Virgins and Sticks

John Cassian Mosiac

John Cassian

There was an old man who was served by a holy virgin and men said he was not pure. The old man heard what was said. When he was at the point of dying he said to his fathers, “When I am dead, plant my stick in the grave; if it grows and bears fruit, know that I am pure from all contact with her; if it does not grow; know that I have sinned with her.” So they planted the stick and on the third day it budded and bore fruit, and they all gave glory to God.

——Abba Cassian

The importance of this saying is not in its factual content but in its parabolic truth. In the day of the lost art of telling the story, we miss so much. The wise old man is illustrating the point that our real selves will not be seen in this life but in what our lives bring forth – that is seen through the eyes of our Creator. As we toil from day to day we miss so much of the grace of God’s creation. In our struggle to find and do right, we miss the most important point of all. God makes things right. Holy is living not really about virgins and sprouting sticks. Cassian tells us that the old man knew God and his life bore fruit.

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Filed under Christian Living, Desert Fathers, Devotional Quotes, John Cassian

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