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OTT (Text) -- 13

34 Since there also occur successions of demons—the first during the war having grown weak and not being able to set in motion the passion which is dear to it—having observed these things closely, we find them to be thus: When the thoughts of a certain passion are rare for a long time and there suddenly occurs a boiling and movement of this passion, although we have given no cause at all through negligence, then we know that a worse demon has received us in turn from the first, and that this new demon, keeping watch with its own wickedness, has filled up the place of the demon which has departed. But this new demon also altogether understands our soul, warring against it with a much greater violence than is customary, our soul having fallen all at once from the thoughts of yesterday and the day before, no pretext having crept in from without.

Let the mind therefore flee towards the Lord when it sees these things; and, receiving the helmet of salvation, putting on the breastplate of justice, drawing the sword of the Spirit and lifting up the shield of faith [cf. Eph. 6, 14–17], let it say looking up to its own familiar Heaven with tears: ‘Lord’ Christ, ‘strength of my salvation,’ [Ps. 139, 8] ‘incline your ear to me, make haste to rescue me, become for me a God who protects and a place of refuge to save me.’ [Ps. 30, 3.] Certainly, with fasts and vigils let it ‘polish its sword’ [cf. Ps. 7, 13]. For seven whole days it will be afflicted, being battled against and being ‘pierced by the flaming arrows of the evil one’ [cf. Eph. 6, 16]—after the seventh day it will know the demon to have become similar little by little to the demon to which it succeeded—; standing its ground, besides, a whole year, for the most part being wounded rather than at all wounding, until the demon should come near which succeeds to this one, if, really, according to Job, ‘We fall at their hands for a fixed time and our houses are pillaged by the lawless.’ [Cf. Job 12, 5.]

35 When the demon of gluttony, fighting many times and in many things, should not have the strength to destroy the continence which has been established, then it casts the mind into the desire of the most extreme ascesis, among which things it also brings forth those who were around Daniel and that poor life and the seeds [cf. Dan. 1, 6–16]; and it brings to remembrance certain other ascetics who have always lived in this way or who have begun to live thus; and it coerces the anchorite to become an imitator of these, so that, pursuing an immoderate continence, he fall short even of a moderate continence, the body not being sufficient on account of its native weakness—in reality blessing with the mouth and cursing in the heart [cf. Ps. 61, 5]—not to be persuaded by which demon I think to be just, neither to abstain from bread and oil and water. For this very diet the brothers have found by experience to be extremely good, and this not towards satiety and once a day. For I wonder if someone satiated with bread and water will able to take upon himself the crown of dispassion, dispassion, I say, not that which impedes sins in act—for this is called continence—but that which cuts off the impassioned thoughts in the intellect, which very thing Saint Paul called the spiritual circumcision of the spiritual Jew [cf. Rom. 2, 29]. If one is discouraged by what has been said, let him remember the Apostle who was the ‘vessel of election’ [Acts 9, 15] and who completed his course ‘in hunger and thirst’ [2 Cor. 11, 27].

The demon of accidie also imitates this demon, suggesting to him who exercises patient endurance the taking up of the most extreme life of solitude and calling him to jealousy of St John the Baptist and of the first fruit of anchorites, Anthony, so that, not having supported the chronic and inhuman solitude, he flee with shame, abandoning the place, and that demon, boasting, should further say: ‘I prevailed against him.’ [Ps. 12, 5.]

36 The unclean thoughts favourably accept many materials towards their increase and are extended over the span of many objects. For in the intellect they cross great seas and they do not beg off journeying long journeys on account of the great heat of the passion. But those who in some way or other have been purified are rather more straitened than these first, being unable, because of the weakness of the passion, to be extended over the span of many objects. Whence, also, they are moved contrary to nature, rather, and, according to the wise Solomon, ‘roam for a certain time outside,’ [cf. Prov. 7, 12] and collect reeds for their unlawful brickmaking, no longer receiving straw [cf. Exod. 5, 7–12]. It is necessary therefore with every guard to keep watch over the heart [cf. Prov. 4, 23] so that it be saved ‘as a gazelle from the net and as a bird from the snare’ [Prov. 6, 5]. For it is easier to purify an unclean soul than it is to recall a soul once again to health which has been purified and then wounded once more, since the demon of sorrow does not permit it, but is ever jumping into the pupils of the eyes and bringing forward, during the time of prayer, the image of the sin.

37 The demons do not know our hearts, as certain men think. For the Lord alone is he who knows the heart [cf. Acts 1, 24; 15, 8], ‘he who understands the mind of men’ [Job 7, 20], and ‘who moulded by himself their hearts’ [Ps. 32, 15]. From the spoken word and from the movements of the body of such a sort the demons detect the greater part of the mental representations of the heart. In regard to those very things which I was now intending to disclose clearly, our holy priest hindered me, saying that it was unworthy to publish things of this sort and to cast them into the hearing of the profane, if, indeed, it says, he who has commerce with a woman during her period is accountable under the Law [cf. Lev. 20, 18]. Except that on the basis of such symbols the demons detect those things which are hidden in the heart and from these symbols they take their starting-points against us. Many times, at any rate, we censured certain persons who were speaking evil, not having ourselves charitably disposed towards them. And that is why we have fallen into the hands of the demon of rancour and we immediately received evil thoughts against those persons, which thoughts, previously, at any rate, we did not know to occur to us. For which very reason, the Holy Spirit quite well also brings a charge against us, saying: ‘Having sat, you spoke against your brother and placed a stumbling block against the son of your mother,’ [Ps. 49, 20] and you opened the door to the thoughts of rancour and you greatly disturbed your mind during the time of prayer, ever imagining the face of your enemy and making a god of this—for what at all events the mind sees while it is praying, this it is worthy to confess to be a god. But let us flee, brothers, the sickness of slander, and let us never remember anyone evilly nor distort our faces upon the remembrance of our neighbour. For the wicked spirits take more than enough pains about all our gestures, and they leave nothing of the things which pertain to us unexamined, not a reclining posture, not a sitting posture, not a standing posture, not a word, not an entrance, not a glance. They study everything; they set everything in motion; all day long they meditate treacheries against us so that they might slander the humble mind during the time of prayer and so that they might extinguish that blessed light. Do you also see what St Paul says to Titus? ‘In the teaching, incorruptibility, a healthy word not to be condemned, so that he who is opposed might feel shame, having nothing mean to say concerning us.’ [Tit. 2, 8.] The blessed David also prays, saying: ‘Deliver me from the slander of men,’ [Ps. 118, 134] calling the demons also ‘men’ on account of the rationality of their nature. But the Saviour also called the enemy in the Gospels a man, the one who had sowed with seeds the weeds of vice in us [cf. Matt. 13, 25].

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