From The Blog

Fr. Patrick’s Meditation from Oct/Nov 2014 Parish Newsletter

     “When you are wronged and your heart and feelings are hardened, do not be distressed, for this has happened providentially; but be glad and reject the thoughts that arise within you, knowing that if they are destroyed at the stage when they are only provocations, their evil consequences will be cut off; whereas if the thoughts persist the evil may be expected to develop.”

St. Mark the Ascetic

Everyone knows that pride is the root of every sin, but pride is an enemy of many differing forms that, more often than not, is very difficult to identify.  It’s easy to confess the sin of pride, or at least the lack of humility, but because of the subtleties of pride and our inability or unwillingness to identify it and its disguises, we are left continually vulnerable to a sad recurrence of the same old struggles.  There is one persistent sin that occurs in my life that I believe if I were to become even just a little more watchful of I might find myself at least occasionally ahead of “[our] adversary the devil [who] prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

What is this sin?  It is that which arises in the thoughts, that when embraced gives birth to greater sins.  The thoughts of judgment and hatred, of feeling wronged or jealous, of self-justification and self-pity, of anger and self-doubt, the thoughts of … (insert here).  It seems to me that, more and more, men are becoming a people of the mind, no longer governed by absolutes but rather by thoughts and emotions.  Intelligence and the volatility of our feelings are a vicious combination which can lead to all kinds of evil: evil against a society, against neighbor, and even against one’s own self – blindly and violently!

I am intrigued as to how this particular Trojan Horse has wormed its way into the very fabric of modern disposition.  There isn’t anything new here but it does seem to present itself in a different way at this time in history.  Could one source be progressive education?  C.S. Lewis presented a good argument for this in his book, The Abolition of Man.  Has man become so enamored with himself, his knowledge, his achievements and his potential, like Narcissus and his reflection in the pool, that he has forgotten to “man his post?”  It seems that we’ve become so weighed down with ourselves that we’ve become low hanging fruit – easy pickings – for that “roaring lion.”  Whatever poise any of us may possess seems precarious and subject at any given moment to collapse – at the moment of any random thought or feeling.  How can it not be when I have been empowered to validate my every thought, etched in the very “correctness” of my own evolutionary development (?!).

Beloved in Christ, I would like to state clearly that our thoughts need not be our enemy.  They are only part of who we are and while guided by them we should never be ruled by them.  However, if we do not want to be ruled by them then we must take very seriously our life in Christ and His Holy Church.  It requires of us discipline and a growing ability to see things in a different way; most especially, as St. Mark the Ascetic has said here, “providentially.”  Divine Providence is the strangest of concepts to men who believe only in themselves; and only men who are willing to lower themselves from the heights of self-determination (and conceit) can ever hope to understand it.  What might be the first clues that our thoughts are leading us down the pathway of evil?:  when the thoughts pit man against God or brother against brother, which more often than not lead to the greatest heresy of all: Schism (division – separation from God, separation from our brother).  There are, of course, many other clues, too many to enumerate here.  A question is: How are we to see temptation in this context, or the wrong that I have been asked to endure, or the judgment I am convinced is correct, or the self-justification and self-pity that leads to isolation?  Maybe a better question is: Will my faith carry me through any difficult and unendurable circumstance so that no evil may find its source in me?  Like a cancer, early detection is the best way to stop the spread of provocation and ultimate consequence.  Am I willing to diligently, humbly, prayerfully seek the virtue of early discernment and reject (cut off) the divisive intentions of the devil’s provocation?  “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force” (Matthew 11:12).  Beloved, may it be so!  May we all strive to be more watchful over our thoughts!

 

Share