The prophet indicates this to us, showing that our thoughts are always present to God, saying: “God searches hearts and minds” (Ps. 7:10); and again: “The Holy One knows our thoughts” (Ps. 94:11); likewise, “From afar you know my thoughts” (Ps. 139:3); and “My thoughts shall give you praise” (Ps. 76:11). That we may take care to avoid sinful thoughts, we must always say to ourselves: “I shall be blameless in God’s sight if I guard myself from my own wickedness” (Ps. 18:24).

It is best to see these words in the context of loving mystery. The Divine Life searching the mind and heart, knowing our thoughts, is not about an invasion of privacy or the overseeing of psychological performance. God, as Love, respects the reality of our freedom. Being loved by Love is the freeing of our freedom.

God, the ultimate context, is already within all experience. This can provide us with the gift of a greater knowing, one that is beyond the limitations of ego-view. This knowing is a wisdom that arises from the depths. It is a wonderful mystery that we are already a part of. And as self-consciousness recedes and consciousness grows, we become this wisdom. God has given everything for this to happen. Divine Love is always fully present, fully attentive to us and all creation. God has emptied Godself. To be open and receptive to this fully given God-life is to allow personal, uncreated love to have love’s way with us. Together we become, in Christ, Christ. In this mystery we live our unique being. Benedict wants Paul’s experience of this to be ours as well: ‘it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me’ (Gal 2:20a).

All this requires humility. If we are too caught up in our own ego-view, then the knowing of wisdom will never bloom in us and who we are will never be wholly present in the world.

This is reason enough why the Desert Mothers and Fathers ask us to carefully watch our thoughts, to observe them (and not think about them) as they rise and fall; to be simply conscious of them: their complexity, intensity, when they become internal verbalisations, when they move about as the general energy of emotion[1]. In watching we allow the Holy One to love all thought and emotion into a deeper clarity.

Not over-thinking is avoiding ‘sinful thoughts’, that is, avoiding a pattern of thinking that becomes its own source. This is ego being its own limited notion of wisdom.

Sin here is not a moral commentary on our inner state. It is more about a general ‘falling short’ of how we could be with the energy of thought. We think too much and name thinking as who we are. ‘I think therefore I am’ is perhaps the greatest illusion of our time. It takes humility, courage, and grace to look past this thinking. Here, meditation is vital. It is the mantra that guards the heart from the tyranny of over-thinking.

Community also helps over-thinking. The practicalities of living together, of relying on each other, provide daily opportunities to look past unnecessary thinking. This thinking no doubt still floats around in us. However, concentrating on the washing, on hospitality, cooking and alike can all assist in the undoing of our tendency to think too much, often about ourselves.

Community is the event of coming to know ourselves as we love each other. People need to be committed to each other for this to happen. In this commitment we realise our capacity for both relationship and self-knowledge. One cannot happen without the other. And as community develops, as we meditate together, we eventually realise that we are coming to know others and ourselves with God’s knowledge. This is love. This is wisdom.

For this reason we also, from the day we heard about you, have not ceased praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may live worthily of the Lord and please him in all respects—bearing fruit in every good deed, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might for the display of all patience and steadfastness, joyfully giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light. (Col 1:9-12, NET)

[1] See, for example, Evagrius, Practikos, 50/29-30.

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