St-Basil-the-GreatIn the eastern calendar, January 30th was the Synaxis of The Three Hierarchs: Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, & John Chrysostom.

“Give heed to thyself, lest perhaps a wicked thought steal in upon thee” (Deut. 15:9).

We men are easily prone to sins of thought.

Therefore, He who has formed each heart individually (Ps. 2:35:15), knowing that the impulse received from the intention constitutes the major element in sin, has ordained that purity in the ruling part of our soul be our primary concern.

That faculty by which we are especially prone to commit sin surely merits great care and vigilance.

As the more provident physicians offset physical weakness by precautionary measures taken in advance, so the Protector of us all and the true Physician of our souls takes possession first and with stronger garrisons of that part of the soul which He knows is most liable to sin.

[…] Beware, therefore, lest perhaps a wicked thought steal in upon thee.’ For, ‘he who looks upon a woman to lust after her hath already committed adultery with her in his heart’ (Matt. 5:28).

The actions of the body, therefore, are retarded by many impediments, but he who sins in his intention has committed a transgression that is accomplished with the swiftness of thought.

Where the lapse into sin is sudden, therefore, the power of swift protection has been granted us, ‘lest perhaps,’ as the Scripture declares, ‘a wicked thought steal in upon thee.’

And now, let us return to the theme of our discourse. ‘Give heed to thyself’ says the Scripture.

Every animal has been endowed by God, the Creator of all things, with an interior power of self-protection.

[…] In obeying this, precept, we become vigilant custodians of the resources God has bestowed on us, avoiding sin as the beasts shun noxious foods and following after justice as they seek for pasturage.

‘Give heed to thyself’ that you may be able to distinguish between the injurious and the salutary.

[…] It remains, therefore, to interpret the precept as referring to a mental action. ‘Give heed to thyself. that is, examine yourself from all angles. Keep the eye of your soul sleeplessly on guard, for ‘Thou art going in the midst of snares’ (Sir. 9:20).

Traps set by the enemy lie concealed everywhere. Look about you in all directions, therefore, ‘that you may be saved as a swallow from the traps and as a bird from the snare’ (Prov. 6:5).

The deer cannot be caught with traps because of the keenness of his vision…. A bird, if alert, easily flies out of the range of the huntsman’s snare.

See to it, then, that you are not more remiss than the animals in protecting yourself. Never let yourself be caught in the snares of the Devil and so become his prey, the captured plaything of his will (2 Tim. 2:26).

Basil the Great (330-379): Homily on the Words “Give Heed to Thyself”,  from Saint Basil: Ascetical Works, translated by Sr M Monica Wagner, Catholic University of America Press (The Fathers of the Church, vol. 9), pp. 432-434.

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