Deir el-Muqalik - THEOCTISTUS


At first (Euthymius and Theoctistus) did not want to make the place into a coenobium, but into a laura after the type of Pharan: but, when they realised that nobody would be able to come to the church by night, on account of the inaccessible nature of the site - as I said above - , step by step they built the place into a coenobium, keeping the cave as church. In this cave great Euthymius lived in seclusion, fulfilling the task of healer of souls, as he cured and comforted every one; and no brother was ashamed to open his mind to him. (The holy man), with his great experience, would teach them how to withstand every extraneous thought, saying: "Brothers, struggle (for the aim) for the sake of which you have left the world, and do not neglect your salvation. For you must ‘be sober and watchful’ at every hour <1 Peter 5:8>, as it is written: ‘Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation’ <Matth. 26:41>. First of all be advised of this: those who renounce the worldly life must have no will of their own, but in the first place attain humility and obedience, and always await the hour of death and the awesome day of judgement, and meditate upon it; (they must) fear the menace of the eternal fire and desire the glory of the kingdom of Heaven”. Euthymius used to say also that monks, especially if young, besides keeping watch on their intimate thoughts, must toil physically, remembering the words of the Apostle: ‘We worked night and day, that we might not burden anybody’ <1 Thess. 2:9> and ‘these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me’ <Acts 20:34>. “For it would be absurd that the laymen, by labour and toil, should feed with their work wives and children, offer the first-fruits to God and do good as much as is in their power, and moreover be required (to pay) taxes, and we on the other hand should not provide with our labour even to the inescapable needs of the body, but instead we should enjoy in idleness and sluggishness the fruits of the work of others, especially as the Apostle commands that ‘if any one will not work, let him not eat’ <2 Thess. 3:10>.

These were, therefore, the teachings with which our father Euthymius enlightened the community. Moreover, he prescribed not to talk in church during the divine office, nor in the refectory during the brothers’ meal. And he was displeased whenever he saw a member of the coenobium, especially a young brother, trying to practise abstinence beyond the (rule of the) community; for he used to say that the best kind of abstinence is to partake of food at the hour of the meal, a little less than the body requires, but to watch one’s heart and to wage a secret war against the hidden passions. The weapons of the monk (he said) are meditation, discrimination, temperance and obedience as pleases God. So enlightened and urged by these and similar teachings, the brothers produced fruits worthy of their calling.

(transl. Leah Di Segni)

Euthemius’ teachings and nature of the monastery and church.
Key quotation(s): 
Matth. 26:41; Acts 20:34; 1 Thess. 2:9; 2 Thess. 3:10; 1 Peter 5:8