I think it is best that a man should have a little bit of all the virtues. Therefore, get up early every day and acquire the beginning of every virtue and every commandment of God. Use great patience, with fear and long-suffering, in the love of God, with all the fervor of your soul and body. Exercise great humility, bear with interior distress; be vigilant and pray often with reverence, with purity of speech and control of your eyes. When you are despised do not get angry; be at peace, and do not render evil for evil. Do not pay attention to the faults of others, and do not try to compare yourself with others, knowing you are less than every created thing. Renounce everything material and that which is of the flesh. Live by the cross, in warfare, in poverty of spirit, in voluntary spiritual asceticism, in fasting, penitence and tears, in discernment, in purity of soul, taking hold of that which is good. Do your work in peace. Persevere in keeping vigil, in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness, and in sufferings. Shut yourself in a tomb as though you were already dead, so that at all times you will think death is near.
There was an old man at Scetis, very austere of body, but not very clear in his thoughts. He went to see Abba John to ask him about forgetfulness. Having received a word from him, he returned to his cell and forgot what Abba John had said to him. He went off again to ask him and having heard the same word from him, he returned with it. As he got near his cell, he forgot it again. This he did many times; he went there, but while he was returning he was overcome by forgetfulness. Later, meeting the old man he said to him, “Do you know, Abba, that I have forgotten again what you said to me? But I did not want to overburden you, so I did not come back.” Abba John said to him, “Go and light a lamp.” He lit it. He said to him, “Bring some more lamps, and light them from the first.” He did so. Then Abba John said to the old man, “Has that lamp suffered any loss from the fact that other lamps have been lit from it?” He said, “No.” The old man continued, “So it is with John; even if the whole of Scetis came to see me, they would not separate me from the love of Christ. Consequently, whenever you want to, come to me without hesitation.” So, thanks to the endurance of these two men, God took forgetfulness away from the old man. Such was the work of the monks of Scetis; they inspire fervour in those who are in the conflict and do violence to themselves to win others to do good.
A teacher ought to be a stranger to the desire for domination vainglory and pride; on3 should not be able to able to fool them by flattery nor blind by gifts, nor conquer him by the stomach, nor dominate him by anger; but he should be patient, gentle and humble as far as possible; he must be tested and without partisanship, full of concern and a lover of souls.
It is good to live in peace , for the wise man practices perpetual prayer. It is truly a great thing for a virgin or monk to live in peace, especially the younger ones. However you should realize that as soon as you intend to live in peace, at once evil comes and weighs down your soul through accidie (sloth and depression) faintheartedness and evil thoughts. It also attacks your body through sickness, debility, weakness of the knees and all the members. It dissipates the strength of the soul and body, so that one believes one is ill and no longer able to pray. But if we are vigilant, all these temptations fall away. There was in fact a monk who was seized by cold and fever every time he began to pray, and he suffered from headaches, too. In this condition, he said to himself, “I am ill, and near to death; so now I will get up before I die and pray.” By reasoning in this way, he did violence to himself and prayed. When he finished , the fever abated also. So by reasoning in this way, the brother resisted, and prayed and was able to conquer his thoughts.
If you’re temperate, do not judge a fornicator, for you would transgress the law just as much. And he who said, “Do not commit fornication” also said “Do not judge”.
Glory vs. Ignominy (Sayings of the Desert Fathers)
- Abba Abraham of Iberia: Father, which is right? Ought I to seek glory for myself or ignominy?
- Abba Theodore of Eleutheropolis: As far as I'm concerned I prefer to seek glory rather than ignominy. If I do something good and praise myself for it, I could condemn my thoughts by saying to myself that I do not deserve the praise; but ignominy comes from evil deeds. How then can I appease my conscious if men have been shocked because of me? It is better, therefore to do good and praise oneself for it.
- Abba Abraham: Father you have spoken well.
A thought comes to me which troubles me and it does not leave me free; but not being able to lead me to act it simply stops me progressing in virtue; but a vigilant man would cut it off and get up to pray.
There is no greater evil than being self-centered. It generates all the temptations and seductions. Woe to him who is enmeshed with this because it disfigures him! — Overcome self-centeredness with all your might. Learn to be humble. Work out this objective with contrition and tears, with the fragrance of humility. Only thus will you get your reward, what you do with humility.
Be not obstinate, but humble. Do not think that you are something you imagine yourself to be, because that is pride, and God disdains the proud.
Trampled on the ground no weeds grow. And the humble soul does not germinate passion and evil. Since we are inadequate in humility, God will not cease to afflict us with tribulations, until we learn this most important lesson to our salvation.
I ask sincerely: Hate contradiction, disobedience, controversy, self-will, vainglory and otherwise any passionate state, because it drives out all the love for God and instead enters bitterness into the soul.
Be sincere in your every action and word. Do not lie, tell the truth. Do not look at the spiritual infirmity of your brothers, or associates, for it does considerable harm. But for the sake of the Lord’s compassion, pay them no heed, lest He will not have a compassionate attitude to your own infirmities.
With all your soul desire humility over every other virtue, for without it no physical works can grant us the grace of adoption by God. In contrast, physical works without the knowledge of their significance are useless and vain.
Calumny is the ignorance of the glory of God and hatred of one’s neighbor.
Avarice is not believing that God cares for you, to despair of the promises of God and to love boasting.