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Wisdom of the Fathers

55.   (Also in V.x.69) A pilgrim brother visited Abba Silvanus in Mt Sinai and noticed that the brothers were doing manual work.
“Why labour for the food that perishes?” he asked. “Mary chose the better part.”
The old man said to his disciple, Zacharias, “Give this brother a book to read and put him in an empty cell.”
At the ninth hour the brother looked out to see whether the old man was going to invite him to eat. When the ninth hour had long passed he went to the old man, and said, “Are the brothers not eating today, father?”
The old man assured him that they were.
“How is that you did not call me?” he asked.
“You are a spiritual man and have no need of food. We however are quite carnal people and need to eat, so therefore we work. But you, of course, have chosen the better part. You spend all day reading and feel no need for food.”
These words led him to repentance.
“Forgive me, father,” he said.
“Mary has great need of Martha,” said Silvanus,”for if it hadn’t been for Martha, Mary would not have been praised.”


95. (Also in V.xvii.6) Abba Agathon used to say, “I have never gone to sleep holding a grudge against anyone, and as far as I have been able I have never allowed anyone having a grudge against me to go to sleep before making peace with me.”


97. (Also in VI.iii.17) As blessed abba Macarius was praying, a voice once came to him saying, “You have not yet arrived at the stature of two women who live together in the nearby city.”
So he picked up his staff and went out to visit that city and seek them out. Having found the house he knocked at the door, and one of the women came out and welcomed him in with great pleasure. When the two of them were together with him he asked,
“I’ve gone to quite a lot of trouble coming to visit you from the distant desert, in order to learn about your way of doing things. I hope you will agree to tell me all about it.”
“Oh, come, most holy father, we have both been in the beds of our husbands this last night. What could you possibly learn from our way of going on?”
But the old man persisted in praying that they should tell him their rule of life.
“We are not related to each other, ” they said, persuaded at last by his pleas, “but it so happened that we married two brothers, and for the last fifteen years we have lived together in this house and never said an angry word to each other. We have never quarrelled, but lived in peace with each other right up until now. And we agreed between us that if our husbands both were willing we would join a community of religious virgins. But our husbands have not allowed us to do that, in spite of all our pleas, so we made a vow between us and God that we would not indulge in any worldly chatter until the day of our death.”
Having listened to all this the blessed Macarius said, “In truth, it is not important whether you are virgin, married, monk or secular; all God wants is a firm intention, and he gives his life-giving Spirit to all.”



103. (Also in VII.xi.5) A certain brother frequently used to come to Abba Sisois saying, “I have fallen. What shall I do, father?” To which he replied, “Get up again.”
“But I have got up again, and also fallen again.”
“Just go on getting up.”
The brother kept on confessing his fallings and risings and the old man kept on telling him not to fail to get up again, until at last the brother said, “Explain to me, father, how long it is possible to go on getting up.”
And the old man said, “Until you die – caught  either in the midst of a good deed or a bad one. For in whatever kind of deed you are taken, by that you will be judged.”


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