Sayings & Stories of the Desert Fathers

On Quiet

The abbot Nilus said, “Invulnerable from the arrows of the enemy is he who loves quiet: but he who mixes with the crowd often has wounds.”

A certain one told this story: There were three earnest men, that loved one another, and they became monks. And one of them chose to bring to accord such as take the law of each other, according to that which is written: Blessed are the peacemakers. The second chose to visit the sick. But the third went away to be quiet in solitude. Now the first toiling amid the contentions of men was not able to appease them all. And overcome with weariness he came to him who tended the sick, and found him also failing in spirit, and unable to carry out his purpose. And the two agreed together and went away to see him who had withdrawn into the desert, and they told him their tribulations. And they asked him to tell them how he himself had fared. And he was silent for a while, and then poured water into a vessel and said, “Look, upon the water.” And it was murky. And after a little while he said again, “Look now, how clear the water has become.” And as they looked into the water they saw their own faces, as in a mirror. And then he said to them, “So is he who abides in the midst of men: because of the turbulence, he sees not his sins: but when he has been quiet, above all in solitude, then does he recognize his own default.”

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