NepsisFebruary 17, 2008
Nepsis is a greek word which means to be watchfull, alert, vigilant and to basically keep a look out. Jesus tells us in the gospel of St Luke 12:37 “Blessed are those servants whom the Lord when He comes, shall find watching.”
St Symeon the New Theologian wrote regarding prayer;
“Attention must be so united to prayer as the body is to the soul…Attention must go forward and observe the enemies like a scout, and it must engage in combat with sin, and resist the bad thoughts that come to the soul. Prayer must follow attention, banishing and destroying at once all the evil thoughts which attention previously fought, because by itself attention cannot destroy them.”
In the divine liturgy of St John Chrysosotom he calls for us to “Watch, therefore, at all times praying.” St Thoephan said that when we pray/
“When praying to God, start as if you had never prayed before.”
To be involved in Nepsis: watchfullness and alert is not only to guard our thoughts against the devil and sin, but also to guard our thoughts on the mind of Christ. To resist the devil by being alert, thus able to concentrate on Christ. St Symeon the New Theologian regarded the struggle of Nepsis thusly.
“Our whole soul should have at every moment a clear eye, able to watch and notice the thoughts entering our heart from the evil one and repel them. The heart must be always burning with faith, humility and love. Do not fear the conflict, and do not flee from it; where there is no struggle, there is no virtue.”
Scripture tells us to put on the full body of armor, for we do not fight against flesh and blood. Nepsis, the struggle. Guard our hearts and minds on the things of God. The Philokalia tells us:
“Vigilance is a firm control of the mind. Post it at the door of the heart, so that it sees marauding thoughts as they come, hears what they say, and knows what these robbers are doing, and what images are being projected….so as to seduce the mind by phantasy.” St Maximus wrote; “let us not sleep, but keep watch about Our Lord and Saviour, to make sure with unceasing vigil that no one should steal Him away from the Sepulchre of our hearts, lest we may have to say at some time; they came while we were sleeping and stole Him away. For we lapse into sleep. So with unceasing watch let us keep Him within the sepulchre of our souls; there let Him rest, there let Him sleep; there when He wills, let Him rise again. Jesus asked his disciples”Could you not pray a little longer?”
With Nepsis and watchfullness, comes a charismatic gift, discernment. By being watchfull we can be alert to things coming into the body of Christ that are harmful, or are from the enemy, thus the gift of discernment is needed by all christians and therefore could benefit from Nepsis. One of the enemies of the christian is a group of thoughts called Logismoi in Greek. The Desert Fathers thought that these were thoughts brought in by demons. These thoughts darken the mind, they bring in doubt, they leave the gate open to other non Godly thoughts. The look good on the outside, but on the inside they are dead mens bones.
How do we practice Nepsis, by the help of the Holy Spirit. He enables us to fight all good battles.