Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dealing With Hidden Causes of Our Passions

The Church Fathers consistently talk about controlling our thoughts as a means to control our passions.  These thoughts are not usually predictable but seem to arise out of nowhere like they are hidden from our view.  We do know that when they arise they are given strength by external circumstances and stimulus.  In the case of lust we may have no such conscious thoughts in our heart, but then we receive an enticing look or a stroke of our body, a latent inner thought can be inflamed with uncontrollable passion. Recognizing this reality, the way we control our external circumstances is important for the control our passions.

Saint Theophan gives us the following advice:
1. Do not give free reign to your senses, especially the eyes and ears.  Do not allow them to see everything, hear everything and be concerned with everything indiscriminately.
2. Rush immediately to blot out the stimulus and suppress the thoughts... after the flow of the stimuli has been stopped of course.
3. Once a person has experienced harm from a stimulus, he should not willingly allow himself to encounter the objects that caused it again.
4. Learn to reinterpret everything you encounter so you can encounter it in the spiritual sense. St. Ephriam the Syrian, having encountered an enticingly dressed woman, told his disciples, "You see how she takes care to adorn her body, which soon will be dust; how can we not be concerned with adorning our immortal soul?
To overcome passions does not mean we need to seclude ourselves like a recluse.  We must learn to live with the reality of a full life in this world, lived in the spirit and not for the satisfaction of our passions.

Reference: The Spiritual Life, pp 257-259

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