on gluttony

by Andrea Elizabeth

Chapter 3 of Part 2 in Therapy of Spiritual Illnesses deals with gluttony. Here is the main point,

“However, the passion does not reside in the act itself of eating, but in the presiding intention and the purpose given the act by man. “In the usage of food to eat out of need and out of pleasure are one selfsame action, but the sin lies in the intention,” St. Dorotheus of Gaza states clearly. The passion, then, rests in a certain attitude of man’s towards food and nutrition – more precisely, in his turning food and nutrition away from their natural end goal. Since God has given food to man for a precise purpose, to have it serve other goals is to pervert its use and make use of it wrongly. St. Maximus writes: “The things that we eat have been created with a double goal: to nourish us and serve as a remedy. To eat for other motives is to use wrongly what God has given us for our benefit.” [Four Centuries on Charity] Man then respects the natural end goal of food and nutrition when he nourishes himself of necessity so as to maintain or preserve the life of his body, to guard or regain its health. But when he turns food into a means of pleasure, he makes a contranatural use of it and the nutritive function.” (pages 152, 153)

Isn’t a bit harsh to say that to get pleasure from food is sin? Should we really not spice our food except for the mineral content? Should we be taking blood samples to see how much salt we need before we add it? I do have a passionate attachment to food. But to me mastery entails knowing how to time and measure amounts and eating what my body needs, which is different from other people since my islets of langerhans are a bit sensitive. I have to pretty much eschew sugar until the end of the day. But for someone who is hiking the whole Appalacian Trail in 45 days and who thus uses 7000 calories/day, they need sugar, so they can twinkie it up. Or at least eat a lot of raisins. Should they not enjoy it? I think we should have a fast and feast attitude where you find the right balance of fasting and subsequent feasting. If a person fasts until 7pm, their evening meal is going to taste better than it would have if it were the fourth meal of the day. Should they not feel rewarded by the added pleasure? Provided they don’t binge on a whole tub of blue bell afterward.

The following video comes to mind, which I watched a few years ago. An Anglican Priest seeks out the desert life of St. Anthony with the question, ‘what is wrong with enjoying a bowl of tomato basil soup and having a nice day in the shade?’ Like I said, I agree with the answer he finds, but I don’t think tomato and basil plants were created by God just to tempt us.