Living in Compassion
(Hermitage of Mary in the Wilderness on March 9th, 2016)
There is a story in the desert fathers:
Abba Bessarion’s disciples related that his life had been like that of a bird of the air, or a fish, or an animal living on earth, passing all the time of his life without trouble or disquiet. The care of a dwelling did not trouble him, and the desire for a particular place never seemed to dominate his soul, no more than the abundance of delights, or the possession of houses or the reading of books. But he seemed entirely free from all the passions of the body, sustaining himself on the hope of good things to come, firm in the strength of his faith; he lived in patience, like a prisoner who is led everywhere, always suffering cold and nakedness, scorched by the sun. He always lived in the open air, afflicting himself on the edge of the desert like a vagabond. Often he found it good to be carried over the sea to distant and uninhabited regions. When he happened to come into pleasanter places where the brethren lived a life in common, he would sit outside at the gate, weeping and lamenting like one shipwrecked and flung back on to the earth. Then if one of the brethren coming out found him there, sitting like one of the poor beggars living in the world, and filled with compassion approached him, asking, ‘Man, why are you weeping? If you are in need of something, as far as we can we will see you receive it, only come in, share our table and rest yourself.’ He would reply, ‘I cannot live under a roof so long as I have not found again the riches of my house,’ adding that he had lost great riches in various ways. ‘I have fallen amongst pirates, I have suffered shipwreck, I have dishonored my rank, becoming unknown, famous as I was.’ The brother, moved by these words, returned, bringing a morsel of bread and giving it him, saying, ‘Take this, Father; all the rest, as you say, God will restore to you; home, honor, and riches of which you speak.’ But he, bewailing himself yet more, sighed deeply, adding, ‘I cannot say if I shall find again those lost good things I seek, but I am still more afflicted, every day suffering the danger of death, having no respite because of my great calamities. For always I must wander, in order to finish my course.’
The animals mentioned by Abba Bessarion all live their lives in solitude – or in the little simple communications that are with the animal creation. Many souls foster this SIMPLICITY in their own Life in Christ – only with great sadness I must confess that all too often I have abandoned the “simplicity” here spoken of – like that of the birds and the fishes (and of course Abba Bessarion) for the complexities of this world have overtaken the little soul “all too often.”
I sense more and more, though, the absolute necessity to FORGET this foolish world and PRAY for the world and its concerns – to flee from this world system – forgetting the “necessity” the world demands so often to “contribute” to “its successes”… in fact – we contribute very little dear soul – we are little nothings; and our contributions are so minimal we ought to be embarrassed by the very thought of “our contributions”.
The little soul that writes this was pretty “big” at one time in the eyes of man – now, he has come to know his “nothingness” in the face of Eternity and the immensity of God’s creation!
I do not believe the calling of Abba Bessarion is for all souls; but this story teaches us the reality of our Life in Christ – and the necessity of seeking Him and His Way for you each step of the Way, the Truth and the Life!
Silence and solitude with unceasing Prayer (the Prayer of Rest, “hesychia”) is the answer for many souls, who have fled from the world system as best as thy might.
There are too many words dear one – too many – we think that by much speaking, we will be heard by God and one another – it is a noisy existence.
GOD calls us to silence and solitude.
My Life Scripture a passage is this from the Lamentations of Jeremiah, chapter 3:
“Jehovah is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul [that] seeks him. It is good that one should both wait, and that in silence, for the salvation of Jehovah. It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth: He sits solitary and keeps silence, because he hath laid it upon him; he puts his mouth in the dust, if so be there may be hope; he gives his cheek to him that smites him; he is filled full with reproach. For the Lord will not cast off for ever; but if he have caused grief, he will have compassion according to the multitude of his loving-kindnesses: for he doth not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men.”
Dear one, give to this little nothing this blessed silence and solitude – unceasing prayer.
May our Beloved grant to us what we need? Amen.
Abba Anthony the repentant sinner