The teachers of the ancient desert Christian tradition had a profound understanding of the selfless nature of Christian love.
Two brothers went to market to sell the things they had made.
The first brother fell into fornication as soon as he separated from his companion.
When the two brothers met again, the second said to his fallen brother, ‘My brother, let us go to our cell’, but the brother who had committed fornication replied, ‘I am not going’.
His brother persisted, saying, ‘My brother, why not?’
The first brother replied with shame, ‘Because when you had left me, I fell into fornication.’
Wishing to win over his fallen brother, the innocent monk said, ‘The same thing happened to me, too, when you left me; come, let us go and do strict penance and God will forgive us.’
The two brothers went to their superiors to tell them what had happened to them. The old men gave them commandments for doing penance.
The second brother who had not fallen away did penance for the other as though he had sinned himself.
But after a few days God, seeing the affliction the innocent brother was giving himself for the sake of love, made known to one of the old men that because of the great love of the brother who had not sinned, he had forgiven the one who had sinned.
See what it is to give one’s soul for one’s brother. (WDF, 15:47)
The desert tradition understood that true love does not have an agenda or demand a particular outcome from the practice of love.
One of the Fathers went off to the city to sell his manual work.
Seeing a naked beggar he was moved by compassion and gave him his own cloak.
The poor man took the gift from the priest and sold the cloak in the marketplace .
When the priest heard what the beggar had done, he was annoyed and regretted he had given away his cloak.
But that night Christ appeared in a dream to the Father; Christ was wearing the Father’s cloak and said to him, ‘Do not grieve, for see I am wearing that which you have given me.’ (WDF, 61:227)