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OTT (Text) -- 12

30 Of the unclean thoughts, some are seen in the road of virtue, and some next to the road. And as many as prevent the commandments of God from being kept—these sojourn next to the road. As many, again, as do not persuade us not to keep the commandments, but suggest that they be kept in such a way as to appear to men—all of these are seen in the road, since they corrupt our goal or the manner in which the commandment must be kept. Wherefore it is necessary that he who keeps the commandment keep it for the Lord and work it cheerfully. He said: ‘He who does acts of mercy, in cheerfulness.’ [Rom. 12, 8.] What is the benefit if I unclothe myself of the thought of avarice through beneficence and that of gluttony by continence, but I then clothe myself with other thoughts of vainglory or sullen discontent? At all events, I will rely to an extent on this, that during the time of prayer I will suffer from these latter thoughts whatever would have occurred to me on account of those former thoughts, namely to fall from the light which shines around the mind during the time of prayer.

Concerning these very thoughts, the blessed David also writes: ‘In this very road in which I was going they hid a snare for me.’ [Ps. 141, 4.] And, again: ‘They have extended ropes as snares for my feet. Near the path they placed a stumbling block for me.’ [Ps. 139, 6.] For the [Greek] word, echomena, appears to me to mean ‘near the path’.

31 To the demonic thought are opposed three thoughts which, when it persists in the intellect, cut it off. These are: the angelic thought, the thought which comes from our own will inclining to the better, and the thought which springs up out of human nature, being moved according to which, even the pagans love their own children and honour their own parents.

To the good thought, only two thoughts are opposed: the demonic thought and the thought which comes from our own will deviating to the worse. Out of nature no evil thought comes. For we have not become evil from the beginning, if, indeed, the Lord has sown good seed in his own field [cf. Matt. 13, 24]. For we do not, if we are receptive of something, at all events have the power of this thing—since also potentially able not to be, we do not have the power of the non-existent, if, indeed, powers are qualities whereas the non-existent is not a quality.

For there was a time when there was not vice and there will be a time when there will not be [vice]. <There was not a time when there was not virtue nor will there be a time when there will not be [virtue]>. For the seeds of the virtues are indelible. And that rich man in the Gospels persuades me who, having been condemned to Hades, felt mercy for his brothers [cf. Luke 16, 19–31]. To show mercy is the most beautiful seed of virtue.

32 If one aspires after pure prayer and to lead a mind free of thoughts to God, let him become master of his temper and let him keep watch over those thoughts which are born of it—I mean, those thoughts which occur to us from suspicion and hatred and rancour, which very thoughts, especially, blind the mind and utterly destroy its heavenly condition. And the holy Paul has exhorted us to this, saying: ‘to raise up towards the Lord holy hands without anger and quarrels’ [1 Tim. 2, 8].

But an evil custom has followed those who have renounced the world and, often entering into lawsuits with members of their own families, they battle for the sake of money or property which ought to be distributed to the poor. These persons, according to our reasoning, are being mocked at by the demons and they are making more strait for themselves the road of the monastic life, igniting the temper in defence of money, then seeking, again, to extinguish the fire with money, as if one were to prick his eyeball with a needle so as to apply a collyrium. For our Lord ordered us to sell our possessions and give to the poor [cf. Matt. 19, 21], but certainly not with a battle and a trial in court. ‘It is necessary that a servant of the Lord not do battle,’ [2 Tim. 2, 24] but, also, to him who wishes to go to law with him over the tunic to add also the cloak [cf. Matt. 5, 40]; to him who strikes the right cheek to offer also the other [cf. Matt. 5, 39]; and to be zealous, further, not to depart having received the money, but lest, having fallen into thoughts of rancour, we die, if, indeed, ‘The ways of the rancorous’ lead ‘to death,’ [Prov. 12, 28] according to the wise Solomon. However, let him who possesses such money know that he has seized the food and shelter of the blind, the lame and the leper, and that he owes an accounting to the Lord in a day of judgement.

33 There are certain of the unclean demons, which very ones ever sit beside those who are reading and endeavour to seize their mind, many times taking starting-points from the very Holy Scriptures themselves and ending in evil thoughts. There are also the times when they coerce us to yawn contrary to custom, when they impose a very heavy sleep quite foreign to the usual—as certain of the brothers imagined as being according to an unfathomable natural opposition; thus I, having often observed this phenomenon, understood it—and when, laying hold on the eyelashes and on the whole head, they freeze it by means of their own body—for the bodies of demons are extremely cold and similar to ice. Wherefore we feel the head to be drawn with a grinding as by a cupping glass. They do this so that, when they have drawn off to themselves the warmth which lies within the skull, then, further, the eyelashes, slackened by the dampness and coldness, slip round the pupils of the eyes. At any rate, many times, touching, I have laid hold on the eyelashes frozen as if with ice and the whole face deadened and shivering. And, further, natural sleep by nature warms the bodies and fills the face of those who are healthy with a blooming colour, as can be learned by experience itself.

The demons, however, make those yawns which are contrary to nature and stretched to the utmost by making themselves small and fine and attaching themselves to the inside of the mouth. But this up to today I have not perceived, even if I have often suffered it. I heard this when the holy Makarios was speaking to me and when he brought forth, as proof, the fact that those who yawn seal their mouths [with the sign of the cross] according to an ancient unspoken tradition.

We suffer all of these things because we do not pay attention with soberness to the reading, nor do we remember that we reading the holy words of the Living God.

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