In Peter the Pionite 2, we read:
A brother said to Abba Peter, the disciple of Abba Lot, ‘When I am in my cell, my soul is at peace, but if a brother comes to see me speaks to me of external things, my soul is disturbed.’ Abba Peter told him that Abba Lot used to say, ‘Your key opens my door.’ The brother said to him, ‘What does that mean?’ The old man said, ‘When someone comes to see you, you say to him, “How are you? Where have you come from? How are the brethren? Did they welcome you or not?” Then you have opened the brother’s door and you will hear a great deal that you would rather not have heard.’ The brother said to him, ‘That is so. What should a man do, then, when a brother comes to see him?’ The old man said, ‘Compunction is absolute master. One cannot protect oneself where there is no compunction.’ The brother said, ‘When I am in my cell, compunction is with me, but if someone comes to see me or I go out of my cell, I do not have it any more.’ The old man said, ‘That means that you do not really have compunction at all yet. It is merely that you practise it sometimes. It is written in the Law: “When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years and in the seventh he shall go free, for nothing. If you give him a wife and hse brings forth sons in your house and he does not wish to go because of his wife and children, you shall lead him to the door of the house and you shall pierce his ear with an awl and he shall become your slave for ever”’ (cf. Ex. 21:2-6). The brother said, ‘What does that mean?’ The old man said, ‘If a man works as hard as he can at anything, at the moment when he seeks what needs, he will find it.’ The brother said, ‘Please explain this to me.’ The old man said, ‘The bastard will not remain in anyone’s service; it is the legitimate son who will not leave his father.’ (Ward, p. 200-1)
This repeated questioning by the brother, at least to the extent that it goes, seems unusual to me among the apophthegmata. It’s also interesting because the first time I read this saying, I was just as perplexed!
The second saying is much easier and much shorter. In Peter the Pionite 4, we read:
Abba Peter said, ‘We must not be puffed up when the Lord does something through our mediation, but we must rather thank him for having made us worthy to be called by him.’ He used to say it is good to think about each virtue in this way.’ (Ward, p. 201-2)
Besides the appealing nature of the humility Abba Peter prescribes here, I was drawn to the reference by name to the virtues—a neglected aspect of Christian moral teaching in our day, it seems.
The Venerable Peter the Pionite fell asleep in the Lord in about 400. But the question remains: does anybody have any idea what ‘Pionite’ means?