Today in our look at spiritual practices, we will continue meditating on the works of the desert fathers of the early Church. Read the aphorisms of the fathers in your sacred space and then sit quietly, listening for the Spirit’s voice within.
The Coptic Orthodox Church has posted some of the sayings on their site. I have downloaded them and posted them at a Google site for your downloading. They are at: The Sayings of the Fathers.
We will work with these sayings for a few weeks. Be sure to journal what you hear. This will leave a path for you to follow later, when you want to see where you have been and how you have developed. There is a space for a free on-line journal at: my-diary.org/. You can play with the settings and have the site remind you to daily log in and journal your spiritual experiences.
Today we will look at Abba Serapion.
1. One day Abba Serapion passed through an Egyptian village and there he saw a courtesan who stayed in her own cell. The old man said to her, ‘Expect me this evening, for I should like to come and spend the night with you.’ She replied, ‘Very well, Abba.’ She got ready and made the bed. When evening came, the old man came to see her and
entered her cell and said to her, ‘Have you got the bed ready?’ She said, ‘Yes, Abba.’ Then he closed the door and said to her, ‘Wait a bit, for we have a rule of prayer and I must fulfil that first.’ So the old man began his prayers. He took the Psalter and at each psalm he said a prayer for the courtesan, begging God that she might be converted and
saved, and God heard him. The woman stood trembling and praying beside the old man. When he had completed the whole Psalter the woman fell to the ground. Then the old man, beginning the Epistle, read a great deal from the apostle and completed his prayers. The woman was filled with compunction and understood that he had not come to
see her to commit sin but to save her soul and she fell at his feet, saying, ‘Abba, do me this kindness and take we where I can please God.’ So the old man took her to a monastery of virgins and entrusted her to the Amma and he said, ‘Take this sister and do not put any yoke or commandment on her as on the other sisters, but if she wants something, give it her and allow her to walk as she wishes.’ After some days
the courtesan said, ‘I am a sinner; I wish to eat every second day.’ A little later she said, ‘I have committed many sins and I wish to eat every fourth day.’ A few days later she besought the Amma saying, ‘Since I have grieved God greatly by my sins, do me the kindness of putting me in a cell and shutting it completely and giving me a little bread and some work through the window. ‘The Amma did so and the woman pleased God all the rest of her life.
2. A brother said to Abba Serapion, ‘Give me a word.’ The old man said to him, ‘What shall I say to you? You have taken the living of the widows and orphans and put it on your shelves.’ For he saw them full of books.
3. Abba Serapion said, ‘When the soldiers of the emperor are standing at attention, they cannot look to the right or left; it is the same for the man who stands before God and looks towards him in fear at all times; he cannot then fear anything from the enemy.’
4. A brother went to find Abba Serapion. According to his custom, the old man invited him to say a prayer. But the other, calling himself a sinner and unworthy of the monastic habit, did not obey. Next Abba Serapion wanted to wash his feet, but using the same words again, the visitor prevented him. Then Abba Serapion made him eat and he began to eat with him. Then he admonished him saying, ‘My son, if you want to make progress stay in your cell and pay attention to yourself and your manual work; going out is not so profitable for you as remaining at home.’ When he heard these words the visitor was offended and his expression changed so much that the old man could not but notice it. So he said to him, ‘UP to now you have called yourself a sinner and accused yourself of being unworthy to live, but when I admonished you lovingly, you were extremely put out. If you want to be humble, learn to bear generously what others unfairly inflict upon you and do not harbour empty words in your heart.’ Hearing this, the brother asked the old
man s forgiveness and went away greatly edified.