On Watchfulness

On Watchfulness

Posted on:May 13 2008
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Philokalia, Hesychios

Hesychios, the priest in the Philokalia, writes extensively on watchfulness and holiness. Like the other Fathers, he places great emphasis on nepsis. Some years ago, when I did my research on James I, I discovered this continuum for sin. It is fascinating to read it described in detail here in the work of Hesychios.

In his tract, cap on watchfulness and holiness”, he lays out the same process of James 1. He never refers to James 1 but he recognizes the action. He is particularly clear in section 45 and 46.

I also find it remarkable in section 32, how he emphasizes a “cursive forgetfulness.” I have written about the same in my own walk. It encourages me to read that men for centuries have dealt with the same struggles. Sometimes I struggle most with just remembering. It is hard to keep the invisible world before my consciousness at all times.

Hesychios the priest, an early church father writes the following in his tract on “watchfulness and holiness”:

Philokalia page 170:

    45. Just as it is impossible for fire and water to pass through the same pipe together, so it is impossible for sin to enter the heart without first knocking at its door in the form of a fantasy provoked by the devil.
    46. The provocation comes first, then our coupling* with it, or the mingling of our thoughts with those of wicked demons. Third comes our assent to the provocation, with both sets of intermingling thoughts contriving how to commit the sin in practice. Fourth comes the concrete action – that is, the sin itself. If, however, the intellect is attentive and watchful, and at once repulses the provocation by counter-attacking and gainsaying it and invoking the Lord Jesus, its consequences remain inoperative; for the devil, being a bodiless intellect, can deceive our souls only by means of fantasies and thoughts.”

I find that his description of this continuum matches my early work on James 1. It is fascinating to see how practical this instruction still is from centuries ago. It is encouraging to see the relevance of this ancient instruction. I am particularly fascinated by the combination of the two activities. They form the bulk of a counter assault. They involve a constant attentiveness a nepsis. This is combined with a constant invocation of the Lord Jesus’ name. I think the combination is potent.

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