Evagrius the Solitary: Standing Fast in Battle like Warriors of Our Victorious King, Jesus Christ. Wednesday, Jan 30 2013 

Church FathersI write of the reasoning nature that fights beneath heaven: first, what it battles against; second; what assists it in the battle; and finally, what the fighter keeping valiant watch must confront.

Those who fight are human beings; those assisting them are the angels of God; and those opposing them are the evil demons.

Failure results not from the enemy’s formidable strength, nor because the protectors are careless: rather, it is because the fighter is unprepared that the knowledge of God vanishes and fails.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, who handed on to us everything necessary for salvation, bestowed on us power “to trample serpents and scorpions, and all the powers of evil” (Lk 10:19).

And together with all his teaching he handed on to us what he himself did when tempted by Satan (Mt 4:1-11; Lk 4:1-13).

And so in the moment of battle, when the demons attack and hurl weapons against us, we too (like Christ), must speak out against them from the text of sacred Scripture.

In this way their foul tempting-thoughts will not persist in us, enslaving the soul through sin arising from action, staining it and casting it into the sin of death. As scripture says, “The soul that sins shall die” (Ez 18:4).

For when sin has not yet entered the mind it is still possible to speak out against the evil, vanquishing it easily and rapidly.

[…] For this reason we have carefully selected the right words from the Scriptures, so that armed with them we may “vigorously drive away the Philistine” (cf. 1 Sam 14:52) while standing fast in battle, like powerful men and warriors of our victorious king, Jesus Christ.

But we know this, beloved: that to the degree that we withstand them in battle and answer the demons back, they will be embittered to that degree against us.

We are instructed in this by Job who said, “No sooner do I start to speak, then they wound me.” (Job 6:4 LXXX).  And David speaks similarly: “When I speak out for peace, they make war against me” (Ps 119:7).

But it is not right for us to be afraid of them: instead, we must withstand them confidently in the power of our Savior.

For if we believe in Christ and carefully keep his commands, we will cross the Jordan and take Jericho, the “city of palms.” (cf. Jdg. 3:13 LXX).

In this battle we need the spiritual weapons, (cf. 2 Cor 10:4) of steadfast faith (Col 1:23) and teaching, which imply: perfect fasting; mighty victories; humility; calm stillness; slowness to react or utter imperturbability; and prayer without ceasing. (cf. 1 Th 5:17).

Evagrius Ponticus (345-399): Antirrhetikos (Prologue), translated by Luke Dysinger OSB.

Evagrius the Solitary: If You Long to Pray, Do None of the Things that Oppose Prayer Friday, Oct 19 2012 

If you wish to pray, you need God who gives prayer to the one who prays (1Sam 2:9).

Therefore call upon him saying, Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come (Matt. 6:9-10), that is to say, your Holy Spirit and your only-begotten Son.

For He taught you this by saying, the Father is worshipped in spirit and truth (Jn 4:23-4).

The one praying in spirit and truth (Jn 4:23-4) no longer honors the Creator because of His creatures, but instead praises Him for His own sake.

If you are a theologian, you pray truly; and if you pray truly, you are a theologian.

When your nous (mind) in great yearning for God gradually withdraws, so to speak, from the flesh, and when it deflects all thoughts (noemata) that come from sensation, or memory or temperament, having become full of reverence and joy, then you may believe it has drawn near the borders of prayer.

The Holy Spirit, sympathizing with our weakness (Rom. 8:26), repeatedly visits us even when we are unclean.

And, if he only finds the nous loving truth and praying to him, he lights upon and disposes it, dispersing the whole battle-array of tempting-thoughts (logismoi) and concepts (noemata) circling around it, encouraging it on to the rapturous love (eros) of spiritual prayer.

The others implant thoughts (logismoi), ideas (noemata), or contemplations in the nous by affecting the body.

God, however, does the opposite: he himself lights upon and disposes the nous and places within it knowledge as he wishes; and through the nous he soothes the body’s disharmony.

No one yearning (erô) for true prayer who also becomes angry or remembers injuries can be anything but insane: it is like wishing for good eyesight while tearing at your own eyes.

If you long to pray, do none of the things that oppose prayer, so that God will draw near and travel with you on your way (Lk 24:15).

Stand on your guard, protecting your nous from thoughts (noemata) at the time of prayer: and take your stand on your own inner quiet, so that He who suffers with the ignorant will manifest Himself to you too; then you will receive a most glorious gift of prayer.

You are not able to pray purely if you are enmeshed in material affairs and shaken about by constant cares, because prayer is the putting aside of thoughts (noemata).

It is not possible for one who is chained to run; nor is it possible for the nous to see the place of spiritual prayer while enslaved to passions, for it is carried to and fro by  impassioned thought (noemata) and can have no firm standing place.

Evagrius Ponticus (345-399): On Prayer, 59-67; 70-72, translated by Luke Dysinger OSB.

Evagrius the Solitary: Keep Powerful Guard Over Your Memory Monday, Jun 4 2012 

If you long to pray, renounce everything at once (cf. Lk 14:33) so that you may inherit all.

Pray [1] first, for purification from the passions;

[2] and second, for deliverance from ignorance and forgetfulness;

[3] and third, for deliverance from all temptation and abandonment.

In your prayer seek only righteousness and the kingdom, namely, virtue and knowledge; and all the rest will be added unto you (Mt 6:33).

It is just to pray not only for your own purification, but also to pray for your own kindred, so as to imitate the angelic way.

[…] Whether you pray with brothers or by yourself, struggle to pray not only in the customary way, but also with perception.

Perception in prayer is concentration (sunnoia), with reverence and compunction and distress of soul, as you confess your failures with silent groans.

If the intellect (nous) is still staring around at the time of prayer, it does not yet know how to pray as a monk; it is still a secular, decorating the exterior tabernacle (cf. Mt 23:27).

When you pray, keep powerful guard over your memory: in this way, instead of placing its own passions before you, it will, instead, move you to the knowledge that you stand before God.

For the nous is easily, naturally disarmed and plundered by the memory at the time of prayer.

When you are praying the memory brings you fantasies of either: [1] ancient issues; [2] or new worries; [3] or the face of one who has distressed you.

The demon is very malignant towards any person who prays, and it employs every means to defeat his purpose.

It does not cease [1] moving thoughts (noemata) of matters through the memory and [2] stirring up all the passions through the flesh, so as to be able to impede his excellent course and his departure to God.

When, despite all his efforts, the malevolent demon is unable to hinder the prayer of one who is earnest, it lets up for a time and then takes its revenge when he finishes praying. It either:

[1] enflames him with anger, thus ruining the excellent state that, through prayer, has been welded together in him;

[2] or it entices him to some irrational pleasure and so commits an outrage on the nous.

Having prayed properly, expect what is improper; and stand courageously to keep guard over your harvest.

Indeed from the beginning you were assigned this: namely, to work and keep guard (Gen. 2:15).  So do not leave your work unguarded after your labor, otherwise you do not receive any benefit from praying.

Evagrius Ponticus (345-399): On Prayer, 37-49, translated by Luke Dysinger OSB.

Evagrius the Solitary: If You are able to Endure Patiently, You will Always Pray with Joy Tuesday, Oct 11 2011 

(NB, in Greek-speaking theology, nous [together with the adjective noetic] refers to understanding, the heart, the eye of the heart, with connotations of vision and contemplation.)

If you desire to pray as you ought, do not sadden any soul, otherwise you are running in vain (cf. Gal 2:2, Phil 2:16).

Leave your gift,” it says, before the altar, and first go away and be reconciled to your brother; (Mt 5:24) and after that you will be able to pray without disturbance.

For memory of injury blinds the mind of one who prays, and darkens his prayers.

Those who heap up sorrow and memory of injury within themselves, and then expect to pray, are like people who draw water and pour it into a perforated wine-jar.

If you are able to endure patiently, you will always pray with joy.

[…] When on occasion an angel stands for us, then all who stand against us immediately vanish, and the nous is found greatly relieved, praying soundly.

But at other times, when the usual battle is raging against us, the nous lashes out and is not permitted any concessions; for it has been prematurely aroused by the various passions.

Nevertheless, if it goes on seeking, it will find, and if it knocks vigorously, the door will be opened (Mt 7:7).

Do not pray that what you will should be done, because your will is not in full harmony with the will of God. Pray instead as you were taught, saying, Let your will be done in me (cf Mt 6:10, 24:2).

And in all matters ask of him in this way that his will be done.  He wills only what is good and profitable for the soul; but that is not always what you seek.

I have often prayed, requesting that something I thought was good for me be done for me, insisting on my request, and irrationally attempting to force God’s will.

And thus I did not leave it to him who knows what is profitable to arrange (cf 1Cor 10:23).

And when I eventually received what I asked for, I was very sorry I had asked for my own choice; for the matter did not turn out as I had imagined.

[…] Do not become distressed if you do not receive at once from God your request; he wishes to benefit you even more as you continue steadfastly in prayer (Rom 12:12).   For what is higher than enjoying conversation with God and being taken up with conversational intercourse with him?

Undistracted prayer is the highest noetic activity of the nous.

Prayer is the ascent of the nous to God.

Evagrius Ponticus (345-399): On Prayer, 21-36, translated by Luke Dysinger OSB.

Evagrius the Solitary: Prayer is Intimate Conversation of the “Nous” with God Tuesday, Sep 20 2011 

Prayer is intimate conversation of the nous (intellect) with God.

So then, what stable state must the nous possess to be able to stretch out unalterably toward its own Master and converse with him without any intermediary?

If Moses was hindered when he attempted to approach the bush burning on earth, until he had taken off the shoes from his feet (Exod. 3:2-5), do you not think that, if you wish to both see the One who is above every concept and perception and to converse with him, you should cast away from yourself every impassioned mental concept (noema)?

First of all pray that you may receive tears, so that by means of sorrow (penthos) you may be able to calm the wildness within your soul; and by confessing your iniquity to the Lord, obtain forgiveness from him.

Make use of tears to realize every petition, for it delights your Master to receive prayer offered with tears.

Even if you weep rivers of tears at your prayer, on no account be inwardly haughty, as if you were superior to others.

For your prayer has received this help so that you may be able to more easily confess your sins and propitiate the Lord by means of tears.

So do not turn into passion the antidote to passions, lest you anger all the more the One who gave you this grace.

[…] Stand patiently toiling, and pray well-toned, and put to flight the assaults of anxieties an [tempting thoughts: they disturb and trouble you in order to make you relax your tone.

 When the demons see that you are eager to truly pray, they insinuate mental concepts (noemata) of certain affairs that seem to demand attention.

And within a short time they arouse the memory of these things and move the nous to seek them out. And failing to find them, it becomes very sorrowful and disheartened.

Then when the nous stands for prayer, the demons remind it of the matters it had sought and remembered, so as to make it halfheartedly seek knowledge of them and thus lose the fruitfulness of prayer.

Exert your nous to stand at the time of prayer [as if] deaf and dumb, and [then] you will be able to pray.

Whenever you encounter temptation, contradiction, or yearning; or when indignation (thumos) moves you to take revenge on your opponent or to break out yelling.

Remember prayer and the judgment that attends on prayer, and immediately the unruly movement within you will be quieted.

Evagrius the Solitary (345-399): On Prayer, 3-12, translated by Luke Dysinger OSB.