Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The Desert Fathers

A very interesting passage from the preface to the book The Desert Fathers. The context is the radical seclusion of the Desert Fathers, and how they related to the rest of hummanity through their seculusion:
At first one might feel the heroic way of these desert giants is too far removed from the quest of the everyday seeker living in this world's society. However, the fathers and mothers themselves, along with their early historians, sought to make it clear to us that this is not the case. Noteworthy in this regard is the rather lengthy account in the chapter entitled "History of the Monks of Egypt" of the last days of the fabled desert hermit Abba Paphnutius. We are told that as his end approached he "entreated the Lord that He would show him his like upon the earth." And whom did the Lord show the saintly father? A street musician who had been a thief, the very busy headman of a local village, and a wealthy Alexandrine merchant. The historian goes on to tell us that, as the priests gathered around the dying saint, he told them:
All that the Lord had revealed to him, saying to them that no one in this world ought to be despised, let him be a thief, or an actor on stage, or one that tilled the ground, and was bound to a wife, or was a merchant and served in a trade: for in every condition of human life that are souls that please God and have their hidden deeds wherein He takes great delight: whence is it plain that it is not so much profession or habit that is pleasing to God as the sincerity and affection of the soul and honesty of deed. And when he had spoken thus about each in turn, he gave up his spirit
The final word of a great and saintly father--a teaching could not be given greater emphasis.
(Helen Waddell, The Desert Fathers. Preface by M. Basil Pennington, O.C.S.O., Random House, New York. p. xv-xvi)

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