THERE was once a man hunting wild animals in the desert. He saw Abba Anthony chatting lightly with some of the brethren, and was shocked.
The Elder was keen to show him that it is sometimes necessary to empathise* with our brethren. He said to him, “String an arrow in your bow, and put some tension on it”, and the man did so.
“More tension”, and he put more on. And again Anthony said, “More tension”.
But the hunter said to him, “If I put tension on it beyond a certain point, the bow will snap”.
And the Elder said, “It is the same with what God does. If we put tension on our brethren beyond a certain point, we put a pressure on them that shatters them. We must empathise with them from time to time.
From the Sayings of the Desert Fathers.
*συγκαταβαίνω, usually translated “condescend”, but that has a disagreeably patronising connotation in modern English.
O CHRIST, moved by compassion of heart thou didst come forth as our Benefactor, to suffer willingly, desiring to redeem us from our passions, and from the sentence of Hades; wherefore, we raise our hymns to thine honourable Passion, and we all glorify this the pinnacle of thy empathy.
Kathisma (Tone 2) at Compline on Great Monday.