Philoxenus, Ascetic Discourses (1894) pp.524-.... Discourse 13 -- Second Discourse on Fornication
When I consider the abominable passions which keep the soul from the divine knowledge, and from the purity of prayer, I find that the passion of fornication preventeth the things which are good more than most, and that it is the passion which especially ruleth persons who are wanting in patient endurance, and setteth them on fire; for when an opportunity ariseth to this passion from the heat of the body, and it findeth minds which are empty of the thought of God and of the quest of excellent knowledge, like the flame in stubble doth the fire of this passion lay hold upon and obtain dominion in all the members. And this destroying [p. 552] passion is hotter and more active than all others, and the greatest bravery is necessary unto the soul when lust setteth battle in array against it, that it may fight therewith and overcome it. And it must in |525 this contest also invoke the aid of Divine Grace, and it must be a care unto the man who will do battle with it, to fight and to root up this passion from his thoughts, and he must tear up the fibres of its growth from the depth of his heart, for there it entereth, and taketh hold, and maketh a habitation for itself, and when it hath been rooted up from thence, all its twigs and branches, which extend over all the other members, dry up. But if it happen that this passion rule within the soul for a long time, and it becometh, by constant meditation, embodied therein, it obscureth its powers of discernment and doth not allow it to see even that it is passion, but like other things, the doing of which is not blameworthy, this lust also is accounted blameless by the mind.
Now sin taketh great care to root up from the soul the thought which seeth that it is sin, in order that without fear and terror it may minister unto the thoughts which are within by the matters which are without, for so long as sin appeareth unto us in others, and is not ministered unto in our own person, by the examination of the justice which is in us, we decide that it is sin; but if it happen that it ariseth in very deed within ourselves, the knowledge of the doing thereof is rooted up from our soul, and the eye of discretion, by which the abomination of its action is apparent unto us, becometh blinded. Let us then take good heed that we slip not and fall into this lust, but if it happen that we be captured by the charms of the causes [thereof], let it not be driven from us to know and to distinguish that it is sin, especially [p. 553] if it be buried secretly in our thoughts. Now the lust of the thoughts is imagined by many not to be sin, although |526 not only is it sin, but it is also the root of all the actions of sin. For the heart is the fountain of all thoughts, and from it are produced all motions of things which are good, and of things which are bad, and that which striketh root, and taketh hold in it----whether it be good or whether it be evil----the fruit thereof appeareth externally, for if the heart is choked by lust, when shall it Wake itself up? And as a tree, which hath been cut down, but the root of which remaineth in the ground, becometh green again and putteth forth shoots when the moisture of water cometh thereto1, even so also doth lust which hath been cut down, but the root of which remaineth in the mind, become green and grow in the thoughts and members through the moisture of meats and drink. Hence, therefore, war against this hidden lust is much more useful unto us than that which is waged externally, because in the latter case there are many causes which restrain it, [such as] the sight of many people, and shame, and modesty, and laws, and penalties; and, moreover, it may happen that those persons with whom the passion of lust hath been taken may not consent [to the gratification thereof]; and because through all these things the working of lust is restrained, it seemeth as if the war against things external were not even difficult, for we do not fight against it by ourselves, but all these things are helpers unto us. And moreover, when we ourselves [p. 554] desire, and make plans with many things to fulfil the work of sin, these and such like things prevent [our doing so], and though because of our will lust is ministered unto within us, yet externally it is restrained |527 by reason of the causes which impede it; and although because of our exterior we are thought to be chaste by the children of men, yet because of our desire we are accounted whoremongers by God, Who looketh upon our inner man, for although we sin not before each other, yet before the knowledge of God our sin is manifest.
Let us then take good heed unto two things: we must not only be chaste in the sight of the children of men, but we must not only have shame before God; and it must also be a care unto us to please God first of all, for from that is produced the freedom of speech (or boldness) which is before the children of men. For because a man committeth not fornication openly it doth not prevent him from being considered a fornicator in secret, but for a man to be free from thoughts of fornication sheweth that he is chaste openly; for the act is not the root of the thought thereof, but the thought is the root and cause of the deed. For it is in the heart, the fountain of the thoughts, and there dwelleth the desire of everything, even as also the will of God there resteth, and because from it, as from a great fountain, the streams of our actions take their courses, it is right that we should preserve it in untroubled purity. For as when the head of the fountain is troubled, all the streams which flow therefrom are also troubled and sullied, even so also when the heart is disturbed by lust, all the senses are troubled, and all the members are disturbed, and the whole person is turned backwards, and the opinions are confounded, and the thoughts are confused, and each member [p. 555] of the body maketh known by its appearance that it is in subjection unto the hidden lust which is in the heart; for everything which beginneth from the heart----whether in things |528 which are good, or whether in things which are bad----is accounted sin or righteousness by the testing of Divine knowledge.
Therefore, our Lord also wishing to pluck lust up by its root, and not to cut it off only from external acts, said, "Whosoever looketh upon a woman to lust after her hath already committed adultery with her in his heart 2," and He placed these words here comparing adultery with adultery, and the test of the law concerning the works of sin with the minuteness of His own knowledge. "Ye have heard that it hath been said by the ancients, Thou shalt not commit adultery 3". Now the law repulsed the ancients from the deed of lust, and that their fornication might not appear in the[ir] external members He gave them the command, for because they had not the strength within them to root up the thoughts of fornication from the heart, the Lawgiver left the first thing, and went on to the second, and because they were unable to cleanse the heart from the thought of adultery, He urged them by the force of the command at least to preserve the body from the working thereof; and He set righteousness for them in an outside place where many causes might be found to support this endurance. Now our Lord did not seek to take adultery from outside, but from where He seeth, for the vision of God is one and alone, and where He seeth, the vision of man cannot see, because man [p. 556] hath not [the power] of knowing the hidden thoughts which are in the soul; therefore He said, "As the sight of the children of men restraineth thee from the open act of adultery, let also the sight of Me restrain thee |529 from the thought which willeth adultery, and cleanse the spiritual place of thy soul that it may become a counterpart of My vision which looketh thereupon. As My look which is upon thee is pure from error and suspicion, even so also let the place which receiveth this sight be pure from the passion of fornication. For to Me lust is adultery, and that the mind should desire, is to minister unto the body, for I do not need to see the lust which is perfected in very deed and then to find it adultery. The thought which lusteth for adultery hath already committed adultery, and whosoever looketh upon a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart; for where it is easy for him to commit adultery he ministereth unto adultery, and it is not the will which preventeth the act from being seen openly, but it is prevented by other causes, and therefore, it seemeth that the triumph ariseth not from the will, but from the causes which prevented it." Now the vision of the knowledge of God looketh beyond causes into our thoughts, and with it He examineth the depth of the mind where it is not easy for the children of men to see, and even if they sought to see they would not easily understand, because unto God alone it belongeth to feel the heart, and to know the things which are secret; and as it belongeth to Him to know our hidden parts, even so also doth it belong unto us to cleanse our hearts before His gaze. Now there are many [p. 557] who, although they commit not adultery in very deed are, nevertheless, adulterers in wish, and who minister unto fornication continually in their souls, for they continually conceive and bring forth forms of all kinds, and with the beauties of persons without |530 connection of the body do they commit fornication continually; and it never entereth into their minds that although men see not, yet God looketh upon the secret things of their thoughts. Sometimes the thought itself is sin, and sometimes the performance of the act thereof, for the thought which desireth wickedness wholly is sin, inasmuch as it is of the will, even though it performeth nothing in very deed.
Now our Lord laid down to us as to mighty men the commandment, "Whosoever looketh upon a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her in his heart," that He might pluck up sin by the root thereof, and that He might cut off and take up from the depth of the heart the lust which destroyeth; for He did not say unto thee, "Thou shalt not look," but, "Thou shalt not look to lust," for the eye looketh at everything, but it lusteth not after everything. In this manner, then, let the beauty of a woman be before thine eye even as the sight of any [other] thing, and be not snared by this beauty, for if the beauty of its nature appeared to the soul it would not desire longingly the beauty of the body, because its own beauty would be sufficient to bind it unto the mind by the pleasantness of its appearance; and when it hath seen it, and hath perceived that the beauty of its nature hath been awakened therein, it shall also acquire for itself the lust of the possession of itself which is more than everything, and it shall be associated therewith in all purity. Thou shalt not [p. 558] lust in thy heart after a strange thing, neither shall the eye of thy thought look upon beauty which is alien unto thee, for it is a disgrace to the soul to be fettered by the lust of the flesh; but if it be fettered |531 thereby, its fetter is outside its nature, and because it hath taken upon itself the mind of flesh it hath also desired the vision which is outside its nature. One kind of adultery is of the body, and another is of the soul, but when the soul lusteth in [its] thoughts, this is a kind of adultery which is peculiarly its own. For as in respect of the body the word "adultery" is the act, even so in respect of the soul the act of adultery is the thought, and there is no excuse for him that meditateth adultery because he hath not actually committed the act, for in himself he hath performed the deed of sin; and in proportion as the nature of the soul is more exalted than that of the body, even so is the fornication of the soul more cruel (?) than that of the body. Moreover, in another way doth this iniquity appear to be grievous, for he in whom is mingled lust naturally doth not fornicate with the body [only], but he maketh the soul subject unto what is alien unto its nature, and for the want of the knowledge of its lust it is reduced to lust with the lust which is not its own. And, moreover, to the fornication of the body there are seasons, and it hath divisions and breaks in its lust, for at one time a man sinneth, and at another he resteth from his sin, but whosoever fornicateth in the soul hath no cessation from the act of this iniquity, because lust is mingled continually in his soul; and if it happen that he go forth from the thought thereof, it is not because of his repentance concerning it, but because another passion hath become strong in him, and hath led away [p. 559] the new purpose, whatever it may be.
Now the victory over lust cannot be acknowledged when the mind, through converse with another purpose, |532 ceaseth from the meditation of lust, but [only] when it overcometh it by itself, having first of all made ready in us the preparation for its victory; for many are the thoughts which are made quiet because other thoughts come and put them to sleep; and when the thoughts which have come have ended their work and are quieted, the thought of fornication is found [to be] in its old place, because it hath not before departed therefrom, but, like a body in the darkness, hath been concealed by the shadow of another passion, and after the shadow which concealed it is cleared away, the body of fornication appeareth ready formed in the soul. Let us then flee, O my brethren, from this kind of fornication, especially from that which is not thought to be fornication, for many flee from the wickedness the Work of which is apparent, but the children of men are imperceptibly snared, especially by that which is not believed to be sin; for not only is evil that which doth not appear to be evil, but that which God hath decreed to be evil we must especially esteem [to be] evil. And behold the wickedness of each of the works of sin is apparent unto a man before he is captured thereby, but when he hath been subject thereunto, and hath performed it for a long time without repentance, the perception of its wickedness is removed from him, for he neither knoweth nor seeth [p. 560] the odiousness thereof, because he hath lost the power of discernment, for sin not only polluteth the person, but it also blindeth the discretion, and maketh him that seeth not to see at all, and him that knoweth not to know, and him that had the power of discernment not to make use of his intelligence, and the vision of that which, as in the light, was quickly seen and known, |533 becometh concealed when the darkness of sin is shed within the soul. For as everything is hidden from the sight by darkness, and even the person of darkness itself, so also everything is hidden from the soul in which the blackness of sin is diffused, and it doth not even recognize that sin is sin. Now that a man should know his sin is the first step to being set free from sin, for after he hath felt that he is fettered he deviseth means to set himself free, but if he doth not even know that he is bound and fettered, how can he devise means and seek freedom for himself?
"Thou shalt not look upon a woman to lust after her," and if thou dost, thou hast committed adultery with her, but look upon her with a pure eye, as upon a beautiful work of God, and glorify the wise Creator because He hath framed, and His will hath ordered such fairness from such a despicable nature, and the beauty which leadeth captive those who behold it from common dust, and from the beauty of the work see the beauty of Him that framed it; and as thou marvellest at the despicable thing which hath thus become wholly beautiful and glorious, thou must wonder and admire Him Who is glorious in His nature, and the beauty of Whose appearance is all-satisfying unto those who are worthy to look upon Him.
Let it be, then, a care to thee, to purify thy soul, and to make thy body also be pure therewith, and be [p. 561] thou holy in the body and spirit, because thou art the dwelling-place of the Spirit of God, for when thy thought is pure from the passion of fornication thy prayer also will be pure and light, and besides this the light of the knowledge of Christ will shine the more in thee when the eye of thy soul is purified |534 for it to dwell therein. As the healthy body is prompt for every work, even so also is it easy for the mind which is cleansed from wickedness to be a dwelling-place for divine motions; and as sickness weakeneth the body and maketh it fit for nothing, even so also do the thoughts of sin enfeeble the strength of the soul, and make it empty of divine motions. For the thought of fornication casteth an evil smell into the soul, by which the sweetness and desirability which it possesseth become changed, and it maketh a foetid odour to rise up therefrom, and in such a soul the treasure of divine thoughts cometh not. For as things which possess in their nature a sweet smell are put into pure vessels which befit them, even so also doth the Divine knowledge abide in the soul which is cleansed from the thoughts of sin, and especially in the soul which is free from this lust, for more than all the other passions doth it distract and confound the thoughts. And Solomon also depicted and compared this passion of fornication unto the following things, saying, "Three things are hidden from me, yea, four which I know not; the way of an eagle in heaven; [p. 562] the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the heart of the sea; and the way of a man in his young manhood. So is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done nothing".4 For he likeneth the lust of fornication unto an adulterous woman whose ways and paths are not known, because she boldly casteth her gaze upon every one, and ministereth unto every one, and she committeth fornication with every one outside |535 the order of nature; even so is the drunkenness of lust when it hath gained dominion over the thoughts, and it hath no way which is known, and no path which is revealed and made plain, and if thou seekest to stand in its footsteps, thou art not able to do so. For the lust of fornication wandereth hither and thither within the soul, and it turneth easily unto every place, while the tracks of her footsteps are not known, and her path is not plain to those who behold her, even as an eagle in heaven, and a serpent on the rook, and a ship in the heart of the sea. And well also did the wise man Solomon set the young man as an object of comparison m the similitude of the three things mentioned above, for what the sea is to a ship, and the air to the eagle, and the rock to the serpent, even so also is the young man to lust; for the eagle cleaveth the air mightily and without hindrance, and the serpent glideth upon the rock, and the ship saileth swiftly through the sea, even so also in the time of young manhood are the thoughts of fornication easily performed in the soul.
Now if a man were to call young manhood [p. 563] the path of fornication he would not make a mistake, that is to say, he would call it exactly what Solomon called it, for "The rock is an easy path for the serpent, because it is not tripped up thereupon, neither doth the heaviness of the dust there impede its course, and the air is the path of the eagle, and the sea of a ship; even so also is young manhood the path of fornication, because whithersoever he wisheth he flieth, as with wings", and with swift feet lust runneth everywhere. For in the time of young manhood the heat of the body is abundant, and it becometh superabundant |536 material for the fulfilment of lust, and fire obtaining the cause thereof from fire, that is to say, lust [taking fire] from that of nature, produceth the mighty blaze of sin. Hence it is right that constant war should be maintained at this period of life, together with bufferings, and labours, and tribulations, and meagre food, and little drink, for when the material upon which lust layeth hold be removed from the midst, it perisheth and cometh to an end; and this according to the experience of actual fact every man perceiveth who wisheth to become a spectator of such things as these, and because of this, moreover, every man who seeketh to overcome this lust must devise means to remove from before it the fuel and the material which kindle the flame, and behold it will not burn.
Now besides these causes lust entereth in either by the sight of women, or by the conversation of continual stories about it, or by the meat and drink which are given [p. 564] to the body beyond its need, and if thou wilt remove from the midst these three, and dost meditate upon divine knowledge, the thought of lust will not attack thee, for since the body because of the heat thereof doth not set it in motion, and the soul through idleness doth not meditate thereupon, wherewith can it be awakened? Now either the body kindleth it by the heat thereof, or the soul, for want of the thoughts of knowledge, meditateth thereupon; for outside of these two things lust hath not a place where it can lay its head, for when it hath found that the body is dead unto the world, and that the soul liveth in divine meditation, it turneth itself backwards straightway, and a place wherein to abide it findeth not. |537
If the pain of lust causeth thee to suffer pain, learn the cause thereof, and cut it off; why shouldst thou be afflicted through thy ignorance with a sickness the cure of which is easy? for I am not acquainted with any other passion the cure of which is so easy. Food doth not make thee to sin when it is taken to sustain thy life, but it is sin when it bringeth thee unto lust. So long as thou eatest unto thyself there is no sin in thy meat, but if thou eatest unto lust, thy food is of sin. Whence then canst thou know when thou eatest unto sin, and when unto thyself? Now, so long as lust is set in motion in the members of thy body and attacketh thee----if it be that thou eatest----thy food is of lust, and it is increased and intensified thereby; and not thy strength and thy life, for lust is mingled in thy life for the sustaining thereof----that is to say, [p. 565] that through thee thy life may be given unto others; but how much more shall that will which overcometh the lust of life overcome and subdue lust? Now thou hast not power to give thy life unto others, because it belongeth not unto thee, but unto Christ. For the carnal connection and marriage of the world continue human offspring, and transmit life from person to person, that from man man may come into being, and from a living being a living being like unto him may be produced, and these things happened when our life belonged unto ourselves. Of old we had the power to distribute it to others through marriage and carnal connection, but now, because we live the spiritual life of Christ we have not the power to give the life which is not our own unto others, for we are not our own, and the Apostle said unto us, "Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price; glorify then God |538 in your body and in your spirit, which belong to "God." 5 Thou seest then, [O disciple,] that also the body and the spirit belong to God, and that we have no power over either of them, and whosoever hath no power over his life, how can he give it to others by the intercourse of lust? that is to say, how can he shew it in another person by begetting after the manner of human beings?
Now spiritual begetting was revealed in the world that it might annul the" begetting of the body, and the other womb which is in baptism was constituted that it might make the natural womb to cease from bringing forth progeny, and if the whole of human nature had been able to keep this commandment, [p. 5615] the Will of the Majesty would have wished this and would have been gratified thereat, but because our Redeemer saw the feebleness of mankind, and that it was not able to [perform] this work, He set His will among the many, that at least a few of them might become doers thereof. Do not consider only that the womb which was to bear offspring was first framed by God, but see also that in the place of the first womb another was created which was to give birth unto spiritual instead of carnal beings, according to the perfect will of God, for the good and perfect will which is acceptable unto God is that all carnal beings shall become spiritual, because it was for this purpose that He came into the world, namely to create as another creation the children of men. And thou must not consider that He did not cut off marriage, nor destroy the flow of lust, and think that, perhaps, He is gratified thereat, for |539 behold neither did He make all this world to pass away, nor take away the pleasure, and riches, and power thereof, but He left it as it was in its original construction, and commanded thee to become an alien thereunto, and to cast it away like a worn out garment. That things have remained as they are----the world, or its pleasures, or the lust which is in thee----shall not be material to lead thee astray, and thy soul shall not be fettered by that which was once dissolved therefrom, because these were left to be the material of thy strife, and not for thy lust's sake, and that thy mighty will and God-loving mind may look thereupon. For the world remaineth that it may inflame thee with the lust for another world, and riches and power, that they may create [p. 567] in thee the longing for that possession which is incorruptible, and for that honour which cannot be dissipated, and pleasures also remain in the world that thou mayest desire longingly the taste of spiritual life, and lust also remaineth in thy body that it may be the material for thy good will, and that it may take it little by little from the body, and place it upon the soul.
Do not, then, give unto thy lust a portion with the body, and thou shalt not allow thy natural gratification to be broken up, and the joy and gladness which are in thee to be brought to nought, but carry them, as it were, from house to house, from the body to the soul; for as a man bringeth his things of great price out from the house which he knoweth will fall, and carrieth them into another which is new and firmly built, and which he is confident will neither fall nor be broken into, even so also do thou take all those passions which thy body hath, and which in name are |540 the material for that which is good, and lay them up in the dwelling of thy soul, in the house which neither falleth, nor is broken up, nor destroyed. Take the heat from the body, and lay it upon the soul; take lust therefrom, and mingle it with that of the soul; take the strength thereof, and mix it with the might of the soul; turn all things belonging to the body that they may belong to the soul; and be diligent and earnest to do these things especially in the time of early manhood, when the passions begin to shew themselves, because in youth and in old age thou hast them not, and what existeth not, how can it be easy to thee to take and to give to others? Now the period of passions is the period of early manhood, that is to say also, the time of strength, and it is well that together with the passions strength also should be revealed, that it may fight and deliver [p. 568] thy good things from the body, and bear and carry thy riches from place to place.
Whosoever fighteth and overcometh his lusts in the time of his early manhood is able to become mighty in his soul, and he alone is able to profit by all the growth of that which is good, for he hath it to give and to take; for old age is empty of both, and childhood hath not as yet arrived at either of them, and the lust which is dried up of itself shall not abide, and little by little, together with its nature, shall be brought to nought. Now in this thou hast no blessing, for as thy natural death is not said to be a testimony on behalf of God, thou receivest it as a penalty which was laid upon thy life, and thou hast neither renown nor glory thereby, even so also thou hast nothing whereof to boast when lust shall be brought to nought forcibly, either by old age or sickness; but it is thy |541 triumph when thou coolest it at the time when it is hot, and thou extinguishest it at the time of its blazing, and when immediately it beginneth to move in the members thou makest ready the shoulder of thy thought, and thou bearest it, and earnest it, and layest it upon the lust of the soul, and thou sayest unto it thus: "Why hast thou set thyself in motion where thou wilt be destroyed?" and immediately the sense of thy gratification will cease. "Come and set thyself in motion in thy natural place where the sweetness of thy lust will neither be dissipated nor annulled, and where, moreover, penitence will not draw nigh at thine end, and weakness entereth not in thy footsteps against the soul, and [p. 569] the nature of thy warmth becometh not cool after the fulfilment of thy work, but stand at all seasons in thy might, and taste the unchangeable treasure which is laid up there, and freedom of speech and confidence shall be strengthened in thee----not things which are not seemly unto thee, and which merit rebuke and reproof, but the things by the lust of which thou art moved naturally, and the lust for which is a matter for praise, and day by day this excellent lust will grow strong and increase, and thou shalt expend forwards. For thy season with the body is short, but with the soul thou hast no ending, and with the life of the soul abideth thy immortal gratification; with the body the union with another body setteth thee on fire, but with the soul, the union of the Holy Spirit kindleth a blaze in thee. Do not then be united unto the corruptible body in which, even if the soul had destroyed its differences, and the corruptibility and deformities of the body had been hidden from its face, thou wouldst not find place wherein to move; |542 for if it happened that at the season in which thou soughtest thy gratification the faculty of discernment were to rise upon the soul, straightway thy work would be brought to nought, and there would not be exit for thy corruptible gratifications." These, and such like things must be said by thee to lust when thou bringest it from the body to the place of the soul.
Now, therefore, thou must not remove from thyself the promises and good grounds for hope that thou art about to receive that which is more excellent than that which the soul leaveth, for in the manner in which lust is set in the body naturally the lust of things which are better is set even in the soul; [p. 570] and when the soul lusteth naturally, its lust is for spiritual things, and when it hath intercourse which is according to the law, it hath connection with the spirit, and from this union it produceth fruit of holy and pure offspring. And as the connection of the body worketh gratification in the members, and corrupt warmth is mingled throughout the body, even so also when the soul hath intercourse with the spirit doth the spirit receive gratification, and it acquireth warmth by its progress and power to fight against the evil things which are contrary to its gratification; and when the soul hath tasted this sweetness which cometh unto it by the connection with the spirit, it bringeth unto itself the lust of marriage wholly therein.
Know, then, as by experience, that for want of the feeling of the lust of the spirit, the lust of the flesh becometh stirred up in thy members, for that both of them should move in thee at one time is impossible; for in proportion as the spirit becometh hot in thee |543 the body cooleth, and in proportion as the body becometh hot in thee, the spirit cooleth. For the two lusts are placed one against the other, the lust of the body against the lust of the spirit, and as they are different from one another, so also are all the acts of the one different from those of the other; the one catcheth fire in the members, and the other kindleth in the thoughts; the vessel of the one is the substance of the body, and that of the other the nature of the soul; to the one cleaveth confusion, and to the other order; the one at the season of its fulfilment darkeneth the light of the thoughts, and annulleth in the mind [p. 571] wisdom and knowledge, and the other filleth the mind with light, and gathereth together in the soul the knowledge and wisdom of the spirit. The lust of the body when performed maketh a man to be weak and dazed, and to be ashamed of every man and even of himself, and to be afraid of everything; but the lust of the spirit placeth might and vigour in the soul, and suspicion of everything which is visible, and boldness towards the children of men, and a pure aspect towards God, and the confidence which ariseth in it towards man, it hath towards itself. The lust of the body is a teacher of folly, for the man who continually fulfilleth this lust cannot become wise, but the lust of the spirit not only maketh men to possess the mental knowledge of the world, but it also dippeth the understanding in the living motion of the spirit, and clotheth a man in readiness and preparedness for everything which is good. It maketh his understanding to be stirred up and active for every spiritual work, and all its own motions move with vigour, and power, and strength, and this lust doth not allow the sluggishness of the body to draw |544 nigh unto a man, for if it happen that, either through natural coldness, or by reason of sicknesses and weakness, the body produceth sluggishness, the fervour of this lust warmeth it immediately, and by its heat it driveth away from it the coldness of the body, and herefrom [p. 572] a man becometh watchful and ready for divine deeds.
Now spiritual beings do not fulfil the rule of their works by the warmth of the nature of the body, but because they are fervent in the spirit are they active and ready for such like works, even as Paul also commanded that we should stir up this fervour of love by which all spiritual things are perfected, and by the power of which we complete the course of this journey, saying, "Be ye fervent in spirit";6 for that the lust of the body possesseth fervour Paul hath made clear in his words, and he hath taught us with what lust we should be fervent, saying, "Be ye fervent with the lust of the spirit, that all your course and work may be spiritual." For as the heat of the blood driveth away from the body the sluggishness which produceth the coldness of phlegm, even so also doth the fervour of the spirit drive away from the soul and body the negligence which is born of error and of the want of the love of God. And as when the natural heat is raised, and it draweth nigh to the heart and is mingled therewith, it maketh a man zealous, and ready, and watchful, and active towards the affairs of the world, even so also when the heat of the spirit draweth nigh to the understanding of the soul it maketh a man zealous towards the building up of himself, and towards the |545 things of heaven, instead of the world, and zealous to gather together spiritual merchandise, and to speak judgment against those who plunder his inheritance, and to desire with longing the intercourse which is incorruptible, and to become a father unto [p. 573] immortal children, and to care for, and to possess, and to think of, and to gather together, and to carry, and to preserve all these spiritual and heavenly things.
Now, therefore, through the fervour of the spirit a man becometh ready for all these things, and well hath Paul taught us to be "fervent in the spirit", for as cold is dissipated and brought to nought before warmth, even so also before the fervour of this heat of the spirit doth sluggishness flee, and negligence is driven off, and weariness brought to nought, and suspicion dissipated, and error removed, and all the shadows of sin turn away to hide themselves entirely. And as natural strength is produced by heat, and weakness hath dominion over the members through cold, even so also through the heat of the spirit doth the soul acquire strength, and vigour, and power, and driveth away entirely by fair deeds all the sluggishness which cometh upon the soul or body. And as the measure of the heat of a fire and the quantity of the light thereof are in proportion to the blaze, even so also according to the measure of the heat which is found in the soul hath it fervour towards spiritual things, and knowledge, and wisdom, and power over Divine treasures.
Now therefore in the time when there is still heat in thy body, and the lust of nature liveth in thy members, be zealous to kindle in thee the heat of the spirit, and stir up in thy thoughts divine lust, that through one lust being |546 jealous of the other, and the one fire emulating the other, the lust of the spirit may be strengthened and carry off the victory, which victory is seemly thereto naturally. For in the time [p. 574] when thou hast in thee power to minister unto the lust of the body, be zealous and make thy power to become the minister of the lust of the spirit, because the Holy Spirit doth not work its deeds in useless bodies, nor in persons who have become cold through old age doth it make to rise the faculties of discernment of Divine wisdom. For whosoever in the time of his early manhood maketh his strength to embrace the service of evil lusts cannot receive Divine knowledge in the infirm time of his old age, but when natural soundness hath ceased from him, and he hath come to the condition of old age, he becometh wholly and entirely useless, and his body and his soul become cold and infirm together. Do thou, then, if thou wishest that the heat of early manhood be found with thee in the time of thine old age, labour with thy strength in the time of thy early manhood, and deposit this heat therein by the hands of thy soul, and because the soul groweth not old with the body, when the body becometh feeble through age thou canst in the time of thine old age bring out from the treasure-house of thy soul some of the deposits which thou didst hand over to the soul, and canst live upon them. And when the power of the body hath become feeble, thou canst find strength therewith, and when the heat thereof hath become cold, thou canst make thyself warm in thy works by its fervour, and when the strength of the members hath come to an end, thou canst become strong in thy works through thy thoughts, and when the natural lust, together with the heat of the |547 body, hath been cut off, the lust of the spirit abideth with thee, which at all seasons hath intercourse and beareth the fruit of spiritual offspring.
For seed time is one thing and harvest is another: sow then thy soul with the things which are good in the time of thy early manhood, that thou mayest reap therefrom in the time of thine old age. [p. 575] If, therefore, thou desirest union, devise means and implant in thee this lust that in old age it may conceive and bring forth; for the intercourse of the body hath not power over all seasons, and natural lust is not preserved in the members in every period of life, but the lust of the spirit is not thus, for all times are its own if the time of early manhood hath been to it a known time. Pass over, then, from the body to the soul whilst thou hast a bridge whereover to cross, and whilst thou hast strength in thy legs to walk, and whilst thou hast light whereby to walk, and whilst the shadows of old age do not bend over thee, and whilst thou still remainest in the country of the body. Stir up, then, in thee wrath against lust, and because wrath accompanieth lust when it is stirred up, do thou take wrath and anger to support thee, and go forth against it; and as love is necessary for thee against wrath, even so also will wrath be useful to thee against lust. For lust is peaceful and gentle in its coming when it is accompanied by laxness, and tranquillity, and rest, and wanton ways, and abominable motions and manners, which are the contrary of fortitude, but when lust looketh upon thee in these forms, do thou put on the armour of wrath, and go forth against it. For as the sluggishness of children's slumber is quickened into the activity of flight before a man who looketh upon them with a face full |548 of fear and who terrifieth them, even so also wilt thou drive away the childishness and annoyance of lust, if [p. 576] thou shewest it a face full of wrath and threatening.
Pluck, then, from the noontide of thy early manhood the blossoms of things of excellence, and glean, and bring in, and carry for thyself fruits [of] all kinds that they may be laid up for the winter of thine old age; for the man who hath lived wholly in the body in the time of his old age will come to an end completely, but whosoever in his early manhood is fervent with the lust of the spirit shall remain unchanged unto the end of his life. Now the body cannot preserve its natural faculties unendingly, for some of them are made useless before the end of life, and some of them come to an end with life itself, but they can all be set free, and removed from the body, and directed towards the soul, if there be a discerning understanding which knoweth how to turn them thereto; for behold, although the natural life be outwardly dissolved by natural death, yet in the spirit is it preserved to the soul, and in this manner, likewise, is it with the other natural things of the body which are made useless by old age and by the body, for when they are deposited in the hands of the soul, they abide unendingly with the life of the soul. There is, therefore, no power in lust to persuade thee, if thy will will not accept it as a suppliant, and for this reason it, as one that knoweth its own feebleness, draweth not nigh unto thee without thy will, but when thou hast taken this thought to be a guide unto thee, then it entereth in and kindleth its fire in thy members.
Do thou, then, when thou feelest the destructive |549 fire gaining power within thy body, kindle the living fire which is in thy soul, and when thou hast perceived that thy members have tabernacled in the ministration of lust, occupy thy thoughts in the service of the knowledge of Divine Mysteries; let not lust come and find thee empty, and behold, let it not perform its desires in thee, but thou must be found [p. 577] alive in the spirit before it, that by the fire which is in thee thou mayest extinguish its fire. Wherever it obtaineth a cause, thence cut it off; and wherever it beginneth to enter in against thee, there shut the door before it, and keep it outside, for the abominable lust cometh in against us from without, but that which is implanted in us----whether it be of the soul or of the body----is placed in us for the ministration unto the things which are good. For because it belongeth unto the soul to lust after God, and unto the body to be moved by the lust of its nature, well was lust set in opposition unto lust, that being mingled with each other they might establish one pure and holy deed of lust; for the causes which move the lust of the soul are from above, but those of the body are from below, whence also is the nature of the body, now He did not create it that we might desire these things, but that by intercourse with the soul we might lust after spiritual things. And behold, although the body is formed of the earth, and is made up of various mixtures, yet was it not formed for the earth, that is to say, that it might be named or called a body of earth, but it was created by the Creator to become a soul, that is to say, a minister unto the desires thereof in everything, and a participator in all things that are good.
Therefore we are bound not to consider that the deeds |550 of the body arise from whence the body came, but that for which it was made must we consider to be the aim of its works, for it was made for the spirit, and not for the earth, and it was made to become a spiritual and not a corruptible being. It was called "body," that it might be known from this name that it was derived from the earth, and it is also called "man," that thereby it may be revealed that it is united unto a living soul And well was this person of man called by three names, [two] specific, and one general name, [p. 578] [that is,] "body", and "soul", and "man"; by the name "body", that its carnalness might be recognized, and that it was of the earth; and by the name "soul", that the living nature which dwelleth therein might be indicated; and by the appellation "man", that one might learn the mixture of the person which is constituted of body and soul. Now therefore since the body hath no thoughts, and the soul hath no visible actions, they were rightly mingled with each other, [that is to say,] that which is the fountain of thoughts with that which is the vessel of the service of deeds, in order that from both of them there might be constituted a body of excellence, and that whosoever sought to belittle the body because it possessed not thoughts, might honour it because it was the ministrant unto deeds, and that the soul might be magnified in the sight of him that sought to despise the soul because it was not a ministrant unto the things which are good through actions which are manifest, because it is the fountain of the thoughts of the things which are good.
Now the lust of the spirit is hot even as the lust of the body is hot, but they are not of the one measure, for according to the subtlety of the soul also is the |551 heat of its lust, and according to the grossness of the body even so is cold the fire of the lust thereof, and if it be imagined that it is hot in the things which are carnal and lax, it is not because its nature is powerful and hot, but because their will is cold and lax. And thou must understand how much colder is the heat of the lust of the body, and how much hotter is the lust of the soul than the things which come upon both of them, for behold, when the lust of the body is set in motion in the members even the sight of the children of men cooleth it, and the rumour of a threat if it be heard, and a menace, of whatever kind, if it be uttered [p. 579] against it, and sudden amazement, and another passion which is contrary (if it be roused up in a man), and the rebuke and reproach of friends or neighbours, and the remembrance of the judgment of the children of men, and the remembrance of the infirmity of nature, and the thought of the deformities of the person by which lust hath been taken, and hunger and thirst, and unwonted heat and cold, and sickness, and pain (if it happen), and many other such like things when they happen quickly extinguish and destroy the heat of the lust of the body. But when the hot and spiritual lust of the soul layeth hold upon the thoughts of the soul wholly, there is nothing which is able to extinguish it, even as the things upon which the divine fire of this lust hath laid hold testify, that if the whole world were to fight with them it would not be able to quench the lust thereof. And kings, and princes, and governors, not by the threat of words only, but by tribulations, and cruel tortures, and imprisonments, and stripes, and prisons, and heavy penalties of all kinds, fire, and combs, and swords, and wild |552 beasts, and everything which could inflict pain and suffering by the tribulations of the time [have tried to do so], but nothing of all these and such like things was able to allay and cool the ardent power of this lust, on the contrary, it came to pass that these things became feeders of the fire of their lust. And like the fire which is fed with wood, and stubble, and the fatness of oil, even so also did the good lust which was in them receive food from afflictions and tortures; [p. 580] and when fire was brought nigh unto their bodies, the fire of the divine lust which was in them became the more strong, and burned the brighter----especially because it was overcoming things which were contrary, for that victory which ariseth over injuries is wont to fortify and strengthen a man in the love of that which he loveth. For when one lifteth away stumblingblocks from before him, and removeth the prickly thorns from before his feet, a man walketh easily, and he runneth his course without impediment, and when he hath subdued his enemies beneath his power, his might, moreover, becometh mightier, because that resistance which hath been removed from his sandals hath been added unto him, and that power which hath been taken from them turneth unto him.
But when the lust of the soul fighteth with the lust of the flesh, it not only cooleth the heat thereof, but it turneth it unto itself that it may be a ministrant unto its will, and be mingled in spiritual fervour, and not minister unto the lust of the body in the union with another. Moreover, for this reason the Creator made the lust of the body a hot thing----now the lust which is implanted in the soul is also a hot thing----and therefore every time that the soul wisheth to be |553 moved by the lust of its nature, it hath intercourse with the heat of the lust of the body, at the same time turning it towards its good desire, and thus it ministereth unto the good work, and not in this only, but also in each natural member. And when the soul wisheth to be moved unto the service of the things which are without, it draweth nigh unto the members which vivify its secret parts, and it seeth through the eye, and its heareth through the ear, besides through all the other senses and members which are the ministrants of its internal will; and as [p. 581] when it seeketh to lust with these it associated! the lust of the body with its spiritual lust, and it ministereth unto the work of divine love, and blazeth with the love of the life of righteousness, that the signs of the flame of this lust may also be visible in the external members of the body, not by foul motions, nor by the work of the service of foolish lust, but being hot, yet are they tranquil, and being fervent, yet are they peaceful. The heat of the lust which is mingled in our bodies must not be, therefore, a cause of defeat to us, but let us consider the object with which the Creator mingled it in us, and according to this rule let us make use thereof. But when the lust of the body is in a hot body it is contrary unto chastity, but when it is mingled with the lust of the soul it is a helpmeet to virginity; it is right, therefore, that the power of the lust should not be scattered without, but it should be gathered together and carried within to the lust of the soul, that when they are mingled together, each with each, like light with light, they may kindle one light which is perfect in chastity. Now the foods which each of these lusts hath are different from each other, for |554 by fasting, and abstinence, and watching, and prayer, and stripes, and bodily labours, the lust of the soul is added unto and strengthened, and by the things which are contrary, that is pleasures, and enjoyments, and delights, and meat, and drink, and fine apparel, and converse with the wanton and lax, the lust of the body increaseth and becometh set on fire in us; but it is not so if the body becometh meagre by works, for behold, by this the soul also becometh enfeebled therewith, but as the body becometh enfeebled the soul becometh mightier, and increaseth in strength, and especially because the soul maketh the body weak that it may become strong. Now there is a distinction between the body becoming meagre naturally, [p. 582] and the soul making it weak with the object of gaining possession of the strength of its nature, for when with this reason the soul maketh the body weak, and reduceth the strength of its power by afflictions, that is perfected with them which Paul spake, saying, "As the outer man is destroyed the inner man is renewed day by day."7 And for this reason also Solomon counselled us to begin to do the labours for the things which are good from our youth up, and to be trained in this doctrine from the beginning of our life, that we may overcome that which is in us, but which agreeth not with us, and that we should lead in subjection the lust which is the contrary of our lust; and herefrom every man, who in the time of his strength overcometh the feebleness which is in him, will be found in the time of his feebleness to be mighty, that is to say, if he taketh upon him in his early manhood the integrity of old |555 men, the strength of young men will be found in him in the time of his old age.
Take, then, O disciple, provisions for the time of thine old age from the field of thy early manhood, so that when thou ceasest from the labour of thy body thou shalt find rest of soul, for thou shalt not have war all the time of thy life, and thy Creator, having compassion upon thee, limited thy fight unto a determined period, but thy happiness He hath made unending. At the beginning and at the end of thy life thou hast no war, either because lust hath not yet been set in motion, or because having been set in motion it hath grown cold, and whether thou wishest it, or not, thou findest thyself worn out in the time of thine old age, and because of the weakness of the body thou art not able to fulfil thy lust, not that thou hast extinguished lust, but that it hath died down in thee. For the fire of the lust, which the Creator placed in the carnal nature for making the human race to fructify, towards the close of a man's life, |p. 583] in the time of his old age, becometh of none effect, for he cannot fructify during the whole period of his life; now he is unable to do so either in his childhood or in his old age, and in this respect he must be likened not to himself alone, but also unto beasts, and animals, and feathered fowl, and plants, the nature of which is not to put forth fruit after their kinds, either in their childhood or in their old age; for each kind is restricted, and the fructifying thereof is also laid under restriction, especially because the fruit itself is generated in and by the body, and therefore, like the body, it is itself restricted.
Now as the life of the body hath a limit, even so |556 is the strength thereof limited, although its power be not made known even during the whole span of its life, for as I have said, at the beginning and end of its life the body hath not the power of fructifying; but as concerning the soul, inasmuch as it hath no constitution it hath no old age, and the heat of its lust never be-cometh worn out, except the sickness of wickedness come over it. For as the body through the mingling of its component parts becometh old or weak, even so also doth the soul become sick and weak through sin, and through its feebleness it extinguisheth the heat of its lust, wherefrom it is unable to put forth fruit. Whosoever then maketh lust weak in his early manhood shall be found strong in himself in the time of his old age, and after he hath ended his war, his strength will abide with him. And this happeneth also to the warriors of the world who possess their strength, not only while they stand in the ranks of the battle and fight with their enemies, but also after the war hath come to an end [p. 584] doth it shew itself in them, and their strength doth not come to an end with their fight, even though its efficiency was shown to excess during the time of the contest, because it is helped by and ariseth from zealous feelings. And thus also, O thou who hast put on thy soul the armour of chastity that it may be the material of war against fornication, think not that the time of thy strength shall end with thy war, for on the contrary, at the end of the war it will be the more renewed. even though it be not to do battle but to work the things which are good. For with strength thou fulfillest two things: thou wagest war with fornication, and thou completest the edifice of chastity. For as the |557 workman, when an old building is given to him to restore, throweth it down with his strength, and buildeth it up therewith, even so also both the new building of thyself, and the throwing down of thy old building are completed with thy strength, for thou throwest down fornication, which is the path of all wickedness, and thou buildest up chastity, which is the pure path that goeth up to heaven.
And what wickedness is there which is not in fornication? and what abominable thing is there which doth not enter by the door thereof? If it be lust of the belly, fornication strengtheneth it; and if it be the lust for gold, it ministereth thereunto; and anger and wrath cleave unto it, and with them it fighteth against its opponents; grief travelleth at its heels, and shame accompanieth the fulfilling thereof; and besides, vainglory, which is thought to be the opponent of fornication, is the helpmeet of its abominable work; for how many times through it have many men turned towards the passion of fornication, which came after the conclusion of their labours, thinking that they had arrived at the haven of rest, because they were taken captive through their negligence of it? And it hath made gross their mind, and darkened their vision, which had been purified [p. 585] through the victory over the lusts of the body, and it hath turned them back to the lust of fornication which they conquered at the beginning of their contest. Therefore, he that calleth fornication the path of all wickednesses maketh no mistake, now I mean not only the fornication of the body, but more than that, the fornication of the soul, because with the worldly man adultery is the deed thereof, but with the coenobite it is the thoughts thereof; |558 and unto the worldly man it was said, "Thou shalt not commit adultery 8," but unto the coenobite, "Thou shalt not lust."
Now the war of the thoughts is entirely unknown unto the worldly man, and because of this he doth not overcome his lust with a mighty hand, but he ministereth thereunto according to the law, which is of nature; but the coenobite hath not this power, and his victory is not manifest in destroying the act of fornication, but in his victory over the thought thereof is his triumph proclaimed; for he is a spiritual soldier unto Christ, and his victory is also spiritually perfected in the thoughts which are within, and by his patient endurance he cleanseth the country of his soul so that when he driveth the thought from thence the whole house of his soul appeareth in the light, and where there is light the darkness of sin entereth not, because sin is wrought in the dark, even also as righteousness is wrought in the light. Let not, therefore, this destroying passion excite thee, and let it not have dominion subtilly in thy thoughts, for the material thereof is abundant with thee, especially when thou dwellest with the children of men, being increased at the remembrance of various persons, and through the beauty and appearance of the body.
Now because the lust of fornication is born of the flesh, it also lusteth after flesh, and as the lust of the belly longeth earnestly for various tasty meats, [p. 586] even so also doth the passion of fornication lust after persons of beautiful appearance, and the love thereof doth not rest upon any one of them, because it is not the children of men which it loveth, but the beauty of passion; but when the excitement thereof is |559 great, it doth not take its stand upon the beauty of the appearance, but it groweth and becometh strong of its own accord, and when it hath subdued the power of the soul inwardly, it overcometh also the patient endurance of the body outwardly. But if it be overcome by the body by watchfulness it turneth to fight against it by sleep, and during sleep it polluteth and filleth the soul with the remembrances of those persons which when it was awake were driven out therefrom, and it maketh a man to be overcome by sleep perforce. Therefore abstinence is necessary unto thee that through it thou mayest diminish the superfluity of the body, in order that not even through sleep may lust find material in thy members; for the custom of this passion is to fight first of all through the members of the body, and to move it to lust like an animal, but if a man possesseth discretion, and restraineth the motion of his members from the act, passion turneth and entereth into the thought, and exciteth it inwardly, that thereby it may stir up the members to the deed of lust also. But if it be overcome also by the thoughts ----now it is vanquished in any case when the thought looketh upon God, and patient endurance and abstinence are found therewith-----this evil passion next cometh unto sleep, and through sleep it fighteth against the patient endurance of the soul; but let us not leave this----if it happen unto us----unrepented of, especially if the forms [p. 587] of [certain] persons be depicted in our minds, for it showeth plainly that the passion is the remnant of wakefulness. And if the emission of the body take place without the appearance of certain persons it is because of the superfluity which is found in the members, for except the body be subdued by |560 abstinence the material of lust will be found in its members, and if it doth not feel at all that which taketh place it is [because] it is too deeply sunk in sleep. By all means possible, then, is the disciple bound to overcome passion, in deed, and in thought, and in the emission which taketh place in sleep, for that he is overcome in sleep is a proof that he hath not overcome in thought, and that he hath not overcome in thought is a testimony of his being overcome in deed, and therefore a diminution in food and a lessening of the time of sleep are of use, that superfluity fight not against the body and we be not overcome by an involuntary dream. For as this happeneth not even in sleep unto those who are weak and old in years, for the emission of fornication hath already been destroyed and dried up in their members, even so also the fornication of night happeneth not unto the body which hath been enfeebled through labours of abstinence, for even though the thoughts be set in motion, and devils excite [them], the material for the emission of lust is not found in the members. For solitaries fight against sleep even as they light against lust and meat, because sleep, like lust and meat, maketh gross the mind, and increaseth lust; but if a man offer food unto the body only because of the need thereof, and only allow it to sleep in a similar manner, according to the means employed he will be free from the passion of fornication; but even if his vigilance exist not in the wandering of the thoughts, [p. 588] but only in the mind which is collected, and which singeth psalms and prayeth, he must drive away this passion from the thoughts, and if it goeth forth from the soul it will not remain with the body. |561 "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth" 9, the blessed Paul commandeth us, and if the members die according to the teaching of the Apostle there shall not be to thee in them a place for the motion of lust. For what can lust do in a dead body? That it is possible for the members to die the words of the Apostle shew, because he would not have commanded anything which was impossible, and as he said especially, "your members which are upon the earth," it seems as if we had other members in heaven, or from heaven, and this is what "Mortify your members which are upon the earth" meaneth. For since lusts are of the earth, they have dominion in the members which are of earth, but if we mortify these members by the patient endurance of fasting, and self-denial, and abstinence, and besides these things also by continual vigils, and the watchfulness of prayer, the lusts which are of earth are not received into them, for what have the passions to do with dead members? For the members of the new man Paul calleth "the members which are in heaven," and concerning them he spake, "they are from heaven," saying, "As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly." 10 Therefore the members of the new man he calleth "heavenly", and over these it is not right that passions should have dominion, for they [p. 589] befit them not, and they belong not unto them; how then shall the passion of fornication have dominion over the members of the new man who hath become one body with Christ? |562
Now I do not say that it is right for us to overcome this passion of fornication by reason of the greatness of the gift to us, and by reason of our exceedingly great honour only, but also because of the things which cling unto the passion, [I mean], shamefacedness, and grief, and repentance, and the want of freedom of speech, and darkness of the mind, and grossness of the thoughts, and disturbance of the reasoning powers, for all these things, and others like unto them enter in upon the soul in the train of the passion of fornication. But if we endure, and overcome, and set in our soul the beautiful image of chastity, after the victory over this lust the soul will immediately become filled with joy and with freedom of speech towards God and man, and it will delight itself in the pleasure of its thoughts, and will receive the light of Divine knowledge, and will also put on strength, and be filled with confidence. And the soul also will receive similar joy from this victory, which we are not able to express with words, because the soul itself is not able to express this joy with speech----for that which is acquired by deeds hath enjoyment in deeds, and the things which are acquired by speech rejoice in speech; therefore the victory over lust, inasmuch as it hath taken place through the might of the soul, together with the help of Grace and the happiness also which ariseth from the healthy condition of its nature and from the gift of the Grace of God, and which cometh unto it after the victory, is administered unto it conformably to rule. Now in that order, which is [p. 590] twofold, are the enjoyment and pleasure of the body, for sometimes it hath enjoyment from its natural health, and sometimes it receiveth enjoyment from foods and from things desired which are from without; and thus also it |563 happeneth with the soul, for sometimes while standing in the purity of its understanding and possessing its natural health it perceiveth the enjoyment thereof, and sometimes when it is worthy of the Grace of God, and of the contemplation of spiritual revelations, it receiveth this enjoyment. And it knoweth how to delight itself therein, and it feeleth the spiritual gratification which is shed abroad in all its parts; but there are no means whereby thou mayest reduce the enjoyment and gratification of spirit which it feeleth to speech or to the instruction of words, because it receiveth the taste of this enjoyment spiritually. Sometimes through the tastes of [various] substances and cooked things the body receiveth the gratification of eating, again through the sight of a person it is moved to the gratification of lust, or its sense of hearing hath pleasure from the sweet sounds of singing, and the various strains of music, or the body receiveth the gratification of pleasure from a soft touch; now because all these things belong to the body, and it hath enjoyment in them bodily and actually, a man is able to describe this gratification with words, and because corporeal things give enjoyment unto the body, and it is pleased with a material and embodied voice, so long as he pleaseth a man may speak of the gratification which may be derived from them.
Now because the enjoyment of the soul is not derived from substances, nor from the action of corporeal things [p. 591] and the corruptible things thereof, and because its enjoyment is derived from the spiritual contemplation of everything which it is able to feel when it hath acquired the health of its nature, it is unable to describe the gratification which cometh to it in words, but it hath enjoyment inwardly, and it rejoiceth invisibly, |564 because its joy is not of itself. For as the soul which, by its power, maketh the body to feel the enjoyment of everything is within the body, even so also is the contemplation of the spirit which is wont to give enjoyment unto the soul within the soul, and when the soul hath enjoyment thus, its enjoyment is natural, and according to the order of its nature it receiveth gratification, because the world of the soul is within the soul, even as the world of the body is outside the body; but when the soul hath enjoyment which is outside its nature, it deriveth it either from the body or from the world. And thus doth it happen unto such pleasure; it resteth satisfied either with the lusts of the body which can be fulfilled----either the lust of the belly, or the ministration unto the passion of fornication, or with those which it receiveth from the world ----praisings, and glorifyings, and sounds of singing, and the gratification of the bodily appearance of the things which are visible, in all of which, either through the body or through the world, hath the soul enjoyment---- and these give it enjoyment outside its nature, and it dependeth not upon its healthiness [p. 592] but upon its unhealthiness, for there are lusts which minister unto the health of the soul and body, and likewise there are lusts which minister unto their sickness.
Now therefore it is evident when the soul hath enjoyment in evil lusts that its enjoyment is outside its nature, and that it doth not enjoy quietly that which is seemly thereto, but that which is alien unto its natural health. For behold, when the body committeth adultery and performeth this act of transgression of the law, according to what it thinketh, the soul hath gratification therefrom; and again, when the soul fighteth |565 and overcometh the lust of its body, it completeth by God the victory with a fair aim and by the power of the discernment which it receiveth. And after this victory it also receiveth gratification as from the fulfilment of the lust, and from the victory over lust it receiveth gratification from both at once; but that gratification which it receiveth from the body----as I have said already so very many times----is outside of the order of nature, but that which accrueth unto it from the victory over lust, is natural gratification, and it feeleth this enjoyment like a healthy being, and lawfully and naturally it hath enjoyment in this gratification. And those who overcome the war of lust with a spiritual aim perceive what I say, and though they feel their enjoyment they utter not words concerning it; for how can they describe that in which they have enjoyment in an incorporeal manner? But since all the things of the spirit are not of the body, we must seek them in their proper place, and there will they be found, and where [p. 593] they are found there must they be enjoyed, and where their enjoyment is, there also is the joy thereof, the joy which maketh glad and is invisible, and with which also there is power.
And as in the former case when lust overcometh the soul it sheweth itself a weak and miserable thing clothed with shame, even so also in this case when the soul overcometh lust, it is after the victory filled with strength, and joy, and freedom of speech, and it possesseth an enlightened eye that it may see with full power the knowledge of the spirit which is mingled in all things visible; but as the things which fulfil the lusts of the body feel the gratification thereof, even so |566 also have the things which minister unto the spiritual lusts of the soul enjoyment of spiritual gratification. And as the sickness of the soul feeleth the enjoyment which ariseth from the lusts of the body, even so also doth the health of the soul feel the gratification thereof, and if a man seeketh to feel by words which can be written down what hath been said, he seeketh a thing which is both out of place and unseasonable, and the fruit which he seeketh he shall not find, because he seeketh not to pluck it from its proper tree; for as every fruit is found upon its own tree, and must be plucked therefrom, even so also must spiritual things be seen in their proper places, and these fruits which are the rational and spiritual gladdeners of nature are found upon their proper trees. Therefore after the victory over the passion of fornication the soul plucketh that spiritual fruit which gladdeneth [p. 594] and enlighteneth it, and whosoever seeketh it findeth it after his victory over this passion, a victory which must take place not only in the body, but also in the soul; for sometimes this lust fighteth against the body, and sometimes it wageth war with the thoughts of the soul, and so long as the fire thereof kindleth in the members, it fighteth not against the thoughts, for how can it fight against that which contendeth not with it? So long as the thoughts are subject unto lust and minister unto the will thereof, like a mistress doth it give commands unto all the members, and it fulfilleth all its pleasures absolutely in the country of the body with which it dwelleth. But if the mind becometh a spectator of itself and perceiveth that an alien rule dwelleth within the domain of its body, and that thievish and plundering passions dwell in its members, it straightway maketh |567 ready to expel them, and it beginneth to stir up a war to expel the strangers which are found in its house; and because unto the lusts their habitation is pleasant, they also fight that they may not be expelled, whence is set in notion the war of the thoughts against the thoughts, and with which side the strength is the greatest victory is found.
Now therefore, the lust which is in the members would accomplish the act thereof, but it cannot be fulfilled at all seasons, as it seeketh; but the lust which is hidden in the thoughts hath nothing to restrain it from being actually wrought except the appearance of God only, and therefore the prophet ascribeth "Woe" unto those who pollute themselves on their couches, and he exposeth the foolish thoughts of those who imagine and say, "The walls of my house surround [p. 595] me, and the shadow of my house hideth me, and he knoweth not that the eyes of the Lord are ten thousand times brighter than the sun, and that He seeth all the reasonings of the children of men."11 And although outwardly these words may be thought to have been spoken of the man who doeth iniquity upon his couch secretly within his house, and of those who fulfil their lusts in the dark in their habitations, being hidden from the sight of man, yet the words of the prophet rebuke especially that thought which committeth fornication inwardly within the soul, for instead of walls, the members of the body surround it, and instead of a roof, the vessel of the heart hideth him, and dwelling in this secret and hidden place he fulfilleth his adultery, thinking that he is seen by no man; and he fleeth not from |568 sin, but from the sight of man, and he understandeth not that there is nothing hidden from before the bright vision of God, for the sight of God who looketh upon hidden things is "ten thousand times brighter than the light of the sun". And as from the light of the sun nothing is hidden, for everything upon which he shineth he revealeth, and maketh to be seen by the sight, even so also doth the seeing Eye of the knowledge of God look upon the secret things of the children of men, and It looketh upon the thoughts which are concealed within the mind, and although the thought may not commit adultery actually, yet the Eye accounteth it an adulterer in will, and It judgeth it by its gratification, and not by its acts.
Now some gratify their lust in very deed, and some gratify it by a phantom; there is the adultery which taketh place in the body, and that which is fulfilled in the soul. [p. 596] It is manifest then, that whosoever driveth adultery out from the heart will not leave it in the body, for the thoughts are the roots of deeds, and as, if a tree be shaken from the roots. and the growth thereof which is embedded in the ground be loosened, its leaves wither immediately and its fruit drieth up, and its whole appearance is changed. even so also is it with the root of lust, for if it be shaken and loosened from the heart the external actions also begin to dry up immediately, because, like a root in the ground, the thought in the heart is also the nurse of external actions, whether of good, or whether of evil. And as trees grow and flourish in the water, even so also do actions grow through the moisture of the thoughts, and as plants which are set by the side of a spring dry up if it happen that the spring dry |569 up, even so also do the works of the lusts which are planted by the fountain of the heart, and which drink and grow therefrom, become parched, if a man blocketh up the fountain of the evil thoughts; for a man to cut off lust from the thought is a complete victory over the actions. To the lust of the thoughts no seasons are known, but at all seasons is it set in motion, and at all times it can be fulfilled, especially when it hath material from without to minister unto it, wherefore we must the more take good heed, and must look with wise discernment, and from whatever side lust looketh upon us there must we shut the door before it.
For lust is mingled in the motion of our life, and so long as life hath motion in our body, so long hath lust motion [p. 597] and movement therein; but as death putteth a stop to the motion of natural life, even so also doth it silence the motions of lust by the slaughter of the old man. If then through the natural motions of the body lust attacketh us, we must know that the suppression and subjugation thereof are necessary for the body, and we must remember the helpful words of the Apostle which he spake unto us concerning his own person, saying, "I subdue my body, and I bring it into subjection".12 And looking at this example let us also bring our body into subjection, and let us subdue the beastly lust which hath its motion and leapeth up therein, and let us lay upon it the weight of protracted fasting, and of little meat, and of little drink, and if these, when applied unto the body, are sufficient to subdue it, [well,] and if not, let us double and increase them; and if these also are not sufficient of themselves to bring it into |570 subjection, let us look for other things which are more severe than these, and let us apply them thereto. But the most necessary thing for this war is little drink, because lust----and especially the lust of fornication----is fed by moisture, and if moisture feedeth it, then the dryness which ariseth from little drink drieth and parcheth it up, even also as Gideon the warrior turned back from the war those who had knelt down and drunk their fill of water, and took with him to the war against the Midianites those who had drunk little, and who had lapped water into their mouths from their hands, [p. 598] And these things were not discovered and wrought by him only, but God commanded him to do thus, for when he had gathered together much people for the war to go up against the camp of Midian----which symbolizeth the passion of fornication ---- God commanded him to blow a horn to warn the people, and to say before them, "Whosoever is fearful and trembling, let him return;" 13 and by reason of this cry a multitude of the people who were with him returned. And from this it appeareth that not every man who was called to the war was fit for the war, and because there were still among them those who lusted after victory with ardent mind, although they were afraid of the labour which it involved, God told him to try these also, and after he had performed their trial by water he turned back from the war those who kneeling upon their knees had taken a long, full drink of water, because the satiety of water is useless in the war against lust; but the few who had drunk little in haste, lapping the water from their hands into their mouths, he took with him to the |571 fight against that camp which symbolizeth fornication, and that this is so, according to what is said, the history which Moses wrote testifieth, saying, "The people committed fornication with the daughters of Midian, and they took part in the sacrifices of their gods".14 Now all the things which happened unto them are a type of our own spiritual life, and everything which is written concerning them indicateth that which belongeth to us, even as Paul also saith, [p. 599] "Let us not commit fornication, as some of them committed, and there fell in one day four and twenty thousand".15 For when the war of fornication came against this sluggish generation which went forth from Egypt, it was not able to stand before it, but was conquered by the beauty of the daughters of Midian, and committed fornication with them, and in the track of this fornication a sudden pestilence had dominion over them at that time. Now in the case [of the Israelites] of old, the fornicators perished through a punishment which came upon them suddenly, and the passion of fornication was not destroyed in a regular way; but in the case of Gideon the governor, he did not destroy the fornicators, but only the fornication. And that he might do this when he was about to destroy this camp which had made the people of old to sin----in which, as I have said, a type of fornication is indicated----he took with him to the war against this passion the few men who had drunk a little water in haste, whereby they shewed concerning themselves that they were able to engage in the battle, which actually happened; and when he made them ready for the fight he made them take pitchers, |572 and horns, and torches, and they hid the torches inside the pitchers, and they took the horns in their right hands and the pitchers in their left, and immediately they blew the horns, the pitchers were broken, and the light of the torches appeared.
Now the sound of the horn is the mark of the commandment of God, Who crieth out against this passion of fornication in all His Books, saying, "Let us not commit fornication, as some of them committed";16 and "Let there be no [p. 600] man found among you who is a fornicator or a slothful, like Esau, who for one mess of meat sold his birthright";17 and, "Be not deceived, neither fornicators, nor adulterers, nor idolaters, nor corrupt men, nor those who lie with men, nor thieves, nor gluttons, nor drunkards, nor plunderers, shall inherit the kingdom of God";18 and, "Every man who is a fornicator, or unclean, or oppressor, or who is an idolater, hath no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God".19 And our Lord spake, saying, "Whosoever looketh upon a woman to lust after her, hath straightway committed adultery with her in his heart";20 and again James the Apostle said in his Epistle, "Whence come wars and strifes among you, except from the lusts which war in your members?"21 And again Peter saith, If a murderous lust come upon you, think ye that anything strange hath happened unto you? now ye are to be tried [therewith]";22 and again God with His voice cried out to the Jewish people, saying, "Thou shalt not lust after thy neighbour's wife." 23 |573
Now the blasts of the horns which cried out against the camp of Midian were a type of these holy words which were uttered against the passion of fornication, and together with the sound of the horns there was straightway the breaking of pitchers, for all the people were commanded by Gideon, saying, "When ye hear me blow [p. 601] the horn, blow ye also the horns, and break the pitchers, and let the light of the torches which are hidden in the pitchers appear",24 and all these things are a type of our own spiritual life. For by the sound of the horns were made known the Divine commandments, by which immediately a man maketh use of them with his own voice, and crieth out with power against the passion of fornication, this lust will be driven away, and be brought to nought by the Divine voice, and as in the case of Gideon when the trumpets sounded the pitchers were broken, even so also here at the hearing of the commandment is this lust of fornication broken and brought to nought. And as in the case of Gideon with the breaking of the pitcher the light which was hidden in it appeared, even so also here with the abatement of fornication the light of the knowledge of Christ riseth in the soul, and the three parts may be recognized thus: by the sound of the horn is symbolized the commandment of God; and by the pitcher which was broken the passion of fornication, the breaking of which is also as easy and simple; and by the torch which appeared at the breaking of the pitcher the light of the divine knowledge which riseth in the soul on the abatement of fornication; and these things will be readily accepted, especially by those who have had experience thereof. |574
Now this is the doctrine which Gideon's war sheweth unto us, and these are the types which it maketh known to us, and because of this lust, those who went forth to the ending of the war drank little water, and looking at them let us be like unto them. And whosoever fighteth this fight let him not drink water to the fill, neither let him fill his belly with food, [p. 602] and let him not be overcome even by the lust for common meats; and let him not be in the habit of filling his belly, but let him remember Esau, against whom an accusation was brought by the word of Paul, and he was called a "fornicator" and "slack," because he sold his birthright for one mess of meat.25 Now in this place Esau was not blamed by reason of the rarity and great costliness of the food, for the meat was of lentiles; but because of his laxity and because he was overcome by his lust and ate greedily thereof, he was called "fornicator" and "slack"; and very rightly did Paul call this being overcome "fornication", for how much more would the man who was overcome by the sight of a mess of lentiles be overcome by fair beauty?
Moreover, let us consider the word of God which was spoken unto the Jewish nation, that not only was adultery in very deed prohibited, but also the lust of the thoughts, for He did not say, "Thou shalt not commit adultery with thy neighbour's wife", but "Thou shalt not lust after thy neighbour's wife",26 and although their choice was according to that of youth, the commandment which He spake to them was perfect and full, for He warned them against the lust of the thoughts more than against the act of adultery. "Thou shalt |575 not lust, for unless I had lusted I had not committed adultery";27 and our Lord said, "Whosoever looketh upon a woman to lust after her, hath straightway committed adultery with her in his heart".28 For one looketh, and it is not for the sake of adultery, but he looketh and seeth in the ordinary way, but whosoever looketh that he may lust, this man is, in respect of his will and lust, an adulterer. And the two sayings, [p. 603] "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife", and that which was spoken by our Lord, against the adultery of the thoughts, agree, each with each; for in old time He said, "Thou shalt not lust", and here He saith, "Thou shalt not look to lust", for it is not the looking alone which maketh to sin unless it agree also with the will which is within.
For one man looketh to lust, and another looketh to see; now the ordinary sight of nature is of the eye, but the sight of lust is not only of the eye, but also of the will and thought; for if David had not looked, he would not have lusted; and if he had not lusted, he would not have committed adultery, for "He went up to the roof of his royal house, and saw a woman washing, and he lusted after her, and he sent and brought her, and committed adultery with her".29 If he had looked simply, he would not have lusted; and if he had not lusted, he would not have committed adultery.
Let us, then, shut the door of sight before lust, that the sight may not in the smallest degree depict phantoms within the soul, for for this reason lust setteth |576 itself in motion in our members in various ways, and it lusteth after various persons, and this happeneth unto it when the vision of God is not placed before the eyes of the soul; for if the remembrance" of God be found therein, all the memorials of the evil lust vanish swiftly therefrom, and it is not severed from the sight of that all-satisfying beauty in order to look upon corruptible beauty. For it will help us greatly to suppress lust if we consider the corruptibility of nature, and the other [p. 604] foul and loathsome things by which the conscience is polluted, which cling unto the nature of the body; and if a man look at their impurities they will quench the ardour of lust in no slight degree. And as the prophet of God, David, in suppressing the pride of human nature said unto it, "Man is like to vanity: and his days pass like a shadow";30 and again, to abate man's confidence in man, that no man, whoever he be, should bind his hope to his fellow man, he said, "Ye shall put no confidence in man, nor in a ruler, for there is no redemption in his hand. His spirit goeth forth, and he returneth to his earth, and on that day all his thoughts perish".31 And, moreover, let us act thus in respect of this passion of fornication: when it becometh hot in us, and disturbeth our thoughts, let us set against it either the remembrance of God and the fear of His judgment, or let us make use towards it of the repetition of the words of the Scriptures, or let us look at its corruptibility and weakness, and upon the diseases of human nature; for when a man looketh upon these wisely, and considereth the end thereof by the power of his soul, and he observeth the emission of seed and |577 the impurity, and the diseases which come upon the body, and especially the filth and corruption which exist in the members, and such like things which cleave to the body, he will be able through these to quench lust, and he will despise it, and treat it with contempt, because he seeth of what manner of things it hath need.
On the other hand, let him take heed unto [his] thoughts, lest when he looketh upon the corruption and foulness of nature it be not rejected in his sight, for he must not set these things in motion in him that he may despise them, [p. 605] but that he may suppress his lust. Moreover, if a fortifying example, and an encouraging sight be necessary unto him, let him remember the righteous men of old, not only those who have lived from [the time of] the revelation of our Redeemer onwards, but especially those who lived before His coming; for although perfection was not, as yet, delivered unto the children of men, and they were not worthy of the rule of the life of the world which is to come, yet even thus in their edifices chastity was esteemed more precious than marriage, and each one of them honoured holiness (i. e., an ascetic life) more than carnal union. And it seems that Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, who were the patriarchs of a race of believers, and [were] the mansions who received all the righteous, and who strove zealously in their faith and lovingkindness, lusted more after purity and the remoteness from carnal intercourse than after the marriage which continueth the offspring of the children of men. And again, after them Joseph the chaste, who although he was but a few years old, shewed by his forbearance the discretion of aged men, and having no teacher to admonish him, and no schoolmaster to enlighten, and no |578 father to protect, and no good example to help, the remembrance of God took the place of all these things for him, and he himself in deed fulfilled beforehand that which was spoken by the word, "I have set the "Lord before me at all times, that I might not be moved." 32 And although his master's wife was led captive by lust for him by reason of the beauty of his body, and was continually importuning him,33 to stir him up to the deed of sin, he learned beforehand the philosophy of the doctrine of Christ, [p. 606] and he resisted, that he might not be overcome by his lust, even though a twofold war was attacking him from within and without; for without, his master's wife was fighting against him with her beauty, and her words, and the incitement of her near presence, and within, the lust of the body was waging war mightily with him. And though standing between these two mighty contests, he overcame both by the power of his patient endurance, yet consider in what dire straits his soul stood at that season with the billows of lust, wave after wave, which had been stirred up by the blandishments from without beating upon it, but they overturned not the mighty rock of his patient endurance, for like a ship which is beaten about and shaken by the waves which dash upon it, even so also did the ship of Joseph's soul tremble and shake; but because the anchor of his soul was fixed above, in the heaven ---- according to the word of Paul 34 ---- and was not cast into the depth beneath, his thought was at all times lifted up to heaven, and was against the lust which was roused up against him. And he stirred up also the remembrance of God, and he was terrified at the |579 of His judgment, and he said unto her who incited him corruptly, "My master hath made me ruler of all his house, and hath kept back from me nothing, except thee who art his wife; how then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?" 35 For to sin against God was more serious unto him than all harsh judgments, and all severe and cruel punishments, hence he was not prevented from sinning because of the judgment of God, but because he would not sin against God.
[p. 607] For what beating can make the soul to suffer----if it hath in it the perception of divine life----like the sinning against God? That a man should sin against God Joseph calleth "great wickedness," and in very truth the fall is great; the sin of a man against God hath no healing except by the Grace of God, even as the divine Book hath said, "If a man sin against the "Lord, of whom shall he entreat?" 36 Now the wise and chaste Joseph considered sin against his master----even though it were committed with his wife----to be sin against God, because the commandment of God would be undone by the transgression of the law of nature; for although the words, "Thou shalt not lust," and, "Thou shalt not commit adultery with thy neighbour's wife," had not yet been heard, yet the essence of the words was mingled in nature, because the words, "That which is hateful unto thyself, do not unto thy neighbour," were written in nature, and were inscribed by signs and by the act of creation of God upon the conscience of every man, that the law of every man might be within himself, and that he might not be able to say, "I have not as yet learned instruction, and I have not read and become |580 acquainted with the signs of the letters which were cut on the tablets of the heart by the act of the creation of God," and that as a man grew in his bodily stature he might meditate upon this instruction. And Joseph also, being only twenty years of age----now he was in this period of life when this war was stirred up against him----meditated upon these letters inwardly, [p. 608] and the instruction which he had received from them he proclaimed to his master's wife, saying, "How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God? 37 How can I condemn myself to do that thing from which I have separated myself aforetime? How can I condemn myself with that which hath appeared to me beforehand to be condemnation?"
Now that blessedness, which was ascribed by Paul 38 unto whomsoever should not condemn himself by that which he had set apart, Joseph fulfilled in very deed, and being [only] a few years old, he shewed forth a victory which was beyond his years; hence from him Moses took that which he spake, "Every one who passeth over in the number, from twenty years old and upwards, shall give the offering of separation unto the Lord." 39 Behold a helpful and encouraging proof for the disciple who fighteth against the lust of the flesh! although the cases are neither equal nor similar, for the promise of Joseph resembleth not thine own, and the divine dispensation had not set him apart to be a virgin and a solitary dweller, but a father unto a great nation, even as the issue of events shewed. And, moreover, he had not there before him an example, nor the pattern |581 of another man whereby he might be helped, nor the written law to restrain him therefrom----for Moses was not as yet named----and none of the prophets had spoken, and the commandments which teach the perfection of Christ our Redeemer had not, as yet, been heard in the world, and the ascetic life----which is itself a mighty subduer of lust----had not been discovered therefor, and he had not been prohibited from the sight of and converse with women,----which itself inflameth lust, but he, so to speak, waged war with the lust which was free, [p. 6og] that is to say, he fought with an unchained and destroying lioness, and by the new fight which is in the contest of patient endurance he obtained the victory. Now, therefore, to the coenobite, or solitary dweller, or whomsoever it may be who hath set himself apart by vow to God, to whom these things are spoken, there are many things which are helpful, and first and foremost is the covenant which he has made with God, for the remembrance of this alone is sufficient to teach us Divine philosophy; and together with these things is the dwelling in the wilderness remote and free from all disturbing occupations; and if moreover, to that dwelling of many or few there be walls which surround it, they preserve the recluse from the distraction of the world. So therefore, it is necessary for him that would shew himself conqueror in the war against this passion to keep himself free from converse with women, and from the sight of persons which move him to lust, for as the lust of the belly lusteth after various kinds of meats, even so also doth this impure passion of fornication lust after persons fair of face, and the lust thereof is fettered unto beautiful flesh; and in proportion as such a sight is remote from him, the remembrance thereof dieth within him, |582 and when he hath forgotten the forms he doth not henceforth commit fornication with them in himself. Therefore the habitation of recluses, and the dwellings of anchorites, and the [abode] of a society are not built merely that they may be guarded from the sight and converse of women, but that by reason of the absence of these things the mind may be purified, and find its strength, and that when it standeth in its own might it may engage in the war of fornication with [p. 610] fortitude; and if it happen that the war attack it, either by the incitement of nature, or by the instigation of devils, what then? Is not the remembrance of Joseph, who was young and in early manhood, and who was incited by his mistress to the abominable act of adultery, sufficient to make strong any disciple with whom lust fighteth? And in this case, if it happen that there be [to him] a victory, the praise thereof must be less than that of Joseph, because his helpers are many, and in proportion as the helpers of him that fighteth are numerous, so is made known his weakness.
And after the history of Joseph, the holy life of Moses was written, and the chastity of Joshua, and the abstinence of Samson and the fall which enfeebled his strength, and the rearing of Samuel, and the sin of David and the chastisement thereof, and the virginity of Elijah, and the poverty and purity of Elisha, and [the histories of] the famous companies of the sons of the prophets, who used to dwell in the mountains after the manner of monks, and who lived in patient endurance a life which wras alien to the world. And every example which was a teacher of chastity and virginity, was written down after the matter of Joseph so that he, who without an example had waged war and had vanquished, |583 might appear as the triumphant conqueror; but we are feeble folk and deserve all punishments, if after all these examples we stumble and fall.
Now the passion of fornication is, according to the teachings of the Fathers, a covering before the sight of the mind that it may not look upon Divine things, and as when a man spreadeth a garment over writing it will not be visible unto the eye to read, even so also doth this passion become a covering before the understanding so that it cannot perceive spiritual things, and not only when it is performed in very deed [p. 611] doth it darken the mind, but even when it abideth in the thought it deadeneth the soul therewith; so then it is right that we should first of all cleanse: the place of the mind, and then the members which are without will be preserved. For the lust of the members holdeth a middle place, and within is the power of discernment of the mind, and without is the sight which inciteth; if lust be obedient and subject unto the mind, it changeth it into the order of spiritual lust, but if it receive remembrances and grow from without, war is stirred up and it troubleth the purity of the thoughts, and in proportion as it weakeneth the mind, it is itself enfeebled, and all the carnal and sensual things which are of the world, and which make it to grow become the things which strengthen it.
Now there are some who fight and are defeated, and there are some who never wage war at all, for he that fulfilleth his lusts fighteth not, nor he that hath conquered his lust completely; the former because he never began, and the latter because he hath accomplished it; for it is wholly a war [which happeneth] between [these two things], and for this reason Paul calleth those |584 who had ended this fight, "dead," saying, "Ye are dead unto the law in the body of Christ, that ye might be married unto Another, Who hath risen from the dead, that ye might bring forth fruit unto God."40 And shewing forth the cause of the war which occupieth a middle place, he saith, "While we were in the flesh, the passions of the sins which were in the law were working zealously in our members that we might bring forth fruit unto death,"41 that is, "Those who live in the flesh are at all season overcome by lust, and bring forth fruit unto death, but those who are led by the law stand in the place of the war, [p. 612] and the law in which they stand is made a helper and a strengthener unto them." But when, in this intermediate place, they perfect the law and gain the victory, Paul saith unto them, "Now we have been discharged from the law, and we are dead unto that which held us fast; so that we serve henceforth in newness of the "spirit, and not in oldness of the letter."42 For in the new life there is no lust; and where there is no lust, there is no war; and where there is no war, there is made known that peace which our Redeemer brought into the world; so then the new peace appeareth with the new man, for it is this that is brought into the new life, and in this country there is no war of lusts, but as he who liveth in the flesh is without the perception of sin, even so also doth he who is led by the spirit stand in the impassibility of sin, for want of perception knoweth not that it hath sinned, but impassibility remembereth not sin. |585
Now the old man hath cast off his lusts in two places; in baptism, and in the grave. Whosoever casteth off his lusts in baptism is called unto the adoption of sons, but whosoever serveth them during the whole period of his life, and putteth them away by war in haste for the resurrection, is called unto judgment; and whosoever after his baptism is led in the life of the spirit, is in very truth a new man, for he hath not put on the oldness which he cast off by baptism. And this man hath no war with lust, because he is dead unto the world, for Paul said, "I had not known lust if the law had not said unto me, Thou shalt not lust".43 [p. 613] Whosoever, then, is led by the new man knoweth not lust, and he liveth not in the persistence, but in the impassibility of lust, even as did Adam before [the time of] the law which was laid down for him, for he knew not lust because it was not alive in motion, and the commandment brought lust into motion, and motion received the law, and the law said, "Thou shalt not lust"; now because he heard the words "Thou shalt not lust", he recognized lust, and he learned sin by the commandment which prohibited him from sin, which happeneth unto those who are overcome by the lust of the body. For when the words which are directed against lust and which recite its disgraceful forms, and its wanton ways, and its mighty motion are spoken, through these very words which are uttered to destroy lust, it blazeth the more, because by the tilings which are contrary thereunto they are led unto its help, and they are inflamed by its passion; and this also happened unto Adam----and happeneth unto every man who hath been |586 vanquished by lust----when "Thou shalt not lust" was said unto him, for the thoughts are wont to receive memories, and memories set lust in motion.
Now therefore, it is necessary that the disciple should be remote from conversations and sights that he may not receive memories, and that memories may not set the lusts in motion and disturb the thoughts; for when the mind is disturbed it is not able henceforth to see God. "Let not sin reign in your dead body, that ye may be obedient unto it in the lusts thereof";44 for if, according to the teaching of Paul, ye are dead----I mean those [p. 614] who live in the spirit----it is evident that the lust also which is in you is dead, and it is a disgrace to the understanding, not that it should be overcome, but even that it should wage war, and how can that which is dead wage war?
But these things will be understood with difficulty by those who have had no experience, and we do not write these things from our own experience, but by the power of the teaching of Paul [who said], "The law hath dominion over a man, so long as he liveth. For the woman is bound unto her husband by law so long as he liveth; but if her husband be dead, she is free from the law of her husband. But if, while her husband be alive, she live with another man she becometh an adulteress; but if her husband die, she is free from the law, and she is not an adulteress if she be [united) unto another man".45 What then doth the power of this proof seek? and what doth the Apostle teach us by these things? "Ye yourselves arc also dead unto the law in the body of Christ, that ye may be |587 [united] unto Another Who hath risen from the dead".46 [That is to say,] "So long as ye were members of the first Adam, who received the first commandment, ye were subject unto the law, but now that ye have become members of Another, that is to say of Christ, Who hath risen from the dead, the law hath no dominion over you, because He, Whose members ye are, is not subject unto the law, for, like God, He is above the law. When He was a man Who was subject unto the law, He kept the law, and fulfilled all the commandments thereof, and He went forth to that freedom which is above the law, according to that which was said by our Lord, If the Son shall make you free, [p. 615] ye shall be free indeed.47 But now that we have been discharged from the law, and we are dead unto that wherein we were holden, henceforth let us serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter."48
Now, according to my opinion, these words of the Apostle are evident and clear unto him that standeth in the life of the new man, and whosoever liveth this life is not a hearer of words, but a spectator of the power thereof, for the sight is more credible for being seen, and deeds are better understood by the doing thereof; for the things which are seen by the eye we recognize clearly, and so also those who are found to live the life of the new man become spectators of the words of the Apostle, and not hearers only, for he himself wrote not from the report of others, for he did not receive this doctrine from a man, or through a man, but even, as he said, ''By the revelation of Jesus Christ",49 |588 and it is well known that a revelation maketh plain things which are hidden. For as the sight of the eye seeth that which is manifest, even so also doth the pure mind see spiritual things, but purity of mind----as I have said many times----is [only] acquired by putting to death all the works of the old man. And well did Paul say, "The woman, so long as her husband liveth, is bound by the law",50 and as in a type, he calleth the soul which is not free from the works of the old man "woman", and the law to which she is subject "her husband", by union and obedience to which it is preserved [p. 616] from adulteries with strangers. But if it happen that its husband dieth----to whom it is holden by the law of bodily union----it is free to be [united) unto whomsoever it wisheth, even also as it hath happened unto the law through the freedom of Christ, for every soul which was subject unto it, being holden by the works of sin, was freed by the rule of Christ, and not because it kept the law doth it not sin, but because it hath intercourse with Christ, just as it is not prevented from wickedness by the fear of the penalty, but through the love of that which is good doth it serve it in very deed; because the power of the law is not as strong to restrain the soul from wickedness as a beautiful thing which hath power to bind it unto itself when it hath perceived the pleasantness of its task.
"Ye are dead unto the law in the body of Christ",51 or as if one should say, "Because ye are placed in another body, ye are free from the subjection of the law, for the dominion of the law is over the old man, |589 who had his beginning from [the time of] the transgression of the commandment by the first Adam, even as Paul said, The first Adam [became] a living soul. The last Adam [became] a life-giving spirit." 52 Therefore, since, according to the teaching of Paul, there are two Adams, the one who is led in the living soul and over whom the law hath dominion, and the other belonging to the life-giving spirit, who is above the law, well did Paul say, "The woman, so long as her husband liveth, [p. 617] is bound [to him] in the law".53 Hence the soul which is led after the manner of the soul is subject unto the law, but the soul which is moved by the living spirit is above the law, because the spirit which is the giver of the law is not subject unto the law, and those who are worthy to be led by the spirit are above the thoughts, and motions, and deeds of sin, and it is not because they fear the law that they do not work sin, but because they are dead unto sin.
"Ye are dead unto the law in the body of Christ, that ye may be [united] unto Another, Who hath risen from the dead".54 For as the members which are bound in the natural body feel only the pain or suffering which ariseth in their body, and if their body be healthy they enjoy the health thereof, and they neither feel the sickness which is in the body of others, nor suffer pain thereat, even so also the new members which are placed in the body of Him that rose from the dead, Christ our Lord, feel the spiritual life, and the true health which that body, unto which they are bound, hath acquired naturally, and they do not feel the passion of the sins which are in the body of the old man, even |590 as the body of each man doth not feel the sicknesses and diseases of another body. And although all the works of the old man prevent the mind from perceiving the life and rule of the new man, yet the passion of fornication [doeth this] more than all, and for this reason Paul said, "Every sin that a man doeth [p. 618] is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body".55 And here he calleth "body" the body of Christ, of which he hath been esteemed worthy to be a member, even as he said, "Ye are dead unto the law in the body of Christ, that ye may be members unto Another Who hath risen from the dead";56 and again he said, "The body is not for fornication, but for our Lord; and our Lord for the body".57 So then the body of him that liveth the life of the new man, according to the words of Paul, belongeth to our Lord, and as in the body of our Lord's Person there was no passion of fornication, even so also in him whose body hath become a member in the body of Christ it is not right that the passion of fornication should be set in motion, because it belongeth to the body of our Lord, which it hath become through a new composition, whence it cometh that the body should not be for fornication, but for our Lord, and our Lord for the body, [as Paul] said, for God raised up our Lord, and He raised us up by His power. For as God the Father raised up His Son from death to the immortality of another life, even so also have we all risen by His might, for as He after His resurrection no longer led our life, even so also we, who have risen with Him by His might do not live the life subject unto |591 the passions of the old man; and where it is not right for us to be led in the new life he bringeth straightway the words which are full of rebuke and teaching, saying, "Know ye not that your bodies are members of Christ?" 58 Now here [p. 619] Paul not only teacheth us, but he blameth us, and sheweth that there are no means whereby the member may live outside His body, for all the members which are set in the natural body are established thereby, and live therein, even as ye also whose bodies have become members in the body of Christ receive all your support from Him----life, joy, purity, holiness, chasteness from all wickednesses, impassibility unto sin, happiness, rest, peace, love, motion towards all things of the spirit, and finally all those things which the body hath to give unto its members.
Now if this be the life of the new man according to the law, it is not then by the power of the law which restraineth [from] wickedness that he worketh that which is good, but because he conformeth unto the order of Him that ordained it. For by the incarnation of Christ of the Virgin, He received the members of the body of His Person, and the fact that He became Man sheweth and maketh this plain; but in the birth from baptism which may be compared unto the birth from the Virgin, these members which were baptized came not unto Him by His incarnation, but by His dispensation, and each one of these which were baptized, being, in respect of his person, body and soul, and a man whose number is known, became a member in the body of Christ, even though this constitution is not so visible unto the children of men as was that which |592 took place by His incarnation of the Virgin. For in the former case the Son of God appeared openly out of concealment, and from being unembodied He shewed Himself as a constituted being; but in the latter case, from being men of the flesh they become men of the spirit, and each one of them from being in respect of his person a body [p. 620] of many members, is accounted in the body of Christ a [single] member which hath an invisible constitution, and is placed in the body in an indescribable manner, and he becometh a spiritual member in the body of God, according to the words of the Apostle, "Your bodies are members of Christ." 59
How then, can a member of Christ, through fighting, overcome lust? If the war of this lust [of fornication] existed in the holy body of Christ, there would be an excuse for them in that being members of that body they were disturbed by lust, but the Apostolic word doth not only command us that we shall not commit fornication, but that we shall not be receptacles of the passion of fornication, and that we shall be wholly and entirely undisturbed by lust and shall not fall in the war, for a dead person cannot fight, but life receiveth feeling, and feeling setteth lust in motion; but if there be no old life, there can be no feeling, and if there be no feeling, lust cannot be received, and therefore the war against lust cannot be. set in motion. For how can a man fight against that which existeth not? "Shall I take a member of Christ, and make it a member of fornication?"59 "Shall I take," he saith, as if one were to say, So long as it be placed in the natural body there are no means for it to become a member of fornication, |593 for so long as a member which is set in the natural body is in its place, it hath no means whereby it may receive life from another body, but only from its own body; but if a man cut it off from thence he is unable to [p. 621] join it unto another body even though that body be alive, for when it is cut off it leaveth its life with its body, and it remaineth dead and senseless in the hand of him that holdeth it. In this manner Paul saith, "Shall I take a member of Christ, and make it a member of fornication60?" as if one were to say, If it be taken from Christ, it cannot become a member of fornication, but if when it is in the body it committeth fornication----that is to say, if it become a receptable of this passion of fornication----it sinneth against all its body, that is to say, it maketh all its body to suffer. For as when one of the members of the body receiveth a blow the pain passeth unto all the other members of the body, even so also the member, which, being placed in the body of Christ, receiveth the passion of fornication, maketh the whole body to be sick and to suffer pain, and this is that which he saith, "He sinneth against his own body",61 as if one were to say, Not only because he causeth pain through the passion of fornication is it sin, but it also maketh the whole body suffer. For if the blow of him that smiteth the body of another placeth him under the obligation of sin, and the law commandeth that he shall be punished forthwith like a debtor, saying, "Blow for blow, burning for burning, stripe for stripe,"62 it is also manifest that if the member which is set in the body |594 of Christ be holden with the passion of fornication, it maketh sick the whole body, and for this reason Paul rightly said, "He sinneth against his own body."63
Now there is no other sin which knoweth so well [p. 622] how to defile the soul and body as the passion of fornication, and for this reason Moses also, in shewing the watchfulness which must be observed especially against this passion, said, "The man from whom shall go forth the seed of copulation shall be unclean;" 64 and he strengthened the blame to such a degree, that not only doth it defile him when it is set in motion voluntarily and he cometh unto the act of the adultery of fornication, but also by any way whatsoever, if it be that the seed of copulation go forth from him. And besides this there is another instance, for wherever he giveth commandments concerning the members of the beasts for sacrifice which are set apart to be offered unto God, he warneth them diligently that the two kidneys and the fat which is upon them shall be burned, and in no place doth he set apart these for the meat either of the priests or chief priests, but he committeth them unto the fire, together with the other members which are symbolized by the works of sin, [for he saith], "Take the fat, and the fat tail, and all the fat that covereth the inwards, and the caul of the liver, and the two kidneys, and the fat thereof, and burn them all in the fire;" 65 but with them all, and before them all, the two kidneys and the fatty parts thereof, which are the two passions of fornication and adultery. "And they shall burn the kidneys, together with the fat thereof;" now the fat is a sign of the |595 grossness of the mind, which doth not allow the odious sight of these passions to be seen.
So then the dumb law burneth the passion of fornication in the fire, and setteth impurity upon every man from whom, for whatever cause, the seed of copulation hath gone forth, and burneth also the adulterer and the adulteress 66 [p. 623] in the fire; and our Lord in the teaching of His Gospel not only cut off adultery, but also the thought which bringeth [a man] unto adultery; and Paul said, "Neither fornicators nor adulterers shall inherit the kingdom of God," 67 and again, "Whosoever is joined unto a harlot becometh one body with her, and whosoever committeth fornication sinneth against his own body;" and again he saith, "Shall I take a member of Christ, and make it a member of fornication?" and besides the words of the Scriptures actual experience teacheth those who are witnesses of their passions.
What disciple, who wisheth to live righteously and holily, will not watch against the fall which cometh of this passion, and receive with a living and wakeful hearing the voice of God which crieth unto us, "He ye holy, even as I am holy?" 68 And there would not, then, have been required from us by the commandment of God the holiness which is comparable unto His if it were not that He hath given unto us the spirit which sanctifieth us, and which becometh a soul unto our soul, and which maketh it to be led by thoughts which are not its own, and not to descend unto the gratification of the lusts of the body, but to be exalted |596 unto its own purity and holiness, and to receive its glorious ray, the purifier and sanctifier of its thoughts. For if old age and sicknesses suppress and extinguish this lust of fornication, how very much more should the healthy will which loveth spiritual things, and which longeth for Divine holiness [do thus]? Old age and sickness do not eradicate lust, but they enfeeble it, and cause it to sleep; but the will [p. 624] which is perfected in the Spirit, in the Holy Spirit, eradicateth lust completely, and it stablisheth man in impassibility, and maketh him to be moved in all his thoughts, and in all spiritual things, while it not only abateth in him the disturbance of the passions, but all the feeling of things which can be perceived. And as whosoever is holden firmly by the love of this passion hath the love of other things quenched in him, even so also whosoever casteth it away wholly and is entirely bound by the love of spiritual things cannot receive the feeling of the things which set this passion in motion.
But do thou, O disciple, because as yet thou hast not arrived at these things, meditate upon what hath been written above, and fulfil them in very deed; shut up the entrances of lust, which are external sights and conversations; and block up the fountain thereof, which is the natural passion and health of the body; and cleanse also the thoughts, which so many times become helpers thereof and set it in motion within the members. And if thou canst cut it off through these three things----that the thought think not thereupon, that the members be not moved thereby, and that it have no means of entrance from without----thou wilt remain at peace and without disturbance, and the course of thy ship into the haven of peace will be without |597 waves and storms, and the other things of profit will also be preserved therein, and through this thou wilt become a counterpart of heavenly hosts. And though thou standest in the body thou wilt be moved by the spirit, and being in one world, thou wilt lead thy life in another, and thou wilt perceive the cause of the coming of Christ into the world which all those who live in the body do not know, on the contrary they only hear the sound [p. 625] concerning His Mysteries and perceive not the power thereof. And may we not be deprived of the knowledge which perceiveth the power of these Holy Mysteries; and may we not be aliens unto the service of the Divine commandments; and may we never be shut out from the spiritual contemplation of visible and spiritual things; by the Grace of Him Who came for the redemption, and freedom, and renewing of all, Jesus Christ, the Only One, God the Word, to Whom be glory from all those who have received His redemption, and have perceived His redemption, and have become the intermediaries of His gifts in all the generations of the worlds of light, and of the countries of the Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.
Here endeth the Thirteenth Discourse: which is on Fornication and the Lust of the Body. |598
[Footnotes renumbered and moved to the end. Page numbers in brackets refer to the Syriac text in vol. 1 of the printed edition.]
1. 1 Compare Job xiv. 8, 9.
2. 1 St. Matthew v. 28.
3. 2 St Matthew v. 27.
4. 1 Proverbs xxx. 18-20.
5. 1 1 Corinthians vi. 19.
6. 1 Romans xii. 11.
7. 1 2 Corinthians iv. 16.
8. 1 Exodus xx. 14.
9. 1 Colossians iii. 5.
10. 2 1 Corinthians xv. 48.
11. 1 Ecclesiasticus xxiii. 19.
12. 1 1 Corinthians ix. 27.
13. 1 Judges vii. 3.
14. 1 Numbers xxv. 1.
15. 2 1 Corinthians x. 8.
16. 1 1 Corinthians x. 8.
17. 2 Hebrews xii. 16.
18. 3 1 Corinthians vi. 9.
19. 4 Ephesians v. 5.
20. 5 St. Matthew v. 28.
21. 6 St. James iv. 1.
22. 7 1 St. Peter iv. 12.
23. 8 Exodus xx. 17.
24. 1 Compare Judges vii. 17-20.
25. 1 Hebrews xii. 16.
26. 2 Exodus xx. 17.
27. 1 Romans vii. 7.
28. 2 St. Matthew v. 28.
29. 3 2. Samuel xi. 2.
30. 1 Psalm cxliv. 4.
31. 2 Psalm cxlvi. 3.
32. 1 Psalm xvi. 8.
33. 2 Genesis xxxix. 10.
34. 3 Hebrews vi. 19.
35. 1 Genesis xxxix. 8.
36. 2 1 Samuel ii. 25.
37. 1 Genesis xxxix, 9.
38. 2 Romans xiv. 22.
39. 3 Exodus xxx. 14.
40. 1 Romans vii. 4.
41. 2 Romans vii. 5.
42. 3 Romans vii. 6.
43. 1 Romans vii. 7.
44. 1 Romans vi. 12.
45. 2 Romans vii. 1-3.
46. 1 Romans vii. 4.
47. 2 St. John viii. 36.
48. 3 Romans vii. 6.
49. 4 Galatians i. 12.
50. 1 Romans vii. 2.
51. 2 Romans vii. 4.
52. 1 1 Corinthians xv. 45.
53. 2 Romans vii. 2.
54. 3 Romans vii. 4.
55. 1 1 Corinthians vi. 18.
56. 2 Romans vii, 4.
57. 3 1 Corinthians vi. 13.
58. 1 1 Corinthians vi. 15.
59. 1 1 Corinthians vi. 15.
60. 1 1 Corinthians vi. 15.
61. 2 1 Corinthians vi. 18.
62. 3 Exodus xxi. 25.
63. 1 1 Corinthians vi. 18.
64. 2 Leviticus xv. 16.
65. 3 Leviticus iii. 9.
66. 1 Leviticus xx. 10.
67. 2 1 Corinthians vi. 9, 15, 16.
68. 3 Leviticus xix. 2; 1 St. Peter i. 16.