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January 20, 2016 + On Repulsing Provocations

By St Hesychios the Priest, from "On Watchfulness and Holiness: Written for Theodoulos," Philoklia vol. 1

42. Those who lack experience should know that it is only through the unceasing watchfulness of our intellect and the constant invocation of Jesus Christ, our Creator and God, that we, coarse and cloddish in mind and body as we are, can overcome our bodiless and invisible enemies; for not only are they subtle, swift, malevolent and skilled in malice, but they have an experience in warfare gained over all the years since Adam. The inexperienced have as weapons the Jesus Prayer and the impulse to test and discern what is from God. The experienced have the best method and teacher of all: the activity, discernment and peace of God Himself.

43. Just as a child, young and guileless, delights in seeing a conjuror and in his innocence follows him about, so our soul, simple and good because created thus by its Master, delights in the delusive provocations of the devil. Once deceived it pursues something sinister as though it were good, just as a dove is lured away by the enemy of her children. In this way its thoughts become entwined in the fantasy provoked by the devil, whether this happens to be the face of a beautiful woman or some other thing forbidden by the commandments of Christ. Then, seeking to contrive some means through which it can actually attain what attracts it, the soul assents to the provocation and, to its own condemnation, turns this unlawful mental fantasy into a concrete, action by means of the body.

44. Such is the cunning of the evil one, and with these arrows he poisons every soul. It is therefore not safe to allow these thoughts to enter the heart in order to increase the intellect's experience of warfare, especially to start with, when the soul still greatly enjoys these demonic provocations and delights in pursuing them. But as soon as we perceive them, we should counter-attack and repulse them. Once the intellect has matured in this excellent activity, it is disciplined and perceptive. From then on it is unceasingly engaged in the battle of perceiving in their true light these 'little foxes', as the Prophet calls them (S. of S. 2:15), and it easily lays hold of them. Only when we have such knowledge and experience should we admit them and censure them.

45. Just as it is impossible for fire and water to pass through the same pipe together, so it is impossible for sin to enter the heart without first knocking at its door in the form of a fantasy provoked by the devil.

46. The provocation comes first, then our coupling with it, or the mingling of our thoughts with those of the wicked demons. Third comes our assent to the provocation, with both sets of intermingling thoughts contriving how to commit the sin in practice. Fourth comes the concrete action - that is, the sin itself. If, however, the intellect is attentive and watchful, and at once repulses the provocation by counter-attacking and gainsaying it and invoking the Lord Jesus, its consequences remain inoperative; for the devil, being a bodiless intellect, can deceive our souls only by means of fantasies and thoughts. David was speaking about these provocations of the devil when he said: "Early in the morning I destroyed all the wicked of the earth, that I might cut off all evildoers from the city of the Lord" (Ps 101:8. LXX); and Moses was referring to the act of assent to a provocation in his words: "You shall make no covenant with them, nor with their gods" (Exod. 23:53).


Venerable Euthymius the Great

Troparion, Tone 4

Rejoice, O barren wilderness! And be glad, sterile desert, that has never known the travail of birth! The man of desires has multiplied your sons; he has planted them in faith and piety. He has watered them with the Holy Spirit: They grow in self-denial and perfect virtue. Through His intercessions, O Christ God, preserve Your people in peace!

Kontakion, Tone 4

The wilderness rejoiced at your birth, holy father Euthymius. In your memory, it brings a harvest of joy through your many miracles. Pour these wonders on our souls as well and cleanse us from our sins, that we may sing: Alleluia!

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