Little Davey: Teacher of Basic Virtues—Simplicity, Kindness, Warmth, and Forgiveness
While the goal of the Christian life—or life in general—is the same for everyone, the direction provided by a trusted and experienced guide along the often thorny path toward that goal is as unique as is the Christian pilgrim on the journey. I offer this as a preface to the following blog entry because it is unwise to try to universalize the spiritual direction given to one person according to their particular need at the moment, applying it to all sojourners along the way. Nevertheless, there is a principle contained in the following account that will certainly, in some sense, benefit us all.
ot too many years ago, a young monastic aspirant went to Mount Athos. In talking with the venerable abbot of the monastery where he wished to stay, he told him, “Holy Father! My heart burns for the spiritual life, for asceticism, for unceasing communion with God, for obedience to an elder. Instruct me, please, Holy Father, that I may attain spiritual advancement.”
Going to the bookshelf, the abbot pulled down a copy of David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. “Read this, son,” he said.
“But, Father!” objected the disturbed aspirant. “This is heterodox Victorian sentimentality, a product of the Western captivity! This isn’t spiritual; it’s not even Orthodox! I need writings which will teach me spirituality!”
The abbot smiled, saying, “Unless you first develop normal, human, Christian feelings and learn to view life as little Davey did—with simplicity, kindness, warmth, and forgiveness—then all the Orthodox spirituality and Patristic writings will not only be of no help to you—they will turn you into a spiritual monster and destroy your soul.”
Monk Damascene Christensen, Not of This World: The Life and Teachings of Father Seraphim Rose, Pathfinder to the Heart of Ancient Christianity (Forestville, CA: Father Seraphim Rose Foundation, 1993) pp. 894-5.