“A brother was tested by temptation in Scetis. The enemy brought into his mind the memory of a beautiful woman which troubled him deeply. By God’s providence it chanced that a visitor came from Egypt and arrived in Scetis. When they met to talk, he told the brother that his wife was dead (she was the woman about whom the monk was tempted). When he heard the news, he put on his cloak at night and went to the place where he had heard she was buried. He dug in the place, and wiped blood from her corpse on his cloak and when he returned he kept it in his cell. When it smelt too bad, he put it in front of him and said to his temptation, ‘Look, this is what you desire. You have it now, be content.’ So he punished himself with the smell until his passions died down.”
– Sayings of the Desert Fathers
At first pass this story seems at least odd. Perhaps it seems absolutely obscene. Yet there is a depth in the truth. Our lust wants the gratification of an objective flesh. A body that is representative of what we want the body to be. However, as people we are not objects in the mind. We are flesh and blood. We are living and we are dying. When lust is confronted with the real body the situation changes. It no longer has validity. What we lust for is corrupting, dying, decaying. The putrification of it (in this case) is the stark reality that lust can no longer deny. The stench has already filled the nostrils.