July 18, 2010

Abba Pambo on Monastic Solitude vs. Public Works

St. Pambo together with Sts. Paisius and Isaiah (Feast Day - July 18)

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Which is more pleasing to God: a life of mortification in the wilderness or works of mercy?

Men of prayer in the wilderness think that many among men, no matter how many good works they perform, will find it difficult to safeguard the purity of the heart and to direct the mind toward God.

Benefactors of men say that the man in the wilderness is totally occupied with his own salvation and does not help in the salvation of others.

Two Egyptian brothers, Paisius and Isaiah, inherited a great estate from their parents, sold the estate and each took their share of the money. One of them immediately distributed his money to the poor, became a monk and withdrew into the wilderness to lead a strict life of asceticism that through patience, fasting, prayer and purifying the mind from all evil thoughts in order to save his soul. The other brother likewise became a monk, but did not want to enter the wilderness, rather he built a small monastery near the town, a hospital for the sick, a public refectory [dining room] for the needy and a resting place for the sorrowful. He dedicated himself completely to the service of his fellow men.

When both brothers died, a dispute ensued among the monks of Egypt: which of the two fulfilled the law of Christ? Unable to agree among themselves they came to St. Pambo and questioned him about this. St. Pambo replied: "Both are perfect before God; the hospitable one is similar to the hospitable Abraham and the ascetical one is similar to Elijah the Prophet, both of whom equally pleased God." But not all the monks were satisfied with this response. Then St. Pambo prayed to God to reveal the truth to him. After praying for several days, St. Pambo said to the monks: "Before God I tell you that I saw both brothers Paisius and Isaiah together in Paradise." With this, the dispute was settled and all were satisfied.