While I was in trouble with my feet and very weak, some of the brethren came to see me and ask me to tell them something about the cause of my sickness. I think they had a double purpose, first to comfort me by distracting me from my pain and second to set me off talking about something profitable.
—Dorotheos of Gaza
I truly believe the monk’s assertion of the two fold purpose of any visit to those that are in need is very valid and weighty. When we comfort someone that is hurting, we have a tendency to turn them away from their pain, but more significantly we make them feel a sense of value. The monk was sitting in his cell probably thinking of nothing but the gout that caused him so much pain, but his day was interrupted with a joyful distraction. This interruption lifted him away from the routine of the day and gave him value to the brethren even in the midst of his pain.
Dorotheos gives us a very valuable lesson in his words. This lesson reframes the purpose of visiting the sick and lonely. When we comfort someone in need, we not only minister to them, but give them an opportunity to minister to us. The brothers visited the monk in his time of suffering, and they gave him the chance to feel whole again. Dorotheos teaches us that we should never stop sharing and never stop serving. In this serving and sharing, God allows us to be disciples no matter what our condition may be.
One of the fathers use to say, ‘before anything else we need humility: a being ready to listen whenever a word is spoken to us, and to say, “I submit”, because through humility every device of the enemy, every kind of obstacle, is destroyed.
——Dorotheos of Gaza
Perhaps the definition and function of humility is the foremost issue for anyone who wishes to follow the path of God. Humility is the ability to put yourself last, and to accept hardships that come along with the path of God. For any of us to follow after God, we must have the capacity to submit to God and others. Acquiescing to God is a tough charge, but to others is a near impossibility. We all find submission a problematic part of living. The monk says that submission is the first action, and that all others will follow. Humble wisdom gives us the capacity to sense the good in an act of submission. Further, it is the act of choosing the path that will lead to peace with God and our fellow man. Our day is full of strife and conflict. We live in a time where everyone demands to be heard and followed. Our challenge is to be humble enough to learn the value of a simple act of submission.
A man who gives way to his passions is like a man who is shot at by an enemy, catches the arrow in his hands, and then plunges it into his own heart. A man who is resisting his passions is like a man who is shot at by an enemy, and although the arrow hits him, it does not seriously wound him because he is wearing a breastplate. But the man who is uprooting his passions is like a man who is shot at by an enemy, but who strikes the arrow and shatters it or turns it back into his enemy’s heart.
——— Abba Dorotheos
The food for thought from the Abba is the various ways we handle the passions of life. He gives us three scenarios: surrender, self-willed resistance or spiritual release. The first two can have very dire consequences which can do great harm to us. The third allows us to experience the freedom of deliverance, and not just deliverance, but victory. As we travel on the contemplative path, we can achieve great comfort in knowing that we don’t have to fight the fight alone. God’s spirit will allow us to uproot our passions and become resistant to the tricks of the world
Why are we so ready to judge our neighbor? Why are we so concerned about the burden of others? We have plenty to be concerned about, each one has his own debt and his own sins. It is for God alone to judge, to justify or to condemn. He knows the state of each one of us and our capacities, our deviations, and our gifts, our constitution and our preparedness, and it is for him to judge each of these things according to the knowledge that he alone has. For God judges the affairs of a bishop in one way and those of a prince in another. His judgment is for an abbot or for a disciple, he judges differently the senior and the neophyte, the sick man and the healthy man. Who could understand all these judgments except the one who has done everything, formed everything, and knows everything?
——Doretheos of Gaza
The holy monk gives us advice on judging others. We have all experienced the hurt of being judged harshly by others who are not capable of truly understanding the plight that we are facing. Abba Doretheos puts forth the wisdom of tending our own lives before we judge others. He makes it abundantly clear that only the Holy One could possible know all that goes into our decisions in life, therefore, only He can judge us with wisdom and grace. Different people with varying functions in life have unique needs and are judged by appropriate standards. Only God can be a proper judge.