Orthodox Spiritual Life (Part X)

Icon of the Mother of God "the Directress" from the Monastery ofXenophontos on Mt. Athos

Icon of the Mother of God "the Directress" from the Monastery ofXenophontos on Mt. Athos

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


On June 20th Our Holy Church commemorates the following Saints: Holy Martyr Julian of Tarsus; Saint Terentios, Bishop of Iconium; Saint Nikitas the New Holy Martyr of Nisyros.

+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, O Christ our God have mercy on us and save us. Amen.

"Practice goodness and from the rewards of your labors give to all the needy in simplicity." (Shepherd of Hermas)


By Saint Silouan the Athonite

In order to avoid the traps of the enemy (Satan), the believer needs first and foremost the virtue of 'darkrisis'' (διάκρισις), which is usually translated into English as either discernment or discrimination. Only through discernment can one distinguish an evil thought or 'logismos' from an inherently good one. Discernment (or discrimination) is considered one of the highest spiritual virtues. Saint John Cassian sees it as "the greatest gift of God's Grace." (Saint John Cassian (On the Holy Fathers of Sketis and on Discrimination, the Philokalia, vol. 1, p. 98) writes, "...for the power of discrimination, scrutinizing all the thoughts and actions of a man, distinguishes and sets aside everything that is base and not pleasing to God, and keeps him free from delusion."] Saint John Climacus, in The Ladder of Divine Ascent devotes one of his longer chapters to discussing this virtue. He refers to discernment as a characteristic of the perfect and defines it as "...a spiritual capacity to distinguish unfailingly between what is truly good and want...is opposed to the good."

[See St. John Climacus, "it is characteristic of the perfect that they always know whether a thought comes from within themselves, or from God, or from the demons. Remember that demons do not automatically propose evil at the outset. Here we have a problem truly hard to penetrate" (The Ladder of Divine Ascent 26, p. 255). The believer must learn to scrutinize each and every thought before allowing it to harbor in his heart. Obviously this is very difficult to do. How is one to know whether or not a particular thought is in fact a snare of the enemy (Satan)? How is one supposed to discern an evil thought from all the others? What kind of 'guideline' is one to use when attempting the difficult task of distinguishing those thoughts that must be repelled and rejected?

Saint Siouan answers clearly that evil thoughts are recognized by their spiritual effect on the soul. Those thoughts, especially during prayer, that destroy one's inner peace or incite such feelings as pride, enmity, fear, confusion or dejection are obviously from the enemy (Satan). On the other hand, those thoughts that instill, for example, humility, repentance, compassion, love, joy and peace are of the Holy Spirit. Interestingly, some demonic assaults are referred to as accompanied by disturbing 'sounds' and a disgusting evil 'smell'.

One must be very careful, however, not to put too much trust in sentimental or emotional experiences encountered in prayer. These are easily exploited by the enemy (Satan). Saint Diadochos of Photiki clearly warns against an 'experience of sweetness' which is actually an 'illusion of grace', as well a 'counterfeit joy' through which "...the devil tries to lead the soul into an adulterous union with himself." Such experiences are to be recognized as coming from the deceiver (Satan) if they are accompanied by continual and incessant doubt or unclean thought. Ultimately, the gift of discernment is not limited simply to the ability to distinguish between 'good' thoughts and those 'logismoi' coming from the enemy (evil one). Even more so, it includes the ability to analyze correctly such 'logismoi' in order to detect their origin, and then to deal with them in the appropriate manner.

When counter-attacking an onslaught of 'logismoi', the ideal strategy is to reject immediately the intruding 'logismos' on first sight before it has the opportunity of disrupting one's peace. For instance, Saint Silouan writes, "If a dissolute thought comes into your mind, drive it off at once, and you will preserve your peace of soul. But if you harbor it, your soul will lose her love for God, and you will no longer have confidence to pray." According to Saint Mark the Ascetic, when a thought stays in one's mind, it indicates attachment to it; when one rejects it immediately, it shows the soul's resistance and opposition to it. Saint John Climacus offers an even easier approach. He mentions that evil 'logismoi' should simply be 'disregarded'. Unfortunately, however, deliverance from the torment of 'logismoi' is not easy. Their onslaught can be quite intense and persistent. In order to escape the deceit of the enemy (Satan), the believer needs the help of a spiritual father. (Next: The role of the spiritual father)



The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.


Glory Be To GOD For  All Things!


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George