Jacques Maritain Center
Desert Answers

It is better not to fast than to be praised for fasting.

In a certain region there was a man who fasted much, so that the name of Faster was given to him. Hearing this the abbot Zeno sent for him. He came joyfully. After praying together they sat down, and the abbot Zeno began to work in silence. Having no chance of speaking, the Faster was attacked by a restless spirit of accidie. At last he said, "Pray for me, my father, for I am going away." "Why are you going ? " asked the old man. " Because," said the other, "my heart is as if it were on fire, and I know not what is the matter. When I was at home I used to fast until the evening time, and no such thing happened to me." Then said the old man, "At home you were fed through your ears by men's praises. Now, go away. Eat at the ninth hour, and if you do anything, do it secretly." In following this advice he found that he came to look forward eagerly to the ninth hour. Those who knew him began to say of him, "The Faster has fallen under the power of some devil." He then came and told all this to the abbot Zeno, who said to him, "This way and this leading is according to God's will."

-- Wisdom of the Desert

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