Waging War against the Passions of the Flesh
Since the eyes and the ears are the doors of the soul, an Orthodox Christian must not leave the body without attention. Unlike the practice of Gnosticism, which teaches the separation of soul and body, with the physical world being evil and something to be overcome, historic Christianity teaches the unity the body and soul, with the physical world being transformed and made anew in Christ. This means that, while caring about one’s soul, an Orthodox Christian must not leave the body without attention.
The body is given over to temptation, which is rooted in the mind. As Christians we know that we must never play with temptations, for in doing so we have already fallen half-way. Thus, an Orthodox Christian who takes his salvation seriously would never partake in seductive dances, or enter into flirtation as though it were a sport, for he would know this to be a dangerous game.
Temptations gain hold when we entertain dirty thoughts and ideas, sometimes by allowing our eyes and ears to entertain things that can overcome our will, causing us to fall. It is much easier to stop a temptation in the beginning, than to do battle with a seductive idea once it has gained entry. A person who wants to prevent a burglary makes every effort to prevent a burglar from gaining entrance in the first place. Like taking precautions that will prevent a burglary, we must never allow ourselves to entertain temptations, for that would be like inviting a criminal into your home with the intent of trying to talk him out of steal from you.
Many are convinced that sexual needs are so insurmountable in strength, as to make it impossible to resist. This is only the case when we habitually give in to the passions, and avoid using the tools given to us by the Church to bring our body into submission. If we observe the periods of fasting, especially the Wednesday and Friday days of abstinence, eat moderate amounts of food, avoid the overuse of alcohol, and say no to drugs, we will have taken a big step forward in our struggle with lust. Remember, a healthy body contributes to the health of the soul.
Finally, it is good to take to heart the advice of Saint Ephraim of Syria, “Think about the good so as not to think about the bad.” Guard against spending time with people whose jokes and story-telling are occasions for sinful thoughts, and avoid bad company, for “Bad company corrupts good character (1 Corinthians 15:33).”
With love in Christ,
The Very Reverend Igumen Abbot Tryphon is the spiritual leader at All Merciful Saviour monastery located on Vashon Island in Puget Sound near Seattle, Washington State. The monastery is within the canonical jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. The monastery’s widely acclaimed and popular Facebook page can be found here. Abbot Tryphon’s popular blog can be accessed here.