The Passions

What Carries Over

“Don’t be distressed if you have inherited faults, and don’t boast if you have inherited virtues, because God will examine the efforts people have made on their old selves.” – Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain

Blasphemy, Cruelty, Hypocrisy

Presumption and boastfulness are causes of blasphemy. Avarice and self-esteem are causes of cruelty and hypocrisy. — Saint Kosmas Aitolos

Covetousness stands with the Goats

If a man does not keep himself from covetousness, he shall be defiled by idolatry, and shall be judged as one of the heathen. — The Epistle Of Polycarp To The Philippians

It has destroyed me. It has upheld me.

No Christian believing rightly in God should ever be off his guard. He should always be on the look-out for temptation, so that when it comes he will not be surprised or disturbed, but will gladly endure the toil and affliction it causes, and so will understand what he is saying when he chants with the prophet: ‘Prove me, O Lord, and try me’ (Ps. 26:2 LXX). For the prophet did not say, ‘Thy correction has destroyed me,’ but, ‘it has upheld me to the end’ (Ps. 18:35 LXX) — Ilias the Presbyter

Contemplating One's Own Navel

Batiushka said regarding condemnation and criticism of other’s faults and sins: “You need to pay such close attention to your own internal life, that you not focus on what is happening around you. Then you will not condemn.” — Counsels of the Venerable Elder St. Amvrossy of Optina

Those who live without paying attention to themselves will never be made worthy to be visited by grace. — Advice from the Holy Elder St. Leo (Nagolkin) of Optina

The One Ring that Rules them All

The desire for possessions is dangerous and terrible, knowing no satiety; it drives the soul which it controls to the heights of evil. Therefore, let us drive it away vigorously from the beginning. For once it has become master it cannot be overcome. — St. Isidore of Pelusium

Self Esteem is a Passion

The passion of self-esteem is a three-pronged barb heated and forged by the demons out of vanity, presumption and arrogance. Yet those who dwell under the protection of the God of heaven (cf. Ps. 91.1) detect it easily and shatter its prongs, for through their humility they rise above such vices and find repose in the tree of life. — Nikitas Stithatos

Lent, Poverty, and Alms

Money! Money! Power! Honor! These are the temptations which, unfortunately, many people are unable to resist.

This is the source of all the disputes, disagreements and divisions among Christians.

This is the root of people’s forgetting the “one thing needed” which is proposed to us by the true Christian faith and which consists of prayer, acts of repentance, and sincere, unhypocritical charity to our neighbors. The Holy Church always calls us to this, but especially now, during the Great Lent! What is required of us Christians is not some kind of “exalted politics,” not lofty phrases and hazy philosophy, but the most humble prayer of the Publican: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!”, acts of repentance, and doing good to our neighbors, which proceeds from a pure heart.

And it is for the practice of all of this that the Church has established the Great Lent! How powerfully, colorfully, graphically, and convincingly, with what ardent inspiration is all of this spoken of in the divine services of Great Lent!

No one anywhere has such a wealth of edification in this regard as do we Orthodox in our incomparable Lenten services, which, to their shame, the majority of Orthodox in our times do not know at all.

— Archbishop Averky of Syracuse (of Blessed Memory)

The Wall

Let us too imitate these men [Prop. David, Apos. Paul & Silas], building a wall around our life with the habit of prayer and letting nothing ever prove an obstacle to us. There is, in fact, nothing that can be an obstacle to us provided we are on the alert. Listen, after all, once more the words of the world’s teacher: ‘In every place raising pure hands in prayer, without anger or conflict’ (1 Tim. 2:8). If you keep your mind purified of improper passions you can, whether you are in the market place, at home, on a journey, appearing in court, at sea, at the hotel or in the workplace – wherever you are, you can call on God and obtain your request.

St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Genesis, Vol. II.

A List of the Passions

by St. Peter of Damaskos

The passions are:
harshness, trickery, malice, perversity, mindlessness, licentiousness, enticement, dullness, lack of understanding, idleness, sluggishness, stupidity, flattery, silliness, idiocy, madness, derangement, coarseness, rashness, cowardice, lethargy, dearth of good actions, moral errors, greed, over-frugality, ignorance, folly, spurious knowledge, forgetfulness, lack of discrimination, obduracy, injustice, evil intention, a conscienceless soul, slothfulness, idle chatter, breaking of faith, wrongdoing, sinfulness, lawlessness, criminality, passion, seduction, assent to evil, mindless coupling, demonic provocation, dallying, bodily comfort beyond what is required, vice, stumbling, sickness of soul, enervation, weakness of intellect, negligence, laziness, a reprehensible despondency, disdain of God, aberration, transgression, unbelief, lack of faith, wrong belief, poverty of faith, heresy, fellowship in heresy, polytheism, idolatry, ignorance of God, impiety, magic, astrology, divination, sorcery, denial of God, the love of idols, dissipation, profligacy, loquacity, indolence, self-love, inattentiveness, lack of progress, deceit, delusion, audacity, witchcraft, defilement, the eating of unclean food, soft living, dissoluteness, voracity, unchastity, avarice, anger, dejection, listlessness, self-esteem, pride, presumption, self-elation, boastfulness, infatuation, foulness, satiety, doltishness, torpor, sensuality, over-eating, gluttony, insatiability, secret eating, hoggishness, solitary eating, indifference, fickleness, self-will, thoughtlessness, self-satisfaction, love of popularity, ignorance of beauty, uncouthness, gaucherie, lightmindedness, boorishness, rudeness, contentiousness, quarrelsomeness, abusiveness, shouting, brawling, fighting, rage, mindless desire, gall, exasperation, giving offence, enmity, meddlesomeness, chicanery, asperity, slander, censure, calumny, condemnation, accusation, hatred, railing, insolence, dishonour, ferocity, frenzy, severity, aggressiveness, forswearing oneself, oathtaking, lack of compassion, hatred of one’s brothers, partiality, patricide, matricide, breaking fasts, laxity, acceptance of bribes, theft, rapine, jealousy, strife, envy, indecency, jesting, vilification, mockery, derision, exploitation, oppression, disdain of one’s neighbour, flogging, making sport of others, hanging, throttling, heartlessness, implacability, covenant-breaking, bewitchment, harshness, shamelessness, impudence, obfuscation of thoughts, obtuseness, mental blindness, attraction to what is fleeting, impassionedness, frivolity, disobedience, dullwittedness, drowsiness of soul, excessive sleep, fantasy, heavy drinking, drunkenness, uselessness, slackness, mindless enjoyment, self-indulgence, venery, using foul language, effeminacy, unbridled desire, burning lust, masturbation, pimping, adultery, sodomy, bestiality, defilement, wantonness, a stained soul, incest, uncleanliness, pollution, sordidness, feigned affection, laughter, jokes, immodest dancing, clapping, improper songs, revelry, fluteplaying, license of tongue, excessive love of order, insubordination, disorderliness, reprehensible collusion, conspiracy, warfare, killing, brigandry, sacrilege, illicit gains, usury, wiliness, grave-robbing, hardness of heart, obloquy, complaining, blasphemy, fault-finding, ingratitude, malevolence, contemptuousness, pettiness, confusion, lying, verbosity, empty words, mindless joy, daydreaming, mindless friendship, bad habits, nonsensicality, silly talk, garrulity, niggardliness, depravity, intolerance, irritability, affluence, rancour, misuse, ill-temper, clinging to life, ostentation, affectation, pusillanimity, satanic love, curiosity, contumely, lack of the fear of God, unteachability, senselessness, haughtiness, self-vaunting, self-inflation, scorn for one’s neighbour, mercilessness, insensitivity, hopelessness, spiritual paralysis, hatred of God, despair, suicide, a falling away from God in all things, utter destruction —

altogether 298 passions.
These, then, are the passions which I have found named in the Holy Scriptures. I have set them down in a single list, as I did at the beginning of my discourse with the various books I have used. I have not tried, nor would I have been able, to arrange them all in order; this would have been beyond my powers, for the reason given by St. John Klimakos: ‘If you seek understanding in wicked men, you will not find it.’ For all that the demons produce is disorderly. In common with the godless and the unjust, the demons have but one purpose: to destroy the souls of those who accept their evil counsel. Yet sometimes they actually help men to attain holiness. In such instances they are conquered by the patience and faith of those who put their trust in the Lord, and who through their good actions and resistance to evil thoughts counteract the demons and bring down curses upon them.

Waging war against the passions

by St. Nikodemus the Hagiorite and St. Theophan the Recluse

If you want to gain a speedy and easy victory over your enemies, brother, you must wage ceaseless and courageous war against all passion, especially and preeminently against self-love, or a foolish attachment to yourself, manifested in self-indulgence and self-pity. For it is the basis and source of all passions and cannot be tamed except by constant voluntary self-inflicted suffering and by welcoming afflictions, privations, calumnies, persecutions by the world and by men of the world. Failure to see the need of this pitiless attitude to yourself has always been, is and will be the cause of our failure to achieve spiritual victories, and of their difficulty, rarity, imperfection and insecurity.

So this spiritual warfare of ours must be constant and never ceasing, and should be conducted with alertness and courage in the soul; they can easily be attained, if you seek these gifts from God. So advance into battle without hesitation. Should you be visited by the troubling thought of the hatred and undying malice, which the enemies harbour against you, and of the innumerable hosts of the demons, think on the other hand of the infinitely greater power of God and of His love for you, as well as of the incomparably greater hosts of heavenly angels and the prayers of the saints, They all fight secretly for us and with us against our enemies, as it is written: ‘The Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation’ (Ex. xvii. 16).
So you must never be afraid, if you are troubled by a flood of thoughts, that the enemy is too strong against you, that his attacks are never ending, that the war will last for your lifetime, and that you cannot avoid incessant downfalls of all kinds. Know that our enemies, with all their wiles, are in the hands of our divine Commander, our Lord Jesus Christ, for Whose honour and glory you are waging war. Since He Himself leads you into battle, he will certainly not suffer your enemies to use violence against you and overcome you, if you do not yourself cross over to their side with your will. He will Himself fight for you and will deliver your enemies into your hands, when He wills and as He wills, as it is written: ‘Thy Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee’ (Deut. xiii. 14).
If the Lord delays granting you full victory over your enemies and puts it off to the last day of your life, you must know that He does this for your own good; so long as you do not retreat or cease to struggle wholeheartedly. Even if you are wounded in battle do not lay down your arms and turn to flight. Keep only one thing in your mind and intention – to fight with all courage and ardour, since it is unavoidable. No man can escape this warfare, either in life or in death, and he who does not fight to overcome his passions and his enemies will inevitably be taken prisoner, either here or yonder, and delivered to death.
It is not without profit to bear in mind also the purpose for which God is pleased to leave us in this state of war. This purpose is the following. In the days of old, when God led Israel into the promised land, He did not order them to destroy all the peoples dwelling there, but left five tribes alien and hostile to Israel – first, to prove the chosen people and to see how firmly they believed in Him and faithfully kept His commandments, and secondly, to teach His people the art of warfare (Judges ii.21-23,iii.1-2). In the same way, He does not destroy all our passions at once, but leaves them in us, letting them fight against us till our very death, for just the same purpose, namely, to prove our love for Him and our obedience to His will, and to train us in spiritual warfare.
The blessed Theodorite speaks of this in greater detail. God, he says, does this for the following ends:
(a) to prevent us falling into carelessness and negligence, and to make us watchful, diligent and attentive;
(b) to remind us that the enemy is ever ready to attack us, lest we unexpectedly find ourselves surrounded by the enemy and overcome by passions;
(c) so that we should always have recourse to God, asking and hoping for His help;
(d) so that we should not be proud, but should think humbly of ourselves;
(e) so that we should learn to hate with our whole heart the passions and the enemies, who so tirelessly attack us;
(f) to prove whether we keep to the end God’s honour, love and faith;
(g) to urge us to a more strict observance of God’s commandments, so that we do not overlook the least of them;
(h) to learn from experience the great value of virtue and so never to consent to abandon it and fall into sin;
(i) in order that constant warfare should give us the possibility to gain greater and greater crowns;
(j) that we should glorify God and shame the devil by our patience to the end;
(k) that we should get accustomed to warfare during life and so not fear it in the hour of death, when we are to be subjected to the greatest of all attacks.
Thus, since we are always surrounded by so many enemies, whose hatred of us is so bitter, we can expect no peace or respite from them, no cessation or postponement of attacks, but must be ready for an onslaught at any moment and, when it comes, must immediately engage the enemy with courage. Naturally it would have been better, if we had not originally opened the doors of our being and let enemies and passions enter our heart and soul; but since they have already found their way into us, we cannot af ford to be negligent, but must arm ourselves against them to drive them out of us. They are shame less and stubborn and will not leave, unless driven out by force.

Remembrance of wrongs

Remembrance of wrongs comes as the final point of anger. It is a keeper of sins. It hates a just way of life. It is the ruin of virtues, the poison of the soul, a worm in the mind. it is the shame of prayer, a cutting off of supplication, a turning away from love, a nail piercing the soul. It is a pleasureless feeling cherished in the sweetness of bitterness. It is a never-ending sin, an unsleeping wrong, rancor by the hour. A dark and laothesome passion, it comes to be but has no offspring, so that one need not say much about it.A man who has put a stop to anger has also wiped out remembrance of wrongs, since offspring can come only from a living parent. – St. John of the Ladder

The Bloodless Mode

“Forget about all your weaknesses so that the adverse spirit does not realize what is going on and grab you and pin you down and cause you grief.  Make no effort to free yourself from these weaknesses.  Make your struggle with calmness and simplicity, without contortion and anxiety.  Don’t say, “I’ll force myself and I’ll pray to acquire love and become good.” It is not profitable to afflict yourself to become good.  In this way your negative response will be worse.  Everything should be done in a natural way, calmly and freely.  Nor should you pray, “O God, free me from my anger, my sorrow, etc.”   It is not good to pray about or think about the specific passion; something happens in our soul (when we do) and we become even more enmeshed in the passion.  Attack your passion head on, and you’ll see how strongly it will entwine you and grip you and you won’t be able to do anything.

Don’t struggle directly with temptation, don’t pray for it to go away, don’t say, “Take it from me, O God!”  Then you are acknowledging the strength of the temptation and it takes hold of you.  Because, although you are saying “Take it from me, O God,” basically you are bringing it to mind and fomenting even more.  Your desire to be free of the passion will, of course, be there, but it will exist in a hidden and discreet way, without appearing outwardly.  Remember what Scripture says, Don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.  Let all your strength be turned to love for God, worship of God and adhesion to God.  In this way your release from evil and from your weaknesses will happen in a mystical manner, without your being aware of it and without exertion.

This is the kind of effort I make.  I have found that the bloodless mode is the best mode of sanctification.  It is better, that is, to devote ourselves to love through the study of the hymns and psalms.  This study and preoccupation directs the mind to Christ and refreshes my heart without my realizing it.  At the same time, I pray, opening my arms in longing, love and joy, and the Lord takes me up into His love.  That is our aim – to attain to that love. ”

— Elder Porphyrios

True Escape

“True escape from the world is for a person to know how to control his tongue, wherever he might be.” – Abba Tithoes

How passions are exterminated

“The passions are exterminated by sorrow and suffering, either voluntary or sent by Providence.” – St. Seraphim of Sarov