- From the Gospel of Matthew:
Jesus said: “But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. 9 And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father– the one in heaven. 10 Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah”. (Mat 23:8 NRS)
- From the Epistle of St. Paul to Romans:
8 9But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.(…) 14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God (…) 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to God. (Rom 8:9-27 NRS)
For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6 We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7 ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8 the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness. (Rom 12:4 NRS)
15 14I myself feel confident about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another. (Rom 15:14 NRS)
- From the First Epistle of St. Paul to Corinthians
2:1 When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3 And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. 4 My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God. 6 Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. 7 But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him”– 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. 13 And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual. 14 Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny. 16“For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
3:1 And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? 4 For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human? 5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1Corinthians 2:1 – 3:7 NRS)
- From the Sayings of the Desert Fathers
- It was said of Abba Silvanus that at Scetis he had a disciple called Mark whose obedience was great. He was a scribe. The old man loved him because of his obedience. He had eleven other disciples who were hurt because he loved him more than them. When they knew this, the elders were sorry about it and they came one day to him to reproach him about it. Taking them with him, he went to knock at each cell, saying, ‘Brother so and so, come here; I need you,’ but none of them came immediately. Coming to Mark’s cell, he knocked and said, ‘Mark.’ Hearing the old man’s voice, he jumped up immediately and the old man sent him off to serve and said to the elders, ‘Fathers, where are the other brothers?’ Then he went into Mark’s cell and picked up his book and noticed that he had begun to write the letter ‘omega’ [“ω”] but when he had heard the old man, he had not finished writing it. Then the elders said, ‘Truly, Abba, he whom you love, we love too and God loves him.’
- The old men used to say, “If someone has faith in another and hands himself over to him in complete submission, he does not need to pay attention to God’s commandments but he can entrust his whole will to his father. He will suffer no reproach from God, for God looks for nothing from beginners so much as renunciation through obedience.”
- It was said of Abba John the Dwarf, that one day he said to his elder brother, ‘I should like to be free of all care, like the angels, who do not work, but ceaselessly offer worship to God.’ So he took off his cloak and went away into the desert. After a week he came back to his brother. When he knocked on the door, he heard his brother say, before he opened it ‘Who are you?’ He said, ‘I am John, your brother.’ But he replied, ‘John has become an angel, and henceforth he is no longer among men.’ Then the other begged him saying. ‘It is I.’ However, his brother did not let him in, but left him there in distress until morning. Then, opening the door, he said to him, ‘You are a man and you must once again work in order to eat.’ Then John made a prostration before him, saying, ‘Forgive me.’
- They said of Abba Macarius the Great that he became, as it is written, a god upon earth, because, just as God protects the world, so Abba Macarius would cover the faults which he saw, as though he did not see them; and those which he heard, as though he did not hear them.
- A brother in Scetis committed a fault. A council was called to which abba Moses was invited, but he refused to go to it. Then the priest sent someone to him, saying, “Come, for everyone is waiting for you”. So he got up and went. He took a leaking jug and filled it with water and carried it with him. The others came out to meet him and said, ” what is this, father?” The old man said to them, “My sins run out behind me, and I do not see them, and today I am coming to judge the errors of another.” When they heard that, they said no more to the brother but forgave him.
- Some of the monks who are called Euchites went to Enaton to see Abba Lucius. The old man asked them, ‘What is your manual work?’ They said , ‘We do not touch manual work but as the Apostle says, we pray without ceasing.’ The old man asked them if they did not eat and they replied they did. So he said to them “‘When you are eating, who prays for you then?’ Again he asked them if they did not sleep and they replied they did. And he said to them, ‘When you are asleep, who prays for you then?’ They could not find any answer to give him. He said to them, ‘Forgive me, but you do not act as you speak. I will show you how, while doing my manual work, I pray without interruption. I sit down with God, soaking my reeds and plaiting my ropes, and I say “God, have mercy on me, according to your great goodness and according to the multitude of your mercies, save me from my sins.” ‘ So he asked them if this were not prayer and they replied it was. Then he said to them, ‘So when I have spend the whole day working and praying, making thirteen pieces of money more or less, I put two pieces of money outside the door and I pay for my food with the rest of the money. He who takes the two pieces of money prays for me when I am eating and when I am sleeping; so , by the grace of God, I fulfil the precept to pray without ceasing.’
- A brother went to Abba Matoes and said to him, ‘How is it that the monks of Scetis did more than the Scriptures required in loving their enemies more than themselves?’ Abba Matoes said to him, ‘As for me I have not yet managed to love those who love me as I love myself.’
- One day when Abba John the Dwarf was sitting in front of the church, the brethren were consulting him about their thoughts. One of the old men who saw it became a prey to jealousy and said to him, ‘John, your vessel is full of poison.’ Abba John said to him, ‘That is very true, Abba; and you have said that when you only see the outside, but if you were able to see the inside, too, what would you say then?’
- Some brethren came one day to test Abba John the Dwarf to see whether he would let his thoughts get dissipated and speak of the things of this world. They said to him ‘We give thanks to God that this year there has been much rain and the palm trees have been able to drink, and their shoots have grown, and the brethren have found manual work.’ Abba John said to them, ‘So it is when the Holy Spirit descends into the hearts of men; they are renewed and they put forth leaves in the fear of God.’
- It was said of Abba Ammoes that when he went to church, he did not allow his disciple to walk beside him but only at a certain distance; and if the latter came to ask him about his thoughts, he would move away from him as soon as he had replied, saying to him, ‘It is for fear that, after edifying words, irrelevant conversation should slip in, that I do not keep you with me.’
- A brother asked abba Poemen, “How should I behave in my cell in the place where I am living?” He replied, “Behave as if you were a stranger, and wherever you are, do not expect your words to have an influence and you will be at peace.”
- The amma Theodora said that a teacher ought to be a stranger to the desire for domination, vain-glory, and pride; one should not be able to fool him by flattery, nor blind him by gifts, nor conquer him by the stomach, nor dominate him by anger; but he should be patient, gentle and humble as far as possible; he must be tested and without partisanship, full of concern, and a lover of souls.
The third lesson was led by Piotr Sikora and provided a Christian perspective on the teacher-disciple relationship.
In the first part of the meeting, the presenter explained the New Testament view of the teacher–disciple relationship. According to this core Christian set of sources it is only ‘risen Christ’ who can be regarded as THE teacher. All Christians should conceive themselves as co-disciples who may help each other on their way to God, but no one should either regard her/himself as master or should be attached to a particular human person as her/his only master. It is not any particular human teacher, but rather the whole community – which is spoken of as the body of Christ – that is the medium and transmitter of salvific power and wisdom. Personal connections that are modeled as teacher – disciple relationships should not create any divisions within community.
The discussion following the presentation was concerned mainly with the problem of the difference between ‘risen Christ’ and the ‘Spirit of God’, and the role of history (historical Jesus) for Christians. It turned out that there are different strands in Christian tradition – the one for which the historical life and teaching of Jesus are of crucial importance and those downplaying the role of history and focused primarily on the living presence of the risen Christ within every human person and the whole community.
The second part of the session was focused on the Desert Fathers – the strand of Christian tradition for which the teacher–disciple relationship was of crucial importance. One can find some ambiguity in that tradition. On one hand it values almost absolute trust and obedience to the teacher/Father-Abba, on the other hand, the greatest Desert Fathers played his role of masters/Fathers mainly by his way of life and by listening to the disciples – an act enabling the disciple to recognize his true state of soul and proper way of life.
The main outcome of the discussion that followed the second part of presentation was the clearer understanding of the similarities and differences between Christianity and Indic traditions. What turned out was that – on theological level at least – the role of the guru in Hindu and especially Sikh traditions resembles rather the role of Christ in Christianity than the role of Christian human teachers. The other conclusion of the discussion was that what deserves more of our attention is the link between the question of knowledge/wisdom and the question of merging with the Infinite and with the guru/teacher.