March 16

Indeed, we have seen that in the passion of gluttony, man delights in food outside of God–he considers it in and of itself and uses it only for his own pleasure. Since food is a creation of God (either directly or indirectly) and a gift of God to men, it has no value by itself but only through God, and is meant to be consumed Eucharistically. Thus, St Paul teaches that God “created [it] to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.”

Man is healed of his passion and regains a virtuous attitude by the turning around of his attitude that led him to consider food in itself and have it serve his own pleasure to considering such food in God, linking it to Him and giving Him thanks for it. Thus St Paul advises: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

By consuming food in such a manner, man sanctifies it, and in it, the created cosmos which it represents. But above all, he simultaneously sanctifies himself, not only doing away with the barrier that gluttony erected between man and God, but also uniting himself all the more to God every time he gives Him thanks.

~Dr Jean-Claude Larchet (Therapy of Spiritual Illnesses, vol. 3, pp. 10-11)

March 15

…what man is potentially in his nature by grace, he must also become personally and actively by his free will in all his life and being. For, as St Gregory of Nyssa warns: “That which you all have not become, you are not.”

And St Diadochus of Photice spells out in detail that if the first of the gifts bestowed by the grace of baptism is the immediate restoration of the image of God, the second gift–the likeness of God–“requires our cooperation.”

~Dr Jean-Claude Larchet (Therapy of Spiritual Illnesses vol. 2, p. 57)

March 14

Keep before your eyes the benefits received from your birth until now, be they bodily or spiritual; go over them and meditate on them, according to what is written: “Forget not all his benefits,” in order that they may bring you to love God quickly and easily…in order that your heart, at the remembrance of these benefits and even more so spurred on from on high, might spontaneously be wounded with love and desire.

~St Mark the Ascetic

March 13

Pleasure is only a fleeting delight. Yea, pleasure quickly takes flight, and we cannot tie it down even for a few moments. For such is the destiny of human and sensible things: hardly do we possess them, and they escape us…They offer nothing solid or assured, nothing fixed or permanent. They flow away more rapidly than rivers of water and leave empty and indigent those who search after them with such burning zeal. On the contrary, however, spiritual goods present us an altogether different character. They are firm, assured, constant and eternal. [Is it not] then a strange folly to exchange immutable things for transitory delight, immortal bliss for pleasures of the moment, and true and eternal felicity for quick and frivolous sensual joys?

~St John Chrysostom

March 12

Love of money and greed further destroy charity and pervert relationships with others by leading him whom they possess to see in his neighbor nothing more than an obstacle to the preservation of possessed riches or a means to acquire new ones. John Chrysostom also notes that “love of money brings us universal hatred” and “makes us detest everyone, the victims of injustice and even those whom our injustices have not trampled down.”

…These passions constantly provoke arguments and disputes. St John Chrysostom observes: “In riches, there is nothing but causes of affliction, divisions, quarrels, snares, hatred, thefts, envy, separations, enmities, storms, remembrance of wrong, hard-heartedness, murders.”

…As for greed, St Gregory of Nyssa remarks that it unleashes in man “either anger with his kith and kin, or pride towards his inferiors, or envy of those above him; then hypocrisy comes in after this envy; a soured temper after that; a misanthropic spirit after that.”

~Dr Jean-Claude Larchet (Therapy of Spiritual Illnesses vol.1, pp. 176-177)

March 11

The pathological character of love of money and greed is likewise and consequently made manifest in the relationship of man to himself. Subject to these two passions, he lacks the most basic love with regard to himself; he prefers money and material riches to his own soul. Preoccupied with keeping the goods he possesses and acquiring new ones, he neither takes care for his soul, nor does he worry about his salvation.

St John Cassian says that he neglects “the image and likeness of God…which [he] should preserve without stain in himself” by worshiping God: “Indeed, one cannot love both one’s soul and money.” Occupied with increasing and maintaining material wealth, man cannot develop his spiritual potentialities and effect the blossoming of his nature, and thus he keeps himself enclosed within the limits of the fallen world.

Even though he believes that he truly enriches himself–that he gains his freedom and guarantees himself life in gathering treasures on earth, he alienates and pins down all his being and existence to this world and “the flesh”, “for where man’s treasure is, there his heart is also”.

…Above all, it takes the place of spiritual delights which are incomparably superior and alone capable of fully satisfying man, whom pleasure in the end deprives of eternal bliss. Thus it is clearly apparent that man in many ways becomes “his own enemy”, as St John Chrysostom says, through love of money and greed.

~Dr Jean-Claude Larchet (Therapy of Spiritual Illnesses, vol.1, p.174)

March 10

Where there is the love of God, “Christ is all and in all” and “there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free man” “neither male nor female.” On the contrary, where self-love reigns, there one sees only oppositions, divisions, rivalries, envy, jealousy, dissensions, enmity, quarrels, aggression, all manifestations which are the fruits of this passion, as are unsociability, injustice, the exploitation of others and even murders and wars.

Self-love appears then to be deeply pathogenic on many levels, and is considered by the Fathers–as much in its nature as in its effects–as the mark of a man who has become mad and as itself being mad and profoundly irrational.

~Dr Jean-Claude Larchet (Therapy of Spiritual Illnesses vol.1, pp.149-150)

To Be Taken Internally

The Jesus Prayer can be strong medicine in the battle against our passions, but it must be applied to the source of our illness. It does no good to treat a stomach ache by applying ointment to the surface of the skin; so too is it ineffective to say the Jesus Prayer with inattention or a distracted mind. To fight our passions with this prayer—to combat sadness, or anger or sinful thoughts with it—requires that it be applied deep into our heart, the place of these illnesses, and this necessitates vigilant and focused prayer, developed with effort and mental focus over time.


March 8

“Behold what ought to be the point of departure for a profitable journey according to God. You must always go over in your memory, and guard in unceasing meditation, the remembrance of the goodness of God Who has ordered your life’s course according to His design, of His benefits that aim at your soul’s salvation. Do not let your memory be darkened by vice, the source of indifference; neither lose the remembrance of the multitude and extent of His graces and consequently spend the rest of time without profit in ingratitude. For this ceaseless remembrance pricks the heart like a thorn, at all times pushing it to confession, humility, thanksgiving with a crushed soul, great zeal as regards the good, so as to offer in return a way of life, profitable conduct and all virtue according to God…[He who] does not allow himself to fall into the forgetfulness of such benefits…directs himself towards all the good ascesis of virtue and towards every work of justice with an ever-sustained ardor always disposed to carrying out God’s will.”

                                                            ~St Mark the Ascetic

Dangerous Rapturous Love

I have often struggled with the imposition that is Christian love;
a love so different from the love that is often exchanged in our world,
a love that asks us to give our lives away incrementally, or all at once…
What would we have and where would we be, had Christ turned away from His cross?
If His love was not sacrificial love, and had He not given His life away?
Instead, perhaps merely leaving us with a kind word, and a smile, and wishing us the best…
Is there a true love that won’t also require us to sacrifice ourselves?
This is a love that is risky, dangerous, and can expose us to losses;
literal losses of money, property, time, sleep—
and other essential, or superfluous pleasures.
Christian love is the prototype and embodiment of selflessness,
when practiced in its pure form, following in the steps of our namesake.
Worldly prudence has taught me to count the costs, weigh the risks,
and back away from any that cross the line, that are too costly.
Divine prudence teaches me to give more,
to extend this line further towards my neighbor, or erase the line altogether.
Experience has shown me that sacrificial love engenders a joyful bliss,
a type of euphoria, and a freedom that calls out from within me, wildly…
and rapturously,
when I am courageous enough to follow, and do this love—
the will of my Lord.