every man must be watchful…

St Arsenius the Great- icon

Abba Daniel said, Abba Arsenios told us, as though it was about someone else, but it was probably him, that when some elder was sitting in his cell, a voice came down to him, saying, Come, and I will show you the works of men. And rising, he went out. And he led him to a certain place, and showed him an Ethiopian cutting wood, and making a large load. And he tried to lift it, but could not. And instead of taking away from it, again he cut wood, and added to the load. And he did this for a long time. And a little further on, he again showed him a man standing at a lake, and drawing water from it, and pouring into a container with holes, and the same water flowed back out to the lake. And he said to him again, Come, I will show you something else. And he saw a temple, and two men sitting on horses, one next to the other, and they were holding a piece of wood sideways. And they wanted to go into the gate, but could not, because of the piece of wood being sideways. Neither would humble himself before the other to carry the wood straight. And so these remained outside the gate. These are, he said, like those carrying the yoke of righteousness with pride, and do not humble themselves to be corrected and to walk in the humble Way of Christ. So they also remain outside the Kingdom of God. And the man cutting wood is in many sins, and instead of repenting, he adds further lawless deeds upon his sins. And the man drawing water is one who is indeed doing good works, but since he has a mixture of evil among them, in this he has lost even his good works. So every man must be watchful (νηφειν) toward his works, lest he labor for nothing.

book: The Sayings of the Desert Fathers

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