Book IV (continued)Chapter 19 (Cassian, Institutes, Bk.2, chap.11)
A psalm is not said with the response Alleluia unless it is so indicated in the title.
They also observe carefully the rule that no psalm is said with the response Alleluia unless it is so indicated in the title.Chapter 20 (Cassian, Institutes, Bk.3, chap.2)
(ibid. chap.12) They do not allow any time to pass in idleness. During the hours of daylight they give themselves continuously to manual work, nor do they allow the densest hours of darkness to prevent them doing the kind of work which requires mental activity. They believe that by directing the mind aright they will be finding a greater depth of spiritual contemplation, the longer they are intent upon developing their work and labour.
We should also note that from vespers on Saturday to the lighting of the lamps on Sunday they do not bend the knee, nor during the time from Easter Sunday to Pentecost.
Manual work, and the offices of the third, sixth and ninth hours.
They keep to their manual work privately in their cells without ceasing, but not so as to neglect their study of the psalms or other parts of Scripture. They meditate on them constantly all day, spreading over the whole day what we are accustomed to observe at definite fixed times. Chapter 21 (Cassian, Institutes, Bk.4, chap.3)
(ibid. chap.3) But they do mark the third, sixth and ninth hours with three psalms apiece. We know that the prophet Daniel poured forth prayers to God at these same three hours in his chamber with the windows open (Daniel 6.10). There are good reasons why these times of day have been specially set aside for religious observances. For at these hours the promises were fulfilled and the great matters of our salvation were accomplished. At the third hour the holy Spirit descended upon the apostles as the prophets had foretold, giving them the knowledge of tongues (Acts 2.4). At the sixth hour the spotless victim, Jesus Christ our Lord, was offered up to the Father, mounting the cross for the salvation of the world to wipe out the sins of the human race. At this same hour, Peter's vocation to the gentiles was revealed to him as he stood in ecstasy, for he witnessed the gospel vessel coming down from heaven, and the cleansing of all the living creatures in it, as he heard the divine voice saying to him, 'Rise, Peter, kill and eat' (Acts 10.9 et seq.). The fact that the vessel was let down by the four corners signifies nothing other than the four Gospels. At the ninth hour Christ went down to the lower regions and extinguished the impenetrable darkness of Tartarus by his own shining splendour, bursting open the gates of bronze and breaking the iron bars, taking back with him to heaven the captive band of saints, and by the removal of the fiery sword (Genesis 3.24) restoring to paradise its original inhabitant. At this same hour Cornelius the centurion stood in prayer and knew by the message of an Angel that his alms and prayers had been accepted by God (Acts 10.3). It is clear then from these examples that just as these holy men and apostles devoted these hours to religious observances so should we do likewise. If we had no rule binding us at the very least to some definite times for these devout duties, we would spend all day wrapped up in forgetfulness, idleness and useless pastimes.
The discretion and caution necessary in receiving into the monastery anyone renouncing the world.
Anyone who wants to renounce the business of the world and be admitted into the monastery must first spend ten days or even more outside the monastery gates, to give evidence of his perseverance no less than his humility and patience. He must lie prostrate at the feet of all the brothers who pass by; they all spurn and despise him as if it were not any religious sense which draws him but simple need; he gets many insults thrown at him, to find out whether by putting up with this verbal abuse he will be able to survive the tests of the future. When at last he is accepted he is carefully searched lest he has kept for himself even a single coin of his previous possessions. They know that under the daily discipline of the monastery he will not learn humility or obedience so long as he has hidden from sight even the smallest amount of money.Chapter 22 (Cassian, Institutes, Bk.4, chap.10)
When he is received, therefore, he is stripped of everything which he used to own. He is not even allowed to keep any longer the clothing he is wearing, but is led into the middle of the assembled brothers, stripped of his own garments and clothed at the hands of the abbot in the garments of the monastery. This is to signify that he is despoiled not only of every thing that he used to own, but of all pride in worldly reputation. He must realise that he has to humble himself into the poverty and helplessness of Christ.
(ibid. chap.6) His discarded clothing is kept in the monastery until they are quite sure of how firmly he is progressing in this way of life and how bravely he is able to bear it. If they decide that he will persevere, his old clothing is given to the poor. But if they detect any grumbling or disobedience in him, they strip him of the monastic clothing which he is wearing and expel him from the community wearing his former clothes, which have been kept for him.
(ibid. chap.7) So then, when he has given proof of sufficient perseverance to be accepted, stripped of his own garments and clad in the monastic habit, he is not allowed to mix immediately with the brothers, but is given into the care of a senior who lodges apart near the gatehouse of the monastery and looks after the needs of strangers and newcomers. Here he assists in welcoming them kindly and diligently. When he has lived like a servant in this way for a year without any upset, he will have learned the first rudiments of humility and may be admitted to the congregation of the brothers.
(ibid. chap.8) Now at last he is taught to conquer first of all his own desires, and bends all his attention on controlling any conflicts which are discerned in him. For they maintain that no monk can possibly battle against anger, depression, or the spirit of fornication unless he first learns to mortify his own will through obedience; nor can he continue in true humility of heart, nor keep up good relations with his brothers, nor even remain long in the monastery, unless he learns how to overcome his own desires.
Nobody in the monastery may presume to do anything without the sanction of the seniors
Next, the rule of obedience is kept with such strictness that the juniors do not even see to their own natural needs without the knowledge and permission of the superior, and they hasten to obey such commands as the abbot might give them as if they came from God in heaven. If they are ordered to do anything which seems impossible they accept the order with faith and devotion, and do their best to carry it out with all their power. Chapter 23 (Cassian, Institutes, Bk.4, chap.20)
(ibid. chap.12. Also in III.143 & V.xiv.5) So then, they sit in their cells giving equal attention to both work and meditation, but when they hear the signal calling them either to prayer or some kind of work, they leave their cells immediately. Even if anyone is the midst of writing something, he would not dare to finish any letter which he had begun to form, but jumps up hastily the moment the sound of bell strikes his ears. He would not allow even so much of a delay as might allow him to finish it off.
(ibid. chap.13) We are aware of another great virtue among their other practices: they are not allowed to possess so much as a box or even a small woven basket or anything else at all. Nobody would dare to claim anything as his own personal property.
Three small lentil grains lost through carelessness
While one of the brothers was doing his week's duty in the kitchen, the prior noticed three grains of lentil on the floor, which had slipped out of the brother's hands while washing them ready for cooking. He immediately reported this to the abbot, who adjudged him to be a pilferer and careless of their common property. He was excluded from the common prayers, and was not forgiven for his crime of negligence until he had done public penance.Chapter 24 (Cassian, Institutes, Bk.4, chap.21)
Two monks who were short of firewood during their week's duty.
I heard of two monks who ran out of firewood during their week's duty and so were unable to cook food for the brothers as usual. The abbot ordered that until more wood could be gathered and fetched they should be content with dried food. Everyone accepted that they could not expect any cooked food, but the two cooks were upset that they would not in their turn be able to prepare food for the brothers as usual, fearing that they would be deprived of the reward due to them for their labour and service. So they took upon themselves the labour of scouring the dry and sterile places where there was no wood to be found unless it were to be cut from the fruit trees (for they have no wild shrubs in that area). They wandered off through the desert into the trackless ways near the Dead Sea, and collected thin twigs and thorn branches which the wind had scattered about, and so were able by their spontaneous service to prepare food for the brothers as usual. It was their faith which enabled them to provide this gift for their brothers, for even though the shortage of wood and the abbot's command provided them with a perfectly good excuse, they chose not to avail themselves of this freedom, for the sake of their due profit and reward. Chapter 25 (Cassian, Institutes, Bk.4, chap.23)
Blessed John who lived near the town of Lycus.
(also in II.1) I must make mention in this work of the blessed John who lived near Lycus, which is a town of the Thebaid. By virtue of his obedience the grace of prophecy was granted him. His fame spread everywhere, and deservedly came even to the ears of the rulers of the world. For even when John was living in the remotest parts of the Thebaid, as I have said, the Emperor Theodosius would not dream of going off on a war against the most powerful of tyrants without the support of his advice and opinions, which he accepted as if handed down to him from heaven, and gave him such confidence that he never failed to bring back the spoils of war from his enemies, even in the most desperate of battles. Chapter 26 (Cassian, Institutes, Bk.4, chap.24)
The obedience of this same John
This blessed John subjected himself to a senior from his youth up until as an adult he approached perfection. For as long as this senior lived in this world John deferred to him with such humility that his obedience filled the senior with the greatest admiration. The old man wanted to explore more deeply whether John's virtue sprang from a true faith in the depths of his heart, so he would often give him unnecessary and even impossible tasks to perform, of which I will mention but a few. Chapter 27 (Cassian, Institutes, Bk.4, chap.25)
(cf. Chapter 12) He took a twig from his woodpile, previously prepared as fuel for the fire, and stuck it in the ground, telling John to fetch water and sprinkle it daily. Without taking any thought for the impossibility of this command, the young man accepted it with his usual respect, and daily brought water from about two miles away, never once omitting to water the twig. He kept this up for a year, never allowing anything to interfere with this task of obedience, neither sickness or anything else. The old man secretly observed his diligence day after day without saying anything. He could see that he was fulfilling this command in simplicity of heart as if it were a command from God and took pity on him for persevering so long in this laborious task. He went to look at the dried stick
"John, my son," he said, "is it putting forth roots or not?"
"I don't know," he said
The old man felt underneath it to see whether there were any roots, pulled the stick out of the ground and threw it away.
"You don't need to water it any more," he said.
The large stone
which John obediently tried to fetch
The fame of his obedience began to spread throughout all the monasteries, and some of the brothers came to test it and be edified by it. The old man summoned his disciple.Chapter 28 (Cassian, Institutes, Bk.4, chap.27)
"John," he said, "run and fetch me that large stone as quickly as you can."
Straightaway he applied his shoulder to this immense stone, then his chest, striving with all his strength and undivided attention to make it move, with the sweat pouring off him so that not only were all his clothes drenched in sweat, but the rock as well. In doing this he had taken no account of the impossibility of either the command or the deed, but out of respect for his senior, and in a spirit of sincere and simple compliance, he trusted with an untroubled faith that he would not be told to do anything useless unless there were some reason for it.
These few things out of the many deeds of abba John will suffice. We turn now to the memorable deed of abba Mutius.
The marvellous patience of abba Mutius.
(cf. V.xiv.8) Desiring to renounce the world, abba Mutius sought out a monastery, bringing with him his small son of about eight years of age. They lay out side the gates for a long time before they were granted permission to enter. And when they were received they were immediately separated from each other, so that the sight of his son would not constantly remind the father how much he had given up, and how rich he used to be, and even make him forget that he was a father at all. Chapter 28 (Cassian, Institutes, Bk.4, chap.29)
In order to test still further whether he placed obedience higher than the bonds of family, his son was neglected, dressed in rags rather than proper clothes, subjected to slaps and blows from various people, often before the father's very eyes. The father could see that the innocent child did not deserve these blows, and he never saw the child's cheeks without them being stained with the dirty traces of his tears. Day by day he saw the child treated thus, but he endured it all for the love of Christ and in the virtue of obedience, with a stiff and unbending heart. He no longer thought of him as his son, for he had offered him to Christ along with himself, nor did he concern himself about his present injuries, but rather rejoiced that the child did not distract him from his own mental determination and fixed purpose.
Aware of this, the abbot decided to test his constancy still further. He saw the child weeping one day and pretending to be angry he order the father to pick him up and throw him in the river. As if commanded by the Lord he quickly picked the child up and straightaway carried him to the river to throw him in. In the fervour of his faith and obedience this would have been carried out completely, if it had not been for the abbot having ordered some of the brothers to patrol the riverbank carefully in order to rescue the boy. No sooner had the boy been thrown in than they pulled him out of the streambed, thus saving the boy from the effect of the deed which the father had performed at the abbot's command.
(ibid. chap.28) His faith, obedience and devotion were instantly accepted by God, as was at once verified by a testimony from God. For it was revealed to the senior almost immediately that what he had done was to fulfil the obedience of Abraham (Genesis 28.) Some time later the abbot passed away from this world, praising Mutius before all the brothers because of his obedience, and leaving him as his successor and abbot of the monastery.
A monk, the son of an aristocrat, ordered to carry baskets through the streets.
We learned of a brother who came from a very high ranking family in the world, for his father was not only an aristocrat but very rich. He left his parents and joined a monastery, where, to test his humility, the superior ordered him to carry ten large baskets from his shoulders and hawk them through the streets, although at that time the sale of the baskets was not strictly necessary. He added a condition that if anyone offered to buy the lot he was not to agree, but had to sell them all to separate buyers. He carried out these conditions with complete faithfulness, overcoming all trace of embarrassment by his desire for Christ, and putting the baskets on his shoulders and carrying them through the streets, he sold them at the proper price and brought the money back to the monastery.
Chapter 30 (Cassian, Institutes, Bk.4, chap.30)
Abba Pinuphius in the search for humility flees from the monastery and settles a long way off
We saw abba Pinuphius who used to be presbyter of a very large coenobium not far from the city of Panephysus in Egypt. He was held in great respect for his age, his life and his priesthood, and was honoured by all. But he saw that because of all that he was unable to preserve his humility, so he fled, alone, from the coenobium into the furthest reaches of the Thebaid. There he took off his monastic clothes and put on secular garments, before seeking out the monastery of Tabennisi, which he knew to be the strictest of all the monasteries, and which he thought would be far enough away for him not to be recognised. He stayed for a long time outside prostrating himself before the brothers, begging each one with many prayers that he might be admitted. When he was at last admitted, not without some scorn for being an old man who would not be suitable for many tasks, he was ordered to work diligently in the garden. A brother who was quite a junior was put over him who believed he should take charge of him completely. This brother not only instructed him in everything to do with the management of the garden but in all the tasks which were universally regarded as hard and humiliating. He carried them all out conscientiously every day, and many of them at night, for he got up quietly so that no one would see him, and no one would be able to guess who had been doing them.
Three years went by, and he was being sought throughout Egypt by the brothers, when at last he was seen by a brother who was visiting from Egypt. He could hardly recognise him because of the coarseness of his clothing and the menial work he was doing. He was bent forwards over a hoe, preparing the ground for vegetables, then carrying dung on his shoulders to be laid around their roots. The brother hesitated as he watched, and delayed making himself known to him for quite some time, but at last he moved closer, and recognising his voice as well as his face he at once cast himself at Pinuphius' feet.
The brothers were astounded.
"Why," they asked, "are you doing this to him? He has only recently joined us from the world, and is the lowest in rank of all of us."
The visitor justified what he had done by telling them Pinuphius' name and they were even more astounded by this marvel than before, for the name of Pinuphius was already well known among them. They all begged his pardon for their ignorance, and for keeping him all this time in the ranks of the juniors and children. But he wept and grieved greatly because by the envy of the devil he had been discovered and would not any longer be able to carry on in humility and lowliness. The brothers took him back weeping and reluctant to his own monastery, keeping a very careful eye on him lest he slip away and flee in the same way as before.
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