Abba Nicon: Do You Show Compassion?

Feast of Zacchaeus the Apostle of Caesaria

Desert_Father_Square.jpgA BROTHER asked one of the Fathers saying: “How does the devil present temptations to the saints?” The old man said to him, “There was one of the Fathers, named Nicon, who lived on Mount Sinai. And someone went into a Pharanite’s tent and finding his daughter alone, sinned with her. Then he said to her, “Say it was the anchorite, Abba Nicon, who did this.” So when her father came and heard about it, he took his sword and went to confront the old man. When he knocked on the door, the old man came out. But when he drew his sword, intending to kill him, his hand withered. Then the Pharanite went and spoke to his priests, and they sent for the old man. When he came out, they inflicted many blows on him and wanted to drive him away, but he begged them, saying, “For God’s sake, let me stay here that I may do penance.” So they kept him apart for three years coming each Sunday to do penance and to beg everyone saying, “Pray for me.” Later, the man who had committed the sin and thrown the temptation onto the anchorite was possessed with the devil, and he admitted in church: “It was I who committed the sin and said the servant of God should be falsely denounced.” Then the whole congregation went to do penance before the old man, saying, “Forgive us, abba.” He said to them, “As to forgiveness, be forgiven; but as for staying here I shall not remain here any longer with you, for no-one here had enough discernment to show compassion towards me.” With that, he left that place.” The old man said, “You see how the devil presents temptations to the saints.”

—Abba Nicon, The Sayings of the Desert Fathers

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