Continued from where I left off a few days ago…
(i.e., from Maya Kucherskaya’s 2006 publication, A Contemporary Paterikon)
17. After the other monks had finished eating and he had fulfilled all his duties in the refectory, Monk Ambrosij sat down at the table and reached into the hiding spot for his ice cream sandwiches. He began to devour them one after another.
At that very moment another monk came into the refectory and say how his brother was busy eating ice cream sandwiches.
“Forgive me, father, that I’m reminding you of this,” the monk said, as he came in, ”but today is a strict fast day, what with tomorrow being Christmas Eve.”
Father Ambrosij lifted his eyes in amazement at the speaker and threw up.
18. Brother Anthony grew bored and decided to get married. “I’m going to get married!” he told the brothers. Out of love for him, the brothers didn’t want to release him out into the sinful world and so they resolved to set out with him, that they might thrown their own lots in with his. The elder was away at the moment, gone to an ecumenical conference, and there was no one from whom to seek advice.
The monks assembled themselves at the front gates and crossed themselves in front of the church as a farewell when suddenly the elder walked through the garden gate. He’d returned from the conference.
“Bless us, our father, for the last time—we’re going out into the world to get married!” the brothers told him, weeping.
“God bless you, my children, but really…” The elder faltered.
“What is it? Tell us!”
At that moment the monks scattered to their cells.
19. A certain brother fell into temptation and, having found his elder, told him, “Father, I understand that there is no God, and I’m leaving the monastery.”
The elder wept and, through his tears, he answered, “My child, oh my child! You don’t understand anything at all! Go wherever you wish.”
The monk stayed after all.
20. A brother went to Abba Averkij and said to him,
“I’m so lazy that it’s very hard for me to get up and perform my acts of obedience. Every day it’s like hard labor for me and I feel like very soon I’m simply going to burst from work and self-restraint.”
The Abba answered, “If it’s that difficult for you to go to work, then just don’t go. Stay in your cell and loudly lament your own laziness. Then wail even louder! You’ll see that when you weep that loudly, no one will make you do anything at all.”
21. It was said of Abba Averkij that he often stumbled into the wall and various objects, hence he had many bruises on his body and even on his face; all this because his mind was occupied with contemplation.
23. A certain brother was deeply sorrowful and lamented to Father Paxomij.
“My father! Every night I am tormented by demons. As soon as I lay down to sleep and close my eyes, I immediately crave chicken! Roasted, with a crispy skin, surrounded by golden potatoes and dill. Or not even chicken, just some fish. Finnish red fish with white bread and butter. Or when I get up to pray, and I could just kill for a smoke, I could suck down a whole cigarette. Or gulp down a glass of wine. It seems to me that the whole force of hell, every last demon draws his arms against me…”
“Brother!” the elder answered, chuckling, “what kind of force of hell is that? Which demons? The demons tormented the ancient fathers, the hermits, the pious and the saints. But as for us…The devil would be frittering away his energies on us. It’s not demons. It’s just your desires. In order to conquer them you don’t need any such great feats. You don’t even need to be a monk.”
“What does one need, honest father?”
“Will power, your own personal will power. In order to build this up, every morning do ten push-ups and take a cold shower. Stick to this.”
“And the Jesus Prayer? And full prostrations?”
But the elder would no longer respond to any of his inquiries. He said that he just didn’t have anymore time to talk.
29. An Angel appeared to a certain monk.
“Angel?” stammered the monk in astonishment.
“Angel,” answered the Angel.
“What if you’re not really here, if you’re just shamming?” The monk trembled and crossed himself. “What if you’re just a white bird?”
“What’s wrong with you?! I’m really here. If you’d like, you can touch me,” and with that, the Angel stretched out to him a shining wing.
The monk wanted to touch it but, instead of feeling feathers, his palms felt only air—the wings were indeed genuinely angelic!