§2 & 17, Selections

 A Carthusian enters the Grand Chartreuse  The Belles Heures of John Duke of Berry,1408 fol 97.

(tr. adapted. by L.Dysinger, O.S.B: based on  E.C.S. Gibson, , NPNF 2nd ser. , vol 11, pp. 435-445)

AUDIO LECTURE: Opening the Heart to a Trusted Senior: on Discernment (Conf.2) and Keeping/Breaking Promises (Conf.17)





CONFERENCE 2: The Second Conference of Abba Moses








CHAPTER 2. What discretion alone can give a monk; and a discourse of the blessed Antony on this subject.

2. Quid discretio sola conferat monacho et disputatio super hoc beati Antonii.



2.1. And so I remember that while I was still a boy, in the region of Thebaid, where the blessed Antony lived, the elders came to him to inquire about perfection: and though the conference lasted from evening till morning, the greatest part of the night was taken up with this question. For it was discussed at great length what virtue or observance could preserve a monk always unharmed by the snares and deceits of the devil, and carry him forward on a sure and right path, and with firm step to the heights of perfection.

2.1. Memini igitur quondam in annis adhuc pueritiae constitutus in partibus Thebaidos, ubi beatus Antonius morabatur, seniores ad eum perfectionis inquirendae gratia conuenisse. Cumque a uespertinis horis usque ad lucem fuisset protracta conlatio, quaestionem hanc maximum noctis spatium consumpsisse. Nam diutissime quaerebatur quaenam uirtus uel obseruantia monachum possit a diaboli laqueis ac deceptionibus custodire semper inlaesum uel certe recto tramite firmoque gressu ad perfectionis culmen euehere.

2.2.2. And when each one gave his opinion according to the bent of his own mind, and some made it consist in zeal in fasting and vigils, because a soul that has been brought low by these, and so obtained purity of heart and body will be the more easily united to God, others in despising all things, as, if the mind were utterly deprived of them, it would come the more freely to God, as if henceforth there were no snares to entangle it: others thought that withdrawal from the world was the thing needful, i.e., solitude and the secrecy of the hermit’s life; living in which a man may more readily commune with God, and cling more especially to Him; others laid down that the duties of charity, i.e., of kindness should be practised, because the Lord in the gospel promised more especially to give the kingdom to these; when He said “Come ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was an hungred and ye gave Me to eat, I was thirsty and ye gave Me to drink, etc.:” (Matt. 24. 35, 36) and when in this fashion they declared that by means of different virtues a more certain approach to God could be secured, and the greater part of the night had been spent in this discussion, then at last the blessed Antony spoke and said:

2.2. Cumque pro captu mentis suae proferret unusquisque sententiam et alii quidem hoc in ieiuniorum uigiliarumque studio conlocarent, quod his uidelicet extenuata mens ac puritatem cordis et corporis adsecuta deo facilius uniretur, alii in contemptu uniuersarum rerum, quibus mens si penitus nudaretur, tamquam nullis deinceps retinentibus laqueis ad deum expeditior perueniret, alii anachoresin necessariam, id est remotionem et heremi secreta censerent, in qua commanens quis familiarius interpellare deum eique possit peculiarius inhaerere, nonnulli sectanda caritatis, id est humanitatis officia definirent, quod his regna caelorum daturum se dominus in euangelio uelut specialius repromittat dicens : Venite benedicti patris mei, possidete paratum uobis regnum a constitutione mundi. Esuriui enim et dedistis mihi manducare, sitiui et dedistis mihi bibere et cetera, cumque in hunc modum diuersis uirtutibus aditum certiorem ad deum parari posse decernerent essetque noctis maximum tempus hac inquisitione consumptum, intulit demum beatus Antonius :

2.2.3. All these things which you have mentioned are indeed needful, and helpful to those who are thirsting for God, and desirous to approach Him. But countless accidents and the experience of many people will not allow us to make the most important of gifts consist in them. For often when men are most strict in fasting or in vigils, and nobly withdraw into solitude, and aim at depriving themselves of all their goods so absolutely that they do not suffer even a day’s allowance of food or a single penny to remain to them, and when they fulfill all the duties of kindness with the utmost devotion, yet still we have seen them suddenly deceived, so that they could not bring the work they had entered upon to a suitable close, but brought their exalted fervour and praiseworthy manner of life to a terrible end. Wherefore we shall be able clearly to recognize what it is which mainly leads to God, if we trace out with greater care the reason of their downfall and deception.

2.3. omnia quidem haec quae dixistis necessaria sunt et utilia sitientibus deum atque ad eum cupientibus peruenire. Sed his principalem tribuere gratiam nequaquam nos innumeri multorum casus et experimenta permittunt. Nam saepenumero acerrime ieiuniis seu uigiliis incubantes ac mirifice in solitudine secedentes, priuationem quoque omnium facultatum ita sectantes, ut ex ipsis ne unius quidem diei uictum sibimet unumue denarium superesse paterentur, humanitatis etiam studia tota deuotione conplentes ita uidimus repente deceptos, ut arreptum opus non potuerint congruo exitu terminare summumque feruorem et conuersationem laudabilem detestabili fine concluserint. Quamobrem quid principaliter ducat ad deum manifeste poterimus agnoscere, si ruinae ac deceptionis illorum causa diligentius a nobis fuerit indagata.

2.2.4. For when the works of the above mentioned virtues were abounding in them, discretion alone was wanting, and allowed them not to continue even to the end. Nor can any other reason for their falling off be discovered except that as they were not sufficiently instructed by their elders they could not obtain judgment and discretion, which passing by excess on either side, teaches a monk always to walk along the royal road, and does not suffer him to be [:]

2.4. In illis namque cum exuberarent praedictarum opera uirtutum, discretio sola deficiens usque ad finem ea durare non siuit. Nec enim alia lapsus eorum causa deprehenditur, nisi quod minus a senioribus instituti nequaquam potuerunt rationem discretionis adipisci, quae praetermittens utramque nimietatem uia regia monachum docet semper incedere et

[1] puffed up on the right hand of virtue, i.e., from excess of zeal to transgress the bounds of due moderation in foolish presumption, nor allows him to be

nec dextra uirtutum permittit extolli, id est feruoris excessu iustae continentiae modum inepta praesumptione transcendere,

[2] enamored of slackness and turn aside to the vices on the left hand, i.e., under pretext of controlling the body, to grow slack with the opposite spirit of luke-warmness.

nec oblectatum remissione deflectere ad uitia sinistra concedit, hoc est sub praetextu gubernandi corporis contrario spiritus tepore lentescere.

2.2.5. For this is discretion, which is termed in the gospel the “eye,” “and light of the body,” according to the Saviour’s saying: “The light of thy body is your eye: but if your eye be single, thy whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is evil, thy whole body will be full of darkness:” (Matt. 6. 22, 23) because as it discerns all the thoughts and actions of men, it sees and overlooks all things which should be done.

2.5. Haec namque est discretio, quae oculus et lucerna corporis in euangelio nuncupatur secundum illam sententiam saluatoris : lucerna corporis tui est oculus tuus : quodsi oculus tuus fuerit simplex, totum corpus tuum lucidum erit : si autem oculus tuus nequam fuerit, totum corpus tuum tenebrosum erit , eo quod ipsa cogitationes hominis uniuersas actusque discernens cuncta quae gerenda sunt peruideat atque perlustret :

2.2.6. But if in any man this is “evil,” i.e., not fortified by sound judgment and knowledge, or deceived by some error and presumption, it will mike our whole body “full of darkness,” i.e., it will darken all our mental vision and our actions, as they will be involved in the darkness of vices and the gloom of disturbance.  For, says He, “if the light which is in thee be darkness, how great will that darkness be!” (Matt. 6. 22, 23) For no one can doubt that when the judgment of our heart goes wrong, and is overwhelmed by the night of ignorance, our thoughts and deeds, which are the result of deliberation and discretion, must be involved in the darkness of still greater sins.

2.6. quae si in homine nequam fuerit, id est non uero iudicio et scientia communita seu quolibet errore ac praesumptione decepta, totum corpus nostrum faciat tenebrosum, hoc est omnem aciem mentis actusque nostros reddat obscuros, caecitate scilicet uitiorum et perturbationum tenebris inuolutoSi enim inquit lumen quod in te est tenebrae sunt, tenebrae ipsae quantae erunt ! Nulli namque dubium est errante iudicio cordis nostri et ignorationis nocte possesso cogitationes quoque et opera nostra, quae ex discretionis deliberatione descendunt, maioribus peccatorum tenebris inplicari.



CHAPTER 5. Of the death of the old man Heron.

5. De morte Heronis senis.



2.5.1. And to support this judgment delivered of old by the blessed Antony and the other fathers by a modern instance, as we promised to do, remember what you lately saw happen before your very eyes, I mean, how the old man Heron, only a very few days ago was cast down by an illusion of the devil from the heights to the depths, a man whom we remember to have lived for fifty years in this desert and to have preserved a strict continence with especial severity, and who aimed at the secrecy of solitude with marvelous fervor beyond all those who dwell here.

5.1. Et ut hanc eandem definitionem antiquitus a sancto Antonio et ceteris patribus promulgatam recens quoque sicut promisimus confirmet exemplum, recolite id quod nuper gestum oculorum uestrorum uidistis obtutibus, senem uidelicet Heronem ante paucos admodum dies inlusione diaboli a summis ad ima deiectum, quem quinquaginta annis in hac heremo conmoratum singulari districtione rigorem continentiae tenuisse meminimus et solitudinis secreta ultra omnes hic commorantes miro feruore sectatum.

2.5.2. By what device then or by what method was he deluded by the deceiver after so many labours, and falling by a most grievous downfall struck with profound grief all those who live in this desert? Was it not because, having too little of the virtue of discretion he preferred to be guided by his own judgment rather than to obey the counsels and conference of the brethren and the regulations of the elders? Since he ever practised incessant abstinence and fasting with such severity, and persisted in the secrecy of solitude and a monastic cell so constantly that not even the observance of the Easter festival could ever persuade him to join in the feast with the brethren:

5.2. Hic igitur quo pacto quaue ratione post tantos labores ab insidiatore delusus grauissimo conruens lapsu cunctos in hac heremo constitutos luctuoso dolore percussit? Nonne quia minus discretionis uirtute possessa suis definitionibus regi quam consiliis uel conlationibus fratrum atque institutis maiorum maluit oboedire? Siquidem tanto rigore inmutabilem ieiunii continentiam semper exercuit et solitudinis cellaeque ita iugiter secreta sectatus est, ut ab eo participationem ineundi cum fraternitate conuiuii ne ueneratio quidem diei paschalis aliquando potuerit obtinere.

2.5.3. when in accordance with the annual observance, all the brethren remained in the church and he alone would not join them for fear lest he might seem to relax in some degree from his purpose by taking only a little pulse. And deceived by this presumption he received with the utmost reverence an angel of Satan as an angel of light and with blind slavishness obeyed his commands and cast himself down a well, so deep that the eye could not pierce its depths, nothing doubting of the promise of the angel who had assured him that the merits of his virtues and labours were such that he could not possibly run any risk.

23. In qua fratribus cunctis pro anniuersaria sollemnitate in ecclesia retentatis solus non poterat adgregari, ne quantulumcumque perceptione leguminis parui a suo uideretur proposito relaxasse. Qua praesumptione deceptus angelum Satanae uelut angelum lucis cum summa ueneratione suscipiens eiusque praeceptis prono oboediens famulatu semet ipsum in puteum, cuius profunditatem oculorum non adtingit intuitus, praecipitem dedit, de angeli uidelicet sui sponsione non dubitans, qui eum pro merito uirtutum ac laborum suorum nequaquam posse firmauerat ulli iam discrimini subiacere .

2.5.4. And that he might prove the truth of this most certainly by experimenting on his own safety, in the dead of night he was deluded enough to cast himself into the above mentioned well, to prove indeed the great merit of his virtue if he should come out thence unhurt. And when by great efforts on the part of the brethren he had been got out already almost dead, on the third day afterward he expired, and what was still worse, persisted in his obstinate delusion so that not even the experience of his death could persuade him that he had been deceived by the craft of devils.

24. Cuius rei fidem ut experimento suae sospitatis euidentissime conprobaret, supra dicto se puteo nocte intempesta inlusus iniecit, magnum scilicet uirtutis suae meritum probaturus, cum inde exisset inlaesuDe quo cum paene iam exsanguis ingenti fratrum labore fuisset extractus, uitam die tertia finiturus, quod his deterius est, ita in deceptionis suae obstinatione permansit, ut ei ne experimento quidem mortis suae potuerit persuaderi, quod fuisset daemonum calliditate delusu

2.5.5. Wherefore in spite of the merits of his great labors and the number of years which he had spent in the desert those who with compassion and the greatest kindness pitied his end, could hardly obtain from Abbot Paphnutius that he should not be reckoned among suicides, and be deemed unworthy of the memorial and oblation for those at rest.

25. Quamobrem pro meritis laborum tantorum et annorum numerositate qua in heremo perdurauit hoc miseratione et humanitate summa ab his qui eius conpatiebantur exitio uix a presbytero abbate Pafnutio potuit obtineri, ut non inter biothanatos reputatus etiam memoria et oblatione pausantium iudicaretur indignu



CHAPTER 10. The answer how true discretion may be gained.

10. Responsio, quemadmodum possideatur uera discret io.



2.10.1. Then Moses: True discretion, said he, is only secured by true humility. And of this humility the first proof is given by reserving everything (not only what you do but also what you think), for the scrutiny of the elders, so as not to trust at all in your own judgment but to acquiesce in their decisions in all points, and to acknowledge what ought to be considered good or bad by their traditions.

10.1. Tum MOYSES : Vera, inquit, discretio non nisi uera humilitate conquiritur. Cuius humilitatis haec erit prima probatio si uniuersa non solum quae agenda sunt, sed etiam quae cogitantur, seniorum reseruentur examini, ut nihil suo quis iudicio credens illorum per omnia definitionibus adquiescat et quid bonum uel malum debeat iudicare eorum traditione cognoscat.

2.10.2. And this habit will not only teach a young man to walk in the right path through the true way of discretion, but will also keep him unhurt by all the crafts and deceits of the enemy. For a man cannot possibly be deceived, who lives not by his own judgment but according to the example of the elders, nor will our crafty foe be able to abuse the ignorance of one who is not accustomed from false modesty to conceal all the thoughts which rise in his heart, but either checks them or suffers them to remain, in accordance with the ripened judgment of the elders.

10.2. Quae institutio non solum per ueram discretionis uiam iuuenem recto tramite docebit incedere, uerum etiam a cunctis fraudibus et insidiis inimici seruabit inlaesum. Nullatenus enim decipi poterit, quisque non suo iudicio, sed maiorum uiuit exemplo, nec ualebit ignorationi eius callidus hostis inludere, qui uniuersas cogitationes in corde nascentes perniciosa uerecundia nescit obtegere, sed eas maturo examine seniorum uel reprobat uel admittit.

2.10.3. For a wrong thought is enfeebled at the moment that it is discovered: and even before the sentence of discretion has been given, the foul serpent is by the power of confession dragged out, so to speak, from his dark under-ground cavern, and in some sense shown up. and sent away in disgrace. For evil thoughts will hold sway in us just so long as they are hidden in the heart: and that you may gather still more effectually the power of this judgment I will tell you what Abbot Serapion did, and what he used often to tell to the younger brethren for their edification.

10.3. Illico namque ut patefacta fuerit cogitatio maligna marcescit, et antequam discretionis iudicium proferatur, serpens teterrimus uelut e tenebroso ac subterraneo specu uirtute confessionis protractus ad lucem et traductus quodammodo ac dehonestatus abscedit. Tamdiu enim suggestiones eius noxiae dominantur in nobis, quamdiu celantur in corde. Et ut uirtutem sententiae huius efficacius colligatis, referam uobis abbatis Sarapionis factum, quod ille junioribus frequentissime instructionis gratia proponebat.



CHAPTER 11. The words of Abbot Serapion on the decline of thoughts that are exposed to others, and also on the danger of self-confidence.

11. Verba abbatis Sarapionis et de marcore patefactarum cogitationum et de periculo propriae confidentiae.



2.11.1. While, said he, I was still a lad, and stopping with Abbot Theonas, this habit was forced upon me by the assaults of the enemy, that after I had supped with the old man at the ninth hour, I used every day secretly to hide a biscuit in my dress, which I would eat on the sly later on without his knowing it. And though I was constantly guilty of the theft with the consent of my will, and the want of restraint that springs from desire that has grown inveterate, yet when my unlawful desire was gratified I would come to myself and torment myself over the theft committed in a way that overbalanced the pleasure I had enjoyed in the eating.

11.1. Cum adhuc, inquit, essem puerulus et cum abbate Theone conmanerem, haec mihi inimici inpugnatione ingesta fuerat consuetudo, ut postquam refecissem hora nona cum sene, unum paxamatium cotidie in sinu meo latenter absconderem, quod sero ignorante illo occulte edebam. Quod furtum licet coniuentia uoluntatis et inoliti semel desiderii incontinentia sine cessatione conmitterem, expleta tamen concupiscentia fraudulenta ad memet ipsum reuertens grauius super admisso furti crimine cruciabar quam super esu eius fueram iucundatu

2.11.2. And when I was forced not without grief of heart to fulfil day after day this most heavy task required of me, so to speak, by Pharaoh’s taskmasters, instead of bricks, and could not escape from this cruel tyranny, and yet was ashamed to disclose the secret theft to the old man, it chanced by the will of God that I was delivered from the yoke of this voluntary captivity, when certain brethren had sought the old man’s cell with the object of being instructed by him.

11.2. Cumque istud molestissimum opus uelut ab exactoribus mihi Pharaonis indictum uice laterum singulis diebus explere non sine cordis mei dolore conpellerer nec tamen eruere me possem ab hac eorum saeuissima tyrannide et clandestinum furtum seni manifestare confunderer, contigit dei nutu de hoc me captiuitatis iugo uolentis eripere, ut quidam fratres cellam senis obtentu aedificationis expeterent .

2.11.3. And when after supper the spiritual conference had begun to be held, and the old man in answer to the questions which they had propounded was speaking about the sin of gluttony and the dominion of secret thoughts, and showing their nature and the awful power which they have so long as they are kept secret, I was overcome by the power of the discourse and was conscience stricken and terrified, as I thought that these things were mentioned by him because the Lord had revealed to the old man my bosom secrets; and first I was moved to secret sighs, and then my heart’s compunction increased and I openly burst into sobs and tears, and produced from the folds of my dress which shared my theft and received it, the biscuit which I had carried off in my bad habit to eat on the sly; and I laid it in the midst and lying on the ground an begging for forgiveness confessed how I used to eat one every day in secret, and with copious tears implored them to intreat the Lord to free me from this dreadful slavery.

11.3. Cumque refectione transacta conlatio spiritalis coepisset agitari respondensque senex propositis interrogationibus eorum de gastrimargiae uitio et occultarum cogitationum dominatione dissereret earumque naturam et atrocissimam uim, quam haberent donec celarentur, exponeret, ego conlationis huius uirtute conpunctus et conscientia redarguente perterritus, uelut qui crederem ob hoc ea fuisse prolata, quod seni dominus secreta mei pectoris reuelasset, in occultos primum gemitus excitatus, dein cordis mei conpunctione crescente in apertos singultus lacrimasque prorumpens paxamatium, quod consuetudine uitiosa subtraxeram clancule comedendum, de sinu furti mei conscio ac susceptore produxi, eumque in medium proferens, quemadmodum cotidie latenter ederem, prostratus in terram cum ueniae postulatione confessus sum, et ubertim profusis lacrimis ut absolutionem dirissimae captiuitatis a domino poscerent inploraui.

2.11.4. Then the old man: “Have faith, my child,” said he, “Without any words of mine, your confession frees you from this slavery. For you have today triumphed over your victorious adversary, by laying him low by your confession in a manner which more than makes up for the way in which you were overthrown by him through your former silence, as when, never confuting him with your own answer or that of another, you had allowed him to lord it over you, according to that saying of Solomon’s: ‘Because sentence is not speedily pronounced against the evil, the heart of the children of men is full within them to do evil:’ (Ecclus 7. 11 lxx) and therefore after this exposure of him that evil spirit will no longer be able to vex you, nor will that foul serpent henceforth make his lurking place in you, as he has been dragged out into light from the darkness by your life-giving confession.”

11.4. Tum senex :confide, ait, o puer. Absoluit te ab hac captiuitate etiam me tacente confessio tua. Uictorem namque aduersarium tuum hodie triumphasti, ualidius eum tua confessione prosternens quam ipse fueras ab eo tua taciturnitate deiectuQuem utique nequaquam uel tua uel alterius responsione confutans in te nunc usque permiseras dominari secundum illam Salomonis sententiam : quia non fit contradictio ab his qui faciunt malum cito, ideo repletum est cor filiorum hominis in ipsis ut faciant mala . Et idcirco iam te post hanc publicationem suam iste nequissimus spiritus inquietare non poterit nec in te latibulum sibi teterrimus serpens deinceps usurpabit, de tenebris cordis tui salutari confessione protractus ad lucem.

2.11.5. The old man had not finished speaking when lo! a burning lamp proceeding from the folds of my dress filled the cell with a sulphureous smell so that the pungency of the odour scarcely allowed us to stay there: and the old man resuming his admonition said Lo! the Lord has visibly confirmed to you the truth of my words, so that you can see with your eyes how he who was the author of His Passion has been driven out from your heart by your life-giving confession, and know that the enemy who has been exposed will certainly no longer find a home in you, as his expulsion is made manifest. And so, as the old man declared, said he, the sway of that diabolical tyranny over me has been destroyed by the power of this confession and stilled for ever so that the enemy has never even tried to force upon me any more the recollection of this desire, nor have I ever felt myself seized with the passion of that furtive longing.

11.5. Necdum senex haec uerba conpleuerat et ecce lampas accensa de meo sinu procedens ita cellam repleuit odore sulpureo, ut uehementia foetoris ipsius uix in ea nos residere permitteret. Resumensque admonitionem senex, ecce, inquit, dominus tibi ueritatem sermonum meorum uisibiliter adprobauit, ut passionis illius incentorem de corde tuo salubri confessione depulsum oculis peruideres, patefactumque hostem nequaquam locum in te ulterius habiturum aperta eius expulsione cognoscereItaque secundum sententiam senis ita est, inquit, in me confessionis huius uirtute dominatio diabolicae illius tyrannidis extincta atque in perpetuum consopita, ut numquam mihi ne memoriam quidem concupiscentiae huius ulterius temptauerit inimicus ingerere nec me post haec aliquando pulsatum furtiui illius desiderii instigatione persenserim.

2.11.6. And this meaning we see is neatly expressed in a figure in Ecclesiastes “If” says he “a serpent bite without hissing there is no sufficiency for the charmer,” (Eccl. 10. 11 lxx) showing that the bite of a serpent in silence is dangerous, i.e., if a suggestion or thought springing from the devil is not by means of confession shown to some charmer, I mean some spiritually minded person who knows how to heal the wound at once by charms from the Scripture, and to extract the deadly poison of the serpent from the heart, it will be impossible to help the sufferer who is already in danger and must soon die. In this way therefore we shall easily arrive at the knowledge of true discretion, so as by following the steps of the Elders never to do anything novel nor to decide anything by or on our own responsibility, but to walk in all things as we are taught by their tradition and upright life.

11.6. Quem sensum in Ecclesiaste quoque pulcherrime legimus figuratum. Si momorderit, inquit, serpens non in sibilo, non est abundantia incantatori , taciti serpentis morsum perniciosum esse designans, id est : si per confessionem suggestio seu cogitatio diabolica incantatori cuiquam, spiritali scilicet uiro, qui carminibus scripturarum mederi protinus uulneri et extrahere de corde consueuit noxia uenena serpentis, patefacta non fuerit, succurrere periclitanti perituroue non poterit. Hoc igitur modo ad scientiam discretionis uerae peruenire facillime poterimus, ut seniorum uestigia subsequentes neque agere quicquam noui neque discernere nostro iudicio praesumamus, sed quemadmodum nos uel illorum traditio uel uitae probitas informarit, in omnibus gradiamur.

2.11.7. And the man who is strengthened by this system will not only arrive at the perfect method of discretion, but also will remain perfectly safe from all the wiles of the enemy: for by no other fault does the devil drag down a monk so precipitately and lead him away to death, as when he persuades him to despise the counsel of the Elders and to rely on his own opinion and judgment: for if all the arts and contrivances discovered by man’s ingenuity and those which are only useful for the conveniences of this temporary life, though they can be felt with the hand and seen with the eye, can yet not be understood by anyone, without lessons from a teacher, how foolish it is to fancy that there is no need of an instructor in this one alone which is invisible and secret and can only be seen by the purest heart, a mistake in which brings about no mere temporary loss or one that can easily be repaired, but the destruction of the soul and everlasting death:

11.7. Qua institutione firmatus non modo ad perfectam discretionis rationem quisque perueniet, uerum etiam a cunctis insidiis inimici tutissimus permanebit. Nullo namque alio uitio tam praecipitem diabolus monachum pertrahit ac perducit ad mortem, quam cum eum neglectis consiliis seniorum suo iudicio persuaserit definitionique confidere. Etenim cum omnes artes ac disciplinae humano ingenio repertae et quae nihil amplius quam uitae huius temporariae commodis prosunt, licet manu palpari queant et oculis peruideri, recte tamen a quoquam sine instituentis doctrina nequeant conprehendi, quam ineptum est credere hanc solam non egere doctore, quae et inuisibilis et occulta est et quae non nisi corde purissimo peruidetur, cuius error non temporale damnum nec quod facile reparetur, sed animae perditionem parit mortemque perpetuam.

2.11.8. for it is concerned with a daily and nightly conflict against no visible foes, but invisible and cruel ones, and a spiritual combat not against one or two only, but against countless hosts, failure in which is the more dangerous to all, in proportion as the foe is the fiercer and the attack the more secret. And therefore we should always follow the footsteps of the Elders with the utmost care, and bring to them everything which rises in our hearts, by removing the veil of shame.

11.8. Habet enim non aduersus uisibiles, sed inuisibiles atque inmites hostes diurnum nocturnumque conflictum nec contra unum seu duos, sed contra innumerabiles cateruas spiritale certamen, cuius casus tanto perniciosior cunctis, quanto et infestior inimicus et congressus occultior. Et ideo semper seniorum summa cautione sunt sectanda uestigia atque ad eos cuncta quae in nostris cordibus oriuntur sublato confusionis uelamine deferenda.



CHAPTER 13. The answer concerning the trampling down of shame, and the danger of one without contrition.

13. Responsio de confusione calcanda et de periculo non condolentis.



2.13.1. Moses: Just as all young men are not alike in fervour of spirit nor equally instructed in learning and good morals, so too we cannot find that all old men are equally perfect and excellent. For the true riches of old men are not to be measured by grey hairs but by their diligence in youth and the rewards of their past labour “For,” says one, “the things that thou hast not gathered in thy youth, how shall thou find them in thy old age?” “For venerable old age is not that of long time, nor counted by the number of years: but the understanding of a man is grey hairs, and a spotless life is old age.” (Ecclus. 25. 5; Wisdom 4. 8, 9)

13.1. MOYSES : Sicut non sunt omnes iuuenes pari modo uel feruentes spiritu uel disciplinis ac moribus optimis instituti, ita nec senes quidem cuncti uno modo uel perfecti possunt uel probatissimi repperiri. Diuitiae enim senum non sunt canitie capitis, sed industria juuentutis ac praeteritorum laborum stipendiis metiendae. Quae enim non congregasti, inquit, in iuuentute, quomodo inuenies in senectute tua ? Senectus namque honorabilis non diuturna, nec numero annorum conputata : cani enim sunt sensus hominis, et aetas senectutis uita immaculata .

2.13.2. And therefore we are not to follow in the steps or embrace the traditions and advice of every old man whose head is covered with grey hairs, and whose age is his sole claim to respect, but only of those whom we find to have distinguished themselves in youth in an approved and praiseworthy manner, and to have been trained up not on self-assurance but on the traditions of the Elder. For there are some, and unhappily they form the majority, who pass their old age in a lukewarmness which they contracted in youth, and in sloth, and so obtain authority not from the ripeness of their character but simply from the number of their years.

13.2. Et idcirco non omnium seniorum, quorum capita canities tegit quosque uitae longaeuitas sola commendat, nobis sunt sectanda uestigia seu traditiones ac monita suscipienda, sed eorum, quos laudabiliter uitam suam ac probatissime conperimus in iuuentute signasse nec praesumptionibus propriis, sed maiorum traditionibus institutoSunt enim nonnulli, quorum etiam, quod est lugubrius, maior est multitudo, qui in tepore suo quem ab adulescentia conceperunt atque ignauia senescentes auctoritatem sibi non maturitate morum, sed annorum numerositate conquirunt.

2.13.3. Against whom that reproof of the Lord is specially aimed by the prophet: “Strangers have devoured his strength and he knew it not: yea, grey hairs also are spread about upon him, and he is ignorant of it.” (Hos 7. 9) These men, I say, are not pointed out as examples to youth from the uprightness of their lives, nor from the strictness of their profession, which would be worthy of praise and imitation, but simply from the number of their years; and so the subtle enemy uses their grey hairs to deceive the younger men, by a wrongful appeal to their authority, and endeavours in his cunning craftiness to upset and deceive by their example those who might have been urged into the way of perfection by their advice or that of others; and drags them down by means of their teaching and practice either into a baneful indifference, or into deadly despair.

13.3. De quibus exprobratio illa domini proprie satis dirigitur per prophetam : et comederunt alieni robur eius, et ipse nesciuit : sed et cani effusi sunt in eo, et ipse ignorauit . Hos, inquam, in exemplum iunioribus non uitae probitas nec ulla propositi huius laudabilis atque imitanda districtio, sed annositas sola prouexit. Quorum canitiem callidissimus inimicus ad deceptionem iuniorum in praeiudicata auctoritate proponens etiam illos, qui ad uiam perfectionis uel suis uel aliorum potuerunt monitis incitari, subuertere ac decipere exemplis eorum fraudulenta subtilitate festinat, uel in teporem eos scilicet noxium uel in letalem desperationem doctrinis eorum institutisque perducen

2.13.4. And as I want to give you an instance of this, I will tell you a fact which may supply us with some wholesome teaching, without giving the name of the actor, lest we might be guilty of something of the same kind as the man who published abroad the sins of the brother which had been disclosed to him. When this one, who was not the laziest of young men, had gone to an old man, whom we know very well, for the sake of the profit and health of his soul, and had candidly confessed that he was troubled by carnal appetites and the spirit of fornication, fancying that he would receive from the old man’s words consolation for his efforts, and a cure for the wounds inflicted on him, the old man attacked him with the bitterest reproaches, and called him a miserable and disgraceful creature, and unworthy of the name of monk, while he could be affected by a sin and lust of this character, and instead of helping him so injured him by his reproaches that he dismissed him from his cell in a state of hopeless despair and deadly despondency.

13.4. Cuius rei uolens uobis exempla proferre, auctoris nomine praetermisso, ne nos quoque illius, qui patefacta sibi fratris uitia publicauit, simile aliquid admittamus, rem tantum gestam, quae instructionem necessariam uobis conferre possit, exponam. Cum igitur ad senem quendam nobis optime cognitum quidam non ignauissimorum iuuenum profectus sui et curationis gratia perrexisset et carnalibus incentiuis ac fornicationis spiritu semet ipsum inquietari simpliciter prodidisset, consolationem credens laboribus suis oratione senis et remedia inflictis uulneribus reperturum, ille amarissimis eum increpans uerbis miserabilemque et indignum nec monachi nomine censendum esse pronuntians, qui potuerit huiusmodi uitio et concupiscentia titillari, ita suis e contrario correptionibus uulnerauit, ut eum summa desperatione deiectum ac letali tristitia consternatum e sua dimitteret cella.

2.13.5. And when he, oppressed with such a sorrow, was plunged in deep thought, no longer how to cure his passion, but how to gratify his lust, the Abbot Apollos, the most skilful of the Elders, met him, and seeing by his looks and gloominess his trouble and the violence of the assault which he was secretly revolving in his heart, asked him the reason of this upset; and when he could not possibly answer the old man’s gentle inquiry, the latter perceived more and more clearly that it was not without reason that he wanted to hide in silence the cause of a gloom so deep that he could not conceal it by his looks, and so began to ask him still more earnestly the reasons for his hidden grief.

13.5. Cumque ei tali maerore depresso nec iam de remedio passionis, sed de expletione conceptae concupiscentiae profunda cogitatione tractanti abbas Apollo seniorum probatissimus occurrisset laboremque et obpugnationis uehementiam, quae in corde eius tacite uoluebantur, de contemplatione uultus et deiectione coniectans causam tantae perturbationis inquireret, atque ille molliter se conpellanti seni ne responsum quidem ullum posset referre, magis ac magis eum sentiens senex non inaniter causam tantae tristitiae silentio uelle contegere, quam ne uultu quidem dissimulare praeualeret, intentius ab eo causas occulti doloris coepit inquirere.

2.13.6. And by this he was forced to confess that he was on his way to a village to take a wife, and leave the monastery and return to the world, since, as the old man had told him, he could not be a monk, if he was unable to control the desires of the flesh and to cure his passion. And then the old man smoothed him down with kindly consolation, and told him that he himself was daily tried by the same pricks of desire and lust, and that therefore he ought not to give way to despair, nor be surprised at the violence of the attack of which he would get the better not so much by zealous efforts, as by the mercy and grace of the Lord; and he begged him to put off his intention just for one day, and having implored him to return to his cell, went as fast as he could to the monastery of the above mentioned old man—

13.6. Quibus ille constrictus pergere se confitetur ad uicum, ut quia secundum sententiam illius senis monachus esse non posset nec refrenare stimulos carnis et inpugnationis remedia consequi iam ualeret, uxorem duceret ac relicto monasterio reuerteretur ad saeculum. Quem senex blanda consolatione demulcens seseque adserens isdem cotidie incentiuorum stimulis atque aestibus agitari, et idcirco non debere eum prorsus desperatione concidere nec mirari super inpugnationis ardore, qui non tam laboris studio quam misericordia domini et gratia uinceretur, unius tantum diei ab eodem poposcit indutias, et ut reuerteretur ad suam cellulam deprecatus ad monasterium praedicti senis tota festinatione perrexit.

2.13.7. and when he had drawn near to him he stretched forth his hands and prayed with tears, and said “O Lord, who alone art the righteous judge and unseen Physician of secret strength and human weakness, turn the assault from the young man upon the old one, that he may learn to condescend to the weakness of sufferers, and to sympathize even in old age with the frailties of youth.” And when he had ended his prayer with tears, he sees a filthy Ethiopian standing over against his cell and aiming fiery darts at him, with which he was straightway wounded, and came out of his cell and ran about hither and thither like a lunatic or a drunken man, and going in and out could no longer restrain himself in it, but began to hurry off in the same direction in which the young man had gone.

13.7. Cumque eidem proximasset, expansis manibus orationem cum lacrimis fundens, conuerte, ait, domine, qui occultarum uirium et infirmitatis humanae solus arbiter pius ac secretus es medicus, inpugnationem iuuenis illius in senem istum, ut condescendere infirmitatibus laborantum et conpati fragilitati iuniorum uel in senectute doceatur. Cumque ille hanc precem cum gemitu conclusisset, cernit Aethiopem tetrum contra illius cellulam stantem atque ignita aduersus eum iacula dirigentem. Quibus cum fuisset ille protinus sauciatus et progressus e cella huc illucque uelut amens et ebrius cursitaret, atque egrediens et ingrediens iam se in ea continere non posset, eadem uia pergere concitus coepit, qua iuuenis ille discesserat.

2.13.8. And when Abbot Apollos saw him like a madman driven wild by the furies, he knew that the fiery dart of the devil which he had seen, had been fixed in his heart, and had by its intolerable heat wrought in him this mental aberration and confusion of the understanding; and so he came up to him and asked “Whither are you hurrying, or what has made you forget the gravity of years and disturbed you in this childish way, and made you hurry about so rapidly”?

13.8. Quem abbas Apollo uelut amentem factum quibusdam furiis conspiciens agitari intellexit ignitum diaboli quod uiderat telum in corde eius fuisse defixum illamque in eo confusionem mentis ac perturbationem sensuum intolerandis aestibus operari, accedensque ad eum, quo, inquit, properas aut quaenam te causae senilis illius grauitatis oblitum ita pueriliter inquietant ac mobiliter cursitare conpellunt?

2.13.9. And when he owing to his guilty conscience and confused by this disgraceful excitement fancied that the lust of his heart was discovered, and, as the secrets of his heart were known to the old man, did not venture to return any answer to his inquiries, “Return,” said he, “to your cell, and at last recognize the fact that till now you have been ignored or despised by the devil, and not counted in the number of those with whom he is daily roused to fight and struggle against their efforts and earnestness,—you who could not—I will not say ward off, but not even postpone for one day, a single dart of his aimed at you after so many years spent in this profession of yourAnd with this the Lord has suffered you to be wounded that you may at least learn in your old age to sympathize with infirmities to which you are a stranger, and may know from your own case and experience how to condescend to the frailties of the young, though when you received a young man troubled by an attack from the devil, you did not encourage him with any consolation, but gave him up in dejection and destructive despair into the hands of the enemy, to be, as far as you were concerned, miserably destroyed by him.

13.9. Cumque ille pro conscientiae suae reatu ac turpi exagitatione confusus crederet ardorem sui pectoris deprehensum ac retectis seni sui cordis arcanis nullam responsionem percontanti reddere prorsus auderet, reuertere, inquit, ad cellam tandemque te intellege uel ignoratum hactenus a diabolo uel despectum nec in eorum numero reputatum, quibus ille cotidie confligere et conluctari profectibus eorum ac studiis instigatur, qui unum eius in te directum iaculum post tantam annorum seriem, quam in hac professione triuisti, non dicam respuere, sed ne uno quidem die differre potuisti. Quo te idcirco dominus passus est sauciari, ut saltim in senecta disceres conpati infirmitatibus alienis et fragilitati condescendere iuniorum tuis exemplis atque experientia docereris, qui suscipiens iuuenem infestatione diabolica laborantem non modo nulla consolatione fouisti, sed etiam perniciosa desperatione deiectum inimici manibus tradidisti, quantum in te est ab eodem lugubriter deuorandum.

2.13.10. But the enemy would certainly never have attacked him with so fierce an onslaught, with which he has up till now scorned to attack you, unless in his jealousy at the progress he was to make, he had endeavoured to get the better of that virtue which he saw lay in his disposition, and to destroy it with his fiery darts, as he knew without the shadow of a doubt that he was the stronger, since he deemed t worth his while to attack him with such vehemence. And so learn from your own experience to sympathize with those in trouble, and never to terrify with destructive despair those who are in danger, nor harden them with severe speeches, but rather restore them with gentle and kindly consolations, and as the wise Solomon says, “Spare not to deliver those who are led forth to death, and to redeem those who are to be slain,” (Prov. 24. 11) and after the example of our Saviour, break not the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax, (Cf. Matt. 12. 20) and ask of the Lord that grace, by means of which you yourself may faithfully learn both in deed and power to sing: “the Lord hath given me a learned tongue that I should know how to uphold by word him that is weary:” (Is. 50. 4)

13.10. Quem sine dubio nequaquam tam uehementi conflictu fuisset adgressus, quo te nunc usque est adpetere dedignatus, nisi futuro profectui eius inuidens inimicus illam uirtutem, quam animis eius inesse cernebat, anticipare ac praeuertere suis ignitis iaculis festinasset, procul dubio intellegens fortiorem, cui tanta uehementia confligere operae pretium iudicauit. Disce itaque tuis exemplis laborantibus conpati et periclitantes nequaquam perniciosa desperatione terrere nec durissimis sermonibus asperare, sed potius leni blandaque consolatione reficere, et secundum praeceptum sapientissimi Salomonis eruere eos qui ducuntur ad mortem et redimere eos qui interficiuntur ne parcas , nostrique saluatoris exemplo harundinem quassatam non conterere et linum fumigans non extinguere atque illam a domino gratiam poscere, qua ipse quoque fiducialiter ualeas opere ac uirtute cantare : dominus dedit mihi linguam eruditam, ut sciam sustentare eum, qui lassus est uerbo .

2.13.11. for no one could bear the devices of the enemy, or extinguish or repress those carnal fires which burn with a sort of natural flame, unless God’s grace assisted our weakness, or protected and supported it. And therefore, as the reason for this salutary incident is over, by which the Lord meant to set that young man free from dangerous desires and to teach you something of the violence of their attack, and of the feeling of compassion, let us together implore Him in prayer, that He may be pleased to remove that scourge, which the Lord thought good to lay upon you for your good (for “He maketh sorry and cureth: he striketh and his hands heal. He humbleth and exalteth, he killeth and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave and bringeth up”) (Job v. 18; 1 Sam. 2. 6, 7), and may extinguish with the abundant dew of His Spirit the fiery darts of the devil, which at my desire He allowed to wound you.

13.11. Nullus etenim sufferre inimici posset insidias seu carnales aestus naturali quodammodo igne flagrantes uel extinguere uel reprimere, nisi dei gratia uel iuuaret fragilitatem nostram uel protegeret ac muniret. Et idcirco salutaris huius dispensationis ratione finita, qua uel illum iuuenem perniciosis aestibus dominus liberare uel de inpugnationis uehementia et conpatiendi affectu te uoluit erudire, communibus eum precibus inploremus, quo flagellum istud, quod utilitatis gratia tibi dominus inferre dignatus est, iubeat amoueri (ipse enim dolere facit et rursum medetur : percutit et manus eius sanauerunt . Ipse humiliat et exaltat, ipse occidit et uiuificat, deducit ad inferum et reducit ) et ignita diaboli iacula, quae me arbitro tibi permisit infligi, redundante spiritus sui rore restinguat.

2.13.12. And although the Lord removed this temptation at a single prayer of the old man with the same speed with which He had suffered it to come upon him, yet He showed by a clear proof that a man’s faults when laid bare were not merely not to be scolded, but that the grief of one in trouble ought not to be lightly despised. And therefore never let the clumsiness or shallowness of one old man or of a few deter you and keep you back from that life-giving way, of which we spoke earlier, or from the tradition of the Elders, if our crafty enemy makes a wrongful use of their grey hairs in order to deceive younger men: but without any cloak of shame everything should be disclosed to the Elders, and remedies for wounds be faithfully received from them together with examples of life and conversation: from which we shall find like help and the same sort of result, if we try to do nothing at all on our own responsibility and judgment.

13.12. Quam temptationem licet eadem celeritate qua inferri dominus passus est ad unam senis orationem rursus abstulerit, euidenti tamen experimento docuit non modo non exprobrari patefacta cuiusque uitia, sed ne leuiter quidem laborantis dolorem debere contemni. Et idcirco nequaquam uos unius senis siue paucorum uel inperitia uel leuitas ab illa salutari quam praediximus uia et traditione maiorum deterreat et excludat, quorum canitie ad deceptionem iuniorum callidissimus abutitur inimicus : sed absque ullo confusionis operimento omnia debent senioribus reuelari atque ab eis uel remedia uulnerum uel exempla conuersationis ac uitae fiducialiter sumi. In quibus parem opem et similem experiemur effectum, si nihil penitus affectare nostro iudicio ac praesumptione temptemu



CHAPTER 16. How to seek for discretion.

16. De adpetenda discretione.



2.16.1. We ought then with all our might to strive for the virtue of discretion by the power of humility, as it will keep us uninjured by either extreme, for there is an old saying ἀκρότητες  ἰσότητες, i.e., extremes meet. For excess of fasting and gluttony come to the same thing, and an unlimited continuance of vigils is equally injurious to a monk as the torpor of a deep sleep: for when a man is weakened by excessive abstinence he is sure to return to that condition in which a man is kept through carelessness and negligence, so that we have often seen those who could not be deceived by gluttony, destroyed by excessive fasting and by reason of weakness liable to that passion which they had before overcome.

16.1. Omni igitur conatu debet discretionis bonum uirtute humilitatis adquiri, quae nos inlaesos ab utraque potest nimietate seruare. Vetus namque sententia est : óŠ‘ð’ˆ’†¦ Çåð’ˆ’†¦, id est nimietates aequales sunt. Ad unum enim finem nimietas ieiunii ac uoracitas peruenit, eodemque dispendio, uigiliarum inmoderata continuatio monachum quo somni grauissimi torpor inuoluit. Nam per excessum continentiae debilitatum quemque ad illum statum reuocari necesse est, in quo neglegens quisque per incuriam detinetur, ita ut frequenter quos per gastrimargiam decipi non potuisse conspeximus, per inmoderationem ieiuniorum uiderimus fuisse deiectos atque ad eandem quam uicerant passionem infirmitatis occasione conlapso

2.16.2. Unreasonable vigils and nightly watchings have also been the ruin of some whom sleep could not get the better of: wherefore as the apostle says “with the arms of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,” (2 Cor. 6. 7) we pass on with due moderation, and walk between the two extremes, under the guidance of discretion, that we may not consent to be led away from the path of continence marked out for us, nor fall by undue carelessness into the pleasures of the palate and belly.

16.2. Uigiliae quoque et pernoctationes inrationabiles deiecerunt quos somnus superare non potuit. Quapropter secundum apostolum per arma iustitiae quae a dextris sunt et a sinistris recto moderamine transeundum est et ita inter utrasque nimietates discretione moderante gradiendum, ut nec a tradito continentiae tramite nos adquiescamus abduci nec rursum remissione noxia in gulae uentrisque desideria concidamu



CHAPTER 26. The answer how we should not exceed the proper measure of food.

26. Responsio de non excedendo refectionis modo.



2.26.1. Moses: Both duties must be observed in the same way and with equal care: for we ought most scrupulously to preserve the proper allowance of food for the sake of our abstinence, and in like manner out of charity to show courtesy and encouragement to any of the brethren who may arrive; because it is absolutely ridiculous when you offer food to a brother, nay, to Christ Himself, not to partake of it with him, but to make yourself a stranger to his repast.

26.1. MOYSES : Vtraque uno modo ac sollicitudine pari conuenit obseruari. Nam et mensuram cibi causa continentiae ac puritatis cum omni scrupulo custodire debemus et humanitatem atque adhortationem aduenientibus fratribus caritatis obtentu similiter exhibere, quia satis absurdum est, ut fratri, immo Christo mensam offerens non cum eo cibum pariter sumas aut ab eius refectione te facias alienum.

2.26.2. And so we shall keep clear of guilt on either hand if we observe this plan; viz., at the ninth hour to partake of one of the two biscuits which form our proper canonical allowance, and to keep back the other to the evening, in expectation of something like this, that if any of the brethren comes to see us we may partake of it with him, and so add nothing to our own customary allowance: and by this arrangement the arrival of our brother which ought to be a pleasure to us will cause us no inconvenience: since we shall show him the civilities which courtesy requires in such a way as to relax nothing of the strictness of our abstinence.

26.2. Itaque in neutra parte reprehensibiles inueniemur, si haec a nobis consuetudo teneatur, ut hora nona de duobus paxamatiis, quae nobis canonica mensura iure debentur, uno paxamatio praelibato aliud huius expectationis gratia in uesperam reseruemus, quod si superuenerit quispiam fratrum cum ipso pariter insumamus, nihil consuetudini solitae amplius adiungenteEt hac dispensatione nequaquam nos fratris contristabit aduentus, qui nobis debet esse gratissimuSiquidem ita ei exhibebimus humanitatis obsequia, ut nihil a rigore continentiae relaxemuSi uero nullus aduenerit, hunc quoque uelut de canonico modo debitum nobis libere praesumemu

2.26.3. But if no one should come, we may freely take this last biscuit as belonging to us according to our canonical rule, and by this frugality of ours as a single biscuit was taken at the ninth hour, our stomach will not be overloaded at eventide, a thing which is often the case with those who under the idea that they are observing a stricter abstinence put off all their repast till evening; for the fact that we have but recently taken food hinders our intellect from being bright and keen both in our evening and in our nocturnal prayers, and so at the ninth hour a convenient and suitable time has been allowed for food, in which a monk can refresh himself and so find that he is not only fresh and bright during his nocturnal vigils, but also perfectly ready for his evening prayers, as his food is already digested.

26.3. Qua parcitate nec stomachus uespere poterit adgrauari, quippe hora nona uno paxamatio iam praemisso : quod plerumque his, qui districtiorem abstinentiam se tenere credentes totam refectionem ad uesperam differunt, euenire consueuit. Nam recens escae perceptio tam in uespertinis quam in nocturnis orationibus tenuem leuemque sensum non sinit inueniri. Ideoque commodum satis et utile hora nona refectionis tempus indultum est, in quo reficiens monachus non solum in nocturnis uigiliis leuis ac uacuus, uerum etiam in ipsis uespertinis sollemnitatibus digesto iam cibo inuenietur aptissimu

2.26.4. With such a banquet of two courses, as it were, the holy Moses feasted us, showing us not only the grace and power of discretion by his present learned speech, but also the method of renunciation and the end and aim of the monastic life by the discussion previously held; so as to make clearer than daylight what we had hitherto pursued simply with fervour of spirit and zeal for God but with closed eyes, and to make us feel how far we had up till then wandered from purity of heart and the straight line of our course, since the practice of all visible arts belonging to this life cannot possibly stand without an understanding of their aim, nor can it be taken in hand without a clear view of a definite end.

26.4. Talibus nos sanctus Moyses geminae institutionis epulis saginauit, non solum discretionis gratiam atque uirtutem praesenti eruditione uerborum, sed etiam abrenuntiandi rationem et destinationem finemque propositi ante acta disputatione demonstrans, ut quod ante feruore tantum spiritus ac zelo dei clusis quodammodo oculis sectabamur, luce clarius aperiret faceretque sentire quantum a puritate cordis et directionis linea fuissemus id temporis euagati, quippe cum etiam omnium uisibilium in hoc saeculo artium disciplina absque destinationis ratione subsistere ac sine contemplatione certi finis adtingi omnino non possit.






CONFERENCE 17: The Second Conference of Abba Joseph ON MAKING PROMISES








CHAPTER 1. Of the vigils which we endured. 1. De uigiliis quas pertulimus.



17.1.1. When then he previous Conference was ended, and the intervening silence of night as well, as we had been conducted by the holy Abbot Joseph to a separate cell for the sake of quiet, but had passed the whole night without sleep (since owing to his words a fire was raging in our hearts, we came forth from the cell and retired about a hundred yards from it and sat down in a secluded spot. And so as an opportunity was given by the shades of night for secret and familiar converse together, as we sat there Abbot Germanus groaned heavily.

1.1.  Praecedente igitur conlatione finita pariterque nocturno intercedente silentio cum fuissemus a sancto abbate Ioseph ad sepositam cellulam causa quietis adducti et sermonibus eius igne quodam in nostris cordibus excitato totam noctem habuissemus insomnem, egressi cellam et centum fere ab ea passibus secedentes in loco remotiore consedimus.  Cum itaque secreti conloquii nobis familiariter etiam nocturnis tenebris oportunitas praeberetur, ilico ut resedimus abba Germanus grauiter ingemescens :



CHAPTER 2. Of the anxiety of Abbot Germanus at the recollection of our promise. 2. De abbatis Gerrnani anxietale super sponsionis nostrae recordatione.



17.2.1. What are we doing? said he. For we see that we are involved in a great difficulty and are in an evil plight, as reason itself and the life of the saints is effectually teaching us what is the best thing for our progress in the spiritual life, and yet our promise given to the Elders does not allow us to choose what is helpful.

2.1.  Quid agimus? inquit. Ingenti namque discrimine nos uidemus et perquam miserabili condicione constrictos, quos et ratio ipsa conuersatioque sanctorum quid salubrius sit ad profectum uitae spiritalis efficaciter docet et eligere id quod expedit data senioribus sponsio non admittit. 

17.2.2. For we might, by the examples of such great men, be formed for a more perfect life and aim, were it not that the terms of our promise compelled us to return at once to the monastery. But if we return thither, we shall never get another chance of coming here again. But if we stay here and choose to carry out our wishes, what becomes of the faith of the oath which we are aware that we gave to our Elders promising a speedy return; that we might be allowed to make a hasty round of the monasteries and saints of this province?

2.2. Etenim potuimus exempolis talium ac tantorum uirorum ad perfectiorem uitam propositumque formari, nisi nos instanter ad coenobium recurrere promissi pactio coartaret. Quo si reuersi fuerimus, copia nobis ulterius huc remeandi nulla tribuetur. Sin uero hic residentes desiderium nostrum maluerimus explere, quid agimus de sacramenti fide, quam senioribus nostris uelocissimum reditum pollicentes dedisse nos nouimus, ut uel cursim liceret nobis huius prouinciae sanctos ac monasteria circuire? 

17.2.3. And when in this state of tumult we could not make up our minds what we ought to decide on the state of our salvation we simply testified by our groans the hard fate of our condition, upbraiding the audacity of our impudence, and yet hating the shame which was natural to us, weighed down by which we could not in any other way resist the prayers of those who kept us back against our profit and purpose, except by the promise of a speedy return, as we wept indeed that we laboured under the fault of that shame, of which it is said “There is a shame that bringeth sin.” (Prov. 26. 11)

2.3. cumque sic aestuantes quid super statu salutis nostrae definiendum esset nequaquam inuenire possemus, solo gemitu testabamur durissimae condicioni necessitatem, accusantes teneritudinem frontis nostrae et ingenitam nobis uerecundiam detestantes, cuius onere praegrauati etiam contra utilitatem ac propositum nostrum retinentium precibus alias non potuissemus obsistere nisi maturissimo reditu repromisso, illius scilicet nos pudoris uitio laborasse deflentes, de quo dicitur : est pudor adferens peccatum .



CHAPTER 5. The explanation of Abbot Germanus why we wanted to stay in Egypt, and were drawn back to Syria.

5. Expositio abbatis Germani, cur uel in Negypto residere mallemus uel rclraheremur ad Syriam.



17.5.1. TO This Germanus: We used to think, said he, that we should go back to our monastery abundantly filled not only with spiritual joy but also with what is profitable by the sight of your holiness, and that after our return we should follow, though with but a feeble rivalry, what we had learnt from your teaching. For this our love for our Elders led us to promise them, while we fancied that we could in some degree follow in that monastery your sublime life and doctrine. Wherefore as we thought that by this means all joy would be bestowed upon us, so on the other hand we are overwhelmed with intolerable grief, as we find that we cannot possibly obtain in this way what we know to be good for us.

5.1.  Ad haec GERMANVS : Credebamus, inquit, nos uestrae beatitudinis uisione non solum laetitia spiritali, sed etiam profectu abunde repletos ad nostrum coenobium recursuros et ea, quae fuissemus uestro magisterio consecuti, a nobis post reditum uel tenui aemulatione sectanda. Hoc enim et seniorum nostrorum dilectio sibi spondere nos conpulit, dum sublimitatem uitae uestrae atque doctrinae posse nos aliquatenus imitari in illo coenobio crederemus. Vnde cum ex hoc nobis omnem aestimaremus laetitiam conferendam, intolerabili e contrario dolore conficimur, considerantes illo nos ordine id quod salutare nobis esse cognoscimus obtinere non posse.  

17.5.2. On both sides then we are now hemmed in. For if we want to keep our promise which we made in the presence of all the brethren in the cave where our Lord Himself shone forth from His chamber in the Virgin’s womb, (cf. Institutes 4. c. 31)  and which He Himself witnessed, we shall incur the greatest loss in our spiritual life. But if we ignore our promise and stay in this district, and choose to consider that oath of ours as of less importance than our perfection, we are afraid of the awful dangers of falsehood and perjury.

5.2. Ex utroque ergo nunc latere coartamur. Si enim promissioni, quam coram cunctis fratribus in spelaeo in quo dominus noster ex aula uteri uirginalis effulsit ipso teste deprompsimus, satisfacere uoluerimus, summum spiritalis uitae incurrimus detrimentum : sin autem sponsionis inmemores et in his regionibus residentes utilitati perfectionis nostrae illa uoluerimus postponere sacramenta, abrupta mendacii atque periurii pericula formidamus. 

17.5.3. But not even by this plan can we lighten our burdens; viz., by fulfilling the terms of our oath by a very hasty return, and then coming back again as quickly as possible to these part. For although even a small delay is dangerous and hurtful for those who are aiming at goodness and advance in spiritual things, yet still we would keep our faith and promise, though by an unwilling return, were it not that we felt sure that we should be so tightly bound down both by the authority and also by the love of the Elders, that we should henceforth have no opportunity at all to come back again to this place.

5.3. Sed ne hoc quidem aestus nostros possumus releuare consilio, ut postquam uelocissimo reditu iuris iurandi fuerit inpleta condicio, haec denuo loca celeri repetamus recursu. Nam quamuis ad profectum spiritalium rerum uirtutemque tendentibus periculosa ac noxia sit etiam parua dilatio, tamen pollicitationem fidei nostrae quamuis moroso reditu solueremus, nisi nos non solum auctoritate, uerum etiam caritate seniorum nostrorum sciremus inexsolubiliter conligandos, ita ut remeandi ad hace loca nobis potestas deinceps nullo modo tribuatur.



CHAPTER 8. How those who are perfect ought not to make any promises absolutely, and whether decisions can be reversed without sin.

8. Quod perfecti uiri nibil absolute debeant definire, uel utrum sine peccato possint deflnita rescindere.



17.8.1. Joseph: It is good indeed and right and altogether in accordance with our profession, for us effectually to perform what we decided to do in the case of any promise. Wherefore a monk ought not to make any promise hastily, lest he may be forced to do what he incautiously promised, or if he is kept back by consideration of a sounder view, appear as a breaker of his promise.

8.1.  IOSEPH : Sanum quidem est atque perfectum nostraeque professioni omnino conueniens, ut ea quae sub aliqua sponsione decernimus efficaciter inpleamus. Ob quam rem nihil oportet abrupte monachum definire, ne aut id quod incaute promisit inplere cogatur aut consideratione honestioris intuitus reuocatus sponsionis suae praeuaricator exsistat. 

17.8.2. But because at the present moment our purpose is to treat not so much of a state of health as of the cure of sickness we must with salutary counsel consider not what you ought to have done in the first instance, but how you can escape from the rocks of this perilous shipwreck. When then no chains impede us and no conditions restrict us, in the case of a comparison of good things, if a choice is proposed, that which is most advantageous should be preferred: but when some detriment and loss stands in the way, in a comparison of things to our hurt, that should be sought which exposes us to the smallest loss.

8.2. Sed quia nunc propositum nobis est non tam de sanitatis statu quam de infirmitatis curatione tractare, non quid primore loco a uobis fuerit actitandum, sed quemadmodum de scopulo huius perniciosi naufragii possitis euadere salubri est consilio requirendum. Quando ergo nullum nos coartat uinculum nec condicio ulla constringit, de conparatione secundarum rerum optione proposita id quod maioris est conmodi praelegatur : quando uero aliqua dispendiorum obsistit aduersitas, in conparatione damnorum illud est adpetendum quod leuioribus subiacet detrimentis. 

17.8.3. Further, as your assertion shows, when your heedless promise has brought you to this state that in either case some serious loss and inconvenience must result to you, the will in choosing should incline to that side which involves a loss that is more tolerable, or can be more easily made up for by the remedy of making amends. If then you think that you will get more good for your spirit by staying here than what accrued to you from your life in that monastery, and that the terms of your promise cannot be fulfilled without the loss of great good, it is better for you to undergo the loss from a falsehood and an unfulfilled promise (as it is done once for all, and need not any longer be repeated or be the cause of other sins) than for you to incur that loss, through which you say that your state of life would become colder, and which would affect you with a daily and unceasing injury.

8.3. Proinde quantum uestra patefecit adsertio, cum ad id uos loci sponsio inconsulta perduxerit, ut ex utroque uobis grauis inconmodi subeunda iactura sit, in eam partem inclinandum est electionis arbitrium, quae uel tolerabiliora dispendia inferat uel satisfactionis remedio facilius expietur. Si ergo maiora spiritui uestro lucra ex hac conmoratione creditis conferenda quam illa sunt quae uobis de conuersatione illius coenobii nascebantur, neque sine iactura ingentium conmodorum potest condicio uestrae sponsionis impleri, satius est hoc uos mendacii uel non inpletae promissionis subire dispendium, quod semel praeteritum nec ipsum ultra iam repeti nec alia per semet poterit generare peccata, quam in illud incidere per quod tepidioris uitae ut dicitis status cotidiano uos atque interminabili adficiat detrimento. 

17.8.4. For a careless promise is changed in such a way that it may be pardoned or indeed praised, if it is turned into a better path, nor need we take it as a failure in consistency, but as a correction of rashness, whenever a promise that was faulty is corrected. And all this may be proved by most certain witness from Scripture, that for many the fulfilment of their promise has led to death, and on the other hand that for many it has been good and profitable to have refused it.

8.4. Veniabiliter enim, immo uero etiam laudabiliter definitio incauta mutabitur, si ad salubriorem transeat partem, nec constantiae praeuaricatio, sed temeritatis emendatio esse credenda est, quotiens sponsio uitiosa corrigitur. Quae omnia scripturarum quoque possunt testimoniis apertissime conprobari, quam multis etiam letaliter cesserit statuta conplesse et e contrario quam multis eadem refugisse conmodum fuerit ac salubre.



CHAPTER 26. How saintly men cannot be hard and obstinate.

26. Quod sancti uiri pertinaces ac duri esse non possint.



17.26.1. Nor must we emit the value of that command because even if we have bound ourselves by some oath under the influence of anger or some other passion, (a thing which ought never to be done by a monk) still the case for each side should be weighed by a thorough judgment of the mind, and the course on which we have determined should be compared to that which we are urged to adopt, and we should without hesitation adopt that which on the occurrence of sounder considerations is decided to be the best. For it is better to put our promise on one side than to undergo the loss of something good and more desirable. Finally we never remember that venerable and approved fathers were hard and unyielding in decisions of this sort, but as wax under the influence of heat, so they were modified by reason, and when sounder counsels prevailed, did not hesitate to give in to the better side. But those whom we have seen obstinately clinging to their determinations we have always set down as unreasonable and wanting in judgment.

26.1. Nec illius praecepti utilitas est silenda, quod etiam si instigante ira uel qualibet alia passione sacramento nos aliquo uinxerimus, quod a nemine quidem monachorum fieri penitus debet, utriusque tamen rei causa integro mentis est pensanda iudicio, et eo conparanda est illa res quam statuimus huic ad quam transire conpellimur, atque ad eam sine cunctatione est transeundum quae superueniente saniore tractatu iustior fuerit iudicata. Rectius enim est nostrum nos praeterire sermonem quam rei salubrioris ac piae subire iacturam. Denique numquam rationabiles ac probatos patres duros aut inreuocabiles in huiusmodi definitionibus fuisse reminiscimur, sed uelut ceram calore, ita eos ratione mollitos et intercedente salubriore consilio melioribus partibus sine haesitatione cessisse. Quoscumque autem uidimus definitionibus suis pertinaciter inhaerere, inrationabiles semper probauimus ac discretionis expertes.



CHAPTER 30. That no determination should be made on those things which concern the needs of the common life.

30. Nihil super his quae ad usum conmunis nitae adtinent definiendum.



17.30.1. And therefore a monk ought not hastily to make any promise on those things which merely concern bodily exercise, for fear lest he may stir up the enemy still more to attack what he is keeping as it were under the observance of the law, and so he may be more readily compelled to break it. Since every one who lives under the grace of liberty, and sets himself a law, thereby binds himself in a dangerous slavery, so that if by chance necessity constrains him to do what he might have ventured on lawfully, and indeed laudably and with thanksgiving, he is forced to act as a transgressor, and to fall into sin: “for where there is no law there is no transgression.” (Rom. 4. 15) 

30.1.  Et idcirco nihil debet abrupte monachus super his dumtaxat quae ad corporales exercitationes pertinent definire, ne aduersarium ad inpugnationem eorum quae uelut sub legis obseruatione custodit magis incitans citius ea uiolare cogatur. Praefigens siquidem sibi legem unusquisque sub libertatis gratia constitutus perniciosa semet ipsum obligat seruitute, ut ea quae licito, immo etiam laudabiliter cum gratiarum actione praesumere potuisset, si necessitas fortasse conpulerit, uelut transgressor percipere conpellatur cum praeuaricatione peccati. Vbi enim non est lex, nec praeuaricatio .

17.30.2. By this instruction and the teaching of the blessed Joseph we were confirmed as by a Divine oracle and made up our minds to stop in Egypt. But though henceforward we were but a little anxious about our promise, yet when seven years were over we were very glad to fulfil it. For we hastened to our monastery, at a time when we were confident of obtaining permission to return to the desert, and first paid our respects properly to our Elders; next we revived the former love in their minds as out of the ardour of their love they had not been at all softened by our very frequent letters to satisfy them, and in the last place, we entirely removed the sting of our broken promise and returned to the recesses of the desert of Scete, as they themselves forwarded us with joy.

30.2. Hac beatissimi Ioseph institutione atque doctrina uelut diuino oraculo confirmati in Aeqypto residere maluimus. Sed licet parum deinceps de nostra essemus promissione solliciti, tamen expleto septem annorum numero sponsionem nostram gratanter impleuimus. Excurrentes namque ad coenobium nostrum illo iam tempore, quo de inpetrando ad heremum reditu fiduciam gerebamus, primum senioribus nostris honorum debitum soluimus : deinde animus eorum, qui pro caritatis ardore creberrimis litterarum nostrarum satisfactionibus nequaquam fuerant deleniti, pristinam redintegrauimus caritatem, tandemque ad plenum aculeo nostrae sponsionis auulso ipsis quoque cum gaudio prosequentibus ad Scitioticae solitudinis secreta remeauimus.

17.30.3. This learning and doctrine of the illustrious fathers, our ignorance, O holy brother, has to the best of its ability made plain to you. And if perhaps our clumsy style has confused it instead of setting it in order, I trust that the blame which our clumsiness deserves will not interfere with the praise due to these grand men. Since it seemed to us a safer course in the sight of our Judge to state even in unadorned style this splendid doctrine rather than to hold our tongues about it, since if he considers the grandeur of the thoughts, the fact that the awkwardness of our style annoys him, need not be prejudicial to the profit of the reader, and for our part we are more anxious about its usefulness than its being praised. This at least I charge all those into whose hand this little book may fall; viz., that they must know that whatever in it pleases them belongs to the fathers, and whatever they dislike is all our own.

30.3. Hanc uobis, o sancti fratres, inlustrium patrum scientiam atque doctrinam nostra ut potuit elucubrauit inscitia : quam etiamsi incultus forsitan sermo confudit potius quam digessit, quaeso ne laudem insignium uirorum reprehensio nostrae rusticitatis euacuet. Tutius siquidem nobis in conspectu nostri iudicis uisum est doctrinae huius magnificentiam uel incultis sermonibus prodere quam silere, quippe cum et profectui lectoris, si sublimitatem sensuum contempletur, hoc quod inperitia nostri sermonis offenditur obesse non possit, et nobis maior sit utilitatis cura quam laudis. Hoc sane omnes ad quorum manus opuscula ista peruenerint moneo, ut quidquid in eis placuerit patrum, nostrum uero sciant esse quod displicet.  




This Webpage was created for a workshop held at Saint Andrew's Abbey, Valyermo, California in 1990....x....   “”.