Reflection on a Saying of the Desert Christians: Abba Sisoes

“A brother confessed to Abba Sisoes: “I fell, Father. What do I do now?”

“Get up,” the holy elder told him, with his characteristic simplicity.

“I got up, Father, but I fell again into the cursed sin,” the brother confessed grievingly.

“And what prevents you from getting up again?”

“Until when?” asked the brother.

“Until death finds you, whether standing or falling down. It is written, ‘wherever I shall find you, there I will also judge you,’ the elder explained. Just pray to God that you are found at your last moment standing upright in holy repentance.”

Pretty certain I have mentioned previously that the Desert Christians did not take salvation for granted nor do they seem to have our more modern understanding of God’s free gift of grace.
 
They believed salvation had to be earned. That they had to work constantly to be found worthy at all times because who knows when death might come. Were they what we today would call extremists? Without a doubt. But these Sayings have nonetheless something to teach us. They were the role models for all of the early monastic Rules such as Cassian’s Institutes, the Rule of the Master, and the community founded by Pachomius. It is with St. Benedict and his Rule that we see moderation introduced.
 
Enough history. What does this Saying tell us today? It tells me that living a holy life takes work. I may sin and sin again, but each time I am to confess that sin to God or to a person, ask for forgiveness, and give thanks for it.
 
Unlike the Desert Christians, I don’t have to work to earn my salvation. I can work on learning humility, loving my neighbor, and holiness.

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