St. Theophon the Recluse

St. Theophan the Recluse: . . . be sober, watch, and pray—and the enemies will do nothing to you.

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The devil approaches the God-man with temptations.
Who among men is free of them?

He who goes according to the will of the evil one does not experience attacks, but is simply turned more and more toward evil. As soon as one begins to come to himself and intends to begin a new life according to God’s will, immediately the entire satanic realm enters into action: they hasten to scatter good thoughts and the intentions of the repentant one in any way they can.

If they do not manage to turn him aside, they attempt to hinder his good repentance and confession; if they do not manage to do that, they contrive to sow tares amidst the fruits of repentance and disrupt his labors of cleansing the heart.

If they do not succeed in suggesting evil they attempt to distort the truth; if they are repulsed inwardly they attack outwardly, and so on until the end of one’s life. They do not even let one die in peace; even after death they pursue the soul, until it escapes the aerial space where they hover and congregate.

You ask, “What should we do? It is hopeless and terrifying!”

For a believer there is nothing terrifying here, because near a God-fearing man demons only busy themselves, but they do not have any power over him. A sober man of prayer shoots arrows against them, and they stay far away from him, not daring to approach, and fearing the defeat which they have already experienced.

If they succeed in something, it is due to our blundering. We slacken our attention, or allow ourselves to be distracted by their phantoms, and they immediately come and disturb us more boldly.

If you do not come to your senses in time they will whirl you about; but if a soul does come to its senses they again recoil and spy from afar to see whether it is possible to approach again somehow.

So be sober, watch, and pray—and the enemies will do nothing to you.

St. Theophan the Recluse: Every Christian is chosen . . .

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The Lord chose the apostles, that they should be with Him, and that he might send them forth to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils.

Every Christian is chosen—chosen for similar deeds, namely: to be with the Lord, through unceasing remembrance of Him and awareness of His omnipresence, through the preaching and fulfillment of His commandments, and through a readiness to confess one’s faith in Him. In those circles where such a confession is made, it is a loud sermon for all to hear.

Every Christian has the power to heal infirmities—not of others, but his own, and not of the body, but of the soul—that is, sins and sinful habits—and to cast out devils, rejecting evil thoughts sown by them, and extinguishing the excitement of passions enflamed by them.

Do this and you will be an apostle, a fulfiller of what the Lord chose you for, an accomplisher of your calling as messenger. When at first you succeed in all this, then perhaps the Lord will appoint you as a special ambassador—to save others after you have saved yourself; and to help those who are tempted, after you yourself pass through all temptations, and through all experiences in good and evil.

But your job is to work upon yourself: for this you are chosen; the rest is in the hands of God. He who humbles himself shall be exalted.

St. Theophan the Recluse: This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. . . .

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“This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.” [Matthew 17:14-23]

If this kind goes out by the prayer and fasting of another person, then it is even less able to enter one who fasts and prays.

What protection!

Although there are a slew of demons and all the air is packed with them, they cannot do anything to one who is protected by prayer and fasting.

Fasting is universal temperance, prayer is universal communication with God; the former defends from the outside, whereas the latter from within directs a fiery weapon against the enemies. The demons can sense a faster and man of prayer from a distance, and they run far away from him so as avoid a painful blow.

Is it feasible to think that where there is no fasting and prayer, there already is a demon? Yes, it is.

The demons lodging in a person, do not always reveal their presence, but lurk there, stealthily teaching their host every evil and turning him away from every good thing; so this person is certain that he is doing everything on his own, but meanwhile he is only fulfilling the will of his enemy.

Just commence prayer and fasting and the enemy will immediately depart, then wait on the side for an opportunity to somehow return again. And he truly will return, as soon as prayer and fasting are abandoned.

St. Theophan the Recluse: Everyone knows that a church calls for reverence . . .

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“My House shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.”

Everyone knows that a church calls for reverence, for a collecting of thoughts, for deep thinking about God, and for standing in the presence of God, but who fulfills this? People go to church with a desire to pray, to stand in it for a while with warm fervour; but then thoughts begin to wander, and bargaining begins in one’s head even louder than that which the Lord found in the Jerusalem temple.

Why is this so?

Because the way one stands in church is a reflection of one’s entire life. As people live, so do they behave in church. A church influences and somewhat supports spiritual movements; but then the usual course of one’s spiritual constitution takes over.

Therefore if you want your time in church to consist of worthily standing in the face of the Lord, prepare for this in your ordinary life; walk, as much as you can, in a prayerful frame of mind.

This labour will bring you to the point that in church also you will stand reverently all the time. This reverence will inspire you to be reverent in your ordinary life as well. Thus you will walk ever higher and higher. Say, ‘O Lord, help’ —and begin!

St. Theophan the Recluse: Why is it, you ask, that one can pray for so many years with a prayer book . . .

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Why is it, you ask, that one can pray for so many years with a prayer book, and still not have prayer in his heart? I think the reason is that people only spend a little time lifting themselves up to God when they complete their prayer rule, and in other times, they do not remember God. For example, they finish their morning prayers, and think that their relation to God is fulfilled by them; then the whole day passes in work, and such a person does not attend to God. Then in the evening, the thought returns to him that he must quickly stand at prayer and complete his evening rule. In this case, it happens that even if the Lord grants a person spiritual feelings at the time of the morning prayer, the bustle and business of the day drowns them out. As a result, it happens that one does not often feel like praying, and cannot get control of himself even to soften his heart a little bit. In such an atmosphere, prayer develops and ripens poorly. This problem (is it not ubiquitous?) needs to be corrected, that is, one must ensure that the soul does not only make petition to God when standing in prayer, but during the whole day, as much as possible, one must unceasingly ascend to Him and remain with Him.

In order to begin this task, one must first, during the course of the day, cry out to God more often, even if only with a few words, according to need and the work of the day. Beginning anything, for example, say ‘Bless, O Lord!’ When you finish something, say, ‘Glory to Thee, O Lord’, and not only with your lips, but with feeling in your heart. If passions arise, say, ‘Save me, O Lord, I am perishing.’ If the darkness of disturbing thoughts comes up, cry out: ‘Lead my soul out of prison.’ If dishonest deeds present themselves and sin leads you to them, pray, ‘Set me, O Lord, in the way’, or ‘do not give up my feet to stumbling.’ If sin takes hold of you and leads you to despair, cry out with the voice of the publican, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’ Do this in every circumstance, or simply say often, ‘Lord, have mercy’, ‘Most Holy Theotokos save us”, ‘Holy Angel, my guardian, protect me’, or other such words. Say such prayers as often as possible, always making the effort for them come from your heart, as if squeezed out of it. When we do this, we will frequently ascend to God in our hearts, making frequent petitions and prayers. Such increased frequency will bring about the habit of mental conversation with God.

— St. Theophan the Recluse, On prayer, Homily 2
Delivered 22 November, 1864

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