Friday Meditation I

[H/T: Fr Stephen]

This next features a couple of photos of one of my patrons, Father Seraphim Rose:

And here is the Kyrie:

It’s Deja Vu All Over Again

I have four podcasts from Ancient Faith Radio that I listen to “religiously”: Fr Thomas Soroka’s The Path, Jerome Atherholt’s The Saint of the Day, Steve Robinson’s and Bill Gould’s Our Life in Christ (in fact my devotion to OLIC predates AFR’s existence to c. 2002), and Kevin Allen’s The Illumined Heart. (Of course, I also subscribe to others, including to Fr. Pat’s sermons and ponderings, but these two particular items I either hear in person or read in the parish Sunday bulletin.)

Recently, I downloaded last Saturday’s Illumined Heart interview of Bob Meyering, one-time moderator of the Calvin Forum out of Calvin College. Listening to Bob was a Yogi Bera experience. For a brief time, Bob had a blog and we reciprocated links with one another, and we corresponded a few times via email. But the deja vu aspect of the podcast was his account of the Frank Schaeffer interview he moderated.

As I’ve written about before, one of the first things that happened eight years ago to propel me along the path to the Orthodox Church, was the receipt of a postcard advertisement, and my subsequent purchase and receipt, of that video of Frank Schaeffer’s interview on the Calvin Forum. Since the video is copyrighted 2000, all these years I have assumed the interview was much more recent than it then was, but I learned from the podcast that the interview took place about March 1995.

It’s interesting to me how all these things providentially worked out, all the seeds that had been planted in preparation, which then came to fruition beginning with that summer of 2000, and in particular with the catalyst of that interview.

Needless to say, I pulled it out, dusted it off and began watching it last evening.

Noetic Battles

A few days before my birthday in 2005, I purchased and received Anthony M. Coniaris, Confronting and Controlling Thoughts According to the Fathers of the Philokalia (Minneapolis: Light and Life Publishing 2004). It was a providential purchase. For this is a matter about which I am much concerned presently. I may offer some thoughts on it in a subsequent post. But for now, I just want to post an extended quote.

The church fathers, who spent their lives resisting the devil’s onslaughts (logismoi) have a deep understanding of how Satan attacks us through the mind. They list the following four stages of how Satan attacks us through logismoi:

1. The mind receives a suggestion or stimulation, which is another word for temptation. This is called prosbole in Greek. It is like Satan knocking on the door. If the mind is vigilant, attentive, it will notice the provocation and will close the door on temptation, or, as some church fathers say, “If the devil knocks on the door of your mind, send Jesus to the door.” By this they mean the Jesus Prayer. There is no sin involved in this first stage. Even Jesus was tempted.

2. If we do not close the door, the soul will enter into dialogue with the suggestion/temptation as Eve did with the serpent. The fathers warn us about the great danger of dialoguing with Satan, since he is far wiser than we are with countless years of experience in seducing victims. This second step is called syndiasmos or dialogue. Yet even in this second stage of tempation there is no accountability, since no sin has been commited. It is a conversation, albeit dangerous, between Satan and the soul.

3. There is a union or coupling with the thought in which the mind consents to the temptation (logismoi) and begins to dwell on it. The decision has been made. This is called synkatathesis, or consent. It is the begin of sin. It is the stage Jesus referred to when He said that if you look upon a woman lustfully and covet her in your heart, it is as if you have already committed adultery.

Yet we are still in the third stage of consent. No action has taken place. It is still possible by God’s grace to be liberated from this stage of consent. . . .

4. The fourth and last stage in the process of sin is the stage of captivity. Here we fall so completely under the power of temptation that we are no longer free to resist it. It becomes a passion, an obsession, an addiction. We become its captive. We are imprisoned by it.

St. Hesychios describes this process of temptation as follows in the Philokalia:

The provocation comes first, then our coupling with it, or the mingling of our thoughts with those of the wicked demons. Third comes our assent to the provocation, with both sets of intermingling thoughts contriving how to commit sin in practice. Fourth comes the concrete action–that is, the sin itself. If, however, the intellect is attentive and watchful, and at once repulses the provocation by counter-attacking and gainsaying it and invoking the Lord Jesus, its consequences remain inoperative; for the devil, being a bodiless intellect, can deceive our souls only by means of fantasies and thoughts. . . .

Intellect is invisibly interlocked in battle with intellect, the demonic intellect with our own. So from the depths of our heart we must at each instan[ce] call on Christ to drive the demonic intellect away from us and in His compassion give us the victory. . . .

How can we best resist the logismoi or evil thoughts that attack us? Every day we need to make a decision as to which thoughts we will allow to enter our minds. We need to screen them carefully and with great discernment: What we read, what we watch on TV; what movie we see; what company we keep. We need to “take every thuoght captive to Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). The mind of Christ can, through the Holy Spirit, control our thoughts, our intents, and our actions, if we submit to Him daily. . . .

Because God’s help is ever just a prayer away from us, St. Philotheos of Sinai was able to say,

Be extremely strict in guarding your intellect. When you perceive an evil thought, rebut it and immediately call upon Christ to defend you; and while you are still speaking, Jesus in His gentle love will say: “Behold, I am by your side ready to help you.”

For a great audio account of the above, listen to Mother Melania in her Illumined Heart interview.