February 28

Man cannot drive away impassioned thoughts unless he watches over his desire and incensive power. He destroys desire through fasting, vigils and sleeping on the ground, and he tames his incensive power through long-suffering, forbearance, forgiveness and acts of compassion. For with these two passions are connected almost all the demonic thoughts which lead the intellect to disaster and perdition. It is impossible to overcome these passions unless we can rise above attachment to food and possessions, to self-esteem and even to our very body, because it is through the body that the demons often attempt to attack us. It is essential then, to imitate people who are in danger at sea and throw things overboard because of the violence of the winds and the threatening waves. But here we must be very careful in case we cast things overboard just to be seen doing so by men. For then we shall get the reward we want; but we shall suffer another shipwreck, worse than the first, blown off our course by the contrary wind of the demon of self-esteem.

~Evagrios Pontikos (Philokalia, vol. 1, p. 39)

 

*Incensive Power-one of three aspects of the soul (along with the intelligent aspect and the appetitive aspect), the force that provokes strong feelings such as anger, all three aspects of the soul can be used positively in accordance with God’s will or negatively, against nature, sinfully.

 

Impassioned thoughts are the myriad of thoughts that draw us away from God and draw us into every sort of trouble, difficulty and destruction. Evagrios shines light here on the fact that most of this sort of thinking derives from a misuse of the faculties of the soul connected to our desire and our anger. Desire should be directed towards God and not towards food and things; and anger should be directed against anything that comes between our relationship with God and in defense of virtuous conduct, not against other people or in defense of our selfishness.

In order to drive away sinful thinking, and destroy wrongly directed desire and anger, we have practical steps of ascetic practice that can help us, by loosening our attachment to the thoughts within us, and things outside of us, that keep us disoriented; rather helping us to focus in the proper spiritual direction aimed toward God.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

 

~FS

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