On Leaves and Fruit

Abba Agathon ca. 4th cent.

Someone asked Abba Agathon, ‘Which is better, bodily asceticism or interior vigilance?’ The old man replied, ‘Man is like a tree, bodily asceticism is the foliage, interior vigilance the fruit. According to that which is written, “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be cut down and cast into the fire” (Mat. 3:10) it is clear that all our care should be directed towards the fruit, that is to say, guard the spirit; but it needs bodily protection and the embellishment of the foliage, which is bodily asceticism.’ (Sayings of the Desert Fathers, Abba Agathon: 8)