October 15, 2023
What a beautiful time of years it is! This past week, Matushka and I sat out on the porch sipping sweet tea one evening before dusk. It was just so pleasant outside we left the front door open. When it was time to come in we closed the door and I sat down in my chair to catch up on some emails and I then heard a low pitched buzzing sound of a huge house fly. It is getting a little late in the year for this guy and I guess he must have snuck in while the door was open. He vibrated around the house for a bit making his buzz noise but I soon went on up to bed and closed the door, good night!
The next morning as I stood before my candle in my prayer room downstairs, I had just started on the prayers for the living and what did I hear? Not only did I hear that baritone house fly, he flew up close and personnel to me and nudged my right ear as he flew by. This action repeated and I lost concentration and I grabbed a pair of clean socks that were laying nearby and threw it at the fly only to miss and increase his persistence with me. This little creation can be so distracting to me, Glory to God! Well he finally lit somewhere and I restarted my prayers for the living and almost halfway through, he made another raid of my personnel space. I went to the kitchen and retrieved a fly swatter and returned to my duties. When he saw my determination, the fly granted me a reprieve and I once again was able to focus on my prayer time.
There are plenty of other times I am distracted throughout the week and especially during my time centering myself on God. I am assaulted with thoughts, memories and visions. Understanding assaultive thoughts and how to deal with them is a survival tool we must master when we try to walk in the footsteps of Christ. The Greek word Logismoi, are thoughts and thought/images that come to us to lead us away distracting us from Christ. They are a result of the fall of mankind and a greatly unwanted thorny weed in our garden.
According to St. Silouan, “the enemy uses intrusive thoughts to deceive us.” The entire Orthodox tradition and spiritual life includes spiritual warfare, are you prepared? This is a primary point that we must fully recognize and accept as we strive to live our lives in Christ. For most believers, this spiritual warfare refers primarily to the intrusion of evil thoughts. For example, St. Philotheos of Mount Sinai teaches, “It is by means of thoughts that the spirits of evil wage a secret war against the soul. For since the soul is invisible, these malicious powers naturally attack it invisibly.”
Elder Sophrony also refers to this same teaching. He quotes directly from St. Paul, who writes, “We wrestle … against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual … wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 6:12) Elder Sophrony then continues, “This spirit of ‘wickedness in high places’ rushes to attack the contrite heart and mind now stayed on God. Brazenly it invades us, creating the impression that the thoughts and feelings brought by the enemy are our own. Indeed, after the Fall there is something in us that does respond to demonic suggestions.” It is like candy to someone with a sweet tooth amongst their big plans to lose weight!
For us it is a normal thing to be tainted with these distractions or buzz noise. For me, I have found that saying the Jesus Prayer, making the sign of the cross and using firm words of rebuke like “Get thee behind me Satan”(Luke 4:8) are useful armor in the midst of these battles! Those feathered arrows of assault are also evidence that we are trying to leave behind the death of this dark world and fill our nous with the uncreated Light, the Light that is unquenchable, the Light that exposes all of the secrets that lie hidden.
St. Maximus the Confessor instructs us: “At first a simple thought about evil makes it into the mind, and if it is kept in the mind, then a passionate motion arises from it, and if you do not extirpate (destroy) the passion, then it inclines the mind to agreement, and when this happens, it leads the mind to the commission of a sinful deed. [Guard your thoughts], for if you do not sin in thought, you will never sin in deed. “
Brothers and sisters, keep your armor near and ready for battle and we will overcome this buzz noise by our persistence of defense and repeated focus on the One who gave His life for us! Say your prayers, by force if necessary, read the Holy Scripture, confess these battles and falls, and come to this fortress often, as if your life depends on it, and most of all, receive the most precious Body and Blood of Christ frequently. Glory to Thee!
Fr. Gabriel Weller 10-15-2023
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