Sayings Of The Desert Fathers

'Athletes for Christ' they called themselves. The Desert Fathers were quiet, fourth century hermits who went to extremes, leading a strenuous pursuit of spiritual rigor in the empty wastelands of Syria, Egypt and Palestine. Who were they? Desperate fools or the first radical Christians? And what relevance can they have for us today? A quaint oddity from our past or a pure, uncomplicated pattern for today? It all depends, I suppose, on what you think of the Gospel. I discovered the Desert Fathers very early in my priesthood and they have been for me a constant and fresh inspiration to go further and deeper into the passion of God.

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 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. Xanthias

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

There was in the Cells an Abba 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. Apollo

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

(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.