Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries

 

TO BISHOP KASTOR

On The Eight Thoughts Of Evil

Excerpt from the PHILOKALIA Series, Volume 1

 

Source :  www.agiosmgefiras.blogspot.com/2014/10/blog-post_15.html

 

 

1. ON RESTRAINING THE BELLY

I will firstly speak of the restraint regarding foods - which opposes gluttony - and about the manner of fasting and the quantity of foods consumed.

And these things do not originate from me; they are what we received from the Holy Fathers. Now then: they did not give us any Canon for fasting, or any method of sustenance - nor the same measures for everyone, for not everyone has the same strength, either due to age or infirmity, or on account of better habits of the body.   However they did give a purpose for everyone: to avoid abundance, and to abhor the satiation of the belly.

They had seen in practice that it is more beneficial and helpful for cleansing to eat once a day, rather than eat every three or four or seven days.  Because -they said- those who extend their fasting inordinately, will afterwards eat inordinately. And after that, either because of excessive abstinence from food, the body becomes listless and less willing for spiritual labours, or, after filling themselves, the weight of the foods consumed causes them to become neglectful and weakens their soul.  

And again, the holy Fathers had tested and concluded that a strictly vegetable or legumes diet is not for everyone, nor can everyone be sustained with only dry bread.  Also others (as the Fathers had said), even after eating two portions of bread can still feel hungry, whereas others may eat one portion or even six ounces and feel sated. So, as I said, the Fathers had given us one Canon for continence: to not be fooled by the satiation of the belly (1), nor be carried away by the pleasure of taste. Because it is not only the difference in the quality of foods but also the quantity that ignites the fervid arrows of fornication. (2) Because when the belly is filled up with whichever food, it begets the seed of corruption. Again, it is not just the superfluous quantity of wine that brings on drunkenness to the mind; the abundance of water and the excessive use of every kind of food also make the soul dizzy and bring on sleepiness. The reason for the Sodomites obliteration was not their debauchery due to wine and the variety of foods, but rather the abundance of bread, according to the Prophet. (3)

The infirmity of the body does not conflict with the purity of the heart when the body is given the things that its infirmity demands and NOT whatever hedonism demands.  We use foods just enough to keep us alive, and not to become enslaved by the urges of desire.  Sustenance in proper measure and within logical bounds assists the health of the body; it does not remove holiness. The precise Canon for continence as delivered by the Fathers is to stop eating before we are full.   Even the Apostle had said:  Do not attend to the flesh, on how to satisfy its desires(4); he did not obstruct the things necessary for governing life, but prohibited the sensual catering thereof.

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Besides, for the perfect purification of the soul, it is not enough to be restrained only with foods, unless other virtues are also contributors. Therefore, humility through obedience and the exertion of the body are greatly beneficial. Abstaining from avarice not only by possessing money, but by not even desiring it will lead to the cleansing of the soul.  Abstaining from rage, from sorrow, from vainglory, from pride... all these things cause a general cleanliness to the soul.  Partial cleansing of the soul through prudence can be particularly achieved through fasting and continence, because it is impossible for the one whose belly is full to wage a noetic war against the spirit of fornication.  Therefore, let our first struggle be to restrain our belly and to subjugate the body. Not only with fasting, but also with night-vigils and toils and spiritual reading, and to contain our heart with the fear of hell and the yearning for the Heavenly Reign.

 

                                                   

 

 

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NOTES:

1. Proverbs 24:14-15.  The one who says to the irreverent you are righteous will be cursed by peoples, and the nations will abhor him; but to those who will check him, it will mean Grace, and the blessing of bounty will come upon them. 

2. Ephesians 6, 16.  Above all, by taking the shield of faith, in which you shall be able to quench all the fiery arrows of the wicked.

3. Ezekiel 16, 49. Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned.

4. Romans 13, 14.  Instead, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not make provision for the flesh to satisfy its lusts.




Translation:   A.N.

Article published in English on: 14-1-2020.

Last update: 14-1-2020.

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