Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn
Desiring this man’s gift and that man’s scope
I no longer strive to strive towards such things
(Why should the aged eagle stretch its wings?)
Why should I mourn
The vanished power of the usual reign?
So begins T.S. Eliot’s poem Ash Wednesday, and so begins the season of Lent today.
David Mosley, just yesterday, posted to his blog a letter outlining what his Lenten practice will be and asked others to share their own practices.
There are a handful of small things that I do during Lent and will do again this year, though being married can change the way you think about it. Do we take on practices together? If dietary needs are different to we forego giving something up which we normally give up? Ultimately we ought to do those things which will benefit us spiritually but not leave us suffering and if we think too mechanistically about fasting we may risk losing the good that comes from it, and the good that can come from failing in our fast.
In one of the congregations I attend there are usually poems shared daily each Lent. Sometimes these poems are well known, sometimes they are submitted from the congregation. This will happen this year but with the addition of a saying from the Desert Fathers each day. One of my practices this Lent was going to be a daily meditation on one of the 38 sayings of St. Anthony the Great, so it’s fortuitous that these and other sayings are going to be shared daily.
I am going to strive to make a practice of sharing the same sayings on this blog, perhaps sometimes with commentary or meditation but most often without. My hope is that others may draw strength from them, meditate on them and learn something of the wisdom the desert and those who sought spiritual refuge in it.
Today’s saying is a Coptic saying about Father Ammonas and is meant to speak more to the evils of gossip as a destructive force than it is about women in male monastic cells (though that can be problematic as well).
It is said of Abba Ammonas that his goodness advanced to the point that he could no longer judge others. After he became a bishop, Abba Ammonas was visiting the other monks and there was a brother whom the other brothers hated. The monks, having heard that a woman had entered the brother’s cell, gathered to punish him and asked Abba Ammonas to join them. Hearing them coming, the brother hid the woman in a large cask. Abba Ammonas, entering first, saw the cask, the only place that the woman could be concealed, and immediately sat down on top of the cask while the monks diligently searched the cell. When they had discovered nothing, Abba Ammonas rebuked them, saying, ‘What have you done? May God forgive you!’ and, after prayer, ordered them from the cell. After they had gone he went up to the brother and, taking him by the hand, said, ‘Brother, have a care for yourself’. So saying, he departed.