Saint Dorotheus, Egyptian Hermit

“Saint Dorotheus, Egyptian Hermit, a native of the Thebaid region in Egypt, labored in asceticism for 60 years in the Skete desert, on the Western side of the River Nile. Palladius, Bishop of Helenopolis and author of the renowned LAUSIAC HISTORY, had been a disciple of St Dorotheus in his youth, and has preserved memories of him.
St Dorotheus led a austere and ascetic life. After finishing his prayers, he went into the noonday heat to gather stones along the seashore to build cells for the other hermits. By night the saint wove baskets, in exchange for which he received the supplies he needed in order to live.
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Food for St Dorotheus consisted of bread and the meager grass in the wilderness. Once a day he partook of food and drank a little water. He did not lie down to sleep, but only dozed off sometimes at work, or after eating.
Once, St Dorotheus sent his disciple to fetch water, but he returned saying that he saw a snake in the well and that the water in the well was now poisoned. St Dorotheus went to the well himself, took up a ladle of water, and making the Sign of the Cross over it he drank it, saying: “Where the Cross is, there the demonic powers do no harm.” St Dorotheus died peacefully at an advanced age.”
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“Dorotheus of Gaza (505-565 or 620, alternative spelling Dorotheos) or Abba Dorotheus, was a Christian monk and abbot. He joined the monastery Abba Serid (or Abba Sveridus) near Gaza through the influence of elders Barsanuphius and John. Around 540 he founded his own monastery nearby and became abbot there. He wrote instructions for monks of which a considerable number have survived and have been compiled into Directions on Spiritual Training. Abba Dorotheus (St. Dorotheus the Hermit of Kemet) is recognized as a saint by the Eastern Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church with his Feast Day on June 5 in the Roman Catholic Church and June 18 (June 5 old style) in Churches of Eastern Orthodox tradition.”
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“Do not wish for everything to be done according to your determination, but wish that it is how it should be, and in this way, you will attain peace with everyone. And believe that everything that happens to us, even the most insignificant, occurs through God’s Providence. Then you will be able to endure everything that comes upon you without any agitation.
Overyone that desires salvation must not only avoid evil, but is obliged to do good, just as it says in the Psalm: “Depart from evil and do good” (Psalm 34:14). For example, if somebody was angry, he must not only not get angry, but also become meek; if somebody was proud, he must not only refrain from being proud but also become humble. Thus, every passion has an opposing virtue: pride — humility, stinginess — charity, lust — chastity, faintheartedness — patience, anger — meekness, hatred — love.
Who resembles a person who satisfies his passions? He is like a person who, after being struck down with his enemy’s arrows, then takes them with his hands and pierces his own heart with them. He who opposes passions is like a person that is showered with his enemy’s arrows, but remains untouched because he is dressed in steel. One who has eradicated his passions, is like a person that although under a torrent of arrows, either shatters them or returns them into the hearts of his enemies — just as the Psalm states: “Their sword shall enter their own heart, and their bows shall be broken” (Psalm 37:15).
When God created man, He planted something divine into him — a certain conception — a spark that has both light and warmth. The conception that enlightens the mind and indicates what is right and what is wrong is called conscience. Conscience is a natural law. Living in times before any written law, patriarchs and saints pleased God by following the voice of their conscience.
Not only should we observe moderation with food, but we must also abstain from every other sin so that just as we fast with our stomach, we should fast with our tongue. Likewise, we should fast with our eyes i.e. not look at agitating things, not allow your eyes freedom to roam, not to look shamelessly and without fear. Similarly, arms and legs should be restrained from doing any evil acts.
It is impossible for anyone to get angry with his neighbor without initially raising himself above him, belittling him and then regarding himself higher than the neighbor.
When we suffer something unpleasant from our best friend, we know that he did not do it intentionally and that he loves us. We must think likewise of God, Who created us, for our sake incarnated, and died for our sake having endured enormous suffering. We must remind ourselves that He does everything from His goodness and from His love for us. We may think that while our friend loves us, in not having sufficient good sense in order to do everything correctly, he therefore involuntarily hurt us. This cannot be said of God because He is the highest wisdom. He knows what is good for us and accordingly, directs everything for our benefit, even in the smallest things. It can also be said that although our friend loves us and is sufficiently sensible, he is powerless to help us. But this certainly cannot be said of God, because to Him everything is possible and nothing is difficult for Him. Consequently, we know that God loves us and shows clemency toward us, that He is eternally wise and omnipotent. Everything that He does, He does for our benefit, and we should accept it with gratitude as from a Benefactor, even though it may appear to be grievous.
Let us examine as to why a person sometimes gets annoyed when he hears an insult, and other times he endures it without getting agitated. What is the reason for this contrast? And is there one reason or are there several? There are several reasons, although they are all born from a main one. Sometimes it happens that after praying or completing a benevolent exercise, the person finds himself in a kind spiritual disposition and therefore, is amenable to his brother and doesn’t get annoyed over his words. It also happens that a person is partial to another, and as a consequence, endures without any annoyance, everything that the individual inflicts upon him. It also happens that a person may despise the individual who wants to insult him, and therefore ignores him.
Know that if a person is oppressed by some thought and he does not confess it (to his spiritual father), he will give the thought more power to oppose and torment him. If the person confesses the oppressive thought, if he opposes and struggles with it, instilling into himself the desire for the opposite to the thought, then the passion will weaken and will eventually cease to plague him. Thus with time, in committing himself and receiving assistance from God, that person will conquer the passion itself.
I heard of one person that when he came to one of his friends and found the room in disarray and even dirty, he would say to himself: “Blessed is this person, because having deferred his concerns for earthly cares, he has concentrated his mind that much toward Heaven, that he doesn’t even have time to tidy up his room.” But when he came to another friend’s place and found his room tidy and neat, he would say to himself; “The soul of this person is as clean as his room, and the condition of the room speaks of his soul.” And he never judged another that he was negligent or proud, but through his kind disposition, saw good in everyone and received benefits from everyone. May the good Lord grant us the same kind disposition, so that we too may receive benefits from everyone and so that we never notice the failings of others.”

For further spiritual directions of St Dorotheos, see
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See further:
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Eric P. Wheeler (trans) “Dorotheos Of Gaza: Discourses and Sayings” (Cistercian Studies Series, No 33)[Cistercian Publications, 1977]

A shrewd observer, a master psychologist, an accomplished raconteur, Dorotheos is also a learned man with a prodigious capacity for assimilating in an organized harmony the wisdom of his precedessors in the life of the Spirit. Yet he is far more interested in humbly serving his brethren than in discoursing about the recondite aspects of the hescyhast experience. His genial candor makes him the ideal spiritual master to introduce modern readers to the rich spiritual universe of the deserts of Egypt, Palestine, and Syria.

Abba Dorotheos. Practical Teaching on the Christian Life (Includes CD) Translated by Constantine Scouteris (2005) See
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Translation, introduction and glossary by Professor Constantine Scouteris

The practical teaching of Abba Dorotheos of Gaza, creates a challenge for man in the modern age. Today, we are accustomed to a way of life where our pursuit for opulence renders our world outlook inadequate to comprehend the value and importance of ascecis, of bodily toil and frugality. To a great extent, we have adapted the Gospel to a level which suits our own worldly pursuits. Thus, we tend to reject the words of a holy man such as Abba Dorotheos who had dedicated his life to the teaching of the Gospel, the unconditional love for God, for fellow human beings and for the world.

The works of other publishers and translators dealing with the work of St. Dorotheos of Gaza were taken into consideration in the preparation of the footnotes. The quotations for the Holy Scriptures are from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible with the exception of some when there was a significant difference from the Septuagint used by Dorotheos. To assist the English reader the numbering used has been adapted in the English translation based on the Hebrew text, rather than the Septuagint text.

This work is offered to the English speaking reader with the profound hope that wisdom according to God and the practical words of holy Abba Dorotheos will be able to uphold those who seek a genuine Christian way of life. The practical teachings of St. Dorotheos of Gaza present the ascetic way of monastic life, as it was practiced in the communities in the desert of Palestine, during the sixth century. These teachings were Lessons or Instructions originally given for the edification of the brothers of the monastic community, in which St. Dorotheos was the Abbot. Although the Lessons were offered in a particular historical and cultural context, they also have an application today, to all those who seek a genuine way of Christian life.

The CD-ROM is a supplementary instrument to the book. It offers:

• Visual material, namely some images of famous Monasteries which were founded in the wider area of St. Dorotheos’ monastic community, in or prior to the sixth century
• The English translation of the text of St. Dorotheos placed parallel to the Greek original, in order to facilitate scholars seeking a more profound study, and
• A narration of the English translation, to cover the needs of people who are visually impaired.

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