“When you feel compunction in your heart,” a certain elder counsels, “leave all other thoughts and say to your mind: ‘Perhaps the hour of my death is approaching and God is sending me mourning and tears in order to save me.’ For since the devil wars more strongly against a man at the last, in order to root him in evil, so God sends him such things within, in order to save him.”
Compunction is not a word we see often. It means that feeling we are supposed to get when we’ve done something wrong. The Holy Spirit’s way of bringing our attention to what we’ve done wrong so we can repent and do better in the future.
The Desert Christians took sin far more seriously than we do. Or I should say, most of us. I’ve met those who take it far too seriously. The Desert Christians, as far as I can tell, considered approaching death to be a time when one was most vulnerable and might sin in such a way as to condemn their souls. Making a good death was a high priority. Knowing death is coming to one, the opportunity to accept it and know one is going to Jesus,was to them the way to demonstrate the reality and the validity of the Gospel and their way if life.