Watchfulness: The Virtue on Which All Others Depend (Sun. Jan. 16)

The word of the day is “watch.”  In today’s reading of 1 Corinthians 16:13-24, Paul writes “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (OSB vs. 13).  Note that the apostle begins this closing of his letter to his flock in Corinth with the word, “watch” (OSB vs. 13).  This order of thought teaches us that watching is the one thing on which all the other virtues depend.  If we are sleeping, unaware, and unconscious, then we cannot respond to or react to anything.  Thus, all the other virtues that Paul lists depend on our wakefulness.  We cannot “stand fast in the faith.” We cannot “be brave.”  Nor can we “be strong” unless we are on guard in wakefulness.

Watchfulness According to the Philokalia

The Philokalia defines watchfulness as “literally the opposite of stupor.”  It is “spiritual sobriety, alertness, vigilance” (Philokalia Vol. 1 389 ).  When we are watchful, we are fully attentive to all that is going on in our heart, mind, and soul.  And we are ready to resist temptation as it arises in the depths of our inner being.

Therefore, the Philokalia says that “watchfulness is a continual fixing and halting of thought at the entrance to the heart” (Philokalia, Kindle Ed. Loc. 3868).  According, attentiveness notes evil thoughts “as they approach” and the intent of demons is defeated (Philokalia. Kindle Ed. Loc. 3868).

How To Acquire Watchfulness

How do we gain watchfulness?  We have to know what to be on guard against.  We learn that by studying the Word and heeding the command of the Lord who bids us, like the disciples in the Garden, to “Watch and Pray” (Matthew 26:41).  But we learn how to practice that attentiveness of the soul by experience.  As a child will most assuredly learn what a hot stove is by touching it, so we learn by yielding to temptation and received the Lord’s forgiveness.  Better, we learn by turning to Christ in the midst of temptation.  What do we learn?  We learn to recognize the subterfuges of the devil and “to take refuge in Christ, calling on Him…” (Philokalia, Kindle Ed. Loc.3881).

For Reflection

As a mother gently wakes up a child in the morning, so when we are spiritually asleep, most often the Lord does not jolt us into wakefulness.  He gently and loving calls us to awaken to His grace.  If we are spiritually awake, may we be even more vigilant against enticements of sin and disobedience.  But if we are spiritually asleep, may we hear the Lord as He softly summons us to turn from evil and to walk attentively in His light

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