Good Thoughts

elder paisios painting

When we accept whatever happens to us with a good and positive thought, we are helped; while on the contrary, we are tormented and come apart at the seams emotionally and physically when negative and evil thoughts prevail. Once, years ago, we got on a truck, which had some boards for seats, in order to go from Ouranoupolis (Chalkidiki) to Thessaliniki. The truck’s interior was a mess; suitcases, orange crates, fish, empty and dirty fish crates being returned, students from the Athonias School, some sitting and some standing, monks, lay people… One layman came and sat next to me. He was a little stout, and because he was somewhat squeezed, he began to complain loudly, “What a state!…” A little further inside the truck stood a poor monk surrounded by crates so you could only see his head. In the meantime, as the truck bumped its way along the cart track, the monk had to remain standing and hold on to the wobbling crates to prevent them from falling on him. With all of this going on, the other fellow was complaining of being squeezed a little in his seating arrangements. So I told him, “How can you be complaining when you see what that monk is enduring?” So I asked the monk, “How are you managing, Father?” And with a smile he told me, “Geronda, it’s better here than hell!” One man was tormented, even though he was able to sit, while the other was content to stand, and be virtually buried under all those crates. And this was a two-hour drive, not just a short ride. The layman’s mind was on the comfort he would have had if he were riding a bus, while the monk was thinking of the suffering in hell, and was happy enough to ride in a filthy truck. He was thinking, “We are going to reach our destination in two hours and get out, while the poor people in hell will be tormented forever. After all, there it is hell, and not some unpleasant accommodations. Glory be to God, it is better here.”

From “Spiritual Struggle,” Volume Three of Spiritual Counsels, by Elder Paisios of Mount Athos

Sharing, with Elder Thaddeus

2013921 birds in tree

Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, 1914 - 2003

Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, 1914 – 2003

I always end up going to the women’s book club meetings at church without having read the book. This time I went to order the book club book on Amazon, and Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives, the Life and Teachings of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica was suggested as something I might also like. So I ordered both. And now I’m reading Elder Thaddeus instead of the book club book.

Anyway, here’s a nice little story about Elder Thaddeus:

2013921 beard birdsOnce, Father Thaddeus shared a meal at Vitovnica with a pious visitor from Belgrade. After the meal, the visitor noticed several breadcrumbs in the elder’s beard. When they had both risen from the table, he gently told Fr. Thaddeus that he ought to shake the crumbs from his beard, so that the other visitors would not see them and wonder what kind of monk he was. However, the elder only smiled and said, “It is a pity to throw these crumbs away, when the birds can feast on them!” Then he sat on a bench in the garden, leaned back in his seat, and called to a sparrow sitting on a nearby tree, “Come, little sparrow, come and eat!” The visitor saw with his own eyes how the sparrow flew down and settled on Fr. Thaddeus’ beard, pecking at it until it had eaten the last crumb.