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Lent VI Thursday – Proverbs 23:15 – 24:5
15 Son, if thy heart be wise, thou shalt also gladden my heart; 16 and thy lips shall converse with my lips, if they be right. 17 Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day. 18 For if thou shouldest keep these things, thou shalt have posterity; and thine hope shall not be removed. 19 Hear, my son, and be wise, and rightly direct the thoughts of thine heart. 20 Be not a wine-bibber, neither continue long at feasts, and purchases of flesh: 21 for every drunkard and whoremonger shall be poor; and every sluggard shall clothe himself with tatters and ragged garments. 22 Hearken, my son, to thy father which begot thee, and despise not thy mother because she is grown old. 23 24 A righteous father brings up his children well; and his soul rejoices over a wise son. 25 Let thy father and thy mother rejoice over thee, and let her that bore thee be glad. 26 My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways. 27 For a strange house is a vessel full of holes; and a strange well is narrow. 28 For such a one shall perish suddenly; and every transgressor shall be cut off. 29 Who has woe? who trouble? who has quarrels? and who vexations and disputes? who has bruises without a cause? whose eyes are livid? 30 Are not those of them that stay long at wine? are not those of them that haunt the places where banquets are? Be not drunk with wine; but converse with just men, and converse with them openly. 31 For if thou shouldest set thine eyes on bowls and cups, thou shalt afterwards go more naked than a pestle. 32 But at last such a one stretches himself out as one smitten by a serpent, and venom is diffused through him as by a horned serpent. 33 Whenever thine eyes shall behold a strange woman, then thy mouth shall speak perverse things. 34 And thou shalt lie down as in the midst of the sea, and as a pilot in a great storm. 35 And thou shalt say, They smote me, and I was not pained; and they mocked me, and I knew it not: when will it be morning, that I may go and seek those with whom I may go in company? 24:1 My son, envy not bad men, nor desire to be with them. 2 For their heart meditates falsehoods, and their lips speak mischiefs. 3 A house is built by wisdom, and is set up by understanding. 4 By discretion the chambers are filled with all precious and excellent wealth. 5 A wise man is better than a strong man; and a man who has prudence than a large estate.
Verse 34 paints a scary picture, of the pilot of a ship who lies down and goes to sleep in the midst of a great storm, an image that illustrates the mind of drunkards and whoremongers, who make themselves blind to their impending spiritual destruction, as the sleeping pilot closes his eyes to his impending death in the midst of the tempest. In commenting on this verse, St. Gregory the Dialogist exhorts us to keep mindful watch over the state of our souls:
A person sleeps in the midst of the sea who in the temptations of this world neglects to provide against the attacks of vices that beset him, like waves threatening mountain-high. And the pilot loses his rudder, as it were, when the mind loses all anxious solicitude for guiding the ship of the body. To lose the rudder at sea is to fail to keep attentive forethought amidst the storms of this world. But if a pilot carefully holds fast the rudder, he steers the ship, now against advancing billows, now by cleaving the impetuous winds aslant. So, when the mind vigilantly rules the soul, it now surmounts and treads down some things with forethought, turns aside from others. It thus overcomes the present danger with great toil, and by looking forward, gathers strength to face future conflicts. – from the Pastoral Rule of St. Gregory the Great
As we complete the sacred Forty Days of Great Lent, it would benefit us to ask ourselves if we have grown better at paying more attention to what goes on in our minds as we go through the day. In the course of today and tomorrow, as we prepare for a beneficial observance of Great and Holy Week, let us try this: Pick just one hour of the day, and during that hour pay careful attention at every moment to every thought that enters the mind. We shall encounter a never-ceasing flow of ideas, many of which are useless or even dark and destructive. As soon as such a thought begins, we shall then drive it out with the Prayer of Jesus. The good and necessary thoughts, that guide us aright to fulfill our real duties, will come into focus. The distracting and tempting thoughts will depart. Thus we simultaneously grow in contemplative prayer and in practical wisdom. As St. Theophan the Recluse says, when prayer is right, everything goes right, because prayer will let nothing go wrong.
The divine services of the Triodion have frequently reminded us that Lent is our return to the Paradise that we lost through sin. If we attain even a small measure of spiritual attention, we taste here and now the Paradise that is to come, in the peace of our minds and the joy of our hearts. Let us pray for the firm resolve to resist the absurd distractions and useless worries that consume us, and enter the sacred week of the Passion of the Lord with quiet minds, paying attention to all that God has done for us. By this we invite the grace of the Resurrection of Christ to accomplish within us, once again, the First Resurrection, the resurrection of the soul, which must precede the final Second Resurrection, of the body united to the soul, on the Last Day, unto immortal and everlasting life.
O Christ the Wisdom of God and true Pilot of our souls, guide us by Thy wisdom through the storms of this life, and grant us the grace of true prayer and mental attention. Amen.