Gleanings from Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers

thoughts

61 Entries

Be attentive to your thoughts which are passionate because of your imagination; drive them away immediately as soon as they show themselves, for if they remain there is danger: death to the wretched soul! REF:Elder Ephraim of Philotheou Mount Athos, "Counsels from the Holy Mountain"



Likewise, drive away shameful thoughts with anger and with the Prayer; the Prayer is fire that burns the demons and they flee. REF:Elder Ephraim of Philotheou Mount Athos, "Counsels from the Holy Mountain"

10. Be attentive to your mouth, and firstly to your mind; do not let evil thoughts start conversation for you. Let not your mouth say words which will possibly wound your brother. REF:Elder Ephraim of Philotheou Mount Athos, "Counsels from the Holy Mountain"

(Abba Moses) was asked, "What should a man do in all the temptations and evil thoughts that come upon him?" The old man said to him, "He should weep and implore the goodness of God to come to his aid, and he will obtain peace if he prays with discernment. For it is written, "With the Lord on my side I do not fear. What can man do to me?" (Psalm 118:6). "The Desert Christian," by Sr. Benedicta Ward, (New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., 1975), p. 142

...The war which the demons wage against us by means of thoughts is more sever than the war they wage by means of material things. St. Maximos the Confessor

...[the devil] sees the strength and firmness of will of those who pay attention to spiritual life, and strives to conquer their mind by means of ... curiosity, in order to gain possession of their mind and will. For this purpose he is wont to suggest to them thoughts that are lofty, subtle and wondrous, especially to those who are sharp-witted and quick to make lofty speculations. Attracted by the pleasure of possessing and examining such lofty thoughts, they forget to watch over their purity of heart...; they make an idol of their own mind and thus, little by little, without realizing it, they fall into the thought that they no longer need any advice or admonition from others, since they are accustomed in all cases to hasten to the idol of their own understanding and judgment. Lorenzo Scupoli (Unseen Warfare: Chapter 9)

...if a man wants to realize his weakness from the actual experience of his life, let him, I do not say for many days but even for one day, observe his thoughts, words and actions - what he thought, what he said, what he did. He will undoubtedly find that the greater part of his thoughts, words and actions were sinful, wrong, foolish and bad. This experiment will make him understand in practice how inharmonious and weak he is in himself. And if he sincerely wishes himself well, this understanding will make him feel how foolish it is to expect anything good from himself or to rely on himself alone. Lorenzo Scupoli(Unseen Warfare: Chap. 2)

...if evil thoughts have not been uprooted from the heart, they are bound to manifest themselves in evil actions. St. Philotheos of Sinai (Texts on Watchfulness no. 33)

...the war which the demons wage against us by means of thoughts is more severe than the war they wage by means of material things. St. Maximos the Confessor (First Century on Love no. 91))

11) Try to make your intellect deaf and dumb during prayer, you will then be able to pray. Evagrios the Solitary, "On Prayer," in the Philokalia

A brother asked one of the Fathers, "What shall I do? My thoughts are always turned to lust without allowing me an hour's respite, and my soul is tormented by it." He said to him, "Every time the demons suggest these thoughts to you, do not argue with them. For the activity of demons always is to suggest, and suggestions are not sins, for they cannot compel; but it rests with you to welcome them, or not to welcome them. Do you know what the Midianites did? They adorned their daughters and presented them to the Israelites. They did not compel anyone, but those who consented, sinned with them, while the others were enraged and put them to death. It is the same with thoughts."

The brother answered the old man, "What shall I do, then, for I am weak and passion overcomes me?" He said to him, "Watch your thoughts, and every time they begin to say something to you, do not answer them but rise and pray; kneel down, saying, 'Son of God, have mercy on me.'"

Then the brother said to him, "Look, Abba, I meditate, and there is no compunction in my heart because I do not understand the meaning of the words." The other said to him, "Be content to meditate. Indeed, I have learned that Abba Poemen and many other Fathers uttered the following saying, 'The magician does not understand the meaning of the words which he pronounces, but the wild animal who hears it understands, submits, and bows to it. So it is with us also; even if we do not understand the meaning of the words we are saying, when the demons hear them, they take fright and go away.'" "The Wisdom of the Desert Fathers," by Benedicta Ward, (Oxford: SLG Press, 1986), pp. 16-17



A contemporary father used to tell us: If we put a young child in a pastry shop situated at the top of a ravine and open all the doors, there will be no danger that the child well go out of the shop and be killed, because his attention will be on the sweets. It is the same for the mind. It stays attached to what is sweetest to it. For this reason we should constantly exercise our minds spiritually. An Athonite Gerontikon

A man who wishes to test the evil demons and to gain experience in discrimination of their wiles must observe his thoughts and notice on what they lay emphasis and what they let pass, which of them and in what circumstances is particularly active, which follows which, and which of them do not come together; and he must seek from Christ Jesus to be delivered of it all. The demons are very wroth with those who actively practice virtues with understanding (bringing all things to light), for they wish 'to shoot privily at the upright in heart' (Ps. 10:3). Abba Evagrius the Monk(Texts on Active Life no. 31)

An Athonite elder said, "Let us build a factory of good thoughts. If a factory produces bullets and we feed it with iron, it will make bullets. If the factory makes chalices and we feed it with gold, it will produce gold chalices. If we feed it with iron, it will make chalices of iron. Whatever thoughts we put in our minds, that is what we will get. An Athonite Gerontikon

At every moment we need to have wakefulness, recollected thoughts, and a careful watch on the intellect. This applies above all when we stand before God in spiritual ministry, speaking in a hidden way, in prayer, with God's majesty: at such a time it is appropriate that we stand with a wakeful and attentive mind, combining a sense of awe and trembling with the spiritual fervor of joy and deep love. Book of Perfection by Martyrius, The Syriac Fathers on Prayer and the Spiritual Life

Be attentive to the thoughts of the mind. If some evil thought passes through you, do not get upset, for it is not the transient thoughts of your mind that the knowledge of the Lord of all observes, rather He looks at the depths of the mind to see if you take pleasure in that evil thought which resides there; for hateful thoughts float over the surface of the mind, but it is the senses that are lower down which can chase away hateful thoughts, which the Lord of all examines. He does not judge what just passes over the mind, but rather the thoughts that are lower down than those hateful ones, namely those which appear in the depths of the mind, which can drive them away with its hidden hand. For He does not pardon the thoughts which spring up from the depth of the mind, for it is they which should be chasing away those which pass over the surface of the mind; He judges those thoughts which have a passage into the heart. John the Solitary, in The Syriac Fathers on Prayer and the Spiritual Life

Disciplined piety feeds the soul on holy thoughts. What can be more blessed than to imitate on earth the chorus of the angels; to begin the opening day with prayer, honoring the Creator with hymns and songs; and when the sun is up to turn to work, always accompanied by prayer, and to season one's labors with singing? Cheerfulness and freedom from sorrow are the gifts which the soul received from the singing of hymns. St. Basil the Great: Letters

Do not befoul your intellect by clinging to thoughts filled with anger and sensual desire. Otherwise you will lose your capacity for pure prayer and fall victim to the demon of listlessness. St. Maximos the Confessor (First Century on Love no.49)

Everywhere and always God is with us, near to us and in us. But we are not always with Him, since we do not remember Him; and because we do not remember Him we allow ourselves many things which we would not permit if we did remember. Take upon yourself this task -- to make a habit of such recollection. Make yourself a rule always to be with the Lord, keeping your mind in your heart, and do not let your thoughts wander; as often as they stray, turn them back again and keep them at home in the closet of your heart, and delight in converse with the Lord. St. Theophan the Recluse

Has some good thought come to you? Have you felt some good impulse or inclination in your heart? Stop! Check it with the Gospel. Blessed Vladyka Ignatij (Brianchaninov)

He who prays often will escape temptation; but thoughts will trouble the heart of the careless. "Instructions to Cenobites and Others", Abba Evagrius, "Early Fathers From the Philokalia," translated from the Russian text, "Dobrotolubiye," by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, eighth edition, (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1981), pp. 115 - 116.

He who wants to do something and cannot is, in the eyes of God who sees our hearts, as though he has done it. This should be understood as being so in relation to good and evil alike. St. Mark the Ascetic, "Early Fathers From the Philokalia," trans. by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1981), pp. 86 - 90

If Moses had not received from God the rod of power, he would not have become god to pharaoh and would not have punished both him and Egypt. In the same way the mind, if it does not wield in its hand the power of prayer, will be unable to conquer sin and the powers of the enemy. St. Gregory of Sinai in Writings from the Philokalia on Prayer of the Heart

If Moses was forbidden to approach the earthly burning bush until he had loosed his sandals from off his feet (Exodus 3:5), how can you not cast away from yourself every passionate thought when you wish to see Him, Who is above all feeling and thought, and to converse with Him? "153 Texts on Prayer", St Nilus of Mt Sinai, "Early Fathers From the Philokalia," translated from the Russian text, "Dobrotolubiye," by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, eighth edition, (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1981), pp. 127 - 135.

If you wish to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth, always urge yourself to rise above sensory things and to cling with hope to God alone. Thus compelling yourself to turn inwards, you will meet principalities and powers, which wage war against you by suggestions in thoughts. If you overcome them by prayer and remain in good hope, you will receive Divine grace, which will free you from the wrath to come. St. Mark the Ascetic, "Early Fathers From the Philokalia," trans. by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1981), pp. 86 - 90

If, then, you wish to behold and commune with Him who is beyond sense-perception and beyond concept, you must free yourself from every impassioned thought. Evagrios the Solitary, "On Prayer"

If, then, you wish to behold and commune with Him who is beyond sense-perception and beyond concept, you must free yourself from every impassioned thought. Evagrios the Solitary, "On Prayer," in the Philokalia

It was said of an old man that when his thoughts said to him, "Relax today, and tomorrow repent," he retorted, "No, I am going to repent today, and may the will of God be done tomorrow." The Desert Fathers

Just 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 St. Hesychios On Watchfulness And Holiness

Just as the most bitter medicine drives out poisonous things, so prayer joined to fasting drives evil thoughts away. Amma Syncletica

Keep your mind from malicious thoughts of your neighbors, knowing that such thoughts are hurled by diabolical power, to keep your mind from your own sins and from seeking God Our Holy Father Elias of Egypt (quoted in Prologue, November 3)

My brother, do not lose heart at the thoughts which attack you; for it is the beginning of the contest. Learn from a rain lake, because when it rains and the blessing of water is collected in the lake, in the beginning the water is troubled; but as time goes on it becomes more limpid. So, beloved, do not lose heart, for it is written, Streams of iniquity troubled me. And in another psalm it says, For my soul has been filled with evils, and my life has drawn near to hell. And so it says, The Lord is my help, and I shall not fear what man will do to me.

Therefore whenever an evil thought enters your mind, cry out with tears to the Lord, ‘Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner, and pardon me, O lover of mankind. Lord, take to Evil One from us’. St Ephrem the Syrian, 'To the Monks in Egypt", 10th Exhortation, http://web.ukonline.co.uk/ephrem/egypt1-10.htm



Observe your thoughts, and beware of what you have in your heart and your spirit, knowing that the demons put ideas into you so as to corrupt your soul by making it think of that which is not right, in order to turn your spirit from the consideration of your sins and of God. St. Gregory of Nyssa

Prayer is the laying aside of thoughts. Evagrios Ponticus, "On Prayer 61," in the Philokalia

Q: Tell me, my Father, what it means to pay heed to one’s thoughts? Should one be occupied with this at a definite time? And how does one do this?

A: The Fathers have assigned a time for paying heed to one’s thoughts saying: "In the morning test yourself, how you spent the night; and in the evening likewise, how you spent the day. And in the middle of the day, when you are weighed down by thoughts, examine yourself." "Saints Barsanuphius and John: Guidance Toward Spiritual Life," trans. by Fr. Seraphim Rose, (Platina, California: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1990)



The Law says about a bull which is given to goring other bulls: "If men have protested to the owner and he has not destroyed the animal, he shall pay" (Exodus 21:36). You should apply this to your thoughts and impulses. Sometimes during a meal the impulse of self-esteem springs up inside you, urging you to speak at the wrong moment. Then angelic thoughts protest within you and tell you to destroy this impulse to speak. If you do not resist the impulse by keeping silent as you should, but allow it to come out into the open because you are puffed up by delusion, then you will have to pay the penalty. As a punishment you will perhaps be tempted to commit some grave sin; alternatively, you may experience severe bodily pain, or be involved in violent conflict with your brethren, or else suffer torment in the age to come. We shall have to give account for every idle and conceited word spoken by our ill-disciplined tongue. Let us guard our tongue, then, with watchfulness. St. John of Karpathos "The Philokalia: the Complete Text" (volume I), by St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain and St. Makarios of Corinth, trans. By G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and (Bishop) Kallistos Ware, (London: Faber and Faber, 1979), pp. 298 - 309

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. St. Hesychios the Presbyter

The influx of evil thoughts is like a flowing river. They contain the suggestion with which later there occurs a sinful identification, which covers the heart like a deluge of water. St. Gregory of Sinai (Texts on Commandments and Dogmas no. 64)

The whole essence and effort of the devil is to separate and remove our attention from God and entice it toward worldly concerns and pleasures. He works interiorly, in the heart, suggesting good works and resolutions and reasonable, or rather unreasonable, thoughts. We must not pay the slightest attention to these things. The spiritual combat consists in keeping the mind fixed on God, in not entertaining or approving impure thoughts, and in not paying any attention to the phantasms which the detestable, diabolic picture maker stirs up in our imagination. St. John Chrysostom

Those pursuing the spiritual way must always keep the mind free from agitation in order that the intellect, as it discriminates among the thoughts that pass through the mind, may store in the treasuries of its memory those thoughts which are good and have been sent by God, while casting out those which are evil and come from the devil. St. Diadochos of Photiki (On Spiritual Knowledge no. 26)

True wisdom is gazing at God. Gazing at God is silence of the thoughts. Stillness of mind is tranquillity which comes from discernment. St. Isaac the Syrian in the Sebastian Brock translation of Homily 64

Understand this, that the more you struggle and endure in serving the Lord, so much your mind and thoughts become limpid. For our Lord Jesus Christ has said, Every branch in me which [does not] bear fruit, I prune it, that it may bear more fruit. Only want to be saved; because the Lord loves and co-operates with those who are pressing forward to find salvation St Ephrem the Syrian, 'To the Monks in Egypt", 10th Exhortation, http://web.ukonline.co.uk/ephrem/egypt1-10.htm

When evening comes, collect your thoughts and ponder over the entire course of the day: observe God's providential care for you; consider the grace He has wrought in you throughout the whole span of the day; consider the rising of the moon, the joy of daylight, all the hours and moments, the divisions of time, the sight of different colors, the beautiful adornment of creation, the course of the sun, the growth of your own stature, how your own person has been protected, consider the blowing of the winds, the ripe and varied fruits, how the elements minister to your comfort, how you have been preserved from accidents, and all the other activities of grace. When you have pondered on all this, wonder of God's love toward you will well up within you, and gratitude for his acts of grace will bubble up inside you. John the Solitary, The Syriac Fathers on Prayer and the Spiritual Life


When the demons see that someone has the zeal and diligence to pray as he ought, then they suggest to him thoughts about something, supposedly important (and then draw away); but a little later they again call up the memory of this thing, urging his mind to examine it (if it is a problem – to solve it; if it is a thing – to acquire it); and he, not finding what he seeks, feels vexed and grieved. Then, when he stands up to pray, the demons remind him of what he had thought of and sought for, so that his mind should once more be moved to inquiry and his prayer become barren. "153 Texts on Prayer", St Nilus of Mt Sinai, "Early Fathers From the Philokalia," translated from the Russian text, "Dobrotolubiye," by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, eighth edition, (London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1981), pp. 127 - 135.


When we strive with diligent sobriety to keep watch over our rational faculties, to control and correct them, how else can we succeed in this task except by collecting our mind, which is dispersed abroad through the senses, and bringing it back into the world within, into the heart itself, which is the storehouse of all our thoughts? St. Gregory Palamas in The Art of Prayer


9) Persevere with patience in your prayer, and repulse the cares and doubts that arise within you. 11) Try to make your intellect deaf and dumb during prayer, you will then be able to pray. Evagrios the Solitary, "On Prayer," in the Philokalia:


If, then, you wish to behold and commune with Him who is beyond sense-perception and beyond concept, you must free yourself from every impassioned thought. Evagrios the Solitary, "On Prayer," in the Philokalia:


Let us remind ourselves of the manner in which the temptations of the enemy act.

The sweep of the enemy's sword is the introduction of a thought into heart: the devil expects that the heart will respond to it, and on this assumption proceeds to build up a strong temptation.

For example, you think of a person who has offended you: this is the sweep of the enemy's sword. When the heart responds to this thought by harboring an unpleasant feeling toward the offender, this means the sword has penetrated as far as the soul and as wounded it. Immediately the enemy closes with the soul and stirs up there a storm of enmity and revengefulness. But when the heart is always ready to forgive offenses, keeping itself in a state of serene meekness and peace towards everyone, then no matter how vividly the enemy presents the idea of the offender to the soul, there is no response in the heart; and so the enemy will have no opening through which to introduce his temptation. The sweep of his sweep sword will rebound from the heart as from a warrior clad in armor. Theophan the Recluse (The Art of Prayer, p. 213)



Prayer is the laying aside of thoughts. Evagrios Ponticus, "On Prayer 61," in the Philokalia


The most important work in the spiritual struggle is to enter the heart and there to wage war with Satan; to hate Satan and to fight him by opposing his thoughts. If a man keeps his body outwardly free from lust and corruption, and yet inwardly commits adultery before God, by fornication in his thoughts, then there is no profit whatever in keeping the body pure. Nicephorus the Solitary.


My child, do you want to crush the head of the serpent? Openly reveal your thoughts in confession. The strength of the devil lies in cunning thoughts. Do you hold on to them? He remains hidden. Do you bring them to the light? He disappears. And then Christ rejoices the prayer progresses, and the light of grace heals and brings peace to your nous and heart. Monastc Wisdom: The Letters of Elder Joseph the Hesychast


“God listens, not to our voice, but to our heart. He does not need to be prodded with shouts, since He sees our thoughts. St. Cyprian of Carthage


55. One man received a thought and accepted it without examination. Another received a thought and tested its truth. Which of them acted with greater reverence? REF:Saint Kosmas Aitolos +1779


74. Like a young calf which, in its search for grazing, finds itself on a ledge surrounded by precipices, the soul is gradually led astray by its thoughts. REF:Saint Kosmas Aitolos +1779


89. When a thought lingers within a man, this indicates his attachment to it; but when it is quickly destroyed, this signifies his opposition and hostility to it. REF:Saint Kosmas Aitolos +1779


136. Having hidden your virtue, do not be filled with pride, imagining you have achieved righteousness. For righteousness is not only to hide your good actions, but also never to think forbidden thoughts. REF:Saint Kosmas Aitolos +1779


143. Do not ask how a poor man can be self-indulgent when he lacks the material means. For it is possible to be self-indulgent in a yet more despicable way through one's thoughts. REF:Saint Kosmas Aitolos +1779


170. In our ascetic warfare we can neither rid ourselves of evil thoughts apart from their causes, nor of their causes without ridding ourselves of the thoughts. For if we reject the one without the other, before long the other will involve us in them both at once. REF:Saint Kosmas Aitolos +1779


209. When you are wronged and your heart and feelings are hardened, do not be distressed, for this has happened providentially; but be glad and reject the thoughts that arise within you, knowing that if they are destroyed at the stage when they are only provocations, their evil consequences will be cut off; whereas if the thoughts persist the evil may be expected to develop. REF:Saint Kosmas Aitolos +1779


If we desire to acquire faith -- the foundation of all blessings, the door to God's mysteries, unflagging defeat of our enemies, the most necessary of all the virtues, the wings of prayer and the dwelling of God within our soul -- we must endure every trial imposed by our enemies and by our many and various thoughts.

Only the inventor of evil, the devil, can perceive these thoughts or uncover and describe them. But we should take courage; because if we forcibly triumph over the trials and temptations that befall us, and keep control over our intellect so that it does not give in to the thoughts that spring up in our heart, we will once and for all overcome all the passions; for it will not be we who are victorious, but Christ, who is present in us through faith. REF:St. Peter of Damaskos, "God's Universal And Particular Gifts", from G. E. H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Bishop Kallistos Ware, "The Philokalia: Vol. III," (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), pp. 172 - 173.



If our thought, in a moment of weakness, should succumb, we should not be afraid or despair, or ascribe to our own soul what is said to us by the devil. On the contrary, we should patiently and diligently, to the limit of our strength, practice the virtues and keep the commandments, in stillness and devotion to God, freeing ourselves from all thoughts subject to our volition.

In this way the enemy, who day and night promotes every kind of fantasy and deceit, will not find us worried about his tricks and illusions and all the thoughts within which he lurks, presenting to us as truth what are really deceits and falsehoods; and so he will lose heart and go away. REF:St. Peter of Damaskos, "God's Universal And Particular Gifts", from G. E. H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Bishop Kallistos Ware, "The Philokalia: Vol. III," (London: Faber and Faber, 1984), pp. 172 - 173.







Redeeming the Time

↑ Grab this Headline Animator





We confidently recommend our web service provider, Orthodox Internet Services: excellent personal customer service, a fast and reliable server, excellent spam filtering, and an easy to use comprehensive control panel.

St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas