21. Let us illumine our intellect with intellections of the divine world and make our body refulgent with the quality of the spiritual principles we have perceived, so that through the rejection of the passions it becomes a workshop of virtue, controlled by the intelligence. If the natural passions of the body are governed by the intelligence there is no reason to censure them. But when their activity is not controlled by the intelligence, they do deserve censure. This is why it is said that such passions must be rejected, for although their activity is natural, they may often be used, when not governed by the intelligence, in a way that is contrary to nature.
Let’s take a very simple natural passion, hunger, as an example. In and of itself, it’s a good thing. When we suffer hunger, we are reminded to eat and we can then seek food. But it is easily disordered and we eat without thinking and driven by other passions. We feel we suffer hunger when our bodies do not actually require food. In today’s world, food is crafted specifically to inflame that passion in a deliberate effort to make us overeat. Or hunger could be disordered so we eat to excess and then regurgitate. In our disordered state, we can screen it out and starve ourselves. When a natural passion, even a simple and good one, becomes disordered, the ways it can rule and destroy us are legion.
The wisdom of St. Maximos is evident to me and just as applicable to our day as it was to his.