Daily Meditations


Numerous are the passages which tell us about watchfulness, thus securing it scripturally. We shall refer to a few selectively.

There is a passage in the Old Testament which is a true neptic treasure: “Take heed to thyself that there be not a secret thing in thine heart, an iniquity …”(1). Attention to yourself, fathoming inside the abyss of your heart to the extreme limits of your conscious or unconscious personality is the manifestation, practice and dimension of watchfulness: “Take heed to thyself…”

In Proverbs 4:23 the divinely inspired author writes: “Keep your heart with all vigilance”.

In the 25th chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew, the Lord narrates the very delightful but also painful parable of the ten virgins. Who really doubts that parable as being one of watchfulness, spiritual wakening and ever-readiness of the bride-soul? Could it be that with this story Christ wanted to stress to us the readiness of the mind, the uninterrupted and awakening of the heart; that is, its watchfulness inside the frightful night of passions and the quick darkness of the world outside of and within us? Could it be that Christ, the Divine Bridegroom, wanted to characterize the guarding of watchfulness as true wisdom and its loss as foolishness?

The five wise Virgins had oil in their lamps, the oil of love, and they had light, the light of watchfulness and prayer. The five foolish ones had neither one nor the other. For indeed love and watchful prayer are united together and compose a worthy preparation for the Bridegroom. But even with ardent, spontaneous, existential love with “all one’s soul, heart and strength”, perfect love towards Christ and towards one’s neighbour-brother, one still cannot have the light of watchfulness and prayer. Yet without that Light you do not know where you are, where you are walking, where you are heading, you cannot even see your own self, nor your brother, nor the demons, not even the Bridegroom Himself Who comes “to the marriage feast”. When love lessens, watchfulness and prayer are extinguished. Still without watchfulness and prayer you cannot always keep your lamp filled with the oil of love.

Behold the sweetest end of the work of watchfulness and love: “The Bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with Him to the marriage feast “(2). And the awful end of negligence: “Afterward the other virgins came also saying, “Lord, Lord, open to us”, but He replied, “Truly I say to you, I do not know you.”(3)

Let us hear the analysis that St. Mark the Ascetic makes for us on this in the Philokalia: (4)

” … The foolish virgins did indeed preserve their outer virginity, yet in spite of this were not admitted to the marriage-feast; they also had some oil in their vessels, that is, they possessed some virtues and external achievements and some gifts of grace, so that their lamps remained alight for a certain time. But because of negligence, ignorance and laziness they were not provident, and did not pay careful attention to the hidden swarm of passions energized within them by the evil spirits. Their thoughts were corrupted by … this demonic activity and shared in it. They were secretly enticed and overcome by malicious envy, by jealousy that hates everything good, by strife, quarrelling, hatred, anger, bitterness, rancour, hypocrisy, wrath, pride, self-esteem, love of popularity, self-satisfaction, avarice, listlessness, by sensual desire which provokes images of self-indulgence, by unbelief, irreverence, cowardice, dejection, contentiousness, sluggishness, sleep, presumption, self-justification, pomposity, boastfulness, insatiateness, profligacy, greed and by despair which is the most dangerous of all…

“Thus they were deprived of the joy of the Bridegroom and shut out from the heavenly bridal chamber. Pondering, assessing and testing all this, let us realize our situation and correct our way of life … Therefore, my son, he who wishes to take up the cross and follow Christ must first acquire spiritual knowledge and understanding through constantly examining his thoughts, showing the utmost concern for his salvation, and seeking God with all his strength … so that he does not travel in the dark without light, not knowing how or where to walk.

The conclusion of the parable is nothing more than a commendation of the Lord for watchfulness and wakefulness. “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man comes” (5).

In Mark 13:33, with the same thought in mind, He says: “Take heed, watch and pray”. What impresses one is the first one, which in the Greek not only means “take heed”, but also “look”. Rightfully, then, did the holy Fathers name watchfulness the vision and the eye of the soul.

~ Watchfulness and Prayer, Themes from the Philokalia, Number 1, 2nd Edition, Publications of the Holy Monastery of St Gregory Palamas, Koufalia, Thessaloniki, Hellas


1. Deut. 15:9, LXX.

2. Mt. 15:10.

3. Mt. 25:11 -12.

4. St. Mark the Ascetic, “Letter to Nicholas the Solitary”, in Philokalia, vol.1, pp.150-151.

5. Mt. 25:13.