I have long been interested in the lives and works of the desert fathers and mothers. These were early Christian hermits, ascetics, and monks who lived mainly in the Scetes desert of Egypt beginning around the third century AD. We sometimes look suspiciously on this kind of isolated life and wonder if the people who embrace it are innocent of the world and wishing to escape it. Instead, their wisdom is profound and very helpful.
Abbot Anthony was speaking with some of the brothers and he met a hunter who was shooting game in the wilderness. The hunter saw the Abbot and the brothers enjoying themselves and was not impressed at all. I can imagine the sour disapproving look. We’ve probably all been on the end of one of these. Joy can be a terrible affront to some. Abbot Anthony said: ‘Put an arrow in your bow and shoot it.’ This the hunter did.
‘Now shoot another,’ said the monk. He encouraged him to shoot one arrow after another and eventually the hunter said: ‘If I bend my bow all the time it will break.’
The Abbot replied; ‘So it is also in the work of God. If we push ourselves beyond measure, the brethren will soon collapse. It is right therefore, from time to time to relax.’ I have found myself working just about every day of this crisis. So, today, I am preaching to myself and will take some time off.