From Becoming Fire: Through the Year with the Desert Fathers and Mothers
Remember hell, but also remember the day of resurrection
Abba Antony said, “As you sit in your cell, gather your thoughts: remember the day of your death; visualize the body’s deadness at that time. Reflect on misfortune; accept suffering; condemn the world’s foolish vanity. Be diligent about being gentle in your zealousness in order to maintain the same peaceful disposition at all times without weakening. Remember also the state of things in hell and reflect on what it is like for the souls there, what sort of very bitter silence and utterly terrible groaning they endure, how great their fear and struggle, what their expectations are like as they anticipate ceaseless grief and the soul’s unending tears. But remember also the day of resurrection and our appearance before God.”
John has become an angel and is no longer among men
Our all-holy father Abba John the Little was boiling with the fire of the Holy Spirit, always striving to emulate the way of life of the powers in the heights. One day he said to his older brother in zeal of the love of God, “I myself desire, my brother, to be without care and to serve God without ceasing, like the angels, being continuously in the glory of his beauty and the light of his life.” So he took off his clothes and went out to the desert.
When he had spent a week without eating and drinking, he returned home to his brother through the special permission of God who wills the salvation of souls, laden with the fruits of humility in true repentance. When he knocked on his older brother’s door, his brother did not open it to him, but said, “Who are you?”
John said to him, “I am John.”
His brother said, “You’re John! John has become an angel and is no longer among men.” And he did not open the door to him but left him in front of the door from evening till morning.
When morning came, he opened the door of the dwelling and said to him, “John, you need to realize that you are still a man and that you are still in the flesh; you still have to work to nourish yourself. What you’ve done is appropriate for the angels.”
Abba John begged his forgiveness, saying, “Forgive me.”