Thursday, November 27, 2008

The History of Dorotheos of Thebes

Abba Isidore sends Palladius to live for three years with an anchorite named Dorotheos. Palladius leaves early because of an illness, but then returs to Dorotheos. Although an old man, the anchorite spends his days building cells for monks who do not yet have their own cells-- this involves collecting and carrying stones in the desert heat. Palladius asks him about this:

"Father, why workest thou thus in thine old age? for thou wilt kill thy body in all this heat." And he said unto me, "I kill it lest it should kill me." (91-92)

Palladius observed Dorotheos eat extremely little, and never saw him sleep at all. When questioned about this, the monk replied,

"If thou art able to persuade the angels to sleep, then thou wilt be able to persuade me." (92)

The account concludes with a story of the brotherhood observing a venemous snake slip into the well, and thus fear to drink from the well. Dorotheos makes the sign of the cross over the water and drinks it without fear:

"Where the seal (or sign) of the Cross is, the wickedness of Satan hath no power to do harm." (93)
The History of Abba Isidore

Palladius' first history is of the monk Isidore, whom he met in Alexandria. Abba Isidore managed an Alexandrian hospital and, now aged seventy, had spent his early spiritual formation in the desert. Palladius marvels at the monk's temperance:

On several occasions he burst into tears at the table; and when I asked him, "What is the cause of these tears?" he said unto me, "I am ashamed of myself because, being a rational being, I eat the food of an irrational creature; I desire to live in Paradise, where I should enjoy the food which is imperishable. For [although] we have received that power which is from Christ, yet am I drawn to partake of the food which perisheth. I would partake of the food which is spiritual, and I would that I were in the Paradise of delights in the dominion which God hath given unto me; and behold I am eating the food of the beasts." (90)

Palladius further notes Abba Isidore's great generosity and that, although he was acquainted with many Roman nobility, he continued to live in poverty and generosity. In fact, when he finally died he left no estate at all, having given everything away. To his heirs [his sisters, and seventy nuns with them] he said,

"He who created you will provide for your living and also whatsoever things of which ye have need, even as He hath [provided] for me." (91)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Counsels to Lausus

The third section of the Epistle to Lausus gives the correspondent some pastoral guidance. Palladius lists sixteen recommendations for life that "thou shalt sin in no particular" (80). Among are the following:

IV. Have no confidence in the belief that that which is placed outside thy soul is in thy possession.

XV. Know thou that not even much time will bring oblivion upon one act which thou wouldst hide.

Palladius commends Lausus for his desire to hear about the lives of the great saints, and advises him that knowledge of their victories will spur him on in his own path towards righteousness:

For he who remembereth death continually... will neither be negligent of nor commit sin in respect of great matters, even according to what is said, "In all thy words remember thine end, and thou wilt never commit sin." (83)

Palladius further counsels Lausus on the value of moderation in living a holy life:

It is better to drink wine in moderation than to drink water immoderately, and it appeareth to be that those who drink wine in moderation are holy men, and that those who pridefully use water in an immoderate fashion are depraved and pleasure-loving. Do not therefore ascribe blame or praise to the eating [or not eating] of food, or to the drinking [or not drinking] of wine, but ascribe praise, or woe, unto those who make use properly or improperly of meat and drink. (85)

Palladius concludes by warning Lausus to make light of nobody, not even of heretics or those who seem ridiculous,

for thou shald become lax in thy mind in respect of them, and whilst laughing at them thou wilt become unduly exalted, and that thou shouldst be driven to arrogance would be a loss for thee. (87)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Homily 3

Acts 1:12-26

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey.

And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James.

These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty), and said,

"Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus;

for he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry."

(Now this man purchased a field with the wages of iniquity; and falling headlong, he burst open in the middle and all his entrails gushed out.

And it became known to all those dwelling in Jerusalem; so that field is called in their own language, Akel Dama, that is, Field of Blood.)

For it is written in the Book of Psalms:

'Let his dwelling place be desolate,
And let no one live in it';


'Let another take his office.'

Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us,

beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection."

And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias.

And they prayed and said, "You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen

to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place."

And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.


What strikes me in this is the described purpose of the episcopacy: to "become a witness with us of His resurrection."

It's interesting reading about episcopal election now, so shortly after having witnessed the OCA elect its new primate.


This sermon is all about qualifications for the episcopacy. It's unusual for a Chrysostom sermon; most of his homilies have at least two parts-- the first part a verse-by-verse commentary and the second part a long meditation on some theme brought up by the passage. This homily, however, is a straight-up sermon on the episcopacy.

He starts off by describing Peter's use of authority among the apostles and disciples:

But observe how Peter does everything with common consent; nothing imperiously...

... "Men and brethren," says Peter... see the dignity of the Church, the angelic condition! No distinction there, "neither male nor female." I would that the Churches were such now! (18)

Chrysostom speaks of how Peter emulates the newly-departed Christ in comforting and guiding the Church. And then Peter brings up the matter of appointing a replacement for Judas:

He defers the decision to the whole body, thereby both making the elected objects of reverence and himself keeping clear of all invidiousness with regard to the rest. For such occasions always give rise to great evils. (19)

Chrysostom notes favorably the moderation of all the apostles present,

because prelacy then was not an affair of dignity, but of provident care for the governed. This neither made the elected to become elated, for it was to dangerous that they were called, nor those not elected to make a grievance of it, as if they were disgraced. (20)

Chrysostom notes how important it is that the new apostle be an eyewitness of the Resurrection-- this seems to be the primary task that the apostle is called to:

that they should be men having a right to be believed, because they had seen. (21)

He then mentions the apostles' prayer:

They said not, Choose, but, "show the chosen one;" knowing that all things are foreordained of God. (21)

Chrysostom exhorts "those who aim at preferment" to imitate the apostles in their attitude towards the episcopacy:

If thou believest that the election is with God, then be not displeased. (22)

He then asks why the episcopacy has become such a subject of competition and pride:

it is because we come to the Episcopate not as unto a work of governing and superintending the brethren, but as to a post of dignity and repose. Did you but know that a Bishop is bound to belong to all, to bear the burden of all; that others, if they are angry, are pardoned, but he never; that others, if they sin, have excuses made for them, he has none; you would not be eager for the dignity, would not run after it. So it is, the Bishop is exposed to the tongues of all, to the criticism of all, whether they be wise or fools. He is harassed with cares every day, nay, every night... we speak of those who watch for your souls, who consider the safety and welfare of those under them before their own. (22)

The remainder of the homily similarly discusses the enormous responsibility of being a bishop.