We Are Not Able To Do That

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From the Wisdom of the Desert Fathers

It was said that some philosophers came one day to test the monks. Now one of the monks passed by clothed in beautiful garments, and the philosophers said to him, ‘Come here’, but he, in anger, scorned them. Another monk, a Libyan, passed by, and they said to him, ‘You old scoundrel of a monk, come here’, and they compelled him to come. They gave him a box on the ear, but he offered them the other cheek. At once the philosophers arose and prostrated themselves before him, saying, ‘Truly this is a monk’. Then they sat him down in their midst and questioned him, ‘What do you, in the desert, do more than we? You fast, and we also fast; you watch, and we also watch; and all you do, we do also. What more do you who live in the desert do?’ The old man said to them, ‘We hope in the grace of God and we guard our thoughts.’ They said to him, ‘We are not able to do that.’ Edified, they took their leave.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.



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5 responses to “We Are Not Able To Do That”

  1. fatherstephen Avatar

    In this photo, there is an old man with his back to the tree. Whether he is guarding his thoughts, God alone knows.

  2. Steve Avatar

    Philosophy used to be a religion of sorts. What sane philosopher would fast for the sake of Woman Wisdom nowadays?

    In other news, we’ve been battling a lice explosion at Ally’s preschool. Both her and her sister got it on Friday, so we’re quarantined at least for now.

  3. Fatherstephen Avatar
    Fatherstephen

    Some years ago, when we were sacrificing to the hilt for my degree at Duke, one of the children came home with a note about lice. Everybody had to do the shampoo treatment. I remember sitting in a bathtub, shampooing for lice, when I looked up and a cockroach (which were quite numerous in the apartments) fell into the water. At that precise moment, I remember what I said to God, a general observation about poverty, that I shall not repeat. It was a low moment.

    We all have to go through these things sometimes. May God give you grace, and keep you from such sins of the tongue as I had later to repent of.

  4. handmaidleah Avatar

    A few years back we had hoof and mouth at one of our schools, o’ what a delight, country folks have such fun and apparently their kids do too! So it could be worse.
    BTW, Fr.Stephen, cock-a-roaches aren’t just for the poor, when I lived with my sister in Arizona, solidly middle class, a huge cock-a-roach must of climbed up the drain because I had a visit from one once when I got up in the middle of the night and visited Aunt Molly. When I sat down, that bug was on the wall and had to be three inches long. He was positively prehistoric! Needless to say, I had never seen one that big outside of the movies, huge! He died, poor, poor cock-a-roach… Just like those sad lil’ lice.
    Sigh!
    the handmaid,
    Mary-Leah

  5. Alice C. Linsley Avatar
    Alice C. Linsley

    In solitude it is even harder to guard one’s thoughts. There is no escaping the darkness within.

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