Monday, 14 November 2005

Combating the Passion of Avarice 3

The first step in the interior combat against avarice is to trust God. The Gospel is replete with exhortations of our Lord to do this. This might seem a platitude, but let us consider it in more detail. The larder is nearly empty; the visitor who is coming is wealthy: are we going to trust God or put the visitor to the test? Or, we think it would be nice if the kitchen of our monastery had a new floor. The contractor is willing to do it off the books if we are willing to do it off the books. God wants us to do it on the books. He might not want us to have a new kitchen floor. Then again he might. Are we going to trust God? Or do it off the books? Or, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have new quarters for the guests? Then we could entertain them in proper style. With better food. But to find the money, now, …

The next step is to have a personal sense of justice. Shouldn’t the monk of all people follow the Golden Rule?

The next step is to cultivate Christian charity—spiritual love—for others. This is not sentimental or obsequious, but strives to do the best, and to have the best—the spiritual best—happen, first to those of the House of Faith, and then to all men. Evagrius remarks that spiritual love and avarice cannot coexist in the same person. Hence, to cultivate spiritual love is to negate the passion of avarice and to displace it from the soul.

Finally, there is the matter of ambition. Avarice can be intertwined with ambition, and ultimately with a pride that is demonic. Here, it must be wondered: in this day and age in the West, is being a monk such a big deal? Wouldn’t it have been better to aim for CEO of Multinational, Inc.? As we once heard a monk remark: ‘We all started out with the same ideal when we became monks, but along the way we got diverted from the true road. And now we lose both this life, having renounced marriage and the world, and the life of the world to come, having gone off the road of true monasticism.’

At the level of the thoughts that occur to the monk, the monk should beware of thoughts that come to him detailing plans for making a lot of money to relieve his financial problem. In general, thoughts of money or wealth, even for ostensibly good causes, should be rejected. The monk should attend to his work with the means he has, remembering that one of the petitions of the ‘Our Father’ is ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ In praying this prayer, he commends all his needs to his Heavenly Father, who knows what he needs before he asks. As St Paul writes, there is a great gain in godliness with self-sufficiency—with being content with what you have, with making do. After all, we chose monasticism for God, not for money or wealth or fame or glory.

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