Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Abba Abraham and the man who had no passions

It was said of an old man that for fifty years he had neither eaten bread nor drunk wine readily. He even said, "I have destroyed fornication, avarice and vain-glory in myself." Learning that he had said this, Abba Abraham came and said to him, "Did you really say that?" He answered "Yes." Then Abba Abraham said to him, "If you were to find a woman lying on your mat when you entered your cell would you think that it is not a woman?" "No," he replied, "But I should struggle against my thoughts so as not to touch her." Then Abba Abraham said, "Then you have not destroyed the passion, but it still lives in you although it is controlled. Again, if you are walking along and you see some gold amongst the stones and shells, can your spirit regard them all as of equal value?" "No," he replied, "But I would struggle against my thoughts, so as not to take the gold." The old man said to him, "See, avarice still lives in you, though it is controlled." Abba Abraham continued, "Suppose you learn that of two brothers, one loves you while the other hates you, and speaks evil of you; if they come to see you, will you receive them both with the same love?" "No," he replied, "But I should struggle against my thoughts so as to be as kind towards the one who hates me as towards the one that loves me." Abba Abraham said to him, "So then, the passions continue to live; it is simply that they are controlled by the saints."

From The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, translated by Benedicta Ward.


  1. maybe this is way to literal, but I question why it matters whether or not he has desires to do something if he doesn't do it. lusting to do something but failing to do it is exactly the same as failing to do it. nothing happened

  2. You're right, not doing something is the same, regardless of how you feel about it. I think that's kind of the point.

    A lot of religious people expect that if they get holy enough, they'll be serene, but Abba Abraham knows that everyone is going to have the same problems and the same emotions. What makes you is what you do.