“Don’t be like a pumpkin that immediately goes rotten if a gnat comes up to it and punctures it”

Some time ago while I was a disciple of Abba Seridos, the minister of old Abba John, a disciple of Abba Barsanufius, fell sick and my abba ordered me to serve the old man. I used to reverence the door of his cell with as much devotion as one would pay the Cross of Christ. … Nevertheless though I had such great confidence in the holy man and was so well disposed to do him service and obey him, when I perceived that one of the other brothers was disturbed by his desire to serve the old man, I went to the abbot to persuade him that this brother could perform this service better than I. But the abbot did not allow him to do so, nor did the old man. Yet I had done my best to give place to the brother, and although I did this service for nine years, I know that I did not speak one disparaging word to anyone, and I kept up this service although I had other duties to discharge. I say this lest anyone should say I had nothing else to do.

Believe me, I know one brother walked behind me from the infirmary to the church, abusing me all the way. But I went on ahead without uttering a word. When the abbot learned about it—I don’t know who told him—he wanted to rebuke him. I fell at his feet saying, ‘Do not do so, for the Lord’s sake. It was I who failed. He has done nothing wrong.’ And another brother, whether to provoke me or out of simplicity, the Lord knows which, during the night silence, made water all over my head and soaked my bed. Similarly some of the other brethren began, during the day, to shake their rush-mats in front of my cell, and I saw such a horde of flies and stinging insects coming into my cell that I could not kill them all. They were in such great numbers because of the heat. When I came back to lie down they all settled on me. Sleep came upon me, I was so tired from my labor, but when I woke up I found my body bitten all over. But I never said anything to any of them, not ‘You are not to do this’, or ‘Why do you do this?’ I am not conscious, as I said, of having said a bitter or complaining word.

Learn then to bear one another’s burdens, learn to reverence one another. And if any of you hears a disobliging word, or if one of you suffers at any time from a deliberate provocation, do not straight-way become timorous, do not immediately get worked up, do not be found faint-hearted in the time of contest, unprepared in time of need, untuned, not able to meet such attacks as are bound to come. Don’t be like a pumpkin that immediately goes rotten if a gnat comes up to it and punctures it, but rather have a stout heart, have patience that our love for one another may conquer everything that comes up against us.

St Dorotheos of Gaza

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