Thursday, February 6, 2014
Developing self control ( Saint Theophan the Recluse )
The most powerful way to develop self control, to overcome the passions that lead us away from God, is to remember the name of God when we are fist enticed by a passion. As soon as we enter into a situation where we might be subject to anger, lust, gluttony or any other passion we must become very watchful. When we encounter, as an example, a person that has dishonored us and the idea of revenge or anger arises in our mind, this is the time to act - immediately! In fact we want to get angry at the thought. This is the proper role of anger and why were were given this capacity. Once we have set ourselves against the thought, then we need to call for help. How do we do this? We call on the name of the Lord. "Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner!"
Scripture in many places affirms that when we call on the Lord with faith in Him, He will come to our aid.
Because he has set his hope on me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he has known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: He also will hear their prayer, and will save them. (Psalm 144: 18-19)There is another method often taught is to counteract the attack with a negative thought. If anger is the passion you are struggling with, you could say to yourself, "Anger only separates me from God. You will become irrational and do or say things that are hurtful causing you to sin." Saint Theophan tells us that this approach is a weak one. He says,
Sometimes they drive it out, but this method is for the most part unreliable. By exposing the passionate thought we are still keeping it in our mind... Whenever we appeal directly to the Lord with fear, reverence, hope and faith in His complete activity without entering into a verbal battle with the passionate, the passionate then moves away from the mind's eye, which is fixed on the Lord. When it is cut off from the mind through such attention, the passionate departs of its own accord.Saint Theophan also gives us as story told by Saint John the Dwarf.
I act as a man sitting under a tree who looks attentively around him. This man, as soon as he sees wild beasts coming toward him, immediately climbs up the tree, and the beasts, after coming up to the tree, walk around for a while and go away. And I, as soon as I observe mental beasts coming toward me in passionate thoughts, immediately rise up my mind to the Lord, and the beasts cannot get to me as they are forced to scatter every which way.This is how the Jesus Prayer works for us. Once we have made it part of our daily prayer practice it is always at the front of our mind and ready to go into action when we need it. As soon as we call on the Lord we move away from the thought caused by the passion and sheltered by the prayer. It is just like we have climbed the tree in John the Dwarf's story.
Saint Theophan the Recluse