The Desert Fathers: Monks and Monasteries of the Egyptian Desert

The Desert Fathers: Monks and Monasteries of the Egyptian Desert
The Monastery of St. Paul of Thebes, Red Sea Desert, Egypt (1990)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

ABBA SILVANUS - One Must Work in Order to Eat

Today's selection is from the life of Abba Silvanus, a Palestinian by birth, who headed a community with twelve disciples. Around 380, they moved from Scetis to Syria, settling in the region of Gaza. There they lived in a "lavra" with scattered cells and a central church where the community gathered each Saturday and Sunday for worship. Abba Silvanus died around 414.

BEGIN: A brother went to see Abba Silvanus on the mountain of Sinai. When he saw the brothers working hard, he said to the old man, "Do not labor for the food which perishes (John 6:27). Mary has chosen the good portion (Luke 10:42)."

The old man said to his disciple, "Zacharias, give the brother a book and put him in a cell without anything else." So, when the ninth hour came the visitor watched the door expecting someone would be sent to call him to the meal.

When no one called him he got up, went to find the old man and said to him, "Have the brothers not eaten today?" The old man replied that they had. Then he said, "Why did you not call me?" The old man said to him, "Because you are a spiritual man and do not need that kind of food. We, being carnal, want to eat, and that is why we work. But you have chosen the good portion and read the whole day long and you do not want to eat carnal food."

When he heard these words the brother made a prostration saying, "Forgive me, Abba." The old man said to him, "Mary needs Martha. It is really thanks to Martha that Mary is praised." END

from "The Desert Christian," by Benedicta Ward, (New York: MacMillan, 1975), p. 223