From Becoming Fire: Through the Year with the Desert Fathers and Mothers
Concealing and revealing
A brother asked Abba Poemen, “If I see my brother’s fault, is it good to conceal it?”
The old man said, “At the very moment we conceal our brother’s fault God also hides our own, and at the very moment we reveal our brother’s fault, God also reveals ours.”
Sinning in thought and sinning in deed
It was reported that two brothers went into a village where they had been sent, and the demon attacked the older one five times in order to make him sin. And he contended with the attacks by saying a prayer each hour. They returned to their father and his face was troubled and he asked his father’s forgiveness, saying, “Pray for me, father; I have fallen into sin,” and he related how his spirit had been attacked.
But the old man was perceptive and saw five crowns on the brother’s head and said to him, “Courage, child. When you came, I saw crowns on you. You haven’t been defeated; rather, you have been victorious, seeing that you did not finish the act. It is a great struggle for a person to keep self-control when the opportunity to sin arises; he has a great reward because this warfare waged by the Enemy is very strong and bitter and it is difficult to flee from his snares.
“What do you think: that the matter was easy for blessed Joseph? (Genesis 39:7-23) No, it was like a play in the theater: God and the angels were watching him fighting and the Devil and the demons were all the more making a ravenous beast of the woman. Therefore, when the athlete proved victorious, all the angels gave glory to God in a loud voice, saying, ‘The athlete has gained an unusual victory!’ It is good, therefore, not to do evil even in one’s thoughts, but if someone is tempted, he does battle in order not to be defeated.”
The definition of humility
An old man was asked, “What is humility?”
He said, “If your brother sins against you and you forgive him even before he repents.”