Reflection on a Saying of a Desert Christian: anonymous

A young monk in modern times once took an indigent and abused old nun into his monastery, since she had no place to go. He was immediately condemned by another monk who said: “The holy canons forbid you to keep a woman in a monastery for men. You have no respect for the church Fathers and, despite your intentions, you will lead your brotherhood into sin.”

The young monk answered: “Even if I were to fall into the sin of fornication with this old and forgotten nun, I could repent and be forgiven. But what real forgiveness is there for a person who judges others and pretends to know that even their intentions have no meaning before God? However, if you really care for my soul, since you do not live in a brotherhood, would you assume the responsibility of caring for this old nun? I will gladly relinquish it.”

The condemning monk did not reply.

In case you are wondering, not all Orthodox nuns live in a convent or community.  Such is the case with the elderly nun in this Saying.

There is the letter of the law and the spirit of the law.  To adhere to the former for the sake of adhering may lead us to overlook the spirit of the law. This seems to me to be the issue in this reading. It also points the cognitive dysfunction known as mind-reading. We can’t read each others’ minds nor can we read each others’ hearts.

Monk A out of charity, compassion, generosity, kindness, and love of neighbor brought an elderly abused nun into his monastery, a community of men. As a nun, she had dedicated her life to the Lord as did the monks of the community.  Monk B calls Monk A out for this action, citing the rules.  Monk A’s response is brilliant. Even if he were to sin with the nun, he could repent and be forgiven, not that that would ever make it okay to sin. Monk A then challenges Monk B, asking what forgiveness is there for judgementalism.  He issues another challenge, suggesting that Monk B assume the care of the elderly nun and Monk B has nothing else to say.

Monk B strikes me as an officious person. He doesn’t care about what happens to the nun at all, as long as appearances suit him.  Ultimately that is a very selfish and narcissistic attitude. About as opposite from the love of neighbor as one can get.


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