Like traders sailing on a ship during fair winds and a calm sea fear that sudden strong
winds and turbulent waters may place their ship in danger before they reach port, so do
Christians, even though they feel benevolent winnowing of the Holy Spirit, , fear that an ill-wind may arouse a turbulence of passions. Consequently, it is essential to take great care in order to reach the tranquil port of eternal life and eternal joy — the cities of Saints, Heavenly Jerusalem and the Churches of the firstborn. (Hebr. 12:23). St. Macarius the Great
Evil spirits bind a fallen soul with shackles of darkness. That’s why it is not in a position
to love God as much as it wants, nor have faith, nor pray as much as it would like. After all, since the fall of the first person, resistance against good has become deep-seated in us both openly and clandestinely. St. Macarius the Great
“A strange illness has appeared in our days – the passion for distractions. Never before was there such a desire for distractions; people have forgotten how to lead a serious life for the good of others; they have no spiritual life and are bored. They exchange the profound content of a spiritual life for distractions! What madness! It is here that pastors must deploy their strength: they must re-introduce into life its lost meaning and give back to the people the knowledge of the true purpose of life.”
We need knowledge based on experience to understand these things (the spiritual life), and that if we wish to attain knowledge of God mere reading or listening is not enough. For reading and listening are one thing, and experience is another. One cannot become a craftsman simply by hearsay: one has to practice and watch, and make numerous mistakes, and be corrected by those with experience so that through long perseverance and by eliminating one’s own desires one eventually masters the art. Similarly, spiritual knowledge is not acquired simply through study but is given by God through grace to the humble. – St Peter of Damascus
‘When we misuse the soul’s powers their evil aspects dominate us. For instance, misuse of our power of intelligence results in ignorance and stupidity; misuse of our incensive power and of our desire produces hatred and licentiousness. The proper use of these powers produces spiritual knowledge, moral judgment, love and self-restraint. This being so, nothing created and given existence by God is evil.’
St. Maximos the Confessor
An elder said: “Joseph of Arimathea took the body of Jesus and placed it in a clean shroud in a new sepulchre [cf. Mt 27:57–60], that is, in a new man. Let each one studiously endeavour not to sin in order not to do violence to the God who dwells within him and drive him out of his soul. Manna was given to Israel to eat in the desert: to the true Israel the Body of Christ was given.”
The Anonymous Sayings of the Desert Fathers (p. 23). Cambridge University Press.
“Whatever our mind has been thinking of before the hour of prayer, is sure to occur to us while we are praying through the activity of the memory. Wherefore what we want to find ourselves like while we are praying, that we ought to prepare ourselves to be before the time for prayer.”
St John Cassian, First Conference of Abbot Isaac
Our mind wanders so much during prayer, doesn’t it? I know mine does. And so what St. John says here holds very true. If we are surrounding ourselves with heavenly things, then when it comes time for prayer, at the least, heavenly things will be in and on our mind. This will snowball -if you will permit my poor analogy- and build upon itself. Holiness begets holiness. As well, sin begets sin.