ANASTASIAS – THE AWESOME TEACHER
Anastasias was Abbot (superior monk) of a Christian monastery in Egypt, way back in the 8th century. He was a man of prayer who was renowned for his spiritual guidance in his time; in fact, so good were his virtues that he is remembered even to the present day. The monastery prospered under him as a religious centre of learning, and it contained a large collection of books, one among them being a rare volume, worth a great deal of money.
One day, a visiting monk happened to visit this library and chanced upon this precious book. He was a holy man, more in dress rather than in action, and despite his vow of poverty succumbed to the temptation of riches and walked away quietly from the monastery with that valuable work. The theft was discovered the same day, and it was not hard to guess who the culprit might be, as no one else had visited or left that day. But the old and wise Anastasias refused to send anyone after the monk, even though his disciples were ready to go out in hot pursuit. Instead, he explained to them the following,
“You see my dears, if we make bold to catch up with him and gently persuade him to admit to his crime, he may begin weaving all sorts of lies. Then, where will he be? – in a worse state of sin than before! Let’s leave this incident to God’s Will – I am sure that His angels will guide the poor monk to come back to his senses and keep this book safe from harm.”
Of course, the sagacious Anastasias was right, but how this happened is really interesting.
The monk, meanwhile, was trying to sell the book in a nearby bustling town, and eventually found a buyer, a rich merchant, who asked him to leave the book with him for a day so that he could get it evaluated.
When the monk had gone, the man hastened to the monastery and showed the book to Anastasias, who neither withheld his kind advice to any one, nor countenanced any subject outside his purview. The Abbot recognized the book instantly, but was calm; he did not utter a word.
“A monk wants to sell it to me,” said the trader. “He’s asking for a gold sovereign. You are knowledgeable about books. Is this book worth that much?”
“It’s worth much, much more than a sovereign,” said the Abbot. “It’s a valuable book.” And he let the merchant go a happier man.
The man went back to his town, relishing that the book would soon be his and no one less that Abbot Anastasias had recommended it. The next day, when the monk returned, he informed him that he would like to buy the book and was prepared to pay the asked price. He added that he had appraised the value of the book.
The monk was overjoyed. “Whom did you show it to?” he asked.
“Anastasias, the Abbot.”
The customer now turned pale. “And what did he say?”
“He said the book was worth a sovereign.”
“And what else?”
The monk was shocked; he felt giddy. He looked around to check if this was a trap and if he was about to be seized. But it was the same sleepy room in this trader’s house. He realized that the Abbot had refused to reclaim his lost treasure so that he, the thief, would not get into trouble. He was stunned…nobody had ever shown him such love…nobody had ever behaved so nobly towards him.
“I’ve ch-ch-changed my mind, I d-d-don’t want to sell it,” he stuttered, and took the precious book from the perplexed merchant.
“I’ll give you two sovereigns…well, three then,” the bewildered merchant persisted.
But the monk’s senses had become dumb; the inner turmoil was too loud for him to hear any noise outside. He just walked away. He felt God Himself had weaved this incident to teach him a big lesson. He realized that Anastasias was God’s instrument, and now he had to meet him and ask for his compassionate forgiveness - even if it meant being punished or thrown out of the order. But somehow, he doubted if the holy Abbot would do such a thing to him.
He went directly to the monastery and handed the book to the Abbot, his eyes brimming with tears.
“Keep it,” said Anastasias. “When I learnt you had borrowed it, I decided to give it to you.”
“Please take it back,” stammered and pleaded the monk, “but let me stay here and learn God’s wisdom from you.”
Anastasias granted him his wish. The transformed monk spent the rest of his years in the monastery, modeling his life after that of the saintly Anastasias. And Anastasias – he wasn’t too bothered about that book, or any other books for that matter. His wealth lay in the souls under his care. He specially valued the soul of that transformed prodigal son, who returned to God’s ways so sincerely, and who had consecrated his life anew to holiness. And he decided to leave the costly book in pride of place in the library…just in case.
~ Illustrations: Ms. Lyn Kriegler Elliot
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