A Lesson from Saint Abraham of Scetis

Egyptian Desert

Egyptian Desert

It was said of an old man that for fifty years he had neither eaten bread nor drunk wine readily. He even said, “I have destroyed fornication, avarice, and vain-glory in myself.” Learning that he had said this, Abba Abraham came and said to him, “Did you really say that?” He answered, “Yes.” Then Abba Abraham said to him, “If you were find a woman lying on your mat when you entered your cell would you think it is not a woman?” “No,” he replied, “But I should struggle against my thoughts so as not to touch her.” Then Abba Abraham said, “Then you have not destroyed the passion, but it still lives in you although it is controlled. Again, if you are walking along and you see some gold amongst the stones and shells, can your spirit regard them all as of equal value?” “No,” he replied, but I would struggle against my thoughts, so as not to take the gold.” The old man said to him, “See, avarice still lives in you, though it is controlled.” Abba Abraham continued, “Suppose you learn that of two brothers one loves you while the other hates you, and speaks evil of you; if they come to see you, will you receive them both with the same love?” “No,” he replied, “But I should struggle against my thoughts so as to be as kind towards the one who hates me as towards the one who loves me.” Abba Abraham said to him, “So then, the passions continue to live; it is simply that they are controlled by the saints.”

* This excerpt is from “The Sayings of the Desert Fathers” tranlated by Benedicta Ward

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