Reflection on a Saying of a Desert Christian: Abba Antonios 10

“Three elders customarily went three times a year to the mountain of Abba Antonios to be taught by the Great Saint. Two of them would ask various questions concerning spiritual and bodily exercises. In this way they provided the occasion for the Saint to pour forth the river of wisdom flowing within him. The third elder always listened silently, without asking anything. Once the Saint asked him: “So many years you have visited me, brother, without making the slightest inquiry. Do you not wish to learn anything?”

“It is enough for me to see you, Abba. Indeed, this has taught me much,” the elder answered reverently.”

Anthony of the Desert didn’t get to live his life as a hermit, which is what he wanted to do.  A bunch of disciples lived at the foot of his mountain and there was regular communication between them. Anthony was also visited by monks from other places who sought his counsel.  “Speak a word, Abba,” they would say.

In this Saying we see the admirable commitment of the three elders.  They wanted to learn. They wanted to grow as monks. They wanted to deepen their experience of God.

Maybe I should mention that “elder” does not mean advanced in age, it merely denotes that they have been following the monastic path for quite a while and to distinguish them from the beginners.

These three elders wanted to learn from the best. Presumably, they took to heart what Anthony told them, returned to their cells, and meditated on it to incorporate his words into their daily lives.

One of the monks never spoke a word.  He did not engage in conversation, he asked no questions.  He listened. He listened.

Can’t help but wonder how much I would learn if I closed my mouth and listened.


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