Seven Stories and Parables for the Week: Issue 10

Two monks came to Abba Joseph wanting to know whether they should greet their visitors with joy or refrain from expressing it. Hardly did they start asking that question when he turned and retreated into his cell. He put on sackcloth and appeared to them wearing it, all the while not uttering a single word.

Then he put on good clothes he had worn on holidays and appeared to them. Finally, he put on his usual clothes and sat with them.

The monks were looking at him in surprise, unable to understand anything of what he had shown to them. He asked:
— Have you noticed what I’ve just done?
— Yes, — they replied.
— Well then, — Joseph added, — have you noticed any change in my personality, too? Did I become a worse person when I put on dirty rags? Did I become a better person when I put on better clothes?
— Of course not!
— Therefore, remember that there isn’t any creature, including human beings, capable of changing anything in our inner world. Greet  the brothers who come to visit you with joy and innocence and Christian love. If no one visits you, keep your spirit concentrated.

Long time ago, a Christian lady found herself on an uninhabited island, where she spent forty years praying and fasting and tolerating various afflictions. Finally, a ship rescued her, and she managed to return home.
The woman came to a renowned ascetic and told him about her feats.
The elder listened to her attentively and then asked:
— Can you accept maledictions from people as benedictions?
— No Father, — the Christian lady replied shamefully.
— So you haven’t learned anything during the forty years you spent practising asceticism, — the elder concluded.

A layman decided to ask Elder Paisius the Athonite about his temptation. When he met his friends, who were proud, he felt obliged to behave like they did. However hard he tried, he could not break free from this habit. While he was thinking how to put this question into words, a pilgrim brought the elder a big watermelon. Elder Paisius took the watermelon and said:

— You have brought me this watermelon so please give me your knife to cut it, and I will tell you the truth about how watermelons became so delicious.

The pilgrim gave him a knife, and the elder cut the watermelon and gave a piece to each visitor. When it was the layman’s turn to receive a piece of the watermelon, he felt that what he was about to hear would be related to the problem that he had. The elder looked at him calmly and smiled:

— If we grow a watermelon and a pumpkin together, the pumpkin will take all sweetness away from the watermelon, and the watermelon will become dull and not sweet, whereas the pumpkin, regardless of how much sweetness it receives, will always remain a pumpkin. This is why, if we want a sweet and tasty watermelon, we should keep it away from pumpkin.

The answer that the elder gave to the pilgrim was excellent: it made him realise that he had to be careful in choosing his friends.

A woman came to an elder with her little son.
— My son seems to be cursed, — she said. — He eats dates all day. Just sweet dates and nothing else. What do I do?
The elder looked at the boy and replied:
— Oh dear lady, go home with your son. Come to me tomorrow, and I will help you.
On the following day, the elder took the boy onto his lap, took a date out of the boy’s hand and said:
— My son, remember that there are other tasty things in this world, too.
He blessed the child and handed him over to his mother.
The mother was puzzled and asked the elder:
— Why didn’t you say it yesterday? Why did we have to endure a long journey like this?
— Oh dear lady, — the elder replied. — I could not tell that to your son convincingly enough because I had enjoyed some dates yesterday.
The meaning of this parable is simple: start with yourself. Any advice that you give is powerful only when you confirm it with your own life.

There was a merchant who went to a distant land and came to a strange town where all inhabitants wore chains. The merchant thought to himself, “What if they make me wear chains, too? What do I do?” All of a sudden, several guards appeared in front of him and, seeing that he was free, handcuffed him and put chains around his ankles immediately. Unable to return home, the merchant was dismayed. He started asking the unlucky residents of the town why they wore chains, and they replied that that was a long tradition in their town. The merchant asked, “Are all residents of the town doomed to wear chains all their lives?” The people replied, “It is believed that an old man comes to the town once in a while. He is free and does not wear chains. He is the only person who knows how to get rid of them. He appears so seldom that many people doubt that this story is true.” “I see no way out,” the merchant thought, “except waiting for that old man and learning how to break free.”

Many years later, the merchant was old and white-haired. One day he suddenly met an old man freely walking down the street without chains or handcuffs.
— Sir, — the poor prisoner exclaimed, — help me to get free from these chains please.
— My son, — the old man advised, — just say to yourself, “I want the guards to release me,” and you’ll be free.
The merchant thought that it was a bad and bitter joke but he decided to give it a try and uttered these words. Guards immediately appeared to him and released him.
The merchant hurried away from that strange town in surprise. When he left its gates, he saw the same old man again.
— Please tell me sir, — the merchant urged, — what is the secret of this strange town?
— This town is a special place where people become prisoners and get released just by thinking about it. You got saved because you believed me. Those who don’t believe me, remain in this town forever, and I cannot help them anymore.
If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:31-32).

There were two brothers who had many children. They taught their children to be diligent. One of the brothers told the children of the other brother one day, “Your father knows a special day, which, if you spend it working, will make you rich forever, and you will be able to quit work from then on. I learned it from my own experience but I’ve forgotten what day it is. So you can go to your father, he’ll tell you about that day.” The children happily went to their father and asked him about that day. The father replied, “I’ve forgotten what day it is, too; but you can work for one full year, and you will definitely figure out what day it is.” The children spent the entire year working but they did not find that day, so they informed their father about it. The father thanked them for their hard work and said, “That’s what you can do: divide the year into four parts — spring, summer, fall, and winter — and work hard during these seasons, and you’ll find that day.” The children agreed but after they spent another year working they complained, “We haven’t found the day that you were telling us about. Given that we’re tired and prosperous enough, we won’t work any longer.” The father’s response was, “The day that I was talking about was the day of your death. It will come when we don’t think about it at all. That’s why you should keep working for the salvation of your souls throughout your lives, day and night, and be ready to die any day.”

There were two friends who lived in an Arabic country. They would meet at a fireplace every evening and talk sitting on small three-legged chairs. In the meantime, one of them became a sheikh. He moved to a marble palace and acquired a high throne made of mother-of-pearl. Many people came to honor the new ruler.

His old friend came to him, too. He was eager to congratulate the new sheikh but the proud sheikh did not want to receive him immediately and made him stand by the door of the palace for many days. Finally, the sheikh ordered his servants to let his friend come in. The friend entered the palace humbly. The sheikh sat at the throne with his limbs stretched out. His friend understood what it meant, and so he started looking around as if he was looking for the sheikh. The sheikh was furious. He asked his old friend what he was looking for.

— I’m looking for you, o human being, where are you? — the friend replied and added sorrowfully, — While you were sitting on a small chair, one did not see the chair because of the human who sat in it, and now, you see, one can’t find the human because of the throne.

There was a monk who asked Abba Poemen for instructions. The elder replied, “As long as a cauldron is heated by fire, neither a fly nor a serpent can touch it. As soon as it cools down, all pests can sit on it freely. This is how it happens with humans, too: as long as they persevere in doing spiritually nurturing things, the enemy can’t succeed in defeating them!”

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