Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Saying of the Desert Christians: Gentleness 5


Once when a hippopotamus was ravaging the neighbouring countryside the fathers called on abba Bes to help them. He stood at the place and waited and when he saw the beast, which was of enormous size, he commanded it not to ravage the countryside any more, saying, "In the name of Jesus Christ, I order you not to ravage this countryside anymore." The hippopotamus vanished completely from that district as if driven away by an angel.

Some thoughts:

We have here an example of hagiography. One can google the word and find all sorts of definitions, explanations and history. It is often a source of important biographical info but mostly the word is used to describe what we in the 21st century would call impossible events. Things too miraculous to be miracles but seem more like down right nonsense.

On the face of it, today's Saying sounds more like nonsense than anything else. Who in their right mind would consider doing such a thing? Yes, yes, I know that many of the Sayings sound as if more than one Desert Christian was not in their right minds and I have long had my doubts about St Simon the Stylite.

But here is how I view hagiography. It's a metaphor. It's a metaphor that says if such extraordinary things could be done by extraordinary person, this person is such a person.

So imagine, what degree of gentleness was it that so emanated from Abba Bes that a ravaging hippopotamus sensed it and was so impressed that it fled the scene never to return again.

More importantly, how can we learn this degree of gentleness?


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