Blessed Abba Zosimas
When You are Treated Unjustly
Blessed Abba Zosimas
(c. 460-560, in Palestine)
The blessed Zosimas began teaching, once he first sealed his mouth with the sign of the cross.
The man of God proceeding and progressing spiritually, considers everything like trash, even if the whole world is his:
Because, as I say, it is not harmful to have, but to be attached to all that you have.
He then remembered the case of the brother with the greens and questioned:
Didn’t he sew, didn’t he toil, didn’t he cultivate? Did he uproot them and throw them away? No. Nevertheless he had them as if he didn’t have them.
The proof was that when that elder went wanting to test him and he began destroying them, the brother didn’t consider them at all. But when only one root remained he told him:
“If you wish, father, leave this one so that I can make a meal for you.”
Then the saint realized that he was a genuine servant of God and not of the greens and he told him:
“The Spirit of God, brother has rested upon you!”
If however he was attached to the greens it would have been revealed right away, with his grief and disturbance.
And he used to say that if the demons see that someone was cursed or dishonoured or harmed or suffered whatever similar thing and he is grieved not because he suffered unjustly, but because he did not forbear with bravery, they fear, because they know that he entered on the path of truth and he wants to walk according to God’s commandments.
Then he remembered Saint Pachomius who wanted to enlarge the monastery and for this his elder brother scolded him telling him:
“Stop being proud!”
And Saint Pachomius even though he had received a divine revelation about this work, only said:
“I was urged by the idea that it would be good.”
He prevailed over his heart and did not talk back at all. That night he descended to a small cellar and began crying and praying saying:
“O my God, the train of thought of the flesh still lives inside me....O woe unto me!
After so much asceticism and preparation of heart, I am s till grabbed up by anger, even for something good. Have mercy on me so that I am not lost, O Lord”.
With these words he prayed. He remained all night repeating them with tears, until it dawned. And the sweat he shed was so great - because it was summer and the place was aflame - that the traces of his feet became muddy.
Another time he said:
If someone brings to his mind someone who saddened him or harmed him or shamed him or defamed him without reason or did whatsoever other evil to him,
and begins sewing thoughts against him, he is plotting against his own soul, like the demons, and is quite alone for his destruction.
But what do I mean by saying “he is sewing”? If he doesn’t remember him as a doctor and benefactor, he dreadfully does an injustice to his own self!
Why do you say that you are suffering? He is cleansing you and you ought to consider him as a doctor sent by Christ. This in itself furthermore that you are suffering is a sign of a sick soul. If you were not sick you would not be suffering.
And you owe a favour to your brother because through him you learned the course of your illness. You ought consequently to accept all that he is doing to you as therapeutic medicines sent by Jesus.
If however, not only you don’t thank him but are sad and criticize him and sew thoughts against him, it’s as if you are telling Jesus:
“I don’t want to be healed by you! I don’t want your medicines! I want to rot in my wounds! I want to become obedient to the demons!”
This reaction however is destructive and eternal hell for the soul.
Whereas on the contrary the salvation of the soul is the keeping of Christ’s commandments, because these as instruments of cauterization and cleansing medicines cleanse it from evils.
Whoever consequently wants and longs to be healed, it is necessary to forbear all that the doctor imposes.
Furthermore neither is the sick person pleased when he is operated on or cauterized or drinks cleansing medicine. He convinces himself however that without these it is impossible to be delivered from the illness.
So he hands himself over to the doctor knowing that with a little hardship he will escape from much ill feeling and a many year long illness.
Jesus’ cauterizing is whoever harms us.
Take away the temptations and the battle of thoughts and no one becomes holy. “Whoever avoids a beneficial temptation, avoids eternal life”, a certain saint said.
Who caused those crowns to the holy martyrs, if not whoever treated them unjustly? Who became cause for Saint Stephen to be given such glory, if not whoever stoned him?
We must realize one thing: That no one says the truth as much as those who criticize us.
The Lord knows, “who examines hearts and kidneys” (Psalms 7, 10), that if all people praise and bless all my deeds, in reality they are worth blame and “the spitting of shame” (s. 1:6).
Whereas if they say, “you did this and this evil”,
I will say, “but maybe did I do any good as well?”
Because no one is lying as much as they who are praising me and blessing me. And no one is as truthful, as those who blame me and humiliate me as I said earlier.
And again they are not telling the whole truth:
Because if they could see, (I don’t say the ocean, but) even a certain portion of my evils, they would reject the impurity, the filth and the stench of my soul.
If the bodies of people become tongues, to mock us, I am certain that again no one would be able to describe our dishonour. Because each one who is criticizing me, is saying only one part. It is impossible for him to know everything.
If the just Job said, “I am full of dishonour” (Job 10:15), and the “full”, does not allow any addition - what can we who are an ocean of all the evils say? The devil humbled us in every type of sin.
We ought nevertheless to be grateful to God that we were thus humbled:
Whoever is grateful because they were humbled crush the devil, since as the fathers said, if humility descends to hades, it is lifted up to heaven and if pride is lifted up to heaven it is drowned to hades.
Furthermore who can supposedly convince the humble person to sew thoughts against someone or to criticize him or even to forbear reproach against his neighbour? Whatever the humble person hears he gains cause to criticize him and curse his own self.
And he brought the abba Moses as an example, when the clergymen chased him away from the sacred altar telling him:
“Go out, you Arab!”
And he began speaking against himself:
“Impure black person! They did well to you! Since you are not a human why do you wish to go with humans?”
Truly, Abba Zosimas added, whoever longs for the true straight path, strictly scolds his own self when he is shaken up, and censures himself ceaselessly:
“Why are you enraged my soul? Why are you shaken up and foaming?”
In this manner you show that you are ill. If you were not ill you would not be hurting! Because, instead of reproaching your own self, are you blaming your brother, who revealed your illness?
Learn truly and in action Christ’s commands, “who when he was cursed did not curse, and when he was suffering did not threaten” (1 Peter 2:22).
Listen to Him saying and in action showing it: “I gave my back whippings, my chins to slaps, my face I did not turn back from the shame of the spittings” (Is. 1:6).
And you, wretched soul, for one curse and insult, hand yourself over to the sewing of a thousand and two thoughts and thus you plot against your own self, like the demons.
We see the cross of Christ. His passions which he underwent for us we read each day. And nevertheless we won’t forbear any insult... Now we have strayed from the straight path.
Once they asked him:
“How can one when he is being spoken evil of and humiliated not get angry?”
And he answered:
“Whoever considers himself nothing like, doesn’t get shaken up as Abba Poimen also said: “If you humiliate your own self, you will find rest”.
One of the brothers who lived with me and received from me the monastic habit, tells me one day:
“My Abba, I love you a lot.”
“I have not yet found someone who loves me as I love him. Here now you say “I love you”. I believe it. If however something happens which you don’t like, you yourself will not stay. Whereas I, no matter what I suffer from you cannot depart out of love for you.
A long time didn’t pass and I don’t know what happened to him. He began to say many things against me, even lewd words. I was learning all of them and saying to my own self:
“He is a cauterizer of Jesus, who was sent to heal my vainglorious soul.
From some people like these one can end up gaining if he is in spiritual wakefulness, just as from those who praise he is harmed. He is my true benefactor”!
Furthermore I was saying to the messengers:
“He only knows my manifest evils, and of these not all of them, but only a small part. The hidden things however are innumerable.”
After a while he met me in Caesarea. He came according to his custom, hugged me and kissed me all over and I him as if nothing had happened.
(Because even while he was saying all these things, when he would meet me and give me a heartfelt hug. And I would show him not hesitance or the slightest sign of bitterness, even though I was learning everything).
So this time he fell at my feet and told me:
“Forgive me, my abba, for the Lord’s name, because I said many dreadful things against you.”
And I kissing him answered kidding:
“Does your god - lovingness, father remember the saying which you once told me?
So let your heart be informed that I am not ignorant of all you have said, but I learned all of them both where and to whom you said them.
I never said however that it is not thus, nor did anyone convince me to say anything against you. I did not ever omit to commemorate you in my prayers and I will bring you a mark of love:
Once my eye was hurting a lot. Then I brought you to my mind and crossing it I said: “Lord, Jesus Christ, with the prayers of the brother, heal me”. And immediately I was healed!
Then the blessed one remembered a certain very meek Abba, who for his great virtue and the wondrous signs he performed, the whole country honoured him as an angel of God:
One day a certain person went urged by the devil and gravely swore at him in front of everyone. The elder was standing paying attention to him in the mouth and saying:
“The Grace of God in your mouth brother.”
“Yes, defiled, elder glutton! ... and he continued enraged.
These things you are saying to seem meek to the others.”
“Truly, my brother, the elder accepted, “what you are saying is true.”
After the episode someone asked him:
“Didn’t you get shook up at all monk?”
“No! he answered. But I felt as if God were covering my soul.”
When I was at a monastery of Tyre - before going out into the wilderness - a virtuous elder visited us at the time we were reading the “Lives of the holy Elders”.
Reading we reached that ascetic to whom the thieves went and told him:
“We want all you have in your cell.”
And he answered:
“Whatever seems good to you, my children take them.”
So they took everything and left. They only left one hoe. The elder took it right away and ran behind them shouting:
“Children, take what you forgot.”
The thieves then, admiring his revengelessness, returned everything to his cell and repented said between them:
“Truly this man is of God…”
So as soon as we read this, the elder who was visiting us told me:
“You know, my Abba, this event benefited me a lot.”
“How, father?” I asked him.
And he related to me:
“Once when I was staying at the area of the Jordan, I read it, admired the elder and was saying:
“Lord, You who granted me to come to the habit of those holy elders, grant me to follow their steps also”.
So as I had this longing, two days later thieves arrived. As soon as they knocked on the door and I realized that they were thieves, I said:
“Glory to God, now it’s time for me to show the fruit of my longing”.
I opened and received them joyously. I lit a lantern and began to show them the things saying:
“Don’t worry. I believe that with the Lord’s grace I will not hide anything from you.”
“Do you have gold?” They asked me.
“Yes, I have three coins.”
And I opened a box before them. They took them and left in peace.
Then I - continued Abba Zosimas - jokingly told him:
“Did they return as with the elder?”
Right away he answered me:
“May God not give it, because I did not want them to return.”
The blessed Sergios related the following to me:
We were once walking with a holy elder and lost the road:
Without knowing where we were going, we ended up in a sewn field and by mistake stepped on some sewn seeds. As soon as the farmer realized it, he got very angry and began swearing at us:
“Are you monks? If you feared God you wouldn’t have done this!”
Then the saint told us:
“For the Lord’s name, don’t anyone speak.”
And he meekly told the farmer:
“You are speaking correctly my child! If we had fear of God we would not have done it.”
He however continued swearing enraged.
The elder again admitted:
“You are right, if we were real monks we would not have done you any harm! But for the Lord, forgive us, please, that we sinned.”
Then amazed he threw himself at the elder’s feet saying:
“Forgive me, you, Abba, for the Lord and take me with you.”
And the blessed Sergios assured me:
“Truly he followed us and received the monastic habit.”
And Abba Zosimas stressed:
This is what after God meekness and the sincere admission of the saint achieved. To save a soul created in “God’s image” which the Lord prefers more than millions of worlds with all their goods!…
A beloved brother related the following to me:
We had a lot of love with a certain deacon of the lavra of Abba Gerasimos of the Jordan:
Once however, without knowing for what reason, he began acting coldly towards me. I asked him to learn the cause and he told me. “You did this and this”.
I assured him that nothing like this occurred, but he answered me:
“Forgive me, but I won’t be convinced that it is as you say.”
Returning to my cell I began investigating my conscience if I had done something like this, but I couldn’t find anything.
The coldness however with the deacon continued. Then I remembered the words of the holy Fathers and turning my thought a bit I told myself:
“The deacon loves me genuinely and for this reason he took the courage to reveal to me what his heart had for me, so that I wouldn’t do it again.
But you wretched soul say. “I didn’t do this”.
You have committed a million evils and have forgotten them. Where are whatever you did yesterday or ten days ago? Do you remember them? And so you did this, like those, and forgot it, like those.”
With such a thought I got up and went to do a prostration to him. I knocked on the door. As soon as he opened however, he first did a prostration to me saying:
“Forgive me, brother, because the demons deceived me and I suspected you unjustly for that case. God informed me however that you were truly innocent.”
And he didn’t allow me to tell him anything, insisting that there is no reason any more.
He admired the compassion of the saints even to those who treated them unjustly and related the following didactic event, as a certain abbot described it:
Near our place a certain elder practiced asceticism with a most good soul. Once when he was absent, a certain neighbour monk of his went to his cell and took all his vessels and books.
When the elder returned and didn’t find his belongings, he went unsuspectingly to tell the brother. So he finds there all his vessels in the middle, because the other one had not managed to hide them.
The elder not wishing to shame him nor to censure him, pretended that his stomach hurt him and he quickly went to the restroom, till the brother could hide the vessels.
When the elder returned, he began discussing about other topics and about his theft he did not mention anything to him.
After a few days however others recognized the stolen vessels and put the thief in jail, without the elder himself learning of it.
When later on he was informed that the brother is in jail, he was greatly saddened. He did not know however for what reason he was put in jail. So he came to me - continues the abbot - and told me:
“Do love, Abba, give me a few eggs and a little white bread.”
“Of course you must have a certain person for hospitality today, I told him.
“Yes, he answered me.
In reality he wanted them to take them to jail to console the brother a little. As soon as he saw him, he fell at his feet telling him:
“For you I am here, Abba, because I stole your belongings. But here, your book is at such a person, your cloak at such a person…”
“May your heart be informed, child, the elder told him, that I did not come here for this reason. Nor did I even learn at all that you are in jail on my account,
but when I heard that you are here, I was saddened and came to console you - here look at both the eggs and the bread - now however that I learned it, I will do everything, until I get you out of jail.
Truly he went and beseeched a few powerful people - who knew him for his virtue - and they sent and freed him.
They used to say again about the same elder that he once went to the market and he bought a cloak. He gave a golden coin and had to add a few more coins. He sat on the cloak and began counting them on the counter.
At that moment he felt that someone was trying to steal the cloak from him:
As soon as the elder realized it - being compassionate to the extreme - little by little he was getting up, supposedly so as to reach the coins on the counter, until the other one took the cloak and left.
And the blessed Zosimas used to say:
“How much value had the vessels or the cloak he lost? But his disposition was great. The proof is that even when they took them from him, he himself remained: neither saddened, nor disturbed.
So let us also struggle brethren, to imitate the holy Fathers, until we bring spiritual fruits and thus to gain the eternal goods , in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be the glory and the dominion with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever and unto the ages of ages”