The Church Fathers

The Church fathers are a select group of people who contributed to the faith in word and deed. Many of their writings survive and are collected in an imposing 28 volume library that has been translated helpfully into English. Included are stories of the martyrs, apologies (defense of the faith), sermons and letters between the faithful. In the following link you can read all these writings. Writings of the Church Fathers

Here are a few selections from the book “sayings of the church fathers” (a short collection of sayings and stories about the early church fathers in the first three centuries of the faith). These are mostly snippets and writings that I found meaningful in no particular order.


A brother renounced the world and gave his goods to the poor, but he kept back a little for his personal expenses. He went to see Abba Anthony. When he told him this, the old man said to him, ‘If you want to be a monk, go into the village, buy some meat, cover your naked body with it and come here like that.’ The brother did so, and the dogs and birds tore at his flesh. When he came back the old man asked him whether he had followed his advice. He showed him his wounded body, and Saint Anthony said, ‘Those who renounce the world but want to keep something for themselves are torn in this way by the demons who make war on them.’

Abba Anthony

It happened one day that one of the brethren in the monastery of Abba Elias was tempted. Cast out of the monastery, he went over the mountain to Abba Anthony. The brother lived near him for a while and then Anthony sent him back to the monastery from which he had been expelled. When the brothers saw him they cast him out yet again, and he went back to Abba Anthony saying, ‘My Father, they will not receive me.’ Then the old man sent them a message saying, ‘A boat was shipwrecked at sea and lost its cargo; with great difficulty it reached the shore; but you want to throw into the sea that which has found a safe harbor on the shore. ‘When the brothers understood that it was Abba Anthony who had sent them this monk, they received him at once.

Abba Anthony

The body prospers in the measure in which the soul is weakened, and the soul prospers in the measure in which the body is weakened.’

Abba Danial

I am like a man sitting under a great tree, who sees wild beasts and snakes coming against him in great numbers. When he cannot withstand them any longer, he runs to climb the tree and is saved. It is just the same with me; I sit in my cell and I am aware of evil thoughts coming against me, and when I have no more strength against them, I take refuge in God by prayer and I am saved from the enemy.

Abba John

Abba Poemen said of Abba John the Dwarf that he had prayed God to take his passions away from him so that he might become free from care. He went and told an old man this: ‘I find myself in peace, without an enemy,’ he said. The old man said to him, ‘Go, beseech God to stir up warfare so that you may regain the affliction and humility that you used to have, for it is by warfare that the soul makes progress.’ So he besought God and when warfare came, he no longer prayed that it might be taken away, but said, ‘Lord, give me strength for the fight.’

Abba Poemen/Abba John

‘Who sold Joseph?’ A brother replied saying, ‘It was his brethren.’ The old man said to him, ‘No, it was his humility which sold him, because he could have said, “I am their brother” and have objected, but, because he kept silence, he sold himself by his humility. It is also his humility which set him up as chief in Egypt.’

Abba John

Abba Macarius was asked, ‘How should one pray?’ The old man said, ‘There is no need at all to make long discourses; it is enough to stretch out one’s hands and say, “Lord, as you will, and as you know, have mercy.” And if the conflict grows fiercer say, “Lord, help!” He knows very well what we need and he shows us his mercy.’

Abba Macarius

One day when Abba Macarius was going down to Egypt with some brethren, he heard a boy saying to his mother, ‘Mother, there is a rich man who likes me, but I detest him; and on the other hand, there is a poor man who hates me, and I love him.’ Hearing these words, Abba Macarius marveled. So the brethren said to him: ‘What is this saying, Abba, that makes you marvel? ‘The old man said to them, ‘Truly, our Lord is rich and loves us, and we do not listen to him; while our enemy the devil is poor and hates us, but we love his impurity.’

Abba Macarius

A brother at Scetis committed a fault. A council was called to which Abba Moses was invited, but he refused to go to it. Then the priest sent someone to say to him, ‘Come, for everyone is waiting’ for you. ‘So he got up and went. He took a leaking jug, filled it with water and carried it with him. The others came out to meet him and said to him, ‘What is this, Father?’ The old man said to them, (my sins ran out behind me, and I do not see them, and today I am coming to judge the errors of another.’ When they heard that they said no more to the brother but forgave him.

Abba Moses

A brother said to Abba Serapion, ‘Give me a word.’ The old man said to him, ‘What shall I say to you? You have taken the living of the widows and orphans and put it on your shelves.’ For he saw them full of books.

Abba Serapion

To yield and give way to our passions is the lowest slavery, even as to rule over them is the only liberty. The greatest of all good is to be free from sin, the next is to be justified; but he must be reckoned the most unfortunate of men, who, while living unrighteously, remains for a long time unpunished. Animals in harness cannot but be carried over a precipice by the inexperience and badness of their driver, even as by his skillfulness and excellence they will be saved. The end contemplated by a philosopher is likeness to God, so far as that is possible.

Antonius Melissa

%d bloggers like this: