Let Us Be Attentive and Struggle On Toward the Goal

The faithful struggle requires a certain intentionality and attentiveness. We must, as the wise author of Proverbs says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance; for from it flow the springs of life.” [Prov. 4.23] Such wisdom — knowledge of the attitude we need in order to press forward and the behavior consistent with the attitude —  is essential to the faithful struggle.

Here is what one of the Church Fathers has to say:

“Be attentive to yourself, lest an unlawful word come to be hidden in your heart” [Deut. 15-9]…”Be attentive to yourself,” it says. Each of the animals by nature has from the God who has constructed all things the resources to guard its own structure. And you would find, if you observed carefully, that most of the non-rational animals have without training an aversion to what is harmful, and again by a certain natural attraction, they hasten toward the enjoyment of beneficial things. Therefore also God who is educating us has given us this great precept, that as this comes to them by nature, it comes to us by the help of reason, and as they are set right without reflection, we may accomplish this through the attentive and continuous care of thoughts. And guarding strictly the resources given us by God, let us flee sin as the non-rational animals flee harmful foods but pursue justice as they pursue nourishing grass. So be attentive to yourself, that you may be able to distinguish what is harmful from what is healthful. But attentiveness is of two kinds: on the one hand we can gaze intently with the bodily eyes at visible things, and on the other hand by its noetic faculty the soul can apply itself to the contemplation of incorporeal things. If we say that the precept refers to the activity of the eyes, immediately we would find it to be impossible. For how could one grasp the whole of oneself with one’s eye? For neither can the eye be used to see itself, nor to reach the head, nor to see the back, nor the face, nor the arrangement of the internal organs deep within. Now it is impious to say that the precepts of the Spirit are impossible. It remains therefore to hear what is prescribed as applying to the activity of the mind. Be attentive to yourself, that is, observe yourself carefully from every side. Let the eye of your soul be sleepless to guard yourself. You walk in the midst of snares [Sir 9.131.] Hidden traps have been set by the enemy in many places. Therefore observe everything, “that you may be saved like a gazelle from traps and like a bird from snares” [Prov 6.5]. For because of keenness of sight the gazelle is not taken by the traps, whence also it gives its name to its own sharp-sightedness; and the bird by lightness of wing ascends higher than the plots of the hunters, when it is alert. Therefore, see that you do not show yourself as worse than the non-rational animals in guarding yourself, lest when caught in the snares you become prey to the devil, taken captive by him into his will [2 Tim. 2.26]. Excerpt from “On the Human Condition,” by St. Basil the Great




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