Just and holy war
Publish date 25-06-2023
If there is no one capable of stopping the wars of the world, however everyone can stop the war always ready to break out in his heart.
No other evil transforms man into a devil like anger, said Evagrius, a man of the fourth century and a monk in the Egyptian desert after a public and worldly life in Constantinople.
Wrath is the "wine of dragons", he used to say, a telluric, undisciplined, impudent energy that enrages the soul and makes man irrational. Evagrius refused to call anger "natural." Satan, he said, has nothing against it when it comes to "natural" aggression! He would like to say that there is nothing to be done against it and nothing is more false than this, just as false is the meaning usually given to the term "natural". There is nothing "natural" in any of the vices, be they gluttony, avarice, lust, envy, vanity, depression, pride. Vice is always a perversion of a being created good and for the good; any vice is “against nature”.
However, the enemies "against nature" are always around us, lurking. They besiege the created good being from every side. Their aim is to break down his defenses, conquer his inner space in order to direct his actions in the direction they decide. So yes, here comes the just war, the only good war that must be fought: the one with negative thoughts and feelings that want to convince us that we are "natural" and therefore legitimate and inevitable.
Can this war be won? Certain. All men are created in the image of God and this sacred mark is not lost even if they fall. For many, then there is baptism, a regenerating force that makes one reborn as a new person from immersion. Eh, but it's just the new person that temptations love to attack! Where are the resources to push them back? Inside the man himself: the "rational part" must take command, ally with the "irascible part", an imperfect translation of the Greek thymikòn, devoid of the negative meaning we have just given to anger. It is the vital drive, the energy, the will. Together, reason and life energy can lead the "concupiscible part" in the right direction, that is the desire which, if it tends towards true love and not towards useless and miserable loves, becomes magnanimity, patience, meekness, humility: God in us .
Easy war? Not at all. You can't fight one vice without fighting all the other seven at the same time. This, says Evagrius, is a war on all fronts, it never ends and does not include peace treaties. It foresees a single but lethal weapon, as powerful as an atomic bomb that only hurts evil: prayer. But even prayer is no joke, says Evagrius: it is an art, a praktiké that is learned by practicing it.
Starting with keeping the memory of the evil received at bay. It is a slow and gradual journey that never arrives or has a permanent hold. Yet it knows more and more spaces of a stillness and an unspeakable joy which, yes, resembles the pure prayer loved by God.
NP Marzo 2023