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Struggle with the eight main passions


24. Gluttony. In regard to the abstinence from food, the same rule cannot be applied to everyone because not everyone has the same physical strength. The virtue of fasting is not observed with just the strength of the soul, but must also be proportionate to the toughness of the body. The holy Fathers determined the measure of our abstinence from food as follows: we should stop eating while we still want to eat. Guided by this rule, even a person weak in body can exhibit the virtue of abstinence on the same level as the robust and healthy, if he applies his willpower in restraining the craving for food when it is not demanded by his physical infirmity. For even the Apostle states: "and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts" (Romans 13:14). (Blessed John Cassian)

25. Fornication. The second struggle that confronts us is that with the spirit of carnal lust ó the most prolonged and perpetual one, and very few win in this battle. The passion of fornication in a person arises at a very early stage of puberty and does not stop until he conquers his other passions. Inasmuch as the emergence of this passion is twofold (in the body and in the soul), then to oppose it requires a dual weapon. Fasting alone is insufficient to acquire complete chastity. You need to couple it with a penitent and regretful nature, and unrelenting prayers against the vile spirit of fornication. Apart from this, you need to constantly read the Bible, think about God, alternating it with physical exertion and handiwork that restrain the thoughts from wandering to and fro. Most of all, what is needed is humility, without which there can be no victory over any passion. (Blessed John Cassian)

25. Triumph over this passion is dependent upon a complete cleansing of the heart, from which ó according to the word of the Lord ó flows the poison of this sickness. "For out of the heart" says He, "proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornicationsÖ" (Mat. 15:19). (Blessed John Cassian)

25. And indeed, if every success in virtue is the work of Godís grace and the overcoming of various passions is His victory, then to acquire chastity and to prevail over carnal passion is more so the work of a special grace of God, about which the Holy Fathers, experienced in the cleansing of the soul from this passion, give witness. For not to feel the sting of the flesh while still living in the flesh is, in a way, akin to coming out of the body. That is why it is impossible for a person to fly upwards into the heavenly heights of perfection on his own wings, if the Lordís grace doesnít extricate him from the earthly quagmire. Because there is no virtue through which people are more equated to the Angels than that of acquiring chastity. (Blessed John Cassian)

25. What serves as an indicator of purity and the attainment of perfection in a person is when a person, at rest or during a pleasant sleep, does not have any images of a seductive nature, or, having appeared, these images do not arouse in him any carnal desire. However, involuntary desires, although not considered a sin, indicate that the soul has not yet achieved perfection, and that the roots of passion have not yet been eradicated. (Blessed John Cassian)

25. The level of chastityís worth determines the level of force of the enemiesí slander raised against it. Thatís why we must, with all zeal, not only be temperate in everything, but continually be penitent and have prayerful lamentations in our hearts so that the blessed dew of the Holy Spirit, descending into the heart, cools and extinguishes the furnace of our flesh, which the Babylonian king (the devil) unceasingly tries to fire up. (Blessed John Cassian)

25. Love of money. The third struggle facing us is that with the spirit of love for money ó an alien passion, which is foreign to our nature. This passion originates from faint-heartedness, spiritual carelessness and absence of love for God. Other passions are seemingly implanted into human nature and consequently are conquered only after lengthy labours. The sickness of love of money comes to a person later in life and fastens on to the soul from without. That is why in the beginning it is easy to dislodge. However, should it take root in our heart because of our apathy and continued neglect, it will become more ruinous than the other passions and consequently would be very difficult to remove. Entrenched love of money, according to Apostle Paul, is "a root of all kinds of evil" (1 Tim. 6:10), because it arouses all the other passions. (Blessed John Cassian)

26. You can be sick with love of money without having money. In this condition, even voluntary poverty will not be beneficial to the person that luxuriates in thoughts of riches. Just like those who, although are not defiled in body, are pronounced unclean of heart according to the word of the Gospel (Mat. 5:28), so are those that are not burdened by great wealth can be adjudged on a similar level as avaricious, because they are such in heart and mind. This is because they didnít have the opportunity to accumulate wealth and not because of their will, which in Godís eyes always has more weight than want. Thatís why we must in every way be careful, so that the fruits of our labour are not wasted. It is regretful when the poor lose the fruits of their poverty by reason of their sinful desire to be rich. (Blessed John Cassian)

27. Anger. In the fourth struggle we are faced with the task of eliminating the deadly poison of anger from the depths of our soul. Because as long as it nests in our hearts and blinds our mindís eye with a destructive gloom, we are unable to develop the correct distinction between good and evil, nor clarity of consciousness, nor maturity to give advice, nor be communicants of life, nor hold on firmly to the truth. We are unable to absorb the true spiritual light, for it is said: "Mine eye is consumed because of grief" (Psalm 6:7). We are unable to become communicants of wisdom, because "anger resteth in the bosom of fools" (Eccles. 7:9). Although regarded as being sensible, we cannot realize longevity of life, because: "Even the wise perish because of anger" (Prov. 15:1, Septuagint translation). We cannot always hold the scales of truth properly, according to the heartís directive, for "the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God" (James 1:20). Although we may be of a famous descent, we cannot regard ourselves as esteemed, because "an angry man is unseemly" (Proverbs). Although we may command great knowledge, we are unable to possess maturity to give advice, because "He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly" (Prov. 14:17). Although nobody may bothers us, we can never be at peace, away from disturbances and confusion, because "an angry man stirreth up strife, and a furious man aboundeth in transgression" (Prov. 29.22). (Blessed John Cassian)

29. Sorrow and despondency. In our fifth struggle, we are faced with having to deflect the arrows of all-consuming sorrow, which, if they conquered us, would prevent us from seeing God, plunge our soul from the heights of its worthy stature, weaken and crush us. Sorrow will not allow us to pray with the necessary heartfelt animation, nor read the Holy books (a means of spiritual therapy), nor work diligently, nor be at peace and affable with people. Having taken away from us all powers of reasoning, sorrow will make us impatient and cantankerous, agitate our heart and make our soul appear inane and gloomy, crushing it with destructive depression. (Blessed John Cassian)

29. Sometimes, this sickness is begotten from some type of passion: anger, lust or desire to become rich. At other times, without any apparent reason but through the actions of the cunning enemy, we are suddenly overwhelmed with such sorrow that we alter our attitude toward even our dearest individuals, so that anything they say to us, we regard as inappropriate and superfluous, unable to respond to them politely as our heart is filled with bitterness. (Blessed John Cassian)

29. There is another, most frightful aspect of sorrow, which does not instill into the sinner an intention to change the lifestyle, but a destructive depression. It didnít allow Cain to repent after he murdered his brother, and forced a depressed Judas to hang himself after his betrayal. (Blessed John Cassian)

29. The sorrow of this world is extremely complainant, impatient, cruel, obstinate and leads toward destructive depression. Having overwhelmed a person, it upsets him, distracts him from prayer, from every redeeming activity and from any act of repentance. (Blessed John Cassian)

29. We can conquer ruinous sorrow if we try to enliven our soul with visions of future joy. In this way, we will be able to overcome the various forms of sorrow emanating from anger, from suffering losses, from having been offended, from spiritual disorders and that sorrow which brings us to depression. Being joyous in our vision of future blessings and remaining in this disposition, we will not lose heart when we experience unfortunate circumstances, nor exalt ourselves when we are happy ó considering our circumstances to be worthless and temporary. (Blessed John Cassian)

29. The sixth struggle facing us is that of despondency or melancholy. Despondency is akin to sorrow and is experienced mostly by people who commit themselves to a solitary life. It especially disturbs the ascetic at midday. Some Holy Fathers refer to it as the "midday demon" mentioned in Psalm 91. (Blessed John Cassian)

30. Vainglory. The seventh struggle facing us is that with the spirit of vainglory ó this multifaceted, deceitful and subtle passion, which often is very difficult to notice and recognize, and to protect yourself from. Other passions are plain and unvaried, but this one is multifaceted and attacks the warrior of Christ from all sides: during his struggle and even after he has achieved victory. Vainglory attempts to wound the warrior through all manner of ways: his clothing, and his physical build, and walk, and voice, and being well read, and his work, and his vigilance, and fasting, and praying, and solitary life, and his knowledge, and education, and silence, and submissiveness, and humility, and benevolence. It is akin to a dangerous rock hiding below the waves, which inflicts a sudden disastrous wreck to the seafarers when they least expect it. (Blessed John Cassian)

30. Other passions, according to our efforts in surmounting and defeating them, wane and weaken every day. In fact, sometimes, because of a change in our location and living circumstances, they get exhausted and become subdued. Apart from this, because of their conflict with our opposing good deeds, it is easier for us to watch out and avoid them. However, the passion of vainglory, even though vanquished, continues to battle with great hardness and when it is considered dead, through its own demise comes to life, becoming healthy and powerful. While the other passions tyrannize those that they have overwhelmed, this passion oppresses its conquerors more callously and vanquishes them through conceited thoughts about their victory over it. It is in this that the subtle cunning of the enemy is revealed ó that the Christís warrior strikes himself with his own arrows. (Blessed John Cassian)

30. Pride. The eighth and last struggle that confronts us is that with the spirit of pride. While this passion is last in the order of this rendition, in terms of its beginning and time, it is foremost. Pride is the most ferocious and untamable animal, especially attacking and devouring those striving for perfection after they have almost achieved the highest level of virtue. (Blessed John Cassian)

30. There are two types of pride: the first is one that vanquishes those that are of a high spiritual standing, while the second defeats the novices and the carnal. Although both types of pride produce a destructive arrogance before God and people, the first relates directly to God while the second concerns people. (Blessed John Cassian)

30. There is no other passion like pride that can eradicate all virtues and deprive a person of righteousness. Like some disease, this passion strikes the whole being with a deadly affliction and attempts to plunge to their destruction even those that have achieved the pinnacle of virtues. The other passions have their limitations, arising against only one selected virtue. Thus, for example, gluttony violates the demands of temperance, lust defiles chastity, anger drives away patience. As a result, being conquered by any one of the passions doesnít make the person devoid of other virtues. But when this particular passion captures the soul, it denies that person the protection of humility, utterly destroying his spiritual framework. Having leveled the high wall of piety and mixed it with the mud of iniquity, it deprives the soul of any traces of freedom ó and the stronger it seizes the rich soul, the more it subjects it to the heavy yoke of slavery, stripping it of all its finery of virtues with the cruelest plunder. (Blessed John Cassian)

30. Consequently, we must strive toward perfection with the needed fervor toward fasting, vigilance, prayer, a penitent heart and body, and other self-denying efforts, so that our labors are not ineffectual. It must be remembered that through just our efforts and self-sacrifice alone, we will not only be unable to achieve perfection, but without Godís grace, we would not be able to perform the actual work of self-sacrifice and other spiritual labors. (Blessed John Cassian)

30. These are the signs of carnal pride: during conversation ó being vociferous, in silence ó being miserable, during times of joy ó loud laughter, in sorrow ó excessive gloom, in giving a reply ó causticity, in a serious conversation ó flippancy, when words are uttered haphazardly without the heartís participation. Carnal pride is not acquainted with patience, is alien to love, brazen in inflicting insults but weak in enduring them, slow in obedience if it goes against its personal will and wishes, inflexible toward admonishments, not capable of renouncing personal whims, extremely stubborn in being subordinate to others, always striving to insist on its own decisions, does not agree to make concessions to others. In this way, by becoming incapable of accepting redeeming advice, carnal pride believes more in its own opinion than those of experienced elders ("starets"). (Blessed John Cassian)

30. It is impossible to overcome any passion without deep and sincere humility ó and you cannot attain perfection and purity except through genuine humility. (Blessed John Cassian) 

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