After decades of persecution, Christianity had become the official religion of the state. It was then that some men and women felt called to go into the desert of Egypt, Palestine, Arabia and Persia. Not to live an epic life or to be peculiar. They simply felt the need to be alone with the Alone. They led a hard life. Sleeping little. Eating little. Praying a lot. Heroes? Hardly! They were simply men and women who fell in love with Him. And when you are in love, you can climb mountains.
A brother came to Abba Macarius one day and asked how he could be saved and the Abba told him to go to the cemetery and insult the dead. So he did so, hurling insults and stones at the graves. When he got back, Macarius asked him if they had responded and the brother said they had said nothing. So Macarius told him to go and honor the dead. He went to the cemetery and praised the men buried there. When he reported back, Macarius asked how the dead had taken his compliments and the brother replied that they had said nothing. So the Abba said: ‘You know all those insults you hurled at them and they said nothing and all the praises you heaped on them and they said nothing; you also, if you want to be saved – be a dead man, taking no notice either of the injustice of men or of their praises. Behave like the dead and you will be saved’. Gosh!
Two brothers had lived together for many years and they had never quarreled. One day, the first said: ‘Let’s quarrel like men in the world outside do.’ The second replied: ‘But I don’t know how to have a quarrel.’ So the first said: ‘Look, I will put down this rock between us and I’ll say: “It’s mine”. Then you must reply: “No, it’s mine”. And so the quarrel will begin. So they found a rock and put it between them and the first said: ‘It’s mine’, and the second said: “No, it’s mine.” This continued for some time until one of them replied: “Oh well then, if it’s yours, take it.” And so they did not succeed in having a quarrel. Amazing, no?
A very important man from the city came to see Abba Moses. Somebody informed Abba and he instantly fled into the marsh. It just happened that they met in the marsh but he did not recognize him. The man of the city asked Abba, ‘Tell us, old man, where is the cell of Abba Moses?’ He answered: ‘What do you want with him? He is crazy’. When the man of the city told the other monks that had happened, they immediately realized that the ‘old man’ was none other than Abba Moses.
When a band of thieves robbed the hermitage of this Abba, his reaction was Gospel like: ‘My children, take everything you like’. So they took everything in the cell and left. But they forgot a little tool-bag that was hanging on the wall so he ran after them, calling: ‘My children, you forgot this! Take it also!”
Abba Poemen said about Abba Pior that every single day he made a fresh beginning. Let us begin again.
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.