Monday, May 30, 2016

On the power of Psalm 1

From the History of the Monks in Egypt:

"Before us there was this splendid man, our Father Mutius by name. He was the first monk in this place and was the first to teach the way of salvation to all of us in this desert. He was a pagan (gentilis) at first, a most notorious thief and tomb robber, a connoisseur of every kind of wickedness. His saving moment happened in this way:

"He went one night to the house of a certain consecrated virgin in order to burgle it. He climbed up on to the roof, equipped with a well known type of tool-kit, trying to find a method or an opening by which he could break in. The operation proved too difficult for him, and he spent the greater part of the night on the roof to no avail.

 Frustrated by the failure of many attempts he felt weary and fell asleep and saw in a vision someone standing by him dressed like a king, who said: 'Desist from all these crimes, and from the spilling of blood. Turn all your efforts towards religious purposes instead of shameful theft, and join the angelic host of heaven. From now on live with virtue in mind, and I will make you the principal leader of this host.'

"He listened to what was being said to him with a great feeling of joy, and was then shown a great army of monks, of which he was bidden to be the leader. As he awoke he saw the virgin standing there, demanding to know who and whence he was and what he was doing there. Like somebody out of his mind all he could say was: 'Please take me to a church.' She realised that some divine operation was working in her, and she took him to the church and introduced him to the priests.

He prostrated himself in front of them and begged to be made a Christian and do penance. The priests knew this man to be the instigator of all kinds of wickednesses and wondered if he were really genuine.

But he persisted, and convinced them he really meant what he was asking for. They warned him that if that was what he wanted he would have to leave off from his former way of life.

He was baptised, and begged to be given some precepts by which he might begin to walk along the way to salvation. they gave him the first three verses of Psalm 1 [Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the waterside, that bringeth forth his fruit in due season, and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper] They told him that if he diligently took these verses to heart it would be enough to lead him into the way of salvation and to a growth in holiness (scientia pietatis). He stayed with them for three days and then went off to the desert where he stayed for a long time, persevering day and night in prayers and tears, living off roots and herbs.

"He went back to the church where the priests realised how the three verses of Psalm 1 which they had given him had affected his speech, his actions and his whole way of life...