Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol II:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Chapter II.—On Drinking.
Chapter II.—On Drinking.
“Use a little wine,” says the apostle to Timothy, who drank water, “for thy stomachs sake;” 1356 most properly applying its aid as a strengthening tonic suitable to a sickly body enfeebled with watery humours; and specifying “a little,” lest the remedy should, on account of its quantity, unobserved, create the necessity of other treatment.
The natural, temperate, and necessary beverage, therefore, for the thirsty is water. 1357 This was the simple drink of sobriety, which, flowing from the smitten rock, was supplied by the Lord to the ancient Hebrews. 1358 It was most requisite that in their wanderings they should be temperate. 1359
Afterwards the sacred vine produced the prophetic cluster. This was a sign to them, when trained from wandering to their rest; representing the great cluster the Word, bruised for us. For the blood of the grape—that is, the Word—desired to be mixed with water, as His blood is mingled with salvation.
And the blood of the Lord is twofold. For there is the blood of His flesh, by which we are redeemed from corruption; and the spiritual, that by which we are anointed. And to drink the blood of Jesus, is to become partaker of the Lords immortality; the Spirit being the energetic principle of the Word, as blood is of flesh. 1360
Accordingly, as wine is blended with water, 1361 so is the Spirit with man. And the one, the mixture of wine and water, nourishes to faith; while the other, the Spirit, conducts to immortality.
And the mixture of both—of the water and of the Word—is called Eucharist, renowned and glorious grace; and they who by faith partake of it are sanctified both in body and soul. For the divine mixture, man, the Fathers will p. 243 has mystically compounded by the Spirit and the Word. For, in truth, the spirit is joined to the soul, which is inspired by it; and the flesh, by reason of which the Word became flesh, to the Word.
I therefore admire those who have adopted an austere life, and who are fond of water, the medicine of temperance, and flee as far as possible from wine, shunning it as they would the danger of fire. 1362 It is proper, therefore, that boys and girls should keep as much as possible away from this medicine. For it is not right to pour into the burning season of life the hottest of all liquids—wine—adding, as it were, fire to fire. 1363 For hence wild impulses and burning lusts and fiery habits are kindled; and young men inflamed from within become prone to the indulgence of vicious propensities; so that signs of injury appear in their body, the members of lust coming to maturity sooner than they ought. The breasts and organs of generation, inflamed with wine, expand and swell in a shameful way, already exhibiting beforehand the image of fornication; and the body compels the wound of the soul to inflame, and shameless pulsations follow abundance, inciting the man of correct behaviour to transgression; and hence the voluptuousness of youth overpasses the bounds of modesty. And we must, as far as possible, try to quench the impulses of youth by removing the Bacchic fuel of the threatened danger; and by pouring the antidote to the inflammation, so keep down the burning soul, and keep in the swelling members, and allay the agitation of lust when it is already in commotion. And in the case of grown-up people, let those with whom it agrees sometimes partake of dinner, tasting bread only, and let them abstain wholly from drink; in order that their superfluous moisture may be absorbed and drunk up by the eating of dry food. For constant spitting and wiping off perspiration, and hastening to evacuations, is the sign of excess, from the immoderate use of liquids supplied in excessive quantity to the body. And if thirst come on, let the appetite be satisfied with a little water. For it is not proper that water should be supplied in too great profusion; in order that the food may not be drowned, but ground down in order to digestion; and this takes place when the victuals are collected into a mass, and only a small portion is evacuated.
And, besides, it suits divine studies not to be heavy with wine. “For unmixed wine is far from compelling a man to be wise, much less temperate,” according to the comic poet. But towards evening, about supper-time, wine may be used, when we are no longer engaged in more serious readings. Then also the air becomes colder than it is during the day; so that the failing natural warmth requires to be nourished by the introduction of heat. But even then it must only be a little wine that is to be used; for we must not go on to intemperate potations. Those who are already advanced in life may partake more cheerfully of the draught, to warm by the harmless medicine of the vine the chill of age, which the decay of time has produced. For old mens passions are not, for the most part, stirred to such agitation as to drive them to the shipwreck of drunkenness. For being moored by reason and time, as by anchors, they stand with greater ease the storm of passions which rushes down from intemperance. They also may be permitted to indulge in pleasantry at feasts. But to them also let the limit of their potations be the point up to which they keep their reason unwavering, their memory active, and their body unmoved and unshaken by wine. People in such a state are called by those who are skilful in these matters, acrothorakes. 1364 It is well, therefore, to leave off betimes, for fear of tripping.
One Artorius, in his book On Long Life (for so I remember), thinks that drink should be taken only till the food be moistened, that we may attain to a longer life. It is fitting, then, that some apply wine by way of physic, for the sake of health alone, and others for purposes of relaxation and enjoyment. For first wine makes the man who has drunk it more benignant than before, more agreeable to his boon companions, kinder to his domestics, and more pleasant to his friends. But when intoxicated, he becomes violent instead. For wine being warm, and having sweet juices when duly mixed, dissolves the foul excrementitious matters by its warmth, and mixes the acrid and base humours with the agreeable scents.
It has therefore been well said, “A joy of the soul and heart was wine created from the beginning, when drunk in moderate sufficiency.” 1365 And it is best to mix the wine with as much water as possible, and not to have recourse to it as to water, and so get enervated to drunkenness, and not pour it in as water from love of wine. For both are works of God; and so the mixture of both, of water and of wine, conduces together to health, because life consists of what is necessary and of what is useful. With water, then, which is the necessary of life, and to be used in abundance, there is also to be mixed the useful.
By an immoderate quantity of wine the tongue p. 244 is impeded; the lips are relaxed; the eyes roll wildly, the sight, as it were, swimming through the quantity of moisture; and compelled to deceive, they think that everything is revolving round them, and cannot count distant objects as single. “And, in truth, methinks I see two suns,” 1366 said the Theban old man in his cups. For the sight, being disturbed by the heat of the wine, frequently fancies the substance of one object to be manifold. And there is no difference between moving the eye or the object seen. For both have the same effect on the sight, which, on account of the fluctuation, cannot accurately obtain a perception of the object. And the feet are carried from beneath the man as by a flood, and hiccuping and vomiting and maudlin nonsense follow; “for every intoxicated man,” according to the tragedy, 1367 —“Is conquered by anger, and empty of sense,
And likes to pour forth much silly speech;
And is wont to hear unwillingly,
What evil words he with his will hath said.”
And before tragedy, Wisdom cried, “Much wine drunk abounds in irritation and all manner of mistakes.” 1368 Wherefore most people say that you ought to relax over your cups, and postpone serious business till morning. I however think that then especially ought reason to be introduced to mix in the feast, to act the part of director (pædagogue) to wine-drinking, lest conviviality imperceptibly degenerate to drunkenness. For as no sensible man ever thinks it requisite to shut his eyes before going to sleep, so neither can any one rightly wish reason to be absent from the festive board, or can well study to lull it asleep till business is begun. But the Word can never quit those who belong to Him, not even if we are asleep; for He ought to be invited even to our sleep. 1369 For perfect wisdom, which is knowledge of things divine and human, which comprehends all that relates to the oversight of the flock of men, becomes, in reference to life, art; and so, while we live, is constantly, with us, always accomplishing its own proper work, the product of which is a good life.
But the miserable wretches who expel temperance from conviviality, think excess in drinking to be the happiest life; and their life is nothing but revel, debauchery, baths, excess, urinals, idleness, drink. You may see some of them, half-drunk, staggering, with crowns round their necks like wine jars, vomiting drink on one another in the name of good fellowship; and others, full of the effects of their debauch, dirty, pale in the face, livid, and still above yesterdays bout pouring another bout to last till next morning. It is well, my friends, it is well to make our acquaintance with this picture at the greatest possible distance from it, and to frame ourselves to what is better, dreading lest we also become a like spectacle and laughing-stock to others.
It has been appropriately said, “As the furnace proverb the steel blade in the process of dipping, so wine proveth the heart of the haughty.” 1370 A debauch is the immoderate use of wine, intoxication the disorder that results from such use; crapulousness (κραιπάλη) is the discomfort and nausea that follow a debauch; so called from the head shaking (κάρα πάλλειν).
Such a life as this (if life it must be called, which is spent in idleness, in agitation about voluptuous indulgences, and in the hallucinations of debauchery) the divine Wisdom looks on with contempt, and commands her children, “Be not a wine-bibber, nor spend your money in the purchase of flesh; for every drunkard and fornicator shall come to beggary, and every sluggard shall be clothed in tatters and rags.” 1371 For every one that is not awake to wisdom, but is steeped in wine, is a sluggard. “And the drunkard,” he says, “shall be clothed in rags, and be ashamed of his drunkenness in the presence of onlookers.” 1372 For the wounds of the sinner are the rents of the garment of the flesh, the holes made by lusts, through which the shame of the soul within is seen—namely sin, by reason of which it will not be easy to save the garment, that has been torn away all round, that has rotted away in many lusts, and has been rent asunder from salvation.
So he adds these most monitory words. “Who has woes, who has clamour, who has contentions, who has disgusting babblings, who has unavailing remorse?” 1373 You see, in all his raggedness, the lover of wine, who despises the Word Himself, and has abandoned and given himself to drunkenness. You see what threatening Scripture has pronounced against him. And to its threatening it adds again: “Whose are red eyes? Those, is it not, who tarry long at their wine, and hunt out the places where drinking goes on?” Here he shows the lover of drink to be already dead to the Word, by the mention of the bloodshot eyes,—a mark which appears on corpses, announcing to him death in the Lord. For forgetfulness of the things which tend to true life turns the scale towards destruction. With reason therefore, the Instructor, in His solicitude for our salvation, forbids us, “Drink not wine to drunkenness.” Wherefore? you will ask. Because, says He, “thy mouth will then speak perverse things, and thou liest down as in the heart of the p. 245 sea, and as the steersman of a ship in the midst of huge billows.” Hence, too, poetry comes to our help, and says:—“Let wine which has strength equal to fire come to men.
Then will it agitate them, as the north or south wind agitates the Libyan waves.”
And further:—“Wine wandering in speech shows all secrets.
Soul-deceiving wine is the ruin of those who drink it.”
And so on.
You see the danger of shipwreck. The heart is drowned in much drink. The excess of drunkenness is compared to the danger of the sea, in which when the body has once been sunken like a ship, it descends to the depths of turpitude, overwhelmed in the mighty billows of wine; and the helmsman, the human mind, is tossed about on the surge of drunkenness, which swells aloft; and buried in the trough of the sea, is blinded by the darkness of the tempest, having drifted away from the haven of truth, till, dashing on the rocks beneath the sea, it perishes, driven by itself into voluptuous indulgences.
With reason, therefore, the apostle enjoins, “Be not drunk with wine, in which there is much excess;” by the term excess (ἀσωτία) intimating the inconsistence of drunkenness with salvation (τὸ ἄσωστον). For if He made water wine at the marriage, He did not give permission to get drunk. He gave life to the watery element of the meaning of the law, filling with His blood the doer of it who is of Adam, that is, the whole world; supplying piety with drink from the vine of truth, the mixture of the old law and of the new word, in order to the fulfilment of the predestined time. The Scripture, accordingly, has named wine the symbol of the sacred blood; 1374 but reproving the base tippling with the dregs of wine, it says: “Intemperate is wine, and insolent is drunkenness.” 1375 It is agreeable, therefore, to right reason, to drink on account of the cold of winter, till the numbness is dispelled from those who are subject to feel it; and on other occasions as a medicine for the intestines. For, as we are to use food to satisfy hunger, so also are we to use drink to satisfy thirst, taking the most careful precautions against a slip: “for the introduction of wine is perilous.” And thus shall our soul be pure, and dry, and luminous; and the soul itself is wisest and best when dry. And thus, too, is it fit for contemplation, and is not humid with the exhalations, that rise from wine, forming a mass like a cloud. We must not therefore trouble ourselves to procure Chian wine if it is absent, or Ariousian when it is not at hand. For thirst is a sensation of want, and craves means suitable for supplying the want, and not sumptuous liquor. Importations of wines from beyond seas are for an appetite enfeebled by excess, where the soul even before drunkenness is insane in its desires. For there are the fragrant Thasian wine, and the pleasant-breathing Lesbian, and a sweet Cretan wine, and sweet Syracusan wine, and Mendusian, an Egyptian wine, and the insular Naxian, the “highly perfumed and flavoured,” 1376 another wine of the land of Italy. These are many names. For the temperate drinker, one wine suffices, the product of the cultivation of the one God. For why should not the wine of their own country satisfy mens desires, unless they were to import water also, like the foolish Persian kings? The Choaspes, a river of India so called, was that from which the best water for drinking—the Choaspian—was got. As wine, when taken, makes people lovers of it, so does water too. The Holy Spirit, uttering His voice by Amos, pronounces the rich to be wretched on account of their luxury: 1377 “Those that drink strained wine, and recline on an ivory couch,” he says; and what else similar he adds by way of reproach.
Especial regard is to be paid to decency 1378 (as the myth represents Athene, whoever she was, out of regard to it, giving up the pleasure of the flute because of the unseemliness of the sight): so that we are to drink without contortions of the face, not greedily grasping the cup, nor before drinking making the eyes roll with unseemly motion; nor from intemperance are we to drain the cup at a draught; nor besprinkle the chin, nor splash the garments while gulping down all the liquor at once,—our face all but filling the bowl, and drowned in it. For the gurgling occasioned by the drink rushing with violence, and by its being drawn in with a great deal of breath, as if it were being poured into an earthenware vessel, while the throat makes a noise through the rapidity of ingurgitation, is a shameful and unseemly spectacle of intemperance. In addition to this, eagerness in drinking is a practice injurious to the partaker. Do not haste to mischief, my friend. Your drink is not being taken from you. It is given you, and waits you. Be not eager to burst, by draining it down with gaping throat. Your thirst is satiated, even if you drink slower, observing decorum, by taking the beverage in small portions, in an orderly way. For that which intemperance greedily seizes, is not taken away by taking time.
“Be not mighty,” he says, “at wine; for wine has overcome many.” 1379 The Scythians, the Celts, the Iberians, and the Thracians, all of them warlike p. 246 races, are greatly addicted to intoxication, and think that it is an honourable, happy pursuit to engage in. But we, the people of peace, feasting for lawful enjoyment, not to wantonness, drink sober cups of friendship, that our friendships may be shown in a way truly appropriate to the name.
In what manner do you think the Lord drank when He became man for our sakes? As shamelessly as we? Was it not with decorum and propriety? Was it not deliberately? For rest assured, He Himself also partook of wine; for He, too, was man. And He blessed the wine, saying, “Take, drink: this is my blood”—the blood of the vine. 1380 He figuratively calls the Word “shed for many, for the remission of sins”—the holy stream of gladness. And that he who drinks ought to observe moderation, He clearly showed by what He taught at feasts. For He did not teach affected by wine. And that it was wine which was the thing blessed, He showed again, when He said to His disciples, “I will not drink of the fruit of this vine, till I drink it with you in the kingdom of my Father.” 1381 But that it was wine which was drunk by the Lord, He tells us again, when He spake concerning Himself, reproaching the Jews for their hardness of heart: “For the Son of man,” He says, “came, and they say, Behold a glutton and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans.” 1382 Let this be held fast by us against those that are called Encratites.
But women, making a profession, forsooth, of aiming at the graceful, that their lips may not be rent apart by stretching them on broad drinking cups, and so widening the mouth, drinking in an unseemly way out of alabastra quite too narrow: in the mouth, throw back their heads and bare their necks indecently, as I think; and distending the throat in swallowing, gulp down the liquor as if to make bare all they can to their boon companions; and drawing hiccups like men, or rather like slaves, revel in luxurious riot. For nothing disgraceful is proper for man, who is endowed with reason; much less for woman to whom it brings modesty even to reflect of what nature she is.
“An intoxicated woman is great wrath,” it is said, as if a drunken woman were the wrath of God. Why? “Because she will not conceal her shame.” 1383 For a woman is quickly drawn down to licentiousness, if she only set her choice on pleasures. And we have not prohibited drinking from alabastra; but we forbid studying to drink from them alone, as arrogant; counselling women to use with indifference what comes in the way, and cutting up by the roots the dangerous appetites that are in them. Let the rush of air, then, which regurgitates so as to produce hiccup, be emitted silently.
But by no manner of means are women to be allotted to uncover and exhibit any part of their person, lest both fall,—the men by being excited to look, they by drawing on themselves the eyes of the men.
But always must we conduct ourselves as in the Lords presence, lest He say to us, as the apostle in indignation said to the Corinthians, “When ye come together, this is not to eat the Lords supper.” 1384
To me, the star called by the mathematicians Acephalus (headless), which is numbered before the wandering star, his head resting on his breast, seems to be a type of the gluttonous, the voluptuous, and those that are prone to drunkenness. For in such 1385 the faculty of reasoning is not situated in the head, but among the intestinal appetites, enslaved to lust and anger. For just as Elpenor broke his neck through intoxication, 1386 so the brain, dizzied by drunkenness, falls down from above, with a great fall to the liver and the heart, that is, to voluptuousness and anger: as the sons of the poets say Hephæstus was hurled by Zeus from heaven to earth. 1387 “The trouble of sleeplessness, and bile, and cholic, are with an insatiable man,” it is said. 1388
Wherefore also Noahs intoxication was recorded in writing, that, with the clear and written description of his transgression before us, we might guard with all our might against drunkenness. For which cause they who covered the shame 1389 of his drunkenness are blessed by the Lord. The Scripture accordingly, giving a most comprehensive compend, has expressed all in one word: “To an instructed man sufficiency is wine, and he will rest in his bed.” 1390
1 Tim. v. 23.242:1357
[This remarkable chapter seems to begin with the authors recollections of Pindar (ἄριστον μὲν ϋδωρ), but to lay down very justly the Scriptural ideas of temperance and abstinence.]242:1358
Ex. xvii.; Num. xx.242:1359
[Clement reckons only two classes as living faithfully with respect to drink, the abstinent and the totally abstinent.]242:1360
[This seems Clements exposition of St. John (vi. 63), and a clear statement as to the Eucharist, which he pronounces spiritual food.]242:1361
[A plain reference to the use of the mixed cup in the Lords supper.]243:1362
[If the temperate do well, he thinks, the abstinent do beter; but nobody is temperate who does not often and habitually abstain.]243:1363
[A very important principle; for, if wine be “the milk of age,” the use of it in youth deprives age of any benefit from its sober use].243:1364
The exact derivation of acrothorakes is matter of doubt. But we have the authority of Aristotle and Erotian for believing that is was applied to those who were slightly drunk. Some regard the clause here as an interpolation.243:1365
Ecclus. xxxi. 27.244:1366
Pentheus in Euripides, Bacch., 918.244:1367
Attributed to Sophocles.244:1368
Ecclus. xxxi. 29.244:1369
[A beautiful maxim, and proving the habit of early Christians to use completory prayers. This the drunkard is in no state to do.]244:1370
Ecclus. xxxi. 26.244:1371
Prov. xxiii. 20.244:1372
Prov. xxiii. 21.244:1373
Prov. 23:29, 30.245:1374
[A passage not to be overlooked. Greek, μυστικὸν σύμβολον.]245:1375
Prov. xx. 1.245:1376
ἀνθοσμίας. Some suppose the word to be derived from the name of a town: “The Anthosmian.”245:1377
Amos 6:4, 6.245:1378
[Here Clement satirizes heathen manners, and quote Athene, to shame Christians who imitate them.]245:1379
Ecclus. xxxi. 25.246:1380
[The blood of the vine is Christs blood. According to Clement, then, it remains in the Eucharist unchanged.]246:1381
Mark xvi. 25; Matt. xxvi. 29. [This also is a noteworthy use of the text.]246:1382
Matt. xi. 19.246:1383
Ecclus. xxvi. 8.246:1384
1 Cor. xi. 20. [Clement has already hinted his opinion, that this referred to a shameful custom of the Corinthians to let an agape precede the Eucharist; an abuse growing out of our Lords eating of the Passover before he instituted the Eucharist.]246:1385
τουτοις, an emendation for τούτῳ.246:1386
Odyss., xi. 65.246:1387
Iliad, i. 591.246:1388
Ecclus. xxxi. 20.246:1389
Shem and Japheth.246:1390
see Ecclus. xxxi. 19, where, however, we have a different reading.
Next: Chapter III.—On Costly Vessels.
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