The stories of the desert priests

During the early part of the Christian era, the monastery at Scete became a center where many people gathered. After renouncing everything they had, they went to live in the desert surrounding the monastery. Many of the teachings of these men have been collected and published in numerous books.

Work in the field

A young man crossed the desert and finally came to the monastery of Scete. There, he asked to hear one of the abbot’s lectures – and was granted permission.

That afternoon, the abbot’s discourse was about the importance of work in the field.

After the lecture, the young man said to one of the monks:

– That was amazing. I thought I would hear a fine sermon about virtues and sins, and the abbot spoke only of tomatoes, irrigation and so forth. Where I come from, all believe that God is merciful: all one must do is pray.

The monk smiled and replied:

– Here we believe that God has already done His part; now it is up to us to continue the process.

The middle way

The monk Lucas was walking through a village accompanied by a disciple. An old man asked the man from Scete:

– Holy man, how can I come closer to God?

– Enjoy yourself. Praise the Creator with your joy – was the reply.

The two went on their way. Just then, a young man came over.

– What must I do to come closer to God?

– Enjoy yourself less – said Lucas.

When the young man left, the disciple commented:

– It seems to me that you are not sure whether or not one should enjoy oneself.

– A spiritual journey is a bridge with no railings across an abyss – replied Lucas, – If someone is too near the right hand side, I tell him ‘left a bit!’ If he approaches the left side, I say ‘right a bit!’ The extremes veer us away from the Path.

The town on the far side

A hermit from the monastery of Scete went to Abbot Theodore:

– I know precisely the objective of life. I know what God asks of man, and I know the best way of serving Him. Even so, I am incapable of doing everything I should in order to serve the Lord.

Abbot Theodore remained silent for a time. Finally, he said:

– You know that there is a city on the far side of the ocean. But you haven’t yet found the ship, nor have you loaded your bags, nor crossed the sea. Why spend time commenting on what it is like, or how one should walk through its streets?

“Knowing the objective of life, or recognising the best way of serving the Lord is not enough. Put into practice that which you think, and the way will be revealed all by itself.”

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