I have just begun reading Dorotheos of Gaza: Discourses and Sayings by Eric P. Wheeler. Dorotheos is my kind of guy. We know that he was born in Antioch in 506 into a family of some means. His remarks are steeped in Scripture and a love of the Desert Fathers. He is earthy, real and accessible. He was surrounded with many heroes in the faith both before and after entering the monastic life. But this was true of many of the early desert monastics.
Why is Dorotheos my kind of guy? Wheeler’s very thorough introduction shows us a monk who was fond of his friends. Dorotheos will say of himself that, “he loved to be in their company.” Most of our Holy Fathers are not known for holding company and conversation. He was even given a blessing by the wise old man Barsanufius to remain in conversation, if he had no other pressing duties. More than that, we learn that Dorotheos had difficulty giving up his possessions completely, that he was talkative by nature, had difficulty returning to solitude and had to deal with other temptations of the flesh. Sound like anyone you know? Yea, me too.
When I am at peace and in recollection in my cell, I get a message to carry out some special duty. I go and do it, but when it is done I don’t go back to my cell, but stay around on one pretext or another, doing this and that, and I get tied up with things that can well go on without any need for my intervention. Then I get back to my cell in the evening, full of dryness and disgust with the things of the spirit, full of darkness and spiritual sloth and discouragement.
It appeals to me to know that there are real live human beings that struggle with the spiritual life but are faithful and continue to draw close to Christ. Any book that has “Desert Humor and Humility” on the cover is for me. Have you read this book? Do you know about Dorotheos of Gaza? I plan on writing more as I read more about him.