Friday, October 29, 2010

What You Leave Behind

Rumours were spreading that Abba Isaac is dying. His disciples gathered from far and wide to bid farewell to their teacher who have enriched their lives. They gathered inside the same old thatched hut beneath the great sand dune in the Egyptian desert where Abba Isaac had lived most of his life alone as a hermit before he started to spiritually form his disciples. A well which supplied life giving water was still there near the hut.  The arriving disciples drank deep of the cool water which also brought back memories of their time with Abba Isaac. The hut is actually a simple lean-to. There was no furniture as long as the disciples could remember. Abba Isaac sat on a piece of cloth which serves as his seating mat in the daytime and his bed at night. The only other thing in the hut aside from the body of Abba Isaac was his well thumbed and dog-eared Bible.

“Your holiness,” one disciple greeted another, “I did not know that you are a disciple of Abba Isaac. I heard you are building another palace in Rome. What is the news from the Vatican?” “Your eminence, the news from Rome is good,” replied the other disciple, “congratulations to your promotion to the Most Right Canon of the Church of the Cold and Rainy Isles.” “It is God’s will that I take over leadership of the church. Ah, here’s Ah Beng. How are you dear brother?” The disciples embraced each other, the finery of the clothing and accessories of the first two disciples contrasted sharply with the simple garb of Abba Ah Beng’s monk robe. Another disciple appeared and was greeted joyfully even though he was wearing only a loin cloth. It is Abba Anthony who chose to live as a hermit in a tomb. “How is Abba Isaac?” asked Abba Anthony looking at the still frail figure on the mat. “Not good. The doctors said he could go anytime” answered one of the disciples. “I am going miss him,” whispered Abba Ah Beng watching the gradually slowing breathing of the man on the mat. “Without him, I will not be who I am today,” continued Abba Ah Beng thinking of his loin cloth and Sow Lin Monastery.

“Which of his disciples do you think Abba Isaac will consider his most successful disciple?” asked the disciple who was addressed as his holiness. “You, of course,” promptly answer the disciple who is the Most Right Canon. “Must be both of you,” commented Abba Ah Beng, “for you are both powerful, rich and famous.” “Obviously, not me as I have renounced the world and survived on alms given by the villagers,” said Abba Anthony. There was silence as the impact of what they have said sunk into them. As one, they look at Abba Isaac.

The old man had a sallow pale complexion and was extremely emaciated. They could make out the outline of his ribcage. As they watched each breath became shallower and shallower. At times the disciples could not see any breathing movement.

“I shall build a cathedral in his name,” declares the disciple who was addressed as his holiness. “Abba Isaac’s legacy will be in churches and feasts observed in his name.”

“I shall establish a seminary in his name and build a statue of him in the courtyard. Future generations of theological students will walk pass him everyday on their way to classes,” said the Most Right Canon. “We will publish all his teachings so that scholars can study them.” Abba Anthony said, “I am the most sorry of this great man’s legacy because I have nothing but myself. Even then, I am a sorry example of manhood, being beset by guilt, unholy desires and attachment to things. My only consolation is that I am a sinner saved by grace.”

“I want to have a relic from Abba Isaac for my monastery. I shall enclose it in a golden receptacle and place it on an altar in the main worship hall,” said Abba Ah Beng thoughtfully. “Maybe I should take his right forefinger as that was what he frequently used to wag at me,” thought Abba Ah Beng as he reached instinctively to touch Abba Isaac’s hand.

“Aahhh!” shouted Abba Isaac suddenly, jumping up into a sitting position. “Wah!” yelled the disciples simultaneously. “We thought you were dead!” said Abba Anthony breathlessly.

“Dead!” glared Abba Isaac, “can’t a man sleep in peace without his disciples burying him?”

Reflection Questions
  1. When we think of legacies to leave behind we usually think of physical legacies such as properties and wealth. What are the other types of legacies we can leave behind?
  2. What are some of the spiritual legacies we can leave behind?
  3. How can we ensure that the legacies we leave behind will endure and have eternal value?

Dear God,
We confess that we are much too attached to this world and the things of this world. Often when we think of legacies, we think only of physical ones. Help us now to invest in and develop spiritual legacies that will be of value eternally. May we devote all our mind, might, passion, energy and emotions to pursuing these spiritual legacies.


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