Feast of the Holy Martyr Agathonicus
IF WE DO not call upon God every time we undertake something, and do not have Him working with us, we may offer the evil one a way in. And letting him enter like this not only makes us useless but brings us to a disastrous end. He stirs up people to such a frenzy of rage one against the other about trivial matters and pretexts, that some fall victim to their kinsmen’s swords, while others go through life stained by their compatriots’ blood, either in their thoughts and souls, or on their murderous hands. For a mind far from God becomes either like a beast or a demon, and once it has gone beyond the bounds of nature it desires what belongs to others and cannot satisfy its greed for gain. Such a man surrenders himself through his deeds, but desires to be revered by all. It is his wish that everyone should flatter him, agree with him and assist in putting his ideas into practice, and if this does not happen—for how could it?—he is filled with uncontrollable rage. In his anger and aggressiveness towards his fellows he resembles a snake. The man becomes a murderer, and he who was made in God’s image and likeness comes to resemble Satan, who was a murderer from the beginning (Jn. 8.44).
The one cause of all these evils is that our mind is far removed from the fear and remembrance of God, and opens the way for cooperation with the most evil enemy. If, however, every time we do anything we make our soul secure beforehand by means of hymns and prayers to God, our adversary will find no place in us. Then the whole tribe of evils surrounding him will be driven away as well, and harmony, chastity, righteousness, meekness and humility will adorn our souls. Bound to one another by love, we shall live peaceful lives without discord, having Christ, the King of Peace, in our midst through continuous converse with Him.
That is why every morning before any work begins God’s Church draws us towards it with the sound of hallowed bells. Because daily converse with God through prayer and psalmody calms and transforms all attacks, repulses fleshly desires, blunts covetous thoughts, purges away conceit, destroys envy, educates anger, banishes remembrance of wrongs and, setting aside bitterness and contention, bestows every kind of peace, good order and comfort on towns, homes, souls and bodies, for married people as well as those who have embarked on the monastic life. Put simply, this is the foundation and assurance of everything good, driving away every evil and misfortune and redeeming us from it.
—St Gregory Palamas, On the Raising of Jairus’ Daughter