3 Unexpected Lessons from the Desert Fathers

Christians typically know right from wrong. We talk about it often, and reflect on what’s good and what’s bad.
Where it gets interesting is when you throw in other people and context into situations. This is where desert wisdom and discernment shine.

Here are 3 stories where desert wisdom challenged my gut reactions! 

Abba Antony & the hunter

A hunter was roaming the desert when he saw Abba Antony hanging out with some of his disciples. 

The hunter was shocked, and a little disappointed. He thought a monastic father would be more disciplined than this. Abba Antony then asked the hunter to put an arrow in his bow and cast it.

Confused, the hunter obliged. Abba asked him to shoot another, and another and another. The hunter then told St. Antony that if he kept this up, the bow would bend and break.
Abba antony then said:

“It is the same with the work of God. If we stretch the brethren beyond measure they will soon break. Sometimes it is necessary to come down to meet their needs.”

Abba Moses entertaining strangers

One week, the abbot of the desert of Scetis requested that all monks fast for the week. 

During that week, some brethren visited Moses the Ethiopian. Moses cooked a warm meal for his guests and welcomed them to his cell.

Other monks who were passing by saw the cooking smoke rising from Moses’ cell, and let the abbot know that he broke the rule. The abbot listened intently and told the monks he’ll handle it.
On Sunday, when all the monks gather for liturgy, the abbot spoke to Moses saying:

O Moses, truly you have sacrificed the commandment of people to fulfill the commandment of Christ

Abba Ammonas and the sinful monk

A monk was rumored to be sinning with a woman in his cell, so a group of monks gathered and called Abba Ammonas so they can catch him and rebuke him.

The monk heard rustling, so he quickly hid her under a barrel. St. Ammonas rushed to the monk’s cell and perceived that she was under the barrel.

He sat on the barrel and told the monks to search every nook and cranny (knowing that they wouldn’t ask the old man to move).

The monks naturally found nothing, so he told them not to judge, and waited until they’ve all left. He then looked to the sinful monk and said: “Be on your guard”. He then left, covering the monk’s shame. 

Bonus: Abba Poemen & the sleepy monk

This one’s a video! 🙂 

If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab a copy of my graphic novel “Anastasis: the Harrowing of Hades”  and if you’ve read it, leave a quick review on Amazon and tell your friends and parish about it! 🙂

Harrowing of Hell Graphic Novel