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Sayings of The Desert Fathers

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!"

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 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."

It was said of 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 him that he had a hollow in his chest channelled 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."

When Abba Anthony thought about the depth of God's judgements, he asked, "Lord, how is it that some die when they are young, while others drag on to extreme old age? Why are there those who are poor and those who are rich? Why do the wicked prosper, and why are the just in need?"
He heard a voice answering him, Anthony, keep your attention on yourself; these things are according to God's judgement, and you do not need to know anything about them.

An old desert father once said: "Every morning and every evening a monk ought to make a reckoning with himself over his actions and ask himself: "Have I perhaps done what God does not want me to do? Or have I not done what God wants me to do?"

A second ancient father said: "If you want to waste gold or silver, you can find some more gold or silver, but if you waste time, you will never find anymore."

And a third then said: "In the morning when you get up you ought to issue this command: "Body, work for your living; soul, keep awake so as to win your heavenly inheritance!"

A brother said to an older monk: "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."

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."

A venerable saint said: "If the inner person is not watchful, the outer person cannot be watched."

Suppose we were to take a compass and insert the point and draw the outline of a circle. The center point is the same distance from any point on the circumference... Let us suppose that this circle is the world and that God himself is the center: the straight lines drawn from the circumference to the center are the lives of human beings...Let us assume for the sake of the analogy that to move toward God, then, human beings move from the circumference along the various radii of the circle to the center. But at the same time, the closer they are to God, the closer they become to one another; and the closer they are to one another, the closer they become to God."

St. Dorotheus of Gaza, 6th Century.
Quoted from "To Love as God Loves"

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