Abba John the Dwarf was born about 339 AD to poor Christian parents in Basta, in lower Egypt.  At the age of eighteen he went with his brother, Daniel, to Scetis of the monks; where John became a disciple of Abba Ammoes.  In time, John attracted many disciples to whom he taught his austere way of life.  Among these was St. Arsenius the Great.  The number of Abba John’s preserved sayings indicates his importance among his disciples.  The first passage below references John’s early training as Scetis.

It is said of Abba John the Dwarf that he withdrew and lived in the desert of Scetis with Ammoes, an old man of Thebes.  This abba took a piece of dry wood and planted it and said to John, “Water it every day, until it bears fruit.”  Now the water was so far away that he had to leave each evening and return the next morning.  At the end of three years the wood came to life and bore sweet figs.  Then Abba Ammoes took a basket of the fruit to the church, saying to the brethren, “Take and eat of the fruit of obedience and patience.”

Abba John the Dwarf said, “If a king wanted to take possession of his enemy’s city, he would begin by cutting off the water and the food and so his enemies, dying of hunger, would submit to him.  It is the same with the passions of the flesh:  if a man goes about fasting and hungry the enemies of his soul grow weak.”

Abba John said, “We have put the light burden on one side, that is to say, self-accusation; and we have loaded ourselves with a heavy one, that is to say, self-justification.”

It was said of the same Abba John that when he returned from the harvest or when he had been with some of the old men, he gave himself to prayer, meditation and psalmody until his thoughts were re-established in their previous order.

He also said, “Humility and the fear of God are above all virtues.”

The same abba also said, “It is by warfare that the soul makes progress.”

 Inquiries c/o St. George's Orthodox Church, P.O. Box 38, Edenton, NC, 27932.  (252) 482-2006
ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY July 2017 ORTHODOX CHRISTIANITY July 2017 Reviewed by kensunm on 4:30:00 PM Rating: 5

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