Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi
11/9/88 Monastery of Vatopaidi
The Grace of Christ be with your spirit.
I received your letter and read its contents with care. What is commendable is not so much the issues in themselves, but your own good intentions and determination for a stricter life in Christ and in this I wish you always progress without end.
The subject of food, as our most necessary duty and responsibility, concerns all of us. Indeed, I might say, it holds us in thrall, especially because of the particular extravagance of our own generation. But to give up one of the main forms of food, especially to do so suddenly, is neither beneficial nor laudable… on the excuse that perhaps we’re altogether too fond of it. The fathers neither praise this nor recommend it, but in my opinion the middle way is the best. What’s that? To reduce consumption, so that our health is stable, and no fuss should be made about M. not eating meat, which is a pointless struggle of arrogance and conceit. The same is true of sweets, because they’re also necessary for the normality and balance of life, provided they’re consumed within reason.
In any case, self-restraint, as a necessary rule of life, can only be applied in this way and it then becomes the cause of reasonableness and balance in life. The whole of the psychosomatic manner and determination of our life depends on the symmetry of this general self-restraint as regards diet and the balance of both body and soul derives from this.
Then disturbed sleep becomes calm, bad thoughts and attitudes disappear, and an increase in zeal and enthusiasm is generated.
So continue, but within reason and if, sometimes, you don’t manage to do what you want, don’t be disappointed. Start again and again and, by Christ’s Grace you’ll certainly succeed.
You’re a person who mixes with others and these are difficult and unhealthy times. You can’t live by a monastic rule which even the monks and nuns themselves find difficult to observe.
With much love and affection in Christ
The humble monk, Elder Iosif