St. Mary Orthodox Church

Cambridge, MA

We Should Not Be Distracted By Anything

Original article found at: http://fatherstephen.wordpress.com/

Reading the Philokalia is, at best, a daunting task. Where to begin? The following is a very useful section, drawn from the writings of St. Peter of Damascus in the Philokalia. It has been edited by Fr. Thomas Hopko. I am indebted to one of his many spiritual children for this copy.

We should not be distracted by anything; neither by dreams, whether evil or seemingly good, nor by the thought of anything, whether good or bad, nor by distress or deceitful joy, nor by self-conceit or despair, nor by depression or elation, nor by a sense of abandonment or by illusory help and strength, nor by negligence or progress, nor by laziness or seeming zeal, nor by apparent dispassion or passionate attachment. Rather with humility we should strive to maintain a state of stillness, free from all distraction, knowing that no one can do us harm unless we ourselves wish for it.

Because of our conceit and our failure constantly to have recourse to God, we should cast ourselves down before Him, asking that His will should be done in all things and saying to every thought that comes to us: I do not know who you are; God knows if you are good or not; for I have thrown myself, as I shall continue to throw myself, into His hands, and He looks after me. (1Pet 5.7) [...]

If we do not have anyone to advise us, we should take Christ as our counselor, asking Him with humility and through pure heartfelt prayer about every thought and undertaking. [...] If our sole purpose is to do God's will, God Himself will teach us what it is, assuring us of it either directly, through the mind, or by means of some person, or of Scripture. And if for God's sake we cut off our own will, God will enable us to reach, with inexpressible joy, a perfection we have not known; and when we experience this we will be filled with wonder at seeing how joy and spiritual knowledge begin to pour forth from everywhere. We will derive some profit from everything and God will reign in us, since we have no will of our own, but have submitted ourselves to the holy will of God. We become like kings, so that whatever we desire we receive effortlessly and speedily from God, who has us in His care.

This is the faith with which the Lord said it is possible to move mountains (Mt 21.21); upon it, according to St. Paul (1Cor 1.23) the other virtues are founded. For this reason the enemy does everything he can to disrupt our state of stillness and make us fall into temptation. And if he finds us in some way lacking in faith, wholly or partially trusting in our own strength and judgment, he takes advantage of this to overcome us and to take us captive, pitiful as we are. [...]

Then (following the path of stillness with resolute faith), Christ takes the place of all things for us, in this world and in the age to come.... Christ feeds us, clothes us, brings us joy, encourages us, gladdens us, gives us rest, teaches and enlightens us. In short, Christ cares for us as He cared for His disciples...[...] We sit...and we await our Teacher....so that we may be helped to rise spiritually from the passions and be given peace...."

St. Peter of Damascus
A Treasury of Spiritual Knowledge
The Philokalia, III, p. 149-15.

Edited by Fr. Thomas Hopko