Abba Joseph and the Demon

I am 90% certain that this is not an authentic desert father story (though I would be delighted to be convinced otherwise), but it’s a lovely, poignant story and worthy of being shared.  

With the Sign of the Cross, the old monk Abba Joseph trapped in his cell a dark and miserable demon who had come to tempt him.

“Release me, Father, and let me go,” pleaded the demon, “I will not come to tempt you again”.

“I will gladly do that, but on one condition,” replied the monk. “You must sing for me the song that you sang before God’s Throne on high, before your fall.”

The demon responded, “You know I cannot do that; it will cause me cruel torture and suffering. And besides, Father, no human ear can hear its ineffable sweetness and live, for you will surely die.”

“Then you will have to remain here in my cell,” said the monk, “and bear with me the full struggle of repentance.”

“Let me go, do not force me to suffer,” pleaded the demon.

“Ah, but then you must sing to me the song you sang on high before your fall with Satan.”

So the dark and miserable demon, seeing that there was no way out, began to sing, haltingly, barely audible at first, groping for words long forgotten. As he sang, the darkness which penetrated and surrounded him began slowly to dissipate. The song grew ever louder and increasingly stronger, and soon the demon was caught up in its sweetness, his voice fully lifted up in worship and praise. Boldly he sang of the power and the honour and the glory of the Triune God on High, Creator of the Universe, Master of Heaven and Earth, of all things visible and invisible. As the song sung on high before all ages resounded in the fullness of its might, a wondrous and glorious light penetrated the venerable Abba’s humble cell, and the walls which had enclosed it were no more. Ineffable love and joy surged into the very depths of the being of the radiant and glorious angel, as he ever so gently stooped down and covered with his wings the lifeless body of the old hermit who had liberated him from the abyss of hell.

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9 Responses to Abba Joseph and the Demon

  1. mary says:

    Unlikely to be historically true, but true nonetheless. Thank you for sharing this….

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Tita Deacon says:

    Stealing. In case there is a demon….

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Logan Polk says:

    I have been looking for this story for years! I saw it forever ago on the website Daimonologia, but they have since removed it, I suppose for being too controversial among Orthodox circles. Thank you for re-sharing this story! Where does it come from, what is the source?

    It’s worth noting that many, if not all, of the Desert Fathers and Mothers were Origenian, from St. Anthony the Great to St. Evagrius Pontus to St. Macrina the Elder. I wouldn’t be surprised if this story were real. Origen may have said praying for demons was nonsense in his private letters (see St. Pamphilus’ Apology for Origen, if I had not let my priest borrow my physical copy I would include the quotation here), but his student St. Didymus the Blind took up the mantle of praying for both Satan and demons and that was what became a norm among Desert Fathers. We have seen even modern monastic Saints continue to do so, such as St. Paisos and St. Porphyrios of Mt. Athos. I would not be surprised if this story were indeed true, and, if not, at the very least written to support St. Didymus’ camp of even the demons seeing the Light of Christ. It certainly fits with the Desert Fathers’ rally around Apokatastasis.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. JGC says:

    Wonderful story! What is the source? Thanks!


    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      The story is cited on multiple internet sites. The earliest I’ve been able to find so far is 2006. No source is ever given. My assumption, until proven otherwise, is that the story is a contemporary composition.


  5. Logan Polk says:

    I have been looking everywhere for this story. Thank you for posting it. Where did you get it from, what is the source? It reminds me of just how many Desert Fathers were Origenian. I feel the story may be true as it mirrors what St. Didymus the Blind taught about demons.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Basem says:

    Regardless of the truth of this story or lack there of, this may possibly be the most beautiful thing I have ever read in my entire life!

    Many thanks for sharing Father! May the wretched me hear this song one day!!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Danielle says:

    Simply beautiful

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Shame on me! The first thing that came to my mind was to go over to my old Roman Catholic forum site and post this so I could watch their hair burst into flames.

    It’s a beautiful story. Beauty will save the world. May I sing that song forever with the saints in glory!


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