On Virtues and Their Opposite Passions (Part II)

Venerable Paul the Simple of Egypt

Venerable Paul the Simple of Egypt

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

by Saint Gregory Palamas

The Homilies

Through spiritual instruction, knowledge of things to come is instilled in us, and a right love for our soul engenders in us, who believe, fear and longing for these future realities. This fear and longing results in turn in sincere, unceasing prayer and supplications to God. Then this continuous prayer brings love for Him and union with Him, through which every virtue is born, accompanied by humility, because we are aware of who has brought about these virtues within us. But how is it that loving our body gives rise to love for the world, which then produces evil passions and multitude of sins? Just as our soul naturally longs for the lasting enjoyment to come, so our body years for the fleeting pleasure of the present. Such delight is sensual, works through our senses, and comes from visible, tangible things, that is, the world. Whoever is a friend of the body is a friend of the world. When, as a result of this love for the body, we have an excessive desire for worldly pleasures, pursue them and cultivate them, we wrap ourselves in all the different kinds of ugliness of the passions. As earthly enjoyment works through the senses, and our senses are many and diverse, sensual pleasures and passions too are of great number and variety. Some act through our sight, others through our hearing, others again through our senses of smell, touch and taste.

It is not food that is to blame for those passions associated with taste, but food to excess, which is self-indulgence. These passions are gluttony, eating delicacies, drinking too much, and drunkenness. When the stomach receives immoderate amounts of food, it passes it through the digestive system in great quantities, and by so doing provides abundant fuel for evil's fire. Having received loathsome things, it yields disgusting torrents, by means of which the lower passions come into being: fornication, adultery, immorality, licentiousness, and bodily impurity in all its forms. These passions enslave our hearing, sight and sense of smell, and make us long for what is filthy: foul talk, immoral songs, satanic dances, perfumes which encourage defilement, disgusting cosmetics and self-adornment with extravagant clothes and hairstyles. People in the grip of such passions beautify themselves outwardly, but inwardly they wear the ugly mask of dishonorable vices. They really are like the "whitewashed sepulchers", which appear outwardly beautiful, but within are full of stench and all uncleanness (St. Matthew 23:27). Once our senses have been subjected to evil from within and without, from far and near, they attract filth, and deadly sin goes in and out through these natural windows of ours. "Those things which proceed out of the mouth", it says, "they defile a man" (St. Matthew 15:18), and "Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (St. Matthew 5:28).

This sort of body-loving soul, which pursues pleasurable sensations by every means and gathers material from all over to delight the touch, the taste, and the other senses, begets acquisitiveness and love for money, which gives rise to theft, extortion and every form of greed. In addition to these evils, there is another all-embracing means of perception within us apart from the bodily senses, imagination, which produces other pleasures and passions in those who love the world, such as conceit and arrogance. Furthermore complex passions are formed from a mixture of sensual perceptions and imagination. These are the desire to please people, vanity and pride.

The soul's delight that originates from God and things divine is pure, free from passion, and unmixed with suffering. By contrast, this world offers enjoyment naturally accompanied by pain, not just on account of all sorts of changes and alterations, but because it gives each person a tiny part, and deprives him of the rest. There is only one world, and it is divided among innumerable millions of people, each of whom desires and strives to possess it all, and have it in his power. If someone is enamored of the world and desires the whole of it, whether he has almost all of it, or just a small share, though still more than someone else, he himself sorrows of what he lacks, and causes distress to the person with less, because of his wealth. When, however, spiritual and divine enjoyment and bliss are shared out, without suffering any division, even if one person receives everything, no one else suffers any loss. Each of us has the faith in its entirety, but instead of causing offence to our neighbor's piety, our faith assists his in many different ways...

"...We who are in Christ's ranks should long for the world above. Let our desire be directed towards the Kingdom He promised us. Let us shun enjoyments which drag down our soul, fear the hell-fire with which pleasure-lovers are threatened, flee self-indulgence, drunkenness, fornication, prodigality, greed, injustice, vanity, pride, hatred, anger and inhumanity. These are the things which give the evil one power, alas, over ourselves and the world. We should escape from the world's deception and from its prince, and show through our good works that we are the work of God's good hands. By so doing, we shall make best use of the present, and enjoy the promised eternal benefits when the time comes.

May we all attain to these by the grace and love for mankind of our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom belongs glory together with the Father and the Holy Spirit unto ages of ages. Amen.

(More homilies to come.)



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!"


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

+Father George