Following the directive from the Didache, Wednesday and Friday are our fast days. As a result, we use that time to focus on things that are acting as hindrances to becoming Christ like as a person and as Christ’s body. I thought a helpful aid would be to talk about those hindering habits that the church calls the passions.
What are passions?
Passions are the opposite of virtue ( Greek word means strength). Virtues are the faculties and gifts that God created inside us to be used to turn towards Him and turn into His likeness. Passions however are those same gifts and faculties used to turned away from God. They become weakness and instruments of death instead of strengths that create Christ likeness and life. How many passions are there ?
That many passions?
According to Saint Peter of Damaskos there are 298 passions. Wow, that’s a lot!! During Lent we will dig into the eight major passions: self-love, gluttony, lust, love of money and greed, sadness, acedia (sloth & dejection or apathy and boredom) anger and fear, vainglory and pride. As you can see they are similar to the seven deadly sins. It is obvious the list of eight can be nuanced with many different sub passions. For example: avarice would be a sub topic to greed or love of money.
How are the passions overcome?
As is always the case, our first step is always true humility: recognition that I am damaged because of the fall. This damage needs to be healed. That can only be done in and by the application of the power of the risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ. This is done by the Holy Spirit through our willingness to be healed. It starts with our baptism and continues through the blessed sacrament of Eucharist. Spiritual practices are also used in this pursuit The key activity in this life long process is ascetism. Asceticism is the practice of self-denial (i.e., control of one’s passions and base impulses) for the sake of the Kingdom. The practice of asceticism – called ascesis – is most often associated exclusively with monasticism. However, all the faithful are exhorted to practice lesser forms of ascesis through the Church’s regimen of prayer, fasting, and repentance.
Training starts Today!!
The word “ascetic” comes from the Greek root ἀσκητικός, which is turn is from the verb ἀσκέω, meaning “I train.” The Apostle Paul likens the Christian life of prayer and repentance to training for various sporting events (1 Cor. 9:24-27; 2 Tim. 4:7). As such, the methods of ascesis should not be used as ends to themselves. They are means to the end : salvation, the “prize” which the Apostle mentions in First Corinthians. On your mark, get set, GOOOO!!