In Writings from the Philokalia: on Prayer of the Heart, a story is recounted of Abba Mark in which he instructed his spiritual son, Nicholas, on how to overcome the passions. There are “three giants” in the heart, according to Abba Mark, which must be conquered:
On first glance, they appear somewhat wooden, obvious.. After just a few minutes of deeper reflection, it became apparent to me that they are the pattern of any life which feels itself to be coming up short.
The opposite, said Abba Mark, was a way of life which (1) learned the knowledge of God (the “word of God”), (2) remember it constantly, and (3) harmonizes our will and life. The opposite of ignorance is knowing the word of God. The opposite of forgetfulness is constant remembrance. The opposite of laziness is the actual putting into practice of what we know to be true.
These three “giants” are not incredibly complex. They are rather obvious.
What must be done is what the above book describes as tearing ourselves away “from the whirl of the world with its multitudinous vain cares” and instead “striving constantly to keep attention on the kingdom of heaven which is within us.”
I find, the more days I live, that the real problem with “the world” is not that it is so terribly wicked. The problem is that it is so terribly distracting. The constant question with which I live is this: “How do I maintain my fixation on the kingdom of God, on what is real?” How do I avoid the all too prevalent tendency to become commandeered by the world’s expectations?
Knowledge. Remembrance. Action. Simple steps, but which require resolve, fortitude, grit.