WORDS FROM THE DESERT
(sayings of the desert fathers)
'A brother questioned Abba Poemen in this way, 'My thoughts trouble me, making me put my sins aside, and concern myself with my brother's faults'. The oldman told him the following story about Abba Dioscorus (the monk), 'In his cell he wept over himself, while his disciple was sitting in another cell. When the latter came to see the old man he asked him, "Father, why are you weeping?" "I am weeping over my sins," the old man answered him. Then his disciple said,"You do not have any sins, Father." The old man replied, "Truly, my child, if I were allowed to see my sins, three or four men would not be enough to weep for them. " '
I like the desert fathers because they don't mince words and they have such a simple way of living in community together. But perhaps when you're living in caves and very rustic conditions in an area where the land does not make survival easy- then simple structures and simple ways of life together is of great importance.
I wonder what our church might look like if we had more Abba Dioscorus's, unable to focus on the sins of others, concerning themselves with their own shortcomings. It's so difficult to get to a place where I can say, "I have faults, and I sin." However when I do this along with my brothers and sisters in my congregation then I begin to see the "other" person as no better or worse than I- simply a child of God in need of God's grace and my love, and I needing the same from them.
The world can feel like the desert a lot of times- the conditions can be hard and difficult. Unfortuanately the church a lot of times feels no different than the world. There are people inside who seem like the anonymous brother who concerns his or herself with the sins of others, and having troubling thoughts- which usually causes others to have troubling thoughts.
Maybe we need pastors, youth pastors, lay leaders, and prophets who will be our Abba Poemans- telling stories from the desert, and a place where we are called to confess OUR OWN sins, and embrace those who come to us seeking shelter.