In the spirituality of the Philokalia, learning to combat the attacks of the enemy involved a consistent practice of watchfulness. For them, by encountering our Lord in the solitude of the heart and through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, one was able to see the first inklings of sin long before they surfaced into fantasies and other sense images. In this way, one was able to discover deeper dynamics of disorder that often lie hidden below the surface of our conscious awareness.
The most practical application of this wisdom that I have seen is learning to see how disordered patterns of thinking, feeling, and desiring manifest themselves in the body. Often times, such patterns carry with them psychosomatic symptoms that can help us to understand and address both temptation and desolation at its earliest onsets. Thus, mastery of our interior life must be intimately tied with mastery of our physical bodies as well.
Once we “see” the disorder in its earliest stages, we can then apply a whole host of potential remedies. Perhaps we can apply to an arrow prayer with the breath in order to gently let the disorder come and go. Also, we can use ways of relating to the Lord that are more analytic in order to explore and interpret our interior life under the light of revelation and our on-going relationship with Jesus Christ. We can even use our imagination in ways that help us to observe, process, and ultimately let go of these deep attachments.
As we learn to recognize and address the deep roots of sin, little by little the Holy Spirit will unlock spiritual creativity and a new found confidence in the Lord. We have such an incredible witness to this creativity and energy in our current Pope, a man who is constantly able to speak words of liberation and healing.
Today, let us walk the path of self-knowledge so as to make ourselves available to the work of the Holy Spirit. Let us walk the path of asceticism whereby we learn to curb the unruly aspects of our interior life which need to be brought under the gentle guidance of reason. In this, let us submit all parts of our life to the living vitality of Christ’s law, a law not of duty and obligation, but of true spontaneity in the Spirit.