Wisdom from Abbot Tryphon on fighting lust and the passions

LUST
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,

-Abbot Tryphon
ImageThe 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.

“Cry out to Christ your God, Searcher of hearts. . .”

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“Woe is me, a sinner. What has happened to me? Why should I destroy myself so wrongly? I still have time for repentance.

The Lord calls me: Shall I procrastinate? How long, my soul, will you remain in your sins?  How long will you put off repentance?

Think of the judgment to come, cry out to Christ your God: Searcher of hearts, I have sinned; before Thou condemnest me, have mercy upon me!

At Thy awesome return, O Christ, may I not hear ‘I know you not’ (Matthew 25:12)! For we have placed our hope in Thee, our Savior, even though in our negligence we fail to keep Thy commandments.

But, we pray Thee, spare our souls. Alas, Lord, for I have grieved Thee and did not perceive it; yet behold, through Thy grace I have begun to perceive!”
-St Peter of Damascus

The blinding delusions of sin

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Who does not know how difficult it is, without God’s special grace, for a sinner to turn from the way of sin that is so dear to him to the path of virtue?

How deeply sin takes root in the heart of the sinner, and in all his being — how it gives the sinner its own way of looking at things, by means of which he sees them quite differently to what they are in reality, and shows him everything in a kind of alluring light.

It is for this reason that we see that sinners very often do not even think of their conversion, and do not consider themselves to be great sinners, because their eyes are blinded by self-love and pride. And if they do consider themselves sinners, then they give themselves up to the most terrible despair, which overwhelms their mind with thick darkness and greatly hardens their heart.

-St John of Kronstadt

Saint John of Kronstadt (1829-1908) is one of the most beloved Russian saints to whom thousands would come seeking his ascetic and pastoral advice. He served most of his life as a priest at St Alexander Nevsky’s Cathedral in Kronstadt outside St Petersburg. He wrote widely on many topics, especially on the profound existential need to cultivate transcendent Christian love and forgiveness.