how to uproot the passions lacerating your heart
PASSIONS, LIKE VIRTUES, are also interconnected, just as “links of a single chain” (St. Isaac of Nitria), one being an offshoot of another.
There are eight of them – in the order of birth they are as follows: Gluttony, Lust, Avarice, Anger, Despondency, Despair, Vainglory, and Pride.
The main concern of patristic asceticism is not with external manifestations of sin, nor individual instances of sin, but rather with their cause, i.e., the vices and passions rooted in the Soul, or diseases of the Soul and hidden inner states of sin.
A thought is the initial moment in the emergence of a passion. It is a moment of hesitation and an essential central element of this psychological state. The essence of asceticism amounts to the struggle with thoughts.
This inner struggle is vividly portrayed to us by Saint Hesychius of Jerusalem (5th century), a disciple of St. Gregory the Theologian:
“Our Mind, being something of light appearance and innocent, easily gives itself over to daydreaming and is unrestrainedly subject to evil thoughts, if it does not have in itself such a concept which, like a monarch over the passions, holds it constantly under control and bridles it.”
“A ship does not move without water; and there is no progress whatsoever in the guarding of the mind without sobriety with humility and prayer to Lord Jesus Christ.”
“Sobriety and the Jesus’ Prayer mutually reinforce one another; for extreme watchfulness goes with the content of constant prayer, while prayer goes with extreme sobriety and watchfulness of intellect.”
“Many of our thoughts come from demonic suggestions, and from these derive our evil outward actions. If with the help of Lord Jesus Christ we instantly quell the thought, we will avoid its corresponding outward action. We will enrich ourselves with the sweetness of divine knowledge and so will find God, Who is everywhere. Holding the mirror of the intellect firmly towards God, we will be illumined constantly as pure glass is by the sun. Then finally the intellect, having reached the limit of its desires, will in Him cease from all other contemplation.“
The Holy Fathers teach that man’s Heart is entangled with the prickly roots of various passions which are lodged very deep within it. When a person through the enlightenment of God attempts to uproot, in essence to transfigure he greets and remove the rootlets with forceps. However as he attempts to remove each passion he simultaneously lacerates the Heart.
When the Heart is cut open it bleeds and hurts. If a person decides not to bear the pain he gives up at this point, he abandons the struggle, and thus remains passionate & sinful. If however he patiently endured the pain, he removes the root of the passion and is set free!
The Holy Fathers through asceticism, prayer & God’s enlightenment struggled and forced themselves to remove gradually all the rootlets of the passions. They uprooted them one by one until they attained dispassion.