Today's "thought" is a letter written by Abba Ammonas. Although we do not have a lot of biographical information on this early teacher and ascetic of the Egyptian desert, bits and pieces have been gathered based on comments made about him in various "sayings" from the early desert fathers. We know, for example, that he visited St. Anthony the Great in his cave after being miraculously guided there, and he eventually became St. Anthony's successor and abbot of the monastery in Pispir. He did not, however, live in the monastery, but directed it from outside as he preferred the hermetic life.
Ammonas's brief letter which we will read today discusses the importance of prayer and the relationship of obedience to prayer:
[BE LIKE YOUR FATHERS IN THE FAITH TO GET THE INHERITANCE]
To my beloved in our Lord, who are counted in the portion of the kingdom of heaven: for in such wise have you sought God, imitating your fathers in the faith, so that you should receive the promises also, because you are reckoned their sons; for sons inherit the blessing of their fathers, because their zeal was like theirs. For this cause, since the blessed Jacob followed all the God- fearing ways of his parents, the blessings of his parents came upon him too. And having been blessed by them, suddenly he saw the Ladder, and angels ascending and descending (Genesis 28).
[THE BLESSINGS OF THE FATHER STRENGTH US IN OUR FAITH]
And so now, as soon as men have been blessed by their fathers and have seen the hosts, nothing is able to move them. For when blessed Paul saw these hosts, he became unshakeable, and cried out and said, "Who shall separate me from the love of Christ? Shall sword or famine or nakedness? But neither angels nor principalities nor powers nor height nor depth nor any other creature shall be able to separate me from the love of God" (Romans 8:38).
[TO RECEIVE THE BLESSINGS, ONE MUST FIRST ASK]
Now therefore, beloved, ask continually night and day that the blessings of my fathers may come upon you, that the hosts of the angels may thus rejoice over you in all things, and you may complete the rest of your days in all joy of heart. For if a man attains to this measure, the joy of God will be with him continually: henceforth he will not toil in any matter. For it is written, "The light of the righteous is never put out" (Proverbs 13:9).
[OBEY GOD AND RECEIVE HIS BLESSINGS]
But I pray that you too may come to the place of life. And this I do because of your obedience. For when our Lord saw that His disciples obeyed Him, He asked His Father on their behalf saying, "that where I am, there may they be also, because they have obeyed my word" (john 17:24). And again He asked that they might be kept "from the evil one" (John 17:15), until they should attain to the place of rest. This is what I pray and ask of our Lord, that you may be kept from the evil one, and attain to God's place of rest, and be blessed. For after the Ladder, Jacob saw face to face the host of angels, so that he even wrestled with an angel and prevailed. And this God did that He might bless him. And may the God whom I have served from my youth bless you. END
from Derwas J. Chitty (trans), "The Letters of Ammonas," (Oxford: SLG Press, Convent of the Incarnation, 1979), pp. 8 - 9