Living Humbly 

For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke:14:11) 

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In the desert fathers we find stories about what living the Christian virtues might look like. It doesn’t prevent the sin in the world from touching our lives, but is found in how we respond to sin. In the story below Abbot Anastasius has his parchment of the Scriptures stolen by another monk who then tries to sell the book [this is long before printing presses, so the parchment would be hand copied and very expensive]. Anastasius knows who the thief is but goes on with life as if he doesn’t. He never accuses his brother monk and accepts that this monk may make a profit from the stolen goods. In the end, however, he by his humility wins his brother over, creating a paradise of heaven with the very brother who had sinned against him. 

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Abbott Anastasius had a book written on very fine parchment which was worth 18 pence, and had in it both the Old and New Testaments in full. Once a certain brother came to visit him, and seeing the book made off with it. So that day when Abbot Anastasius went to read his book, and found that it was gone, he realized that the brother had taken it. But he did not send after him to inquire about it for fear that the brother might add perjury to theft. Well, the brother went down into the nearby city in order to sell the book. And the price he asked was 16 pence. The buyer said: Give me the book that I may find out whether it is worth that much. With that, the buyer took the book to the holy Anastasius and said: Father, take a look at this book, please, and tell me whether you think I ought to buy it for 16 pence. Is it worth that much? Abbott Anastasius said: Yes, it is a fine book, it is worth that much.

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So the buyer went back to the brother and said: here is your money. I showed the book to Abbott Anastasius and he said it is a fine book and is worth at least 16 pence. But the brother asked: Was that all he said? Did he make any other remarks? No, said the buyer, he did not say another word. Well, said the brother, I have changed my mind and I don’t want to sell this book after all. Then he hastened to Abbott Anastasius and begged him with tears to take back his book, but the Abbot would not accept it, saying: Go in peace, brother, I make you a present of it. But the brother said: if you do not take it back I shall never have any peace. After that the brother dwelt with Abbott Anastasius for the rest of his life. (Thomas Merton, WISDOM OF THE DESERT, pp 30-31)

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Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matthew 18:18) 

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