Seven Parables and Stories for the Week: Issue 21


You say that you believe in God but you can’t believe in the existence of demons. There is a parable about a traveler who came to Egypt and wanted to make his trip memorable by  swimming in the Nile. The locals warned him that there were crocodiles in the Nile. They tried to persuade him not to swim far into the river. However, the traveler did not believe in the “old ladies’ tales” about crocodiles. A good and confident swimmer that he was, he swam far into the muddy waters of the Nile. All of a sudden, a crocodile attacked him and bit him. The brave man did not want to believe in the existence of crocodiles while he was alive but he had no time for that before he died.

St Nikolaj of Serbia. Missionary Letters.
Letter 203, “to a lover of truth”, on demons

Good Disposition

I heard a story about a brother who would come to someone and if that brother’s cell was dirty and unswept, he would say to himself, “Blessed is this brother who has put aside all earthly cares and has lifted up his mind to such an extent that he doesn't even have time to clean up his cell.”
If he came to another brother's place and saw that his cell was clean, swept, and tidy, he would again say to himself, “This brother’s cell is as clean as his soul. The cleanliness of his cell corresponds to the cleanliness of his soul.”
He would never say, “That brother is neglectful” or “This brother is proud.” He benefited from all of them thanks to his good disposition.
May good God grant us a good disposition so that we could benefit from all other people and never notice our neighbor’s flaws.

Abba Dorotheus, Homily 16

Some Weedy Bread

A brother confessed to Abba Poemen:
– When I give my brother some bread or something else, demons belittle my alms as if I give them because I want to please men.
The elder replied:
– Even if you really gave alms because you wanted to please someone, you’d still have to give others what they need.
The elder continued with the following parable:
– There were two farmers in one locality. One of them sowed some grain and harvested some bread, although it was infected by weeds. The other farmer was lazy, so he decided not to sow anything, and did not reap anything in the end. Who will have food in the case of a famine?
The brother responded:
– The farmer who reaped some bread, in spite of the fact that it was weedy.
The elder concluded:
– Let’s reap some bread, even if it is weedy, so as not to die of hunger.

Lives of the Skete Fathers. A Preacher’s Paterikon

“All Trees Are Mine! All Flowers Are Mine!”

When people are happy, they tend to forget everything and claim that it was them — their weak and imaginary power — that brought about everything they have. As soon as they face any trouble, they start begging for mercy of alleged enemies. This is how St Ambrose illustrated this truth:

A man is like a beetle. When the weather is hot and the sun shines, he proudly flies around, humming, “All trees are mine! All flowers are mine! All woods are mine! All meadows are mine!” As soon as the sun hides and it becomes chilly and windy, the beetle forgets his audacity. He clings to a leaf and squeaks, “Oh please don’t blow me off!”

Sinful Thoughts

There was a righteous man named Laurus. He left his village and went into the mountains. He eradicated all desires in his soul, except the desire to devote his life to God and to be accepted into the Heavenly Kingdom. Laurus spent several years fasting and praying and thinking only about God. When he returned to his village, all his fellow villagers were amazed at his holiness. Everyone revered him as a true man of God.
There was another man in that village named Thaddaeus who was envious. He told his fellow villagers that he could become like Laurus, too. Thaddaeus went to the mountains and started fasting alone. One month later, Thaddaeus came back. When his fellow villagers asked him what he had been doing all that time, he answered:
— I was murdering, stealing, lying, slandering people, praising myself, committing adultery and arson.
— How could you do all those things if you were alone?
— Yes, I was alone in the physical sense but I wasn’t alone spiritually and mentally. It was in my soul that I did all things that I could not do with my hands, feet, tongue, and body.

St Nikolaj of Serbia. Explanation of the Ten Commandments.
Commandment 10.

How Pride Leads to Insanity

The first stage of pride is when one rebukes his brother, when he condemns and smears him as an unworthy being, and considers himself to be superior. If such a proud man does not come to his senses and does not correct himself, he will gradually fall prey to the second stage of pride and start feeling superior to God and start attributing his feats and virtues to himself and not God, as if it was him who achieved them using his own reason and diligence instead of God’s help.
Indeed, my brethren, I know a man who eventually became pathetic. First, when a brother would tell him about anything, he would humiliate everyone and contradict, saying, “What’s that brother really worth? There is no one that deserves fame except for Zosimas and the like.” Later, he started belittling Zosimas, saying, “There is no one that deserves fame except Macarius.” A little bit later, he started saying, “Who’s Macarius? There is no one who deserves fame except Basil and Gregory.” Soon enough, he started diminishing those fathers, too. He said, “Who is Basil? Who is Gregory? I don’t know anyone worth admiration except Peter and Paul!” I remarked, “Look, brother, soon you will belittle the two apostles, too!” Believe it or not, soon he started saying, “Who’s Peter? Who’s Paul? No one is really worth anything except for the Holy Trinity.” Finally, he started criticizing the Lord and went insane.

This is why, my dear brethren, we should work hard to get rid of the first stage of pride so as not to fall into the second stage of pride, i.e., complete pride.

Abba Dorotheus, Homily 2

How Can People Who Are Close to God Consider Themselves Sinners?

There were some monks who were discussing humility. A noble man from Gaza heard them say that the closer one gets to God, the more sinful he considers himself to be. He was amazed:
— How can that be?
He was eager to know what these words meant.
One of the monks replied:
— Sir, who do you think you are in your town?
The noble man answered:
— I think I am the greatest and the most important man in my town.
— What if you go to Caesarea, what would you think of yourself?
— I would consider myself to be the last of the gentry.
— Who would you be in Antioch then?
— I'd be counted among the commoners.
— What if you go to Constantinople to the Emperor's Court, who would you be?
— I’d consider myself a tramp.
— This is how saints look at it. — the monk said, — the closer they get to God, the more sinful they feel. When Abraham saw the Lord, he called himself dirt and ashes.

Abba Dorotheus, Homily 2

Translated from: https://azbyka.ru/days/