Sayings of the Fathers: Agathon 1-4

Continuing now with the Apopthegmata Patrum, Alphabetical Series, with Abba Agathon. Note that in saying 1, my rendering of familiar represents παρρησια, a word with a wide range of meaning including familiarity, but also speaking (too) freely, both of which meanings are at play in the saying. Saying 2 is entirely obscure, being perhaps a warning against regret, in opposition to the true repentance of a monk.

1. Abba Petros of Abba Lot said that Once when we were in the cell of Abba Agathon, a brother came to him, saying, I want to dwell with the brothers. Tell me how I shall dwell with them. The elder said to him, As in your first day of entering in among them, so guard your solitude, so that you will not become familiar with them. Abba Makarios said to him, For what does familiarity do? The elder said to him, Familiarity is like a great burning wind, which when it happens, all flee from before it, and it destroys the fruits of the trees. Abba Makarios said to him, Is familiarity so grievous? And Abba Agathon said, There is no passion worse than familiarity, for it is the mother of all the passions. It is proper for the worker not to be familiar, even if he is alone in the cell. For I know a brother who spent time dwelling in the cell, possessing a small bed, who said that, I would have moved on from the cell, not knowing about the little bed, if others had not told me (about it). A worker such as this is also a warrior.

2. Abba Agathon said, A monk should not allow his conscience to accuse him for any kind of act.

3. Again, he said that, Without guarding the Divine commandments, a man will not progress, even in a single virtue.

4. Again, he said that, I have never gone to sleep having something against someone, nor let anyone go to sleep having anything against me, according to my ability.

1 Comment

  1. Readers should take a look at the fine explanation for the first saying above on “familiarity” in Father Gregory Jensen’s post, Familiarity and Priesthood. Fr Jensen is an Orthodox priest serving the communities at Carnegie Mellon University and University of Pittsburgh.

    (His post brings to my attention not just his fine blog, Koinonia,but also a malfunction in mine, which used to automatically indicate in the comments links to the various posts. I’ll be looking into that.)

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