An Elder said once: talking alot and inquisitively about matters of theosis and reading and researching texts that speak about faith will dry up one’s tears and chase away humility from man’s soul. Instead of that, my son, rather read the lives and words of the Saints and pious Fathers and they will enlighten your soul. (IV, 16)
It is not appropriate for the beginner – that is, for the one who starts repenting – to dwell on researching the dogmas. Most writings of this type have a polemic nature and they tend to slightly inflame one, so that the man who until recently thought himself a sinner now starts to forget about his issues and instead he imagines himself to be a great defender of faith, searching for people to whom he can show his knowledge. Being exclusively addressed to the mind, dogmatic writings do not require the “test” of actual practice such as the bodily efforts, therefore, people who are endowed with natural intelligence are easily deceived into believing that they know everything about faith. If it dwells on such things, the mind that has not been cleansed of one’s passions will achieve nothing more but change the object of its torments and musings, turning around forever in the multitude and novelty of the ideas, which will leave no more room for tears (repentance) and remembrance of one’s sins. By contrast, the lives and the “words” (the apophthegms) of the Saints have a practical nature and lead one to humility, since they present us with spiritual levels from which we are very far. St. John of the Ladder offers the same advice. (Commentary by Hieromonk Savatie Baştovoi)
(Words by the Anonymous Elders of the Egyptian Desert)
About Avva Pimen
A brother went abroad once to visit Avva Pimen. And he got to a hermit there, who had great charity and was visited by many. And the brother told him about Avva Pimen. Upon hearing about Avva, that one wished to see him.
So when the brother returned to Egypt, after a while, the hermit who lived abroad came to him (since he had told him where he would abide). Upon seeing him, the brother was surprised and rejoiced. So the hermit said: “Please be as kind as to take me to Avva Pimen.” And taking him, he went to Avva Pimen and told him about the hermit, telling him that he was a great man held in much love and honor in his town and that he had heard about him and had wanted to come and see him.
So Avva received him gladly and after giving each other the brotherly kiss, they sat down. And the foreign hermit started talking from the Scripture, about spiritual and heavenly things. And Avva Pimen turned his face away and gave him no answer. Seeing that Avva did not talk to him, the visitor grew sad and went out.
So he said to the brother who had brought him in: “My journey here has been in vain, as I have come to see the Elder and he doesn’t even want to talk to me”. The brother went in to Avva Pimen and told him: “Avva, it is for you that this great man has come, who is held in so much honor in his town. Why have you not spoken with him?” The Elder told him: “This one is from among the ones above and he speaks about heavenly things; I am from among the ones down below and I speak about earthly things. If he had talked to me about the passions of the soul, I would have replied, but if he speaks about heavenly things, I do not know about those”.
So coming out, the brother told the stranger: “The Elder will not talk readily about things from the Scripture; but rather, if someone speaks to him about the passions of the soul, he will reply to that”. Humbled, the stranger entered the Elder’s abode and asked him: “What should I do, Avva, for the thoughts of debauchery torment my mind?” And the Elder heeded him and rejoiced. And he said: “Welcome now. Open your mouth for talking about these matters and I will nourish it with all the good things”.
And the stranger, feeling much usefulness for his soul, said: “This truly is the true path.” And giving thanks to the Lord, he returned to his abode, happy that he had been worthy of meeting such holy people. (8)
(Apophthegms by the Holy Fathers of the Egyptian Desert)
Excerpt from „Slava deşartă. Apoftegme ale Sfinţilor Părinţi selectate şi comentate de ieromonahul Savatie Baştovoi”, Cathisma Publishing House, Bucureşti, 2007