Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Fathers in the City

In the prior's absense, I (nBr. John) was asked to share with you a few apophthegmata. Br. Brendan found this one recently, more of a story than a saying, which seems particularly appropriate today, the 4th of July. This might be the most challenging day of the year for our charism in the city. Our whole horarium today has been rearranged to circumvent the noise of crowds, fireworks, barking dogs, and car alarms that will go into the wee hours of tomorrow morning. The heat and humidity of the last few days cancel any other defense against the intense barrage. And yet, all the while, we remember that we "are all going to the kingdom."

An old man said, "There was an old man living in the desert who served God for many years and said, 'Lord, let me know if I have pleased you.' He saw an angel who said to him, 'You have not yet become like the gardener in such and such a place.' The old man marvelled and said to himself, 'I will go off to the city to see both him and whatever it is that he does which surpasses my work and toil of all these years.' And so the old man went and came to the place he had heard about from the angel, and found the man sitting and selling produce. He sat with him for the rest of the day, and as the man was leaving, the old man said to him, 'Brother, can you give me shelter in your cell tonight?' The man was overcome with joy and welcomed him. Therefore they went to his cell and after the man had prepared things for the old man's refreshment, the old man said to him, 'Have charity, brother, and tell me of your manner of life.' Because the man did not want to speak of it the old man persisted for a great while in urging him to do so. Finally, having been shamed into it, the man said, 'I usually eat late in the evening and when I finish, I set aside only what I need for my food, and the rest I give to those in need, and if I am host to any of God's servants, I give it to them. And when I get up in the morning, before I sit down to work, I say, 'This city, from the least to the greatest, will enter the kingdom because of their righteousness, but I alone will inherit punishment on account of my sins.' And again in the evening when I go to sleep, I say the same thing.' When the old man heard this, he said to him, 'This practice is good, but not so good as to surpass my labors of all these years.' While they were getting ready to eat, the old man heard people in the street singing songs, for the cell of the gardener was in a public place. Therefore the old man said to him, 'Brother, wanting as you do to live according to God, how do you remain in this place and not be troubled when you hear them singing these songs?' The man said, 'I tell you, abba, I have never been troubled or scandalized.' When he heard this, the old man said, 'What, then, do you conceive in your heart whenever you hear these things?' And he said, 'That they are all going to the kingdom.' When he heard this, the old man marvelled and said, 'This is the practice which surpasses my labor of all these years.' In apology he said, 'Forgive me, brother, I have not yet approached this standard.' And, without having eaten, he withdrew again into the desert."


Professor J. Sánchez said...

What a story! Excellent work, Brs. John and Brendan!

BreadintheWilderness said...

St. Bernard contributes...
"You enjoy solitude
if you refuse to share in the common gossip
if you shun involvement in the problems
of the moment and set no store by the
fancies of the masses,
if you reject what everyone covets,
avoid disputes,
make light of losses,
and pay no heed to injuries..."



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If I, who seem to be your right hand and am called Presbyter and seem to
preach the Word of God, If I do something against the discipline of the Church
and the Rule of the Gospel so that I become a scandal to you, The Church, then
may the whole Church, in unanimous resolve, cut me, its right hand, off, and
throw me away.

Origen of Alexandria
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