A Reflection on a Saying of a Desert Christian: Abba John the Persian

“It is said by the Fathers of Abba John the Persian that malefactors once went into his hut with the apparent intent of killing him. The blessed one prepared a basin and stooped down to wash their feet, as he would do for his best friends. At this, the malefactors, embarrassed, left him alone and departed.”

I find myself in tears. Having said for decades that responding to violence with another act of violence only begets more violence and that Jesus tells us to offer the cheek.

Washing someone’s feet is a humbling thing to do today when most of us in the first world have hot and cold running water and take a daily shower. But back in this day what with infrequent bathing, I can only imagine that it took fortitude to do it.

How Abba John managed to wash the feet of his would-be murderers  is beyond me. Here they are, though, prepared to the most extreme act of violence they could: deprive a man of his life.

His reaction is to serve them, to do them something good.

I wonder just how many horrible things in this world might be prevented if we simply did good to each other?


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