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Select Sayings Of Abba Poemen From The Sayings Of The Desert Fathers

1. While he was still young, Abba Poemen went one day to an old man to ask him about three thoughts. Having reached the old man, he forgot one of the three and went back to his cell. But as he was stretching out his hand to turn the key, he remembered the thought which he had forgotten and leaving the key, he returned to the old man. The old man said to him, 'You come quickly, brother.' He told him, 'At the moment when I was putting out my hand to grasp the key, I remembered the thought which I was trying to find; so I did not open the door, but have retraced my steps.' Now the length of the way was very great and the old man said to him, 'Poemen, Shepherd of the flock, your name will be known throughout Egypt.'

4. Before Abba Poemen's group came there, there was an old man in Egypt who enjoyed considerable fame and repute. But when Abba Poemen's group went up to Scetis, men left the old man to go to see Abba Poemen. Abba Poemen was grieved at this and said to his disciples, 'What is to be done about this great old man, for men grieve him by leaving him and coming to us who are nothing? What shall we do, then to comfort this old man?' He said to them, 'Make ready a little food, and take a skin of wine and let us go to see him and eat with him. And so we shall be able to comfort him.' So they put together some food, and went. When they knocked at the door the old man's disciple answered, saying, 'Who are you?' They responded, 'Tell the abba it is Poemen who desires to be blessed by him.' The disciple reported this and the old man sent him to say, 'Go away, I have no time.' But in spite of the heat they persevered, saying, 'We shall not go away till we have been allowed to meet the old man.' Seeing their humility and patience, the old man was filled with compunction and opened the door to them. Then they went in and ate with him. During the meal he said, 'Truly, not only what I have heard about you is true, but I see that your works are a hundredfold greater,' and from that day, he became their friend.

12. A brother questioned Abba Poemen saying, 'I have committed a great sin and I want to do penance for three years.' The old man said to him, 'That is a lot.' The brother said, 'For one year?' The old man said again, 'That is a lot.' Those who were present said, 'For forty days?' He said again, 'That is a lot.' He added, 'I myself say that if a man repents with his whole heart and does not intend to commit the sin any more, God will accept him after only three days.’

15. Abba Anoub asked Abba Poemen about the impure thoughts which the heart of man brings forth and about vain desires. Abba Poemen said to him, 'Is the axe any use without someone to cut with it? (Is. 10.15) If you do not make use of these thoughts, they will be ineffectual too.’

20. Abba Isaiah questioned Abba Poemen on the subject of impure thoughts. Abba Poemen said to him, 'It is like having a chest full of clothes, if one leaves them in disorder they are spoiled in the course of time. It is the same with thoughts. If we do not do anything about them, in time they are spoiled, that is to say, they disintegrate.’

21. Abba Joseph put the same question and Abba Poemen said to him, 'If someone shuts a snake and a scorpion up in a bottle, in time they will be completely destroyed. So it is with evil thoughts: they are suggested by the demons; they disappear through patience.’

27. He also said, 'A man may seem to be silent, but if his heart is condemning others he is babbling ceaselessly. But there may be another who talks from morning till night and yet he is truly silent; that is, he says nothing that is not profitable.

’29. Abba Poemen said, 'If three men meet, of whom the first fully preserves interior peace, and the second gives thanks to God in illness, and the third serves with a pure mind, these three are doing the same work.’

36. He also said, 'To throw yourself before God, not to measure your progress, to leave behind all self-will; these are the instruments for the work of the soul.'

“Give me a word!”

[H]e who wants more grace, must prepare himself better for temptations...

-St Seraphim of Sarov

Give your intentions in prayer to God, Who knows everyone, even before our birth. And do not ask that everything will be according to your will, because a man does not know what is profitable for him. But say to God: Let Thy will be done! For He does everything for our benefit.

-St Gennadius of Constantinople

Here is the luminous teaching of our Savior: Thy will be done. (Matt. 6:10). Whoever sincerely pronounces this prayer leaves his own will and puts all things in the will of God. But the will inspired by the demons consists is self-justification and trust in ourselves, and then they easily subject a man who receives this sort of thought.

-St Barsanuphius the Great

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