good actions and bad actions have their beginning in the same place.The battle over good and evil begins in the
mind, with our thoughts.I hope you will
enjoy this article on that topic which was sent my way.
Thoughts, Guarding the Heart
of the major themes in the Philokalia and the writings of the Holy Fathers in
general is that of the “guarding of thoughts.” A thought is a seed which, when
planted in the heart, can affect the totality of not only how we act, but of
our entire attitude towards life, towards a particular situation, towards
others and even towards ourselves. Thoughts are powerful, and can either
motivate us or totally discourage us.
this reason, the Orthodox Fathers placed great emphasis on the guarding of the
thoughts and the guarding of the heart. They recommend a constant vigilance
over oneself affected by perpetually standing before God in the depth of one’s
heart. Here, each thought is brought before Christ to be judged. Unworthy
thoughts are expelled from the mind. More simply, we need to pay attention to
our inner monologue. If we give place to negative or defeatist thoughts, they
will become a prophecy that we ourselves will fulfill.
is the greatest aid to maintaining positive thoughts. When we invite God into
any situation, He will come – and His presence is always one of power, energy
and light. He may not reveal Himself immediately, but He is not absent from
that moment forward. An old saying goes, “the Lord may not come when you want
Him to, but He’s always right on time.” But it is up to us to invite him. A
simple “Lord have mercy,” or “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me,
a sinner” is powerful enough to do this.
cracks the stronghold of negative or defeatist thinking. God is all-powerful.
He created the world out of nothing. There is no situation in our lives too
difficult, nor too trivial, for God’s help and action. But again, it’s up to us
to make the first move, and to persist in our supplications.
thoughts are not necessarily irrational. Often, they are mixed with truths, or
half-truths. Sometimes thoughts come to us from others, sometimes from
ourselves. But what others think is ultimately meaningless. Only God’s
“opinion” matters. Take, for example, both Joseph and David. Both were called
by God to be kings, yet both came from large families in which their own
brothers and parents did not believe in their calling or abilities. Both were
unjustly accused; one imprisoned, the other persecuted. Yet by keeping their
eyes focused on God, they did what no one thought they could do. They overcame
the negativity and discouragement of others.
however, our own thoughts are more difficult to conquer than those coming from
others. Here we only wrestle with ourselves. This is why prayer is so important
– prayer is the bringing in of another, independent perspective: that of God.
do we know if thoughts come to us from God, or from the devil? What should we
do if thoughts of our failings and sins are presented to us? The Fathers give a
simple rule: if the thought of a past failing discourages us to the point of
depression, draining all our energy and zeal, tempting us to quit every
struggle for virtue, or to remain complacent, it is from the devil. If,
however, the sorrow such a thought brings gives us a desire to change, energy
to repent, fast, pray, forgive, etc., it is from God. St Paul himself talks
about these two sorrows: one which is worldly, and brings death; one which is
godly, and brings zeal and energy to change (2 Cor. 7:10).
we turn our thoughts over to God for His judgment, those thoughts become pure
and become catalysts to a correctly ordered life. More than this, they become healthy even in
the midst of great trials. Only a soul filled with God’s love is such, and the
first step is in our thinking. Love for
God leads to pure thinking and vice versa. “Love is essentially the banishment
of every kind of contrary thought, for love thinks no evil (I Cor. 13:5),”
wrote St John of the Ladder.
thoughts must be turned over to God, such that their effects will be positive.
Yes, we need to encourage ourselves in our inner monologue, but most importantly,
we need to bring God into our thinking and hearts by prayer. Then our thoughts
will become seeds of transformation and victory in our lives, aiding and
abetting us to fulfill God’s purposes.
article above is by the pastor of the Holy Cross Orthodox Church in Hermitage,
PA, the Rev. Hieromonk Calinic.
St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church Pueblo, Colorado