OS (Commentary) -- 16
79 The Lord, wishing to show that every commandment is obligatory and that the adoption as son has been given in his own blood, says: ‘When you do those things which have been commanded you, say that we are worthless slaves and what we owe to do we have done.’ [Cf. Luke 17, 10.]
Does not the word of the Lord himself teach us what our attitude must be? Are not the commandments obligatory? Hence, if we are keeping attention and rebutting the demonically sown mental representations or recollections, are we not merely doing what we are commanded by the Lord to do? Is it not something that we, worthless slaves, are obliged to do?
Because of this, the Kingdom of the Heavens
And the adoption as son.
is not the wage of works (erga)
Even ascetical works.
but grace of the Master readied for faithful slaves.
OJW 2. For the quotations given here by St Hesychios, the chapter numeration is the same in both Philokalia G and Mark, as also the actual text and the division into chapters.
If we take the Kingdom of the Heavens to be natural contemplation and the adoption as son to be Theology—without our necessarily wishing to impose the Evagrian schema of the spiritual life on St Mark—then what is being said is that natural contemplation and Theology are not the wage of our ascetical works—our bodily ascesis; our spiritual charity, meekness or humility; our practice of the immaterial war by means of humility, attention, rebuttal, the continual invocation of our Lord Jesus Christ and the memory of death—but are the ‘grace of the Master readied for faithful slaves’.
It should be noted that the adoption as son is equivalent to Theology. For both terms are equivalent to the more modern Orthodox term, divinization (theosis). And, of course, the Kingdom of the Heavens is the Evagrian term for natural contemplation.
St Hesychios has concatenated the next chapter of OJW to this one:
The slave does not demand his freedom
The Kingdom of the Heavens, here conventionally taken to be natural contemplation, and the adoption as son—Theology, unitive prayer to the Holy Trinity, or divinization (theosis).
as a wage,
A wage is something that I have worked for, something that I have a right to.
but he gives thanks as debtor and receives [it] by grace.
This is fundamental to the well-balanced Christian mystic.
80 ‘Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,’ [1 Cor. 15, 3]
‘According to the Scriptures’ means: ‘in fulfilment of the prophecies of the Old Testament’.
and grants the gift of freedom to those who serve him well.
Those who serve him well are those who keep his commandments: ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments.’ ‘He who has my commandments and who keeps them, that man is he who loves me. He, then, who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and make myself manifest to him.’
But the keeping of the commandments is precisely sobriety: the practical life, the immaterial war: humility, attention, rebuttal, the continuous invocation of our Lord Jesus Christ and the memory of death. Now we can understand OS 11: ‘Therefore, in company with the prayer (euche) of Jesus we will also hate wicked thoughts (logismoi); and Behold! we have done the will of God.’ For to do the will of God is to keep his commandments, and St Hesychios’ whole argument is that we keep God’s commandments by cutting off temptations at the moment of assault.
Now if the practical life or sobriety is the keeping of the commandments, then the Lord’s promise, ‘He, then, who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and make myself manifest to him,’ is the promise of natural contemplation and, especially, of Theology: one need only reread the theophany in OS 35 to see that.
But what is being emphasized here is that the promise of natural contemplation and of Theology is not fulfilled as the wage of the works that the believer—here, especially, the monk or Hesychast—has done in fulfilling his part of the bargain—‘“He who has my commandments and who keeps them, that man is he who loves me”; I have kept Jesus’ commandments; hence I love him; hence Jesus must give me natural contemplation and Theology’—but is granted as the gift of freedom to those who serve the Master well, by him who died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.
It might be remarked here that this is the reason the goal of sobriety is the guard of the mind and not contemplation: Since we can pursue the guard of the mind by our own efforts—with the assistance of Grace surely—it is a matter of keeping the commandments. To pursue contemplation, however, is to pursue ‘the Grace of the Master’ in a way that indicates that we think that we have a right to that Grace—as if it were our just due, our just wage. But the latter attitude of arrogance and conceit runs the risk of incurring the wrath of Jesus, who will allow us to be deceived on account of that arrogance and conceit.
For he says: ‘Well, good and faithful slave. Over a little were you faithful; over many things will I place you. Enter into the joy of your Lord.’ [Matt. 25, 21.]
What is being said above concerning works in reference to the Hesychast who is conducting the immaterial war corresponds to this passage of Romans:
Where, therefore, is the boast? It has been excluded. By means of what law? Of works? No, but by means of the law of faith. For we reckon that a man is justified by faith without works of the law.
These dangers are real.
The slave is not yet faithful who is supported by mere gnosis,
Here, ‘mere gnosis’ means ‘mere book knowledge’ or ‘mere intellectual or scholarly understanding of the Scriptures’.
but who believes by means of obedience to Christ who gives the commandments.
The primary attitude of the Christian, including the Hesychast and especially the Hesychast, is that of the obedient slave who keeps the commandments because ‘what we owe to do we have done’, who believes by means of obedience to Christ who gives the commandments.
As we have already remarked in the previous series of quotations from St Mark, St Mark’s doctrine is that intellectual knowledge of the Scriptures, or even of Christian dogma, is not enough: Christ is hidden in his commandments and we find him by keeping those commandments. Here, St Mark is adding the notion that in keeping the commandments, we must have the attitude not of the employee who expects a wage, but of the worthless servant who serves the Good Master.
81 He who honours the Master does those things that have been commanded by him.
The critical edition and the independent text of OJW in the Philokalia both omit ‘by him’. This is insignificant.
Having committed a fault or having been disobedient, he patiently endures as his own the things that come upon [him] [cf. Matt. 24, 45–51].
Being a lover of learning, become also a lover of taking pains. For mere gnosis puffs up the man [cf. 1 Cor. 8, 2].
‘Put what you have learned into practice, because mere gnosis puffs up the man’ is the sense of this passage.
Here it is clear that ‘mere gnosis’ refers to book learning, just as we have discussed previously.
However, ‘mere gnosis’ can also mean ‘mere contemplation’. Let the Hesychast beware. Let him not be puffed up by his minor attainments. Our goal is eternal life, to know the one true God and his son Jesus Christ whom he has sent: that is our adoption as sons. But that is only given by him who died for our sins according to the Scriptures as a gift to a faithful slave.
We must work; we must conduct the immaterial war, the keeping of all the commandments in thought by the cutting off of the demonically sown mental representations at their inception in the intellect, using the method of St Hesychios: humility, attention, rebuttal, continual invocation of Jesus Christ and the memory of death. But we must not boast; we must not be puffed up. We must await our salvation, our adoption as sons, as slaves who have done only what is commanded them. Our salvation, our adoption as sons, comes to us through our faith; it comes when Jesus wants; it comes as a gift to the slave who has served Jesus well. It may come in this life; it may come in the next. Jesus knows the heart of man, what is good for each man.
Our task is to attend to the practice of the immaterial war using the method of St Hesychios, in humility and kindness and expectant love for the Lord, who comes and does not delay. Maranatha. Lord Jesus come. Amen. (Cf. 1 Cor. 16, 22.)
82 Those temptations that unexpectedly occur to us
These are the temptations either through the agency of men, circumstances and real, actual wars or the imminences of war, or directly by the assault, vehement and violent, of the demons.
We heard the renowned ascetic to whom we have already referred, Fr Ephraim of Katounakia, remark that the spiritual life is like a railroad track that has two rails: the one is the spiritual consolation and the other is the Cross; and the train must travel on both rails. Why? These temptations—
teach us by divine dispensation to become lovers of taking pains.
The text of OJW 8 in the critical edition and in the independent text in the Philokalia reads as follows:
8 Those temptations that unexpectedly occur to us teach us by divine dispensation to become lovers of taking pains, and draw us to repentance even when we do not wish.
The phrase in italics is not to be found in the quotation from OJW 8 in OS.
St Hesychios does not speak much of repentance—unless his method be considered a method of repentance—and it is conceivable that he omitted the phrase as not being germane to his argument, but it is just as possible that the omission is due to a copyist’s error.
We must work at our salvation: ‘From the days, then, of John the Baptist until now, the Kingdom of the Heavens is taken by storm and the violent plunder it.’
And the first things that we must work at are poverty and humility. St Hesychios now continues with chapters of his own authorship:
 See TPL 2.
 John 14, 15.
 John 14, 21.
 John 14, 21.
 Rom. 3, 27–8.
 See the commentary on OS 60.
 Mark and Philokalia G, respectively.
 Matt. 11, 12.