Reflection on a Saying of a Desert Christian: Abba Pambo

“Saint Athanasios, when he found himself on the patriarchal throne of Alexandria, called Abba Pambo to go to the city on an ecclesiastical matter. The first person that the holy man met, on passing through the walls of the large city, was a woman dressed up so as to ensnare her victims. Seeing her, the elder became tearful.

“Why are you crying, Father?” the brother who was accompanying him asked.

“For two reasons,” the elder answered, sighing. “First of all, for the loss of her soul, and then because I do not take as much care to please my Lord as she does to please licentious men.”

Saint Athanasios is known in the west as St. Athanasius, the on again, off again Bishop of Alexandria. Whether he was or not depended on if the Arians had control of the ecclesiastical polity or those against Arianism.  Athanasius was most decidedly against Arius and Arianism which taught “There was a time when the Son was not.” Arius lost that and we have Trinitarian theology which teaches us that the Son is eternal.  I offer this as just some background, in case you were wondering.

Here’s a little background on Abba Pambo. An Egyptian ascetic on the Nitrian mountain, Abba Pambo was a contemporary of St. Anthony the Great and himself great in monastic asceticism. Born about A.D. 303, he was one of the first to join Amoun in Nitria. He was illiterate until he was taught the Scriptures as a monk and ordained priest in 340. He had two characteristics by which he was especially known; by long training, he sealed his lips, so that no unnecessary word passed them, and he never ate any bread other than that which he gained by his own labour, plaiting rushes. He did not give a quick answer even to a simple question, without prayer and pondering in his heart.

But in this instance, he seemed to know what exactly was on his heart.  Here we have a man who seeks holiness with vigor.  On this journey into the city of Alexandria, he sees a prostitute.  He could have reacted in one of several ways. He could have ignored her. He could have reacted in offense that he had seen a whore and sullied his eyes.  He could have berated her for her sins.  He could have been all kinds of judgmental of the harlot.

Instead, he chooses to learn from her.  He sorrows over her lifestyle and that she doesn’t seek salvation.  But in seeing all the care she invests in her appearance, he realizes that he does not invest the same care and time to please God.

It is so easy to allow something else interfere with making the choice to please God. I read a quote recently that said, and I paraphrase, that evil creeps up on us in tiny little increments so we don’t notice it. So many things seem to be not so bad as all that but when we give in to such thinking, we are on the path from moving away from God.

Such has been my own experience.  Has anything similar happened to you?

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