There was a bishop of the city of Oxyrhynchus named Affy. They said that while he was a monk, he treated his body very severely. And when he became a bishop, he wanted to continue in his city the austerities which he had practised in the desert, but he could not. So he fell prostrate before God, and said: “Dost thou think, my Lord, that thy grace has left me because I have become a bishop?” And it was revealed to him: “No: in the desert you had no man to help you, and God alone sustained you. But now you are in the world, and have men to help you.

~ Sayings of the Desert Fathers 15.13

This is an important saying. It reveals that, despite their quest for perfection, the desert fathers were realists when it came to discipline. They did not consider that their way of life made them holier than those in the world per se; rather they saw it as an effective way to focus on austerity, as a path, but not the only path. Continue reading