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Joseph asked Abba Poemen,

'How should we fast?'

Abba Poemen said,

'I suggest that everyone

should eat a little less

than he wants, every day.' 

Joseph said to him

'When you were a young man,

didn't you fast

for two days on end?' 

He said to him, 'That's right,

I used to fast three days on end,

even for a week. 

But the great hermits

have tested all these things,

and they found that it is good

to eat something every day,

but on some days a little less. 

They have shown us

that this is the King's highway,

for it is easy and light."

The Desert Fathers,
Sayings of the Early Christian Monks, p. 99

Desert Father c. 340-450

Poemen p.93 Image
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Abba Poemen

Linda - February 18, 2024 - Abba Poeman is probably one of the most quoted of the Desert Fathers and is known more so for his wise shepherding of the brothers rather than for great ascetism.  He was very tolerant of people's failures and had great compassion on them.  These qualities are reflected in the passage above and I find that his approach is somewhat akin to that of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who described herself as being a little bird rather than a great eagle able to soar to great heights.  Because she knew herself to be weak and little, she therefore decided to offer up a whole bunch of "little things" to the Lord, trusting that He would be pleased with her efforts.  

God our Father loves us and will give great merit to all of our little ascetical efforts this Lenten season, no matter how great or small.  He knows our hearts.  He knows our desires.  What He desires most of all though is that these practices would lead to greater intimacy with Him. 

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