Today’s thought is from an anonymous Desert Father who was questioned about whether it is better to live the solitary life of contemplation and poverty or to devote one’s life to helping others and providing material support to the needy. His answer goes to the heart of the debate whether it is better to follow the way of Mary or that of Martha.
BEGIN TEXT: The brethren said, "There were two brothers who were the sons of a merchant and their father died and they divided their inheritance between themselves. Unto each one, there came five thousand dinars. One of the brothers divided his inheritance among the churches, and the monasteries, and the poor, and he himself became a monk, and he chose for himself a life of continual silence, and fasting, and prayer. Now the other one built a monastery for himself, and gathered brethren to him, and he took care of the strangers, and the poor, and the sick, whom he received and relieved.
"When the two brothers were dead, there was questioning among the brethren about them, and they went to Abba Pambo and asked him, ‘Which manner of life and conduct was the more excellent and exalted?’ And having learned from God, he said unto them, ‘They were both perfect, and in my sight they appear to be of equal merit.’ Explain to us now the old man’s words, for how can the man who is destitute, and the man who hath possessions be equal in merit?’ The old man said, ‘Since the whole conduct of these brethren was to God, and since whatsoever they did they did it for God, with an upright aim, and since the aim of each was the same, they appeared to be in the old man’s opinion of equal merit before God.’" END.
from "The Paradise of the Holy Fathers," trans. by E. A. Wallis Budge, (Seattle: St. Nectarios Press, 1984), p. 283