October 22, 2014

The Sayings of Abba Lot

"If you will, you can become all flame." - Abba Joseph spoken to Abba Lot

Abba Lot was an early desert father who reposed in peace. He is commemorated by the Orthodox Church on October 22nd. The following sayings are attributed to him in the Paradise of the Fathers:

Lot was a simple Coptic monk, a disciple of Joseph of Panephysis and a friend of Arsenius. He lived as a solitary at Arsinoe near Abba Anthony. Like the majority of the Copts he was opposed to the teaching of Origen.

1. One of the old men came to Abba Lot's dwelling, near to the little marsh of Arsinoe and he asked for a cell, which Abba Lot gave him. Now the old man was ill and Abba Lot took care of him. When anyone came to see Abba Lot, he made him visit the sick old man also. But the sick man began to quote the words of Origen to the visitors. This made Abba Lot anxious and he said to himself, 'The Fathers must not think that we are like that too.' However, he was afraid to drive him away because of the commandment. So Abba Lot got up and went to Abba Arsenius and told him about the old man. Abba Arsenius said to him, 'Do not drive him away, but say to him: look, eat that which comes from God and drink as much as you like, only do not make such remarks any more. If he wants to, he will correct himself. If he does not want to change his ways, he will ask to leave this place of his own accord. Thus his departure will not come from you.' Abba Lot went away and did this. When the old man heard these word he did not want to change, but he began to ask him, 'For the Lord's sake, send me away from here, for I can no longer bear the desert.' So he got up and left, accompanied to the door with love.

2. It was related of a brother who had committed a fault that when he went to Abba Lot, he was troubled and hesitated, going in and coming out, unable to sit down. Abba Lot said to him, 'What is the matter, brother?' He said, 'I have committed a great fault and I cannot acknowledge it to the Fathers.' The old man said to him, 'Confess it to me, and I will carry it.' Then he said to him, 'I have fallen into fornication, and in order to do it, I have sacrificed to idols.' The old man said to him, 'Have confidence; repentance is possible. Go, sit in your cave, eat only once in two days and I will carry half of your fault with you.' After three weeks, the old man had the certainty that God had accepted the brother's repentance. Then the latter remained in submission to the old man until his death.

3. Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, 'Abba, as far as I can, I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and contemplate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?' Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, 'If you will, you can become all flame.'

4. A brother said to Abba Peter, the disciple of Abba Lot, 'When I am in my cell, my soul is at peace, but if a brother comes to see me and speaks to me of external things, my soul is disturbed.' Abba Peter told him that Abba Lot used to say, 'Your key opens my door.' The brother said to him, 'What does that mean?' The old man said, 'When someone comes to see you, you say to him, "How are you? Where have you come from? How are the brethren? Did they welcome you or not?" Then you have opened the brother's door and you will hear a great deal that you would rather not have heard.' The brother said to him, 'That is so. What should a man do, then, when a brother comes to see him?' The old man said, 'Compunction is absolute master. One cannot protect oneself where there is no compunction.' The brother said, 'When I am in my cell, compunction is with me, but if someone comes to see me or I go out of my cell, I do not have it any more.' The old man said, 'That means that you do not really have compunction at all yet. It is merely that you practice it sometimes. It is written in the Law: "When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years and in the seventh he shall go free, for nothing. If you give him a wife and she brings forth sons in your house and he does not wish to go because of his wife and children, you shall lead him to the door of the house and you shall pierce his ear with an awl and he shall become your slave for ever." ' (cf. Ex. 21.2-6) The brother said, 'What does that mean?' The old man said, 'If a man works as hard as he can at anything, at the moment when he seeks what he needs, he will find it.' The brother said, 'Please explain this to me.' The old man said, 'The bastard will not remain in anyone's service; it is the legitimate son who will not leave his father.'