Sayings & Stories of the Desert Fathers

On Self-Restraint

At one time the abbot Agatho was on a journey with his disciples. And one of them found a little bundle of green peas on the road and said to the old man, “Father, if thou wilt, I shall pick that up.” The old man looked at him wonderingly, and said, “Did you put it there?” The brother answered, “No.” And the old man said, “How could you wish to pick up and take which thou did not put down?”

One of the brethren asked the abbot Isidore, an old man in Scete, saying, “Wherefore do the devils fear thee so mightily?” And the old man said to him, “From the time that I was made a monk, I have striven not to suffer anger to mount as far as my throat.”

Some brothers from Scete visited Abba Antony. When they got into a boat to go to him, they found another elder, and he too was desirous of going there, but the brothers were not acquainted with him. While they were sitting in the boat, they were speaking sayings of the fathers and from the Scripture, then again about their handwork, but the elder remained completely silent. When they came to the anchorage, it emerged that the elder too was on his way to Abba Antony. When they got to him, he said to them, “Nice company you found in that elder,” and he said to the elder, “Nice brothers you found with you, Abba.” The elder said to him, “They are nice, but their courtyard has no gate. Whoever wishes, enters the stable and unties the ass.” He said this because they were speaking whatever came into their mouths.

Abba John Colobos said, “If a king wishes to capture a city of the enemy, he first takes control of water and food, and thus the enemy submits to him, reduced by famine. So too with the passions of the flesh: if a person lives in fasting and hunger, the enemy withers away from his soul.”

Abba Sisoes once confidently affirmed, “Take heart; look, for thirty years I have no longer been pleading with God about sin, but I say this when I pray: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, protect me from my tongue,’ for even until now I fall into sin because of it.”

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