One of the fathers said: “The secret of the strength and flourishing of monasticism in the early centuries was the system discipleship followed. The sweet aroma of Lord Christ, which was in the hearts of the fathers in the wilderness attracted many who became disciples to the Lord. That was why the deserts and wilderness were filled with thousands of saintly monks.”
St John Cassian says: “A novice is given to a spiritual father to become his disciple. He teaches and guides. His only concern is to lift the novice up to perfection, teaching him how to conquer his desires.” The first lesson to a novice tutored by his spiritual father was to deny his will and submit it totally to his tutor. The Lord often blessed the obedience of the youth monks to their spiritual fathers, through miracles that deepen their need to obedience and its spiritual value. These rules were applied in the wilderness of Scetis, where each group of monks were under the supervision of one of the elders, following St Paul’s words, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” (Hebrews 13:17).