Posts Tagged With: Philokalia

The Five Reasons Why God Allows The Devil To Attack Us

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Many of us wonder why God would allow the devil to bother us at all. But it is actually to our own benefit.

Our successes are actually shaped many times by our numerous failures. The spiritual scars we carry are there is a reminder that nothing is ever gained in life without a little toil and effort.

”There are said to be five reasons why God allows us to be assailed by demons. The first is so that, by attacking and counter attacking, we should learn to discriminate between virtue and vice.

The Second is so that, having acquired virtue through conflict and toil, we should keep it secure and immutable.

The third is so that, when making progress in virtue, we should not become haughty but learn humility.

The fourth is so that, having gained some experience of evil, we should ‘hate it with a perfect hatred’ (cf.Ps. 139 : 22).

The fifth and most important is so that, having achieved dispassion, we should forget neither our own weakness nor the power of him who has helped us. ”

Source: St.Maximos The Confessor – Second Century On Love – Para 67 – Page 76

 

 

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Holding God Or Others Responsible For Our Suffering

In the philokalia, St.Maximos the Confessor tells us:

”The sensible man, taking into account the remedial effect of the divine prescriptions, gladly bears the sufferings which they bring upon him, since he is aware that they have no cause other than his own sin. But when the fool, ignorant of the supreme wisdom of God’s providence, sins and is corrected, he regards either God or men as responsible for the hardships he suffers.”

It’s good advice. We could however expand on holding others and God for our suffering. Sometimes we also hold men responsible for our emotional distress too. We even hold inanimate objects responsible also.

For example you often hear people say ”My wife, its her fault I’m upset, she smashed up my car pretty good last night whilst I was sleeping.”

Nobody however has the power to upset us. We are the cause of our own emotional turmoil. ”Even in the midst of being murdered?” Yes even in the midst of being murdered by someone and we know we are going to die.

Reaching those spiritual ecstatic heights though is not an easy task. It would require of us a lot of prayer and ultimately Gods responding Grace. Not that it’s not achievable it is but it’s the holding onto it that’s the hard part.

The first step is to at least realize that your wife is not the cause of your emotional distress. At least when you accept this and begin to understand it, only then can you progress and over time, your upset will diminish and your attachment to societies conditioning that you must react when someone insults you, like a candle in a container, will gradually lose its oxygen and extinguish over time.

To put it into a little more perspective, the culture around us for thousands of years tells us what is an insult and what isn’t. What is sexually attractive and what isn’t. For men in Africa, really big fat women are attractive to them. In Europe its skinny women. Why? because that’s what our cultural up bringing taught us was attractive.

It’s only when you begin to understand you’ve been conditioned by society to get upset when someone insults you, does it make it easier to navigate your emotions. However it is so ingrained in us that simply just waking up one day and saying ”I’m not going to be upset anymore when someone insults me ” isn’t going to work.

Progress in the spiritual life is all about struggle. It would take many many many years for us to shed the skin of societies influence on our behaviour.

The first step to reiterate again is for us to stop holding others responsible for our emotional reactions. I’m not saying not to hold others responsible for their actions, but our reaction towards what they’ve done. I’m also not saying we shouldn’t spring into action when someone wrongs us and correct them but it’s HOW we spring into action and with what emotions we do that with that will determine how much progress we’ve made.

It’s deep I know but its something I thought of when reading St.Maximus the Confessor and I thought I’d add my thoughts to what he said with regards to physical suffering.

 

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Be Careful Of Reading Philokalia and Thomas A Kempis Material

I would caution anyone reading these books such as Philokalia, St.Thomas A Kempis (He’s a saint in my eyes).

We all want spiritual direction and in the times that are so difficult these books can be extremely helpful but also harmful to anyone picking them up without some kind of spiritual direction when reading them.

There are many advices that are for monks and priests in these books not for the laity living in the world. It’s important to be able to know which texts are for who and which are for laity etc.

Imitations of Christ was my first book and I loved it. I read it every day before the Presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament but we need to also be a little careful in how we apply it to our daily lives.

Same with philokalia although this came much later than St.Thomas. For example if you’re married you need to know that locking yourself in your room all day and praying is out of the question. You have kids to bring up and a wife to please. Obeying all that kind of advice will spiritually ruin you.

Therefore look to recognize what you can use and apply in your current state and vocation.

 

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Distractions In Devotional Prayer

Yesterday after having put our son down for the night, my wife and I decided to pray the rosary before going to sleep ourselves. During prayer ( and this is never an isolated incidence ) there are many distractions that often plague us. Some distractions differ depending upon the person but here are some we experienced yesterday:

Yawning and Lethargy: In the middle of praying the Rosary out loud I could not stop yawning. So much so that I pulled a muscle ( or something snapped ) in my ear causing me a moment of pain and I had to ask my wife to stop for a second and the return to the prayer. That’s it isn’t it? have you ever had this? You begin to feel very tired, almost as if you had just had too much to eat ( which also causes lethargy ) but you are aware that previous to praying you had not just digged into a big meal but were wide awake. This is of course the enemy who has unleashed the demons upon us in order to do all he can to stop us from praying Our Lady’s Rosary or Jesus Prayer. Ok so he is failing at that tactic and you continue to pray so what next?

Bad or useless thoughts: Here the enemy distracts us with sinful thoughts or likes to remind us of our past sins and incidents from the past we would never have guessed suddenly rising from the muddiness of the dark waters within our subconscious begin to come to the surface and forefront of our minds. Then come the thoughts such as: ”How will I manage to pay the Electricity bill?” or ”What was that noise? I hope nobody is breaking into my house” or it could be ”I wonder if I locked the car door after coming in earliar”. Of course these useless distracting thoughts can occur when not in prayer but they become more vivid and active in prayer as opposed to being in a situation where we are not contemplating God.Ok so we return to our prayer and keep praying. Whats his next tactic? hmmm

Good and Holy Thoughts: Oh the cleverness and wiliness of the devil becomes even more clever than we think now huh?. Sometimes we even get ( what looks like ) good and holy thoughts during prayer. We begin to see Jesus or speak to Jesus or Our Lady in our thoughts whilst we ( sort of like a mantra ) just babble the words of the devotional prayer from our lips. We have now lost all concentration upon the prayer itself and are now concentrating on these thoughts. But these thoughts are another distraction from the enemy. Do not take me up the wrong way. There is nothing wrong with having Holy Thoughts about holding Jesus or being near him because this is prayer. But when we are already in the form of communication to Our Lady and Jesus through their rosaries this other form of communication is clearly a distraction to keep us from using that one means of communication we already begun. It confuses the whole contemplation of God up and takes us away from our concentration upon the Jesus prayer or Holy Rosary of Our Lady.

The Grand Finale: All of the above can hit those who are aware or unaware of it, it does not matter your situation. But through intensive prayer and by the Grace of God these quickly diminish in their assaults. But those who are not aware of it can often become turned off prayer as such conflicting thoughts can do this to a person. But those who are aware of it can through understanding continue to get hit but pick themselves back up and carry on. And there are times when those too who are aware of these thoughts get turned off and had enough. And this is ok as long as they do their best to return to the prayer itself.

And so the Devils grand finale is to hit you with all three of the above. We then suddenly feel like we are just sitting under a bees nest being stung left right and center, but if we persever Our Lady will heal our wounds when the battle is over.

One Final Note: We also tend to sometimes pray and expect something spectacular to happen. If we do this then we really do open the door for the devil to walk in and deceive us even more. No! we must not pray with expectation but pray with a giving heart and allow God to respond in his own time. And should something spectacular happen then to deny it at first and if it grows stronger than it could well be from God but we must seek out a prayerful priest and spiritual director in order to help us discern it. Is it from God? or is it from myself? or worse …is it from the enemy?

So just like my mother used to say to me when I was young and going out to play with my friends: ”Have a good time but be watchful of the roads and always look to your left and to your right for oncoming traffic.”

the same with prayer. Enjoy prayer for it is indeed the most enjoyable practice but…be watchful at the same time otherwise you might just get run over and something bad happen.

In a nutshell, prayer can be likened to the story of the Prodigal Son in scripture. Sometimes we wander in our thoughts and eat the bad fruit but eventually by the grace of God we will return to our senses and back to saying the prayer.

God bless

The Domestic Monk.

p.s If you fail to find a good and Holy priest for spiritual direction might I suggest you read St.John of the Cross books? the Philokalia serves as a great tool also.

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