Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Passions that control us ( St. John Damascene )

These eight passions should be destroyed as follows:  
gluttony by self-control; unchastity by desire for God and longing for the blessings held in store; avarice by compassion for the poor; anger by goodwill and love for all men; worldly dejection by spiritual joy; listlessness by patience, perseverance and offering thanks to God; self-esteem by doing good in secret and by praying constantly with a contrite heart; and pride by not judging or despising anyone in the manner of the boastful Pharisee (cf. Luke 18 : 11–12), and by considering oneself the least of all men.

When the intellect has been freed in this way from the passions we have described and been raised up to God, it will henceforth live the life of blessedness, receiving the pledge of the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Cor. 1 : 22). And when it departs this life, dispassionate and full of true knowledge, it will stand before the light of the Holy Trinity and with the divine angels will shine in glory through all eternity.”

St. John Damascene

Battling a passion ( St. Paisios )

Once, the father of a girl who had cancer, and whom the doctors told that she had only a few more months to live, came to the Holy Mountain. He brought some of her belongings so that the "Father" could bless them, and asked the Elder to pray for his daughter.

The Elder said to him:

—I shall pray, but you, as a father, should bring some sacrifice to God, for the sacrifice of love greatly "predisposes" God to help.

The father asked:

— What shall I sacrifice, Gheronta? The Elder said:

—What passions do you have? Sacrifice one of them. Not being very spiritual, the father answered:

— I do not know, I have no passion….

Then the Elder asked:

— Do you smoke?

— Yes, — he answered.

— So, give up smoking out of love for your daughter, and then God will cure her.

He promised to do that and, really, gave up smoking. After that, the girl began to recover gradually, until she became completely healthy. The doctors later confirmed her full recovery.

After a while, the father, apparently having forgotten about his vow, started smoking again. At the same time, the cancer began to return to his daughter, so that she found herself in the previous grave state.

Then the father again came to the Holy Mountain and visited the Elder.

The Elder, looking at him sternly, said:

—If you, as a father, do not have enough piety to sacrifice your passion and save the life of your child, then there is nothing I can help you with.

The Elder persistently emphasized the fact, that a man does not have the right to say, "I cannot," he can only say: "I do not like" or "I do not want."

When people, overwhelmed by some passion, say, that some force prevents them from doing good, they should know that this force is nothing else but their own force, which is given them for loving, but that began to act in the wrong direction. And, inasmuch as they love their passions, they naturally do not want to cast them off, because you do not wish to lose that which you love.

Consequently, when coming to hate a passion, one should find something better and elevated to replace it with. For, if a man cannot find anything better for himself, he will not know where to direct his love and his forces, and will suffer because of this.

"Very often people came to me and asked:

— Gheronta, I smoke, and cannot give it cigarettes. What should I do?

The Elder asked: — Do you want to give it up?

I hear the answer: — Yes, Gheronta, I tried many times, but in vain.

Then the Elder said: — Yes, it happens! … From this moment on, stop smoking, and God will help you."

The person, subjected to the passion, normally objects:

— No, Gheronta, I cannot!

Then the Elder, interrupting him before he can finish the phrase, powerfully said:

— There is no "I cannot," fulfill it and that’s all! Do not give in to the thoughts, which suggest that you will not be able to deal with this habit.

In this way, the Elder instilled in each of us, that we are autocratic. If we became the slaves of some passion, then this happened according to our own will. And, if we remain its slaves, then only through attachment to it, because we are delighted to be in servitude.

But when we fall in love with our freedom and our being with Christ, then from that moment on, when we want it, we become free from passions and become God’s children. This proves, that we are autocratic. Moreover, Christ gave His commandments to ordinary sinners and, consequently, slaves of sin. He commanded them to get freed from the yoke of sin and to come nearer to Him. He said to the fornicator: "Do not sin," to the thief: "Do not steal," and to the wrong-thinking: "Do not judge."

If we were involuntary slaves, then God would not command: "Leave that place and come to Me," for we would have been unable to fulfill it. Therefore, if He tells us, that we should leave them on our own, this means that we voluntarily submit to our passions, love them and long for them. But at the moment that we start hating them and turn our love to God, then we are immediately freed.

Thus, it is necessary to:
realize, that we voluntarily gave ourselves to passions and are therefore sick,
hate our passion, which is destroying us,
love God and virtues.

This will put us on the path to moral freedom and true happiness.

St. Paisios