Sayings of the Desert Fathers

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If a man does not say in his heart, in the world there is only myself and God, he will not gain peace. ~ Abba Alonius

Apophthegmata Patrum is the name given to various collections popularly known as Sayings of the Desert Fathers, consisting of stories and sayings attributed to the Desert Fathers and Desert Mothers from approximately the 5th century AD.

Quotes[edit]

Alphabetical Sayings[edit]

Sayings of the Desert Fathers, as translated by Benedicta Ward, SLG (Cistercian Publications: 1975)


Just as fish die if they stay too long out of water, so the monks who loiter outside their cells or pass their time with men of the world lose the intensity of inner peace. So like a fish going towards the sea, we must hurry to reach our cell, for fear that if we delay outside, we will lose our interior watchfulness.
  • Just as fish die if they stay too long out of water, so the monks who loiter outside their cells or pass their time with men of the world lose the intensity of inner peace. So like a fish going towards the sea, we must hurry to reach our cell, for fear that if we delay outside, we will lose our interior watchfulness.


  • Μισήσατε τὸν κόσμον καὶ πάντα τὰ ἐν αὐτῷ. Μισήσατε πᾶσαν σαρκικὴν ἀνάπαυσιν. Ἀποτάξασθε τῇ ζωῇ ταύτῃ, ἵνα ζήσητε τῷ Θεῷ.
    • Hate the world and all that is in it. Hate all peace that comes from the flesh. Renounce this life, so that you may be alive to God.


  • Ὁ τύπτων τὸ μαζὶν τοῦ σιδήρου, πρῶτον σκοπεῖ τὸν λογισμὸν τί μέλλει ποιεῖν, δρέπανον, μάχαιραν, πέλυκα. Οὕτως καὶ ἡμεῖς ὀφείλομεν λογίζεσθαι ποίαν ἀρετὴν μετερχόμεθα, ἵνα μὴ εἰς κενὸν κοπιάσωμεν.
    • Whoever hammers a lump of iron, first decides what he is going to make of it, a scythe, a sword, or an axe. Even so we ought to make up our minds what kind of virtue we want to forge or we labor in vain.


  • Ὁ ἀββᾶς Ἀρσένιος, ἔτι ὢν ἐν τῷ παλατίῳ, εὔξατο τῷ Θεῷ λέγων· Κύριε, ὁδήγησόν με πῶς σωθῶ. Καὶ ἦλθεν αὐτῷ φωνὴ λέγουσα· Ἀρσένιε, φεῦγε τοὺς ἀνθρώπους, καὶ σώζῃ.
    • While still living in the palace, Abba Arsenius prayed to God in these words, "Lord, lead me in the way of salvation." And a voice came saying to him, "Arsenius, flee from men and you will be saved."


  • I cannot live with God and with men. The thousands and ten thousands of the heavenly hosts have but one will, while men have many. So I cannot leave God to be with men.


  • Ὅση δύναμίς σοί ἐστιν, ἀγώνισαι, ἵνα ἡ ἔνδον σου ἐργασία κατὰ Θεὸν ᾗ, καὶ νικήσῃ τὰ ἔξω πάθη.
    • Strive with all your might to bring your interior activity into accord with God, and you will overcome exterior passions.


  • Someone asked Abba Agathon, "Which is better, bodily asceticism or interior vigilance?" The old man replied, "Man is like a tree, bodily asceticism is the foliage, interior vigilance the fruit. According to that which is written, 'Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be cut down and cast into the fire' (Matt 3:10) it is clear that all our care should be directed towards the fruit, that is to say, guarding of the spirit; but it needs the protection and the embellishment of the foliage, which is bodily asceticism.
    • Abba Agathon, Saying 8, Page 21


  • A brother questioned Abba Abraham, saying, 'If I find myself eating often, what will come of it?' The old man replied in this way, 'What are you saying, brother? Do you eat so much? Or perhaps you think that you have come to the threshing floor to thresh grain?'
    • Abba Abraham, Saying 2, Page 34


  • Ἐὰν μὴ εἴπῃ ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ ἄνθρωπος, ὅτι Ἐγὼ μόνος καὶ ὁ Θεὸς ἐσμὲν ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ, οὐχ ἕξει ἀνάπαυσιν.
    • If a man does not say in his heart, in the world there is only myself and God, he will not gain peace.
      • Abba Alonius, Saying 1, page 35


  • Εἰ μὴ τὸ ὅλον κατέστρεψα, οὐκ ἂν ἠδυνήθην ἐμαυτὸν οἰκοδομῆσαι.
    • If I had not destroyed myself completely, I should not have been able to rebuild and shape myself again.
      • Abba Alonius, Saying 2, page 35


  • Πρέπει τῷ μοναχῷ τὰ τρία ταῦτα· ἡ ξενιτεία, ἡ πτωχεία, καὶ ἡ σιωπὴ ἐν ὑπομονῇ.
    • These three things are appropriate for a monk: exile, poverty, and endurance in silence.
      • Abba Andrew, Saying 1, Page 37


  • Στέφανός ἐστι μοναχοῦ ἡ ταπεινοφροσύνη.
    • The crown of the monk is humility.
      • Abba Or, Saying 9, Page 247


  • He also said concerning Abba Pior that every day he made a new beginning.
    • Poemen (called the Shepherd), Saying 85, Page 179


  • A brother asked Abba Sisoes the Theban, "Give me a word," and he said, "What shall I say to you? I read the New Testament, and I turn to the old."
    • Sisoes, Saying 35, Page 219


Seek God, and do not seek where he dwells.
  • Abba Sisoes said, "Seek God, and do not seek where he dwells."
    • Sisoes, Saying 40, Page 220


  • Abba Joseph said to Abba Lot, "You cannot be a monk unless you become like a consuming fire."
    • Joseph of Panephysis, Saying 6, Page 103


Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, "If you will, you can become all flame."
  • Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, "Abba, as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?" Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, "If you will, you can become all flame."
    • Joseph of Panephysis, Saying 7, Page 103


  • It was said of Abba Agathon that for three years he lived with a stone in his mouth, until he had learnt to keep silence.
    • Agathon, Saying 15, Page 22


  • He also said to those who were making a good beginning by putting themselves under the direction of the holy Fathers, "As with purple dye, the first colouring is never lost." And, "Just as young shoots are easily trained back and bent, so it is with beginners who live in submission."
    • Isaiah, Saying 2, Page 69


  • A soldier asked Abba Mius if God accepted repentance. After the old man had taught him many things he said, "Tell me, my dear, if your cloak is torn, do you throw it away?" He replied, "No, I mend it and use it again." The old man said to him, "If you are so careful about your cloak, will not God be equally careful about his creature?"
    • Mius, Saying 3, Page 150


  • Some old men came to see Abba Poemen and said to him, "When we see brothers who are dozing at the synaxis, shall we rouse them so that they will be watchful?" He said to them, "For my part when I see a brother who is dozing, I put his head on my knees and let him rest."
    • Poemen (called the Shepherd), Saying 92, Page 179


"Abba Arsenius, how is it that you with such a good Latin and Greek education, ask this peasant about your thoughts?" He replied, "I have indeed been taught Latin and Greek, but I do not know even the alphabet of this peasant."
  • One day Abba Arsenius consulted an old Egyptian monk about his own thoughts. Someone noticed this and said to him, "Abba Arsenius, how is it that you with such a good Latin and Greek education, ask this peasant about your thoughts?" He replied, "I have indeed been taught Latin and Greek, but I do not know even the alphabet of this peasant."
    • Arsenius, Saying 6, Page 10


Abba Pambo said, "If you have a heart, you can be saved."
  • Abba Pambo said, "If you have a heart, you can be saved."
    • Pambo, Saying 10, Page 197


  • A brother who had sinned was turned out of the church by the priest; Abba Bessarion got up and went with him, saying, "I, too, am a sinner."
    • Bessarion, Saying 7, Page 42


  • A brother said to Abba Serapion, "Give me a word." The old man said to him, "What shall I say to you? You have taken the living of the widows and orphans and put it on your shelves." For he saw them full of books.
    • Serapion, Saying 2, Page 227


  • Abba Anthony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, "You are mad, you are not like us."
    • Anthony, Saying 25, Page 6


  • One day Abba Anthony received a letter from the Emperor Constantius, asking him to come to Constantinople and he wondered whether he ought to go. So he said to Abba Paul, his disciple, "Ought I to go?" He replied, "If you go, you will be called Anthony; but if you stay here, you will be called Abba Anthony."
    • Anthony, Saying 31, Page 8


  • A brother questioned Abba Moses saying, "I see something in front of me and I am not able to grasp it." The old man said to him, "If you do not become dead like those who are in the tomb, you will not be able to grasp it."
    • Moses, Saying 11, Page 140


Abba Poemen said that a brother asked Abba Moses how someone could consider himself as dead towards his neighbour. The old man said to him, "If a man does not think in his heart that he is already three days dead and in the tomb, he cannot attain this saying."
  • Abba Poemen said that a brother asked Abba Moses how someone could consider himself as dead towards his neighbour. The old man said to him, "If a man does not think in his heart that he is already three days dead and in the tomb, he cannot attain this saying."
    • Moses, Saying 12, Page 141


I even poured some into a leather bottle for fear of being thirsty later on. Seeing this, the old man asked me why I was taking some. I said to him, "Forgive me, it is for fear of being thirsty later on." Then the old man said, "God is here, God is everywhere."
  • Abba Doulas, the disciple of Abba Bessarion said, "One day when we were walking beside the sea I was thirsty and I said to Abba Bessarion, "Father, I am very thirsty." He said a prayer and said to me, "Drink some of the sea water." The water proved sweet when I drank some. I even poured some into a leather bottle for fear of being thirsty later on. Seeing this, the old man asked me why I was taking some. I said to him, "Forgive me, it is for fear of being thirsty later on." Then the old man said, "God is here, God is everywhere."
    • Bessarion, Saying 1, Page 40


  • The same Abba Theophilus, the archbishop, came to Scetis one day. The brethren who were assembled said to Abba Pambo, "Say something to the archbishop, so that he may be edified." The old man said to them, "If he is not edified by my silence, he will not be edified by my speech."
    • Theophilus the Archbishop, Saying 2, Page 81


  • Abba Euprepius said, "Bodily things are compounded of matter. He who loves the world loves occasions of falling. Therefore if we happen to lose something, we must accept this with joy and gratitude, realising that we have been set free from care."
    • Euprepius, Saying 3, Page 62


  • Abba Sisoes, the Theban, said to his disciple, "Tell me what you see in me and then I will tell you what I see in you." His disciple said to him, "You are a good man, but a little hard." The old man said to him, "You are good, too, but you are not tough enough."
    • Sisoes, Saying 51, Page 221


  • Abba Macarius was asked, "How should one pray?" The old man said, "There is no need at all to make long discourses; it is enough to stretch out one's hands and say, 'Lord, as you will, and as you know, have mercy.' And if the conflict grows fiercer say, 'Lord, help!' He knows very well what we need and he shews us his mercy."
    • Macarius the Great, Saying 19, Page 131


He who dwells with brethren must not be square, but round, so as to turn himself towards all.
  • A brother questioned Abba Matoes saying, "What am I to do? My tongue makes me suffer, and every time I go among men, I cannot control it, but I condemn them in all the good they are doing and reproach them with it. What am I to do?" The old man replied, "If you cannot contain yourself, flee into solitude. For this is a sickness. He who dwells with brethren must not be square, but round, so as to turn himself towards all." He went on, "It is not through virtue that I live in solitude, but through weakness; those who live in the midst of men are the strong ones."
    • Mark, Disciple of Abba Silvanus, Saying 13, Page 145


  • Abba Bessarion, at the point of death, said, "The monk ought to be as the Cherubim and the Seraphim: all eye."
    • Bessarion, Saying 11, Page 42

Systematic Sayings[edit]

The Book of the Elders (Sayings of the Desert Fathers): The Systematic Collection, translated by John Wortley. Cistercian Publications, 2012.


When Abba Arsenius was still in the palace, he prayed to God, saying, "Lord, show me the way to be saved," and there came to him a voice saying, "Arsenius, flee from people and you shall be saved."
He was also asked, "Why am I continually negligent?"
"Because you have never seen the sun," he replied.
  • When Abba Arsenius was still in the palace, he prayed to God, saying, "Lord, show me the way to be saved," and there came to him a voice saying, "Arsenius, flee from people and you shall be saved."
    • No. 3, in Chapter 2. Hēsychia


A brother visited Abba Moses at Scete, asking him for a saying. The elder said to him, "Go and stay in a cell; your cell will teach you everything."
  • A brother visited Abba Moses at Scete, asking him for a saying. The elder said to him, "Go and stay in a cell; your cell will teach you everything."
    • No. 19, in Chapter 2. Hēsychia


  • Abba Isaiah said, "Love to be silent rather than to speak; for silence saves up, but speaking fritters away."
    • No. 18, in Chapter 4. Self-Control


  • Abba Macarius the Great used to say to the brothers at Scete when he was dismissing the congregation, "Flee, brothers!" One of the fathers said to him, "Where can we fly to that is further removed than this desert?" and he placed his finger on his mouth, saying, "Flee from this," and, so saying, he went into his own cell, shut the door, and stayed there.
    • No. 30, in Chapter 4. Self-Control


  • Abba Joseph asked Abba Poemen, "Tell me how I can become a monk." Said the elder to him, "If you want to find repose here and in the age to come, say in every situation, ‘I, who am I?’ and do not pass judgment on anybody."
    • No. 8, in Chapter 9. Passing Judgment


  • A brother asked Abba Macarius, "How might I be saved?" The elder replied, "Be as though dead and pay no attention (like the dead) to the scorn or the admiration of people, and you will be saved."
    • No. 47, in Chapter 10. Discretion


  • Abba Poemen said, "What is the point of building a house for somebody else and destroying one’s own?"
    • No. 55, in Chapter 10. Discretion


  • He also said, "What is the point in taking up a trade without learning it?"
    • No. 56, in Chapter 10. Discretion


Abba Alōnas said, "Unless a person says in his heart, ‘I alone and God are in the world,’ he will not have repose."
  • Abba Alōnas said, "Unless a person says in his heart, ‘I alone and God are in the world,’ he will not have repose."
    • No. 13, in Chapter 11. Being Ever Watchful


  • He [an elder] also said, "The bee makes honey wherever it goes; likewise, the monk too performs the work of God wherever he goes."
    • No. 86, in Chapter 11. Being Ever Watchful


  • An elder was asked, "Why am I afraid when I walk about in the desert?" "Because you are still alive," he replied.
    • No. 5, in Chapter 21. Elders’ Sayings


  • An elder was asked, "How come you are never discouraged?" and he answered, "Because every day I expect to die."
    • No. 7, in Chapter 21. Elders' Sayings


  • He was also asked, "Why am I continually negligent?" "Because you have never seen the sun," he replied.
    • No. 8, in Chapter 21. Elders' Sayings


  • An elder said, "The root of all good works is truth."
    • No. 61, in Chapter 21. Elders' Sayings


  • An elder said, "A person who does not receive all people as equal but makes distinctions—such a person cannot be perfect."
    • No. 62, in Chapter 21. Elders' Sayings


  • The elders used to say, "In the same way that fire burns wood, so the work of the monk ought to burn the passions."
    • No. 63, in Chapter 21. Elders' Sayings

Anonymous Sayings[edit]

The anonymous sayings of the Desert Fathers, translated by John Wortley. Cambridge University Press, 2013.

There are 765 "anonymous sayings" of the Desert Fathers. A selection is listed below.


  • 1. Ἠρωτήθη ὁ ἅγιος πατὴρ ἡμῶν Ἀθανάσιος ὁ ἐπίσκοπος Ἀλεξανδρείας· Πῶς ἴσος ὁ υἱὸς τῷ πατρί; Καὶ ἀπεκρίθη· Ὡς ἐν δυσὶν ὀφθαλμοῖς τὸ ὁρᾶν.
    • Our holy father Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, was asked: “In what way is the Son equal to the Father?”
He replied: “In the same way that there is seeing in two eyes.”


  • 10. Εἶπεν γέρων· Αὕτη ἡ φωνὴ βοᾷ πρὸς τὸν ἄνθρωπον ἕως ἐσχάτης ἀναπνοῆς ὅτι σήμερον ἐπίστρεψον.
    • An elder said: “The voice itself shouts to man until his last breath: ‘Turn around today!’”


  • 18. Εἶπεν γέρων ἑτέρῳ γέροντι ἔχοντι ἀγάπην, καὶ συμβαλλομένῳ καὶ μοναχοῖς καὶ κοσμικοῖς· ὅτι ὁ λύχνος πολλοὺς φαίνει [f. 161v] τὸ δὲ ἑαυτοῦ στόμα καίει.
    • An elder said to another elder who had great love and who fraternised with both monks and worldlings: “A lamp sheds light on many, but it burns its own mouth.


  • 28. Παρέβαλέ τις τῶν ἐπισκόπων κατ᾿ ἐνιαυτὸν εἰς Σκῆτιν πρὸς τοὺς πατέρας, καὶ ἀπαντήσας αὐτῷ ἀδελφὸς ἤνεγκεν αὐτὸν εἰς τὸ κελλίον ἑαυτοῦ, καὶ παραθεὶς αὐτῷ ἄρτον καὶ ἅλας, ἔλεγεν· Συγχώρησόν μοι, κύρι, ὅτι οὐδὲν ἄλλο ἔχω παραθεῖναί σοι. Λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ ἐπίσκοπος· Θέλω ἵνα καὶ εἰς τὸ ἐρχόμενον ἔτος εἰσελθών, μήτε ἅλας εὕρω.
    • One of the bishops visited the fathers at Scete each year. A brother met him and conducted him into his [own] cell, setting before him bread and salt with the words: “Forgive me, my lord, for I have nothing else to set before you.”
The bishop said to him: “When I come next year, I don’t want even to find salt.


  • 29. Ἔλεγέ τις τῶν ἀδελφῶν· ὅτι ἐγένετο ζήτησις ἐν τῇ λαύρᾳ τῆς Αἰγύπτου, καὶ ἐλάλησαν πάντες, οἱ μεγάλοι καὶ οἱ μικροί, εἷς δὲ μόνος οὐκ ἐλάλησεν. Καὶ ἐξελθόντων αὐτῶν, ἠρώτησεν αὐτὸν εἷς [f. 164r] ἀδελφὸς λέγων· Πῶς σὺ οὐκ ἐλάλησας; Ὁ δὲ βιασθεὶς ὑπὸ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ εἶπεν· Συγχώρησόν μοι, ὅτι εἶπον τῷ λογισμῷ μου· ὅτι ἐὰν μὴ λαλήσῃ τὸ ἐμβρίμιον τὸ ὑποκάτω μου, μὴ λαλήσῃς. Καὶ οὕτως ἔμεινα σιωπῶν καὶ μὴ φθεγγόμενος.
    • One of the brothers used to say that an enquiry took place at the Lavra of Egypt and everybody spoke, great and small; there was only one who did not speak. As they were coming out, one brother asked him, saying: “How was it that you did not speak?”
Pressed by the brother, the other said: “Forgive me, but I said to my logismos: ‘If the cushion under me does not speak, don’t you speak’ and thus I remained silent, not uttering [anything].”


  • 33. Ἦν τις γέρων καλούμενος Ἱέραξ εἰς τὰ μέρη Θηβαΐδος ἐλάσας περὶ τὰ ἐνενήκοντα ἔτη. Καὶ θέλοντες οἱ δαίμονες εἰς ἀκηδίαν αὐτὸν ἐμβαλεῖν τῷ μήκει τοῦ χρόνου ἐπέστησαν αὐτῷ ἐν ἡμέρᾳ λέγοντες· Τί ποιήσεις, γέρον, ὅτι ἄλλα πεντήκοντα1 ἔχεις ζῆσαι; Ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς λέγει αὐτοῖς· Ἐλυπήσατέ με πάνυ. Διακοσίων γὰρ ἐτῶν παρασκευὴν ἔθηκα. Οἱ δὲ ἀπήρχοντο ὀλολύζοντες ἀπ᾿ αὐτοῦ.
    • There was an elder in the district of the Thebaid named Hierax who had lived for about ninety years. Wishing to cast him into accidie through his longevity, the demons set upon him one day, saying: “What are you going to do, elder, for you have another fifty years to live?”
In answer he said to them: “You have greatly distressed me, because I made preparations for two hundred years” – and they went away from him, howling.


  • 35. Ἀναχωρητῇ τινὶ μεγάλῳ εἰπόντι· Τί οὕτως με πολεμεῖς, Σατανᾶ; ἐπήκουσεν ὁ Σατανᾶς λέγων· Σὺ εἶ ὁ μεγάλως με πολεμῶν.
    • To a great anchorite who said: “Why do you do battle with me like this, Satan?”
Satan took heed, saying: “It is you who mightily does battle with me.”


  • 36. Ἀναχωρητής τις εἶδεν δαίμονα προτρεπόμενον ἕτερον δαίμονα, ἐλθεῖν καὶ διυπνίσαι καθεύδοντα μοναχόν. Καὶ ἀκούει τοῦ ἄλλου λέγοντος· Οὐ δύναμαι τοῦτο ποιῆσαι, ποτὲ γὰρ αὐτὸν ἐξύπνισα, καὶ ἀναστὰς ἔκαυσέ με ψάλλων καὶ εὐχόμενος.
    • An anchorite saw one demon inciting another one to go and awaken a sleeping monk and he heard the other one saying: “I cannot do that because I did awaken him once. He got up and burnt me, singing psalms and praying.”


  • 45. Γέρων τις ἀπῄει πωλῆσαι τὰ μαλάκια αὐτοῦ. Τούτῳ δαίμων ἀπαντήσας, ἄφαντα αὐτὰ πεποίηκεν. Ὁ δὲ γέρων ἐτράπη εἰς εὐχὴν καὶ ἔλεγεν· Εὐχαριστῶ σοι, ὁ Θεός, ὅτι ἀπήλλαξάς με πειρασμοῦ. Ὁ δὲ δαίμων μὴ [f. 171v] ὑπομείνας τὴν φιλοσοφίαν τοῦ γέροντος ἔκραξε λέγων· Ἰδοὺ τὰ μαλάκιά σου, κακόγηρε. Ὁ δὲ γέρων λαβὼν ἐπώλησεν αὐτά.
    • An elder was going off to sell his palm-leaf baskets; a demon that met him rendered them invisible. The elder resorted to prayer, saying: “I thank you God for delivering me from temptation.”
Unable to tolerate the elder’s way of life, the demon cried out saying: “Look, there are your baskets, wicked old man!” The elder took them and sold them.


An elder said: "The root of all evils is forgetfulness."
  • 65. Εἶπεν γέρων· Ῥίζα πάντων τῶν κακῶν ἐστὶν ἡ λήθη.
    • An elder said: “The root of all evils is forgetfulness.


  • 86. Μοναχός τις εἰργάζετο ἐν ἡμέρᾳ Μάρτυρος, ἰδὼν δὲ αὐτὸν ἄλλος μοναχός, λέγει αὐτῷ· Ἔνι σήμερον ἐργάσασθαι; Ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· Σήμερον ὁ δοῦλος τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐξέετο μαρτυρῶν καὶ ἐβασανίζετο, κἀγὼ οὐκ ὀφείλω κοπιᾶσαι μικρὸν ἐν τῷ ἔργῳ σήμερον;
    • A monk was working on a day when a martyr was being commemorated. Another monk saw him and said: “Is it possible that you are working today?”
He said to him: “On this day the servant of God was tortured bearing witness [to his faith] and was beaten; ought not I too to make a little effort at work today?


An elder was asked what sort of person a monk should be, to which he replied: "In my opinion, one on one (monos pros monon)."
  • 89. Ἠρωτήθη γέρων ποῖον δεῖ εἶναι τὸν μοναχόν; καὶ εἶπεν· Ἐὰν ὡς κατ᾿ ἐμὲ μόνος πρὸς μόνον.
    • An elder was asked what sort of person a monk should be, to which he replied: “In my opinion, one on one (monos pros monon).” (French: “seul en face du seul”)


An elder was asked: “Why am I afraid when I walk about in the desert?”
"Now you are alive", he replied.
  • 90. Ἠρωτήθη γέρων· διατί εἰς τὴν ἔρημον περιπατῶν φοβοῦμαι; καὶ ἀπεκρίθη· Ἀκμὴν ζῇς.
    • An elder was asked: “Why am I afraid when I walk about in the desert?”
Now you are alive”, he replied.


An elder was asked: "What should they be doing to be saved?"
He was braiding rope and, without looking up from his work, he replied: "Look, you can see."
  • 91. Ἠρωτήθη γέρων· Τί δεῖ ποιοῦντας σωθῆναι; Ἦν δὲ σειρὰν ἐργαζόμενος καὶ μὴ ἀνανεύων ἐκ τοῦ ἔργου, καὶ ἀπεκρίθη· Ἰδοὺ βλέπεις.
    • An elder was asked: “What should they be doing to be saved?”
He was braiding rope and, without looking up from his work, he replied: “Look, you can see.


  • 92. Ἠρωτήθη γέρων· διατί συνεχῶς ὀλιγωρῶ; Καὶ ἀπεκρίθη· Ἐπειδὴ οὔπω τὸ μίλιον εἶδες.
    • An elder was asked: “Why am I continually discouraged?”
Because you have not yet seen the finishing-post”, he replied.


  • 93. Ἠρωτήθη γέρων· Τί ἐστιν τὸ ἔργον τοῦ μοναχοῦ; Καὶ ἀπεκρίθη· Διάκρισις.
    • An elder was asked: “What is the monk’s task?”
Discretion”, he replied.


The elders used to say: "Prayer is the monk’s mirror."
  • 96. Ἔλεγον οἱ γέροντες· Ἔσοπτρόν ἐστι τοῦ μοναχοῦ ἡ εὐχή.
    • The elders used to say: “Prayer is the monk’s mirror.


  • 100. Ἔλεγον οἱ γέροντες ὅτι ἡ ψυχὴ πηγή ἐστιν, ἐὰν ὀρύξῃς καθαρίζεται, ἐὰν δὲ προσχώσῃς ἀφανίζεται.
    • The elders used to say that the soul is a spring: if you dig, it is purified; if you pile up earth, it disappears.


An elder said: "For twenty years I have kept on fighting against one logismos in order to see all men as one."
  • 105. Εἶπεν γέρων· ὅτι εἴκοσι ἔτη ἔμεινα πρὸς ἕνα λογισμὸν πολεμῶν, ἵνα πάντας ἀνθρώπους ὡς ἔνα βλέπω.
    • An elder said: “For twenty years I have kept on fighting against one logismos in order to see all men as one.


  • 111. Ἔλεγον οἱ γέροντες· Ἐὰν ἴδῃς νεώτερον τῷ θελήματι αὐτοῦ ἀνερχόμενον εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν, κράτησον αὐτοῦ τὸν πόδα καὶ ῥίψον αὐτὸν κάτω, συμφέρει γὰρ αὐτῷ.
    • The elders used to say: “If you see a young man ascending to heaven of his own free will, seize him by the foot and drag him down, for it is to his advantage.”


An elder said: "Our task is to burn wood."
  • 113. Εἶπεν γέρων· ὅτι τὸ ἔργον ἡμῶν καίειν ἐστὶν ξύλα.
    • An elder said: “Our task is to burn wood.


  • 127. Εἶπεν γέρων· Ἡ ἀμεριμνία καὶ τὸ σιωπᾶν καὶ ἡ κρυπτὴ μελέτη τίκτουσι τὴν ἁγνείαν.
    • An elder said: “‘Taking no thought’ [Mt 6:25–34], keeping silent and secret meditation bring forth purity.”


  • 129. Ἀδελφὸς ἠρώτησε γέροντα λέγων· Καλὸν ἕξιν ἔχειν πρὸς τὸν πλησίον; Λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ γέρων· Αἱ τοιαῦται ἕξεις δύναμιν οὐκ ἔχουσιν κλᾶσαι κιμόν·2 πρὸς [f. 185r] τὸν ἀδελφόν σου ἕξιν ἔχεις, μᾶλλον εἰ θέλεις ἕξιν ἔχειν, ἔχε πρὸς τὰ πάθη.
    • A brother asked an elder: “Is it good to have an aversion [hexis] towards one’s neighbour?”
The elder said to him: “Such attitudes do not have the power to break a muzzle. You have an attitude towards your brother; if you want to have an aversion, have it rather towards the passions.


  • 130. Ἀδελφὸς ᾐτεῖτο γέροντος εὐχήν, σπεύδων ἐπὶ τὴν πόλιν. Ὁ δὲ γέρων πρὸς αὐτὸν ἔφη· Μὴ σπεῦδε ἐπὶ τὴν πόλιν, ἀλλὰ σπεῦσον τοῦ φυγεῖν τὴν πόλιν καὶ σώζῃ.
    • As he was hastening to the city, a brother asked an elder for a prayer.
The elder said to him: “Do not hasten towards the city, but rather make haste to flee the city and you will be saved.


  • 133. [f. 189v] Εἶπεν γέρων· Ὀφείλει ὁ μοναχὸς ἀγοράζειν τὴν ἡσυχίαν αὐτοῦ πρὸς τὸ καταφρονεῖν, ἐὰν καὶ σωματικὴ ζημία συμβῇ.
    • An elder said: “A monk ought to acquire his hêsychia so as to count it as nothing if he also suffer physical damage.”


  • 154. Μοναχὸς ὑπαντήσας κανονικαῖς κατὰ τὴν ὁδόν, ὑπεχώρησεν ἐκ τῆς ὁδοῦ. Εἶπεν δὲ ἡ ἡγουμένη πρὸς αὐτόν· Εἰ ᾖς τέλειος μοναχός, ἡμῖν ὡς γυναιξὶν οὐκ ἂν1 προσέσχες.
    • A monk who encountered some nuns on the road withdrew from the road. Their leader said to him: “If you were a perfect monk you would not have noticed that we are women.”


  • 231. Εἶπεν γέρων· Ἔστιν ἄνθρωπος ἐσθίων πολλὰ καὶ ἔτι πεινῶν, καὶ ἔστιν ἄλλος ὀλίγα ἐσθίων καὶ χορταζόμενος, καὶ ὁ πολλὰ ἐσθίων καὶ ἔτι πεινῶν, πλείονα2 μισθὸν ἕξει τοῦ ὀλίγα ἐσθίοντος καὶ χορταζομένου.
    • An elder said: “There is a man who eats a great deal and is still hungry and there is a man who eats a little and is satisfied. He who eats much and is hungry will receive a greater reward than the one who eats little and is satisfied.


  • 233. Ἀδελφὸς ἠρώτησε γέροντα· ὅτι ἡ ἀδελφή μου πτωχή ἐστιν. Ἐὰν δῷ αὐτῇ6 ἀγάπην, οὐκ ἔστιν ὡς εἰς πτωχόν; Λέγει ὁ γέρων· Οὐχί. Εἶπεν δὲ ὁ ἀδελφός· Διατί, ἀββᾶ; Ἔφη ὁ γέρων· Ὅτι τὸ αἷμα ἕλκει σε μικρόν.
    • A brother asked an elder: “My sister is poor; if I give her alms, is it not like giving to the poor?”
“No”, said the elder.
“Why not, abba?” the brother said.
“Because blood draws you a little”, the elder said.


  • 250. Εἶπεν γέρων· Ὥσπερ ἡ τάξις τῶν μοναχῶν προτιμoτέρα τῶν κοσμικῶν ἐστιν, οὕτως καὶ ὁ ξένος μοναχὸς ὀφείλει εἶναι ἔσοπτρον τοῖς ἐντοπίοις μοναχοῖς κατὰ πάντα τρόπον.
    • An elder said: “In the same way that the order of monks is superior to [that] of the worldlings, so ought the monk from afar to be a mirror for the local monks in every way.


  • 265. Εἶπεν γέρων· χρυσίον ἐάν τις ἀπολέσῃ ἢ ἀργύριον, δύναται ἀντ᾿ αὐτοῦ εὑρεῖν, καιρὸν δὲ ὁ ἀπόλλων, ἄλλον εὑρεῖν οὐ δύναται.
    • An elder said: “If somebody loses gold or silver, he can find some in its stead; but he who misses an opportunity cannot find another.


  • 266. Παρέβαλέ τις τῶν γερόντων ποτὲ πρὸς ἄλλον γέροντα, καὶ λαλούντων αὐτῶν, ἔλεγεν ὁ εἷς· Ἐγὼ ἀπέ [f. 222v] θανον τῷ κόσμῳ. Λέγει ὁ ἄλλος γέρων· Μὴ θαρσήσῃς ἑαυτῷ, ἀδελφέ, ἕως ἂν ἐξέλθῃς ἐκ τοῦ σώματος, εἰ γὰρ σὺ λέγεις ὅτι ἀπέθανον, ἀλλ᾿ ὁ Σατανᾶς οὐκ ἀπέθανεν.
    • One of the elders once visited another elder and, as they were conversing, one of them started to say: “I died to the world.”
The other elder said: “Do not be so sure of yourself until you depart out of your body. Even though you say ‘I died’ Satan has not died yet.”


  • 313. Ἄλλῳ γέροντι ἔλεγον οἱ δαίμονες· Θέλεις ἰδεῖν τὸν Χριστόν; Ὁ δὲ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· Ἀ [f. 232r] νάθεμα ὑμῖν καὶ ᾧ λέγετε. Τῷ γὰρ ἐμῷ Χριστῷ πιστεύω εἰπόντι· Ἐάν τις ὑμῖν εἴπῃ· ἰδοὺ ὧδε ὁ Χριστός, ἰδοὺ ἐκεῖ, μὴ πιστεύσητε. Καὶ εὐθέως ἀφανεῖς ἐγένοντο.
    • The demons said to another elder: “Do you want to see Christ?”
but he said to them: “Anathema to you and to what you are saying. I believe in my Christ who said: ‘If any man says to you, Lo, here is Christ, or there, believe it not’” [Mt 24:23] and they immediately became invisible.


  • 321. Εἶπεν γέρων· Ἐὰν κτήσῃ σιωπήν, μὴ ἔχε [f. 233r] ἑαυτὸν ὡς ἀρετὴν κατορθῶν, ἀλλὰ λέγε ὅτι ἀνάξιος εἰμὶ καὶ τοῦ λαλεῖν.
    • An elder said: “If, humbling yourself, you say to somebody: ‘Forgive me’, you incinerate the demons.”


  • 326. Εἶπεν γέρων· Μὴ ἔχε [f. 233v] γνῶσιν μετὰ ἡγουμένου μηδὲ πύκναζε πρὸς αὐτόν. Ἐκ τούτου γὰρ καὶ παῤῥησίαν ἕξεις καὶ τοῦ ἡγεῖσθαι λοιπὸν ἐπιθυμήσεις.
    • An elder said: “Do not become well-acquainted with a higoumen and do not be often in his presence, for in this way you will become familiar with him and then you will long to direct others.”


  • 333. Γέρων τις ἦν ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰορδάνην, καὶ εἰσελθὼν ἐν καύματι εἰς σπήλαιον, εὗρεν ἔσω λέοντα καὶ ἤρξατο βρύχειν τοὺς ὀδόντας αὐτοῦ καὶ ὠρύεσθαι. Καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ γέρων· Τί θλίβῃ; ἔνι τόπος χωρῶν ἐμὲ καὶ σέ. Εἰ δὲ οὐ θέλεις, ἀνάστα ἔξελθε. Ὁ δὲ λέων μὴ βαστάξας ἐξῆλθεν.
    • There was an elder on the Jordan who entered a cave in the heat [of the day] and found a lion inside. It began grinding its teeth and roaring but the elder said to it: “Why get upset? This is a place with room for you and me. Get up and leave if you do not like it.” Unable to tolerate this, the lion went out.


  • 364. Εἶπέν τις τῶν πατέρων ὅτι οἱ ὀφθαλμοὶ τοῦ χοίρου, φυσικῶς ἔχουσι τὴν πλάσιν, ὥστε ἀνάγκῃ νεύειν εἰς τὴν γῆν, μηδέποτε δὲ δύνασθαι ἀνανεῦσαι2 εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν. Οὕτως, φησί, καὶ τοῦ ταῖς ἡδοναῖς ἐγγλυκανθέντος ἡ ψυχή, ἅπαξ κατολισθήσασα πρὸς τὸν τῆς ἡδυπαθείας βόρβορον, ἀνανεῦσαι ἀδυνατεῖ.
    • One of the fathers said: “The eyes of a pig have a natural tendency that forces them to turn towards the ground and never be able to look up to heaven. It is the same, he said, for the soul of the person who is addicted to pleasure. Once it has slipped into the quagmire of enjoyment, it is incapable of looking up.”


An elder said that one of the brothers possessed only a Gospel. This he sold and gave the proceeds to feed the poor, making this memorable statement: "I have sold the verse itself which says: ‘Sell what you have and give to the poor’."
  • 392. Εἶπεν γέρων· Ὅτι2 ἐκέκτητό τις τῶν ἀδελφῶν εὐαγγέλιον μόνον, καὶ τοῦτο πωλήσας ἔδωκεν [f. 246v] εἰς τροφὴν τοῖς πένησιν, ἄξιον μνήμης ἐπιφθεγξάμενος ῥῆμα· αὐτὸν γάρ φησι, τὸν λόγον πεπώληκα τὸν λέγοντα· Πώλησόν σου τὰ ὑπάρχοντα καὶ δὸς πτωχοῖς.
    • An elder said that one of the brothers possessed only a Gospel. This he sold and gave the proceeds to feed the poor, making this memorable statement: “I have sold the verse itself which says: ‘Sell what you have and give to the poor’ [Mt 19:21].”


An elder said: "The bee makes honey wherever it goes; likewise the monk carries out the work of God wherever he goes."
  • 399. Εἶπεν [247v] γέρων· Ἡ μέλισσα ὅπου ὑπάγει μέλι ποιεῖ. Οὕτως καὶ ὁ μοναχός, ὅπου ὑπάγει τὸ ἔργον τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐργάζεται.
    • An elder said: “The bee makes honey wherever it goes; likewise the monk carries out the work of God wherever he goes.


  • 400. Εἶπεν γέρων ὅτι ὁ σατανᾶς σχοινοπλόκος ἐστίν· ὅσον παρέχεις αὐτῷ λῶμα καὶ αὐτὸς πλέκει. Τοῦτο δὲ εἶπεν περὶ τῶν λογισμῶν.
    • An elder said: “Satan is a rope-maker; whatever thread you provide him with, he braids it in.” He said this concerning logismoi.


  • 429. Ἀδελφὸς ἠρώτησε γέροντα λέγων ὅτι πολεμοῦμαι ὑπὸ τῆς πορνείας. Λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ γέρων· Εἰ μὲν καλόν ἐστιν, διατί ἀπέστης ἀπ᾿ αὐτοῦ, εἰ δὲ σαπρόν, διατί ἐπιζητεῖς αὐτό;
    • A brother enquired of an elder saying: “I am embattled by porneia.”
“If it is good,” said the elder, “why did you recoil from it? If it is filthy, why go looking for it?”


  • 434. Εἶπεν γέρων ὅτι ὁ κύων κρείττων1 μου ἐστίν, διότι2 ἀγάπην ἔχει καὶ εἰς κρίσιν οὐκ ἔρχεται.
    • An elder said: “A dog is better than me, for a dog has love and does not go passing judgement.”


  • 436. Εἶπεν γέρων· Γενοῦ ὡς κάμηλος βαστάζων τὰς ἁμαρτίας σου, καὶ δεδεμένος ἀκολουθῶν τῷ ἐπισταμένῳ τὴν ὁδὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ.
    • An elder said: “Be like a camel, bearing your sins and following one to whom you are tied, who understands the way of God.


  • 439. Ἀδελφὸς εὗρεν ξύλον ἐν τῇ ὁδῷ ἀποπεπτωκὸς ἀπὸ τῆς καμήλου καὶ ἤνεγκεν αὐτὸ εἰς τὸ κελλίον. Εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ ἀββᾶς αὐτοῦ· Πόθεν ἤνεγκας αὐτό; Ὁ δὲ εἶπεν· Ἐκ τῆς ὁδοῦ. Λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ γέρων· Εἰ μὲν ἦν ἐλαυνόμενον ὑπὸ ἀνέμου, φέρε αὐτὸ ἔσω, εἰ δὲ μή, ὕπαγε θὲς αὐτὸ εἰς τὸν τόπον αὐτοῦ.
    • A brother found a piece of wood by the wayside that had fallen off a camel and he brought it to his cell. His abba said to him: “Where did you bring that from?”
“By the roadside”, he replied.
“If it was brought by the wind, carry it inside”, the elder told him; “if not, go and put it [back] in its place.”


  • 442. Ἄρχων τις ἔχαιρεν τῇ θέᾳ τῶν κυνηγίων καὶ ἡ ἐπιθυμία αὐτοῦ ἄλλο τι οὐκ ἦν, εἰ μὴ βρωθῆναι τοὺς κυνηγούς. Συνέβη δὲ αὐτὸν ναυαγῆσαι [f. 257v] καὶ ἐβόησε πρὸς τὸν Θεὸν λέγων· Κύριε, βοήθησόν μοι ἐν τῇ ἀνάγκῃ ταύτῃ. Καὶ φαίνεται αὐτῷ ὁ Κύριος καθόλου τοῦ σώματος βεβρωμένος καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ· Οὕτως μὲ θέλεις ὁρᾶν καὶ πῶς σοὶ βοηθήσω;
    • A grandee who delighted in the sight of hunting; his desire was none other than that the huntsmen be devoured. It came about that he was shipwrecked and he called upon God, saying: “Lord, give me your aid in this anguish.”
The Lord appeared to him with his body all torn and said to him: “You wish to see me like this; how will I help you?”


  • 472. Εἶπεν γέρων· Ἐὰν ἴδῃς τινὰ ἐμπεσόντα εἰς ὕδωρ καὶ δύνασαι αὐτῷ βοηθῆσαι, χάλασον αὐτῷ τὴν ῥάβδον καὶ ἕλκυσον αὐτόν. Καὶ ἐὰν μὴ δυνηθῇς ἑλκύσαι αὐτόν, κατάλιπε αὐτῷ τὴν ῥάβδον σου. Ἐὰν δὲ αὐτῷ δώσῃς τὴν χεῖρα σου καὶ μὴ δυνηθῇς ἑλκύσαι αὐτόν, ἕλκει σε αὐτὸς κάτω καὶ ἀμφότεροι ἀποθανεῖσθε. Τοῦτο δὲ ἔλεγεν πρὸς τοὺς ἐμβάλλοντας ἑαυτοὺς βοηθῆσαι τινὶ ἐν πειρασμοῖς ὑπὲρ τὸ μέτρον ἑαυτῶν.
    • An elder said: “If you see somebody who has fallen into the water and you can help him, reach out your staff to him and pull him out. If you cannot pull him out, leave him your staff. If you give him your hand and cannot pull him out, he pulls you down and both of you will die.” This he said to those who thrust themselves forward to help somebody in temptations beyond their capacity.


An elder said: "I never took a step forward unless I found out where I was putting my foot. I stood still, reflecting, not giving in at all until God showed me the way."
  • 485. Εἶπεν γέρων· Οὐδέποτε προέβην βῆμα ποδός, εἰ μὴ ἔμαθον ποῦ ἔθηκα τὸν πόδα μου, ἀλλ᾿ εἰστήκειν κατανοῶν καὶ ὅλως μὴ ἐνδιδούς, ἄχρις ἂν ὁ Θεὸς ὡδήγησέν με.
    • An elder said: “I never took a step forward unless I found out where I was putting my foot. I stood still, reflecting, not giving in at all until God showed me the way.”


  • 485 bis. Εἷπε γέρων· Ἢ φεύγων φεῦγε τοὺς ἀνθρώπους ἢ ἔμπαιζον τῷ κόσμῳ καὶ τοῖς ἀνθρώποις, μωρὸν σεαυτὸν ποιῶν.
    • An elder said: “Either run away and escape from men, or mock the world and men by playing the fool most of the time.”


  • 496. Ποτὲ κακούργων ἐπιστάντων16 τινὶ γέροντι ἔθηκεν αὐτοῖς νιπτῆρα καὶ ἠξίου τοὺς πόδας αὐτῶν νίπτειν, κἀκεῖνοι αἰδεσθέντες ἤρξαντο μετανοεῖν.
    • Once when some evildoers were imposing on an elder, he set a basin before them and deigned to wash their feet; and they, in their confusion, began to beg his pardon.


  • 498. Εἶπεν γέρων· Ὁ ἐπαινῶν μοναχὸν παραδίδει αὐτὸν τῷ Σατανᾷ.
    • An elder said: “He who praises a monk betrays him to Satan.”


  • 511. Εἶπεν γέρων· Οὐαὶ τῷ ἔξω ἀπὸ τοῦ ἔσω, μᾶλλον δὲ οὐαὶ τῷ ἔσω ἀπὸ τοῦ ἔξω. Ὃ δὲ λέγει τοιοῦτόν ἐστιν, ὅτι ὁ κοσμικὸς εὑρίσκει λαβὴν κατὰ ἡσυχάζοντος ἢ ἀναχωροῦντος, τοῦτο πτώσις καὶ κρίσις τοῦ πάσχοντος τὴν λαβήν.
    • An elder said: “Woe to the one outside from the one within, but woe a fortiori to the one within from the one without,” for he said: “such is the case that if a worldling finds occasion to take issue with a person practising hêsychia or an anchorite, this is the fall and the judgement of the one with whom issue is taken.”


  • 534. Εἶπεν πάλιν· Ἐὰν ἴδῃς τινὰ γελῶντα ἢ ἐσθίοντα πολλά, μὴ κρίνῃς αὐτόν, ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον εἰπέ ὅτι μακάριος ἐστὶν οὗτος, ἁμαρτίας οὐκ ἔχει καὶ ἐξ αὐτοῦ χαίρεται ἡ ψυχὴ αὐτοῦ.
    • He also said: “If you see somebody laughing or over-eating, do not judge him. Say rather that this person is blessed: he has no sins and, for that reason, his soul is rejoicing.


  • 546. Ἀνδρὶ ἁγίῳ κατ᾿ αὐτὴν τὴν ὥραν μέλλοντι τελευτᾶν ἐπιστὰς ὁ Σατανᾶς λέγει αὐτῷ· Σὺ ἐξήλησάς με. Καὶ λέγει ὁ γέρων· Οὐκ οἶδα ἀκμήν. Ἴδε ἕως πόσου ἔνιφαν οἱ πατέρες μὴ καυχᾶσθαι ἔν τινι πράγματι.
    • Satan, appearing to a holy man at the very moment when he was about to die, said to him: “You have driven me out”,
and the elder said: “I am not sure yet.” See to what extent the fathers restrained themselves not to boast in any matter.


  • 554. Γέρων τις κατέλαβεν ἐν Σκήτει λῃστὰς συλοῦντας τὴν κέλλαν αὐτοῦ καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς· Ταχύνατε [f. 294r] πρὸ τοῦ ἔλθωσιν οἱ ἀδελφοὶ καὶ κωλύσωσί με πληρῶσαι τὴν ἐντολὴν τοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ εἰπόντος· ἀπὸ τοῦ αἴροντος τὰ σὰ μὴ ἀπαίτει.
    • An elder at Scete encountered some robbers plundering his cell and he said to them: “Be quick before the brothers come and prevent me from fulfilling the commandment of Christ which says: ‘Do not ask somebody who takes your things to return them’” [Lk 6:30].


  • 559. Εἶπεν πάλιν· Ὥσπερ ὁ νεκρὸς οὐκ ἐσθίει, οὕτως ὁ ταπεινόφρων οὐ δύναται κρῖναι ἄνθρωπον, κἂν ἴδῃ αὐτὸν προσκυνοῦντα εἰδώλοις.
    • Again he said: “Just as a corpse does not eat, so he who is humble in mind is unable to judge a man, even if he sees him worshipping idols.


  • 573. Εἶπεν γέρων· Ἐὰν κάθῃ ἐν ἐρήμῳ ἡσυχάζων, μὴ λογίζου ἐν ἑαυτῷ ὡς μέγα τὶ ποιῶν, ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον ἔχε ἑαυτὸν ὡς κύνα ἐξορισθέντα ἀπὸ ὄχλου καὶ δεδεμένον διὰ τὸ δάκνειν καὶ ἐπιχειρεῖν τοῖς ἀνθρώποις.
    • An elder said: “If you are living in hêsychia in the desert, do not think to yourself that you are accomplishing some great deed. Think rather of yourself as a dog banished from company and tied up for biting and attacking people.


A man who has tasted the sweetness of indifference to possessions [aktêmosynê] is even weighed down by the garment he is wearing and the jar of water, for his mind is occupied elsewhere.
  • 578. Εἶπεν πάλιν· Ἄνθρωπος γευσάμενος τῆς γλυκύτητος τῆς ἀκτημοσύνης βαρεῖται καὶ εἰς αὐτὸ τὸ ἱμάτιον ὃ φορεῖ, καὶ εἰς τὸ βαυκάλιον τοῦ ὕδατος· ὁ γὰρ νοῦς αὐτοῦ λοιπὸν ἀλλαχοῦ ἀδολεσχεῖ.
    • Again he said: “A man who has tasted the sweetness of indifference to possessions [aktêmosynê] is even weighed down by the garment he is wearing and the jar of water, for his mind is occupied elsewhere.


  • 592.6. Ἐὰν ἀκούσῃς περί τινος μισοῦντος σε [f. 303r] καὶ λοιδοροῦντος, πέμψον ἢ δὸς αὐτῷ μικρὰν εὐλογίαν κατὰ τὴν δύναμίν σου, ἵνα ἔχεις παρρησίαν εἰπεῖν ἐν τῇ ὥρᾳ τῆς κρίσεως· Ἄφες ἡμῖν, δέσποτα, τὰ ὀφειλήματα ἡμῶν, ὡς καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀφήκαμεν τοῖς ὀφειλέταις ἡμῶν.
    • If you hear of somebody hating and reviling you, send or offer him a small gift, so much as you are able, so that in the hour of judgement you will be able to say: “Lord-and-master, forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors” [Mt 6:12].


  • 592.11. Ἐὰν κτήσῃ βιβλίον, μὴ κοσμίσῃς τὸ ἔνδυμα αὐτοῦ καὶ μὴ κτήσῃ ἅπλωμα πολύτιμον ἐν τῷ προσκυνήματί σου.
    • If you possess a book, do not decorate its binding; do not possess an expensive vestment [to wear] in your worshipping.


  • 592.51. Ἐὰν εἰσὶν ἐν τῷ τόπῳ ὅπου οἰκεῖς μνήματα, ἀνέρχου συνεχῶς καὶ κατανόει τοὺς κειμένους ἐκεῖ, μάλιστα ἐν τῷ καιρῷ τοῦ πολέμου τῆς σαρκός. Καὶ ὅταν μάθῃς ὅτι ἀδελφὸς ὑπάγει πρὸς Κύριον, πορεύου καὶ παράμεινον ἐκεῖ, ὅπως θεάσῃ πῶς ἡ ψυχὴ τοῦ σώματος χωρίζεται.
    • If there are tombs in the place where you are living, go there continually and meditate on those who are lying there, especially in time of war against the flesh. And when you learn that a brother is going to the Lord, go and stay there so you can see how the soul is separated from the body.


  • 607bis (S and V). Ἄλλος κακούργων αὐτῷ ἐπιστάντων νιπτῆρα προσέφερε καὶ ἠξίου τοὺς πόδας αὐτῷ νίπτειν κἀκεῖνοι αἰδεσθέντες μετέβαλον τὸν τρόπον.
    • Another brought out a washbowl when evildoers were arriving and began washing their feet with it, and they were so impressed that they changed their way of life.


  • 613. Ἀδελφὸς ἠρώτησε γέροντα λέγων· Καλὸν τὸ παραβάλλειν γέρουσιν ἢ τὸ ἡσυχάζειν; Λέγει αὐτῷ ὁ γέρων· Τὸ παραβάλλειν τοῖς γέρουσιν ἦν ὁ κανὼν τῶν ἀρχαίων πατέρων.
    • A brother asked an elder: “Is it a good thing to visit the elders or to remain in hêsychia?”
The elder said to him: “To visit the elders was the rule of the fathers of old time.”


  • 624. Ἠρωτήθη γέρων· Πῶς δύναται ἄνθρωπος οἰκῆσαι κατὰ μόνας; Καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν· Ὁ ἀθλητὴς ἐὰν μὴ πυκτεύσῃ μετὰ πολλῶν, οὐ δύναται μαθεῖν τὴν τέχνην τῆς νίκης, ἵνα οὗτως δυνηθῇ μετὰ τοῦ ἀντιδίκου μονομαχῆσαι. Οὕτως καὶ ὁ μοναχός, ἐὰν μὴ παιδευθῇ μετὰ ἀδελφῶν και μάθῃ τὴν τῶν λογισμῶν τέχνην, οὐ δύναται οἰκῆσαι κατὰ μόνας, οὐδὲ ἀντιστῆναι τοῖς λογισμοῖς.
    • An elder was asked: “How can a man live alone?”
and in answer he said: “Unless an athlete spar with many, he cannot learn the skill of winning so that in this way he may be able to fight in single combat with the adversary. So too the monk; unless he be trained with brothers and learn the skill of [counteracting] bad thoughts, he cannot live alone nor can he withstand his bad thoughts.”


  • 625. Εἶπεν γέρων· Δὸς πρόθεσιν καὶ λαμβάνεις δύναμιν.
    • An elder said: “Give the intention you receive strength.


  • 629. Διηγήσατο μαθητὴς μεγάλου γέροντος περὶ τοῦ ἀββᾶ αὐτοῦ ὅτι ποτὲ γενομένης τῆς ἐνάτης ὥρας ἐπείνασε καὶ ἠθέλησε γεύσασθαι. Καὶ θέντες τὴν τράπεζαν ἔστημεν εἰς εὐχὴν καὶ ἐψάλλομεν δύο ψαλμούς. Καὶ ἤρξατο ὁ γέρων λέγειν1 ἀπὸ στήθους καὶ ἐγένετο ἑσπέρα καὶ ἐγένετο πρωῒ καὶ ἐγένετο3 ὥρα ἐνάτη καὶ οὕτως κατέπαυσεν. Ὁ γὰρ νοῦς αὐτοῦ ἄνω ἐθεώρει μυστήρια.
    • A disciple of a great elder related of his abba: “Once when it got to the ninth hour he was hungry and wanted to eat. Having set the table, we stood in prayer and we sang two psalms. The elder began reciting by heart. Evening came, dawn came, the ninth hour came and then he desisted, for his mind was contemplating mysteries on high.”


  • 663. Ἀδελφός τις ἀπῆλθεν ἀγοράσαι λινάρια ἀπὸ χήρας τινὸς [V f.274r] καὶ ὡς πωλεῖ5 αὐτῷ6 ἀνεστέναξε. Λέγει αὐτῇ ὁ ἀδελφός· Τί ἔχεις; Λέγει αὐτῷ ἡ χήρα· Ὁ Θεὸς ἔπεμψέ σε σήμερον οἰκονομῆσαι8 τοὺς ἀδελφούς σου καὶ ὀρφανούς μου. Καὶ ὡς ἤκουσεν ὁ ἀδελφὸς ἐκεῖνος ἐλυπήθη καὶ ἔλαβε λινάρια ἐκ τοῦ πλαγίου αὐτοῦ καὶ ἔρριψεν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τῆς χήρας, καὶ οὕτως ἐποίησε πρὸς αὐτὴν χάριν.
    • A brother went to buy flax from a widow; she sighed as she sold it to him. “What is the matter with you?” the brother said to her.
“God has sent you today to minister to your brothers, my orphans”, the widow said to him – and that brother was distressed to hear this. Taking some flax out of his shoulder-bag he tossed it into the widow’s lap; in this way he gave her joy.


An elder was asked: "What is the life of a monk?"
and he replied: "It is a mouth that speaks the truth, a holy body and a pure heart."
  • 664. Ἠρωτήθη γέρων· Τί ἐστιν ἡ ζωὴ τοῦ μοναχοῦ; Καὶ ἀπεκρίθη· Στόμα ἀληθινόν [f.311v], σῶμα ἅγιον, καρδία καθαρά.
    • An elder was asked: “What is the life of a monk?”
and he replied: “It is a mouth that speaks the truth, a holy body and a pure heart.


  • 665. Ἔλεγε γέρων ὅτι οἱ πατέρες τῇ ἀποτομίᾳ εἰσῆλθον ἔσω· ἡμεῖς δέ, ἐὰν δυνηθῶμεν, τῇ χρηστότητι εἰσέλθομεν.
    • An elder said that the fathers entered within by harshness, but we enter by gentleness if we are able to do so.


  • 672. Ἔλεγον περὶ τῶν Σκητιωτῶν ὅτι, εἰ κατελάμβανέ τις τὴν ἀρετὴν αὐτῶν, οὐκέτι ὡς ἀρετὴν εἶχον αὐτήν, ἀλλ᾿ ὡς ἁμαρτίαν.
    • They said of the Scetiotes that, if anybody took cognisance of their virtue, they would no longer regard it as virtue but as sin.


  • 673. Εἶπε γέρων· Τὸ ἀνθρώπινον φρόνημα πᾶσαν τὴν πιότητα τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἀναιρεῖ καὶ ἀφίησιν αὐτὸν ξηρόν.
    • An elder said: “Human thought removes all the [spiritual] fat [cf. Ps 62:6] from a man and leaves him dried out.”


  • 684. Εἶπε γέρων· Ἀπὸ μικροῦ ἕως μεγάλου ὧν πράττω, ἐννοῶ εἰς τὸν καρπὸν αὐτοῦ τί τέξεται, εἴτε ἐν τοῖς λογισμοῖς, εἴτε ἐν ταῖς πράξεσιν.
    • An elder said: “From a small to a large task I perform, I consider its product and what is going to be brought forth, whether in thoughts or in deeds.”


  • 700. Εἶπε γέρων· Θέλω διδαχθῆναι ἢ διδάξαι.
    • An elder said: “I would rather be taught than teach.


  • 701. Εἶπε πάλιν· Μὴ δίδασκε πρὸ καιροῦ, εἰ δὲ μὴ ὅλον τὸν χρόνον σου ἔσῃ ἐλαττούμενος ἐν συνέσει.
    • Again he said: “Do not teach before [it is] time, otherwise you will be of limited understanding all your time.”

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Nomura, Yushi. Desert Wisdom: Sayings from the Desert Fathers. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2001.

External links[edit]