O is for obedience

Simply coming when you’re asked to seems, at first glance, a bit removed (perhaps even antithetical) to the idea of cultural creativity and cultivation. Though this memorable anecdote from the Desert Fathers recasts obedience as an astonishing, and I’d say creative act—a creative discipline, at least.

They told of the abbot Silvanus that he had a disciple in Scete named Marcus, and that he was of great obedience, and also a writer of the ancient script: and the old man loved him because of his obedience. He had also another eleven disciples, who were aggrieved that he loved him more than them. And when the old men in the neighborhood heard that the abbot loved him more than the rest, they took it ill. So one day the came to him: and the abbot Silvanus took them with him and went out of his cell, and began to knock at the cells of his disciples, one by one, saying, “Brother, come, I have need of thee.” And not one of them obeyed him. He came to Marcus’ cell and knocked saying, “Marcus.” And when he heard the old man’s voice he came straight outside, and the old man sent him on some errand. Then the abbot Silvanus said to the old men, “Where are the other brethren?” And he went into Marcus’ cell, and found a quaternion of manuscript which he had that moment begun, and was making thereon the letter O. And on hearing the old man’s voice, he had not stayed to sweep the pen full circle so as to finish and close the letter that was under his hand. And the old men said, “Truly, abbot, him whom thou lovest we love also, for God loveth him.”


Sayings of the Fathers (Verba Seniorum), Book XIV.v, recorded by St. Athanasius (4th century), translated from the Greek by Pelagius the Deacon and John the Subdeacon (6th century), and from the Latin by Helen Waddell in
The Desert Fathers, 1936

Originally published at culture-making.com.

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