Allow me to introduce you to a story… .a story of ancient Italian origin. I am not the original author of this story. The author is unknown. It is a legendary account written after the death of Saint Francis of Assissi. It is one of many such legendary accounts and it contains both an acknowledgment towards the wisdom of St. Francis and a historically practical proverbial lesson. We can learn something from St. Francis and Elias, his brother in the faith. Here is a retelling, in my own words, of the story of Brother Elias and the Angel….
The silent Franciscan convent was impinged by a rowdy knock. The uninformed traveler besieged the door with his untamed fist. “Our Father” corrected Brother Masseo, “Give only three clear knocks and wait for a brother to reply ‘Our Father’ and then come to let you in.” The traveler asked pardon for his haste and expressed his lengthy journey towards St. Francis with whom he desired to speak…. .a man now abiding in devotions, prayer and the forest. “I will not interrupt him,” said the traveler, “May I speak instead with brother Elias, he full of wisdom?”
Brother Elias pulled a weed. He prayed heated prayers to no one, for who would listen? God? Surely not. The angry soul was venting an anger unjustified and oh how the floral delicacies trembled for fear he should miss a gardener’s beat and pull one of they instead! “Brother Elias, come meet with the traveler.” A grunt over the peony suggested that he would not.
“Brother Elias, a traveler wishes to ask you a question.” There was no cordial… .or rude reply… .no reply at all. The peonies prayed. Brother Masseo regretted at the convent gate, “I am sorry, Brother Elias will not come.” “Will you please ask Brother Francis to order Brother Elias to speak with me,” implored the traveler. Thus went Brother Masseo to Brother Francis who was in the forest among the creature with his eyes lifted to heaven and gave him the traveler’s message.
“Tell him to go,” spoke Brother Francis, “Tell him to be holy and speak with the traveler. The message from Brother Francis was delivered by Brother Masseo to Brother Elias in favor of the traveler and so, Brother Elias went - not joyfully - to speak with the traveler and answer his question. “Can a man eat whatever he is served?” asked the traveler, “Is this a matter of liberty?” He paused, “And, if this is a matter of liberty, are there many such issues of liberty according to the Gospel? And…” another pause, “is it lawful for anyone to teach contrary to liberty as it is preached in the Gospel?” Brother Elias shifted, jerked and elevated his head, “I know the answer but I will not tell you!” The traveler sobered and looked Brother Elias squarely in the face, “I know the answer better than you.” Indignation! Brother Elias slammed the door shut and hurried away.
He stewed and sputtered into the pale pink blooms of the peony bushes. And he felt sorely convicted. “No meat!” he had ordered his pupils, “You may eat no meat!” Among other things, this was a liberty Brother Elias had restricted, yet, it was not truly Gospel that he set himself up as one who could restrict these matters of liberty. Sorely convicted and with wounded pride, Brother Elias ran back to the convent gate to seek the modest traveler. He was no longer there. Brother Elias walked back towards the garden. Up from the forest came Brother Francis to intersect his path. “Brother Elias, you are too hasty, too hot-tempered and too proud. Pay attention to your heart Brother Elias. Keep your eyes open and your ears attuned. Seek God’s movement and His liberties for you have just spoken with and turned away an angel!” Brother Elias’s countenance fell. It was true. The modest traveler was a holy angel come to awaken the poor uptight Brother and restore him to right teachings. Brother Elias sighed and returned to tend… .not scold… .his peonies.
A Thought: No Law Against
There is no law against those tender guiding movements of the Holy One. “The fruit of the Spirit,” the Word says, “is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such thing there is no law,” Galatians 5:22. There is liberty to enjoy God and humanity within the multi-expressions of love and rejoicing, peace-making and patience, acts of kindness and good works, remaining faithful, gentle and self-controlled. The man or woman bound up by the Holy Spirit of God has full liberty within its broad countenance, utterance, emotion and activity. To live by the Spirit is to experience the freedom of really living.
Full liberty within these boundaries…. .it is altogether so simple, yet, as Brother Elias reveals, so hard to stick to the program. No weights and exhaustive constraints can be added to this Life. One cannot fabricate or falsify. Love is love. Peace is peace. Gentleness is gentleness. Conscience teaches us their application… .quite simply. To go against these expressions of the Spirit is unlawful. The Spirit of the Holy One has now become our Law. Consider how restricted we are to add to or complicate the tender guiding movements of God’s Spirit. What God has freely expressed in Spirit and by the outpouring of goodness, we have no liberty to restrain.
There you have it: full liberty to indulge God’s Spirit and its multi-expressions and no liberty to restrain it. There is no Law against the Spirit of the living God. Brother Elias, we shake our fingers, for you have not indulged the expression of God’s Spirit towards angels, brothers and peonies… .you have missed Holy movements… .yet you have entertained the right to restrict a goodness by your own expression. We shake our heads Brother Elias, “(f)or the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,” Romans 14:17. We are not to pursue additional laws to serve our own purpose but to “pursue what makes for peace and mutual upbuilding” Romans 14:19… .against this there is no law.
The Fioretti, San Luis Rey and San Diego de Alcala
This story was taken from The Fioretti. The Fioretti, meaning “Little Flowers”, is a collection of legends and folklore written after the death of Saint Francis of Assissi in October of 1226. Authors unknown wove proverbial and supernatural tales of Francis and his followers. To learn more about Saint Francis and the Fioretti go to the following websites: