The Disobedient Disciple

Below the reader will find a beautiful account of a disciple who through his seeming lack of strict obedience brought forth great fruit. He rightly coupled discernment with obedience. For without discernment, it is possible for obedience to become abusive. Of course, such discernment was (and must be) exercised with great Christian love and devotion. This is of the utmost importance. We may discern that it was not the disciple’s job to “just obey,” rather he was also responsible to “behave as God wants.” May the Lord grant us wisdom.

I think it is possible to also, for the general reader, substitute the phrase in the following text, “Monastic life,” with “Christian life.” “With what love they lived the Christian life …” May the Lord grant us at least a thimble full of such love with compassion and piety. These are courageous virtues and are in no wise weak or spinless.

I leave you, the reader, to receive spiritual nourishment from the story itself, which is taken from the book, “Words of the Heart, Gerondissa Makrina Vassopoulou. St. John the Forerunner Greek Orthodox Monastery; pp. 247-249.”

Begin excerpt –

There was once an elder who lived a very spiritual life with his disciple. A short distance from their dwelling they owned a small abandoned hut. One day another elder came and asked to live in it. “Abba, why don’t you give me that little hut so that I, too, can live here near you?”

The first monk answered, “Why not? May it be blessed. You have it.” And the other elder moved in. The newly settled elder was very spiritually cultivated, and people continually visited him. The first elder saw the crowd and had envious thoughts because the people were going to the newcomer and not to him. He could not get over it. After a little while, he said to his disciple, “Go tell that elder to leave the hut and find somewhere else to live, because I need it.”

The disciple said, “May it be blessed,” and got up and went.

When the disciple arrived, he asked, “How are you doing, dear Father?”

“What can I say, my child? I am struggling along the monastic way.”

“My elder sends many blessings, and he loves you very much.”

“Tell him thank you and to pray for me because I am not well. My stomach is bothering me.”

After a while, the elder who owned the cell saw that the other elder had stayed and that people continued to go to him. He told his disciple to go again to the newcomer and tell him to leave the hut without delay. The disciple went.

“How are you my child? What brought you here?”

“I came to see you, dear Father. My elder hears that you are ill and sent me to see you. He sends best wishes, prayers, and much love, along with his great respect and esteem.”

“I thank him. I have no words to thank him for the great love he shows me. Tell him that I am well now through his prayers.”

The disciple returned to the cell and told his elder that God willing, the monk would leave by Sunday. The poor elder calmed down.

Again people came to the other elder, and when Sunday came around he was still there. The first elder lost his patience and said, “Now I’m going to go and chase him out of the hut with my cane.” So he got up to start out.

“Let me go ahead of you,” the disciple managed to say, “to tell him to come out so you don’t get tired running. I will see if there’s a crowd so as to avoid scandalizing anyone when you get there.”

The disciple got there first and said, “Dear Father, my elder is coming with much love to visit you and bring you to our cell.” As soon as he heard that the elder who owned the cell was coming, he thought that the elder had put himself to a lot of trouble on his account, and he went out to meet him. As soon as he saw him, he made a full prostration, saying, “My dear brother, my father, my benefactor,” and began saying many words of affection to him.

Then the elder saw the other’s love, he softened, embraced him without saying anything, and took him to his cell. Later he asked the disciple, “You didn’t tell him any of the things I told you, did you?”

“No,” he answered.

Then the elder took his staff and said to his disciple, “I’m not worthy to be your elder, you take the staff.” Do you see what love elders and disciples had!

Now if he had gone and said whatever his elder had told him, he would have upset the other elder with thoughts like, “What are you telling me? The hut was useless to him, and he let me stay here. Perhaps I was calling the crowds? Quite simply, God was calling them.” What courtesy they had back then. With what love they lived the monastic life, with what compassion and piety! That disciple’s spiritual struggles had reached great heights! He had such lofty convictions that he did not want to embitter the hearts of either of the elders! His elder said, “Do this and that,” and he used discernment to do what was right. He obeyed and went when his elder sent him, but he had the mindset, “I will behave as God wants.” He had the grace of God within him, illumining him how to act in order to help the elders. In this case he showed obedience with discernment. How beautiful people lived! This is why we should have much discernment and fear of God in our souls.

What a grave thing false accusation is! We hear a conversation and we go and repeat it however we understood it. Whether of not we know if it is correct of good, we go and spread it around. So think about the beautiful deed the disciple accomplished between the two elder! What a beautiful love, what a wonderful compassion! How he united them! He helped his elder git rid of his passion and live with his neighbor peacefully and with love!

About the author

Husband, father, and Priest.

Schooling: Kharkov State University (Ukraine); Brownsville School of Ministry; St. Tikhon's Orthodox Seminary (M.Div.).

Author and illustrator of St. Patrick, Enlightener of the Irish Lands (Conciliar Press, out of print) and illustrator of The Life of St. Brigid (authored by Jane G. Meyer).

Proprietor and writer at the Inkless Pen Blog, at which, based on the foundation of the teachings of Orthodox Christianity, a wide variety of topics are addressed. Fr. Zechariah has translated some works by St. Dimitry of Rostov and New Hieromartyr Seraphim (Zvesdensky), these translations are also available on his blog.

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