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Evagrios the Solitary...Extracts from the Texts on Watchfulness

Excerpts from The Philokalia

Evagrios the Solitary


Volume 1: p. 53

Extracts from the Texts on Watchfulness

1. A monk should always act as if he was going to die tomorrow; yet he should treat his body as if it was going to live for many years. The first cuts off the inclination to listlessness, and makes the monk more diligent; the second keeps his body sound and his self control well balanced.

2. He who has attained spiritual knowledge and has enjoyed the delight that comes from it will no longer succumb to the demon of self-esteem, even when he offers him all the delights of the world; for what could the demon promise him that is greater than spiritual contemplation? But so long as we have not tasted this knowledge, let us devote ourselves eagerly to the practice of the virtues, showing God that our aim in everything is to attain knowledge of Him.

3. We should examine the ways of the monks who have preceded us, and achieve our purpose by following their example. One of their many helpful counsels is that a frugal and balanced diet, accompanied by the presence of love, quickly brings a monk into the harbor of dispassion.

4. Once I visited St Makarios1 at noon and, burning with intense thirst, I asked for a drink of water. But he said: 'Be satisfied with the shade, for at this moment there are many travelers who lack even that.' Then, as I was telling him of my difficulties in practicing self-restraint, he said: 'Take heart, my son; for during the whole of twenty years I myself have never had my fill of bread, water or sleep; but I have carefully measured my bread and water, and snatched some sleep by leaning a little against the wall.

5. Spiritual reading, vigils and prayer bring the straying intellect to stability. Hunger, exertion and withdrawal from the world wither burning lust. Reciting the psalms, long suffering and compassion curb our incensive power when it is unruly. Anything untimely or pushed o excess is short-lived and harmful rather than helpful.
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