Bishop Irinej of Yekaterinburg and Orbits
There’s a wind called the libecchio which is unbearably hot and destructive. Wherever it blows, all the plants in the fields and gardens dry up. But the thick, hard thorns aren’t affected. The libeccio destroys only useful plants whose fruits are used as food for people and animals.
This disastrous and deadly wind resembles one of the most devastating phenomena of our times, which, like the libecchio itself, desiccates and strips the fruits of the virtues from our lives. This is carnal desires and carnal passions.
This is the greatest evil of our day. It breaks up families, exposes men and women to shame, leads young people down a slippery slope and leaves its poisonous breath on young children. And there seems to be nothing that can stop its pernicious influence.
This is why we have a greater obligation to exhort you parents to protect your children from this devastating contagion by your care and strictness.
What a magnificent human being emerged from the hands of the Creator. Our soul has the stamp of God. And even our body is at the pinnacle of the animal world.
According to the order of Creation, the soul must govern the body, and this is what happened at the beginning: when the soul was obedient to God, the body submitted to the soul, without being a burden to it or exposing it to temptations.
But things took a different turn, however, after the fall. The human body revolted against the spirit, against the soul.
As a result of just punishment, the proclivity of the senses towards wickedness and carnal desires began to exert tyrannical control over human spiritual aspirations, demanding our total subjection and subjugation to them. In this way, the tendency arose among us to do whatever necessary to satisfy our senses. We became carnal.
The essence of hedonism and carnal desire is this: the soul becomes subject to carnal desires. Carnal desire is then the dominant force among people. It unleashes and blinds them, so that they’re no longer able to think of God, about faith in him, about his commandments and his will. In this way, it kills everything pure, divine and sacred in us.
This sensuality is the greatest evil, the greatest disaster for people. If it be true that the tree is known by its fruit, then we must say that sensuality is a poisonous tree, since it produces such terrible fruit.
The first of these disgusting fruits is sloth, the avoidance of exertion and of anything good that requires effort. Hedonistic people are also insipid. They never know the satisfaction to be gained from creative activity. Effort’s a burden for them, a yoke, a curse, not a means of acquiring virtue, nor a serious and important obligation designated by God.
Hedonists fear physical exertion because it disturbs their lassitude; but they also avoid intellectual effort, because this requires the engagement of our mental powers.
There are no doubt a lot of people you might know about whom it’s said: ‘They could do great things, but they do nothing’. What is very often the cause? Sensualism, which makes people indolent. And though such people have great potential, they suffer poverty and deprivations. And certainly they’d enjoy considerable success if their idle life-style didn’t please them more than the prosperity which comes from honest effort.
The same’s true of intellectual activity, which we often see in schools. You see there children with a wealth of intellectual gifts and talents. Children who take to learning as if it were a game. With the propensity they have, you’d expect them to become prominent people. And yet, there’s no development. Why? Because, as they grow up, they become idle, lazy, and bury their talent in the ground rather than multiplying it with assiduous effort.
People like this are incapable of great success and, in particular, of virtue.
A good many exceptional people have been swallowed up in the mire of sensuality. So many times, people who had the propensity and predilection to become models of good behavior and virtue were lost because they were seduced by hedonism. So, their inclination towards virtue sank into the swamp of indolence and sloth.
The second fruit of indulgence is gluttony and drunkenness. What the Russian people say is very true: ‘More people have drowned in their cups than in the Volga’.
We won’t dwell here on the wretchedness, the unhappiness and the devastation that drunkenness brings to people. All of us have seen acquaintances, neighbors, or relatives whose indulgence has brought them to the point where they’ve tarnished their self, which is made ‘in the image of God’. I would dare to say that they lose their standing as human beings.
The third fruit of hedonism is debauchery. If there’s one thing on earth that’s really sublime and heavenly, it’s childhood and youthful innocence. On the other hand, if there’s one thing that’s repulsive and disgusting it’s a soul that’s surrendered to debauchery. We shan’t speak now of this fruit of sensuality. You all know where immorality leads its victims.