Today's selection illustrates how Satan fears the monastic life. You will see a number of teachings over the coming weeks on fasting and its role in the spiritual life. We hope you will find this series especially rewarding.
BEGIN: An old man from Thebes used to say:
"I was the son of a priest of idols. When I was young I lived in the temple and I have on many occasions seen my father go into the temple to perform sacrifices to the idols. Once I went in secretly after him, and I saw Satan sitting there with his whole army before him and, behold, one of his devils came and did homage to him. And Satan answered and said unto him, 'From where do you come?' And the devil answered, saying, "I was in such and such a country and I stirred up many wars and revolts and I caused the shedding of blood and I have come to tell you these things." Satan said unto him, 'How long did it take you to do this?' And the devil said, "Thirty days." Then Satan commanded him to be beaten, saying unto him, 'Is this all that you have done in so long a time?'
And, behold, another devil came and worshipped him, and to him he said, 'Where do you come from?' And the devil answered and said, "I was in the sea, where I stirred up storms, and sank ships and drowned many men, and I have come that I may inform you of these things." Then Satan answered and said unto him, 'How long did it take you to do this?' The devil answered and said unto him, "In twenty days," and Satan commanded that he also should be beaten, saying unto him, 'Why is it that in all these days you have done only what you say?'
And when he said this, behold, a third devil came and worshipped Satan, who answered and said unto him also, 'And where do you come from?' The devil answered and said unto him, "I have been in such and such a city wherein there was a marriage feast and I stirred up a war there, and caused the shedding of much blood and the death of the bridegroom and the bride; as soon as I had done this I came to inform you." And Satan said unto him, 'How long did it take you to do this?' And the devil said, "Ten days," and Satan commanded that he should be beaten, saying, 'In all these days you have done only this?'
Then afterwards, behold, a fourth devil came and worshipped him, and Satan answered and said unto him, 'And where do you come from?' And he who was asked answered and said unto him, "I have been in the desert for forty years struggling with a monk and tonight I have hurled him into fornication." When Satan heard this, he rose up immediately and embraced and kissed that devil, and he took the crown off his own head, and placed it upon the other devil and made him sit by his side upon the throne, saying, 'And so you have been able to do so great a work as this in so short a time! For there is nothing which I prize so highly as the fall of a monk.'"
And the old man went on to say, "When I saw these things I said to myself, "Yes, so great then is the army of the monks! And by the Will of God, Who desired my redemption, I came forth and became a monk." END
from "The Paradise of the Holy Fathers," trans. by E. A. Wallis Budge, (Seattle: St. Nectarios Press, 1984), pp. 146-147