Sunday, March 1, 2009

+ Once upon a time, the Saint was traveling with his ypotaktikós -- his subordinate -- toward Nitria far away, and he said to the monk: "You go on ahead and I’ll catch up with you someplace up there."

So the monk went on ahead. And as he went he met a priest of the pagans coming toward him. The monk was unfortunately not well advanced in spiritual life and began to berate the poor priest, calling him a benighted devil, a man of wicked life and other vile names. The priest himself was, as it happened, not well advanced in spiritual life. Instead of taking the monk’s words with humility as a chastisement from God for his sins, he was greatly insulted and angered and began to beat that monk until he left him half dead. And so he went on his way.

And as he went, he met Abba Makários coming toward him, and the Saint greeted him with kindness, saying: "Rejoice! Rejoice, O weary wanderer." ("Rejoice" is a greeting common among the peoples of the world -- and beyond the world: so the great Archangel hailed the Mother of Christ our God.) The priest was taken aback by this, and questioned, saying: "What good do you see in me, that you should greet me like this?" Replied the elder: "I see you wearing yourself out, not knowing that you labour in vain."

The priest was moved by this saying, and understood that he was standing before a man of God. "But," he said, "another lousy monk threw his shoe at me, and I beat him enough he should die before night." The elder realized that the man spoke of his own ypotaktikós. But the priest continued, falling at the Saint’s feet and begging him to make him a monk. And together they went to find the Saint’s monk.

They found him and carried him to the church in the mountain of Nitria now close at hand. When the fathers saw a pagan priest in company with the elder they were amazed; and blessing God they made the man a monk. It was then that the holy elder said this word, that: "One evil word makes even the good evil, while one good word makes even the evil ones good."

One of the Zen fathers said that: "You must believe that every created being has a good heart for you; otherwise life is very difficult."

And so we learn.