Patience in Penance. Fourteen Years the Abbot spent on Overcoming One Fault.
“Love demands a complete inner transformation – for without this we cannot possibly come to identify ourselves with our brother… And this involves a kind of death of our own being, our own self.
No matter how hard we try, we resist this death: we fight back with anger, with recriminations, with demands, with ultimatums. We seek any convenient excuse to break off and give up the difficult task.
But in these Verba Seniorum [Words of the Elders] we read of Abbot Ammonas, who spent fourteen years praying to overcome anger, or rather, more significantly, to be delivered from it.”
… We read of Abbot Serapion, who sold his last book, a copy of the Gospels, and gave the money to the poor, thus selling “the very words which told him to sell all and give to the poor.”
Time and again we read of Abbots who refuse to join in a communal reproof of this or that delinquent, like Abbot Moses, that great gentle Negro, who walked into the severe assembly with a basket of sand, letting the sand run out through many holes. “My own sins are running out like this sand,” he said, “and yet I come to judge the sins of another.”
A BROTHER asked one of the elders: What good thing shall I do, and have life thereby? The old man replied: God alone knows what is good. However, I have heard it said that someone inquired of Father Abbot Nisteros the great, the friend of Abbot Anthony, asking: What good work shall I do? and that he replied:
Not all works are alike. For Scripture says that Abraham was hospitable and God was with him. Elias loved solitary prayer, and God was with him. And David was humble, and God was with him. Therefore, whatever you see your soul to desire according to God, do that thing, and you shall keep your heart safe.
TWO brethren went to an elder who lived alone in Scete. And the first one said: Father, I have learned all of the Old and New Testaments by heart.
The elder said to him: You have filled the air with words.
The other one said: I have copied out the Old and New Testaments and have them in my cell.
And to this one the elder replied: You have filled your window with parchment. But do you not know Him who said: The kingdom of God is not in words, but in power? And again, Not those who hear the Law will be justified before God but those who carry it out.
They asked him, therefore, what was the way of salvation, and he said to them: The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord, and humility with patience.
— from “The Wisdom of the Desert (New Directions Book 295)” by Thomas Merton
— Thomas a Kempis: The Imitation of Christ
— Carlo Caretto on the pain in failure