Content Orthodox books that contain many small parables


I'm a really big fan of the stories of the Desert Fathers because they contain many edifying small parables that are easy to read in the context of a busy day. I see some of you on this forum share some edifying stories you got from other sources, could you recommend them in this thread?

Philokalia also has some of these parables, but it's interspersed with a lot of dense treatises and essays (which are really great) but obviously significantly harder to read for that reason.

An example of the format I'm talking about:

14. One of the hermits said, ‘There are some who do good, yet the devil insinuates a mean spirit into them, so that they lose the reward of all the good they do. Once when I was living in Oxyrhynchus with a priest who was generous in almsgiving, a widow came to ask him for a little barley. He said to her, “Go and fetch some, and I will weigh it for you.” She brought him some. But when he weighed the measure she had taken he said, “It is too much,” and so he made the widow ashamed. After she had gone, I said, “Priest, did you lend barley to that widow, or what?” He said, “No; I gave it her.” So I said, “If you wanted to make her a gift, why were you so exact about the measure that you made her ashamed?” ’



"Everyday Saints and Other Stories" By Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov). It's nothing but short stories of saintly people and cautionary tales. About 4 pages each for almost 500 pages. One of the best books I've ever read.
(The person on the cover is not the author but rather a monk who served as a treasurer at a monastery the author lived at.)


"Everyday Saints and Other Stories" By Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov). It's nothing but short stories of saintly people and cautionary tales. About 4 pages each for almost 500 pages. One of the best books I've ever read.
View attachment 31409
(The person on the cover is not the author but rather a monk who served as a treasurer at a monastery the author lived at.)
Currently reading this book right now, after receiving it as a gift from a fellow parishioner. The chapter about Fr. Nathaniel (the treasurer) had me laughing the whole time, what a blessed man.

An excerpt from the book: (Quick background info: young hieromonk wants to go on vacation and is granted permission from the abbot, on the condition he gets money from the treasurer to do so)

"When he saw the paper, father Nathaniel froze as if he was being murdered, and then with a shriek collapsed onto the floor, nervously jerking his arms and legs towards the sky. At this time the soles of his tattered shoes flapped open, and the holes in his weather-beaten long johns underneath his cassock were visible. He then began to scream:
"Help, help, help! Robbery! Thieves! They want money! For vacation! Tired of the Mother of God! Help, help, help! Robbery! Thieves!"
The poor priest was so shocked he couldn't stand up, and so squatted back down. Various foreign tourists who were in the square froze in amazement. Utterly horrified, the young priest dashed off to his cell. Meanwhile, the wise father superior, as he observed the scene from his window, watched with a very contented smile indeed.


The three books by Kyriacos Markides, Mountain of Silence, Gifts from the Desert, and Inner River, include many anecdotes like that. (Though the anecdotes are mixed in with lots of other stuff, and you need to read around the author's liberal opinions about many things.) Here's an example from Inner River:

Fr. Maximos was in a light mood, and he went on sharing more hilarious stories and details from his early life in Cyprus, before he went to Mt. Athos.

“I recall you telling me some time ago that your first impressions of Mt. Athos were not very favorable,” I pointed out.

“Yes! At first, I was terrified by what I saw there and wanted to have nothing to do with that place. I remember during night services at the monastery of Dionysiou, everything was dark, with only one candle lit. Monks stood silently in prayer. I thought that I was in the land of the dead. There seemed to be no life in them. How could I survive in such a place? Those were the first thoughts that crossed my mind. Then out of the darkness, a monk who was praying in front of the icon of the Virgin approached me and whispered in my ear, ‘These monks that you see in prayer are not dead. They are the ones who are truly alive. It is the people on the outside, who live in the world, who are the truly dead.’ Then he walked away. As you can imagine, I was flabbergasted. I had never met that monk before. How did he know what was going on in my mind?”

Fr. Maximos soon realized that many of those very monks he thought were “dead” were filled with joy and inner peace because the Holy Spirit was fully activated within them. He then remembered the case of Elder Enoch, a Romanian Athonite monk whose actions were often hilarious. He described how he had once escorted the elder to Thessaloniki for medical treatment. They were in an apartment building when there was an earthquake that reached 7 on the Richter scale. There was massive destruction. “The apartment building,” Fr. Maximos said, “was shaking like a leaf. Everybody ran out into the parks. I was ready to do the same when I thought of Elder Enoch. I opened his door, and I saw him sitting there praying with his komboschini [knotted rosary]. I said to him, ‘What are you doing? There is an earthquake and we must run out.’ Old Enoch looked at me and said in his broken Greek, ‘Mbre, Enoch den fevgi [Enoch will not leave]. If God wants Enoch to die, Enoch will die. If not, then Enoch lives. Mbre den echis pisti! [You don’t have faith yourself!]’ I could not convince him to leave with me, so I ran out. Everybody was gathered in the street, many of the buildings had collapsed, and all the balconies fell down. Only one structure was still standing in the neighborhood, and that was the building Enoch was in. After the earthquake, he came out on the balcony to watch everybody in the park.”

For Fr. Maximos, old Enoch represented a model of the fool in Christ, one who has total faith and trust in God no matter what happens to him.


"Everyday Saints and Other Stories" By Metropolitan Tikhon (Shevkunov). It's nothing but short stories of saintly people and cautionary tales. About 4 pages each for almost 500 pages. One of the best books I've ever read.
View attachment 31409
(The person on the cover is not the author but rather a monk who served as a treasurer at a monastery the author lived at.)

Am I the only one who didn't like this book afterwards? It was definitely an entertaining easy read, but the impression I had was a lack of seriousness althroughout the book.

If you like the Desert Fathers, you may want to consider investing in the "Evergetinos" (center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies), it's a four volume set (goes for $120) focused on the writings of the desert fathers and monastic theologians, organized by topic.

Other worthy considerations would be "My Life In Christ" (Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville) as it contains short excerpts from the diary of St John of Kronstadt. Here's a few examples.

These hands, that like to take gifts, shall be folded upon the breast and shall take no more; these feet, that like to walk for evil, and that do not like to stand in pprayer, shall be stretched out for ever, and shall not go anywhere more; these eyes, that look enviously upon the prosperity of their neighbour, shall close, their fire shall be dimmed for ever, and nothing shall charm them again ; the hearing, so often open to listen with pleasure to evil speaking and calumny, shall be deadened, and no thunders shall be audible to it. It shall only hear the trumpet raising the dead, when our incorruptible body shall rise, either "unto the resurrection of life or unto the resurrection of damnation" What then, will live in us, even after our death and what should be the object of all our care during our present life? That which we now call the heart, that is, the inward man, our soul; it should be the object of our solicitude. Cleanse your heart during all your life, so that it, or your soul, may be capable of seeing God afterwards; only care for your body and its requirements as much as is necessary for maintaining its health, power, and decency. It will all die; the earth will bear it all away. Strive, therefore, to perfect within you that which loves and hates, that which is calm or disturbed, which rejoices or grieves -- that is, your heart or your inward man, which thinks and reasons through your intellect.

Avoid flattery, audacity, and taking the law into your own hands. Our soul has a passion for doing this when others do something differently to what we would like them to, or do not do what we would like them to. Bear with this ; think how it would be if others revenged themselves upon you immediately after you had done something not in accordance with their will, or after you had not fulfilled that which you might and ought to have done. "As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise" (Luke 6:31) or keep to the rule: "We forgive them that trespass against us." Man is duty personified. We must here remember that our heart is extremely capricious, evil, and follish. Sometimes we take a violent dislike to a person without any cause or reason, and nourish malice in our heart against him, and are ready to offend him without any cause. We must despise the natural and unjust malice of the heart, and pray to God to drive away from our heart this stench of the abyss of hell. Let us remember what we were commanded: "These things I command you that ye love one another." (John 15:17)

As in God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are undivided, so also in prayer and in our life the thought, the word, and the deed ought to be undivided. If you ask anything of God, believe that it will be done in accordance with your request, as God pleases. If you read the Word of God, believe that everything that is spoken of in it was, is, and shall be ; or was done, is being done, and shall be done. Believe thus, speak thus, read thus, and pray thus. Great is the Word; great is the thinking, speaking, and acting soul, the image and likeness of the Almighty Trinity. Man, know yourself! Know what you are, and conduct yourself in accordance with your dignity.

Another book that I really loved was Elder Ieronymos of Aegina (Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Boston), although it's more of a reading of a life of a saint, he has quite a few very good concise teachings. Excerpts below

Fast as you are able, commensurately with your health. Can you life two hundred pounds? Of course not. You lift what you can. Eat oil every day, except Wednesday and Friday. In all things have measure. Only have humility without measure. Do not leave off prayer. No matter how tired you are, you can pray for half an hour. Feed you body as if you were going to live a hundred years, but care for your soul as if she were going to die tomorrow.

Listen! Be careful of your eyes and your eaars. Let them not see and hear unseemly things, because all that you see and hear will come at the time of prayer and will scatter your mind, and will hinder you from being united to God. Likewise in church: we go there to pray. If we are found in church and our mind runs elsewhere, there is no gain. It's like going to the doctor and not listening to his advice. Therefore before we set out for church, we should think for what reason we're going and should endeavor to gather our mind.

Poverty is good. It teaches humility. Whenever I give something, be it a little leaf, a blade of grass, my ego goes before it. But when I am constrained to beg and stretch out my hand to receive from another, then I am humbled.

The day that passes and you do not find Jesus in your heart, in your mind, by prayer-- that day you have lost. It will not return again. Every day find the immaculate feet of Jesus. Take hold of them and lave them with your tears. The day that passes and you do not encounter Jesus, you harvest loss, you gather injury, you remain hungry.

You have to struggle, to increase your zeal for God. It should become for you a daily way of life. Struggle for perfection. If you can't gain a drachma, gain at least a tenth of a drachma. Virtues are not acquired easily. There is need of struggling. And know, that if we acquire virtue quickly, we shall also lost it quickly. Whereas if we acquire it with labor, it doesn't go away.


Bumping this thread, in part because I'm always interested in more suggestions for small Christian stories.

St. Paisios's Spiritual Counsels fall into this category, in my opinion, since the book (in the English edition) is divided into many sections, subsections, and structured like a Q&A. It is very easy to just read a few stories and then digest them overnight. Example

“The spirituality of a person is defined by the quality of his thoughts. One day, three men were sitting in a park chatting. Suddenly, a young man hastily ran by them. When they saw him, they all thought of something.
The first one thought: ‘He must have stolen something, so he is running to escape’. The other one thought: ‘He must be late for his date with some girl that is why he is running.’ And the third one said to himself: ‘Most probably he is a chanter in a church and runs to be on time for the service.”
Three men had three different thoughts for the same person. However, only the last one, who had a positive thought, was benefited, whereas the other two were spiritually harmed.”