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There was a virtuous hermit who frequently prayed to God, and who received revelations of many divine mysteries. One day he set out from his hermitage to travel to a distant region. Along the way, he met another man who was journeying in the same direction. This individual was actually an angel, but the hermit did not realize this and assumed he was a regular human being. As they journeyed together, along the path they encountered a dead horse. The hermit covered his nose and held his breath; the angel did not. A short while later, they came across a dead calf. The hermit again covered his nose and held his breath; the angel did not. Not long after, they found a dead dog in their path. The hermit covered his nose and held his breath; the angel did nothing. Eventually they approached a certain village where they crossed paths with a beautiful young lady, who was wearing extravagant clothing and ornate jewelry, and taking great pride in her appearance. The angel then immediately covered his nose. When the hermit witnessed this, he stopped and asked, “Who are you? Are you an angel, a human being, or a demon? … We passed by a dead horse that stunk, but you did not cover your nose. We also passed by the dead calf and dog, and I did not see you cover your nose. Now that we passed by such a beautiful young lady you decided to cover your nose and hold your breath?” Then the angel made himself visible to the hermit and replied, “Nothing smells as bad as pride does to God.” Having said this, the angel disappeared. The hermit then returned back to his hut and began weeping for his sins, beseeching God to protect him henceforth from the devil’s traps, and not allow him to fall into the sin of pride and thus lose his soul.

—by St. Kosmas Aitolos

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