Thursday, June 4, 2015

Wisdom from Holy Abba Alonios

St. Alonios (Feast Day - June 4)

Holy Abba Alonios was an early desert father of Egypt from the fourth century who reposed in peace. The following sayings are attributed to him:

- Abba Alonios said: "If a man does not say with his heart, 'only God and I exist in this world,' he finds no peace."

- Abba Alonios said: "If a man but so desires, he can return to the divine standard and repent anytime, whether early or late."

- Abba Alonios said: "If I had not destroyed my whole self, I would not have been able to rebuild myself; that is, if I had not forsaken everything deriving from my own will that appeared good to me, I would not have been able to acquire the virtues."

- Abba Agathon one day questioned Abba Alonios, saying, "How can I control my tongue so as to tell no more lies?" And Abba Alonios said to him, "If you do not tell a lie you are set to commit many sins." "How is that?" he asked. And the old man replied, "Suppose a man has committed murder before your eyes and fled into your cell. The authorities looking for the man ask you, 'Has a murder been committed in your sight?' If you do not tell a lie, you are delivering the man to death. It is better that you should hand him over to God unbound, for God knows all things."

- Abba Poemen said that a brother asked Abba Alonios, "What is belittlement?" and the elder said, "To be below the beasts and to know that they are free from condemnation."

- Abba Poemen said that one day the elders were sitting down eating, and the same Abba Alonios was in attendance to serve. They praised him when they noticed him, but he gave no response whatsoever. One of them said to him in private, "Why do you not respond to the elders when they praise you?" Abba Alonios said to him, "Had I responded to them, I would have been found to be as one who had accepted praise."

The following question was asked of St. Paisios the Athonite (+ 1994):

- Elder, Abba Alonios says: "If a man but so desires, he can return to the divine standard and repent anytime, whether early or late." What does he mean?

The spiritual life does not desire time. In one second, a person can be found in Paradise from hell, if he repents. Man is responsible. He can become an angel, he can become a devil. My, my, my, what power repentance has! It attracts divine Grace. A humble thought that a man brings to mind can save him.

A prideful thought can come to his mind, and if he does not repent, death will find him, he is gone, he is lost. Of course, the humble thought must be followed by internal groaning, by internal contrition. Because the thought is a thought, but there is also the heart. The hymn says: "With all my soul and mind and heart...." I think, however, that the Abba here is thinking of a more permanent state. It requires some time in order for one to reach a good state.

I err, I repent, and I am forgiven that instant. If I have a struggling spirit, slowly I will achieve a more stable situation, but until then, I can be swayed.

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