Thursday, July 4, 2019

Problems with Gluttony

The early Church Fathers and religious knew the danger of eating food and drinking liquor but they didn't look upon the eating and drinking itself as the problem. They knew the place of food and drink in the Scriptures and with temperance followed God's will and controlled their desires.

Early Desert Fathers passed on their teaching to the future church on gluttony. In an article in the Kyeongyang magazine a rector of a Catholic University treats the vice of gluttony as seen by Evagrius Ponticus (345-399) an influential theologian of the times. In his book Antirrhetikos he treats the eight patterns of evil thoughts and the first was gluttony. Later reduced to seven became our seven capital sins. His treatment of the subject would be for the monks.

John Cassian (360-435?)  was influenced by Evagrius and took note of Jesus' temptation in the desert with food. He placed gluttony first not because it was the most serious or the most important but because it influenced and was the beginning of other vices.

Early church fathers saw the relation between gluttony and sexual impurity. Cassian also made much of the connection with lust, greed, anger, sadness, and sloth. He stressed: when gluttony is overcome one is not tempted with sexual vice." In the Divine Comedy, Dante put those in purgatory for sexual sins next to those who fell into sins of gluttony. 

Gluttony was divided into different types: eating before meals to satisfy the palate, eating rapidly, eating greedily, eating to satiety, picky about food, and eating too high class. Mentioned also was the fact that the way you eat is going to affect others, those at table with you and those preparing the meals. St.Thomas had his similar lists of incorrect table manners.

Christianity considered gluttony as one of the important capital sins because it extinguished the flame of desire for God and the joy of life we should have in him. Cassian told the monks not to find their joy and pleasure in food or drink. He did not think the problem was the food or drink as much as the bodily pleasure that would take your mind off the joy and pleasure that God wanted to give.  

Cassian explains in detail how gluttony influences the life of a monk. First, it give rise to hate within the community, followed by fear that can not be overcome and they leave the monastery. Secondly, it give rise to sexual  and evil desires. Thirdly, gluttony makes us prisoners of avarice, a yoke very difficult to abandon and makes emptying of ourselves to receive what God wants to give difficult.

He concludes the article with St. Benedict's rule for the monks. He followed  the traditional  teaching of the past with some easing because of the changing  times, following basically the traditions of the past.  Grams of food determined, but the abbot  because of the work load would make changes. Drink was also determined—one hemina  (ancient liquid measure equal to about a half pint), not to drink to excess or intoxication. 

Knowing the weakness of human nature the church fathers and monks by these measures gave reasons for practicing the virtue of temperance.

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