I am looking for a particular quotation that I believe comes from the desert fathers. I searched the Philokalia but didn't find it. I don't think it was from there anyway, but I looked.

In the story, the father asks a person with no goals to shoot an arrow into the desert. Since he has no target, it doesn't matter where he shoots. A person without a goal is like an archer without a target. Anyone know either where it came from or how I might search for it?

  • I searched my Kindle editions of the Penguin version of the Desert Fathers and the Philokalia and I can't find anything like this. I also searched in Athanasius Life of St. Antony and through The Ladder of Divine Ascent: it's not there either. I have a 4-volume set of the Evergetinos, but I can't search it electronically.
    – guest37
    Feb 15 '18 at 20:06
  • Thanks. Maybe I am remembering the wrong set of fathers. Feb 15 '18 at 20:31

A couple of stories about shooting arrows from the desert fathers, perhaps one of these jogs your memory:

Abba Anthony, desert father (source):

A hunter in the desert saw Abba Anthony enjoying himself with the brethren and he was shocked. Wanting to show him that it was necessary sometimes to meet the needs of the brethren, the old man said to him, 'Put an arrow in your bow and shoot it.' So he did. The old man then said, 'Shoot another,' and he did so. Then the old man said, 'Shoot yet again and the hunter replied 'If I bend my bow so much I will break it.' Then the old man said to him, 'It is the same with the work of God. If we stretch the brethren beyond measure they will soon break. Sometimes it is necessary to come down to meet their needs.' When he heard these words “the hunter was pierced by compunction and, greatly edified by the old man, he went away. As for the brethren, they went home strengthened.

Dorotheos (source much less reliable-looking, additional source):

A man who gives way to his passions is like a man who is shot at by an enemy, catches the arrow in his hands, and then plunges it into his own heart. A man who is resisting his passions is like a man who is shot at by an enemy, and although the arrow hits him, it does not seriously wound him because he is wearing a breastplate. But the man who is uprooting his passions is like a man who is shot at by an enemy, but who strikes the arrow and shatters it or turns it back into his enemy's heart.


There are such stories prevalent in all societies . If the desert fathers said the archer's story, they would have possibily borrowed it from somewhere else. One such story , not copyrighed , from my home-land speaks of a farmer who has a lot of agricultural land, but has five prodigal sons who are as lazy as laziness can be. The yield from his land slowly depletes for lack of maintenance. On his death-bed, the father calls all his sons near and tells them that he had hidden a large pot containing solid gold, somewhere in his field, but has since forgotten the location. The old man dies, and thereafter the sons start digging and ploughing the entire land in search of the gold, and find nothing. But slowly they realise that the gold which their father intended was the better yield they would get from purpose of life and hard work.

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