St Dorotheos: Two young girls

Saint Dorotheus of Gaza, a spiritual father in sixth-century Palestine, wrote:

I remember once hearing the following story: a slave ship put in at a certain port where there lived a holy virgin who was in earnest about her spiritual life. When she learned about the arrival of the ship she was glad, for she wanted to purchase a little girl. She thought to herself, “I will take her into my home and bring her up in my way of life so that she knows nothing of the evils of the world.” So she sent and enquired of the master of the ship and found that he had two small girls who he thought would suit her. Whereupon she gladly paid the price of one of the children and took her home.

The ship’s master left the place where the saint dwelt. He had not gone very far when he was met by a harlot, totally depraved, who saw the other small girl with him and wanted to buy her; the price was agreed and paid, and she took her away.

Do you see this mystery of God? Do you see His judgment? Which of us could give explain this? The holy virgin took one of these little ones to bring her up in the fear of God, to instruct her in every good work, to teach her all that belongs to the monastic state and, in short, all the sweet fragrance of God’s holy commandments. The harlot, having taken the unfortunate child, made her an instrument of the devil. For what could this plague teach her but the ruin of her soul? What can we have to say about this terrible fate?

Both were small, both were sold, neither knew where they were going; one is found in the hands of God and the other falls into the hands of the devil. Is it possible to say that what God asks from the one he asks also from the other? How could that be! Suppose they both fell into fornication or some other deadly sin; is it possible that they both face the same judgment, although they fell into one and the same sin? Could this be possible? One learns about the Judgment and about the Kingdom of God day and night, while the other unfortunate knows nothing of it, never hears anything good but only the contrary, everything filthy, everything diabolical? How can He allow them to be judged by the same standard?

A man can know nothing about the judgments of God. He alone is all-seeing and can judge the sins of all as He alone knows. Truly it happens that a man may do some sin out of simplicity, but he may have something good about him which is more pleasing to God than his whole life; and you sit in judgment and burden your own soul? And should it happen that he has fallen away, how do you know how much and how well he fought, how much blood he sweated before he did it? Perhaps so little fault can be found in him that God can look on his action as if it were just, for God looks on his labor and all the struggle he had before he did it, and has pity on him. And you know only his sin, then how God spared him; are you going to condemn him for it, and destroy your own soul? And how do you know what tears he has shed about it before God? You may well know about the sin, but you do not know about the repentance.

From Dorotheos of Gaza: Discourses and Sayings