January 27, 2015

Life and Sayings of Holy Abba Peter the Egyptian

Holy Abba Peter the Egyptian (Feast Day - January 27)


As seasonal grain and wine is carried to the storehouse,
In your old age you are carried to the grave Peter.

Abba Peter was the disciple of Abba Lot (Oct. 22), and lived for many years in the desert of the Cells. He reposed in peace in deep old age.

Below are some of the recorded Sayings of Abba Peter:

1. In the Cells they said of Abba Peter the Pionite that he did not drink wine. When he grew old, the brothers prepared a little wine diluted with water for him, and asked him to accept it. But he said, 'To me that is just as bad as spiced wine.' He was passing judgement on himself in his comment about this liquid.

2. 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 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 he 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 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.’

3. Abba Peter and Abba Epimachus were said to have been companions at Rhaithou. While they were eating with the community, they were asked to go to the table of the senior brethren. Only Abba Peter would go and that not without difficulty. When they left, Abba Epimachus said to him, 'How did you dare to go to the table of the seniors?' He replied, 'If I had been sitting with you, the brothers would have asked me, as the senior brother, to give the blessing first and as I am older than you, I shall have had to do it. But with the Fathers, I was the youngest of all and the most humble in thought.'

4. Abba Peter said, ‘We must not be puffed up when the Lord does something through our mediation, but we must rather thank him for having made us worthy to be called by him.’ He used to say it is good to think about each virtue in this way.

5. Some other time Peter was asked: 'What is a servant of God?' His answer was this: 'As long as one practices any kind of passion he cannot be called servant of God, but he is the servant of that passion which conquers him. As long as he is conquered he cannot teach others, who are conquered by the same passions, because it is shameful for him to teach, before he has been freed from that passion about which he teaches.'