This is one of my favourite stories:
There was once an old monastery which had lost its inspiration. The same routines were performed as they had always been, but there were no new novices and little enthusiasm for the rites of prayer.
The Abbot saw all this and he grieved. At a loss as to how to change things, he paid a visit to an old hermit who lived in the woods. The hermit welcomed him in and spread the table with bread and cheese and wine. After they had eaten together the recluse addressed the Abbot.
You and your brothers have lost the fire of God. You come seeking wisdom from me. I will tell you a secret, but you can only repeat it once. After that no one must say it aloud again. The hermit then looked deep into the eyes of the Abbot and said, ‘The Messiah lives among you.’
They were both silent as the Abbot considered the import of this saying. ‘Now you must leave’ the hermit said.
Returning to the monastery, the Abbot called all the monks together and told them that he had a teaching which he had been given by God. He added that the teaching was never to be repeated out loud again. Then the Abbot looked at each of his brothers and said, ‘The Hermit says that one of us is the Messiah.’
The monks were startled. ‘What could this mean?’ they wondered silently. Is John with the big nose the Messiah? Or Father Matthew who keeps falling asleep at prayer? Am I the Messiah? But puzzled as they were no one ever repeated the saying again.
As time went by, the monks began to treat one another with a special love and reverence. There was a gentle, whole-hearted, human quality about them now which was hard to describe but easy to see. They lived with each other as those who had finally found something of significance. Their words were careful, considered and gentle. Who could tell when they might be speaking to the Messiah?
Before long, the vitality of the monastery attracted many visitors and young men began asking to join the community. The old hermit died without revealing any more and the Abbot sometimes wondered if he had understood correctly.
It’s from a book called alt.spirit @ metro.m3 by Mike Riddell