From Becoming Fire: Through the Year with the Desert Fathers and Mothers
How Long Shall We Go On Like This?
Abba Paul the Barber and his brother Timothy lived in Scetis. They often used to argue. So Abba Paul said, “How long shall we go on like this?”
Abba Timothy said to him, “I suggest you take my side of the argument and in turn I will take your side when you oppose me.”
They spent the rest of their days in this practice.
Mary Needs Martha
A brother went to see Abba Silvanus on the mountain of Sinai. When he saw the brothers working hard he said to the old man, “Do not labor for the food that perishes. Mary has chosen the better part.” (John 6:27)
The old man said to his disciple, “Zacharias, give the brother a book and put him in a cell without anything else.”
So when the ninth hour came, the visitor watched the door, expecting someone would be sent to call him to the meal. When no one called him, he got up, went to find the old man, and said to him, “Have the brothers not eaten today” The old man replied that they had.
Then he said, “Why did you not call me?”
The old man said to him, “Because you are a spiritual person and do not need that kind of food. We, being carnal, want to eat, and that is why we work. But you have chosen the better part and read the whole day long and you do not want to eat carnal food.”
When the brother heard these words, he made a prostration, saying, “Forgive me, abba.”
The old man said to him, “Mary needs Martha. It is really thanks to Martha that Mary is praised.”