“Since the coming of these nuns the innocence and peace fo the monks are at an end.”
“I readily believe it, “answered the blessed Mael. “For woman is a cleverly constructed snare by which we are taken before we suspect the trap. Alas! the delightful attraction of these creatures is exerted with even greater force from a distance than when they are close at hand. The less they satisfy desire the more thy inspire it. This is the reason why a poet wrote this verse to one of them:
When present I avoid thee, but when away I find thee.
Thus we see, my son, that the blandishments of carnal love have more power over hermits and monks than over men who live in the world. All through my life the demon of lust has tempted me in various ways, but his strongest temptations did not come to me from meeting a woman, however beautiful and fragrant she was. They came to me from the image of an absent woman. Even now, though full of days and approaching my ninety-eighth year, I am often lead by the Enemy to sin against chastity, at least in thought. At night when I am cold in my bed and my frozen old bones rattle together with a dull sound I hear voices reciting the second verse of the third book of the Kings: “Wherefore his servants said unto him, Let there be sought for my lord the king a young virgin: and let her stand before the kind and let her cherish him, let her lie in thy bosom, that the lord the king may get heat,’ and the devil showed me a girl in the bloom of youth who says to me: ‘I am thy Abishag; I am thy Shunamite. Make, O my lord, room for me on thy couch.’
“Believe me,” added the old man, “it is only by the special aid of Heaven that a monk can keep his chastity in act and in intention.”