"First there is provocation; then a coupling with the provocation; then assent to it; then captivity to it; then passion, grown habitual and continuous. This is how the holy fathers describe the stages through which the devil gets the better of us.
"Provocation, they say, is a thought still free from passion, or an image newly engendered in the heart and glimpsed by the intellect. Coupling is to commune with this thought or image, in either an impassioned or a dispassionate way. Assent is the pleasurable acceptance by the soul of the thing seen. Captivity is the forcible and enforced abduction of the heart, or persistent intercourse with the object, disrupting even our best state. Passion, in the strict sense, they define as that which lurks impassionably in the soul over a long period. Of these stages the first is sinless; the second, not altogether free from sin; the sinfulness of the third stage depends on our inner state; and the struggle itself brings us either punishment or crowns of victory.
"The person who rebuffs the initial provocation, or who regards it dispassionately, has at one stroke cut off all the sinful stages that follow.
"Let us cut sin out of our heart, and we will find within us the kingdom of heaven. Let us preserve our heart's purity and always be filled with deep compunction towards God through this best of undertakings."
- St Philotheos of Sinai (9th or 10th Century) -