St. Theophan the Recluse: Evolution of Sin
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Wednesday, September 6 (19), 2001

Gal. 6:2-10; Mk. 7:14-24

"From within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness" [Mk.7:21-22].  Most common sins are listed here, but all other sins, great and small, proceed from the heart, initially appearing as evil thoughts.

First seeds of evil drop into the mind as sinful thoughts.  How and why do they drop?  Some of them come from images and ideas which we acquire from the outside world, but that's only a small share.  The other, larger share is due to the internal progress of passions.  When a passion takes residence in one's heart, by necessity it demands satisfaction.  This demand takes shape of craving for something; craving is linked to its object.  Hence comes the thought like "Why don't I do such-and-such thing?…"  Similar process evolves, for instance, in a hungry person: hunger causes craving for food, whereby food itself moves into focus of one's mind, and then comes a thought of getting something to eat.

Finally, the third and probably the largest share of sinful thoughts is caused by evil spirits.  They fill the air, swarming around us in numerous hordes, spreading their influence, each one of its own kind.  They scatter evil like sparks from molten iron.  Wherever there is a weak spot in a human soul, a spark drops down, giving origin to an evil thought.  Such is the reason for otherwise puzzling, unprovoked and uncalled for evil thoughts in a human mind.

But no matter what their cause might be, there is one simple strategy of dealing with sinful thoughts.  As soon as your mind has detected such a thought, reject it as something alien to you and forget about it.  If you don’t' reject it in the first moment, it will be harder to do in a few seconds, and the longer it stays, the harder it gets to reject.  After a short while an interest to the thought will evolve inside your mind, then you feel like following it, after that you will find the means… and behold, the sin is committed.

The first and strongest line of defense against sinful thoughts is sobriety and vigilance with prayer.

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