Is Every Elderly Monk Automatically a Spiritual Guide? - Orthodox Answers

"Against whom that reproof of the Lord is specially aimed by the prophet: 'Strangers have devoured his strength and he knew it not: yea, grey hairs also are spread about him, and he is ignorant of it.'"

Originally appeared at: Nicodemos Hagiorite

Excerpted from "The Conferences" of St. John Cassian.

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Abba Moses the Ethiopian of Scete revealed:

"Just as all young men are not alike in fervor of spirit, nor equally instructed in learning and good morals, so too we cannot find that all of the elders are equally perfect and excellent. For the true riches of the Elders are not to be measured by gray hairs but by their diligence in youth and the rewards of their past labors. 'For,' says one, 'the things that thou hast not gathered in thy youth, how shall thou find them in thy old age? For venerable old age is not that of long time, nor counted by the number of years: but the understanding of a man is gray hairs, and a spotless life is old age.'

And therefore we are not to follow in the steps or embrace the traditions and advice of every elder whose is covered with gray hairs, and whose age is his sole claim to respect, but only of those whom we find to have distinguished themselves in youth in an approved and praiseworthy manner, and to have been trained up not on self-assurance but on the traditions of the Elders.

For there are some, and unhappily they form the majority, who pass their old age in a lukewarmness which they contracted in youth, and in sloth, and so obtain authority not from ripeness of their character but simply from the number of their years. Against whom that reproof of the Lord is specially aimed by the prophet: 'Strangers have devoured his strength and he knew it not: yea, gray hairs also are spread about him, and he is ignorant of it.'

These men, I say, are not pointed out as examples to youth from the uprightness of their lives, nor from the strictness of their profession, which would be worthy of praise and imitation, but simply from the number of their years; and so the subtle Enemy uses their gray hairs to deceive the younger men, by a wrongful appeal to their authority, and endeavors in his cunning craftiness to upset and deceive by their example those who might have been urged into the way of perfection by their advice or that of others; and drags them down by means of their teaching and practice either into a baneful indifference, or into deadly despair."

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