March 10, 2023

Homily on the Friday of the First Week of Great Lent - The Fight Against the Passions (St. Luke of Simferopol)

 Homily on the Friday of the First Week of Great Lent

The Fight Against the Passions

By St. Luke, Archbishop of Simferopol and All Crimea

(Delivered on February 24, 1950)

"When we fast bodily, brethren, we fast spiritually." Let us delve into these words, for they explain the purpose and importance of fasting.

What are fasts for? To teach us to abstain. Abstain from what? Directly - to abstain from hearty and tasty food, but the importance of fasting does not end there: this is only a bodily fast, and it should be a way for us to learn about spiritual fasting. What is a spiritual fast? This is abstinence from everything harmful to us, from everything that corrupts our soul, that is, from the passions that underlie all our sins. The Holy Fathers distinguished eight main passions: gluttony, fornication, avarice, anger, sorrow, despondency, vanity and pride. Why is the passion of gluttony placed first? Because the one who does not conquer this lower, animal passion, will not be able to conquer all other passions.

The Holy Fathers, who deeply studied everything that happened in their hearts, and studied the ways in which sin develops in a person’s heart, taught that all these passions are connected with one another by direct continuity, that is, a passion of a lower order, if you do not overcome it, gives birth in the heart to another passion, more sophisticated. And these two, in turn, cause a third - and so on. This inextricable interconnectedness of passions can be compared to a heavy chain, which we are all tightly entangled in, and we must begin to break it not from the middle, not from the end, but from the beginning. Fasting was established precisely because gluttony is the beginning of this chain, the fundamental basis of all our other passions.

If a person always overeats, is always excessively full, is always satisfied with tasty and sweet foods, especially if he drinks a lot of wine, then this gluttony will lead to fornication. And fornication is a base and so vile passion that it should not even be named among Christians, as the Holy Apostle Paul says in the Epistle to the Ephesians (see Ephesians 5:3).

But what happens if the glutton falls into fornication? He will need money to support his mistresses, and a lot of money. His soul will burn with the desire to acquire more and more earthly goods that attract depraved women to him. In other words, he will be embraced by the passion of the avarice. Love of money, as the Holy Apostle Paul says in the Epistle to Timothy, "is the root of all evil" (I Tim. 6:10).

And if a person with a satiated belly, living a prodigal life, sets himself the goal of acquiring wealth, then he inevitably falls into the passion of anger. He will become irritated, angry, swear, curse, hate everyone who interferes with the achievement of his low goals.

But often, in order to stop such a person on a sinful path, the Lord sends serious illnesses or ruin, makes them experience deep humiliation or death of loved ones. And then the next passion comes into its own - sorrow. Sorrow is the extreme discouragement that follows all sorts of breakdowns in life. And if a person in his sorrow does not remember about love, about good deeds, about God, then he will inevitably fall into the next passion - despondency.

Despondency puts a heavy seal on the soul. A person is no longer interested in anything, it seems to him that he is working in vain, he gives up, he stops praying, he leaves the Church. Deep despondency often leads even to suicide.

We see that all these passions are connected with our flesh, with its lusts and have their root in the first and main passion - gluttony. There remain two more passions, the most disastrous and most terrible, which are no longer directly connected with the lusts of the flesh, but take possession of the soul and heart of even great ascetics, if they imagine that they have already reached the height of virtues and the height of holiness. It is vanity and the pride that comes with it. Even if one possesses virtues, a person should not think that he deserved them with his works, but should see the grace of God in this.

But what to say about the ascetics! The passion of vanity is infinitely varied. We are all vain: in our physical beauty, the richness and splendor of clothes, the splendor of houses, physical strength; others are vain for the depth of their mind, versatile education and talents. The vain one inevitably becomes proud: he exalts himself above everyone, it seems to him that everything is worse, below him, unworthy of him. He exalts himself above all, as if they were insignificant, knowing nothing, worthless.

He himself, the unfortunate one, does not see that he is embraced by the mortal sin of pride, the most terrible of all the passions, for it constitutes the spiritual essence of the devil and is hated by God. Every proud person is disgusting before the Lord. When reading the Epistle of the Apostle James, you have heard more than once that God “opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). A proud person will never be able to please God, even if he spent his whole life in asceticism. This is how disastrous the passion of pride is.

Close your eyes, lower your head, and direct your mental gaze into your heart, and look for what passions, what snakes nest there. Find them all, and only then dare to proceed to confession. Don't hide anything.

Before you is fasting, a time of repentance and salvation. Many do not understand the importance of fasting and do not observe it. However, it is bodily fasting that helps us to repent and be saved, because, as we have already seen, gluttony is the mother of all other passions and at the same time the easiest of them to overcome. If we fulfill this commandment, which is within our power and easy for us - if we curb our stomach - then we will receive power over more complex passions.

To overcome all, without exception, passions, it is necessary to learn abstinence. Without bodily fasting, this cannot be achieved. Just as in school students are gradually led from the lowest knowledge to the highest, from the ABC's to the highest mathematics, so abstinence must begin with the ABC's, with curbing one's stomach.

That is why fasting is so important, and many do not understand this, and do not observe fasts themselves, and children are not taught to observe them; and not only do they not teach them, but also set a pernicious example of trampling on the fasts. During Holy Week, even on Great Friday, a mother feeds her children with meat and says: “Eat, eat, children! The fast is nothing. God sees that we are always malnourished. God will forgive, God will not requite for this.”

Oh no, he will exact it if you corrupt your children! Every mother from an early age should teach her children to fast, as it was in the old days, when all our people observed fasts.

Do not belittle the importance of fasting, but accustom children to fasting from a very early age, not paying attention to the ridicule of blasphemers. Let them laugh, wallowing in their lusts, and you bless God, through His Church teaching you to fight against passions. Follow the dictates of the Church in everything, for she is your mother, kind, pure, holy, who teaches only salvation. Do not forget about fasting, but firmly, like a small child clings to the hem of its mother, hold on to all the statutes of the Church. And the Lord will direct you to where your heart aspires, to the kingdom of light, to the kingdom of grace. Amen.

Source: Translated by John Sanidopoulos.

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