We must avoid the companionship of the reckless and distempered people and whoever seeks salvation must stay away of the laymen* (I)

1. of Paladius to Lausus the cupbearer

Run with all your might of the company with men who cannot be of any use to you, even if they are monks and of course even more if they are laymen, avoid those who adorn their bodies in an inappropriate way, harming by their hypocrisy those who are with them, even if their white hair and the wrinkles of the face make them seem very olf. Because even if they would not harm you due to your noble habits, you will be hurt by what seems insignificant: your mind will be overpowered by lassitude and you will put on airs, making fun of them and this thing will harm you, because you will fall into pride.

2. of saint Gregory the Great

A deacon who lived in Nursia came to the man of God, Florentius, the anchorite, who lived in seclusion, far away from the world to as for his prayers. Outside the cell of that elder the deacon found a lot of snakes who spread all over. Frightened by them he cried:

`Servant of God,  make a prayer`

It was a wonderful weather then. Florentius coming out of his cell and seeing the endless cluster of snakes raised his hands and eyes to the sky praying to God to draw away that pest, as He knew. And while he prayed in the sky was heard a thunder that killed all the snakes. Florentius seeing all of them dead said: `You see, God, that You killed them. Now who will take them out of here?` And he has just finished his words and there came as many birds as the number of snakes. They took them and threw them, clearing that place.

*

Peter’s question:

How much power and rightness had this man that by his prayer made the almighty God appear to him      

Gregory’s answer:

Peter the purity of the human heart and the lac of malice can do many things before the One Pure God, who by nature has no malice. And those who serve Him, estranged of the earthly matters  do not say anything useless and they do not let their mind to scatter in words. That is why more than the others they find God ready to listen, because they strive to be like Him as much as possible by purity and lack of malice. But we are involved in the disorders of the people, speaking many times useless things and even harmful, the closer we go with our mouth to the world, the farther we get from God. 

Many of us are drawn towards the low things because of our easiness in accepting the company of the laymen. That is why Isaiah said it so well blaming himself after he had seen the King the Lord Sabaoth:  

`Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips`[1].

And he explained why he had unclean lips: `and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips` [2].

It hurt him the uncleanness of his lips confessing that he lived among people with unclean lips. It is impossible to keep your mind undefiled because of the tongue of the laymen.

The more we accept to meet with them, the more we get used to be around them and this is inappropriate for us. Then enjoying their company we don’t want to give up on it because the power of the habit unwillingly controls us. That is why it happens to go from the vain words to the hurting ones, from the innocent to the guilty ones. And then our mouth is not listened anymore by God in prayer as long as it is defiled by useless company as it is written:

He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination. [3].

 Why wonder then that when we ask something from God we are not listened while we receiving His commandments don’t listen to them at all or delay that?

It’s no wonder then that Florentius was listened when he prayed because he listened to the commandments of the Lord.

3. from the life of Saint Anthony the Great

      Saint Anthony loved living in the mountain. But once he descended ased by those in need, after he was insistently asked by the governor himself.[4]. He spoe a little about salvation answering to those in need and then hurrying to return to the mountain. But the governor insisted that he would stay longer. And Anthony answered that he could not stay anymore and he told them some wise words: `As the fish who stay much on the shore die the monks become languid if they stay too much with you and spend too much time with you. So we need to run to the mountain like the fish to the sea so that we may not forget about our inner guard, wasting too much time in this way.

4. from Patericon

       A brother asked for a blessing from an elder wanting to go to town without delay. And the elder told him: `Do not hurry to go to town, but to ran away of it and you will find salvation.`

*

      Abba John Colovic went once for harvest in the field ad he heard a brother saying to someone else with anger: `And you!` And he left the harvest and ran away.

*

      The disciples of abba Eulogius saide: When our elder sent us to Alexandria to sell our handicraft he asked us not to stay more than three days. If you stay more than three days, he said, I am not guilty for your sin. And we asked him: `How come that the monks who live day and night among the laymen in villages and town do not harm themselves? He said: `Believe me, my sons, that since I became a monk I reached 38 years without getting out of the sete. And once we went to Alexandria, to pope Eusebius, with abba Daniel, for a certain need. Entering the town we saw many monks. And we saw some of them hit in the face by ravens and others were embraced by naked women who whispered into their ears, others were slapped by naked young men who besmeared them with feces. We also saw some who cut with knives human bodies and they gave them to the monks to eat them. And I understood that everyone had devils to face according to his own vice and they follow him and speak to his mind. That’s why brothers do not let yourself be troubled by such thoughts or better said by devils.

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[*]    The monk runs away from the world for embracing in his prayer the whole world. He estranges of the laymen not because he would despise them or hate them but for coming to love them. Because by discovering the love of God his heart burns of love for all the people. But for this it is necessary to have relinquishment to follow the tough word of Christ:

: `Follow Me and let the dead bury their dead` (Matthew 8,22).

[1]   Is. 6,5.

[2]   Ibidem.

[3]   Pr. 28,9.

[4]   military governor.

Excerpt from EVERGHETINOS – first ed. 2007  Saint Holy Monastery Vatoped vol. I, Theme 22 –  Metropolis Press Publishing, Athens, Greece, 2007.