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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. V:
Ascetic and Moral Treatises.: Chapter XXI

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XXI.

It is perfectly clear that no one can come near the purity of the Divine Being who has not first himself become such; he must therefore place between himself and the pleasures of the senses a high strong wall of separation, so that in this his approach to the Deity the purity of his own heart may not become soiled again. Such an impregnable wall will be found in a complete estrangement from everything wherein passion operates.

Now pleasure is one in kind, as we learn from the experts; as water parted into various channels from one single fountain, it spreads itself over the pleasure-lover through the various avenues of the senses; so that it has been on his heart that the man, who through any one particular sensation succumbs to the resulting pleasure, has received a wound from that sensation. This accords with the teaching given from the Divine lips, that “he who has satisfied the lust of the eyes has received the mischief already in his heart 1495 ”; for I take it that our Lord was speaking in that particular example of any of the senses; so that we might well carry on His saying, and add, “He who hath heard, to lust after,” and what follows, “He who hath touched to lust after,” “He who hath lowered any faculty within us to the service of pleasure, hath sinned in his heart.”

To prevent this, then, we want to apply to our own lives that rule of all temperance, never to let the mind dwell on anything wherein pleasure’s bait is hid; but above all to be specially watchful against the pleasure of taste. For that seems in a way the most deeply rooted, and to be the mother as it were of all forbidden enjoyment. The pleasures of eating and drinking, leading to boundless excess, inflict upon the body the doom of the most p. 367 dreadful sufferings 1496 ; for over-indulgence is the parent of most of the painful diseases. To secure for the body a continuous tranquillity, unstirred by the pains of surfeit, we must make up our minds to a more sparing regimen, and constitute the need of it on each occasion not the pleasure of it, as the measure and limit of our indulgence. If the sweetness will nevertheless mingle itself with the satisfaction of the need (for hunger knows how to sweeten everything 1497 , and by the vehemence of appetite she gives the zest of pleasure to every discoverable supply of the need), we must not because of the resulting enjoyment reject the satisfaction, nor yet make this latter our leading aim. In everything we must select the expedient quantity, and leave untouched what merely feasts the senses 1498 .


Footnotes

366:1495

S. Matt. v. 28

367:1496

ναγκὴν ἑμποιοῦσι τῶν ἀβουλητῶν κακῶν, πλησμονῆς ὡς τὰ πολλὰ ἐκτίκτουσης, κ. τ. λ., removing the comma from πλησμονῆς (Paris Edit.) to κακῶν.

367:1497

Cf. Cicero, 2 De Fin. Bon.: “Socratem audio dicentem cibi condimentum esse famem; potionis sitim;” so Antiphanes (apud Stobæum), πάνθ᾽ ὁ λιμὸς γλυκέα, πλὴν αὑτοῦ, ποιεῖ.

367:1498

κατὰ τὸ προηγούμενον, principaliter. Cf. Clem. Alexand. Strom., τὰ ὀνόματα σύμβολα τῶν νοημάτων κατὰ τὸ προηγούμενον, i.e. of general concepts.


Next: Chapter XXII

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