St Gregory the Dialogist: Are You Giving Yourself to the Pleasures of Food?

Feast of Basiliscus the Martyr, Bishop of Comana

Gregory_Great_Square_2.jpgTHE GLUTTONOUS and the abstinent should be advised differently. Indeed, excessive speaking, laziness, and wanton lust accompany gluttony, while the sins of impatience and pride often accompany abstinence. For unless immoderate speaking had carried away the glutton, the rich man who is said to have eaten sumptuously every day would not have had the greatest pain on his tongue. For he says: “Father, Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus so that he might dip his finger in the water and cool my tongue, for I am tormented by this flame” (Lk. 16.24). In these words, it is clearly shown that because of his daily feasting, he was constantly sinning by his speech, for although he burned everywhere, he begged to be cooled on his tongue.

Again, that laziness derives from gluttony the sacred authority testifies, saying: “The people eat and drink and then rose to play” (Ex. 32.6). For generally, the gluttonous are drawn to lust because while the stomach is distended from excessive food, the stings of lust are excited. Hence, to the cunning enemy, who opened the sensuality of the first man through craving for the apple but bound him in the noose of sin, it is said through the divine Voice: “On your breast and stomach you will creep” (Gen. 3.14). It is as if it was clearly said to him: “In thought and gluttony you will have dominion over human hearts.” That lust follows the addiction to gluttony is testified by the prophet, who denounces hidden things while he speaks openly, saying: “The chief of the cooks destroyed the walls of Jerusalem” (2 Kgs. 25.8-10; Jer. 52.12-14). For the “chief of the cooks” is the stomach, because cooks take great care so that they can fill the stomach with pleasant food. But the “walls of Jerusalem” are the virtues of the soul, elevated to a desire for supernal peace. Therefore, the chief of the cooks “destroys the walls of Jerusalem,” because when the belly is held in gluttony, the virtues of the soul are destroyed through lust.

Therefore, those given to gluttony should be advised that they not pierce themselves with the sword of lust by giving themselves to the pleasures of food. They should also consider that unnecessary speaking and levity of mind await them because of their gluttony. Moreover, they should consider that their enslavement to the stomach will certainly catch them in the snare of the vices. And to the extent that we stretch our hand for food with immoderate indulgence, we turn away from our biological parents and repeat the lapse of our first parents.

—St Gregory the Dialogist, The Book of Pastoral Rule

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