Today's story is about an anonymous, holy layman who visited Abba Poemen and the brotherhood. It speaks very well to us about Christian love, asceticism, and how these relate to our salvation.
BEGIN: On one occasion, a certain excellent man, who feared God in his life and works, and who was living in the world, went to Abba Poemen. Some of the brethren, who were also with the old man, were asking him questions, wishing to hear a word from him.
Then Abba Poemen said to the man who was in the world, "Speak a word to the brethren," but he begged him saying, "Forgive me, father, but I came to learn." And the old man pressed him to speak and, as the force of his urging increased, he said, "I am a man living in the world, and I sell vegetables, and because I do not know how to speak from a book, listen ye to a parable.
"There was a certain man who had three friends, and he said to the first, 'Since I desire to see the Emperor come with me,' and the friend said unto him, 'I will come with thee half the way.' And the man said to the second friend, 'Come, go with me to the Emperor's presence,' and the friend said to him, 'I will come with thee as far as his palace, but I cannot go with thee inside.'
"And the man said the same unto his third friend, who answered and said, 'I will come with thee, and I will go inside the palace with thee, and I will even stand up before the Emperor and speak on thy behalf.'"
Then the brethren questioned him, wishing to learn from him the meaning of the riddle, and he answered and said unto them, "The first friend is abstinence, which leadeth as far as one half of the way. The second friend is purity and holiness, which lead to heaven. And the third friend is loving-kindness, which establishes a man before God and speaketh on his behalf with great boldness." END
from, E. A. Wallis Budge, "The Paradise of the Holy Fathers, vol. II," (Seattle: St. Nectarios Press, 1984), p. 102