Gleanings from Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers


7 Entries

It is known that the body has three kinds of carnal movements.

The first is a natural movement, inherent in it, which does not produce anything (sinful, burdening the conscience) without the consent of the soul and merely lets it be known that it exists in the body.

The second kind of movement in the body is produced by too abundant food and drink, when the resulting heat in the blood stimulates the body to fight against the soul and urges it towards impure lusts. Wherefore the Apostle says: "be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess" (Ephesians 5:18). In the same way the Lord commands His disciples in the Gospels: "take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness" (Luke 21:34). And those who are monks, and are zealous to achieve the full measure of sanctity and purity, should take particular care always to keep themselves such that they can say with the Apostle, "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection" (1 Corinthians 9:27).

The third movement comes from the evil spirits, who thus tempt us out of envy and try to weaken those who have found purity (who are already monks), or to lead astray from the path those who wish to enter into the door of purity (that is, those who are as yet on the threshold of monkhood).

However, if a man arms himself with patience and an unswerving faithfulness to the commandments of God, the Holy Spirit will teach his mind how to purify his soul and body from such movements. But if at any time he weakens in his feeling and permits himself to neglect the commandments and ordinances he has heard, the evil spirits will begin to overpower him, will press upon all parts of the body and will befoul it by this movement, until the tormented soul will not know where to turn, in its despair seeing nowhere whence help could come. Only when sobered, it returns again to the commandments and, shouldering their yoke (or realizing the strength of its obligations), commits itself to the Holy Spirit, it regains a salutary disposition. Then it understands that it should seek peace solely in God, and that only thus is peace possible. St Anthony the Great, "Early Fathers from the Philokalia," translated by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, (London: Faber & Faber, 1981), pp. 39-40.

Striving to attain perfect purity, it is needful to bear the labors of repentance both in soul and body, harmoniously and in equal measure. When the mind is granted such grace that it can enter upon its struggle against passions without self-pity or self-indulgence, it receives suggestions, directions and comforts of the Spirit, with Whose help it can successfully repulse from the soul all impure impacts that come from the lusts of the heart. Combining with the mind or the spirit of man, this Spirit helps a man in his decision strictly to fulfill the commandments he has learned, by directing him to repulse from the soul all passions, both those which mix with it from the side of the body and those of its own, which exist in it independently of the body. He teaches a man to keep the body in order - the whole of it, from head to foot; eyes - to look with purity; ears - to listen in peace (or to peaceful things) and not to take pleasure in gossip, slander and criticism; tongue - to say only what is good, weighing every word, and allowing nothing impure or passionate to become mixed with its speech; hands - to be moved primarily for lifting in prayer and for acts of mercy and generosity; stomach - to be kept within suitable bounds in food and drink, allowing only as much as is needful to support the body, not letting lust and gluttony lead it beyond that measure; feet - to walk righteously, according to the will of God, aiming at the service of good deeds. In this way the whole of the body becomes accustomed to every good and, submitting to the power of the Holy Spirit, gradually changes, so that in the end it begins to participate, in a certain measure, in the qualities of the spiritual body, which it is to receive at the resurrection of the just. St Anthony the Great, "Early Fathers From the Philokalia," by E. Kadloubovsky and G.E.H. Palmer, (London: Faber and Faber, 1954), pp. 41-44

The body, being only the temporal garment of the soul, is perishable, and does not constitute the true life of the man. The true life is the spiritual life. If you rend, if you destroy the man's garment, still he himself remains alive; so also after the slaying, after the death, the corruption of the body, the soul remains alive. Let us then chiefly care for the soul, for its salvation!" St. John of Kronstadt

You are accustomed to look upon your body as upon your own inalienable property, but that is quite wrong, because your body is God's edifice." St. John of Kronstadt (My Life in Christ, Part 1; Holy Trinity Monastery pg. 23)

17. The intellect does many good and bad things without the body, whereas the body can do neither good nor evil without the intellect. This is because the law of freedom applies to what happens before we act. REF:Saint Kosmas Aitolos +1779

114. Ample room in the heart denotes hope in God; congestion denotes bodily care. REF:Saint Kosmas Aitolos +1779

The chief evil with relation to the body is love for the body and pitying it. This takes away all the soul's authority over the body and makes the soul the slave of the body. And on the contrary, one who does not spare the body will not be disturbed in whatever he does by apprehensions born of blind love of life. How fortunate is one who is trained to this from childhood! REF:St Theophan the Recluse, "The Path to Salvation" p51

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