Wisdom from the Desert

One of the fathers related: There was a devout scholar from Antioch who pestered a hermit, urging him to receive him and make him a monk. The old man said to him, “If you want me to receive you, go, sell your possessions, and give to the poor according to the Lord’s commandment, and then I shall receive you.” Therefore he went away and acted accordingly.

After this the hermit said to him, “You have another precept to keep, that you not speak.”  He took heed and for five years did not speak.  Some people began to praise him, and the abba said to him, “It is not good for you to be here, so I will send you to a coenobium in Egypt,” and he sent him off.

When he sent him, the hermit failed to say whether he was to speak or not to speak, so he continued to obey the command and did not speak.

The abbot who received him, seeking a test to determine whether or not he was mute, sent him on an errand while the river was in flood, so that he would be forced to say, “I cannot cross it.”  The abbot sent a brother after him to see what he did.  As he approached the river, he knelt down, being unable to cross, and behold, a crocodile came and took him and bore him across to the other side.  When he had performed the errand and returned to the river, the crocodile again bore him across.  The brother who had been sent after him, having come along and seen this, told the abbot and the brothers and they were astonished.

It happened that some time later he died, and the abbot sent a message to the old man who had sent him, saying, “That man you sent may not have been able to speak, but he was like an angel of God.”

The hermit then replied, saying, “It is not that he was unable to speak, but obeying the command which I gave him at the outset, he remained silent.”  And they all marvelled and gave glory to God.

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