Thursday, 21 August 2008

Diadochos of Photiki, Gnostic Chapters 96 - 100

Update March 1, 2012: Please see this post.

Those who are friends of the pleasures of this world come to the actual missteps from the thoughts[1]. For borne by an undiscerning judgement they desire to bring almost all their impassioned conceptions[2] to lawless words and unholy works. Those however who are endeavouring to accomplish the ascetic way of life come from the actual missteps to the evil thoughts and to certain evil and damaging words. For if the demons see such persons gladly tolerating abuse [of others] or speaking certain idle or unseasonable things or laughing as it should not be or angered immoderately or desiring to see empty and vain glory, then they arm themselves in a group against them. Moreover, taking ambition as an excuse for their own evil they jump as it were through a certain dark window and plunder the soul. Therefore it is necessary that those who wish to dwell together with the multitude of virtues not seek glory, nor meet with many people, nor make use of continual departures [from the monastery] or abuse certain persons (even if those who are abused are worthy of the abuse), nor speak much even if they are able to say all things well. For dispersing the mind without measure, garrulity not only makes the mind idle in relation to its spiritual labour but also delivers it to the demon of accidie[3], which weakening it without measure delivers it thenceforth to the demons of sorrow and to the demons of anger. The mind must therefore ever be occupied with the keeping of the holy commandments and with the deep remembrance of the Lord of Glory. For he says: ‘He who keeps the commandment will not know an evil word;’ that is, will not deviate into bad thoughts or words.
When the heart receives the bows and arrows of the demons with a certain warm pain in such a way that it suspects that he who is at war[4] bears real arrows, the soul hates the passions with pain, as being in the beginning of being purified. For if it should not suffer great pain on account of the impudence of sin it would not rejoice richly over the goodness of righteousness. Therefore let he who wants to purify his heart set it on fire with the memory of the Lord Jesus, having only this as a meditation and ceaseless work. For those who volunteer to put off their own rot must not pray[5] at one time and at another time not pray, but ever occupy themselves with the prayer[6] in the keeping of the mind, even if they should have their abode somewhere outside the houses of prayer. In the way that someone who wishes to purify gold, again makes hard the material being purified even if for only a short time he lets the fire go out under the crucible—in that same way he who at one time remembers God and at another time does not, loses though the idleness whatever he thinks to acquire by the prayer[7]. It is characteristic of the man who loves virtue ever to consume what is earthy in his heart by means of the memory of God so that the bad is thus expended bit by bit by the fire of the memory of the Good and the soul come back completely to its natural brightness, with greater glory.
Dispassion is not the state of not being warred against by the demons, since we would then need to have gone out of the world, according to the Apostle, but the state in which those who are warred against remain not warred against.[8] For the warriors who wear armour have arrows shot at them by their opponents and hear the sound of the archery—and they also see almost all the arrows sent against them—yet they are not wounded because of the hardness of the armour. Being fenced by iron they have the quality of not being warred against when they are in battle; let us, however, armed fully by means of all good works with the panoply of the Holy Light and the helmet of salvation, cut through the dark phalanxes of the demons. For purity is not brought about merely by stopping to do bad things, but by setting aside evil in power by attending assiduously to the good.
When the man of God has conquered almost all the passions, two demons remain behind to fight. The first of these annoys the soul so that it come from much love of God to an unseasonable zeal so as not to want any one else to please God in the way that it does; the second annoys the body, moving it with a certain burning activity to the desire for intercourse. This happens to the body because, first, this pleasure is a property of nature as on account of child-bearing and for that reason easily defeated; and, further, also on account of the permission of God. For when the Lord sees one of the strugglers flourishing in the multitude of virtues, he on occasion permits him to be sullied by this demon so that he suppose himself to be worse than all the men who lead a secular life. Doubtless, annoyance by this passion either follows the attainments or, on occasion, comes before them so that in the sudden attack of the passion the soul in anticipation seem somewhat useless, whatever its great accomplishments might [come to] be. But let us battle the first passion in great humility and love, and the second passion in temperance and freedom from wrath and the deep conception[9] of death, so that, tasting from these things ceaselessly the activity of the Holy Spirit, we come in the Lord to be above these very passions.
As many of us become participants in divine gnosis will render an account of even our involuntary vain imaginings. For Job says: ‘You have taken note even if I have transgressed in something involuntarily;’—and justly so. For if one were not to cease to remember God and not to neglect his holy commandments, he would not fall into either a voluntary or an involuntary fault. It is therefore necessary to offer firm confession to the Master even in connection with our involuntary faults, that is, in connection with the labour of the customary canon[10] (for there is no one who is a man who has not miss-stepped humanly), up to the time that in tears of love our conscience assure us spiritually concerning the remission of these things. He says: ‘For if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just so that he forgive our sins and purify us from every injustice.’ It is necessary to attend unceasingly to the spiritual perception of confession so that our conscience certainly not taste itself in the condition of supposing that it has confessed adequately to God, for the judgement of God is mightier than our conscience even if someone in complete spiritual assurance should know of nothing in himself[11], as the wisest Paul teaches us, saying: ‘But I do not interrogate myself; for I know of nothing in myself; but I have not been justified in that; the Lord is he who interrogates me.’[12] For if we do not confess properly concerning these things then at the time of our departure we will find a certain secret cowardice in ourselves. We who love the Lord must pray to be found without fear in that hour for he who is then found in fear will not pass by the Tartarian rulers in a free way, for they have that fear of the soul as a lawyer, as it were, on behalf of their own evil. But in the hour of dissolution the soul which exults in the love of God is borne with the angels above all the dark ranks. It is given wings as it were by the spiritual love, bearing love without lack as the fullness of the Law. Wherefore even in the Second Coming of the Lord those who depart from this life with such boldness will be taken up in rapture with all the saints. But those who are a little cowardly in the time of death will be left behind with the multitude of other men as being under judgement, so that having been tried by the fire of judgement they receive in accordance to their own practices the inheritance owed to them from our good God and King Jesus Christ; for he is the God of Justice and his is the wealth over us who love him of the goodness of his Kingdom to the Ages of Ages. Amen.
Ascetic homilies of Saint Diadochos, Bishop of Photiki in Illyria. 100 Chapters, 2,300 lines.[13]

[1] Greek: logismon.
[2] Greek: ennoias.
[3] I.e. sloth.
[4] I.e. the ascetic. He is in such pain that he begins to suspect that he is being shot at with real arrows.
[5] Greek: euchesthai. This refers to the Jesus Prayer, as should be evident from the context.
[6] Greek: proseuche.
[7] Greek: euche.
[8] Thus the text. The author means that dispassion is a state in which the demons try and try and try—and don’t get anywhere.
[9] Greek: ennoia. Here ennoia means ‘meditation’ or ‘contemplation’ within the mind: a deep consideration of our coming death.
[10] Greek: kanonos. This is the customary rule of private prayer and asceticism of the monk.
[11] I.e. be conscious of no fault in himself, as further on in the quotation from St Paul.
[12] Note the legal language. The conscience is treated with legal concepts both in the text and in St Paul.
[13] This is the closing note in the manuscript. Illyria is present day Albania, somewhat north of Photiki.

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