Sayings & Stories of the Desert Fathers

On Lust

A certain brother, bound by the spirit of lust, made his way to a certain great old man and asked him, saying, “Show me kindness and pray for me, for I am harried by lust.” So the old man entreated the Lord for him. And again coming to the old man, he told the same tale. And again the old man did not neglect to beseech the Lord for him, saying, “Lord, reveal to me whence cometh this devil’s work in my brother. For I have prayed Thee for him, and he hath not yet found any peace.” And the Lord revealed to him what was happening round about that brother. The old man saw him sitting and the spirit of lust beside him as it were sporting with him, and an Angel sent to his help was standing by, and indignant against that brother because he did not prostrate himself before God, but was as one delighting in his imaginations and his whole mind inclining to them. And the old man perceived that the fault was with the brother, and told him so, saying, “Thou dost consent to thine imagination.” And he taught him how one must withstand such thoughts. And the brother, taking breath again by the old man’s wisdom and prayer, found peace from his temptation.

Abba Gerontius of Petra said, “Many are they who tempted by the delights of the flesh, indulged in sexual immorality in the mind without any physical contact. While preserving their physical virginity, they indulge in mental sexual immorality. Beloved, it is good to do what is written, ‘Let each one keep his own heart with all vigilance’” [Prov 4:23].

Concerning the same sinful temptation another elder said, “Do you be like one passing by an eating house in a marketplace and smelling the soup or some roasting meat. He who wished to do so went in and ate; he who did not want to do that simply smelled as he passed by and then went away. So it is with you; shake off from yourself the stench sexual immorality and then get up and pray, saying, ‘Son of God, help me.’ Do this in the case of other sinful temptations too, for we are not here to eradicate these temptations but to resist them.

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