Gleanings from Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers

desert_fathers

41 Entries

'Go now and find, if you can, the harshest and strictest trainer in the Lord, and persevering daily imbibe insult and scorn as if they were milk and honey.' Then the brother said to the great John: 'But if the trainer is somehow lax, what then?' this is what the elder replied: 'Even if you see him fornicating, do not go away from him. Just say to yourself, 'Why are you here, friend?' (Matt. 26:50). Then you will see all pride abandon you and lust dry up. the Desert Father



A brother at Scetis was preparing to go to the harvest and he went to see an old man and said to him, 'Tell me what I should do when I go harvesting.' The old man said to him, 'If I tell you, will you believe me?' The brother said, 'Yes I am listening to you.' The old man said to him, 'If you trust me, go and give up this harvesting, come here and I will tell you what to do.' So the brother gave up harvesting and came to live with the old man. The old man said to him, 'Go into your cell, spend fifty days eating dry bread and salt only once a day, and come back and I will tell you what else to do.' The brother went away, did this, then came back to the old man. The old man, seeing that he was a worker, taught him how to live in the cell. The brother went away to his cell and prostrated himself to the ground, weeping before God. After this, when his thoughts said to him, 'You are trained, you have become a great man', he placed his sins before his eyes, saying, 'And where are all my omissions?' But when his thoughts in the opposite sense said to him, 'You have committed many sins', he in his turn replied, 'Yet I say my few prayers to God, and I trust that God will have mercy on me.' Being overcome, the evil spirits appeared to him openly saying, 'We have been disturbed by you.' He asked them why. They said to him, 'When we exalt you, you run to humility; but when we humiliate you, then you rise up.' the Desert Father

A brother came to Abba Theodore of Pherme and began to converse with him about things which he had never yet put into practice. So the old man said to him, "You have not yet found a ship nor put your cargo aboard it, and before you have even sailed, you have already arrived at the city. Do the work first. Then you will have the speed you are making now. The Desert Fathers

A brother overcome by lust went to see a great old man and besought him, saying, 'Be so good as to pray for me, for I am overcome by lust.' And the old man prayed to God for him. A second time he went to the old man and said the same thing, and once more the old man did not omit to beseech God for him, saying, 'Lord, reveal to me the manner of life of this brother and whence comes this action of the devil, for I have already besought you and he has not found peace'. Then God revealed this to him about the brother: he saw him sitting with the spirit of lust beside him and an angel, sent to his aid, was standing beside him and becoming angry with him because he did not fall down before God but, taking pleasure in his thoughts, delivered up his spirit completely to the action of the devil. So the old man knew that the cause came from the brother, and he told him, 'It is you who are consenting to your thoughts.' Then he taught him how to resist thoughts, and the brother, restored by the old man's prayer and teaching, found rest. the Desert Father

A brother questioned an old man, 'Tell me something which I can do, so that I may live by it', and the old man said, 'If you can bear to be despised, that is a great thing, more than all the other virtues. The Desert Fathers

A brother questioned an old man, saying, 'What is humility?' And the old man said, 'To do good to one who does evil to you.' The brother said, 'And if you do not reach this standard?' The old man said, 'You must go away and choose to be silent.' The Desert Fathers

A brother said to an old man, 'What shall I do? Evil thoughts are killing me.' The old man said to him, 'When a mother wishes to wean her child, she rubs her breast with quills, and when the child comes to suck as usual, the bitterness repels it. Do you likewise use quills.' The brother said to him, 'But what are the quills I ought to use?' And the old man said to him, 'The remembrance of death and the punishments of the age to come.' the Desert Father

A brother went to see Abba Silvanus on the mountain of Sinai. When he saw the brothers working hard, he said to the old man, "Do not labor for the food which perishes (John 6:27). Mary has chosen the good portion (Luke 10:42)."

The old man said to his disciple, "Zacharias, give the brother a book and put him in a cell without anything else." So, when the ninth hour came the visitor watched the door expecting someone would be sent to call him to the meal.

When no one called him he got up, went to find the old man and said to him, "Have the brothers not eaten today?" The old man replied that they had. Then he said, "Why did you not call me?" The old man said to him, "Because you are a spiritual man and do not need that kind of food. We, being carnal, want to eat, and that is why we work. But you have chosen the good portion and read the whole day long and you do not want to eat carnal food."

When he heard these words the brother made a prostration saying, "Forgive me, Abba." The old man said to him, "Mary needs Martha. It is really thanks to Martha that Mary is praised." "The Desert Christian," by Benedicta Ward, (New York: MacMillan, 1975), p. 223



A certain man said that there were once three men who loved labors, and they were monks. The first one chose to go about and see where there was strife, which he turned into peace; the second chose to go about and visit the sick; but the third departed to the desert that he might dwell in quietness. Finally the first man, who had chosen to still the contentions of men, was unable to make every man to be at peace with his neighbor, and his spirit was sad. He went to the man who had chosen to visit the sick; he found him in affliction because he was not able to fulfill the law which he had laid down for himself.

Then the two of them went to the monk in the desert, and seeing each other they rejoiced, and the two men related to the third the tribulations which had befallen them in the world. They entreated him to tell them how he had lived in the desert. He was silent, but after a little he said unto them, "Come, let each of us go and fill a vessel of water." After they had filled the vessel, he said unto them, "Pour out some of the water into a basin, and look down to the bottom through it," and they did so. He then said unto them, "What do you see?" And they said, "We see nothing." After the water in the basin had ceased to move, he said to them a second time, "Look into the water," and they looked, and he said unto them, "What do you see?" They said unto him, "We see our own faces distinctly."

He said unto them, "Thus is it with the man who dwelleth with men, for by reason of the disturbance caused by the affairs of the world he cannot see his sins; but if he live in the peace and quietness of the desert he is able to see God clearly." "The Paradise of the Holy Fathers," trans. by E. A. Wallis Budge, (Seattle, St. Nectarios Press, 1984)



A holy man who had seen someone in the act of committing a sin wept bitterly and said, 'He today, and I tomorrow. In truth, even if someone commits sin in your presence, do not judge him, but consider yourself a worse sinner than he.' the Desert Father

A monk had a brother living in the world who was poor, and so he supplied him with all he received from his work. But the more the monk supplied, the poorer the brother became. So the monk went to tell an old man about it. The old man said to him, "If you want my advice, do not give him anything more, but say to him, 'Brother, when I had something I supplied you; now bring me what you get from your work.' Take all he brings you, and whenever you see a stranger or a poor man, give him some of it, begging him to pray for him."

The monk went away and did this. When his secular brother came, he spoke to him as the old man had said, and the brother went sadly away. The first day, taking some vegetables from his field, he brought them to the monk. The monk took them and gave them to the old men, begging them to pray for his brother, and after the blessing he returned home. In the same way, another time, the brother brought the monk some vegetables and three loaves, which he took, doing as on the first occasion, and having received the blessing he went away.

And the secular brother came a third time bringing many provisions, some bread, and fish. Seeing this, the monk was full of wonder, and he invited the poor so as to give them refreshment. The he said to his brother, "Do you not need a little bread?" The other said to him, "No, for when I used to receive something from you, it was like fire coming into my house and burning it, but now that I receive nothing from you, God blesses me."

Then the monk went to tell the old man all that had happened, and the old man said to him, "Do you not know that the work of the monk is of fire, and where it enters, it burns? It helps your brother more to do alms with what he reaps from his field, and to receive the prayers of the saints and thus to be blessed." "The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers," by Sr. Benedicta Ward, (Oxford: SLG Press, 1986), pp. 43-44



Also in this very same city (Ancyra) we found a monk who preferred not to be ordained to the priesthood. He had spent some time in the army and had now spent twenty years as an ascetic. He lived with the bishop of the town. So great was his mercy and so kind was he that he went about at night and had mercy on the needy. He neglected neither the prison nor the hospital, neither the poor nor the rich, but he helped all. To some he gave words of good cheer, being himself stout of heart. Some he encouraged, others he reconciled; to some he gave bodily necessities, to others, clothing.

What is wont to happen in all great cities occurred here, too; for on the church porch there was gathered a crowd of people, some unmarried, others married, lying there for their gifts of daily food. It happened one time in winter that a woman was lying in labor on the church porch at midnight. He heard her crying out in pain. Leaving his customary prayers, he went out and looked at her. He found no midwife, but instead took the midwife's place, not at all squeamish about the unpleasant aspects of childbirth, for the mercy which worked in him had rendered him insensible to such things.

Now his clothes are not worth an obol, and his food is about equally cheap. He cannot stand to bend over a writing-table -- his love of humanity drags him away from books. If someone gives him a book as a present, he sells it immediately, saying to the jeering bystanders: "How can I persuade my Teacher that I have mastered His lessons, unless I sell His own Word to practice perfection?" Palladius, Historia Lausiaca, 68



An old man and a brother led their life together. Now the old man was charitable. It happened that there was a famine and the people came to his door seeking alms, and in charity the old man gave to all who came. Seeing what was happening, the brother said to the old man, "Give me my share of the loaves, and do what you like with yours." The old man divided the loaves and gave alms from his share.

Now many people hastened to the old man, learning that he supplied everyone, and God -- seeing that he supplied everyone -- blessed these loaves. But when the brother had consumed his own food he said to the old man, "Since I have only a little food left, Abba, take me back into the common life again." The old man said, "I will do as you wish." So they began to again to live in common.

When scarcity came again, the needy came back seeking alms. Now one day the brother came in and saw they were short of loaves. A poor man came, and the old man told the brother to give him alms. He said, "It is no longer possible, father." The old man said to him, "Go in and look." The brother went inside and found the bin full of loaves. When he saw that, he was filled with fear, and taking some he gave to the poor. In this way he learned the faith and virtue of the old man, and he gave glory to God. "The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers," by Benedicta Ward, (Oxford: SLG Press, 1985), p. 42



An old man practiced the ascesis of not drinking for forty days, and if by chance it happened to be hot, he rinsed his jug, filled it with water and hung it in front of him. Questioned by a brother as to the reason for his doing this, he replied, 'It is so that my thirst may cause me greater pain, so that I may receive a greater reward from God.' the Desert Father

An old man said, "The prophets wrote books, then came our Fathers who put them into practice. Those who came after them learnt them by heart. Then came the present generation, who have written them out and put them into their window seats without using them." "The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers," by Sr. Benedicta Ward, (Oxford: SLG Press, 1986), p. 31

An old man said, 'He who lives in obedience to a Spiritual Father finds more profit in it than one who withdraws to the desert.' the Desert Father

An old man said, 'Pray God to give you compunction of heart and humility. Pay continual attention to your sins, and do not judge others, but consider yourself inferior to all. Do not be friendly with a woman, a boy, or a heretic; and restrain yourself from too great freedom of speech. Control your tongue and your belly and do not touch wine. If someone speaks to you about something do not argue with him but say, 'Yes'; and if he speaks ill say to him, 'You know what you are saying', but do not argue with him about the way he speaks. This is what humility is.' the Desert Father

An old man was asked, 'What is humility?' He replied, 'It is when your brother sins against you and you forgive him before he comes to ask for forgiveness.' the Desert Father

Athanasius, Archbishop of Alexandria, begged Abba Pambo to come down from the desert to Alexandria. He went down, and seeing an actress he began to weep. Those who were present asked him the reason for his tears, and he said, Two things make me weep: one, the loss of this woman; and the other, that I am not so concerned to please God as she is to please wicked men. the Desert Father

I once asked a very experienced father how humility is achieved through obedience. This was his answer: "A wisely obedient man, even if he is able to raise the dead, to have the gift of tears, to be free from conflict, will nevertheless judge that this happened through the prayer of his spiritual director; and so he remains a stranger and an alien to empty presumption. For how could he take pride in something that, by his reckoning, is due to the effort not of himself but of his director? the Desert Father

If you have promised Christ to travel the straight and narrow road, then keep your stomach in check; for if you give in to it, if you enlarge it, you are breaking your promise. Listen and hear the word of warning: "Wide and specious is the road of gluttony. It leads to the catastrophe of fornication, and there are many who travel that way. The gate is narrow and the way of fasting is hard, that way leading to the life of purity, and there are few to make the journey". the Desert Father

It is truly astounding how the incorporeal mind can be defiled and darkened by the body. Equally astonishing is the fact that the immaterial spirit can be purified and refined by clay. the Desert Father

It was said about John the Little that one day he said to his older brother: I want to be free from care and not to work but to worship God without interruption. And he took his robe off, and went into the desert. After staying there one week, he returned to his brother. And when he knocked at the door, his brother asked without opening it: Who is it? He replied: It's John, your brother. The brother said: John has become an angel and is not among people anymore. Then he begged and said: It's me! But his brother did not open the door and left him there in distress until the next morning. And he finally opened the door and said: If you are a human being, you have to work again in order to live. Then John repented, saying: Forgive me, brother, for I was wrong. Sayings of the Desert Fathers

It was said of an old man that for seventy years he ate only once a week. He asked God about the interpretation of a saying of Scripture, and God did not reveal it to him. He said to himself, 'I have given myself so much affliction without obtaining anything, so I will go to see my brother and ask him.' But while he was closing the door behind him to go to see his brother, an angel of the Lord was sent to him who said, 'These seventy years you have fasted have not brought you near to God, but when you humiliated yourself by going to see your brother, I was sent to tell you the meaning of this saying.' When he had fully replied to his search into the Scriptures he withdrew from him. the Desert Father

Mortification of the appetite, nightlong toil, a ration of water, a short measure of bread, the bitter cup of dishonor -- these will show you the narrow way. Derided, mocked, jeered, you must accept the denial of your will. You must patiently endure opposition, suffer neglect without complaint, put up with violent arrogance. You must be ready for injustice, and not grieve when you are slandered; you must not be angered by contempt and you must show humility when you have been condemned. Happy are those who follow this road and avoid other highways. Theirs is the kingdom of heaven. the Desert Father

One day the priest of Scetis went to blessed Theophilus, Archbishop of Alexandria, and when he returned to Scetis the brothers asked him, 'What is the city like?' He said to them, 'Indeed, brothers, I did not see anyone there except the Archbishop.' On learning this they were troubled, saying, 'Then has everyone been destroyed, abba?' He said to them, 'No, but the temptation to look at anyone did not overcome me.' On hearing this they were full of admiration and from this saying they drew strength to guard their eyes from wandering. the Desert Father

One day, Macarius the Egyptian went from Scetis to the mountain of Nitria for the offering of Abba Pambo. The old men said to him, "Father, say a word to the brethren." He said, "I have not yet become a monk myself, but I have seen monks. One day when I was sitting in my cell, my thoughts were troubling me, suggesting that I should go to the desert and see what I could see there. I remained for five years, fighting against this thought, saying, perhaps it comes from demons. But since the thought persisted, I left for the desert.

"There I found a sheet of water and an island in the midst, and the animals of the desert came to drink there. In the midst of these animals I saw two naked men, and my body trembled, for I believed they were spirits. Seeing me shaking, they said to me, 'Do not be afraid, for we are men.' Then I said to them, 'Where do you come from, and how did you come to this desert?'

"They said, 'We come from a monastery and having agreed to gather, we came here forty years ago. One of us is an Egyptian and the other a Libyan.' They questioned me and asked me, 'How is the world? Is the water rising in due time? Is the world enjoying prosperity?'

"I replied it was, then I asked them, 'How can I become a monk?' They said to me, 'If you do not give up all that is in the world, you cannot become a monk.' I said to them, 'But I am weak, and I cannot do as you do.' So they said to me: 'If you cannot become like us, sit in your cell and weep for your sins.'

"I asked them, 'When the winter comes are you not frozen?' And when the heat comes do not your bodies burn?' They said, 'It is God who has made this way of life for us. We do not freeze in winter, and the summer does us no harm.'

"That is why I said that I have not yet become a monk, but I have seen monks." "The Desert Christian," by Sr. Benedicta Ward, New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., 1975, pp. 125-126



One of the Fathers related that there was an anchorite in the desert of Nicopolis whom a devout layman used to serve. There was also in the city a rich and godless man. Now it came to pass that the latter died and the whole city made a procession for him, including the bishop, with lights and incense. The anchorite's servant, according to his custom, went to take bread to the anchorite, and he found he had been eaten by a hyena. He fell face downwards on the ground, saying, 'Lord, I shall not rise till you explained the meaning of all this to me. That godless man received great pomp, and the monk who served you night and day has died like this.' Then an angel of the Lord came to say to him, 'That godless man did a little good, and he has found his reward here below so as not to receive any remission above; but this anchorite, although he was adorned with all the virtues, yet had some faults as a man. He has paid for them here below so as to be found pure before God.' Satisfied, the servant went away, giving glory to God for his judgments, for they are true. the Desert Father

One of the city's landowners once went into the patriarch's room and saw that he (John the Almsgiver -- feast day Nov. 12) was only covered with a torn and worn quilt, so he sent him a quilt costing 36 nomismata and besought him earnestly to cover himself with that in memory, he said, of the giver. John took it and used it for one night because of the giver's insistence, but throughout the night he kept saying to himself, " Who shall say that humble John was lying under a coverlet costing 36 nomismata whilst Christ's brethren are pinched with cold? How many are there at this minute grinding their teeth because of the cold? How many have only a rough blanket half below and half above them so that they cannot stretch out their legs but lie shivering, rolled up like a ball of thread? How many would like to be filled with the outer leaves of the vegetables which are thrown away from my kitchen? How many would like to dip their bit of bread into the soup water which my cooks throw away? How many would like even to have a sniff at the wine which is poured out in my wine cellar? How many refugees are there at this hour in the city who have no lodging-place but lie about in the marketplace, perhaps with the rain falling on them? How many are there who have not tasted oil for one month or even two? How many have no second garment either in summer or winter and so live in misery? And yet you, who hope to obtain everlasting bliss, both drink wine and eat large fishes and spend your time in bed, and now in addition to all those evils you are being kept warm by a coverlet worth 36 nomismata... Blessed be God! You shall not cover humble John a second night! For it is right and acceptable to God that 144 of your brothers and masters should be covered rather than you, one miserable creature! For four rough blankets could be bought for one nomisma." Early on the following morning, therefore he sent it to be sold, but the man who had given it saw it and bought it for 36 nomismata and again brought it to the patriarch. But when he saw it put for sale again the next day he bought it once more and carried it to the patriarch and implored him to use it. When he had done this for the third time the saint said to him jokingly, "Let us see whether you or I will give up first!" For the man was exceedingly well-to-do, and the saint took pleasure in getting money out of him, and he used to say that if with the object of giving to the poor anybody were able, without ill-will, to strip the rich right down to their shirts, he would not do wrong, more especially if they were heartless skinflints. For thereby he gets a two-fold profit, firstly he saves their souls, and secondly he himself will gain no small reward therefrom. Leontius of Neapolis - Life of John the Almsgiver, 21

One of the fathers related of Abba John the Persian that his great charity had brought him to a profound innocence. He dwelt in Arabia of Egypt.

One day he borrowed some money from a brother and bought some flax for his work. Then a brother came and asked him, "Abba, give me a little flax so that I can make myself a cloak." He gave him some readily. Similarly, another brother came and asked him, "Give me a little flax, so that I can make some cloth." So he gave him some too. Others came and asked him for things and he simply gave them cheerfully.

Later, the owner of the money came to reclaim it. The old man said to him, "I will go and get it for you." Because he could not return it to him, he went to Abba James, who was a deacon, to ask him to give him some money so that he could return it to the brother. On the way, he found a coin on the ground but he did not touch it. He said a prayer and returned to his cell. But the brother came once more pestering him about the money, and the old man said to him, "I am very worried about it." Once again he went, found the coin on the ground where it was lying and once again he said a prayer and returned to his cell.

But the brother came back to pester him as before. The old man said to him, "This time I will certainly bring it to you." Once again he got up and went to the place where the coin lay on the ground. He said and prayer and went to tell Abba James, "Abba, as I was coming here, I found this coin on the road. Please make it known in the neighborhood, in case someone has lost it; and if its owner is found, give it to him."

So the old man went and asked about it for three days, but no one who had lost a piece of money came. Then the old man said to Abba James, "Then if no one has lost it, give it to this brother, for I owe it him. As I was coming to ask you for alms in order to give him his due, I found it."

The old man was astonished that, having a debt and finding that piece, he had not picked it up at once and given it to him. It was equally to his credit that when someone came to borrow something from Abba John, he did not give it him himself, but said to the brother, "Go and help yourself to whatever you need," and when someone brought anything back to him, he would say, "Put it back where it belongs." If the borrower did not return the thing he did not say anything to him." "The Desert Christian," by Sr. Benedicta Ward, (New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1975), pp. 107-108



One of the old men of the Thebaid used to tell the following story: "I was the son of a pagan priest. When I was small I would sit and watch my father who often went to sacrifice to the idol. Once, going in behind him in secret, I saw Satan and all his army standing beside him; and behold one of the chief devils came to bow before him. Satan said, 'Where have you come from?' He answered, 'I was in a certain place and made much blood flow, and I have come to tell you about it.' Satan asked, 'How long did it take you to do this?' He replied, 'Thirty days.' Then Satan commanded him to be flogged, saying, 'In so long a time have you done only that?'

And behold, another demon came to bow before him. Satan asked him, 'And you, where have you come from?' The demon replied, 'I was on the sea, and I made the waves rise, and small craft foundered, and I have killed many people, and I have come to inform you of it.' He said to him, 'How long did it take you to do this?' and the demon said, 'Twenty days.' Satan commanded that he also should be flogged, saying, 'That is because in such a long time you have only done this.'

Now, a third demon came to bow before him. he asked, 'And where have you come from?' The demon replied, 'There was a marriage in a certain village, and I stirred up a riot, and I have made much blood flow, killing the4 bride and bridegroom, and I have come to inform you.' He asked him, 'How long have you taken to do this?' and he replied, 'Ten days.' Satan commanded that he also should be flogged because he had taken too long.

After this, another demon came to bow before him. He asked, 'And where have you come from?' He said, 'I was in the desert forty years fighting against a monk, and this night I made him fall into fornication.' When he heard this, Satan arose, embraced him, and put the crown he was wearing on his head and made him sit on his throne, saying, 'You have been able to do a very great deed!'

The old man said, 'Seeing this, I said to myself, "Truly it is a great contest, this contest of the monks," and with God assisting me for my salvation, I went away and became a monk.'" An unknown monk, "The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers," by Benedicta Ward, (Oxford: SLG Press, 1986)



Someone came to Scetis one day to become a monk. He had his son, who was scarcely weaned, with him. When the boy became a young man, the battles against him began, and he said to his father, 'I am returning to the world for I cannot endure the warfare.' His father persevered, encouraging him, but the young man said again, 'Abba, I cannot do any more, let me go.' And his father said to him, 'My child, listen to me just once more. Take forty measures of bread and palm leaves for forty days work with you, and go to the interior desert, and stay there for forty days; and may the Lord's will be done.' He obeyed his father, arose, went into the desert and stayed in hardship, plaiting the palm leaves and eating dry bread, He stayed there for twenty days; then he saw the power of the devil coming towards him: it appeared to him like an Ethiopian woman smelling so vile that he could not bear it. So he drove her away, and she said to him, 'I usually seem to be pleasant to the hearts of men, but because of your obedience and your labor, God has not let you be deceived and he has revealed my bad smell to you.' So rising up and giving thanks to God he returned to his father and said, 'I no longer wish to go back to the world, abba, for I have seen its power and its bad smell.' Now what had happened had been revealed to his father, and he said to him, 'If you had remained forty days and kept my commandment you would have seen a greater vision.' the Desert Father

The Fallen Lucifer is prince of the demons, and gluttony is prince of the passions. So when you sit at a well-laden table, remember death and remember judgment, and even then you will only manage to restrain yourself a little. And when you drink, keep always in mind the vinegar and gall of your Lord. the Desert Father

The old men used to say that the temptation to lust is like a hook. If it is suggested to us and we do not let ourselves be overcome by it, it is easily cut off; but if, once it is presented, we take pleasure in it and let ourselves be overcome, it transforms itself and becomes like iron and is difficult to cut off. Thus discernment is needed about these thoughts, because for those who allow themselves to be seduced there is no hope of salvation, whereas crowns are prepared for the others. the Desert Father

The old men used to say, 'Even if an angel should indeed appear to you, do not receive him but humiliate yourself, saying, 'I am not worthy to see an angel, for I am a sinner.' the Desert Father

The old men used to say, 'When we do not experience warfare, we ought so much the more to humiliate ourselves. For God, seeing our weakness, protects us; when we glorify ourselves, he withdraws his protection and we are lost. the Desert Father

They said of one of the Fathers who had lived in the world that he suffered temptation through remembering his own wife. So he made this known to the Fathers. Knowing that he was a hard worker and did more than people said of him, they imposed such rules on him that his body became so weak that he could no longer stand up. By the Providence of God, a Father from foreign parts came to Scetis and coming to his cell and seeing it open he went on further, surprised that no one came to meet him. Then he turned round and knocked, saying to himself, 'Perhaps the brother is ill.' He knocked, entered, and finding him very weak, said to him, 'What is the matter with you, Father?' And he told him, 'I lived in the world, and now the enemy wars against me through the thought of my wife, and I told the Fathers and they imposed various rules on me. I am exhausted by carrying them out, and the warfare increases.' When he heard this, the old man was grieved at it and said to him, 'The Fathers are able men who have done well in imposing these rules on you, but if you will hear me in my humility, give all this up, and take a little food at the proper time, say a few prayers, and give your anxiety over to the Lord. With the hardships which you are practicing you are not able to overcome this difficulty. Truly, our body is like a cloak: if you take care of it, it lasts, but if you neglect it, it is damaged.' The other listened, and acted in this way, and in a few days the warfare ceased. the Desert Father

Two brothers went to market to sell the things they had made. The first fell into fornication as soon as he separated from his companion. He met his brother who said to him, 'My brother, let us go to our cell', but he replied, 'I am not going'. The other persisted, saying, 'My brother, why not?' He said, 'Because when you had left me, I fell into fornication.' His brother, wishing to win him over, said to him, 'The same thing happened to me, too, when you left me; come, let us go and do strict penance and God will forgive us.' They went to tell the old men what had happened to them, and the old men gave them commandments for doing penance. Then one of the brothers did penance for the other as though he had sinned himself. But God, seeing the affliction he was giving himself for love's sake, made known to one of the old men, after some days, that because of the great love of the brother who had not sinned, he had forgiven the one who had sinned. See what it is to give one's soul for one's brother. the Desert Father

Two brothers who were attacked by lust went away to get married. Later on they said to one another, 'What have we gained by leaving the angelic order and coming to this impurity? In the end we shall suffer fire and punishment. Let us then return to the desert and repent.' So they returned and asked the Fathers to give them a penance, confessing what they had done. The old men imposed seclusion for a year on them, giving to each one the same amount of bread and water. Now they were alike physically. When the time of penitence was fulfilled, they came out, and the Fathers saw the first was pale and humbled while the other looked well, with a clear countenance. They were surprised, for they had had the same food. They asked the one who was humbled, 'How did you get on with your thoughts in the cell?' He said, 'I thought of the evil I had done and the judgment to which I was going, and the fear of it made my bones cleave to my flesh.' Then they asked the other, 'What did you think in your heart in your cell?' He said, 'I thanked God for having taken me out of the impurity of the world to judgment, and for having led me to this way of life in Jesus Christ, and I rejoiced in the remembrance of God.' Then the old men said, 'In the eyes of God, the penitence of the two men is of equal value.' the Desert Father

When Abba Agathon went down to the city to sell some of his baskets and to procure a little bread, he found near the market place an old, poor cripple.

"For the love of God, Abba," the cripple began to plead on seeing the Saint, "don't you, too, leave this poor wretch unaided. Bring me near to you."

Abba Agathon picked the man up and sat him next to him in the place where he had set up his baskets to sell them.

'How much money did you make, Abba?' the cripple would ask each time that the Elder sold a basket.

"Such and such," the Elder would tell him.

"That's good enough," the cripple finally said. "Won't you buy me a little pie, Abba? That would be good of you, since I have not eaten since last evening."

"With pleasure," the Saint told him, immediately fulfilling the cripple's request.

Shortly thereafter, the cripple requested some fruit. And then some sweet. Thus, for each basket that was sold, the Saint spent the proceeds, until, thanks to his patronage, all of the baskets and money were gone, without his having kept even two pennies for himself. More importantly, he did this all with great eagerness, even though he knew that he would thus go perhaps two weeks without any bread for himself.

Since he had sold his last basket, the Saint got ready to leave the marketplace.

"So you're going?" the cripple asked him.

"Yes, I have completed all of my work."

"Uh, do me the favor of taking me as far as the crossroads, and you can leave for the desert from there," the strange old man again pleadingly said.

The good Agathon took the cripple on his back and carried him to the place where he wanted to go, though with great difficulty, since he was exhausted from his day's work.

As soon as he reached the crossroads and started to put down his living burden, he heard a sweet voice say to him:

"May you be blessed, Agathon, by God, both on earth and in Heaven."

The Saint raised up his eyes to see who it was who had spoken with him. The would-be old man had completely disappeared, since he was an Angel sent by God to test the Saint's love. The Desert Fathers



While he was still living in the imperial palace, Abba Arsenius prayed to God in these words, "Lord lead me in the way of salvation." And a voice came to him saying, "Arsenius: flee from men and you will be saved."

Having withdrawn to the solitary life he made the same prayer again and he heard a voice saying to him, "Arsenius: flee, be silent, pray ceaselessly, for these are the sources of sinlessness."

It happened that when Abba Arsenius was sitting in his cell one day that he was harassed by demons. His servants, on their return, stood outside his cell and heard him praying to God in these words, "O God, do not leave me. I have done nothing good in Thy sight, but according to Thy goodness, let me now make a beginning of good. the Desert Father







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