July 6, 2014

Abba Sisoes on the Remembrance of Hell

St. Sisoes the Great (Feast Day - July 6)

Three old men came to see Abba Sisoes, having heard about him. The first said to him, 'Father, how shall I save myself from the river of fire?' He did not answer him. The second said to him, 'Father, how can I be saved from the gnashing of teeth and the worm which dieth not?' The third said, 'Father, what shall I do, for the remembrance of the outer darkness is killing me?' By way of reply the old man said to them, 'For my part, I do not keep in mind the remembrance of any of these things, for God is compassionate and I hope that he will show me his mercy.' Hearing this, the old men went back offended. But the old man, not wishing to let them go away hurt, said to them, 'Blessed are you, my brothers; truly I envy you. The first speaks of the river of fire, the second of hell and the third of darkness. Now if your spirit is filled with such remembrances, it is impossible for you to sin. What shall I do, then? I who am hard of heart and to whom it has not been granted so much as to know whether there is a punishment for men; no doubt it is because of this that I am sinning all the time.' They prostrated themselves before him and said, 'Now we have seen exactly that of which we have heard tell.'

- Abba Sisoes 19 (PG 65, col. 397).