This post made me think of something by John Cassian I read in the Philokalia several years ago and shared in the Lenten devotional in our parish.

The way we ignore issues like gluttony, as well as other traditional vices, is another way that contemporary Christians, particularly American Evangelicals, have a tendency to turn the tradition on its head… mostly because they’re not aware that there *is* a tradition.

Traditionally, Christianity has seen self control in relation to food as a prerequisite for self-control in other areas. In this way, you might consider gluttony a “gateway sin” :-p.

The Philokalia was written by various monastics, but much of it is not solely for monastics or “super Christians,” but instead, for all Christians. The following section was written by St. John Cassian, considered the father (or grandfather) of Western Christian Monasticism. You might also notice a critique of some other things that were considered vices by earlier generations, but which are lifted up as virtuous by many Christians today.

I admit to wondering if the reason our society has so many issues with sexuality–and I don’t specifically mean homosexuality, but a warped relationship with sex and our bodies generally–is related to issues of plenty, consumerism, and general overindulgence. I haven’t fleshed that out yet, but it’s worth thinking about:

“A clear role for self-control handed down by the fathers is this: stop eating while still hungry and do not continue until you are satisfied. When the apostle said, “make no provision to fulfill the desires of the flesh” (Romans 13:14), he was not forbidding us to provide for the needs of life; he was warning us against self indulgence. Moreover, by it’s self abstinence from food does not contribute to perfect purity of soul and unless the other virtues are active as well. Humility for example, practiced through obedience to our work and through bodily hardship, is a great help. If we avoid avarice not only by having no money, but also by not wanting to have any, this leads us towards purity of soul. Freedom from anger, from dejection, self-esteem and pride also contributes to purity of soul in general, while self control and fasting are especially important for bringing about that specific purity of soul which comes through restraint and moderation. ***No one whose stomach is full can fight mentally against the demon of unchastity.*** Our initial struggle therefore must be to gain control of our stomach and to bring our body into subjection not only through fasting but also through vigils, labors and spiritual reading, and through concentrating our heart on fear of Gehenna and on longing for the kingdom of heaven.”

(The Philokalia: The Complete Text, Compiled By St. Nikodimos of The Holy Mountain and St. Makarios of Corinth, Volume One, p73-74)

Read it all: