May 9, 2007

listening and doing

In his classic work on education To Know as We are Known, Parker J. Palmer re-tells the story of Abba Felix. Abba Felix was one of the fourth-century "desert fathers" - wise holy men who lived life a little differently so that the Kingdom might be understand as it is.

As was the custom of the time, some Christians went to see Abba Felix in the desert and "begged him to say a word to them."

I see a similar picture in my mind of a group of young people climbing up a mountain to see a holy man and asking about the meaning of life. However, in this story instead of giving the young men an answer, Abba Felix is silent. The young men wait but after a while Abba Felix breaks the silence and answers their question with one of his own. "You wish to hear a word?"

"Yes, Abba," the young men said.

"There are no more words nowadays," Abba Felix replies.
He then goes on to explain that in the past when the old men spoke a word, that word was listened to. People did what the old men and women said. But now since the young men "ask without doing, the old men do not find anything to say."

Hearing this reply the brothers groaned, and said "Pray for us, Abba."

"You made me, You created me. Now give me the sense to follow your commands" (Psalm 119:73, NLT)


Stephanie said...

I think that sometimes not only do we ask without doing, we also do without asking.

Tony Myles said...

Which gets us in the hole to begin with.