The Doctor is good, but my reluctance prevents me from visiting Him – Abba Isaiah of Scetis


The wounds have scarred my body, but there is no stench so that I may yet seek healing. I hide the wounds of the arrows from people and I cannot bear the doctor removing them. He has prescribed ointments for my wounds but I am not sufficiently strong-hearted to endure their astringency.

The doctor is good. He seeks no compensation from me, but my reluctance prevents me from visiting him. When he comes to me in order to heal me, he finds me eating those things that worsen my wounds. He implores me to stop immediately, but the pleasures of their taste deceive my heart. After I have finished eating, I feel remorseful, but my remorse is not sincere. When he sends me food, saying, “Eat in order that you may be healed,” my bad habit does not allow me to accept it. In the final analysis, I do not know what I will do.

Therefore, weep with me, all my brothers who know me, in order that assistance beyond my strength may come to me and dominate me, that I may become his worthy servant, for his is the power, to the ages of ages. Amen.

[Abba Isaiah of Scetis – Discourse 14]

You wish to live while you are asleep! – Apophthegmata Patrum


Against the thought [of fornication] another old man who dwelt in the desert used to say, “You wish to live while you are asleep! Go, and labour. Go, and work. Go, seek, and you shall find. Awake and stand up. Knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For there are in the world athletes who are called pugilists, who smite each other, and who are held to be worthy of the victory because they fight persistently and endure; these men do not withdraw defeated when they are wounded, for however many times one [of them] may be smitten by two [others], and however [many may be] the blows which he will suffer from them, he continues to fight, and he conquers and is crowned.”

[Apophthegmata Patrum]

Humility is least among men but precious and glorious before God – Abba Pachomius


Above all this, we have been given humility, which watches over all the virtues and is that great holy strength with which God clothed himself when he came into the world. Humility is the rampart of the virtues, the treasury of works, the saving armour and the cure for every wound. When they made fine linens, the wrought gold, and all the fittings of the Tabernacle, they covered them with sackcloth (Ex 27:9-16, Jdt 4:11). Humility is least among men but precious and glorious before God. If we acquire it we shall trample the whole force of the enemy underfoot (Luk 10:19). It is said, Whom shall I consider, if not the humble and meek? (Is 66:2).

[Abba Pachomius of the Koinonia, The Instructions of Pachomius]

Do not let the sun go down on your wrath – Abba Agathon


Abba Agathon used to say, “I have never lain down to sleep and kept anger in my heart, or even a thought of enmity against any man; and I have never allowed any man to lie down to sleep keeping any anger against me.

[Abba Agathon, Apophthegmata Patrum]

The summit of prayer – Mar Isaac the Syrian


The disciple: What is the acme of all labours of asceticism, which a man when he has reached it, recognises as the summit of his course?

The teacher: When he is deemed worthy of constant prayer. When he has reached this, he has touched the end of all virtues and forthwith he has a spiritual dwelling place. If a man has not received in truth the gift of the Comforter, it is not possible for him to accomplish constant prayer in quiet. When the spirit takes its dwelling place in a man he does not cease to pray because the spirit will constantly pray in him. Then, neither when he sleeps, nor when he is awake, will prayer be cut off from his soul; but when he eats and when he drinks, when he lies down or when he does any work, even when he is immersed in sleep, the perfumes of prayer will breathe in his soul spontaneously. And henceforth, he will not possess prayer at limited times but always; and when he has outward rest, even then prayer is ministered unto him secretly. For the silence of the serene is prayer, says a man clad with Christ. For their deliberations are divine impulses. The motions of the pure mind are quiet voices with which they secretly chant psalms to the Invisible One.

[Mar Isaac the Syrian, Ascetical Homilies, XXXV]

Three simple stages of prayer – John Climacus


Before all else, let us list sincere thanksgiving first on the scroll of our prayer.  On the second line, we should put confession and heartfelt contrition of soul.  Then let us present our petition to the King of all.  This is the best way of prayer, as it was shown to one of the brethren by an angel of the Lord.

[John of the Ladder, The Ladder of Divine Ascent]

Whatever the devil casts in, keep casting out – Apophthegmata Patrum


An old man said, “The Calumniator is the Enemy, and the Enemy will never cease to cast into your house, if he possibly can, impurity of every kind, and it is your duty neither to refuse nor to neglect to take that which is cast in and to throw it out; for if you are negligent your house will become filled with impurity, and you will be unable to enter inside. Therefore whatever the Enemy casts in little by little, throw out little by little, and your house shall remain pure by the Grace of Christ.”

[Apophthegmata Patrum]