Sayings & Stories of the Desert Fathers

On Hospitality

A brother asked him, “Utter a saying for me.” The elder said to him, “Toil at manual labor as much as you can in order to provide for him who is in need from it for it is written, ‘Sins are purged by almsgiving and by acts of faith’” [Prov 15:27a]. “What is an act of faith?” the brother said to him. “An act of faith,” the elder said, “is to live in humble-mindedness and to perform [deeds of] mercy.”

An anchorite who led a strictly disciplined existence was living near a coenobion. Some people happened to visit the coenobion, and they constrained him to eat out of hours. Afterward the brothers said to him, “Were you not distressed just now, Abba?” but he said to them, “My distress is when I do my own will.”

There was an elder living at a place in the desert and, some considerable distance from him, another person: a Manichee who was a priest, or rather one of those whom they call priests. When he went to visit one of his coreligionists, nightfall overtook him at the place where the elder was. He was on the horns of a dilemma, wishing to knock, enter, and sleep at his place. But he knew the elder was aware that he was a Manichee and thought he would refuse to receive him. However, constrained by necessity, he knocked. When the elder opened the door, he recognized him and joyfully welcomed him in. He encouraged him to pray; he refreshed him and assigned him a place to sleep. Coming to himself in the night, the Manichee said in his astonishment, “How come he has no suspicion toward me? This is indeed a man of God.” He came and fell at his feet, saying, “I am an orthodox from this day,” and thus he remained with him.

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