Four Hundred Texts on Love (Second Century) 27

100. When the intellect is stripped of passions and illuminated with the contemplation of created beings, then it can enter into God and pray as it should.

This is a short text, but it says a lot. Still it’s easy for us to misunderstand. As I’ve discussed in other posts, passion in our common usage today usually means something different than the Greek word and concept it translates. We do still retain some of that meaning in the alternate definitions, but it’s not the first thing people think. The root of the Greek concept, as I understand it, is suffering or things we suffer. We see elements of that usage in English in phrases like the Passion of Christ.

The passions, then, are those things that drive our actions and reactions without the intervention of our will. We suffer in bondage to our passions. Interestingly, last night I watched a video that Brian McLaren had posted on his blog on 21st century enlightenment. It’s an intriguing video, but I was struck by the portion that described the advances in the sociological sciences that have revealed that most of our actions are actually reactions to stimuli without the intervention of our conscious will. Our science has advanced to the point where we now know and can prove what the Fathers like St. Maximos knew about human existence more than a thousand years ago.

But when our will is dominated by passions, we cannot truly pray as we ought. Oh, we must still pray as best we can. If we wait to pray, we will never pray at all. But the passions form a barrier between us and God. We need to be healed and freed from their bondage.

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