An elder told how a youth who wanted to retreat [into the desert] was impeded by his mother. But he did not abandon his project, saying, “I want to save my soul.” Much as she tried to stand in his way, she was not able, so, in the end, she let him go. Off he went and lived alone in a disorderly way, wasting his life away.

Now it came about this his mother died; then, some time later, he himself became gravely ill. He fell into a trance and was whisked away to the judgment; there he found his mother with those who were being judged. She was astonished when she saw him. “What is this, my child?” she said. “Have you too bee condemned to come to this place? Where are the words you used to say: ‘I want to save my soul’?”

Bowled over by what he heard, he stood there dejected, having nothing to say in reply to her. Then, by the providence of God, the lover of folk, after seeing those things, he made a recovery from the illness that was afflicting him. Reckoning that a visitation like that must have been sent from God, he shut himself up and stayed there, concerning himself with his own salvation, repenting and weeping over the things he did previously in a disorderly way. Such was his sorrow for sin that many begged him to relax a little, lest he do himself some harm from his excessive weeping. But he would not be comforted: “If I could not endure the reproach of my mother,” he said, “how then am I to endure being put to shame before Christ and his angels on the Day of Judgment?”

(THE BOOK OF THE ELDERS, 3.39)

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