catechesis 2: On taking care for ourselves and fleeing sin’s destructive places and ways.
[Given on the Sunday of the Paralytic]
Brethren and fathers, after the feast the season invites us once again to talk with you and to return to the usual instruction. And we have come with enthusiasm knowing that we are appointed for this, and woe to us if we do not talk with you as much as possible. So, what is there to say in the present circumstances? That each of you, like a merchant, having amassed spiritual wealth for himself during holy Lent, has reached holy Pascha like a harbour, laden with many excellent stocks of virtue, namely: fasting, vigil, prayer, hard work and all the other exertions of holiness. For a physical harbour is not like a harbour of the mind. When someone comes to anchor in the former, they ease off and have no worries about the storms and dangers of the sea. In the latter on the contrary, the passions become more ferocious with the relaxation of the flesh, and the spirits of wickedness join in the assault like storms: the spirit of fornication, the spirit of gluttony, the spirit of avarice, the spirit of despondency, the spirit of dejection, the spirit of pride. The fear is that we may be sunk in harbour. David once looked unguardedly on Uriah’s wife, and readers know what he suffered. Jacob ate and was filled, says Scripture, and the beloved kicked [Deut 32,15]. Someone touched without meaning to and they were inflamed to lust and gave birth to iniquity.
Take care, you who are listening to this. Flee the destructive places and ways of sin. Govern your sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch, your food, drink and sleep, that you may keep from being overwhelmed by the tempest of the passions. This is worth remembering: someone who sails across the physical sea is subject to storms and tempests without their wanting it, while someone who crosses the water of the mind is lord of tempest and of calm. For if they manfully shake off unseemly thoughts, they are filled with calm, having the Holy Spirit as the companion of their voyage, as it is related of Saint Arsenios. But one whose senses are unbridled and who lets in desires like streams, stirs up a most dreadful storm for themselves. Unless the person does not swiftly smooth out their tempestuous thoughts, will end by repeating those miserable words, I entered the depths of the sea, and a tempest drowned me [Psalm 68,3]. Therefore let reason be in control, and let the better not be dragged down by the worse, but let the spirit be master and act for the better. Or don’t you know what sin produces? Didn’t it introduce death into the world? Didn’t it destroy the earth? Hasn’t it filled the inhabited world with graveyards and tombs from the beginning of time until now? For humanity was incorrupt before the fall and none of the things I have mentioned would have started if the first-formed had steadfastly observed the commandment that had been given. Sin is the cause of the everlasting punishments, the fuel of the unquenchable fire of Gehenna, the food of the undying worm; sin that has made humanity, that was in honour, be compared to the unreasoning beasts [Cf. Psalm 48,13.21].
And so, because sin is like all this, destructive and deadly, we must flee from it, brethren, with all our might, and choose virtue, which makes humans angels, raises them from death, resists the demons, overcomes the rulers of this age, and finally betroths them to the kingdom of heaven. May we all reach it too by the grace and love for humankind of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Spirit belong glory, might and honour, now and for ever, and the ages of ages. Amen.