Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Saint Poemen On The Beginning of the Spiritual Path

Repentance and grieving over one's sins is the beginning of the Divine path is the teaching of St. Poemen. Why is this so?  When we repent and stand against evil we will do good and begin to do the will of God.  If we do not repent then we will not recognize our evil actions and continue to go against the will of God.  The is why we so often find ourselves separated from God.  This effort  is mostly a struggle with our thoughts.  We must be ever watchful and ever ready to attack thoughts which are temptations to go against the will of God.

Saint Poemen was approached by one of his spiritual children with the following concern:
"Father! I have many thoughts, and I am in danger because of them."  The old man took him outside and said, "Expand your chest and do not inhale!"  "I cannot do that." answered the brother.  "If you cannot do that then neither can you stem the flow of the thoughts," said the old man. "But your job is to resist them."
It is not the elimination of thoughts that we seek as this is impossible but the ability to minimize and resist them. How do we do this? In general, Saint Poeman would say, "the thing you need most is a sober mind."
First of all, be attentive to yourself and be sober. A brother said that when he was with others, he would amuse himself and return to his cell not the same as when he left it.  He asked how he should act. The elder told him, "When you return to your cell, do you want to find yourself the same as when you left?  Maintain vigilance over yourself both at home and outside the home." 
This is one of our major challenges.  Saint Theophan has also advised us that one way to do this is to  avoid those situations, places and people who led to conditions that arouse thoughts that tempt us.  This is also what Saint Poemen teaches. We must remove ourselves for everything passionate.

Saint Paul also instructs us,

Keep away from any of the brothers who refuses to work or to live according to the tradition. (2 Thessalonians 3:6)

What does this mean practically:  Why go to a bar on Friday evening after work when we might be tempted to drink to much and then our resistance is almost zero?  Why maintain a friendship with a person who continually is asking to do things which you know are not proper?  Why engage in discussions that you know will lead to heated arguments where you end up saying things you wish you had never said?  Why watch movies or TV shows that stimulate unwanted desires? You can surely think of more which apply to your own personal life.  Act on eliminating these temptations from you life.  This combined with a life of prayer, repentance and regular participation in the sacraments will bring you closer to God.

Saint Poemen says,
If a trunk full of clothing is not looked after, then in time the clothing will disintegrate.  So too will the thoughts, if we do not in fact carry them out, vanish in time, as if they disintegrated.
The cure is obvious but not easy to do as we must exercise our will to order our lives is a way that avoids undue temptations. 

Reference: The Spiritual Life, pp 267-269


  1. But Jesus spent time with people that your saying noone should spend time with?? Maybe theres a way of religion and non religion mixing without it messing up the religious person.

  2. Those people Jesus spent time with repented of their sins. If you spend time in the presence of temptation you will fall. He is saying to not put yourself in an environment that tempts you.

  3. Exactly, I fully agree with all of your rhetorical questions. Thanks, and blessings!


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