The passions are defined by the ancient monastics as those terrible temptations that blind us to love. They keep us from loving God, others and ourselves.
The eight passions defined by the ancients are: gluttony, avarice, impurity, anger, depression, acedia, vainglory, and pride. The ancients believed there were other passions – some we did not have control over like sleeping and eating, but the passions we can overcome through contemplative disciplines are the ones we will focus on here.
What passions blind us? What passions are at work stealing our freedom to love fully and perfectly? Let’s spend a few moments chewing on the first passion: Gluttony
Gluttony is the first passion Evagrius of Pontus lists in the 4th century AD. Evagrius and many others in the ancient world were convinced the first sin of Adam and Eve was gluttony. Gluttony was a broad term for the monastics. It meant, of course, overeating, but more fundamentally, it was connected to too much variety in your diet. Gluttony suggested an obsession with food that had nothing to do with actual physical need.
Gluttony is very simply about allowing food control us; occupying our time and attention that needs to be given elsewhere. Evagrius suggests gluttony is the desire for more than we need, more than God designed for us, which is why it is seen as the first sin of Adam and Eve. They had been given what they needed, but they longed for more – this was not avarice or greed, rather a hunger to have/be more than was needed.
I live on St. Simons Island, Georgia. We are a resort community with a lot of great restaurants. When I first moved here in 2009, I was told St. Simons is for the “newly-wed, nearly-dead, and overly-fed.” And they were right! I’ve had to think about how much time and/or money I’ve spend on eating or planning to eat.
How do elaborate, expansive meals cause us to think less about the real food needs of those around us? Do we eat or desire more than we should?