Excessive Care about Worldly Matters
Excessive care about worldly matters is characteristic of an unbelieving and fainthearted person, and woe to us, if, in taking care of ourselves, we do not use as our foundation our faith in God, who cares for us! If we do not attribute visible blessings to Him, which we use in this life, then how can we expect those blessings from Him which are promised in the future? We will not be of such little faith. By the words of our Saviour, it is better first to seek the Kingdom of God, for the rest shall be added unto us (Matthew 6:33).
Identifying Movements of the Heart
When a person accepts anything Godly, then he rejoices in his heart, but when he has accepted anything devilish, then he becomes tormented.
Having accepted anything Godly, the heart of a Christian does not demand outside persuasion that it is from the Lord, but becomes convinced through the act itself that this acceptance is something heavenly, because he feels the spiritual fruits in himself: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Galatians 5:22-23). But if the devil were to transform himself even into an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), or presented thoughts of the most worthy appearance, the heart still would feel some sort of doubts, trouble in its thoughts and disturbance of feelings.
The devil is like a lion, hiding in ambush (Psalm 9:29). He secretly sets out nets of unclean and unholy thoughts. So, it is necessary to break them off as soon as we notice them, by means of pious reflection and prayer.
During the singing of psalms, feats and great vigilance are demanded for our mind to be in conformity with our heart and lips; for otherwise stench is added to the incense in our prayers. For the Lord disdains a heart with unclean thoughts.
Let us continually, day and night, fall before the face of the goodness of God with tears, that He purify our hearts of any evil thought so that we might worthily bring Him the gifts of our service. When we do not accept the evil thoughts put in us by the devil, we perform a good deed.
The unclean spirit has a strong influence only on the passionate; but those purified of passions he touches only indirectly and externally. A person in his youth cannot avoid being disturbed by physical thoughts. But he must pray to the Lord God, that the spark of depraved passions dies out at the very beginning. Then the flame within him will not become more intense.
When the evil spirit of sorrow seizes the soul, then, by filling it with bitterness and unpleasantness, it does not allow it to pray with necessary diligence; it disrupts the attention necessary for reading spiritual writings, deprives it of humility and good nature in the treatment of others and breeds aversion to any discussion. For the sorrowful soul, by becoming as if insane and frenzied, can neither accept kind advice calmly, nor answer posed questions meekly. It runs from people as if from the perpetrators of its embarrassment, not understanding that the reason for its illness — is within it. Sorrow is the worm of the heart, gnawing at the mother that bore it.
He who has conquered passions has also defeated sorrow. But one overcome by passions will not avoid the shackles of sorrow. As an ill person can be identified by the colour of his face, so is one overcome by passions distinguished by sorrow.
It is impossible for one who loves the world not to feel sorrow. But he who despises the world is always cheerful. As fire purifies gold, so sorrow in God — penitence — purifies the sinful heart.
- Mosaic in the Cathedral of the Assumption, Monreale, Sicily.
The inscription on the left says summertio sodome, “The submersion of Sodom”. The other one says fugit loth cum uxore et filiabus suis, “Lot flees with his wife and daughters”.
Genesis 19:15-26. Lot and his family are told to flee Sodom and not look back because it is about to be destroyed. Unfortunately, Lot’s wife does look back and is changed into a pillar of salt. This is why the mosaic does her all in white.
- Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, The Sermon on the Mount, Mosaic Church of Sant Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna