Lenten Wisdom from St. John of Damascus

St. John of Damascus

“These eight passions should be destroyed as follows: gluttony by self-control; unchastity by desire for God and longing for the blessings held in store; avarice by compassion for the poor; anger by goodwill and love for all men; worldly dejection by spiritual joy; listlessness by patience, perseverance and offering thanks to God; self-esteem by doing good in secret and by praying constantly with a contrite heart; and pride by not judging or despising anyone in the manner of the boastful Pharisee (cf. Luke 18 : 11–12), and by considering oneself the least of all men.

When the intellect has been freed in this way from the passions we have described and been raised up to God, it will henceforth live the life of blessedness, receiving the pledge of the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Cor. 1 : 22). And when it departs this life, dispassionate and full of true knowledge, it will stand before the light of the Holy Trinity and with the divine angels will shine in glory through all eternity.

St. John Damascene, “On the Virtues and the Vices” from The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 2)

This is what St. John meant:

Passions are the energies and drives we feel on the inside that we have to purify and cleanse in order to appropriate and experience the salvation God offers us.

In order to defeat the passions do these things:

  • Defeat gluttony by practicing self-control.
  • Defeat unchastity by cultivating a desire for God and keep you eyes on the good to come if you persevere.
  • Defeat greed and avarice by giving to the poor.
  • Defeat anger by doing good for other people.
  • Defeat feelings of defeat by cultivating joy (count your blessings, open your eyes to the beauty and good around you).
  • Defeat smugness and self-esteem by praying with a contrite heart (requires self-honesty).
  • Defeat pride by not judging other people and realizing that you are no better than anyone else.

When we practice these virtues our minds are freed to receive the wisdom of God given to us by the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:22). And when we practice these things and acquire the wisdom and knowledge of God (yes, this is possible), then in the final day the the light of God will shine through us as it does the angels for eternity.