A certain brother came, once, to Abbot Theodore of Pherme, and spent three days begging him to let him hear a [prophetic] word. The Abbot however did not answer him, and he went off sad. So a disciple said to Abbot Theodore: Father, why did you not speak to him? Now he has gone off sad! The elder replied: Believe me, I spoke no word to him because he is a trader in words and seeks to glory in the words of another.
Reading: John 15:5-8
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Whilst a picture paints a thousand words and television is king, we still live in a word-rich society. I am, after all, writing this to be read by others via email or a browser feed, on our website or Facebook. My Facebook feed chugs away endlessly through the day. My RSS feed reader orders other peoples blogs from around the world giving be bite size tasters of others’ thoughts. My mobile phone allows me to access all of the at whatever time of the day or night that I choose and, of course, where ever I happen to be.
A fourth-century monk of Palestine, John Cassian, got permission to go to the Egyptian desert in search of the great spiritual elders. He and his friend Germanus ultimately spent fifteen years moving from desert community to monastery, talking with the Fathers of the desert. He watched how they handled the many eager pilgrims who sought them out, begging for a "word to live by."
The elders never gave that word unless they were first sure of the seeker’s intentions. Was this another curiosity seeker who would return to the big city and tell his tall tales to public applause? Was this a new believer who was not yet ready to handle real spiritual food? Would they be throwing their pearls before swine, as scripture warned them not to do?
If the seeker passed muster, a word might (or might not) be forthcoming; only God could give that treasure via his faithful servant. If God did not choose to speak, then neither did the elder. For they knew that words are full of grace and have the power to charge the world with holiness. Like my concerned mentor, they knew that we squander them at our peril.
Today, so that I can give thanks for all the words I and others use, I will fast from all my social networking sites. I’ll allow silence to take the place of electronic chatter for a while.
Lord, rather than checking up on the people I know. I pray your blessing upon them.