Reflection on a Saying of a Desert Christian: anonymous

An elderly Abba went down to the city one day to sell his baskets. Exhausted by the journey, he went and sat on the steps of a large house that he came across on his way.

At that moment, the rich landlord of the house was in the throes of death. While the Abba was resting, having no idea what was happening inside, he suddenly saw a great number of black horsemen, vicious in appearance, galloping towards him. They got off of the pitch-black horses at the outside door and rushed into the house.

The elder understood, and followed them up to the room of the dying man. When the dying man saw the horsemen, he uttered heart-rending cries: “My God, save me.” The horsemen ridiculed him harshly.

“Can it be that you now remember God, in the evening of your life? It is too late to think of Him. Why did you not call on Him during the daylight hours of your life? Now you belong to us.”

As soon as the men had said these things, they violently tore away his soul and went away with triumphant shouts of joy.

The Abba was left dumb, as though dead, by his sorrow and fright. When, after a great deal of time, he came to his senses, he related all that God had revealed to him, for the benefit of others.

“Reflect each day on those things in which you have erred. And if you call on God with contrition concerning these faults, He will surely forgive you of them. Question yourself always, as long as you live, to discover where you fall short; surely at the time of your death, then, you will not suffer from the horrible agony of fear because of your faults. Be always ready to encounter God, and thereby you will be ready to carry out His will. Every single day examine carefully whichever of your passions you have been able to conquer-never trusting in yourself, supposing that somehow with your own power you accomplished something; for God is merciful and He gave you the power to be victorious.

“When, each day, you rise from your bed, remember that you will give an accounting to God for your every deed, for your every word, as well as for your every thought. Thus, you will not sin before God; rather, fear of Him will dwell with you” (Abba Isaias).

Here is another morality tale and it’s moral is as self-evident as yesterday’s.  I daresay such a vision would be terrifying and the elderly monk was in shock after seeing such a thing.

Yesterday the Saying was about a young woman’s dream.  Today the Saying is about an old man’s vision.  Dreams and visions are similar and both have been used by God throughout the Bible and, in fact, the writers of the Bibles seemed to consider dreams and visions to be synonymous terms. As I mentioned yesterday, the following had visions and dreams: Abraham; Abimelech; Jacob, Joseph in Genesis; various Pharoahs; Pharoah’s cupbearer; Samuel; Salomon; Daniel are some dreamers in the Hebrew Scriptures.  In the New Testament, we have Zacharias, Joseph, Pilate’s wife, Ananias, Cornelius, Peter, Paul, and John.

Many a Christian mystic has had dreams and visions, usually as equally gloomy as yesterday’s young woman and today’s young man.  Their dreams and visions are warnings of what might happen to those who do not take faith and living a holy life seriously.

A modern dream/vision that I personally find much more to my taste and yet as much a morality tale as any given to us by a mystic is The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. His protagonist gets on a bus and travels from the Grey Town to Heaven for a day trip. While there all his notions about Heaven and Hell are challenged.  It is well worth reading if you have not yet done so.


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