As we have said, when speaking of the passive purgation of the senses, contemplation begins by a state of quiet that is very feeble, and hardly perceptible. A remembrance of God, vague, obscure, persistent and monotonous, a love not less vague and indistinct, and a dolorous need of possessing God by a closer union from the groundwork of this state. The quietude is too feeble to allow the soul to taste the sweetness of the divine presence. The soul thirsts and God gives her to drink not of “a stream” but of “a puny rill of water” as “to a child.” She is far from swimming in delights, but she is, in some small degree, relieved of her thirst, and held captive, for she feels the need of being alone with God, and, if she suffers in that state, she would be far worse off elsewhere. –Abbot Vitalis Lehodey “The Ways of Mental Prayer”
In the whole range of evil thoughts, none is richer in resources than self-esteem; for it is to be found almost everywhere, and like some cunning traitor in a city it opens the gates to all the demons. So it greatly debases the intellect of the solitary, filling it with many words and notions, and polluting the prayers through which he is trying to heal all the wounds of his soul. All the other demons, when defeated, combine to increase the strength of this evil thought: and through the gateway of self-esteem they all gain entry to the soul, thus making a man’s last state worse than his first (Matt 12:45). Self-esteem gives rise to pride, which cast down from heaven to earth the highest of the angels, the seal of God’s likeness and the crown of all beauty. So turn quickly away from pride and do not dally with it, in case you surrender your life to others and your substance to the merciless (cf. Prov. 5:9) demon is driven away by intense prayer and by not doing or saying anything that contributes to the sense of your own importance.
When the intellect of the solitary attains some small degree of dispassion, it mounts the horse of self-esteem and immediately rides off into cities, taking its fill of lavish praise accorded to its repute. But by God’s providence the spirit of unchastity now confronts it and shuts it up in a sty of dissipation. This is to teach it to stay in bed until it is completely recovered and not to act like disobedient patients who, before they are fully cured of their disease, start taking walks and baths and so fall sick again. Let us sit still and keep our attention fixed within ourselves, so that we advance in holiness and resist vice more strongly. Awakened in this way to spiritual knowledge, we shall acquire contemplative insight into many things; and ascending still higher, we shall receive a clearer vision of the light of our Savior. –Philokalia. Evagrios the Solitary ‘Text on Discrimination of Passions and Thoughts’
It is, therefore, impossible to separate the soul from sin unless God should come and turn back this evil wind which inhabits both the soul and body. As anyone who watches a bird flying may wish that he himself could fly—yet still he cannot fly, being without wings—so also a man may have the will to be pure, to be without blame and spotless, to be always without evil and in communion with God, yet he does not have the power to fly into the divine air and enjoy the liberty of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 3:18). The divine aspirations are not enough. If he does not have the wings given him, he cannot fly. Let us pray therefore to God that He give us “the wings of a dove” (Ps 55:7); of the Holy Spirit so we may fly to Him and find rest and that He may separate and take away from our soul and body such an evil wind-namely, sin itself, which inhabits the members of our soul and body. —St Macarius the Great
With good reason is this state called a purgation. For it purifies our souls from pride. Inebriated with Divine consolations, they used to deem themselves good; plunged in a universal disgust, powerless to meditate, reduced to the production of a few meagre affections without variety or unction, assailed often by most humiliating temptations, they feel their misery, convinced by force of evidence that they are worth very little, and that without God they can do nothing; they are, in consequence, disposed to make themselves very small in the presence of so much greatness and sanctity, to have a greater respect for His majesty, and to pray to Him with more humility, As they find themselves plunged in darkness, they more willingly have recourse to the wisdom of their superiors, and become simple and docile; they are also too much occupied and penetrated with the sense of their own miseries to observe those of others with a malignant curiosity; and thus indulgence towards the faults of others, mutual forbearance, esteem and charity increase along with humility.
This state also purifies souls from spiritual gluttony and all inordinate love of spiritual joys. The soul was greedy of consolations, she wished to find her pleasure in the presence of God; now, this inordinate love of spiritual pleasures dies for want of food; as time goes on she learns to do without emotions, to give herself to God without any selfish interest, to serve Him at her own expense and no matter what it costs the animal part is weakened by being deprived of sensible sweetness, the passions lose their force, and are reduced to order; little by little she dies to herself, and the divine life meets with fewer hindrances. –Rev Dom Vitalis Lehodey ‘The Ways of Mental Prayer’
Therefore, in our present situation the will must be corrected by a double effort. First, our effort should go towards total submission of our will to God and to conformity to His divine will. Secondly, a great effort is necessary to increase the power of the will with regard to the interior faculties until it can subject them completely to itself. In other words, one must attempt to regain, at the cost of great effort and the help of grace, the initial rectitude that the will enjoyed when it came forth from the creative hands of God. –Silence: A Series of Conferences Given by a Camaldolese Hermit