The un-judging monk

by abbamoses

Holy Trinity Monastery, Meteora, Greece

Teach me to see my own sins, and not to judge my brother — from the Lenten prayer of Saint Ephrem the Syrian

Following is a re-telling of a story that I came across years ago in some patristic source (the Philokalia?) which I now can’t recall. Perhaps a commenter will know the source of the story.

A monastery was once burdened with a very difficult monk. He did hardly any work. He rarely came to the services. He lied. He stole food. He drank in his cell. He was a constant trial to all the other brethren.

Eventually the monk died and, with some relief, the brethren buried him.

Not long afterward, the Abbot of the monastery had a dream in which he saw the departed monk in Paradise. The Abbot said to him, “You? How is it that you, of all monks, are now in Paradise?”

The monk answered, “As many as my sins were, throughout my life I never judged anyone. It is written, Judge not, lest ye be judged. Since I judged not, I have been spared judgment.”

The abbot awoke and told the brethren of his encounter. All were filled with compunction.


Update: I found a reference to this story in the Prologue of Ohrid by St Nikolai Velomirovich. It turns out that the un-judging monk is commemorated in the Menaion! In my telling above I hope I got the main point right, but I got many details wrong; so here is St Nikolai’s (much better) entry for him (commemorated March 30):

Commemoration of a Monk who died joyfully and never judged anyone in his life

This monk was lazy, careless, and lacking in his prayer life; but throughout all his life he did not judge anyone. When dying, he was happy. When the brethren asked him how it was that with so many sins he could die joyfully, he replied: “I now see angels who are showing me a page containing my numerous sins. I said to them, ‘Our Lord said: Judge not, and ye shall not be judged (Luke 6:37). I have never judged anyone, and I hope in the mercy of God that He will not judge me.’” And the angels tore up the paper. Upon hearing this the monks were astonished and learned from it.