I am reading The Laughable Stories of Bar-Habraeus (this is a profitable story), when I came to this story:

CLXXIX. A certain noble and honourable and believing woman came from Rome to Egypt to Abbâ Arsenius and entreated him to make mention of her in his prayers. And he replied, "I will pray unto God that He may make the remembrance of thee to pass out of my heart." Now although by reason of her grief and sorrow she became sick, yet he did as he had said, that he might shut the door against the women who thronged to see him

Would this action have been seen by the Eastern Church as morally commendable? Or is it more a necessary wise act to continue to act in commendable ways? (Or, perhaps it was just plain bad!)

1 Answer 1


Was this act of Abbâ Arsenius considered commendable?

The short answer is yes, but let me try to explain.

Arsenius the Deacon was a Desert Father who lived as a monk at Scetis in the Nitrian Desert of the northwestern Nile Delta of Egypt in the 5th century AD.

Now in the beginnings of early monasticism and Early Christian Asceticism, many viewed things in a different light than we do in modern times.

St. Arsenius the Great’s words are commendable in the Early Christian population for it showed a deep desire to be left alone in the desert, unknown to others that he may thus be devoted to a life of prayer and dedicated to Christ though a an ascetic way of life.

Many thought the Desert Fathers were fools in their saying and way of life, but this is in part how they were able to live in isolation or in small groups of monks known as anchorites. St. Benedict holds these to be the greatest of all types of monks, but a true anchorites must be first tested over several years before being considered a true anchorite.

Many Church Fathers were considered fools for Christ and this is sometimes reflected in their written works and/or saying. Nevertheless, it is commendable, especially if we are able to read and understand the Christian atmosphere in which they were living in.

Foolishness for Christ refers to behavior such as giving up all one's worldly possessions upon joining an ascetic order or religious life, or deliberately flouting society's conventions to serve a religious purpose—particularly of Christianity. Such individuals have historically been known as both "holy fools" and "blessed fools". The term "fool" connotes what is perceived as feeblemindedness, and "blessed" or "holy" refers to innocence in the eyes of God.

The term fools for Christ derives from the writings of Saint Paul. Desert Fathers and other saints acted the part of Holy Fools, as have the yurodivy (or iurodstvo) of Eastern Orthodox asceticism. Fools for Christ often employ shocking and unconventional behavior to challenge accepted norms, deliver prophecies, or to mask their piety.

We can learn so much from the Desert Fathers!

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