They asked Abba Sisoes, ‘If a brother sins, surely he must do penance for a year?’ He replied, ‘That is a hard saying.’ The visitors said, ‘For six months?’ He replied, ‘That is a great deal.’ They said, ‘For forty days? ‘He said, ‘That is a great deal, too. ‘They said to him, ‘What then? If a brother falls, and the agape is about to be offered, should he simply come to the agape, too? ‘The old man said to them, ‘No, he needs to do penance for a few days. But I trust in God that if such a man does penance with his whole heart, God will receive him, even in three days.’
+ St. Xanthias, The Sayings of the Desert Fathers
“Abba John said, ‘Who sold Joseph?’ A brother replied saying, ‘It was his brethren.’ The old man said to him, ‘No, it was his humility which sold him, because he could have said, “I am their brother” and have objected, but, because he kept silence, he sold himself by his humility. It is also his humility which set him up as chief in Egypt.'”
+ St. John the Dwarf from The Sayings of the Desert Fathers
It was revealed to Abba Anthony in his desert that there was one in the city who was his equal. He was a doctor by profession, and whatever he had beyond his needs he gave to the poor and every day he sang the Sanctus with the angels.
Abba Poemen said that Abba John said that the saints are like a group of trees, each bearing different fruit, but watered from the same source. The practices of one saint differ from those of another, but it is the same Spirit that works in all of them.
Source: Sr. Benedicta Ward, The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications, 1975), pp. 89-95
A brother asked one of the Fathers, What shall I do? My thoughts are always turned to lust without allowing me an hour’s respite, and my soul is tormented by it. He said to him, Every time the demons suggest these thoughts to you, do not argue with them. For the activity of demons always is to suggest, and suggestions are not sins, for they cannot compel; but it rests with you to welcome them, or not to welcome them. Do you know what the Midianites did? They adorned their daughters and presented them to the Israelites. They did not compel anyone, but those who consented, sinned with them, while the others were enraged and put them to death. It is the same with thoughts.
The brother answered the old man, What shall I do, then, for I am weak and passion overcomes me?? He said to him, Watch your thoughts, and every time they begin to say something to you, do not answer them but rise and pray; kneel down, saying, Son of God, have mercy on me.
Then the brother said to him, Look, Abba, I meditate, and there is no compunction in my heart because I do not understand the meaning of the words. The other said to him, Be content to meditate. Indeed, I have learned that Abba Poemen and many other Fathers uttered the following saying, The magician does not understand the meaning of the words which he pronounces, but the wild animal who hears it understands, submits, and bows to it. So it is with us also; even if we do not understand the meaning of the words we are saying, when the demons hear them, they take fright and go away.