Gleanings from Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers

gluttony

15 Entries

According to St. Gregory the Sinaite there are three degrees in eating: ;temperance, sufficiency, and satiety. Temperance is when someone wants to eat some more food but abstains, rising from the table still somewhat hungry. Sufficiency is when someone eats what is needed and sufficient for normal nourishment. Satiety is when someone eats more than enough and is more than satisfied. Now if you cannot keep the first two degrees and you proceed to the third, then, at least, do not become a glutton, remembering the words of the lord: "Woe unto you that are full now, for you shall hunger" (Lk. 6:25). Remember also that rich man who ate in this present life sumptuously every day, but who was deprived of the desired bosom of Abraham in the next life, simply because of this sumptuous eating. St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain, A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel



Constantly reflecting thus and reproaching yourself, decide for yourself how much you should eat and drink every day to satisfy the needs of nature. Avoid as much as possible not merely overeating, but even eating just enough to be full. Keep in mind what was said above, that one should eat and drink only to the point where one is still a little hungry and thirsty. The Little Russian Philokalia, Vol. II, from the Counsels of Elder Nazarius of Valaam

Gluttony is hypocrisy of the stomach; for when it is glutted, it complains of scarcity; and when it is loaded and bursting, it cries out that it is hungry. St. John Climacus, "The Ladder of Divine Ascent," (Boston; Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1978), STEP 14: On That Clamorous Mistress, the Stomach

Having guarded ourselves against distractions and worries, let us turn our attention to our body on which mental vigilance is completely dependent. Human bodies differ widely from one another in strength and health. Some by their strength are like copper and iron; others are frail like grass. For this reason everyone should rule his body with great prudence, after exploring his physical powers. For a strong and healthy body, special fasts and vigils are suitable; they make it lighter, and give the mind a special wakefulness. A weak body should be strengthened by food and sleep according to one's physical needs, but on no account to satiety. Satiety is extremely harmful even for a weak body; it weakens it, and makes it susceptible to disease. Wise temperance of the stomach is a door to all the virtues. Restrain the stomach, and you will enter Paradise. But if you please and pamper your stomach, you will hurl yourself over the precipice of bodily impurity, into the fire of wrath and fury, you will coarsen and darken your mind, and in this way you will ruin your powers of attention and self-control, your sobriety and vigilance…. (pp. 133-134) The Arena: An Offering to Contemporary Monasticism, by St. Ignaty Brianchaninov (Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1991)

He who cherishes his stomach and hopes to overcome the spirit of fornication, is like one who tries to put out a fire with oil. St. John Climacus, "The Ladder of Divine Ascent," (Boston; Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1978), STEP 14: On That Clamorous Mistress, the Stomach

I shall speak first about control of the stomach, the opposite to gluttony, and about how to fast and what and how much to eat. I shall say nothing on my own account, but only what I have received from the Holy Fathers. They have not given us only a single rule for fasting or a single standard and measure for eating, because not everyone has the same strength; age, illness or delicacy of body create differences. But they have given us all a single goal: to avoid over-eating and the filling of our bellies... A clear rule for self-control handed down by the Fathers is this: stop eating while still hungry and do not continue until you are satisfied. St. John Cassian

If you can begrudge the stomach, your mouth will stay closed, because the tongue flourishes where food is abundant. St. John Climacus (The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 14:On Gluttony)

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.



Satiety in food is the father of fornication; but affliction of the stomach is an agent of purity. St. John Climacus, "The Ladder of Divine Ascent," (Boston; Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1978), STEP 14: On That Clamorous Mistress, the Stomach

Satiety of the stomach dries the tear sprints, but the stomach when dried produces these waters. St. John Climacus, "The Ladder of Divine Ascent," (Boston; Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1978), STEP 14: On That Clamorous Mistress, the Stomach

The Three Degrees of Eating
According to St. Gregory the Sinaite there are three degrees in eating: temperance, sufficiency, and satiety. Temperance is when someone wants to eat some more food but abstains, rising from the table still somewhat hungry. Sufficiency is when someone eats what is needed and sufficient for normal nourishment. Satiety is when someone eats more than enough and is more than satisfied.

Now if you cannot keep the first two degrees and you proceed to the third, then, at least, do not become a glutton, remembering the words of the Lord: "Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger" (Lk 6:25). Remember also that rich man who ate in this present life sumptuously every day, but who was deprived of the desired bosom of Abraham in the next life, simply because of this sumptuous eating. Remember how he longed to refresh his tongue with a drop of water.

St. Basil not only did not forgive the young people who ate to satiety but also those who ate until satisfied; he preferred that all eat temperately. He said, "Nothing subdues and controls the body as does the practice of temperance. It is this temperance that serves as a control to those youthful passions and desires."'

St. Gregory the Theologian has also noted in his poetry: "No satiety has brought forth prudent behavior; for it is in the nature of fire to consume matter. And a filled stomach expels refined thoughts; it is the tendency of opposites to oppose each other."

Job, too, assuming that one could fall into sin through eating, offered sacrifice to God for his sons who were feasting among themselves. "And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said: 'It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts'" (Jb 1:5-8). In interpreting this passage Olympiodoros wrote: "We learn from this that we ought to avoid such feasts which can bring on sinfulness. We must also purify ourselves after they have been concluded, even if these are conducted for the sake of concord and brotherly love as in the case of the sons of Job."

Surely then, if the sons of Job were not at a feast but in prayer or some other spiritual activity, the devil would not have dared to destroy the house and them, as Origen interpreted the passage: "The devil was looking for an opportunity to destroy them. Had he found them reading, he would not have touched the house, having no reason to put them to death. Had he found them in prayer, he would not have had any power to do anything against them. But when he found an opportune time, he was powerful. What was the opportune time? It was the time of feasting and drinking." Do you see then, dear reader, how many evils are brought forth by luxurious foods and feasting in general? A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel, by St. Nicodemos (Chapter 6)



The heart of gluttons dreams only of food and eatables, but the heart of those who weep dreams of judgment and castigation. St. John Climacus, "The Ladder of Divine Ascent," (Boston; Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1978), STEP 14: On That Clamorous Mistress, the Stomach

The prince of demons is the fallen Lucifer, and the prince of passions is gluttony. St. John Climacus, "The Ladder of Divine Ascent," (Boston; Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1978), STEP 14: On That Clamorous Mistress, the Stomach

When heavy with over-eating, the body makes the intellect spiritless and sluggish; likewise, when weakened by excessive abstinence, the body makes the contemplative faculty of the soul dejected and disinclined to concentrate. We should therefore regulate our food according to the condition of the body, so that it is appropriately disciplined when in good health and adequately nourished when weak. The body of one pursuing the spiritual way must not be enfeebled; he must have enough strength for his labors, so that the soul may be suitably purified through bodily exertion as well. St. Diadochos of Photiki (On Spiritual Knowledge no. 45)

It is just as shameful for lovers of the flesh and the belly to search out spiritual things as it is for a harlot to discourse on chastity. St Isaac of Syria





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