Monday, January 7, 2008

Some interesting thoughts from the Desert Fathers...

From The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks, Penguin Classics

On controlling the tongue
"They said of Agatho that for three years he kept a stone in his mouth in order to teach himself silence." (p20)

On temptation
"When Cyrus of Alexandria was asked about the temptation of lust, he said, 'If you are not tempted, you have no hope; if you are not tempted, it is because you are sinning. The man who does not fight sin at the stage of temptation is sinning already in his body. The man who is sinning in his flesh has no trouble from temptation.'" (p35)

"Poeman said, 'The character of the genuine monk only appears when he is tempted.'" (p63)

"A hermit said, 'We do not make progress because we do not realize how much we can do. We lose interest in the work we have begun, and we want to be good without even trying.'" (p66)

"A brother came to Poemen and said to him, 'Many thoughts come into my mind and put me in danger.' He sent him out into the open air, and said, 'Open your lungs and do not breathe.' He replied, 'I can't do that.' Then he said to him: 'Just as you can't stop air coming into your lungs, so you can't stop thoughts coming into your mind. Your part is to resist them.'" (p101)

"A hermit said, 'Satan has three powers, which lead to all the sins. The first is forgetfulness, the second negligence, the third selfish desire. If forgetfulness comes, it causes negligence, negligence is the mother of selfish desire, and by selfish desire we fall. If the mind is serious, it repels forgetfulness, negligence does not come, selfish desire finds no entry, and so with the help of Christ we shall never fall." (p127)

On Fasting & Humility
"Joseph asked Poemen, 'How should we fast?' Poemen said, 'I suggest that everyone should eat a little less than he wants, every day.'" (p99)

"Antony also said, 'I saw the devil's snares set all over the eart, and I groaned and said, "What can pass through them?" I heard a voice saying, "Humility".' (p148)

"Evagrius said, 'To go against self is the beginning of salvation.'" (p153)

On the Word of God
"John who had been exiled by the Emperor Marcion, said, 'One day we went into Syria to see Poemen for we wanted to ask him about hardness of heart. But he did not know Greek and we did not have an interpreter. When he saw we were embarassed, he began to speak in Greek saying, 'The nature of water is soft, the nature of stone is hard; but if a bottle is hung above a stone letting water drip down, it wears away the stone. It is like that with the word of God; it is soft and our heart is hard, but if a man hears the word of God often, it will break open his heart to the fear of God.'" (p191)

God bless,


Anonymous said...

Thanks Bec
I love the writings of the early monks and some of the early fathers. The ones on temptation have been timely: I have been thinking a lot about how temptation is not the issue. Rather it is how we respond to it that counts. To not be tempted is to have it too easy. No growth. No victory in overcoming. No maturity. But to be tempted and to survive! Now that is something. Like James says in his opening words: "Count it all joy when you face various temptations [many translations say "trials" here - they are the same word in the Greek and we have to let context decide], because you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." I guess that includes not lacking in facing temptations, and overcoming them...
all the best and thanks for your blog site.

Anonymous said...

The Desert Fathers truly are a gift. Thank you for sharing. May it be blessed.