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Sayings of the Desert Fathers

  • Abba Ammonas was asked, 'What is the "narrow and hard way?" (mt. 7.14) He replied, 'The "narrow and hard way" is this, to control your thoughts, and to strip yourself of your own will, for the sake of God. This is also the meaning of the sentence, "Lo, we have left everything and followed you." (Mt. 19.27)
  • It was said of him that he had a hollow in his chest channeled out by the tears which fell from his eyes all his life while he sat at his manual work. When Abba Poemen learned that he was dead, he said weeping, 'Truly you are blessed, Abba Arsenius, for you wept for yourself in this world! He who does not weep for himself here below will weep eternally hereafter; so it is impossible not to weep, either voluntarily or when compelled through suffering.' [i.e. the latter suffering in hell]desert_fathers
  • It was also said of him (Abba Arsenius) that on Saturday evenings, preparing for the glory of Sunday, he would turn his back on the sun and stretch out his hands in prayer towards the heavens, till once again the sun shone on his face. Then he would sit down.
  • It was said of Abba Ammoes that when he went to church, he did not allow his disciple to walk beside him but only at a certain distance; and if the latter came to ask him about his thoughts, he would move away from him as soon as he had replied, saying to him, 'It is for fear that, after edifying words, irrelevant conversation should slip in, that I do not keep you with me.' 
  • It was said of Abba Ammoes that he had fifty measures of wheat for his use and had put them out in the sun, Before they were properly dried off, he saw something in that place which seemed to him to be harmful so he said to his servants, 'Let us go away from here.' But they were grieved at this. Seeing their dismay he said to them, 'Is it because of the loaves that you are sad? Truly, I have seen monks fleeing, leaving their white-washed cells and also their parchments, and they did not close the doors, but went leaving them open.'
  • Abba Abraham told of a man of Scetis who was a scribe and did not eat bread. A brother came to beg him to copy a book. The old man whose spirit was engaged in contemplation, wrote, omitting some phrases and with no punctuation. The brother, taking the book and wishing to punctuate it, noticed that words were missing. So he said to the old man, 'Abba, there are some phrases missing.' The old man said to him, 'Go, and practice first that which is written, then come back and I will write the rest.'
  • There was in the Cells an old man called Apollo. If someone came to find him about doing a piece of work, he would set out joyfully, saying, 'I am going to work with Christ today, for the salvation of my soul, for that is the reward he gives.'
  • Abba Doulas, the disciple of Abba Bessarion said, 'One day when we were walking beside the sea I was thirsty and I said to Abba Bessarion, "Father, I am very thirsty." He said a prayer and said to me, "Drink some of the sea water." The water proved sweet when I drank some. I even poured some into a leather bottle for fear of being thirsty later on. Seeing this, the old man asked me why I was taking some. I said to him, "Forgive me, it is for fear of being thirsty later on." Then the old man said, "God is here, God is everywhere." '
  • A brother questioned Abba Poemen in this way, 'My thoughts trouble me, making me put my sins aside, and concern myself with my brother's faults'. The old man told him the following story about Abba Dioscorus (the monk), 'In his cell he wept over himself, while his disciple was sitting in another cell. When the latter came to see the old man he asked him, "Father, why are you weeping?" "I am weeping over my sins," the old man answered him. Then his disciple said, "You do not have any sins, Father." The old man replied, "Truly, my child, if I were allowed to see my sins, three or four men would not be enough to weep for them. "
  • This is what Abba Daniel, the Pharanite, said, 'Our Father abba Arsenius told us of an inhabitant of Scetis, of notable life and of simple faith; through his naivete he was deceived and said, "The bread which we receive is not really the body of Christ, but a symbol. Two old men having learned that he had uttered this saying, knowing that he was outstanding in his way of life, knew that he had not spoken through malice, but through simplicity. So they came to find him and said, "Father, we have heard a proposition contrary to the faith on the part of someone who says that the bread which we receive is not really the body of Christ, but a symbol." The old man said, "it is I who have said that." Then the old men exhorted him saying, "Do not hold this position, Father, but hold one in conformity with that which the catholic Church has given us. We believe, for our part, that the bread itself is the body of Christ as in the beginning, God formed man in his image, taking the dust of the earth, without anyone being able to say that it is not the image of God, even though it is not seen to be so; thus it is with the bread of which he said that it is his body; and so we believe that it is really the body of Christ." The old man said to them, "As long as I have not been persuaded by the thing itself, I shall not be fully convinced." So they said, "Let us pray God about this mystery throughout the whole of this week and we believe that God will reveal it to us." The old man received this saying with joy and he prayed in these words, "Lord, you know that it is not through malice that I do not believe and so that I may not err through ignorance, reveal this mystery to me, Lord Jesus Christ." The old men returned to their cells and they also prayed God, saying, "Lord Jesus Christ, reveal this mystery to the old man, that he may believe and not lose his reward." God heard both the prayers. At the end of the week they came to church on Sunday and sat all three on the same mat, the old man in the middle. Then their eyes were opened and when the bread was placed on the holy table, there appeared as it were a little child to these three alone. And when the priest put out his hand to break the bread, behold an angel descended from heaven with a sword and poured the child's blood into the chalice. When the priest cut the bread into small pieces, the angel also cut the child in pieces. When they drew near to receive the sacred elements the old man alone received a morsel of bloody flesh. Seeing this he was afraid and cried out, "Lord, I believe that this bread is your flesh and this chalice your blood." Immediately the flesh which he held in his hand became bread, according to the mystery and he took it, giving thanks to God. Then the old men said to him, "God knows human nature and that man cannot eat raw flesh and that is why he has changed his body into bread and his blood into wine, for those who receive it in faith."Then they gave thanks to God for the old man, because he had allowed him not to lose the reward of his labor. So all three returned with joy to their own cells.'
  • It was said of Abba Helladius that he spent twenty years in the Cells, without ever raising his eyes to see the roof of the church.
  • (Abba Epiphanius) added, 'A man who receives something from another because of his poverty or his need has therein his reward, and because he is ashamed, when he repays it he does so in secret. But it is the opposite for the Lord God; he receives in secret, but he repays in the presence of the angels, the archangels and the righteous.'
  • It was said concerning Abba Agathon that some monks came to find him having heard tell of his great discernment. Wanting to see if he would lose his temper they said to him 'Aren't you that Agathon who is said to be a fornicator and a proud man?' 'Yes, it is very true,' he answered. They resumed, 'Aren't you that Agothon who is always talking nonsense?' 'I am." Again they said 'Aren't you Agothon the heretic?' But at that he replied 'I am not a heretic.' So they asked him, 'Tell us why you accepted everything we cast you, but repudiated this last insult.' He replied 'The first accusations I take to myself for that is good for my soul. But heresy is separation from God. Now I have no will to be separated from God.' At this saying they were astonished at his discernment and returned, edified.
  • (Abba Evagrius) said; 'Take away temptations and no one will be saved.'
  • An Egyptian brother came to see Abba Zeno in Syria, and accused himself to the old man about his temptations. Filled with admiration, Zeno said, ' The Egyptians hide the virtues they possess and ceaselessly accuse themselves of faults they do not have, while the Syrians and Greeks pretend to have virtues they do not have, and hide the faults of which they are guilty.'
  • In a village there was said to be a man who fasted to such a degree that he was called 'the Faster'. Abba Zeno had heard of him, and he sent for him. The other came gladly. They prayed and sat down. The old man began to work in silence. Since he could not succeed in talking to him the Faster began to get bored. So he said to the old man 'Pray for me, Abba, for I want to go.' The old man said to him. 'Why?' The other replied, 'Because my heart is as if it were on fire and I do not know what is the matter with it. For truly, this when I was in the village and I fasted until the evening, nothing like this happened to me.' The old man said, 'In the village you fed yourself through your ears. But go away and from now on eat at the ninth hour and whatever you do, do it secretly.' As soon as he had begun to act on this advice, the Faster found it difficult to wait until the ninth hour. And those who knew him said, 'The Faster is possessed by the devil.' So he went to tell this to the old man who said to him, 'This way is according to God.'
  • One day Abba Moses said to brother Zacharias, 'Tell me what I ought to do?' At these words the latter threw himself on the ground at the old man's feet and said, 'Are you asking me, Father?' The old man said to him 'Believe me, Zacharias, my son, I have seen the Holy Spirit descending upon you and since then I am constrained to ask you.' Then Zacharias drew his hood off his head put it under his feet and trampled on it, saying, 'The man who does not let himself be treated thus, cannot become a monk.'
  • Abba Zeno said, 'If a man wants God to hear his prayer quickly, then before he prays for anything else, even his own soul, when he stands and stretches out his hands towards God, he must pray with all his heart for his enemies. Through this action God will hear everything that he asks.'
  • Abba Gerontius of Petra said that many, tempted by the pleasures of the body, commit fornication, not in their body but in their spirit, and while preserving their bodily virginity, commit prostitution in their soul. 'thus it is good, my well-beloved, to do that which is written and for each one to guard his own heart with all possible care.' (prov. 4.23)
  • One day Abba Arsenius consulted an old Egyptian monk about his own thoughts. Someone noticed this and said to him, 'Abba Arsenius, how is it that you with such a good Latin and Greek education, ask this peasant about your thoughts?' He replied, 'I have indeed been taught Latin and Greek, but I do not know even the alphabet of this peasant.'
  • Abba Elias, the minister, said, 'What can sin do where there is penitence? And of what use is love where there is pride?'
  • (Abba Isaiah) said to those who were making a good beginning by putting themselves under the direction of the holy Fathers, 'As with purple dye, the first coloring is never lost.' And, 'Just as young shoots are easily trained back and bent, so it is with beginners who live in submission.'
  • (Abba Isaiah) also said that when there was an agape and the brethren were eating in the church and talking to one another, the priest of Pelusia reprimanded them in these words, 'Brethren, be quiet. For I have seen a brother eating with you and drinking as many cups as you and his prayer is ascending to the presence of God like fire.'
  • (Abba Isaiah) also said 'When God wishes to take pity on a soul and it rebels, not bearing anything and doing its own will, he then allows it to suffer that which it does not want, in order that it may seek him again.'
  • The old men said to Abba Agothon to Abba Elias, in Egypt, 'He is a good abba.' The old man answered them, 'In comparison with his own generation, he is good.' They said to him, 'And what is he in comparison with the ancients?' He gave them this answer, 'I have said to you that in comparison with his generation he is good but as to that of the ancients, in Scetis I have seen a man who, like Joshua the son of Nun could make the sun stand still in the heavens.' At these words they were astounded and gave glory to God.
  • (Abba Theodore) said 'If you are friendly with someone who happens to fall into the temptation of fornication, offer him your hand, if you can, and deliver him from it. But if he falls into heresy and you cannot persuade him to turn from it, separate yourself quickly from him, in case, if you delay, you too may be dragged down with him into the pit.
  • A brother came to Abba Theodore 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 sailed, you have already arrived at the city. Do the work first; then you will have the speed you are making now.'
  • Abba Theodore of Pherme said, 'The man who remains standing when he repents, has not kept the commandment.'
  • A brother said to Abba Theodore, 'I wish to fulfill the commandments.' The old man told him that Abba Theonas had said to him, 'I want to fill my spirit with God.' Taking some flour to the bakery, he had made loaves which he gave to the poor who asked him for them; others asked for more, and he gave them the baskets, then the cloak he was wearing, and he came back to his cell with his loins girded with his cape. Afterwards he took himself to task telling himself that he had still not fulfilled the commandment of God.'
  • The same Abba Theophilus, the archbishop, came to Scetis one day. The brethren who were assembled said to Abba Pambo, 'Say something to the Archbishop, so that he may be edified.' The old man said to them, 'If he is not edified by my silence, he will not be edified by my speech.'
  • It was said about (abba Theodore) that, though he was made a deacon at Scetis he refused to exercise the office and fled to many places from it. Each time the old men brought him back to Scetis, saying, 'Do not leave your deaconate.' Abba Theodore said to them, 'Let me pray God that he may tell me for certain whether I ought to take my part in the liturgy.' Then he prayed God in this manner, 'If it is your will then I should stand in this place, make me certain of it.' Then appeared to him a column of fire, reaching from earth to heaven, and a voice said to him, 'IF you can become like this pillar, go be a deacon.' On hearing this he decided never to accept the office. When he went to church the brethren bowed before him saying, 'If you do not wish to be a deacon, at least hold the chalice.' But he refused, saying, 'If you do not leave me alone, I shall leave this place.' So they left him in peace.
  • Abba Theodore of Scetis said, 'A thought comes to me which troubles me and does not leave me free; but not being able to lead me to act, it simply stops me progressing in virtue; but a vigilant man would cut it off and get up to pray.'
  • Abba Theodor said, 'Privation of food mortifies the body of the monk.' Another old man said, 'Vigils mortify it still more.'
  • Amma Theodora said, 'Let us strive to enter by the narrow gate, Just as the trees, if they have not stood before the winter's storms cannot bear fruit, so it is with us; this present age is a storm and it is only through many trials and temptations that we can obtain an inheritance in the kingdom of heaven.'
  • The same amma said that a teacher ought to be a stranger to the desire for domination, vain-glory, and pride; one should not be able to fool him by flattery, nor blind him by gifts, nor conquer him by the stomach, nor dominate him by anger; but he should be patient, gentle and humble as far as possible; he must be tested and without partisanship, full of concern, and a lover of souls.She also said that neither asceticism, nor vigils nor any kind of suffering are able to save, only true humility can do that. There was an anchorite who was able to banish the demons; and he asked them, 'What makes you go away?' 'Is it fasting?' They replied, 'We do not eat or drink.' 'Is it vigils?' They replied, 'We do not sleep.' 'Is it separation from the world?' 'We live in the deserts.' 'What power sends you away then?' They said, 'Nothing can overcome us, but only humility.' 'Do you see how humility is victorious over the demons?'
  • It was said of Abba John the Dwarf that he withdrew and lived in the desert at Scetis with an old man of Thebes. His abba, taking a piece of dry wood, planted it and said to him, 'Water it every day with a bottle of water, until it bears fruit.' Now the water was so far away that he had to leave in the evening and return the following morning. At the end of three years the wood came to life and bore fruit. Then the old man took some of the fruit and carried it to the church saying to the brethren, 'Take and eat the fruit of obedience.'
  • It was said of Abba John the Dwarf, that one day he said to his elder brother,'I should like to be free of all care, like the angels, who do not work, but ceaselessly offer worship to God.' So he took off his cloak and went away into the desert. After a week he came back to his brother. When he knocked on the door, he heard his brother say, before he opened it 'Who are you?' He said, 'I am John, your brother.' But he replied, 'John has become an angel, and henceforth he is no longer among men.' Then the other begged him saying. 'It is I.' However, his brother did not let him in, but left him there in distress until morning. Then, opening the door, he said to him, 'You are a man and you must once again work in order to eat.' Then John made a prostration before him, saying, 'Forgive me.'
  • One day when he was sitting in front of the church, the brethren were consulting him about their thoughts. One of the old men who saw it became a prey to jealousy and said to him, 'John, your vessel is full of poison.' Abba John said to him, 'That is very true, abba; and you have said that when you only see the outside, but if you were able to see the inside, too, what would you say then?'
  • Some brethren came one day to test him to see whether he would let his thoughts get dissipated and speak of the things of this world. They said to him 'We give thanks to God that this year there has been much rain and the palm trees have been able to drink, and their shoots have grown, and the brethren have found manual work.' Abba John said to them, 'So it is when the Holy Spirit descends into the hearts of men; they are renewed and they put forth leaves in the fear of God.'
  • It was said of him (Abba John the Dwarf) that one day he was weaving rope for two baskets, but he made it into one without noticing, until it had reached the wall, because his spirit was occupied in contemplation.
  • Abba John said, 'I am like a man sitting under a great tree, who sees wild beasts and snakes coming against him in great numbers. When he cannot withstand them any longer, he runs to climb the tree and is saved. It is just the same with me; I sit in my cell and I am aware of evil thoughts coming against me, and when I have no more strength against them, I take refuge in God by prayer and I am saved from the enemy.'
  • Abba Poemen said of Abba John the Dwarf that he had prayed God to take his passions away from him so that he might become free from care. He went and told an old man this; 'I find myself in peace, without an enemy,' he said. The old man said to him, 'Go beseech God to stir up warfare so that you may regain the affliction and humility that you used to have, for it is by warfare that the soul makes progress.' So he besought God and when warfare came, he no longer prayed that it might be taken away, but said, 'Lord, give me strength for the fight.'
  • Abba John said, 'We have put the light burden on one side, that is to say, self-accusation, and we have loaded ourselves with a heavy one, that is to say, self-justification.' He also said, 'Humility and the fear of God are above all virtues.'
  • Abba John gave this advice, 'Watching means to sit in the cell and be always mindful of God. This is what is meant by, "I was on the watch and God came to me." (Matt. 25:36)
  • One of the Fathers said of him, 'Who is this John, who by his humility has all Scetis hanging from his little finger?'
  • Abba John the Dwarf said, 'There was a spiritual old man who lived a secluded life. He was held in high estimation in the city and enjoyed a great reputation. He was told that a certain old man, at the point of death, was calling for him, to embrace him before he fell asleep. He thought to himself, if I go by day, men will run after me, giving me great honor, and I shall not be at peace in all that. So I will go in the evening in the darkness and I shall escape everyone's notice. But lo, two angels were sent by God with lamps to give him light. Then the whole city came out to see his glory. The more he wished to Flee from glory, the more he was glorified. In this was accomplished that which is written: "He who humbles himself will be exalted." ' (Luke 14:11)
  • Abba John the Dwarf said, 'a house is not built by beginning at the top and working down. You must begin with the foundations in order to reach the top. They said to him, 'What does this saying mean?' He said, 'The foundation is our neighbor, whom we must win, and that is the place to begin. For all the commandments of Christ depend on this one.'
  • Abba Poemen said that Abba John said that the saints are like a group of trees, each bearing different fruit, but watered from the same source. The practices of one saint differ from those of another, but it is the same Spirit that works in all of them.
  • Abba John said to his brother, 'Even if we are entirely despised in the eyes of men, let us rejoice that we are honored in the sight of God.'
  • The old man (abba John the Dwarf) said, 'You know that the first blow the devil gave to Job was through his possessions; and he saw that he had not grieved him nor separated him from God. With the second blow, he touched his flesh, but the brave athlete did not sin by any word that came out of his mouth in that either. In fact, he had within his heart that which is of God, and he drew on that source unceasingly.'
  • An old man came to abba John's cell and found him asleep with an angel standing above him, fanning him. Seeing this, he withdrew. When Abba John got up, he said to his disciple, 'Did anyone come in while I was asleep?' he said, 'Yes, an old man.' Then Abba John knew that this old man was his equal, and that he had seen the angel.
  • (Abba Isidore) said, 'When I was younger and remained in my cell I set no limit to prayer; the night was for me as much the time of prayer as the day.'
  • Abba Isidore went one day to see Abba Theophilus, archbishop of Alexandria and when he returned to Scetis the brethren asked him, 'What is going on in the city?' But he said to them, 'Truly, brothers, I did not see the face of anyone there, except that of the archbishop.' Hearing this they were very anxious and said to him, 'Has there been a disaster there, then, abba?' He said 'Not at all, but the thought of looking at anyone did not get the better of me' At these words they were filled with admiration, and strengthened in their intention of guarding the eyes from all distraction.
  • (Abba Isidore of Pelusia) said, 'Prize virtues and do not be the slave of glory; for the former are immortal, while the latter soon fades.' He also said, 'The heights of humility are great and so are the depths of boasting; I advise you to attend to the first and not to fall into the second.'
  • Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, 'Abba as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?' then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, 'If you will, you can become all flame.'
  • (Abba James) said, 'Just as a lamp lights up a dark room, so the fear of God when it penetrates the heart of a man illuminates him, teaching him all the virtues and commandments of God.' He also said, 'We do not need words only, for, at the present time, there are many words among men, but we need works, for this is what is required, not words which do not bear fruit.'
  • Abba John of the Cells told us this story: 'There was in Egypt a very rich and beautiful courtesan, to whom noble and powerful people came. Now one day she happened to be near the church and she wanted to go in. The sub- deacon, who was standing at the doors, would not allow her to enter saying, "You are not worthy to enter the house of God,j for you are impure." The Bishop heard the noise of their argument and came out. Then the courtesan said to him, "He will not let me enter the church." So the Bishop said to her, "You are not allowed to enter it, for you are not pure." She was filled with compunction and said to him, "Henceforth I will not commit fornication any more." The bishop said to her, "If you bring your wealth here, I shall know that you will not commit fornication any more." She brought her wealth and the bishop burnt it all in the fire. Then she went into the church, weeping and saying, "If this has happened to me below, what would I not have suffered above?" So she was converted and became a vessel of election.'
  • (Abba Isidore the priest) said, 'If you fast regularly, do not be inflated with pride, but if you think highly of yourself because of it, then you had better eat meat. It is better for a man to eat meat than to be inflated with pride and to glorify himself.'
  • It was said of Abba John the Persian that when some evildoers came to him, he took a basin and wanted to wash their feet. But they were filled with confusion, and began to do penance.
  • From Palistine, Abba Hilarion went to the mountain to abba Anthony. Abba Anthony said to him, 'You are welcome, torch which awakens the day.' Abba Hilarion said, 'Peace to you, pillar of light, giving light to the world.'
  • The holy Fathers were making predictions about the last generation. They said 'What have we ourselves done?' One of them, the great abba Ischyrion replied, 'We ourselves have fulfilled the commandments of God.' The others replied, 'And those who come after us, what will they do?' He said, 'They will struggle to achieve half our works.' They said, 'And to those who come after them, what will happen?' He said, 'THE MEN OF THAT GENERATION WILL NOT ACCOMPLISH ANY WORKS AT ALL AND TEMPTATION WILL COME UPON THEM; AND THOSE WHO WILL BE APPROVED IN THAT DAY WILL BE GREATER THAN EITHER US OR OUR FATHERS.'
  • Abba Copres said, 'blessed is he who bears affliction with thankfulness.'
  • One day, the inhabitants of Scetis assembled together to discuss Melchizedek and they forgot to invite Abba Copres. Later on they called him and asked him about this matter. Tapping his mouth three times, he said 'Alas for you, Copres! For that which God commanded you do, you have put aside, and you are wanting to learn something which you have not been required to know about.' When they heard these words, the brothers fled to their cells.
  • Abba Cyrus of Alexandria was asked about the temptation of fornication, and he replied, 'If you do not think about it, you have no hope, for if you are not thinking about it, you are doing it. I mean, he who does not fight against the sin and resist it in his spirit will commit the sin physically. It is very true that he who is fornicating in fact is not worried about thinking about it.
  • Some of the monks who are called Euchites went to Enaton to see Abba Lucius. the Old man asked them, 'What is your manual work?' They said, 'We do not touch manual work but as the Apostle says, we pray without ceasing.' The old man asked them if they did not eat and they replied they did. So he said to them "'When you are eating, who prays for you then?' Again he asked them if they did not sleep and they replied they did. and he said to them, 'When you are a asleep, who prays for you the?' They could not find any answer to give him. He said to them, 'Forgive me, but you do not act as you speak. I will show you how, while doing my manual work, I pray without interruption. I sit down with God, soaking my reeds and plaiting my ropes, and I say "God, have mercy on me, according to your great goodness and according to the multitude of your mercies, save me from my sins." ' So he asked them if this were not prayer and they replied it was. Then he said to them, 'So when I shave spend the whole day working and praying, making thirteen pieces of money more or less, I put two pieces of money outside the door and I pay for my food with the rest of the money. He who takes the two pieces of money prays for me when I am eating and when I am sleeping; so, by the grace of God, I fulfill the precept to pray without ceasing.'
  • They said of Abba Macarius the Great that he became, as it is written, a god upon earth, because, just as God protects the world, so Abba Macarius would cover the faults which he saw, as though he did not see them; and those which he heard, as though he did not hear them.
  • The angel when giving the rules of monasticism to St. Pachomius said to him: "... He laid down that in the course of the day they should make twelve prayers, and at the lamp-lighting time twelve, and in the nightly vigils twelve, and at the ninth hour three. When the multitude goes to eat, he laid down that a psalm should be sung before each prayer. As Pachomius objected to the angel that the prayer were too few ..."
  • The same Abba Macarius while he was in Egypt discovered a man who owned a beast of burden engaged in plundering Macarius' goods. So he came up to the thief as if he was a stranger and he helped him to load the animal. He saw him off in great peace of soul saying, 'We have brought nothing into this world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.' (1Tim.6.7) 'The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.' (Job 1.21)
  • Abba Macarius was asked, 'How should one pray?' The old man said 'There is no need at all to make long discourses; it is enough to stretch out one's hands and say, "Lord, as you will, and as you know, have mercy." And if the conflict grows fiercer say, "Lord, help!" He knows very well what we need and he shews us his mercy.'
  • A brother went to Abba Matoes and said to him, 'How is it that the monks of Scetis did more than the Scriptures required in loving their enemies more than themselves?' Abba Matoes said to him, 'As for me I have not yet managed to love those who love me as I love myself.'
  • It was said of Abba Silvanus that at Scetis he had a disciple called Mark whose obedience was great. He was a scribe. The old man loved him because of his obedience. He had eleven other disciples who were hurt because he loved him more than them. When they knew this, the elders were sorry about it and they came one day to him to reproach him about it. Taking them with him, he went to knock at each cell, saying, 'Brother so and so, come here; I need you,' but none of them came immediately. Coming to Mark's cell, he knocked and said, 'Mark.' Hearing the old man's voice, he jumped up immediately and the old man sent him off to serve and said to the elders, 'Fathers, where are the other brothers?' Then he went into Mark's cell and picked up his book and noticed that he had begun to write the letter 'omega' ["w"] but when he had heard the old man, he had not finished writing it. Then the elders said, 'Truly, abba, he whom you love, we love too and God loves him.'
  • Abba Poemen said of Abba Nisterus that he was like the serpent of brass which Moses made for the healing of the people: he possessed all virtue and without speaking, he healed everyone.
  • Abba Xanthias said, 'The thief was on the cross and he was justified by a single word; and Judas who was counted in the number of the apostles lost all his labor in one single night and descended from heaven to hell. Therefore, let no-one boast of his good works, for all those who trust in themselves fall.'
  • (Abba Poemen) said, 'The beginning of evil is heedlessness.'
  • Before anything else we need humility. Dorotheos
  • Humility protects the soul from all the passions and also from every temptation. Dorotheos
  • Judge not him who is guilty of fornication, if you are chaste, or you will break the law like him. For He who said Do not commit fornication said also Do not judge. Pambos
  • Obedience responds to obedience. When someone obeys God, then God obeys his request. Mios
  • Abba Bessarion, when he was dying: The monk should be like the cherubim and seraphim: all eyes.
  • Courage stands in the middle between cowardice and foolhardiness; humility in the middle between arrogance and servility . Modesty is a mean between timidity and boldness. Dorotheos
  • A man who gives way to his passions is like a man who is shot at by an enemy, catches the arrow in his hands, and then plunges it into his own heart. A man who is resisting his passions is like a man who is shot at by an enemy, and although the arrow hits him, it does not seriously wound him because he is wearing a breastplate. But the man who is uprooting his passions is like a man who is shot at by an enemy, but who strikes the arrow and shatters it or turns it back into his enemy's heart. Dorotheos
  • The beginning of evil is the lack of vigilance. Poemen
  • Humility of soul helps more than everything else; without it no one can overcome lewdness or any other sin. Cassian
  • Whatever helps us to achieve purity of heart, we must follow with all our might; whatever hinders us from it, we must shun as a dangerous and hurtful thing. Moses
  • 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. Fathers
  • Abba Poemen said about Abba Pior that every single day he made a fresh beginning. Pior
  • If a king wishes to subdue a city belonging to enemies, he first of all keeps them without bread and water, and the enemy harassed by hunger, surrenders; so it is in respect of the hostile passions, for if a man endures fasting and hunger, his enemies become stricken with weakness in the soul. John
  • A brother asked Abba Poemen: What does it mean to get angry at one's brother without cause? And he replied: When your brother attacks you, whatever the insults are, if you get angry at him, you are getting angry without cause. Even if he were to pull out your right eye, and to cut off your right hand, if you get angry at him, you are getting angry without cause. Yet if he were to try to take you away from God, then get angry! Poemen
  • Abba Moses asked Abba Sylvanus, Can a man lay a new foundation every day? The Abba said, If he works hard, he can lay a new foundation at every moment. Sylvanus
  • A brother said to the Abba : There does not seem to be any conflict in my heart. He received this reply: You are like a house that is open to the four winds, so that anyone who likes can go in or out without you noticing. If you only had one door to it, and choose to shut it in the face of wicked thoughts, then you would notice them and you would have to fight against them. Fathers
  • It is told that a thought came to a monk: Rest today and you can do penance tomorrow. He replied: No, I will do penance today and rest tomorrow. Fathers
  • If the inner person is not watchful, the outer person cannot be watched. Fathers
  • Abba Anthony the Great of Egypt said: 'Always have the fear of God before your eyes. Remember Him who grants death and life. Hate the world and all that is in it. Hate all peace that comes from the flesh. Renounce this life, that you may be alive to God. Remember that which you have promised God, for it will be required of you on the day of judgment. Suffer hunger, thirst, nakedness; be watchful and sorrowful; weep, and moan in your heart; test yourselves, to see if you are worthy of God; despise the flesh, so that you may preserve your souls.' He also said, 'Our life and our death is with our neighbor. If we gain our brother, we have gained God, but if we scandalize our brother, we have sinned against Christ.' He also said, Just as fish die if they stay out of water too long, so monks who loiter outside their cells or pass time with men of the world lose the fervor of inner peace. So, like a fish going toward the sea, we must hurry to reach our cell, for fear that if we tarry outside we will lose our interior watchfulness.'
  • Abba Agathon said, 'If someone were especially dear to me, but I realized that he was causing me to do something less good, I should put him far from me.'
  • Abba Isaiah said: 'When God wishes to take pity on a soul and it rebels, not suffering anything and doing its own will, He permits it to suffer things it does not want, in order that it may seek Him again.' He also said, 'When someone wishes to repay evil for evil, he can injure his brother's soul even by a single nod of the head.'
  • Abba Elias said: 'Men turn their minds either to sins, or to Jesus, or to other men.'
  • A brother who followed the hesychastic life in the monastery of the cave of Abba Sabba came to Abba Elias and said to him, 'Abba, give me the way of life.' The Old man said to the brother, 'In the days of our predecessors they were greatly diligent about these three virtues: poverty, obedience, and fasting. But among monks today, avarice, self-confidence, and great greed have taken charge. Choose whichever you want most.'
  • Abba Isidure of Pelusia said, 'To live without speaking is better than to speak without living. For the former lives properly and does good even by his silence, but the latter does no good even when he speaks. When words and life correspond to one another, they are together the whole of philosophy.'
  • Abba James said: 'We do not only need words, for at the present time there are many words among men; but we need works, for this is what is required - not words that do not bear fruit.'
  • Abba Isidore the Priest said: 'If you desire salvation, do everything that leads you to it.'
  • Abba Matoes said that three old men went to Abba Paphnutius, who was called Cephalus, to ask a word from him. The old man said to them, 'What do you want me to say to you? A spiritual word, or a bodily word?' They said, 'A spiritual word.' The old man said to them, 'Go, and choose trials rather than stillness, shame rather than glory, and to give rather than to receive.'
  • A soldier asked Abba Mius if God accepted repentance. After the old man had taught him many things he said, 'Tell me, my dear, if your cloak is torn, do you throw it away?' He replied, 'No, I mend it and use it again.' The old man said to him, 'If you are so careful about your cloak, will not God be equally careful about His creature?'
  • Abba Poemen said, 'To throw yourself before God, to not measure your progress, to leave behind all self-will -- these are the instruments for the work of the soul. 'He also said, 'You must flee from sensual things. Verily, every time a man comes close to a struggle with sensuality, he is like a man standing at the edge of a deep lake, and the Enemy throws him in whenever he likes. But if the man lives far from sensual things, he is like one who stands at a distance from the lake, so that even if the Enemy entices him in order to throw him to the bottom, God sends him help at the very moment that the Enemy is drawing him away and doing him violence.' He also said, 'Give not your heart to that which does not satisfy your heart.' He also said, 'If you are silent, you will possess peace wherever you live.'
  • Abba John, who had been exiled by the emperor Marcian, said, 'We went to Syria one day to see Abba Poemen and desired to question him concerning purity of the heart. But the old man did not know Greek and no interpreter was to be found. And then, seeing how embarrassed we were, the old man began to speak Greek, saying, 'The nature of water is soft, and the nature of stone is hard; but if a bottle is hung above the stone, allowing the water to fall down drop by drop, it wears away the stone. So it is with the Word of God: it is soft and our heart is hard, but the man who hears the Word of God often opens his heart to the fear of God.'
  • Abba Pior said: At that time a meeting was held at Sketis about a brother who had sinned. The Fathers spoke, but Abba Pior kept silent. Later, he got up and went out. He took a sack and filled it with sand and carried it on his shoulder; then he put a little sand into a small bag that he carried in front of him. When the Fathers asked him what this meant he said, 'In this sack which contains much sand, are my sins which are many; I have put them behind me so that I might not be troubled about them and so that I might not weep. And behold, here are the little sins of my brother which are in front of me, and I spend my time judging them. This is not right. Rather, I ought to carry my sins in front of me and concern myself with them, begging God to forgive me.' The Fathers stood up and said, 'Verily, this is the way of salvation.'
  • Abba Paul said, 'Keep close to Jesus.'
  • Abba Sisoes: A brother who had been wronged by another brother came to see Abba Sisoes. He said to him, 'My brother has hurt me and I want to avenge myself.' The old man begged him, saying, 'No, my child, leave vengeance to God.' The brother said, 'I shall not rest until I have avenged myself.' The old man said, 'Brother, let us pray.' Then he stood up and said, 'God, we no longer need You to care for us, since we do justice for ourselves.' When he heard these words, the brother prostrated himself before the old man's feet and said, 'I will not longer seek justice from my brother. Forgive me, abba.'
  • Another brother asked Abba Sisoes, 'I have fallen, Abba; what shall I do?' The old main said to him, 'Get up again.' The brother said, 'I have gotten up again, but again have I fallen.' The old man said, 'Get up again and again.' So the brother asked, 'How many times?' The old man replied, 'Until you are taken up either in virtue or in sin. For a man presents himself to judgment in that state in which he is found.'
  • The old men used to say, "there is nothing worse than passing judgement."
  • They said of abba Macarius that he became as it is written a god upon earth, because just as God protects the world, so abba Macarius would cover the faults that he saw as though he did not see them, and those which he heard as though he did not hear them.
  • Abba Pastor said, "Judge not him who is guilty of fornication, if you are chaste, or you will break the law like him. For He who said "do not commit fornication" said also "Do not judge"."
  • A brother asked abba Poemen, "If I see my brother sin, is it right to say nothing about it?" The old man replied, "whenever we cover our brother's sin, God will cover ours; whenever we tell people about our brother's guilt, God will do the same about ours."
  • A brother in Scetis committed a fault. A council was called to which abba Moses was invited, but he refused to go to it. Then the priest sent someone to him, saying, "Come, for everyone is waiting for you". So he got up and went. He took a leaking jug and filled it with water and carried it with him. The others came out to meet him and said, " what is this, father?" The old man said to them, "My sins run out behind me, and I do not see them, and today I am coming to judge the errors of another." When they heard that, they said no more to the brother but forgave him.
  • A brother sinned and the priest ordered him to go out of the church; abba Bessarion got up and went out with him, saying, "I, too, am a sinner."
  • One of the brothers asked abba Isidore, a priest of scetis, "Why are the demons so terrified of you?" And the old man said, "Ever since I became a monk I have tried never to let anger rise as far as my mouth."
  • Abba Joseph asked abba Nisteros, "What should I do about my tongue, for I cannot control it?" The old man said to him, "When you speak, do you find peace?" He replied, "No." The old man said to him, "If you do not find peace, why do you speak? Be silent, and when a conversation takes place, prefer to listen rather to talk."
  • Two old men had lived together for many years and they had never fought with one another. The first said to the other, "Let us also have a fight like other men." The other replied, "I do not know how to fight." The first said to him, "Look, I will put a brick between us and I will say: it is mine; and you will reply: no, it is mine; and so the fight will begin." So they put a brick between them and the first said, "It is mine", and the other said, "No, it is mine." And the first replied, "If it is yours, take it and go." So they gave it up without being able to find a cause for an argument.
  • A brother asked abba Poemen, "How should I behave in my cell in the place where I am living?" He replied, "Behave as if you were a stranger, and wherever you are, do not expect your words to have an influence and you will be at peace."
  • The holy Syncletia said, "I think that for those living in community obedience is a greater virtue than chastity, however perfect. Chastity carries within it the danger of pride, but obedience has within it the promise of humility."
  • The old men used to say, "If someone has faith in another and hands himself over to him in complete submission, he does not need to pay attention to God's commandments but he can entrust his whole will to his father. He will suffer no reproach from God, for God looks for nothing from beginners so much as renunciation through obedience."
  • Abba Mios of Belos said, "Obedience responds to obedience. When someone obeys God, then God obeys his request."
  • They said that abba Sylvanus had a disciple in Scetis, named Mark, who possessed in great measure the virtue of obedience. He was a copyist of old manuscripts, and the old man loved him for his obedience. He had eleven other disciples who were aggrieved that he loved more than them. When the old men nearby heard that he loved Mark above the others, they took it ill. One day they visited him and abba Sylvanus took them with him and, going out of his cell, began to knock on the door of each of his disciples, saying, "Brother, come out, I have work for you." And not one of them appeared immediately. Then he came to Mark's cell and knocked, saying, "Mark". And as soon as Mark heard the voice of the old man he came outside and the old man sent him on some errand. So abba Sylvanus said to the old men, "Where are the other brothers?", and he went into Mark's cell and found the book in which he had been writing and he was making the letter O; and when he heard the old man's voice, he had not finished the line of the O. And the old men said, "Truly, abba, we also love the one whom you love; for God loves him, too."
  • Some old men said, "If you see a young man climbing up to the heavens by his own will, catch him by the foot and throw him down to the earth; it is not good for him."
  • At first abba Ammoe said to abba Isaiah, "What do you think of me?" He said to him, "You are an angel, father." Later on he said to him, "and now, what do you think of me?" He replied, "You are like Satan. Even when you say a good word to me, it is like steel."
  • Abba Moses asked abba Sylvanus, "Can a man lay a new foundation every day?" The old man said, "If he works hard, he can lay a new foundation at every moment."
  • It was said of abba John the Dwarf that one day he said to his elder brother, "I should like to be free of all care, like the angels who do not work, but ceaselessly offer worship to God." So he took leave of his brother and went away into the desert. After a week he came back to his brother. When he knocked on the door he heard his brother say, "Who are you?" before he opened it. He said, "I am John, your brother." But he replied, "John has become an angel and henceforth he is no longer among men." Then John besought him, saying, "It is I." However, his brother did not let him in but left him there in distress until morning. Then, opening the door, he said to him, "You are a man and you must once again work in order to eat." Then John made a prostration before him, saying, "Forgive me."
  • Abba John said, "A monk is toil. The monk toils in all he does. That is what a monk is."
  • An old man was asked, "What is humility?" and he said in reply, "Humility is a great work, and a work of God. The way of humility is to undertake bodily labor and believe yourself a sinner and make yourself subject to all." Then a brother said, "What does it mean, to be subject to all?" The old man answered, "To be subject to all is not to give your attention to the sins of others but always to give your attention to your own sins and to pray without ceasing to God."
  • An old man said, "Every time a thought of superiority or vanity moves you, examine your conscience to see if you have kept all the commandments, whether you love your enemies, whether you consider yourself to be an unprofitable servant and the greatest sinner of all. Even so, do not pretend to great ideas as though you were perfectly right, for that thought destroys everything."
  • As abba Macarius was returning to his cell from the marsh carrying palm-leaves, the devil met him with a sharp sickle and would have struck him but he could not. He cried out, "Great is the violence I suffer from you, Macarius, for when I want to hurt you, I cannot. But whatever you do, I do and more also. You fast now and then, but I am never refreshed by any food; you often keep vigil, but I never fall asleep. Only in one thing are you better than I am and I acknowledge that." Macarius said to him, "What is that?" and he replied, "It is because of your humility alone that I cannot overcome you."
  • 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."
  • Abba Theodore, surnamed Pherme, had three good books. He went to abba Macarius and said to him, "I have three good books, and I am helped by reading them; other monks also want to read them and they are helped by them. Tell me, what am I to do?" The old man said, "Reading books is good but possessing nothing is more than all.' When he heard this, he went away and sold the books and gave the money to the poor.
  • Someone asked amma Syncletica of blessed memory, "Is absolute poverty perfect goodness?" She replied, "It is a great good for those capable of it; even those who are not capable of it find rest for their souls in it though it causes them anxiety. As tough cloth is laundered pure white by stretched and trampled underfoot, so a tough soul is stretched by freely accepting poverty."
  • When abba Macarius was into Egypt, he found a man who had brought a beast to his cell and he was steeling his possessions. He went up to the thief as though he were a traveler who did not live there and helped him to load the beast and led him on his way in peace, saying to himself, "We brought nothing into this world; but the Lord gave; as he willed, so is it done; blessed be the Lord in all things."
  • Someone brought money to an old man and said, "Take this and spend it for you are old and ill", for he was a leper. The old man replied, "Are you going to take me away from the one who has cared for me for sixty years? I have been ill all that time and I have not needed anything because God has cared for me." And he would not accept it.
  • Once abba Arsenius fell ill in Scetis and in this state he needed just one coin. He could not find one so he accepted one as a gift from someone else, and he said, "I thank you, God, that for your name's sake you have made me worthy to come to this pass, that I should have to beg."
  • Amma Syncletica said, "We ought to govern our souls with discretion and to remain in the community, neither following our own will nor seeking our own good. We are like exiles: we have been separated from the things of this world and have given ourselves in one faith to the one Father. We need nothing of what we have left behind. There we had reputation and plenty to eat; here we have little to eat and little of everything else."
  • Abba Antony said, "Our life and our death are with our neighbor. If we gain our brother, we have gained our God; but if we scandalize our brother, we have sinned against Christ."
  • A brother asked, "I have found a place where my peace is not disturbed by the brethren; do you advise me to live there?" Abba Poemen replied, "The place for you is where you will not harm the brothers."
  • There was an anchorite who was grazing with the antelopes and who prayed to God, saying, "Lord, teach me something more." And a voice came to him, saying, "Go into this monastery and do whatever they tell you." He went there and remained in the monastery, but he did not know the work of the brothers. The young monks began to teach him how to work and they would say to him, "Do this, you idiot," and "Do that, you fool." When he had borne it, he prayed to God, saying, "Lord, I do not know the work of men; send me back to the antelopes." And having been freed by God, he went back into the country to graze with the antelopes.
  • A beginner who goes from one monastery to another is like a wild animal who jumps this way and that for fear of the halter.
  • Having withdrawn from the palace to the solitary life, Abba Arsenius prayed and heard a voice saying to him, "Arsenius, flee, be silent, pray always, for these are the source of sinlessness."
  • A brother in scetis went to ask for a word from Abba Moses and the old man said to him, "Go and sit in your cell and your cell will teach you everything."
  • Abba Nilus said, "The arrows of the enemy cannot touch one who loves quietness; but he who moves about in a crowd will often be wounded."
  • Theophilus of holy memory, bishop of Alexandria, journeyed to Scetis and the brethren coming together said to Abba Pambo, "Say a word or two to the bishop, that his soul may be edified in this place." The old man replied, "If he is not edified by my silence, there is no hope that he will be edified by my words."
  • This place was called Cellia, because of the number of cells there, scattered about the desert. Those who have already begun their training there [i.e. in Nitria] and want to live a more remote life, stripped of external things, withdraw there. For this is the utter desert and the cells are divided from one another by so great a distance that no one can see his neighbor nor can any voice be heard. They live alone in their cells and there is a huge silence and a great quiet there. Only on Saturday and Sunday do they meet in church, and then they see each other face to face, as men restored to heaven.
  • It was revealed to Abba Antony in his desert that there was one in the city who was his equal. He was a doctor by profession, and whatever he had beyond his needs he gave to the poor and every day he sang the sanctus with the angels.
  • Amma Matrona said, "There are many in the mountains who behave as if they were in the town, and they are wasting their time. It is better to have many people around you and to live the solitary life in your will than to be alone and always longing to be with a crowd."
  • Abba Isidore said, "If you fast regularly, do not be inflated with pride; if you think highly of yourself because of it, then you had better eat meat. It is better for a man to eat meat than to be inflated with pride and glorify himself."
  • When blessed Antony was praying in his cell, a voice spoke to him, saying, "Antony, you have not yet come to the measure of the tanner who is in Alexandria." When he heard this, the old man arose and took his stick and hurried into the city. When he had found the tanner...he said to him, "Tell me about your work, for today I have left the desert and come here to see you." He replied, "I am not aware that I have done anything good. When I get up in the morning, before I sit down to work, I say that the whole of this city, small and great, will go into the Kingdom of God because of their good deeds, while I alone will go into eternal punishment because of my evil deeds. Every evening I repeat the same words and believe them in my heart." When blessed Antony heard this he said, "My son, you sit in your own house and work well, and you have the peace of the Kingdom of God; but I spend all my time in solitude with no distractions, and I have not come near the measure of such words."
  • Once three brothers came to visit an old man in Scetis and one of them said to him, "Abba, I have committed to memory the Old and New Testaments." And the old man answered, "You have filled the air with words." The second one said to him, "I have written out the Old and New Testaments with my own hands." He said, "And you have filled the window-ledge with manuscripts." Then the third said, "The grass is growing up my chimney." And the old man replied, "You have driven away hospitality."
  • Once two brothers came to a certain old man. It was his custom not to eat every day but when he saw them he received them joyfully and said, "A fast has its own reward, but he who eats for the sake of love fulfills two commandments: he leaves his own will and he refreshes his brothers."
  • A brother came to see a certain hermit and, as he was leaving, he said, "Forgive me Abba for preventing you from keeping your rule." The hermit replied, "My rule is to welcome you with hospitality and to send you away in peace."
  • It was said of an old man that he dwelt in Syria on the way to the desert. This was his work: whenever a monk came from the desert, he gave him refreshment with all his heart. Now one day a hermit came and he offered him refreshment. The other did not want to accept it, saying he was fasting. Filled with sorrow, the old man said to him, "Do not despise your servant, I beg you, do not despise me, but let us pray together. Look at the tree which is here; we will follow the way of whichever of us causes it to bend when he kneels on the ground and prays." So the hermit knelt down to pray and nothing happened. Then the hospitable one knelt down and at once the tree bent towards him. Taught by this, they gave thanks to God.
  • Abba Nilus said, "Prayer is the seed of gentleness and the absence of anger."
  • We came from Palestine to Egypt and went to see one of the fathers. He offered us hospitality and we said, "Why do you not keep the fast when visitors come to see you? In Palestine they keep it." He replied, "Fasting is always with me but I cannot always have you here. It is useful and necessary to fast but we choose whether we will fast or not. What God commands is perfect love. I receive Christ in you and so I must do everything possible to serve you with love. When I have sent you on your way, then I can continue my rule of fasting. The sons of the bridegroom cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them; when he is taken away from them, then they will fast."
  • A hunter in the desert saw Abba Antony enjoying himself with the brothers, and he was shocked. Wanting to show him that it was necessary sometimes to meet the needs of the brothers, the old man said to him, "Put an arrow in your bow and shoot it." So he did. And the old man said, "Shoot another," and he did so. Then the old man said, "Shoot yet again," and the hunter replied, "If I bend my bow so much, I will break it." Then the old man said to him, "It is the same with the work of God. If we stretch the brothers beyond measure, they will soon break. Sometimes it is necessary to come down to meet their needs."
  • Some monks came to see Abba Poemen and said to him, "When we see brothers dozing in the church, should we rouse them so that they can be watchful?" He said, "For my part, when I see a brother dozing, I put his head on my knees and let him rest."
  • Abba Antony said, "Obedience with abstinence gives men control over wild beasts."
  • Abba Theon ate vegetables, but only those that did not need to be cooked. They say that he used to go out of his cell at night and stay in the company of the wild animals, giving them drink from the water he had. Certainly one could see the tracks of antelopes and wild asses and gazelles and other animals near his hermitage. These creatures always gave him pleasure.
  • Once when a hippopotamus was ravaging the neighboring countryside the fathers called on Abba Bes to help them. He stood at the place and waited and when he saw the beast, which was of enormous size, he commanded it not to ravage the countryside any more, saying, "In the name of Jesus Christ, I order you not to ravage this countryside anymore." The hippopotamus vanished completely from that district as if driven away by an angel.
  • Abba Xanthios said, "A dog is better than I am, for he has love and he does not judge."
  • We came near to a tree, led by our kindly host, and there we stumbled upon a lion. At the sight of him my guide and I quaked, but the saintly old man went unfaltering on and we followed him. The wild beast - you would say it was at the command of God - modestly withdrew a little way and sat down, while the old man plucked the fruit from the lower branches. He held out his hand, full of dates; and up the creature ran and took them as frankly as any tame animal about the house; and when it had finished eating, it went away. We stood watching and trembling; reflecting as well we might what valor of faith was in him and what poverty of spirit in us.
  • While Abba Macarius was praying in his cave in the desert, a hyena suddenly appeared and began to lick his feet and taking him gently by the hem of his tunic, she drew him towards her own cave. He followed her, saying, "I wonder what this animal wants me to do?" When she had led him to her cave, she went in and brought her cubs which had been born blind. He prayed over them and returned them to the hyena with their sight healed. She in turn, by way of a thank offering, brought the man the huge skin of a ram and laid it at his feet. He smiled at her as if at a kind person and taking the skin spread it under him.
  • Amma Syncletica said, "In the beginning there are a great many battles and a good deal of suffering for those who are advancing towards God and, afterwards, ineffable joy. It is like those who wish to light a fire. At first they are choked with smoke and cry, until they obtain what they seek. As it is written, "Our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:24); so we also must kindle the divine fire in ourselves through tears and hard work."
  • Abba Hyperichius said, "Praise God continually with spiritual hymns and always remain in meditation and in this way you will be able to bear the burden of the temptations that come upon you. A traveler who is carrying a heavy load pauses from time to time and draws in deep breaths; it makes the journey easier and the burden lighter."
  • When Abba Apollo heard the sound of singing from the monks who welcomed us, he greeted us according to the custom which all monks follow... He first lay prostrate on the ground, then got up and kissed us and having brought us in he prayed for us; then, after washing our feet with his own hands, he invited us to partake of some refreshment...
  • One could see his monks were filled with joy and a bodily contentment such as one cannot see on earth. For nobody among them was gloomy or downcast.
  • If anyone did appear a little downcast, Abba Apollo at once asked him the reason and told each one what was the secret recesses of his heart. He used to say, "Those who are going to inherit the Kingdom of heaven must not be depondent about their salvation... we who have been considered worthy of so great a hope, how shall we not rejoice without ceasing, since the Apostle urges us always, "Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks"?"
  • Abba Poemen said, "There is no greater love than that a man lays down his life for his neighbor. When you hear someone complaining and you struggle with yourself and do not answer him back with complaints; when you are hurt and bear it patiently, not looking for revenge; then you are laying down your life for your neighbor."
  • One of the beloved of Christ who had the gift of mercy used to say, "The one who is filled with mercy ought to offer it in the same manner in which he has received it, for such is the mercy of God."
  • Abba Antony said, "I no longer fear God, I love him; for love casts out fear."
  • Abba Agathon said, "If I could meet a leper, give him my body and take his, I should be very happy." That is perfect charity. It was also said of him that when he came into the town one day to sell his goods, he met a sick traveler lying in the public place with no one to care for him. The old man rented a room and lived with him there, working with his hands to pay the rent and spending the rest on the sick man's needs. He stayed there four months until the sick man was well again. Then he went back to his cell in peace.
  • A soldier asked Abba Mios if God accepted repentance. After the old man had taught him many things, he said, "Tell me, my dear, if your cloak is torn, do you throw it away?" He replied, "No, I mend it and use it again." The old man said to him, "If you are so careful about your cloak, will not god be equally careful about his creature?"
  • God is the life of all free beings. He is the salvation of all, of believers or unbelievers, of the just or the unjust, of the pious or the impious, of those freed from passions or those caught up in them, of monks or those living in the world, of the educated and the illiterate, of the healthy and the sick, of the young or the old. He is like the outpouring of light, the glimpse of the sun, or the changes of the weather which are the same for everyone without exception.
  • Abba Pambo said, "If you have a heart, you can be saved."
  • There was an old man living in the desert who served God for so many years and he said, "Lord, let me know if I have pleased you." He saw an angel who said to him, "You have not yet become like the gardener in such and such place." The old man marveled and said, "I will go off to the city to see both him and what it is that he does that surpasses all my work and toil of all these years."... So he went to the city and asked the gardener about his way of life.... When they were getting ready to eat in the evening, the old man heard people singing in the streets, for the cell of the gardener was in a public place. Therefore the old man said to him, "Brother, wanting as you do to live according to God, how do you remain in this place and not be troubled when you hear them singing these songs?" The man said, "I tell you, Abba, I have never been troubled or scandalized." When he heard this the old man said, "What, then, do you think in your heart when you hear these things?" And he replied, "That they are all going into the Kingdom." When he heard this, the old man marveled and said, "This is the practice which surpasses my labor of all these years."
  • They asked Abba Macarius, "How should we pray?" And the old man replied, "There is no need to speak much in prayer; often stretch out your hands and say, "Lord, as you will and as you know, have mercy on me." But if there is war in your soul, add, "Help me!" and because he knows what we need, he shows mercy on us."
  • Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and he said to him, "Abba, as far as I can, I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?" Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands toward heaven; his fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, "If you will, you can become all flame."
  • Abba Paul said, "Keep close to Jesus."
  • Some monks came to see Abba Lucius and they said to him, "We do not work with our hands; we obey Paul's command and pray without ceasing." The old man said, "Do you not eat or sleep?" They said, "Yes, we do." He said, "Who prays for you while you are asleep?... Excuse me, brothers, but you do not practice what you claim. I will show you how I pray without ceasing, though I work with my hands." "With God's help, I collect a few palm-leaves and sit down and weave them, saying, "Have mercy upon me, O God, after thy great goodness; according to the multitude of thy mercies do away with mine offenses." He said to them, "Is this prayer or not?" They said, "Yes, it is." And he continued, "When I have worked and prayed in my heart all day, I make about sixteen pence. Two of these I put outside my door and with the rest I buy food. And he who finds the two coins outside the door prays for me while I eat and sleep. And so by the help of God I pray without ceasing."
  • It is clear to all who dwell in Egypt that it is through the monks that the world is kept in being and that through them also human life is preserved and honored by God... There is no town or village in Egypt that is not surrounded by hermitages as if by walls, and all the people depend on the prayers of the monks as if on God himself.
  • Palladius said, "One day when I was suffering from boredom I went to Abba Macarius and said, "What shall I do? My thoughts afflict me, saying, you are not making any progress, go away from here." He said to me, "Tell them, for Christ's sake, I am guarding the walls."
Ed Source
    http://www.quies.org/ed/quies_pclc_sayings_desertfathers.html

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