Encouraging words from St Poemen

posted Sep 9, 2011, 9:55 AM by fr.irenei@stjohnsacademysf.org
Icon of St Poemen
As we arrive at the end of the first week of the new school year, it seems fitting to share with our students, families and staff a few thoughts that are good for inspiring the heart, drawn from the legacy of the great saint whose memory we keep today in the Church: Abba Poemen of the Egyptian desert (one of the 'Desert Fathers'), who reposed in the Lord in AD 450 at the venerable age of 110 years.

As one of the most-loved of all the elders by their own community in the desert, the early monks collected many sayings of St Poemen. Among these are some true pearls of wisdom for the spiritual life.

With respect to judgement and our relationship to our brethren, the saint often spoke.

'One one occasion, the saint said, "It may be that a man seems to be silent; but if in his heart he judges others, then he is always speaking. But there are also those who all the day long speak with their tongues, but within themselves they keep true silence, for they judge no one."'

'There was a certain monk whose fasting was so severe that he permitted himself to partake of food only on the seventh day; yet this monk harboured an anger against his brother. Abba Poemen said to him, "You would learn to fast for six days, yet you cannot abstain from your anger for even a single day!"'

'Abba Poemen said, "Malice never wipes out malice. If someone does evil unto you, do them good. Your good will conquer their evil."'

He was also clear on the need to act in love, not in reproach:

'A certain monk asked Abba Poemen, "Should a man veil over with silence the sin of a transgressing brother, if perchance one should see him?" The elder answered: "If we reproach the sins of our brothers, then God will reproach our sins; and if you see a brother sinning, believe not your own eyes and know that your own sin is like a wood-beam, but the sin of your bother is like a mere splinter -- and then you will not come into stress and temptation."'

Even so, Abba Poemen knew that repentance has a power given by God:

'A certain monk turned to the saint, saying, "I have grievously sinned and I want to spend three years at repentance. Is such a length of time sufficient?" Abba Poemen answered, "That is a long time." The monk continued to ask how long a period of repentance the saint reckoned was necessary for him -- a year? Forty days? The elder at last answered, "I think that if a man repents from the depths of his heart, and posits a firm intent to return no more to the sin, then God would accept even a three-day repentance."'

And in all things, it is whether we do what we do for God, or not, that gives it its value:

'To the question, "Is it better to speak or to be silent?" the elder said, "Whoever speaks on account of God, does well; and whoever is silent on account of God, does well."'

May these beautiful thoughts encourage your hearts as we conclude this first week at St John's, and look forward to the remainder of a wonderful new year.

INXC, Archimandrite Irenei
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