Saturday, February 14, 2015

In What Way Can One Guard the Senses from Passions?.

    Our senses are those very doors and windows through which either life or death may enter.
   Every idea of evil and every form of passion enters the heart through the mediation and service of the senses. And if the senses are not guarded, then the evil passions are also not guarded. How can they be guarded and closed to such passions? Listen. The windows of the Temple of Solomon were covered with fine nets to prevent the entry of impure insects (cf. Ez 41 :6). This may serve as a reminder that he who does not want any impure pas­sions of the senses to enter into his soul must drape his senses with spiritual nets. What are these nets? It is the memory of death, for one; our account before Christ on the day of judgment; the memory of eternal suffering. Through these, man can put away the evil passions and sins, when they come before his eyes and his other senses. St. Neilos has confirmed that this is so: "Those who desire to keep their mind as a clean and pure temple, where the doors and windows are covered with fine nets to prevent the entry of any impure insects, must similarly cover their senses by meditating on the sobering realities of the future judgment which prevent the entry of any impure images to creep in".

   St. Isidore Pelousiotes also has taught us how to guard the sense from evil passions. He said that the mind of man must stand firm like a king and emperor with awesome thoughts which are armed like soldiers to guard the entries of the senses and to prevent the enemies from entering. For, if they do not enter, the war and the victory will be easy. But if, on the contrary, they do enter then the war becomes difficult and the victory uncertain. This is why you too, brother, can through these means guard and close the windows of your senses, so that all the evil passions that are commonly referred to as bodily and external can be readily overcome. But are we to overcome only these bodily and external passions? No, we must also overcome the inner passions of desire that are commonly called inner and spiritual. These too, will gradually be weakened and overcome as the passions of the senses cease to enter and rule. This is why St. Poimen used to say: "When a serpent is shut within a vessel and does not receive any food it will gradually die. So also with the inner passions of our heart, if they are isolated and do not receive the evil nourishment they need from the outside through the senses of the body, they in time are weakened and eventually die." Again the passions can be likened to certain tiny creatures found in the mud at the bottom of a lake. As long as they do not have anything to eat they are content to lie there in peace. But as soon as food is put into the water, you can see them immediately moving and rising up from the depth to get the food. In the same manner the passions remain peacefully within the heart as long as they do not receive from the outside through the senses any nourishment and pleasure. But as soon as such a pleasure enters, especially through the eyes, these passions move directly toward the desirable nourishment.

Saint Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain
A Handbook of Spiritual Counsels