icon_bede-We ought to keep watch meticulously… so that we may render not only our words and works, but also the very secrets of our hearts, worthy of divine inspection.

[…] Let us be mindful of the Lord’s threat wherein he says I am coming to gather their works and their thoughts (Is. 22:18).

When the traces of chaotic vices have been driven out of our heart, let us prepare a dwelling wherein he, who is its ineluctable examiner and judge, may deign to abide.

We should be aware that there are three degrees of evil thoughts:

one, of those which contaminate the mind by the deliberate choice and purpose of sinning;

another, of those which confuse the mind by the delight of sin, yet do not allure it to consent to sin;

the third, of those which move across the mind in a natural way yet do not entice it to give in to vices, though they keep it from the good things it ought to reflect on.

This occurs, for example, when we brings back the phantasms of things which we know were once idly done or spoken.

A frequent recalling of these matters, like the troubling annoyance of flies, tends to swirl about the eyes of the heart; it does more to disturb its spiritual vision than to blind it.

Solomon convinces us to chastise all these kinds of evil thoughts when he says, Guard your heart with all vigilance, for life comes forth from it (Prov. 4:23).

Following his suggestion, let us act quickly, that if we transgress in any way in our thoughts by consenting to carry out something wicked, we may swiftly wipe away this transgression by confession and fruits worthy of repentance.

If we perceive that we are being tempted by delight in committing sin, let us drive away this noxious delight by our frequent prayers and tears.

[…] And, if we see that we are not capable of ridding ourselves of it on our own, let us seek the help of our brothers, that we may accomplish by their advice and intercession what we are unable to do by our own strength.

[…] Because we cannot totally avoid idle thoughts, we should put them to flight, as far as we can, by stirring up good thoughts, and especially be frequent meditation on the scriptures, according to the example of the psalmist who said Oh, how I have loved your law, O Lord; it is my meditation all the day (Ps. 118:97).

Let us ask for heavenly clemency, which is truly to ask in the name of the Saviour, that he may provide us with both purity of heart and the efficacy of good works.

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Homilies on the Gospels, 2:12 (Easter), “Homilies on the Gospels, Book Two, Lent to the Dedication of the Church”, trans. Lawrence T. Martin and David Hurst OSB (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1991).