As the two monks emerged from the mid-morning liturgical assembly, they could feel the heat of the Egyptian sun which brought fatigue, especially on this day of fasting. Following their daily schedule, the two men—an abba (spiritual father) and his disciple—sat to weave flax mats and dialogue about the abba’s homily.
“Abba Stefanos,” inquired the younger monk, “May I engage you on your meditation from this morning?”
“Yes,” the Abba replied, “you are my son as well as my friend and your queries are always welcomed as we struggle to worship in spirit and truth.”
“Thank you, father. I appreciated how you likened the parable of the vineyard to our monastic calling and labor here along the Nile. My heart was stirred as you described the philosophy and essence of our work now and in the future. But I do have some questions that are historical in nature.”
“My son, given your past studies and keen interest in the history of our community, this comes as no surprise. Please go on.”
“Father, I think it was excellent that you narrated the history of the first monks that came here from the Northern regions and how they sacrificed and endured many difficulties. Though the Northern monks are no longer the majority among us, we acknowledge their important contribution. You described their special labor at the monastery, how they prefer to organize themselves, and how they are beginning to approach their work in the future.”
“That is correct, my son. Please go on and do tell me what is really on your mind.”
“Abba Stefanos, my concern is that here in Upper Egypt, our community comes from all over—the North, South, East, and West. Though some Northern monks prefer to eat, worship, and labor together, many of them are now quite integrated with the others and this appears to be an irreversible trend. As you know, many of the working teams of flax weavers, farmers, and calligraphers are made up of monks from all over. In light of this reality, is it wise to emphasize the future practice of just one segment of laborers as if they work in isolation from the rest? Can we consider revising the manner in which we record our history of monastic labor and certainly the vocabulary that we use to talk about the future?
“My son, these are good questions. As the hour of prayer is upon us, let us seek the Almighty for wisdom, and let’s talk again tomorrow.”