for the pipe and the lyre and all the varieties of music which used to delight me at dinner

Wonderful story from The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks by Benedicta Ward:

There once came from the city of Rome a monk who had held a high place in the palace. He lived near the church in Scetis, and had with him a servant to take care of him. The priest of the church saw that he was weak and knew that he was used to comfort: and so he passed on to him whatever the Lord gave to him or to the church. After he had lived in Scetis for twenty-five years, he became well known as a man of prayer who had the spirit of prophecy. One of the great Egyptian monks heard of his reputation and came to see him in the hope that he would find there a more austere way of life. He came into his cell and greeted him; after they had prayed they sat down. But the Egyptian saw he had soft clothing, and a bed of reeds, and a blanket under him, and a little pillow under his head, and clean feet with sandals, and he was inwardly contemptuous. In Scetis they never used to live like this, but practised sterner austerity. But the old Roman, with his gift of prayer and insight, saw that the Egyptian monk was shocked to the core. So he said to his servant: ‘Make us a good meal today, for this abba who has come.’ He cooked the few vegetables that he had, and they ate at the proper hour: he had a little wine because of his weakness, and they drank that. In the evening they said twelve psalms, and went to sleep afterwards; they did the same in the night. In the morning the Egyptian got up and left, and saying, ‘Pray for me,’ he went away, not at all impressed. When he had gone a little way the old Roman wanted to heal his mind, and sent after him and called him back. He said: ‘What is your province?’ He answered, ‘I am an Egyptian.’ He said, ‘Of what city?’ He answered, ‘Of no city, I never lived in a city.’ He said, ‘Before you were a monk, how did you earn your living?’ He answered, ‘I was a herdsman.’ He said to him, ‘Where did you sleep?’ He answered, ‘In the fields.’ He said, ‘Had you a mattress?’ He answered, ‘Why should I have a mattress for sleeping in a field?’ He said, ‘So how did you sleep?’ He replied, ‘On the ground.’ He said, ‘What did you eat when you were in the fields? What wine did you drink?’ He answered, ‘What kind of food and drink do you find in a field?’ He said, ‘How then did you live?’ He answered, ‘I ate dry bread, and salt fish if there was any, and I drank water.’ Then the Roman said, ‘A hard life,’ and he added, ‘Was there a bath on the farm where you worked?’ The Egyptian said, ‘No: I washed in the river, when I wanted to.’ When the hermit had extracted these answers, and knew how the Egyptian lived and worked before he became a monk, he wanted to help him: and so he described his own past life in the world. ‘This wretch in front of you came from the great city of Rome, where I had an important post at the palace in the Emperor’s service.’ When the Egyptian heard this first sentence, he was moved, and began to listen attentively. He went on, ‘So I left Rome, and came into this desert. I, whom you see, had great houses and wealth and I scorned them, and came to this little cell. I, whom you see, had beds decked with gold, with costly coverings: and instead of them God gave me this bed of reeds and this blanket. My clothes were rich and expensive: and instead of them I wear these tatters.’ He went on, ‘I used to spend much money on my dinner table and instead of it He has given me these few vegetables and this little cup of wine. Many servants used to wait upon me, and instead the Lord has given one man alone to look after me. Instead of a bath I dip my feet in a little bowl of water, and I use sandals because of my infirmity. For the pipe and the lyre and all the varieties of music which used to delight me at dinner I say twelve psalms in the day, and twelve psalms in the night. For the sins which once I committed, I now offer this poor and useless service to God in quietness. See then, abba, do not be scornful of my weakness.’ When the Egyptian had listened to him, he came to his senses and said, ‘I am a fool. I came from a hard life of labour to be at rest in the monk’s way of life and now I have what I didn’t have before. But you have come of your own accord to this hard life, and have left the comforts of the world; you came from honour and wealth to loneliness and poverty.’ So he went away with much profit; and he became his friend, and used to go to the old man for his soul’s good, for Arsenius (this was his name) was a man of discernment, and full of the fragrance of the Holy Spirit.

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