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St Philotheos of Sinai

St Philotheos of Sinai

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Published by André Rademacher
There is within us, on the noetic plane, a warfare tougher than that on the plane of the senses. The Spiritual worker has to press on with his intellect towards the goal (cf. Phil. 3:14), in order to enshrine perfectly the remembrance of God in his heart like some pearl or precious stone (cf. Matt.13:44-46). He has to give up everything, including the body, and to disdain this present life, if he wishes to possess God alone in his heart. For the noetic vision of God, the divine Chrysostom has said, can by itself destroy the demonic spirits.
There is within us, on the noetic plane, a warfare tougher than that on the plane of the senses. The Spiritual worker has to press on with his intellect towards the goal (cf. Phil. 3:14), in order to enshrine perfectly the remembrance of God in his heart like some pearl or precious stone (cf. Matt.13:44-46). He has to give up everything, including the body, and to disdain this present life, if he wishes to possess God alone in his heart. For the noetic vision of God, the divine Chrysostom has said, can by itself destroy the demonic spirits.

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Published by: André Rademacher on Dec 10, 2009
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12/10/2009

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St Philotheos of Sinai
(9th – 10th century)
Introductory Note 'It is not clear', states St Nikodimos, 'at what dateour holy father Philotheos flourished and died.' He is known to ussolely as the author of the present work Forty Texts on Watchfulness.From his name it is evident that he was a monk of Mount Sinai, whilethe content of his Forty Texts shows that he followed in the traditionof St John Klimakos, abbot of Sinai (sixth-seventh century), whom hequotes (§20; cf §34). His spiritual teaching is also close to that of another Sinaite author, St Hesychios the Priest (?eighth-ninthcentury); 1 the three of them may be regarded as forming together adistinctively Sinaite 'school' of ascetic theology. Certainly later indate, then, than Klimakos, and probably likewise later than Hesychios,Philotheos may have lived in the ninth or tenth century. Clear andconcise, the Forty Texts are especially valuable for the simpledefinitions that they give of key concepts. As the title indicates, StPhilotheos assigns central significance to the quality of watchfulnessor spiritual sobriety (nipsis). In common with St Hesychios, he seesthis as closely connected with inner attentiveness and the guarding of the intellect: the three notions are virtually synonymous. But heunderlines, more explicitly than does Hesychios, the importance of  bodily asceticism and the keeping of the commandments; the inner and the outer warfare go together. Like the other two members of theSinaite 'school', he commends the invocation of the Holy Name, 'theunceasing prayer of Jesus Christ' (§2), which has power to'concentrate the scattered intellect' (§27), thereby enabling it tomaintain continual mindfulness of God. Particularly striking isPhilotheos' insistence upon the remembrance of death, which is to beviewed not as something morbid and 'world- denying', but rather asenhancing the unique value of each moment of time.
 
1.
There is within us, on the noetic plane, a warfare tougher than that onthe plane of the senses. The Spiritual worker has to press on with hisintellect towards the goal (cf. Phil. 3:14), in order to enshrine perfectlythe remembrance of God in his heart like some pearl or precious stone(cf. Matt.13:44-46). He has to give up everything, including the body,and to disdain this present life, if he wishes to possess God alone inhis heart. For the noetic vision of God, the divine Chrysostom hassaid, can by itself destroy the demonic spirits.
2.
When engaged in noetic warfare we should therefore do all we can tochoose some spiritual practice from divine Scripture and apply it toour intellect like a healing ointment. From dawn we should stand bravely and unflinchingly at the gate of the heart, with trueremembrance of God and unceasing prayer of Jesus Christ in the soul;and, keeping watch with the intellect, we should slaughter all thesinners of the land (cf. Ps. 101:8. LXX). Given over in the intensity of our ecstasy to the constant remembrance of God, we should for theLord’s sake cut off the heads of the tyrants (cf. Hab. 3:14. LXX), thatis to say, should destroy hostile thoughts at their first appearance. For in noetic warfare, too, there is a certain divine practice and order.Thus we should force ourselves to act in this way until it is time for eating. After this, having thanked the Lord who solely by virtue of Hiscompassion provides us with both spiritual and bodily food, we shoulddevote ourselves to the remembrance of death and to meditation; on it.The following morning we should courageously resume the samesequence of tasks. Even if we act daily in this manner we will only just manage, with the Lord’s help, to escape from the meshes of thenoetic enemy. When this pattern of spiritual practice is firmlyestablished in us, it gives birth to the triad faith, hope and love. Faithdisposes us truly to fear God. Hope, transcending servile fear, bindsus to the love of God, since 'hope does not disappoint' (Rom. 5:5),containing as it does the seed of that twofold love on which hang 'thelaw and the prophets' (Matt. 22:40). And 'love never fails' (1 Cor.
 
13:8), once it has become to him who shares in it the motive for fulfilling the divine law both in the present life and in the life to be.
3.
It is very rare to find people whose intelligence is in a state of stillness. Indeed, such a state is only to be found in those who throughtheir whole manner of life strive to attract divine grace and blessing tothemselves. If, then, we seek - by guarding our intellect and by inner watchfulness - to engage in the noetic work that is the true philosophyin Christ, we must begin by exercising self-control with regard to our food, eating and drinking as little as possible. Watchfulness mayfittingly be called a path leading both to the kingdom within us and tothat which is to be; while noetic work, which trains and purifies theintellect and changes it from an impassioned state to a state of dispassion, is like a window full of light through which God looks,revealing Himself to the intellect.
4.
Where humility is combined with the remembrance of God that isestablished through watchfulness and attention, and also withrecurrent prayer inflexible in its resistance to the enemy, there is the place of God, the heaven of the heart in which because of God's presence no demonic army dares to make a stand.
5.
 Nothing is more unsettling than talkativeness and more perniciousthan an unbridled tongue, disruptive as it is of the soul's proper state.For the soul's chatter destroys what we build each day and scatterswhat we have laboriously gathered together. What is more disastrousthan this 'uncontrollable evil' (Jas. 3:8)? The tongue has to berestrained, checked by force and muzzled, so to speak, and made toserve only what is needful. Who can describe all the damage that thetongue does to the soul?

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