Many people would agree that the September 11 terrorist attacks changed not only New York, not only America, but most of the world in many ways. We are involved in a 10 years war in which countless people have lost their lives, soldiers and civilians together; our travel experience hase deteriorated tremendously; our watchfulness level has been raised to paranoid heights; even some people report that church attendance, at least in the United States, might have slightly increased as a result.
The main reason for all this change is that the horrible events in New York shook us all to the core and inflicted a wound that cannot be healed without a visible scar. From an emotional point of view this is not surprising since “a traumatic event refutes our basic assumptions about ourselves, others and the world,”  according to psychologists like Steven Gold, a professor at Nova Southeastern University.
Our assumption used to be that life is good, evil and suffering can happen to others and not to us. Once something like this terrorist attacks happened there was a terrible realization of the reality. “We have woken a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve”, said General Yamamoto after Pearl Harbor. The same applies to America pre 9/11 that was living a dream of peace and prosperity when, suddenly, these terrible events took place
Out of this nightmare we’ve learned that evil exists and wants to take over the world. Nobody is sparred; evil is not just happening to others, it can happen to us. In times of peace and prosperity we don’t perceive this, but in suffering we realize its power and its terrible costs.
Spiritually the same thing happens, as long as things are peaceful all is good we feel no need for faith, Church even for God Himself. We are very comfortable living a superficial, apparently fulfilled life. More tragically we have no concept of the unseen spiritual evil force that are at work against us. We play with life at the edge of sin and we expect everything to go well forever.
Then when something happens with us or with someone close to us, and we witness the power of evil and the true consequences of sin, our whole view on life is turned upside down.
God did not create anything evil: angels and humans, as well as the material world, are good and beautiful by nature. However, rational creatures, using, or better said misusing, the gift of free will received from God, can direct this freedom against their Creator and become evil, battling against Him.
This is the unseen warfare that the Fathers speak about, it is the war against the devil, the kind of anti-insurgency war that does not always makes a clear distinction between good and evil. To fight this war we need a great spiritual gift, called diakrisis by the Fathers, the wisdom to distinguish between the two. It all starts with identifying your enemies, telling friend from foe.
In this sorting process, surprisingly however, one can even discover that the worst enemy is oneself. The battle against evil begins inside of us, where all decisions for good and for worse are taken. This is why monks frequently confess their troubling thoughts to their Spiritual Fathers, so they can receive a swift re-direction towards good and away from evil.
The control of our lives starts on the ground zero of our mind. If evil thoughts have not been uprooted from the heart they are bound to manifest themselves in evil actions, says St Philoteos of Sinai. We should not neglect this internal spiritual warfare because in this spiritual arena people are recognized as virtuous or sinful. It is in our powers to become one or the other through the summation of the choices we make everyday.
We should use the unfortunate events that plague our fallen existence and give them meaning by sharpening our awareness of the existence of evil in the world and start preparing our defense against the attacks it brings upon us. We should close the borders of our minds by unceasingly using the name of the Lord in prayer and continue to fight within ourselves the battle against temptations, one thought at a time.