> It was related of Amma Sarah that for thirteen years she waged warfare against the demon of fornication. She never prayed that the warfare should cease but she said, ‘O God, give me strength.’
> Once the same spirit of fornication attacked her more insistently, reminding her of the vanities of the world. But she gave herself up to the fear of God and to asceticism and went up onto her little terrace to pray. Then the spirit of fornication appeared corporeally to her and said, ‘Sarah, you have overcome me.’ But she said, ‘It is not I who have overcome you, but my master, Christ.’
> [Abba Anthony] said also, ‘He who wishes to live in solitude in the desert is delivered from three conflicts: hearing, speech, and sight; there is only one conflict for him and that is with fornication.’
> A brother asked Abba Daniel, ‘Give me a commandment and I will keep it.’ He replied, ‘Never put your hand in the dish with a woman, and never eat with her; thus you will escape a little the demon of fornication.’
> The old man [Abba Macarius] asked: ‘Do not your thoughts war against you?’ [Theopemptus] replied: ‘Up to now, it is all right,’ for he was afraid to admit anything. The old man said to him, ‘See how many years I have lived as an ascetic, and am praised by all, and though I am old, the spirit of fornication troubles me.’ [He] said, ‘Believe me, Abba, it is the same with me.’ The old man went on admitting that other thoughts still warred against him, until he had brought him to admit them about himself.
> Abba John the Dwarf said, ‘If a king wanted to take possession of his enemy’s city, he would begin by cutting off the water and the food and so his enemies, dying of hunger, would submit to him. It is the same with the passions of the flesh: if a man goes about fasting and hungry the enemies of his soul grow weak.’
> One day when Abba Macarius was going down to Egypt with some brethren, he heard a boy saying to his mother, ‘Mother, there is a rich man who likes me, but I detest him; and on the other hand, there is a poor man who hates me, and I love him.’ Hearing these words, Abba Macarius marveled. So the brethren said to him: ‘What is this saying, Abba, that makes you marvel? ‘The old man said to them, ‘Truly, our Lord is rich and loves us, and we do not listen to him; while our enemy the devil is poor and hates us, but we love his impurity.’
Every intellect caught up by God cuts off simultaneously both the energy of the passions and the uncouth jostle of thoughts. In addition to this it also puts an end to the licentious misuse of the senses. For the passions, brought triumphantly into subjection by the higher forms of contemplation, are destroyed by the sublime vision of nature.
St. Maximos the Confessor
Scripture represents Jonah as grieving on account of the booth and the gourd - that is to say, on account of the flesh and the pleasure of the flesh - and it represents God as caring for Nineveh (cf. Jonah 4:1-1 1). From this it is clear that, compared with the things valued and prized by men, what is loved by God is better and more precious by far. For the things that men value lack being; they only seem to exist because of mistaken judgment, but have no principle of existence at all: there is only the fantasy, which cheats the intellect and through passion supplies non-existent things with empty form but no real substance.
St. Maximos the Confessor