SEEING HOW LAZY I AM AT USEFUL THINGS,
THE SUBTLE SERPENT BECKONS ME TO EVIL,
TRANSFORMING HIMSELF TO SHOW ME THE SWEETNESS OF SIN,
THE WICKED WORK OF HIS OWN HANDS,
CONTRARY TO THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD.
THUS, HE PUSHES ME, //
THROUGH EVIL HABITS, TO ACCEPT EVIL FOR GOOD.
(Verse one, Lord I Call, Monday Vespers, Tone Three, Oktoechos, Monastery of The Myrrhbearing Women trans.)
I was struck by this verse as I was chanting it this morning.
Yes, I know it is for vespers, but since I only have vespers printed out of the Oktoechos, and I am only chanting daily matins, I chant the Lord I Called verses for the Kathisma verses of the following day. I will print out the whole thing one of these days, just like one of these days I will chant both daily matins and vespers. But "one of these days" may be a very long way off, so for now I am blessed to pray some evening verses on the following morning.
Now back to what struck me. I was struck by the devil's dependence on us. My laziness and my evil habits transform the devil into the lying serpent of temptation making the bitter fruit of sin seem to me to be sweet. Through my bad habits, the devil is transformed, through my laziness, I am tempted.
What is even more amazing to me is that in the end, I accept evil for good. That is, thinking I am grasping the good, I choose evil. Like Eve in the Garden of Eden, I am deceived. God created me to long for sweetness, but my laziness and my unwillingness to control myself (bad habits) creates a space in which the devil is transformed into a serpent of deception. The snake lies to me. It tells me bitter is sweet and evil is good.
It is strange. Eve did not desire sin. She desired to be wise, to be like God. I do not desire bitterness, but sweetness; not evil, but good. Yet I am deceived--again and again. Somehow within myself I create the space to be deceived. Laziness, lack of attention, mental inertia: these create the eddies, the little vacuums, in which the evil one is transformed into a serpent.
The only little relief I have found is in a kind of constant inner appeal to God for help. This is often in the form of the Jesus prayer (or some similar cry), but is also sometimes in the form of a wordless ache, or sometimes a light and joyful snippet of a hymn, and most seldom but most radiantly in the form of a quiet peacefulness. I don't get there very often. It usually takes work. I have to force myself to pray, to pay attention to the words of prayer. I experience a little relief. And then I get lazy again. I let old habits of thought have their way.
It seems like I create a lot of eddies in my mind for the serpent to fill with misdirected desire.
And through it all, God is merciful, ever waiting to rush to my aid when I call upon Him. He never chastises me for calling on Him. (I think the bitterness that I bring on myself is the chastisement.)