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an excerpt from The Wilderness Journal: 365 Days with the Philokalia

Day 187

“In other words, the incensive power, although God-given as a weapon, or, a bow against evil thoughts, can be turned the other way and used to destroy good thoughts as well, for it destroys whatever it is directed against. I have seen a spirited dog destroying equally both wolves and sheep.” St Hesychios the Priest


When I read the word, incensive, it conjures fire in my head even though incense ought to have jumped at me first. No, fire comes to mind and anger too, maybe. If one is “incensed” they are enraged.

So, for St. Hesychios to speak of taming my thought life with an incensive power, I am reminded of fire. It gives warmth, heating the cold bones of this house on frigid days or it can burn the bones of this same house to the ground leaving nothing behind.

To know that this fire is here, within me, is a little disturbing frankly. Maybe that was the point that St. Heysychios wanted to make. We hold within us the ability to preserve our life or to destroy it. We’re building a fire in the forest to light the dark, to keep us from freezing to death in the wild. But we must tend that fire once it is lit.

We’re meant to be discerning about this process, to stay vigilant, to be good stewards of the fire; feed but don’t over feed, tame but don’t smother.