On Our Passions, Gluttony, Vainglory, Anger

St. Alexander the Bishop at Adrianopolis

St. Alexander the Bishop at Adrianopolis

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,

By Anthony of the Desert

A major constituent of passion is that as long as the soul is sick with passions--the word passion not only means an intense or overpowering emotion but also comes from the Latin passionis, meaning "to suffer"--not only are we more susceptible to the illness of depression but the soul can only learn about what is spiritual from secondary means (e.g., hearsay, reading, etc.). Thus, to both compel a return from depression's evil clutches and to pursue what is godly we must be healed from the disease of passion, a recovery that requires knowledge to God existing as our freedom from enslavement to passion as well as an exact understanding of passion's nature.

In order to apprehend passion's anatomy, we must recall how disobedience to God infected man with passion and initiated the expulsion from Paradise as well as the falling into a state contrary to nature (one that is subject to sin, ambition, love of worldly pleasure, etc.). This bespeaks of how humanity became mastered by and enslaved to passions, a circumstance wherein ignorance of God becomes the norm. It was the Lord Jesus Christ Who rescued us from this depravity, Who provided the capacity to restore our corrupted senses and defiled human nature to the condition intended by God--which was to deliver us from the power of the Evil One, a conservancy that includes liberation from the infernal poison that is depression. As such, the Lord has provided us with the potential for purification from passion (for a freedom from those tendencies that lead us toward evil and into depression).

Moreover, to understand the nature of passion, and the passion of depression in particular, we must realize that, while interrelated, sin is one thing and passion is quite another beast. That is, sin functions as the gratification of passions such as pride, anger, sexual desire, hatred, and greed. This discordant state of affairs (one wherein man is motivated by irrational desire rather than by love for, or pursuit of, God) exists as an acquiescence to passion that culminates in the turning of what is natural into passion; such as the perversion of child-bearing into fornication or anger against Satan into rage toward neighbors. Thus, passion exists as an exaggeration of distortion of something natural, as a transference of what God intended for our purification into that which belongs to fallen human nature...

"...Furthermore, it must be understood that out of all the demons who work against us the three who stand at the forefront of the battle are lust, gluttony and greed (of both love of money and human glory); other demons follow behind and continue the assault. Aiding these three passions are the demons of ignorance, forgetfulness, and laziness (indifference)--through these all of the other passions (including depression) grow and strengthen. Overall, the Holy Fathers generally agree that there exist the eight principle passions: gluttony, fornication, covetousness, (love of money), anger, dejection, despondency, vainglory, and pride…

Gluttony: This is the door of passions; remember, the Evil One seduced Eve with food. As such, gluttony does not have to involve large quantities (viz., Eve and merely one piece of fruit), it often encompasses the temptation to have just a "little taste," that which can succeed in enslaving us to the devil and lead to being captured by depression. This evidences how gluttony proceeds from the heart, poisons all senses, and makes the soul a den of evil.

Also of import is that there exists two kinds of gluttony: (1) the seeking of only pleasing food without desiring to eat too much (only consuming what pleases the appetite) and (2) being overcome by a compulsion to eat a lot, that is, wanting to eat and eat without any care for what food is being consumed. Either form of gluttony causes blindness to the things of God; as one panders to the belly so too, in the same measure, will he deprive himself of purification and become susceptible to the demons of depression.

Antidotes for gluttony include realizing that our objective with food must be to simply sustain life, pleasure ought not to be our end. Also, we must never omit thinking of God while eating, we must keep in mind that God provides food for sustaining nutritional needs and focus concentration on thanks to Him. To achieve these curatives it helps to choose whatever food is easy to obtain and is cheap, and whenever a lust for food arises then we should confine ourselves to bread and water for a while (this will make us grateful for even a thin slice of bread).

Lust: One consequence of the Fall involved the perpetuation of the human race via physical means (sexual intercourse); meaning that sex is a function of fallen human nature, as is hunger (the precursor to gluttony). Neither sex not hunger are evil when exercised as God intends, however, just as hunger can become gluttony so can sex become ungodly lust; interestingly, there exists a direct cause and effect relationship between gluttony and lust in that overeating can stimulate lust and lust can activate gluttony.

Consequently, the antidote to lust resides in keeping the stomach hungry so that shameful thoughts will not enter the heart. This foreclosure of licentious thinking occurs because the commonplace shameful urges and unseemly fantasies that accompany overeating have been cut off. Assuredly the antidote to a pandering of the flesh is fasting, lust is extinguished by hunger.

Vainglory: There exists a glory that comes from God (cf. Genesis 22:15-18) and there is a "glory" that follows us diabolically (viz. St. Luke 6:26), one that most often manifests as hoping that others are watching our "good" actions (the passion of desiring recognition from others). This effort to have our deeds acknowledged by other is clothed in piety, is quite subtle and extremely hard to detect; that is, vainglory (kenodoxia-Κενοδοξία) as precursor to depression evidences how quickly we can become blindsided by its (depression's) blackness.

Vainglory initially springs from a lack of faith and is then followed by envy, hatred, flattery, jealousy, quarrelling, hypocrisy, and other dark passions; all of which culminates in depression. The result can only be our detachment from heaven, our being chained to earth and unable to look up and see the True Light (the dark clouds of depression obstruct the mind's ascent to God). This demonstrates how vainglory is intimately connected with countless other passions; for instance, as we puff ourselves up with vainglory we are led rapidly to the constant presence of carnal thoughts (lust), quick temper (anger), and the desire to immediately possess everything that we crave (covetousness), all of which ends in a mind that has gone completely astray. Of course, once our desires remain unfulfilled we fall prey to additional passions, such as despondency, and dejection, which results in deep depression...

Antidotes to vainglory include looking straight up to God, rather than to seek the praise of created beings, as well as taking control of the mouth, calling to mind repeatedly the multitude of our sins, and maintaining a remembrance of death.

Anger: This passion results from a lack of self-control and is the quickest passion of them all, hardening the soul more and more. Some of anger's results involve the nursing of grievances, an itching for vengeance, the constant pursuit of "repayment" from those who have offended us, and so on. Quite simply, nothing noble can be produced while the pernicious serpent of anger eats us inside and all too often an overwhelming depression is the result.

Furthermore, once anger has successfully banished our pursuit of God it then gains dominion over the soul and makes us completely bestial. The tongue becomes unbridled and speech is unguarded, physical violence likely results, and the one who is angry and/or the victims of such a person suffer untold injury. The angry person has been deeply wounded in his heart, argues bitterly, speaks with arrogance, and thusly provides the serpent with added strength to further infect inner space; one who has become enslaved by anger eventually lives for sin and becomes totally dead to the truth, the soul has been devoured.

It must be said that nothing is more ruinous and harmful than an uncontrolled tongue, and once our tongue has inflicted offense upon others at some point we experience regret and then begin to slip down the slope and into the pit of depression; obviously, this wholly destructive and robs us of the soul's treasure. Whatever has been collected with great labor the soul dissipates through anger.

The antidote for anger requires taming and transforming it into gentleness (meekness) by courage and mercy. We achieve this virtue by counting our sins and by mourning and weeping over them (there can be no anger where there is mourning). We can also repress the violent and frenzied movements of the soul by emulating the examples of Saints and by humbling the heart via prayer.

Further antidotes involved not thinking that we deserve any rewards or acclamations and not perceiving anyone else as inferior. This is to humble the heart when it howls with rage and compels the passions to honor humility (we curb anger by keeping it bridled to humility). Anger has been designed to help us in waging war with the devil and his demons and to aid our struggle against sin so is beneficial when allied with humility; that is, as with other passions, the passion of anger serves a salvific and purifying purpose when employed for the reasons intended by God...

"...The goal of warfare with passions, in addition to thwarting depression, is to foster dispassion (apatheia). Dispassion is pursued by first renouncing self-will so that we become lovers of God and participate , however imperfectly, in His passionlessness. This requires striving toward guiding thought far away from every passion as the very moment of provocation and toward contemplation of the Divine with greater clarity. However, it must be remembered that no matter how successful we become on this path we will always possess a fallen nature, one wherein temptation toward passion will ever remain as an integral part. That is, passionlessness does never being attacked by demons but rather involves not being conquered whenever we are attacked.

In conclusion, dispassion (apatheia) exists when the mind no longer seeks to keep attention on passions and is instead filled with divine pursuits and contemplation. This is a state wherein whenever passions begin to move (are excited) the mind is immediately lifted away from them via the perception of the divine. Thus, dispassion is the inner heaven of the mind--"the Kingdom of God is within you" (St. Luke 17:21). The truly dispassionate person has raised his mind above crated things and has subdued all senses, which is to keep the soul in God's presence; in such a state passion and depression cannot exist. (Source: Orthodox Heritage)



The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.


"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom


With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner the unworthy servant of God

+Father George