Two monks, Tanzan and a younger monk, were walking down a muddy street in the city. They came on a lovely young girl dressed in fine silks, who was afraid to cross because of all the mud.
“Come on, girl,” said Tanzan. And he picked her up in his arms, and carried her across.
The two monks did not speak again till nightfall. Then, when they had returned to the monastery, the young monk couldn’t keep quiet any longer.
“Monks are not suppose to go near young girls,” he said “certainly not beautiful ones like that one! Why did you do it?”
“My dear fellow,” said Tanzan. “I put that girl down back in the city. It’s you who are still carrying her.”
For the young monk, and for many of us, crossing the river can be the hardest task that we ever face. We find it exceedingly difficult to put something down, or to allow a difficult task to be in the past. Like the young monk we carry the burden far past the decision.
Prayer Starter – Lord release me for worry and anxiety today, and allow me to cross the river.
It was said of Abba Theodore of Pherme that three things he held to be fundamental were: poverty, asceticism, flight
He also said, ‘The man who remains standing when he repents, has not kept the commandment.’
—–Sayings of the Desert
The advice from the monk is to have your life characterized by some fundamental attitudes that lead us closer to God. He goes on to tell us that true repentance is manifested in outward humility. The words poverty and asceticism can be summed up by just saying that we are called to a life of simplicity. This type of simplicity allows us to put God first in our lives. Such a simplicity keeps us away from many temptations. Those that live the simple life are generous, compassionate and without greed or envy. The expression “flight from men “can be summed up by saying, put aside the things of the world and spend time with God. This life is designed to keep us constantly distracted and occupied with the things of the world. Such a state of affairs gives us little time for the things of God. We all want to get to a place where we find peace and harmony with ourselves and the rest of the world. That was the Abba’s goal and ours, too.
Striving towards that simplicity demands repentance, not just a casual confession, but true repentance. That repentance is one of depth and conviction, and it brings about conversion. Such a conversion will affect us greatly. There are too many professing Christians who can simply “remain standing” surrounded by their sin. All of us are called to a repentance and conversion of heart that brings us to our knees, helpless without the grace of God.
“If you take little account of yourself, you will have peace wherever you live.”
Over inflated egos are an ancient problem. Abba Poeman gives us these simple words from his desert monastery fourteen hundred years ago. If we are to take little account of ourselves, we must develop a sense of self that is beyond our earthly reach. My world, your world, is dominated by goals and ambitions to further quality of life. This is not wrong in and of itself, but it must be tempered by acknowledging that all comes from the Lord God.
There are countless stories of people living lives plagued by self-doubt and restlessness, and all of their pain is rooted in their own self-gratification. They move from place to place, relationship to relationship, and job to job searching for that perfect place of peace. The key to peace is knowing who we are in the sight of God. He created us for good. He created us in His image, and yes, He wants us to live in peace. Such a peace is found when we offer ourselves to Him. In offering ourselves to Him, we become smaller to the things of the earth and larger to the things of heaven.
Give it some thought. Begin to see yourself as a child of God and not a child of man. This transition could give you abundant peace.
He also said, ‘Do not give your heart to that which does not satisfy your heart.”
—–Abba Poeman of the Desert
We miss so much of life because we are not following our hearts. From a very early age we are taught that the longings of our hearts are selfish and should be suppressed. I am a believer that we all have some special something that we can give heart and soul to. This something is a gift from God that satisfies our heart in a marvelous way. Far too many people spend their lives in meaningless toil and misery because they do not seek the deep desires of their heart.
Though Abba Poeman advice is over a thousand years old, it still speaks to us. Our world is full of people in unhappy marriages, jobs, and all other sort of contentious activities. These less than satisfying endeavors of the heart lead to depression and anxiety. Just imagine how much better your life would be if we sought the desires of your heart. Most of us cannot just abandon our present lives and go seeking some Shangri-La, but we can take a heart centered look at what we are doing.
What am I giving my heart to today?
St Anthony the Great (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Desert Fathers were monks, asethics and hermits who lived mainly in Egypt beginning around the third century. Their objective was to remove themselves from the many corruptions of the world and to seek God in the “emptiness” of the parched dry desert. The greatest of these was Antony who live a remarkably long life of 95 years and is considered the father of monasticism. Their main practices were: love for all men, silence and stillness to wait for God, recitation of scripture and withdrawal from society. They truly tried to get as close to God as possible.
Irvin J. Boudreaux
- Silence (friarinphiladelphia.wordpress.com)