Sayings & Stories of the Desert Fathers

On A Holy Life

This abbot Sisois sitting in his cell would ever have his door closed. But it was told of him how in the day of his sleeping, when the Fathers were sitting round him, his face shone like the sun, and he said to them, “Look, the abbot Antony comes.” And after a little while, he said again to them, “Look the company of the prophets comes.” And again his face shone brighter, and he said, “Look, the company of the apostles comes.” And his face shone with a double glory, and lo, he seemed as though he spoke with others. And the old man entreated him, saying, “With whom art thou speaking father?” And he said to them, “Behold, the angels came to take me, and I asked that I might be left a little while to repent.” The old men said to him, “Thou has no need of repentance, Father.” But he said to them “Verily I know not if I have clutched at the very beginning of repentance.” And they all knew that he was made perfect. And again of a sudden his face was as the sun, and they all were in dread. And he said to them, “Look, behold the Lord cometh, saying, ‘Bring me my chosen from the desert.’” And straightway he gave up the ghost. And there came as it might be lightning, and all the place was filled with sweetness.

When the blessed Ephraim was a child, he had a dream or a vision: a vine sprung up from his tongue, grew, and filled all the space under heaven, and it was very fruitful. All the birds of the air were eating of the fruit of the vine, and while they were eating, the fruit was proliferating.

An elder said, “Beseech God to give you sorrow in your heart and humility. Be always attentive to your sins and do not judge others; rather, rate yourself beneath all others. Maintain no friendship with a woman, with a child, or with heretics. Disassociate yourself from loose talk; control your tongue and your belly, abstaining from wine. If somebody speaks to you about any matter whatsoever, do not argue with him. If he speaks well, say, ‘Yes.’ If he speaks badly, say, ‘You know what you are talking about,’ and do not contend with him about what he says; then your mind will be at peace.’

John Colobos said, “I saw one of the elders in a trance, and here there were three elders standing on the other shore of the sea. A voice came to them from the other shore, saying, ‘Take wings of fire and come to me.’ Two of them took wings and flew to the other shore, but the other remained there, weeping and crying out. Wings were eventually given to him, not of fire but feeble and weak ones. He got to the other side, being thrown into the sea as he toiled and getting up out of it with great difficulty. So it is with this generation: if it receives wings, they will still not be of fire; they will scarcely receive feeble and weak ones.”

An elder said, ‘This is the life of the monk: work, obedience, meditation, not judging, not backbiting, not grumbling; for it is written, ‘O you that love the Lord, hate the things that are evil’ [Ps 96:10]. The life of a monk is to have nothing to do with that which is unjust, not to see evil with one’s eyes, not to be a busybody, not to listen to other folks’ affairs, to give rather than to take away with one’s hands, not to have pride in one’s heart nor wicked thoughts in one’s mind nor to fill one’s belly, but rather to act with discretion in all things. In these the life of the monk consists.’

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