2 February 1950
'O zealous Protectress, Mother of the Lord most High15.'
Good health to you, most God-loving handmaiden of God!
You have not yet learnt to wage war with the enemy of the human race. He came to you with his sly intrigues and you are nearly falling into despair. Calm yourself and do not be upset. It is the enemy bringing you recollections of former errors. You should not accept them; simply pay no attention. Here is what St Mark the Ascetic writes: 'When past sins are remembered in detail they harm a hopeful person. For if they bring with them grief, they repel hope; and if they are visualized without grief, they again introduce the old defilement within.'16 And St Abba Dorotheos said: 'We should not be disturbed even when passion troubles us; for to be upset about it as a matter of foolishness and pride' [p. 194].
Fear pride above all, for it was because of pride that the first angel of light became Satan and for him the Lord has prepared eternal torment. When the enemy introduces thoughts of self-praise, that is the only time when we should recall our former sins, in order to humble ourselves. As it says in the Paterikon, a certain ascetic, when the enemy began to fight him with thoughts of self-praise, would say to himself: 'Old man! Look at your lechery'. As to your former frailties, my child, God forgives you, be at peace.
You have begun to have spells of ill health. What should you do? Rest in God's will: illnesses remind us of our passage into eternity. I wish you health of body and salvation for your soul. The Lord keep you.
15. Words from a troparion.
16. Early Fathers from the Philokalia, p. 91"
Father John here tells his spiritual child not to allow the recollection of former errors to entrench themselves within her.
These recollections have attached to themselves barbs. Thoughts do not simply stand alone but have a "connective reality" inherent in them which are able to make the one thinking the thoughts attached within to the former error.
Father John chastises his disciple here for not having learned how to do battle with Satan.
When Satan brings to our recollection such thoughts we are not to allow their entrenchment but to simply pay no attention, let the thoughts pass through, not to give the barbs in these thoughts the "internal landscape" to grab a hold of and stay.
Grief at recollection entrenches them and to not have grief attached to the old errors brings back the temptation of the sin attached to the memory.
Here, without grief, the sin once again presents itself as alluring, not really a sin at all with a price attached to it, but as something that can be had or done with impunity and no harm to oneself. If harm to oneself is thought of in relation to the sin, the way around this defense to engage the sin is that "I can always repent afterward and the Lord will forgive me."
The danger with such thinking is that first of all we know not when we will draw our last breath and stand before our Lord. With such thinking we tempt His goodness with our willful sin.
Second, the practising of a sin alters the one sinning inwardly and sickens him. Over time, what once was unacceptable becomes acceptable and the Image of God becomes ever more caked with mud and excrement. And as this Image is further caked, the situations we are confronted with also seem ever more so to require sinning to resolve. Sin begets sin. Sin gives birth to sin.
So Father John tells his spiritual child to simply avoid former recollections to gain a harbor within us and to let them simply sail without. In such a manner, then, these thoughts are neutral and "free-floating" until they can connect with the inner landscape and be charged with energy given to them by the sinner's former experience and stained soul's disposition to the acting out the sin again which it has now come to know as its own, having once committed it.
The soul has forever been altered, having come to know the sin it cannot now un-know it.
So let us not allow these former errors to gain the foothold the Evil One knows they have on us by simply, as is within our experience and power and will, letting them pass through.
Read the previous post in this series:
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