One day Abba Arsenius consulted an old Egyptian monk about his own thoughts someone noticed this and said to him, ‘Abba Arsenius, how is it that you with such a good Latin and Greek education, ask this peasant about your thoughts?’ He replied, ‘I have indeed been taught Latin and Greek, but I do not know even the alphabet of this peasant.’
—sayings of the desert
There are times in our lives when we are awe stuck with the simple holiness of individuals we encounter. All too many of us are wrapped up in the venture of making ourselves holy when we should practice the simple act of being holy. The Monk used the analogy of the alphabet to compare his knowledge to the (spiritual) knowledge of the peasant. Sometimes we miss the obvious because we are concentrating on the complicated. This is never truer than in our spiritual journeys. God did not make following Him a complicated task. That was man’s doing!
Today is the day to call ourselves to a simple form of prayer. The prayer that is just taking time to be with God. Let’s “put on hold” our quest of understanding all the mysteries of God and just spend some time with Him. Practice your spiritual ABC’s today.
It was said of him that he had a hollow in his chest channeled out by the tears which fell from his eyes all his life while he sat at his manual work. When Abba Poemen learned that he was dead, he said weeping, ‘Truly you are blessed, Abba Arsenius, for you wept for yourself in this world! He who does not weep for himself here below will weep eternally hereafter; so it is impossible not to weep, either voluntarily or when compelled through suffering.’
—- Sayings of the Desert
How many of us really take sin seriously enough to weep for ourselves. In a world of much rationalization and warped reasoning, it is woefully easy to excuse ourselves from blame for anything. In the early ‘70s, psychiatrist Karl Menninger wrote a book entitled Whatever Became of Sin? Years after Dr. Menninger’s death, his question still remains. Our culture has scraped the idea of sin as glibly as we dispose of our obsolete cell phones and computers. People who attend our churches don’t want to hear anything on Sunday that would upset them or cause just the slightest feeling of discomfort. When the words of the pastor or scripture itself cause introspection, it is time to flee. After all, I come to church to make myself feel better.
Abba Arsenius gives us an entirely different model for this matter. His feeling of sin was so deep that he spent untold hours weeping on his own behalf. Arsenius understood the gravity of the human condition and the gratefulness we should express because of God’s grace. No presumption was made that God loves us so much that we are forgiven even if do not repent. He wept for his own sins, and I believe the world would be a far better place if we did the same.