The Sayings of the Desert Father
s is a collection of sayings from the Egyptian
and later Syrian
deserts dating to around the 4th century
a.d. - 7th or 8th. There are several versions of the collection and even organized differently, by theme, alphabetically
by author, etc. (I suppose that in the days before copyright lawyers
, such things could happen much more organically
and easily!) Interestingly, the period during which the Sayings take place corresponds roughly to the adoption of Christianity
by the Roman Emperor
, making it the state religion
. Many of these desert ascetics fled from Rome
and the looming "bureaucratization" of the Christian
as the Church was being co-opted by the Empire
. I first read The Sayings in the early 90's
and was immediately struck by the Eastern
-like quality of the sayings. Here are a few, just for kicks:
There were two old men who dwelt together for many years and who never quarreled.
Then one said to the other:
"Let us pick a quarrel with each other like other men do."
"I do not know how quarrels arise," answered his companion.
So the other said to him:
"Look, I will put a brick down here between us and I will say 'This is mine.' Then you can say 'No it is not, it is mine.' Then we will be able to have a quarrel."
So they placed the brick between them and the first one said:
"This is mine."
His companion answered him:
"This is not so, for it is mine."
To this, the first one said:
"If it is so and the brick is yours, then take it and go your way."
And so they were not able to have a quarrel.
Some old men went to Abba Poemen and asked,
"If we see brothers sleeping during the common prayer, should we wake them?"
Abba Poemen answered, "If I see my brother sleeping, I put his head on my knees and let him rest."
Then one old man spoke up, "And how do you explain yourself before God?"
Abba Poemen replied, "I say to God: You have said, 'First take the beam out of your own eye and then you will be able to remove the splinter from the eye of your brother.' "