St Ammonas’ life is especially interesting and inspirational for us because of his victory over anger, a passion with which he struggled for many years. Abba Ammonas was a disciple of St. Anthony the Great and later became a bishop. He was also an outstanding expert on the Scriptures and left this world in the beginning of the fifth century.
Abba Ammonas said “Go, make your thoughts like those of the evildoers who are in prison. For they are always asking when the magistrate will come, awaiting him in anxiety. Even so the monk ought to give himself at all times to accusing his own soul, saying, ‘Unhappy wretch that I am. How shall I stand before the judgement seat of Christ? What shall I say in my defence?’ If you give yourself continually to this, you may be saved.”
“I have spent fourteen years in Scetis asking God night and day to grant me the victory over anger.”
Abba Ammonas was going to pay a visit to Abba Anthony one day, and he lost his way. So sitting down, he fell asleep for a little while. On waking, he prayed thus to God, “I beseech you, O Lord my God, do not let your creature perish.” Then there appeared to him as it were a man’s hand in the heavens, which showed him the way, till he reached Abba Anthony’s cave.
Abba Ammonas came one day to eat in a place where there was a monk of evil repute. Now it happened that a woman came and entered the cell of the brother of evil reputation. The dwellers in that place, having learnt this, were troubled and gathered together to chase the brother from his cell. Knowing that Bishop Ammonas was in the place, they asked him to join them. When the brother in question learnt this, he hid the woman in a large cask. The crowd of monks came to the place. Now Abba Ammonas saw the position clearly but for the sake of God he kept the secret; he entered, seated himself on the cask and commanded the cell to be searched. Then when the monks had searched everywhere without finding the woman, Abba Ammonas said, “What is this? May God forgive you!” After praying, he made everyone go out, then taking the brother by the hand he said, “Brother, be on your guard.” With these words, he withdrew.
Abba Ammonas was asked, “What is the ‘narrow and hard way?’” (Matthew 7:14). He replied, “The ‘narrow and hard way’ is this, to control your thoughts, and to strip yourself of your own will, for the sake of God. This is also the meaning of the sentence, ‘Lo, we have left everything and followed you.’” (Matthew 19:27)
Sr. Benedicta Ward, “The Sayings of the Desert Fathers,” (Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications, 1975), pp. 25-28