I was reading an excerpt from a book entitled Evagrius of Pontus: Talking Back. It has the subtitle of “A Monastic Handbook for Combating Demons” – quite the promising volume, I would say!
Evagrius lists “thoughts” that come from demons, or from our own concupiscence, I guess, and offers Scripture verses to combat them – “talking back” to the demons in the words of Scripture. Evagrius, according to the introduction, emphasized the importance of confronting the thoughts as soon as possible, and heading them off at the pass, so to speak, before the thoughts can become sinful actions. Evagrius notes the need for the grace of discernment to do this.
I know only too well the value of cutting off the demons’ voices early in the game! I hope I am learning to do that.
Well, anyway, last night when I went out to the chapel, there was a spider on the wall. As I usually do, I removed my shoe and squished the little creepy crawler. I don’t like spiders. But it made me think of Evagrius and the demons.
My chapel seems to be quite attractive to spiders, and a few other bugs. But mostly spiders. Perhaps that’s because it was just a garden shed once upon a time, and maybe the spiders had taken up residence in force. Certainly there were more spiders in the beginning than there are now.
But that brings us back to Evagrius. When the shed became the chapel, and I saw spiders crawling out of the woodwork, I started killing them. And slowly, there became less of them. I think that is an apt analogy for “talking back” to the demons. Cut them off at the knees with Scripture, and after a while there will be fewer of them!
With the spiders, my discernment of their presence has grown. I am very, very sensitive to them, and I am very, very vigilant, too. I hate it when they scurry across the page of my prayer book in the middle of a psalm! I don’t like spiders. Oh yes, I think I mentioned that. When I walk into the chapel, I usually take a quick look around. I have become expert at spotting the tiniest dark spot on the white walls, and identifying it as a spider. Off comes the shoe; down goes the spider!
Now, if I can hone my demon-discerning skills to that level, I will be making some progress! I guess there’s a lesson there. I must be as vigilant and discerning about the thoughts that enter my mind as I am about the spiders that enter my chapel.
And Scripture certainly will make an effective “shoe” with which to squish them.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.