A Word from the Desert
A layman of devout life came to see Abba Poemen. Now it happened that there were other brethren with the old man, asking to hear a word from him. The old man said to the faithful secular, "Say a word to the brothers." When he insisted, the layman said, "Please excuse me, abba; I myself have come to learn." But he was urged on by the old man and so he said, "I am a secular. I sell vegetables and do business. I make bundles into pieces, and make smaller ones; I buy cheap and sell dear. What is more, I do not know how to speak of the Scriptures, so I will tell you a parable. A man said to his friends, `"I want to go to see the emperor. Come with me." One friend said to him, "I will go with you half the way." Then he said to another friend, "Come and go with me to the emperor," and he said to him, "I will take you as far as the emperor's palace." He said to a third friend, "Come with me to the emperor." He said, "I will come and take you to the palace and I will stay and speak and assist you to approach the emperor."' They asked the layman what was the point of the parable. He answered them, "The first friend is asceticism, which leads the way; the second is chastity which takes us to Heaven; and the third is almsgiving which with confidence presents us to God our King." And the brethren went away edified.