Stop your fasting quickly to make your prayers and drink water. Otherwise your body will be soon exhausted.`
- Abba Abraham went once to abba Ares. While they were sitting a monk came to the elder and said: `Tell me what to do to save my soul?` The elder said: `Go and spend this year eating only in the evening bread and salt then come back to me and I tell you what.` The elder went and did that. He came back at the elder after one year. By chance abba Abraham was there. And the elder said to the young monk: `Go and fast this year, eating once every two days.` After he left abba Abraham said to abba Ares: Why do you give an easy canon to all the brothers and only to this one you give a heavy one?` And the elder said: `I speak to the brothers according to what they see when they come to me. This one is a struggler and he comes for God to hear word. He does everything I tell him zealously. That’s why I speak to him the word of God.`
- They said about abba John Colovic that retiring at the sete at an elder from Thebaide he lived in the desert. His elder took once a dry wood and after he thrust him in the earth he said: `Water this daily with a jug of water till it brings fruit.` The water was far from them and he left in the evening and returned the next morning.` After three years the wood came to life and gave nuts. The elder took the fruit went to the church and said to the monks: `Take and eat the fruit of obedience.`
- A Thebean came once to abba Sisoe wanting to become a monk. The elder asked him if he had someone in the world. `I had a son` he said. The elder said: `Go and throw him into the river and then you become a monk.` And as that one went to do that the elder sent a brother after him to stop him if he wanted to do that. And when he wanted to throw his son the monk ran and stopped him. And he said: `Leave me alone, abba told me to throw him!` `But afterwards he said not to throw him` said the monk. Then leaving his child he came to the elder and became a skilled monk.
- One of the Elders related that a pious scholar from Theoupolis [ii] used to go to a recluse elder asking him to receive him and make him a monk. The elder said: `Go and sell your fortune and give it to the poor following the commandment of the Lord then come and I’ll accept you.` That one left and did what he was told then came back and the elder said to him: `Now you have one rule to keep, to be silent. And he accepted. Five years passed like that with him keeping silence.Then those who knew him started to praise him. The elder hearing that said: `It is of no avail for you here. I’ll send you to a monastery from Egypt. And he sent him. But he didn’t tell him when he left if to speak or not. And he kept the rule remaining silent. The elder who received him wanted to try him and find out if he was dumb for real. He sent him for a chore when the river was out of its borders so that he would come back and be forced to say that he couldn’t pass. And he arriving at the river bent his knees and a crocodile came, took him on its back and crossed him on the other shore. The elder sent another brother after him to see what he did. This one seeing what happened went back and related t the elder and the other monks who listened amazed. After some time that brother died. Then the elder sent word to the recluse monk: `Even if you sent us a dumb he was an angel of God`, but the recluse answered: `He was not dumb by nature but he didn’t speak to keep the rule I gave him from the beginning.Hearing that they marveled and gave glory to God.
- An elder had a disciple who had been a slave[iii]; and this one showed absolute obedience towards him. One day the elder said: Go and light the oven then tae the boo we read the the holy service and throw it into the oven.` The disciple went and did that without wondering anything. And when he threw it the fire quenched.
- The leders said that who confides himself to another and become obedient to that one doesn’t need to take heed to God’s commandments; he only needs to leave his wills before his Elder and he doesn’t have any guilt before God. Because God doesn’t ask anything else from the beginners than the toil of obedience.
- A brother from the sete going to harvest went to a great elder and asked: `Tell me, abba, what to do at the harvest?` And the elder told him: If I tell you, you listen to me?` `I listen to you` answered the brother. `If you want to listen to me, he said, leave this harvest, go to your cell and stay there fifty days eating in the evening dry bread with salt. Then come and I tell you what to do.`
The brother left, did what he was told and after fifty days came back to the elder. The elder seeing that he was zealous told him how to stay in his cell. The brother returned to his cell and cried before God with his face down to earth. Then his thoughts told him: `You reached a high level, you became great!` And the brother counted all his mistakes saying: `Where are all my sins. And he counted them.` Then the thoughts changed and told him again: `You made many sins and you cannot save your soul.` But he answered back: `Yes, but I make a few prayers to God and I confide in His endless kindness that He will be merciful with me. Thus struggling and being struggled for a long time in the end the defeated demons showed up before him saying: `You defetead us.` `How?` `If we praise you, you find shelter in humility. If we humiliate you, you ignore it.` And being defeated by him they vanished.
- A man from the world had three children whom he left in the city and went to a monastery. After he spent there three years he began to be haunted by thoughts that aroused in him the memory and longing for his children. And he felt sad for them. He hadn’t told to his elder that he had children and that one seeing him upset said: `What’s wrong with you, why are you upset?` Then he said to the elder: `I have three children in the city and I want to bring them to the monastery. And the elder accepted. The brother went and found that two of his children had died and only one of them still lived. He took his child with him and went back to the monastery. And looking for the elder found him at the bakery and brought him the child. The elder took him in his arms and started to caress and kiss him and said to the father: `do you love him?` That one said: `yes`. The elder said: `Do you love him very much?` `Yes`he answered. Then take him and throw him in the heated oven. That one too his child at once and threw him with his own hands in the oven. But the flame turned into dew and the child was not burned. And his father reached the glory of Abraham, the patriarch.
- An elder said: The Saviour had as a beginning of His teaching the trouble and hardship. Who runs away of the beginning runs away of the knowledge of God. As the letters are for the children the beginning of learning for mastering knowledge it is the same for the monk: if he shows obedience in hardships and troubles he becomes co inheritor with God and son of God.
- Abba Pimen heard about abba Nisthero, who was young and lived in the monastery. He wanted to see him and asked his abbot to send that man to him. When that one came the elder asked him: „Abba Nisthero, how did you get this virtue that every time there is disorder in the monastery you don’t interfere. And after the elder insisted for a long time the brother said: `Forgive, me, abba. At the beginning when I joined the community I said to myself: `You are like the donkey. You are just as the donkey who is beaten and he doesn’t speak, who he is cursed and he doesn’t answer anything. As the psalmist says: `I became as a beast before your eyes and I’ll be forever with you.`
- Abba Pimen said: `The man who lives with his neighbor must be like a stone pillar: when cursed not to be angry, when praised not to be proud.`
- They said about John the little, the Thebean, the disciple of abba Ammoi, that when the elder was sick he served him for twelve years sitting with him on the straw mat. The elder was grumpy and even if the brother took great care of him never said to him: May you be saved.` But when he was on his deathbed and the monks were gathered around him held his hand and told him: `May you be saved. And entrusted him to the elders saying: This is an angel of God not a man.`
- One of the elders asked God to show him what level he had reached. And God revealed to him: `in that community is a monk that is better than you.` The elder got up and went to that monastery. When the superiors of the monastery heard about his arrival welcomed him warmly because he was renowned. The Elder told them: `I want to see all the brothers and embrace them.` The abbot called them and they came. But not that one about whom the elder was announced. Then he asked: `Is there any other brother?` And they said: `Yes, but he is stupid and works in the garden.` `Call him`, said the elder. And they called him. When the elder saw him he got up and embraced him. Then took him aside and asked: Tell me, what is your strife?` That one who was asked answered: `I am a fool man.` And after the elder insisted he said: `Abba brings in the cell with me the ox from the mill and he tear every day the straw ropes of the mat I am making. And I have been enduring this for thirty years and I’ve never let myself think anything against the abba, nor did I beat the ox but endure and make again the ropes thanking to God. When the elder heard that he marveled. Because from that he understood the rest of that brother’s strife.
[i] Thebean – inhabitant of Thebaide, region from the south of Egypt
[ii] Theoupolis is the name given during Justinian (sec.VI d.H.) to the city of Antiochia, the capital of Syria
[iii] a slave bought by the elder
Excerpt from EVERGHETINOS – bilingual edition 2010 Holy Monastery vol. II, Theme 33