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Abba [St] Athanasios, bishop of Alexandria, said: “One of you often says: ‘Where is the persecution so I can be martyred?’ Suffer martyrdom in your conscience; die to sin; ‘Mortify your members which are upon the earth’ [cf. Col 3:5] and you will have become a martyr by intention. Those [former martyrs] fought with emperors and rulers; you have the devil, the emperor of sin, for adversary and demons for rulers. For at that time a shrine and an altar stood before them and an abomination of idolatry, an execrable idol. Take careful thought; even today there is an altar and a sanctuary and a virtual execrable idol in the soul. An altar, that is luxurious gluttony; a sanctuary, the longing for delights; an idol, the spirit of covetousness. For he who is a slave to *porneia and spends his time on the delights of the flesh has denied Jesus and is an idol-worshipper, having within himself the effigy of Aphrodite, i.e. the shameful pleasures of the flesh. Or again, he who is the slave of anger and wrath and does not extirpate the madness of this passion, he has denied Jesus, having Ares within himself for a god, for he is still worshipping wrath which is an idol of madness. Somebody else who loves money and pleasure but who ‘shuts up his bowels of compassion’ against his brother [cf. 1 Jo 3:17] and is not merciful to his neighbour, he has denied Jesus too and serves idols, for he has the effigy of Hermes within himself, worshipping the creature rather than the Creator, ‘For the love of money is the root of all evil’ [1 Tm 6:10]. So if you achieve self-control and guard yourself against these raving passions, you have trodden the idols underfoot, denied superstition and become a martyr by making a good confession.”

The Anonymous Sayings of the Desert Fathers

*Some Greek words have been retained because it would take too many words to translate them (e.g. porneia, which means any illicit sexual activity in nous, word or deed) or because of the peculiar ambivalence of the word (e.g. logismos, -oi and hêsychia) the meaning of which the reader must construe from its context.