BEING BLESSED BY GIVING

A monk had a brother living in the world who was poor, and so he supplied him with all he received from his work. But the more the monk supplied, the poorer the brother became. So the monk went to tell an old man about it. The old man said to him, “If you want my advice, do not give him anything more, but say to him, ‘Brother, when I had something I supplied you; now bring me what you get from your work.’ Take all he brings you, and whenever you see a stranger or a poor man, give him some of it, begging him to pray for him.”

The monk went away and did this. When his secular brother came, he spoke to him as the old man had said, and the brother went sadly away. The first day, taking some vegetables from his field, he brought them to the monk. The monk took them and gave them to the old men, begging them to pray for his brother, and after the blessing he returned home. In the same way, another time, the brother brought the monk some vegetables and three loaves, which he took, doing as on the first occasion, and having received the blessing he went away.

And the secular brother came a third time bringing many provisions, some bread, and fish. Seeing this, the monk was full of wonder, and he invited the poor so as to give them refreshment. Then he said to his brother, “Do you not need a little bread?” The other said to him, “No, for when I used to receive something from you, it was like fire coming into my house and burning it, but now that I receive nothing from you, God blesses me.”

Then the monk went to tell the old man all that had happened, and the old man said to him, “Do you not know that the work of the monk is of fire, and where it enters, it burns? It helps your brother more to do alms with what he reaps from his field, and to receive the prayers of the saints and thus to be blessed.”

Source | Sr. Benedicta Ward, The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers
(Oxford: SLG Press, 1986), pages 43-44

CONSIDER THIS

Blessings sometimes show up in unrecognizable disguises. One very common disguise is the art of giving generously and without counting the cost.

ON GRATITUDE AND MERCY

One day, there was great commotion outside the Elders cell: two swallows had started a fierce fight with each other! The Elder was troubled. He went outside and beheld a distressing spectacle: the stronger swallow was attacking the other with its beak and literally plucking out its feathers. Without wasting any time, he chased the stronger swallow away. He lovingly took the injured bird in his hands and rescued it; as a result of his nursing, it survived.

Thereafter, just as the lion of St. Gerasimos used to follow the Saint everywhere, showing its gratitude and dedication, so also did this swallow: it flew in front of the Elder, fluttered its wings, frolicked, and sang.

One day, the Elder went outside, either to marvel at God in His works or to pray in silence. The swallow, his faithful friend and companion, was happily flying beside him.

The Elder sat down in the fruit-drying room a short distance from the monastery, and fell asleep without realizing it; but the swallow suddenly began to flutter rapidly above his head, chirping loudly, as if it wanted to wake him up and warn him of some danger.

And in very truth, when the Elder awoke, what did he see? A large reptile not too far away from him. His companion had in turn performed its own act of charity for the merciful.

Source | Archimandrite Ioannikios, Philaret of Kostamonitou, in Sygchrones Hagioreitikes Morphes—9 [Contemporary Athonite Personalities: Vol. IX] (Oropos: Holy Monastery of the Paraclete, 1983), pages 80-81.