The Desert Fathers, as they came to be known, were men or women who went into the wilderness to live Christianity in its radicality in the third and fourth centuries. The literature surrounding these saints is precious in its originality. Here are two gems… The first one is a parable recounted by the Venerable Siluan of Athos. “An eagle was flying in the heights and delighting in the beauty of the world, and he thought: “I cover great expanses, and I see valleys and mountains, seas and rivers, meadows and forests. I see towns and settlements, and how men live; while here, a village rooster knows nothing except his own yard. I shall fly to him and tell him about the life of the world.” The eagle flew onto the roof of the country house began to speak to the rooster of the world’s beauty. At first, the rooster listened with attention, but did not understand anything. The eagle, seeing that the rooster did not understand anything, was saddened, and it became hard for him to speak with the rooster; while the rooster, not understanding what the eagle was saying, began to be bored, and it became hard for him to pay attention to the eagle. Thus it happens when a spiritual man speaks with an unspiritual man. A spiritual man is like the eagle, while an unspiritual man is like the rooster; the mind of a spiritual man meditates on the Word of the Lord day and night and by prayer ascends to God, while the mind of an unspiritual man is attached to the earth or occupied with mundane thoughts. And when a spiritual man meets an unspiritual man, interaction for them both is boring and difficult.”
And here is a story taken from A Prologue in Instructions. “In the land of Sabor there lived a certain monk – a lover of Christ, a lover of the poor and merciful. This monk bore the name Martyrius and was leading a holy life. Once, according to his habit, Martyrius was going to his spiritual father, when he met a sick pauper lying on the path. The pauper had in mind to go to the same place that Martyrius was going, but he had no strength to do such a long journey.
Martyrius took pity on him, spread out his mantia on the ground, placed the poor man on it and carried him on his shoulders. When he came with his load to the monastery where his spiritual father lived, the latter met him and, as a mystic filled with the Holy Spirit, loudly exclaimed: “Martyrius is coming, carrying his God on his shoulders!”
Coming up to the gates, Martyrius took off his load and wanted to lift up the poor man from the ground, but it turned out that there was no one on the mantia. He only saw an image of our Lord Jesus Christ. And he heard a voice: “Martyrius, you have not despised Me on earth, and I shall not despise you in heaven! You have looked on Me mercifully, I shall have mercy on you for ever.”
Life, lived in its true supernatural dimension acquires a beauty beyond imagination.
(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.