Friday, August 07, 2009

Saying of the Desert Christians: Abba Abraham


Abba Abraham told of a man of Scetis who was a scribe and did not eat bread. A brother came to beg him to copy a book. The old man whose spirit was engaged in contemplation, wrote, omitting some phrases and with no punctuation. The brother, taking the book and wishing to punctuate it, noticed that words were missing. So he said to the old man, 'Abba, there are some phrases missing.' The old man said to him, 'Go, and practise first that which is written, then come back and I will write the rest.'

Some thoughts:

First off, your initial reaction might be "Hey, we already read this one!" What we read, was a version. This one has details the other lacked and who is to say which one is the more accurate. I certainly don't know.

One might wonder why the detail that the scribe did not eat bread was considered important. Many of the Desert Christians fasted in such a manner that we today would consider anorexic. Such rigorism was considered holy and those who ate the least were sometimes considered the holiest. Maybe that is what is going on here. Maybe. I dunno. I find this Saying a bit troubling.

Here we have the scribe so lost in prayer that he is not making an accurate copy. Another monk comes to borrow the book and discovers the text is incomplete. Look at the scribe's response. There are several ways to take it, I daresay. One might be not to stress over details and to look at the bigger picture. That is usually how I read this Saying.

But today, with these extra details, I find myself wondering what important stuff might be missing? Phrases might be missing that might change meaning of the bigger picture. So perhaps rather than a blind obedience, we might seek and informed obedience through prayer and discernment.

What are your thoughts?


Post a Comment

<< Home