Category Archives: Abba Moses

The Leaky Sack

A brother 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.

—–Abba Moses of the Desert

If I were to say that we live in a judgmental world, it would be a surprise to no one. We are surrounded by people who make judgments on everything from the call of a referee at last Sunday’s football game to the right of someone to call themselves an American. People very neatly set up boundaries that give them permission to judge, and we just love being in the seat of judgment. From that seat we are a notch above everyone else, and it sure feels good. Jesus said: “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Abba Moses took the saying of Jesus very seriously. He was so mindful of his own sin that he knew he couldn’t possibly sit in judgment of another. His lessonabba-moses of the sack with the hole in it drives home an important point. We don’t see our own sins very clearly, how can we clearly see the sins of others? Our lives consist of a series of successes and failures that make up our journey towards God. Just as the monk didn’t see that going to a meeting of judgment was appropriate, we need to begin to get a glimpse of what is the true calling of the Christ follower. Our present age conditions us to see ourselves as far more the judges of the world rather than the light of the world.

The symbol of the leaky sack is to remind us that sins are not always seen by those who commit them and our sin is never far away from us. We do leave a trail of sin in our daily walk. That trail, however, is covered by grace that come from God’s love for us. We, in turn, need to understand grace so that we might fully receive such a gift and pass it on to others. That is the lesson of the leaking sack.


Prayer

Oh Lord, why does the wisdom of forgiveness escape us so readily? It seems so very difficult to empty ourselves of the baggage we carry. This baggage blinds us from the reality of our own weaknesses and frailty and drives us to a life of false righteousness. Help me, Lord, to tend to my own sin and allow me to live into a peace with You and my fellow sinners.

Amen

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What Does this Mean?

If a monk does not think in his own heart that he is a sinner, God will not hear him. The brother said, ‘What does this mean, to think in his heart he is a sinner?’ Then the old man said, ‘When someone is occupied with his own faults, he does not see those of his neighbor.’

—-Abba Moses of the Desert

Monk PrayingThis type of theme of careful introspection resonates very loudly in our grudge filled and judgmental society. The poet Anne Currin writes, “You’re so devoted to all your grudges, You cherish them like they’re a prize; You hold them with pride on your pedestal Bursting with bliss as your relationships die.” Many years before the poet wrote those words the people of the desert were pondering how to deal with such things. In this saying the Abba points us directly to our awareness of personal sin and its effect on our behavior toward others.

His advice is quite simple. We are called to believe in our hearts that we are sinners, and sin is our nature. Until we can recognize our nature, it is very difficult to improve our lot. When we turn our energies toward self – improvement we steer away from judgment of others, and towards unity with God. That unity, after all, is our primary goal. Own you sins and ask God to give you the grace to overcome.

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