Sayings & Stories of the Desert Fathers

On Fortitude

A certain old man dwelt in the desert, and his cell was far from water, about seven miles: and once when he was going to draw water, he flagged and said to himself, “What need is there for me to endure this toil? I shall come and live near the water.” And saying this, he turned about and saw someone following him and counting his footprints: and he questioned him, saying, “Who are you?” And he said, “I am the angel of the Lord, and I am sent to count your footprints and give you thy reward.” And when he heard him, the old man’s heart was stout, and himself more ready, and he set his cell still farther from that water.

A brother asked an old man, saying, “What shall I do, Father, for I do nothing a monk should, but in a kind of heedlessness I am eating and drinking and sleeping and always full of bad thoughts and great perturbation, going from one task to another, and from one thought to another?” And the old man said, “Sit thou in thy cell, and do what thou canst, and be not troubled: for the little that thou dost now is even as when Antony did great things and many in the desert. For I have this trust in God, that whoever sits in his cell for His name and keeps his conscience shall himself be found in Antony’s place.”

A brother came to Abba Poemen and said to him, “I have many sinful temptatsion and am in danger from them.” The elder took him out in to the open air and said to him, “Inflate your chest and hold the winds,” but he said, “I cannot do that.” The elder said to him, “If you cannot do that, neither can you prevent sinful temptations from coming in. Your task is to withstand them.”

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