Great Schema Monks on Mount Athos have learnt a great deal from the Holy Fathers and their experiences. Likewise, they have learnt a lot from the humble mules which are used to carry loads of wood from the forests.
The first thing which we can learn from a mule is his determination of repentance. A mule will not pass again in the place in which he stumbled – no matter what, for he will avoid it at all costs! Unfortunately we have a quite different behavior. If we have sinned in a certain environment we will most likely have the tendency to do it again saying: “It doesn’t matter”, “it won’t happen again”, “I am strong” etc. All these are from the evil one: it matters, it will happen again if we are close to the causes of sin and we aren’t strong at all. We should take the example of the mules by avoiding the causes of sin and placing a great distance between us and the causes – of sin.
Secondly, is their readiness for obedience. Their disposition for obedience comes from their meekness. We cannot rely on someone who is disobedient or almost always has a counteraction at any task in which he is told to perform. Peace and progress is realized only through obedience.
Thirdly, is their love for toil and their memory. They really do what they’re told with determination and steadiness. On top of that, they remember quickly and very well the paths and the steps which they have trodden. They gain experience quickly and keep it in very high regard.
We usually tend to disregard the animals – especially the mules – considering ourselves superior beings, however we forget the fact that we are distorted from sin so, in many aspects we are actually on a lower grade than animals and actually do have something to learn from them, if we want to.
Based on Avvas Nistero, Saint Isaac the Syrian, Elder Joseph of Vatopedi.
In the following photos, an old monk who for many years was a mule-leader (mularas) – he started this task back in 1986, some 33 years ago!