What God Desires

From The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (ca. 590)

A brother said to an old man, “I do not see any warfare in my heart.” The old man said to him, “Then you are a building open on all four sides; whoever wishes to, goes in and out of you, but you do not notice it. But if you had a door and shut it and did not let the evil thoughts come in through it, then you would see them standing outside warring against you.”

It was said of an old man that when his thoughts said to him, “Relax today, and tomorrow repent,” he retorted, “No, I am going to repent today and may the will of God be done tomorrow.”

An old man said, “He who loses gold or silver can find more to replace it, but he who loses time cannot find more.”

Another old man used to say, “If the inner man is not vigilant, it is not possible to guide the outer man.”

An old man was asked, “How can I find God?” He said, “In fasting, in watching, in labors, in devotion, and above all, in discernment. I tell you, many have injured their bodies without discernment and have gone away from us having achieved nothing. Our mouths smell bad through fasting, we know the Scriptures by heart, we can recite all the Psalms of David, but we have not that which God seeks: charity and humility.”

The Sayings of the Desert Fathers is a collection of the spiritual teachings of hermits who began settling in the Egyptian desert in the third century. Originally transmitted orally in Coptic, various written collections were compiled from the late fifth century. Some teachings are attributed to particular men and women, others are anonymous.


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