From Becoming Fire: Through the Year with the Desert Fathers and Mothers
Sailors fighting a surging sea
Amma Syncletica said, “In the world, those who sin, even involuntarily, are thrown into prison; as for us, on account of our sins let us imprison ourselves so that such voluntary judgment may drive off future punishment. Are you fasting? Do not pretend to be ill, for those who do not fast fall into real illnesses. Have you begun to do what is good? Do not fall back when the Enemy cuts off your advance, for through your patient endurance he is rendered impotent. Indeed, those who begin a voyage first unfold the sails and go before a favorable wind but later the wind becomes adverse and impedes them. The sailors, because of the chance winds, do not abandon ship, however; a little later, when they once again have calm or fight off the surging of the sea, they again gain control of the vessel. So it is with us, too: when an opposing spirit suddenly befalls us, let us stretch out the cross instead of sails and complete our voyage without hindrance.”
Cutting the Devil off at the knees
Question: What sort of virtues or commandments does a person need to possess in order to be saved?
Answer: There are four virtues prescribed for us: fasting, and prayer, and handiwork, and bodily chastity. When Satan overcame these virtues, he drove Adam out of paradise. (Genesis 3:23; Revelation 12:9) Deceiving Adam and dishonoring him by means of food, Satan drove him into hiding and away from the face of God so he would never ask God’s forgiveness and have his sin forgiven.
When Adam had been driven out from paradise, on account of his idleness, the Devil was intending to condemn him for another sin, expecting to gain possession of Adam because of the despair he felt for himself. But the loving and merciful Lord, knowing the wickedness of the Devil, gave work to Adam, saying, “Work the earth from which you were taken,” (Genesis 3:23), so that Adam, in his care for his work, might drive away the evil devices of the Devil.