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October 15, 2014 + Health, the Belly, and Other Idols

by St. John of Kronstadt

Health and the belly, these are the two idols--especially with men of the present age, of whom I myself, a great sinner, am one--for which we live, and which we continually serve, even to the neglect of the duties of our Christian calling--for instance, to the neglect of the reading of the Word of God, which is sweeter than honey and honey-comb; to the neglect of prayer, that sweetest converse with God, and of the preaching of the Word of God. To walk a great deal for health, and to incite the appetite, to eat with appetite --such are the objects of the desires and aspirations of many of us. But through our frequent walks, through our fondness for food and drink, we shall find that one thing has been neglected, and another irrevocably missed, whilst others have not even entered into our minds; for can the time after a good dinner or supper be really a good time for any serious work! Even if we would like to occupy ourselves with work, the belly, full of food and drink, draws us away from it, and constrains us to rest, so that we begin to slumber over our work. What sort of work can it be? Indeed, there is nothing left, if it is after dinner, but to lie down and rest, and if it is after supper, after having prayed somehow or other (for a satiated man cannot even pray as he should), to go to bed and sleep--the miserable consequence of an overloaded stomach--until the next morning. And in the morning there is another sacrifice to your belly ready in the shape of a dainty breakfast. You get up, pray, of course not with your whole heart--since with our whole heart we can only eat and drink, walk, read novels, go to theaters, dance at evening parties, dress elegantly--and thus you pray, out of habit, carelessly, to save appearances, only as a form, without the essence of the prayer, without lively faith, without power, without any fervour in your petitions, praises, and thanks to the Lord God for His uncountable mercies, and then you hurry again to food and drink. At last, when you have eaten and drunk so much that now, scarcely able to move, you are ready to begin work, if it really is work, and not rather inactivity -such, for instance, as trading with some worldly vanities, accompanied by an abundance of swearing, lying, and cheating. In such or a similar way, with many and many of us, our present life passes away, and our days consume in vanity, [1361] whilst we care little for that which is the most important matter on earth--the salvation of our soul. Thus our life is spent mainly in the worship of two brittle idols--health and the belly--and then dress; so much so that many, by worshipping fashion, sacrifice even their health and food, thus going to the other extreme. Furthermore, people worship money, this great god, the Jupiter of our age; for the sake of this idol many sacrifice their health, spending sleepless nights for its sake, swearing falsely for it, violating the laws of friendship for it, becoming cold to their relatives through it, all with the one purpose of accumulating as much money as they possibly can. There are money-lovers who, if it were possible, would turn everything into money, and would live by it, like Judas Iscariot, who wished to turn into money even the precious ointment with which the pious woman who loved her Lord with her whole soul anointed His feet, and then wiped them with her hair. Christian! it is not for your health, belly, dress, and money that you must care; you must strive after love for God and your neighbour, for these are God's two greatest commandments. "He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God and God in him."

St. John of Kronstadt, from My Life in Christ

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Venerable Euthymius the New of Thessalonica, and Monk of Mt Athos

Troparion, Tone 8

The image of God was truly preserved in you, O Father, for you took up the Cross and followed Christ. By so doing doing you taught us to disregard the flesh for it passes away but to care instead for the soul, since it is immortal. Therefore your spirit, venerable Euthymius, rejoices with the angels.

Kontakion, Tone 2

Crossing dryshod through the storms of life, venerable and divinely wise Euthymius, you mightily drowned the bodiless foe in the streams of your tears; you received the gift of miracles to heal all sufferings. Unceasingly pray for us all.