Today I`ll speak to you about the benefit of keeping vigil in full awareness. As a father teaches his son the secrets of his skill to become a skillful master, any spiritual father has the duty to teach his children the method of keeping vigil.
In the same way my spiritual father, my blessed Elder Sava taught us how to keep vigil in our cell. Of course he told us about his works only with the purpose of knowing from his experience how to keep vigils after God. He always advised us to take heed at vigil and repeated to us what saint Isaac the Syrian said: `Do not consider that one who keeps vigil in awareness a man, but an angel of God.`
And all the Holy Fathers told us how much is renewed in his inner self the monk by vigil. They insisted in urging the monks to keep vigils in their cells to reach a spiritual progress. They left us a very precious teaching about the benefit of the vigil in full awareness and of the self quieting in their cell.
This spiritual vigil (not only in the strictly literal meaning of the word), the vigil after God, with vigilance and prayer, gives great charismas to the zealous monk. However, according to the Holy Fathers, the monk gets eyes of cherubim and by the Grace of God which shadows the one who keeps vigil, the soul becomes angelic. He becomes so awake that he sees the demons from afar who scheme with their cunning to overthrow the struggler. He sees even the smallest movement of the passions and he has the time to take the necessary measures.
Of course he has some real toil because he fights against sleep and with the demons who come to ruin his work of vigilance, rummaging his passions and especially the wandering of his mind. The monk struggles by making prostrations to recollect his wandering mind and take it out from meteorism to lead it to the Mind above the world and unite it with God. And thus with this unification to create in the depth of his soul the feeling of God Who is above any understanding.
The Tent of God, His palace according to the theologians and to saint Dyonisios the Areopagite is the Cloud above any light. From this Cloud above any light the Angels receive the misteries of God, because He reveals them without cease to His Holy Angels (and His revelation has not begun yet)
But the heart of the man becomes a tent of God too. When it frees itself of passions and weaknesses then God makes His shelter in this heart. Then the heart rejoices and the flesh rejoices with the heart too, because according to the Holy Fathers, the flesh shares with the heart the Grace of God.
`Blessed are those pure in their hearts for they shall see God.` The heart feels God alive and then it rejoices, it delights itself with the flesh. And thus the man becomes a shelter of God.
The monk without vigil in full awareness and without prayer and vigilance during the day does not become worthy of the honor of this divine charisma which fills him with grace and adorns him angelically. Therefore from all these we draw the conclusion that without vigil and vigilance in monachal life, the monk becomes deprived of these high charismas of God.
The demons are afraid of vigil. They hate a lot the zealous monk because they don`t want to see the man coming by a spiritual rebirth to the first state, to the one before his fall. Because the monks will take the place they had once when they were near God and they force themselves to impede any monk to keep vigils and to make him be overwhelmed by apathy or slumberness or with the wandering of his mind or anything else.
That is why taking into account this aim of the demons we need to struggle. We must do it with zeal, we must take the rosary and begin the blessed Jesus prayer and meditate about the divine very humbly and with a great purity of the heart. The Grace of God which is always present and ready to shadow the man and change him inwardly will come and will give meaning to the prayer and study.
Therefore by vigil, by prayer and by a careful life the vigilant monk is initiated in the philosophy of God and educated in theology. This education brings to the disciple from the monachal theological school so much beauty and grace that the Saints feel a great joy and love to be near him and help him to go at higher levels.
The opposite ones happen with those educated in a worldly manner but who in essence are mutilated by selfishness. To these ones the education doesn`t bring any spiritual beauty but unfortunately draws them away of God completely and they finally deny Him. Great Anthony says that the men are unjustly called rational when their deeds are not rational. Thus men of science should be called those who meditate about the divine and eternal things of God.
To reach this divine science one doesn`t need to stay in a desk of a university. It is enough to have a quiet cell and the advice of his spiritual father and fulfilling all the time his monachal duties, will always have ascetical struggles.
His struggle will sometimes be fierce against the passions and demons. He will give and receive blows.
And after long years, after God will appreciate his toils and his endless tears will make him worthy of a theological education by the work of the Holy Spirit. The main attributes of this education are the complete self knowledge, meaning the perfect humbleness and the divine love.
Excerpt from the book The Art of Salvation published by Evanghelismos.