Sayings & Stories of the Desert Fathers

On Possessions

The abbot Theodore of Pherme had three fine codices. And he came to the abbot Macarius and said to him. “I have three codices, and I profit by the reading of them. And the brethren also come seeking to read them, and they themselves profit. Tell mc, therefore, what I ought to do?” And the old man answering said, “These are good deeds: but better than all is to possess nothing.” And hearing this, he went away and sold the aforenamed codices, and gave the price of them to the needy.

Said the abbot Hyperichius, “The treasure house of the monk is voluntary poverty. Wherefore, my brother, lay up your treasure in heaven: for there abides the ages of quiet without end.”

A brother asked a certain old man, saying, “Would you let me keep two gold pieces for myself against some in infirmity of the body?” The old man, seeing his thought, that he was wishful to keep them, said, “Even so.” And the brother going into his cell was torn by his thoughts, saying, “I am thinking and wondering, did the old man tell me the truth or no?” And rising up he came again to the old man, in penitence, and asked him, “For God’s sake tell me the truth, for I am tormented thinking about these two gold pieces.” The old man said to him, “I saw that your will was set on keeping them. So I told you to keep them: but indeed it’s not good to keep more than the body’s need. If you had kept the two gold pieces, in them would have been your hope. And if it should happen that they were lost, how should God have any thought for us? Let us cast our thoughts upon God: since it is for Him to care for us.”

Abba Pambo used to say, “The monk ought to wear the sort of clothing that if he threw it out of the cell, nobody would take it.”

A brother asked Abba Serapion, “Utter a saying for me.” The elder said, “What am I supposed to say to you? That you took the goods of widows and orphans and put them in this window casement?”—for he saw that it was full of books.

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