Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Saying of the Desert Christians: Gentleness 4


Some monks came to see Abba Poemen and said to him, "When we see brothers dozing in the church, should we rouse them so that they can be watchful?" He said, "For my part, when I see a brother dozing, I put his head on my knees and let him rest."

Some thoughts:

I can just imagine the scene. Monks have gathered in their church. Churches did not have pews or seats at that time, the worshippers stood for the whole service. I can see a monk, perhaps a young one still getting used to this life or maybe a more experienced monk who has overdone the all night vigils. Whichever, the monk's legs will no longer support him and he falls asleep on the floor of the church.

I can see other monks noticing, distracted from their prayers. Some might be thinking "poor guy." Others might be thinking "this is no place for a nap." I am sure you can think of other things that might have been thought or said. And obviously some wonder if it is there duty to wake the man up.

I can also see another monk sinking to the floor also. So now the first monk is not the only one on the floor, but has company there. The second monk tenderly lifts the first monk's head and places it in his lap, to cushion it from the hard ground. The second monk continues his own prayers.

What tenderness to join the monk that some might think disgraced. What compassion to make a comfy pillow. What a demonstration that any of us might be subject to the frailty of the flesh and that we are all but human.

That's what I see. If you see something in addition, I'd love you to mention it.


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