Reflection on a Saying of a Desert Christian: Abba Photios

A certain youth, who was preparing to follow the monastic life, went to consult Abba Photios regarding how to behave in the brotherhood. The wise elder, besides other things, also told him these profitable things: “Avoid as much as possible, my child, creating for yourself a reputation as an agitator. Never say: ‘I am not eating at the common table of the brothers at the meal after Liturgy on Sunday,’ or ‘I am not going to the gatherings (monastery councils).’ Try not to separate yourself from the others in anything, and see that you imitate the most pious brothers. In this way, you will avoid any human praise and you will attain humility.”

This youth deserves some credit.  He had the good sense to go to a wise elder and ask for advice.  How often has that happened that we go to someone older?  I tend to talk things over with a peer. There may be societies and cultures where the advice od elders is still sought but I don’t live in one and I wonder what I might be missing.

What is Abba Photios’ advice?  It boils down to this: submit one’s self to the life of the community.  Do as the best monks do and don’t set one’s self apart from the others.

The end result is to avoid praise and increase in humility.  Praise might certainly go to one’s head and that surely is the opposite of humility.


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