Thoughts and How to Confront Them
by Hiermonk Benedict of Holy Mount Athos
Published by The Attendants of Hiermonk Spyridon, New Skiti, Holy Mount Athos, 2002.
This booklet has much to teach us about how to control our thoughts.
To begin with, most of our sinful thoughts are caused by our many passions. It is the devil’s aim to cast us into sin, either through thoughts or the performance of the sinful act itself. Such sinful thoughts can be overcome by prayer, Confession, reading spiritual books, doing the right thing according to our conscience, partaking in regular Holy Communion, and having love for others.
Moreover, there are two categories of thoughts: the good-hearted thoughts and evil thoughts. Good-hearted thoughts, which arise from God, bring internal peace and joy. On the contrary, evil thoughts that originate from the devil are ﬁlled with agitation, disturbance and grief.
The journey towards sin, according to Hiermonk Benedict, begins with (a) the assault on us by the enemy with negative thoughts, when the devil and his demons implant cunning notions in our minds, followed by (b) our sinful human nature allowing these to take root in our minds. By means of our own spiritual weakness, we choose to entertain the cunningness that has entered our mind, which turns into sin when (c) we become captive to the evil notion and act on it, ignoring our conscience. This leads us to conceit, vainglory, stinginess, gluttony, condemnation, sensuality etc.
Hiermonk Benedict assures us that if we toss cunning thoughts out of our mind, we are not liable for these. If however we accept the assault, we then open the door to impure thoughts which tempt us through our imagination and fantasy. An impure thought becomes stronger and more attractive, making sin more likely because the mind has become hostage to the thought. No longer does a person control the impure thought, but instead becomes a prisoner to it.
Rather than let ourselves become diabolical because we act on our evil thoughts, we must muster up all spiritual strength to avoid temptations and expel on all occasions any impure thoughts.
This booklet includes many other words of wisdom by the Holy Fathers of our Orthodox Church. We are blessed to have such publications to guide us!
Source: June-July 2014 Lychnos Edition