The starets and the disciple

Long time ago there was a monk who everytime was asked by the abbot `How’s your health, brother?` answered disgruntledly that he was very tired because of the many chores he had to do. The abbot hearing these words of discontent all the time one day asked the monk:

`Brother what work are you doing that you exhaust yourself so much?

`Pious father I have so many chores every day and night that my physical powers would not be enough for me if God did not help me. First I have two hawks that I am trying to keep tied and tame. Secondly I have two hares that I am guarding so that they won’t run away.Thirdly I have two oxen and I watch them work. Fourthly I have a wolf I am guarding so that he wouldn’t harm anyone. In the fifth place I have a lion I am trying to defeat. In the sixth place I have a sick man I have to take care about all the time.

The starets hearing these smiled and said:

My son, I can’t believe that because it’s impossible for someone to do so many chores on one day and one night.

But I have told you the truth, pious father, said the monk.

Then the abbot, who till a point considered as superficial and insignificant the words of the monk said again:

`Son, explain this parable to me!`

And the monk started to say:

`First the two hawks, abba, are my two eyes that are flying here and there and I have to take heed so that they won’t see something which could tempt me to sin, thing which unfortunately was done by prophet and emperor David when he looked at Betsheba, Urijah’s wife.

Secondly the two hares are my legs I have to impede to run after pleasures and on the path of sin, because at my christening when the priest anointed them, said: `to walk on Your paths`, referring at Christ’s paths.

Thirdly, the two oxen are my hands which I guard carefully to see them work. But to work the good, as the hands of the Lord, because at my christening the priest said about them: `Your hands created me.`

In the fourth place the wolf is my tongue which always needs a bridle so that it won’t bite my brother with its slander and make him die. You know very well, abba, that the Holy Spirit says through saint Jacob, the brother of the Lord: If someone is not wrong with his word then he is a perfect man. And again: The tongue is a fire, a world of misdeeds! The tongue has its place among our limbs but it defiles the whole body.

And again: But the tongue cannot be quieted by anyone! It is an evil without rest; it is full of deadly poison. With it we bless God and curse the people who are made after the likeness to God.1

What must I do with this beast, with the wolf I have in my body?

One more thing, abba. How will I be able to achieve what saint John Chrysostom says about the tongue? Meaning to say neither too much nor too little, but to say everything with temperance so that I can be just without too much toil.

The saint doesn’t he say to make our tongue a balance where to weight carefully our words and say neither much nor little, but what it is necessary. Because of we weight carefully the gold and other precious things we must take heed at our own words even more carefully.

And something else, abba. How wouldn’t I fight with this wolf which is my tongue since saint Sisoe the Great says: Brother, dare, there are thirty years since I haven’t been praying to God for sin. But I am praying by saying these: Lord Jesus Christ protect me of my tongue! And until now I fall and sin because of it every day.2

In the fifth place, the lion, abba, is my heart and I have a ceaseless and fierce fight against it day and night but unfortunately it draws me by force to all the things that harm and destroy my soul. You see, abba, every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood3 and my heart is unclean as our Lord said:

For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.4

And about the truth of these words speaks as well prophet David who says to God:

Restore to me the joy of your salvation  and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. [5].

And in the sixth place, abba, my body is sick because it never has the same disposition: sometimes it wants to eat, other times to fast. Sometimes wants to rest, other times to strive. Sometimes it expects care, other times it doesn’t. Because of these I have to take care of it all the time since I need it as the egg needs its shell.

After he heard these from the wise monk, the abbot praised him saying:

If we all did what you do my son, meaning to strive to refrain our passions and tame our evil nature, the earth would become a heaven and we all would be happy and peaceful.

My brothers I wish you: Good struggle!

[1] Jacob 3, 2, 6 și 8.

[2] Patericon, Abba Sisoe, c. 5.

[3] Genesis 8, 21.

[4] Matthew 15, 19.

[5] Psalm 50, 12.