Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Offsite Post: ‘Eternal Vigilance’

There is a famous quote in the States:  ‘The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.’  Short though it is, it carries with it great spiritual significance.

Man is indeed supposed to be constantly watching, but watching diligently the thoughts of his heart, not the seething waves of the political ocean.  But the latter is precisely where he has set his eyes, which can only do harm to the soul:

Being Attentive

Without wishing to minimize the importance of skilled craftsmanship (which the Holy Mountain has been practicing and supporting throughout its long history), I would like to focus on the logically prior moment of “attentiveness” itself, independent of any (logically sequent) activity for which it might be deemed necessary or useful. As we shall see, attentiveness offers us a profound and effective response to our modern culture of organized distractions. To be sure, the “ethics and ascetics of attention” that Crawford is seeking are central to Orthodox anthropology and moral psychology, namely: the practice of “attentiveness” (προσοχή) or “attending (or giving heed) to thyself” (προσέχειν σεαυτώ).

This phrase–which is only superficially related to the Socratic injunction to “know thyself” (γνώθι σαυτόν) occurs in various forms in the New Testament, but is in fact derived from the Book of Deuteronomy (Old Testament) 4:9: “Attend (or Give heed) to thyself, and keep thy heart diligently” (πρόσεχε σεαυτώ και φύλαξον τήν ψυχήν σου σφόδρα), or, alternately, from Deuteronomy 15:9 “Attend to thyself, that there be no hidden, iniquitous word in your heart” (πρόσεχε σεαυτώ μή γένηται ρήμα κρυπτόν έν τή καρδία σου ανόμημα). The phrase, which is an ethical imperative, has a long and rich history, from which only a few examples can be cited here.

“…Although the Life of Saint Anthony does not describe the practice of attentiveness in any detail, Saint Basil the Great describes it at length. Far from mere external “self-observation,” and having nothing to do with any kind of solipsistic self-absorption, “attentiveness” is comprehensive in scope, being at once:

(1)  the awakening of the rational principles that God has placed in the soul;

(2)  vigilant stewardship over the movements of the mind, which governs the movements of the body and society as a whole;

(3)  the awareness of the mind’s (or soul’s) priority over the body, and of the beauty of God over sensory pleasure;

(4)  an engagement with reality and a rejection of mental fantasies;

(5)  self- examination and the refusal to meddle in the affairs of others;

(6)  , and least, the very knowledge of God, insofar as the “self” is the image of God, a connection with which Basil concludes the entire sermon: “Give heed, therefore, to thyself, that you may give heed to God” (πρόσεχε ούν σεαυτώ, ίνα προσέχης Θεώ”).


The practice of attending to the self, firmly established by the 4th century, remained central to Christian anthropology and ethics. Subsequent generations of writers and practitioners developed the concept, generally aligning attentiveness with cognate practice such as “stillness” (ησυχία) and “vigilance” (νήψις). In this more comprehensive form–already suggested by Saint Basil–it was given a foundational role in Christian life, and was ultimately considered a necessary presumption or pre-condition for salvation.

The extraordinary emphasis given to attentiveness is explained, not simply because the human mind is prone to distraction, but because the disintegration of our inner life began precisely with the fall, when humanity separated itself from God. “Distraction,” from this point of view, has rightly been called “the original sin of the mind.” (Source: Orthodox Heritage)

--Protopresbyter George Konstantopoulos, http://www.pravmir.com/attentiveness-and-digital-culture/

Because American man does give far too much heed to politics, every election becomes an apocalyptic event.  A couple of examples from the 2018 election cycle:

 . . .


Holy Ælfred the Great, King of England, South Patron, pray for us sinners at the Souð, unworthy though we are!

Anathema to the Union!

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