Stories of the Desert Fathers
A brother in Scetis committed a fault. A council was called to which Moses was invited, but he refused to go to it. Then the priest sent someone to him, saying, "Come, for everyone is waiting for you". So he got up and went. He took a sack, filled it with sand and cut a small hole at the bottom and carried it on his shoulders. The others came out to meet him and said, "What is this, father" The Abba said to them, "My sins run out behind me, and I do not see them, and today I am coming to judge the errors of another" When they heard that, they said no more to the brother but forgave him.
There were two old men who dwelt together for many years and who never quarreled. Then one said to the other: "Let us pick a quarrel with each other like other men do. "I do not know how quarrels arise," answered his companion. So the other said to him: "Look, I will put a brick down here between us and I will say "This is mine." Then you can say "No it is not, it is mine." Then we will be able to have a quarrel." So they placed the brick between them and the first one said: "This is mine." His companion answered him: "This is not so, for it is mine." To this, the first one said: "If it is so and the brick is yours, then take it and go your way." And so they were not able to have a quarrel. Wisdom in suffering A certain Abba became very seriously ill and he lost much blood. One of the brethren had some dried prunes, and because of the severe illness of Abba, he cooked a little food and put the prunes in it, and brought it to him and entreated him saying, "Father do me an act of grace and take a little of this stew, for perhaps it will do you good." Abba lifted up his eyes and looked at him and said, "In what part of the Scriptures has you found this thing? Truly I have wished that God would leave me in this illness for the last thirty years, for when I am weak, then am I strong"; and the Abba although he was grievously sick, would not take even a little of the food, and when the brother saw this he took it and went back to his cell.
It was said of Abba Silvanus that at Scetis he had a disciple called Mark whose obedience was great. He was a scribe. The Abba loved him because of his obedience. He had eleven other disciples who were hurt because he loved him more than them. When they knew this, the elders were sorry about it and they came one day to him to reproach Abba about it. Taking them with him, he went to knock at each cell, saying, "Brother so and so, come here; I need you," but none of them came immediately. Coming to Mark"s cell, he knocked and said, "Mark." Hearing the Abba"s voice, he jumped up immediately and the Abba sent him off to serve and said to the elders, "Fathers, where are the other brothers?" Then he went into Mark's cell and picked up his book and noticed that he had begun to write the letter "omega" ["w"] but when he had heard Abba's command, he did not even finish it. Then the elders said, "Truly, Abba, he whom you love, we love too and God loves him."
Abba Macarius used to say to the brethren in Scete, "When mass is ended inthe church, flee, my brothers." And one of the brethren said to him, "Father, in this solitude where to, can we further flee?" And he laid his finger upon his mouth saying, "This is what I would have you flee." And so he would go into his cell and shut the door and there sit alone.
Compassion of God
There were two monks who committed a very serious sin when they went to the village to sell their wares. But they were wise enough not to let the devil trick them into discouragement and so they came back to the desert and went to the Abba to confess their sins. To ease them into theirconversion, they were asked to go and live on their own for one month on bread and water, to pray and do penance. When the time was over, Abba himself came over to reunite them with the disciples. However he was very surprised because one came out grim, downcast, pale while the other was radiant, buoyant and brisk. "What did you meditate upon?" Abba asked. The sad monk answered : "I thought constantly on the punishment which I merit and the justice of God". The happy monk answered : "Well, I used to remind myself constantly the mercy of God and the love which Jesus Christ had for the sinner." Both of them were joyfully accepted back in the community but Abba remarked on the wisdom of the brother who kept his mind fixed on the compassion of God. Love excuses Some old men went to Abba Poemen and asked, "If we see brothers sleeping during the synaxis [common prayer], should we wake them?" Abba Poemen answered, "If I see my brother sleeping, I will put his head on my knees and let him rest." Then one old man spoke up, "And how do you explain yourself before God?" Abba Poemen replied, "I say to God: You have said, "First take the beam out of your own eye and then you will be able to remove the splinter from the eye of your brother."
A brother questioned Abba Poemen, 'My thoughts trouble me, making me put my sins aside, and concern myself with my brother's faults'. Abba so told him the following story about Abba Dioscorus. 'In his cell he wept and wept over himself, while his disciple was sitting in another cell. When thelatter came to see him, he asked him, "Father, why are you weeping?" "I am weeping over my sins," he answered him. Then his disciple said, "You do not have any sins, Father." Abba replied, "Truly, my child, if I were allowed to see my sins, three or four men would not be enough to weep for them." Forgiveness A brother who was insulted by another brother came to Abba Sisoes, and said to him: "I was hurt by my brother, and I want to avenge myself". Abba tried to console him and said: "Don't do that, my child. Rather leave vengeance to God". But he said: "I will not quit until I avenge myself". Then Abba said: "Let us pray, brother; and standing up, he said: "Our Father... forgive us our trespasses as we forgive NOT those who trespass against us..." Hearing these words, the brother fell at the feet of the Abba and said: "I am not going to fight with my brother any more. Forgive me, Abba." The fruit of obedience Abba John the Dwarf went away to an old Theban in Scetis who lived in the desert. Once his Abba took a piece of dry wood, planted it, and said to him: Water it every day with a bottle of water until it bears fruit. The water, however, was so far away from there that John had to go out late in the evening and come back the next morning. Three years later, the tree came to life and bore fruit. Then Abba took some of the fruit and brought it to the church, and said to the brothers: Take and eat the fruit of obedience!