Hesychios the Priest: Rebuttal bridles evil thoughts, but the invocation of Jesus Christ drives them from the heart Thursday, Sep 24 2015 

HesychiosJust as it is impossible to cross the sea without a boat, so it is impossible to repulse the provocation of an evil thought without invoking Jesus Christ. Rebuttal bridles evil thoughts, but the invocation of Jesus Christ drives them from the heart.

[…] And if our intellect (Greek: ὁ νοῦς)** [see footnote] is experienced, well-trained and used to guarding itself, and to examining clearly and openly the seductive fantasies and deceits of the demons, it will instantly ‘quench the fiery darts of the devil’ (cf. Eph. 6:16), counter-attacking by means of its power of rebuttal and the Jesus Prayer.

It will not allow the impassioned fantasy to consort with it or allow our thoughts passionately to conform themselves to the fantasy, or to become intimate with it, or be distracted by it, or give assent to it.

If anything like this happens, then evil actions will follow as surely as night follows day.

If our intellect is inexperienced in the art of watchfulness it at once begins to entertain whatever impassioned fantasy appears in it, and plies it with illicit questions and responds to it illicitly. Then our own thoughts are conjoined to the demonic fantasy, which waxes and burgeons until it appears lovely and delectable to the welcoming and despoiled intellect.

The intellect then is deceived in much the same way as lambs when a stray dog comes into the field in which they happen to be: in their innocence they often run towards the dog as though it were their mother, and their only profit in coming near it is that they pick up something of its stench and foulness.

In the same way our thoughts run ignorantly after demonic fantasies that appear in our intellect and, as I said, the two join together and one can see them plotting to destroy the city of Troy like Agamemnon and Menelaus. For they plot together the course of action they must take in order to bring about, in practice and by means of the body, that purpose which the demons have persuaded them is sweet and delectable.

In this way sins are produced in the soul: and hence the need to bring out into the open what is in our hearts. The intellect, being good-natured and innocent, readily goes in pursuit of lawless fantasies: and it can be restrained only on condition that its intelligence, the ruler of the passions always bridles it and holds it back.

Contemplation and spiritual knowledge are indeed the guides and agents of the ascetic life; for when the mind is raised up by them it becomes indifferent to sensual pleasures and to other material attractions, regarding them as worthless.

Hesychios the Priest (?6th-9th century): On Watchfulness and Holiness chs 142-146,  Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. I (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979), pp. 186-187.

**The translators of the Philokalia say the following about the word “intellect” as used in this passage from Hesychios and by other Greek authors: INTELLECT (nous): the highest faculty in man, through which – provided it is purified – he knows God or the inner essences or principles of created things by means of direct apprehension or spiritual perception. Unlike the dianoia or reason, from which it must be carefully distinguished, the intellect does not function by formulating abstract concepts and then arguing on this basis to a conclusion reached through deductive reasoning, but it understands divine truth by means of immediate experience, intuition or ‘simple cognition’ (the term used by St Isaac the Syrian). The intellect dwells in the ‘depths of the soul’; it constitutes the innermost aspect of the heart (St Diadochos). The intellect is the organ of contemplation, the ‘eye of the heart’ (Macarian Homilies).

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Hesychios the Priest: The Name of Jesus, repeated over and over in the heart as flashes of lightning… Tuesday, Nov 13 2012 

When in fear, trembling and unworthiness we are yet permitted to receive the divine, undefiled Mysteries of Christ, our King and our God, we should then display even greater watchfulness, strictness and guard over our hearts, so that the divine fire, the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, may consume our sins and stains, great and small.

For when that fire enters into us, it at once drives the evil spirits from our heart and remits the sins we have previously committed, leaving the intellect free from the turbulence of wicked thoughts.

And if after this, standing at the entrance to our heart, we keep strict watch over the intellect, when we ace again permitted to receive those Mysteries the divine body will illumine our intellect still more and make it shine like a star.

Forgetfulness can extinguish our guard over our intellect as water extinguishes fire; but the continuous repetition of the Jesus Prayer combined with strict watchfulness uproots it from our heart.

The Jesus Prayer requires watchfulness as a lantern requires a candle.

We should strive to preserve the precious gifts which preserve us from all evil, whether on the plane of the senses or on that of the intellect.

These gifts are the guarding of the intellect with the invocation of Jesus Christ, continuous insight into the heart’s depths, stillness of mind unbroken even by thoughts which appear to be good, and the capacity to be empty of all thought.

In this way the demons will not steal in undetected; and if we suffer pain through remaining centered in the heart, consolation is at hand.

The heart which is constantly guarded, and is not allowed to receive the forms, images and fantasies of the dark and evil spirits, is conditioned by nature to give birth from within itself to thoughts filled with light.

For just as coal engenders a flame, or a flame lights a candle, so will God, who from our baptism dwells in our heart, kindle our mind to contemplation when He finds it free from the winds of evil and protected by the guarding of the intellect.

The name of Jesus should be repeated over and over in the heart as flashes of lightning are repeated over and over in the sky before rain.

Hesychios the Priest (?6th-9th century): On Watchfulness and Holiness chs 101-105, Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. I (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979), pp. 179-180.

Hesychios the Priest: Let the Name of Jesus adhere to your breath Thursday, Mar 15 2012 

A certain God-given equilibrium is produced in our intellect through the constant remembrance and invocation of our Lord Jesus Christ, provided that we do not neglect this constant spiritual entreaty or our close watchfulness and diligence.

Indeed, our true task is always the same and is always accomplished in the same way: to call upon our Lord Jesus Christ with a burning heart so that His holy name intercedes for us.

In virtue as in vice, constancy is the mother of habit; once acquired, it rules us like nature.

When the intellect is in such a state of equilibrium, it searches out its enemies like a hound searching for a hare in a thicket. But the hound searches in order to get food, the intellect in order to destroy.

Whenever we are filled with evil thoughts, we should throw the invocation of our Lord Jesus Christ into their midst. Then, as experience has taught us, we shall see them instantly dispersed like smoke in the air.

Once the intellect is left to itself again, we can renew our constant attentiveness and our invocation. Whenever we are distracted, we should act in this way.

Just as it is impossible to fight battles without weapons, or to swim a great sea with clothes on, or to live without breathing, so without humility and the constant prayer to Christ it is impossible to master the art of inward spiritual warfare or to set about it and pursue it skillfully.

That great spiritual master David said to the Lord: “I shall preserve my strength through Thee” (cf. Ps.59:9 LXX). So the strength of the heart’s stillness, mother of all the virtues, is preserved in us through our being helped by the Lord.

For He has given us the commandments, and when we call upon Him constantly He expels from us that foul forgetfulness which destroys the heart’s stillness as water destroys fire.

Therefore… do not “sleep unto death” (Ps. 13:3. LXX) because of your negligence; but lash the enemy with the name of Jesus and, as a certain wise man has said, let the name of Jesus adhere to your breath, and then you will know the blessings of stillness.

Hesychios the Priest (?6th-9th century): On Watchfulness and Holiness chs 97-100,  Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. I (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979), pp. 178-179.

Hesychios the Priest: Four types of watchfulness Monday, Jan 16 2012 

When the mind, taking refuge in Christ and calling upon Him stands firm and repels its unseen enemies, like a wild beast facing a pack of hounds from a good position of defense, then it inwardly anticipates their inner ambuscades well in advance.

Through continually invoking Jesus the peacemaker against them, it remains invulnerable.

[…] Extreme watchfulness and the Prayer of Jesus Christ, undistracted by thoughts, are the necessary basis for inner vigilance and unfathomable stillness of soul, for the deeps of secret and singular contemplation, for the humility that knows and assesses, for rectitude and love.

This watchfulness and this Prayer must be intense, concentrated and unremitting.

It is written: ‘Not everyone who says to Me: “Lord, Lord” shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of My Father’ (Matt. 7:21).

The will of the Father is indicated in the words: ‘You who love the Lord, hate evil’ (Ps. 97:10).

Hence we should both pray the Prayer of Jesus Christ and hate our evil thoughts. In this way we do God’s will.

Through His incarnation God gave us the model for a holy life and recalled us from our ancient fall.

In addition to many other things, he taught us, feeble as we are, that we should fight against the demons with humility, fasting, prayer and watchfulness.

For when, after His baptism, He went into the desert and the devil came up to Him as though He were merely a man, He began His spiritual warfare by fasting and won the battle by this means – though, being God, and God of gods, He had no need of any such means at all.

I shall now tell you in plain, straightforward language what I consider to be the types of watchfulness which gradually cleanse the intellect from impassioned thoughts.

In these times of spiritual warfare I have no wish to conceal beneath words whatever in this treatise may be of use, especially to more simple people.

[…] One type of watchfulness consists in closely scrutinizing every mental image or provocation; for only by means of a mental image can Satan fabricate an evil thought and insinuate this into the intellect in order to lead it astray.

A second type of watchfulness consists in freeing the heart from all thoughts, keeping it profoundly silent and still, and in praying.

A third type consists in continually and humbly calling upon the Lord Jesus Christ for help.

A fourth type is always to have the thought of death in one’s mind.

These types of watchfulness, my child, act like doorkeepers and bar entry to evil thoughts.

Hesychios the Priest (?6th-9th century): On Watchfulness and Holiness chs 8-18,  Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. I (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979), pp. 163-165.

Hesychios the Priest: In this stillness the heart breathes and invokes, endlessly and without ceasing, only Jesus Christ Saturday, Nov 19 2011 

Watchfulness is a spiritual method which, if sedulously practiced over a long period, completely frees us, with God’s help, from impassioned thoughts, impassioned words and evil actions.

It leads, in so far as this is possible, to a sure knowledge of the inapprehensible God, and helps us to penetrate the divine and hidden mysteries.

It enables us to fulfill every divine commandment in the Old and New Testaments and bestows upon us every blessing of the age to come.

It is, in the true sense, purity of heart, a state blessed by Christ when He says: ’Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’(Matt. 5:8);

[…] The great lawgiver Moses – or, rather, the Holy Spirit – indicates the pure, comprehensive and ennobling character of this virtue, and teaches us how to acquire and perfect it, when he says:  ‘Be attentive to yourself, lest there arise in your heart a secret thing which is an iniquity’ (Deut.15:9 [LXX]).

Here the phrase ‘a secret thing’ refers to the first appearance of an evil thought.

This the Fathers call a provocation introduced into the heart by the devil.

As soon as this thought appears in our intellect, our own thoughts chase after it and enter  into impassioned intercourse with it.

Watchfulness is a way embracing every virtue, every commandment.

It is the heart’s stillness and, when free from mental images, it is the guarding of the intellect.

Just as a man blind from birth does not see the sun’s light, so one who fails to pursue watchfulness does not see the rich radiance of divine grace.

[…] Attentiveness is the heart’s stillness, unbroken by any thought. In this stillness the heart breathes and invokes, endlessly and without ceasing, only Jesus Christ who is the Son of God and Himself God.

It confesses Him who alone has power to forgive our sins, and with His aid it courageously faces its enemies.

Through this invocation enfolded continually in Christ, who secretly divines all hearts, the soul does everything it can to keep its sweetness and its inner struggle hidden from men, so that the devil, coming upon it surreptitiously, does not lead it into evil and destroy its precious work.

Watchfulness is a continual fixing and. halting of thought at the entrance to the heart.

In this way predatory and murderous thoughts are marked down as they approach and what they say and do is noted; and we can see in what specious and delusive form the demons are trying to deceive the intellect.

If we are conscientious in this, we can gain much experience and knowledge of spiritual warfare.

Hesychios the Priest (?6th-9th century): On Watchfulness and Holiness chs 1-6,  Text from G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware (trans. and eds.) The Philokalia: The Complete Text, vol. I (Faber & Faber, London & Boston: 1979), pp. 162-163.