Guarding the Sense of Vision
A certain wise man has called the eyes two braids of the soul which it spreads out like the tentacles of an octopus to receive from afar whatever is desirable to it. Or, if I may say with St. Basil the Great, the eyes are the two “bodiless arms” with which the soul may reach out and touch from afar the visible things it loves. For whatever we cannot touch with our hands, these we can touch and enjoy with our eyes. This is why St. Gregory the Theologian also said: “The lamps of the eyes touch the untouchable.”
It is from these eyes then that we must cut off the vision of those beautiful bodies which tempt the soul to shameful and inappropriate desires. You have heard the great Father St. Basil who said: “Do not play host with your eyes to the visions of bodies that place one at the center of passionate pleasure.” You have also heard the wise Solomon: “Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you” (Prv 4:25). I beseech you then to place all of your attention upon the sense of sight. The eyes look upon something passionately; they fondly dwell upon the idol of beauty; in an instant it is impressed upon the mind; the soul is pleased by the sight of the idol; the mind transmits its appetite and desire to the heart,and the sin is committed without a witness.This this is what the Lord meant when He said,“Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart”(Mt 5:28).
If ever this thief comes and captivates you, fight against him and do not allow any idol of Aphrodite, that is, of any shameful desire, to be impressed upon your soul. How? By taking refuge in God through prayer, which is the most secure way.“Deliverance only comes from the Lord.”(Ps 3:8) Another way is to turn your imagination to another spiritual thought so that one imagination wipes out another and one idol destroys another. Guard your sight well then for it is more beloved by the mind. And because sight is more beloved, the mind makes a deeper impression with its image upon the compass of the imagination. And because they are deeper they are more difficult to wipe out. Those images which we have impressed upon our imagination through our eyes, and curious eyes at that, we either cannot wipe them out at all or we can only after much time and great effort. Whether we are awake or asleep, they do not omit to attack us. In most cases they do not cease to bother us. In short, we grow old with them and we die with them.
From the book, “A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel” by Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite