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Sunday, 19 October 2014

Envy - A Passion That Defiles the Heart ..

Cane And Abel

According to the tenth commandment, "Thou shalt not covet (to covet -to long for or desire something belonging to another)thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is thy neighbour's" Exodus 20:17

"The sickness of envy is one of the soul's worst illnesses. It does great damage to the envious person's soul, as well as causing serious distress to others. Someone in the grip of envy does not consider friends, relatives or benefactors. Unhappiness is the
distinguishing characteristic of the envious person...Usually the envious man does not want to admit his sickness or reveal the wound in his soul, so he is continuously miserable."

Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos in 'The Science of Spiritual Medicine' p.125,
Birth of the Theotokos Monastery 2010.

"What is a passion? Passion is an unnatural movement of the soul,says Maximus the Confessor, just as a physical disease is  something unnatural to our body… 'Passion is an excessive feeling, or appetite, going beyond what is reasonable.Passions are a disturbance of our soul contrary to our nature, in disobedience to reason. Passion is not natural and it ruins our nature instead of fulfilling it.

- Clement of Alexandria”

Path to Sanity p.30, Dee Pennock, Light & Life Publishing Company, Minneapolis, MN 2010

Envy is mainly sadness at our neighbour's happiness and joy at his misfortune...Usually the envious person is anxious and overcome by unbearable sorrow, not because something bad has happened to him, but because something good has happened to his fellow human being. He takes no account of his own blessings and does not praise God for the benefits bestowed on him everyday.
Instead, he is tormented by his brother's happiness. He is distressed because his brother is glad and possesses more than he does.
Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos in 'The Science of Spiritual Medicine' p.125,Birth of the Theotokos Monastery 2010.

Envy is a serious wound as no other passion is so destructive of men's souls. Ibid p.126 The envious man usually examines other people's lives and tries to compare his own life with theirs.
When he realizes that his brother surpasses him, he lets the terrible passion of envy show itself. Usually the first sign of the passion is dejection, distress and misery. Sorrow and despondency never leave the envious man.
The physical and spiritual merits of others become a source of sorrow and gloom. Even their material possessions upset him.Someone afflicted by envy is like a naked man wounded by everyone. He is very deeply hurt, cut to the heart. 'All these wounds and injuries strike to the depths of his heart' St Basil the Great.
"The envious man usually has his eyes everywhere. He is always carefully watching for grounds to make an accusation. He observes how the other person talks and behaves...When the victim of his envy is praised, the envious man is ready to contradict. Ibid p.126-127. ..The passion of envy may be carefully hidden by sorrow and a tendency to criticise. It is also sometimes concealed behind praise for others. Envy has
terrible consequences. It distorts a person's soul." Ibid p.127 "Envy is a sign of a carnal life.

 St Gregory of Sinai stresses the same point: 'Those who are completely given over to pursuits of the flesh and full of self-love are always slaves to sensual pleasure and to vanity. Envy too, is rooted in them'.
The envious man is spiritually blind. The eye of his soul, the nous,
is blinded and cannot discern good from bad. It cannot even perceive the grace of God. St Thalassios says succinctly,'The Lord blinds the envious nous, because it is resentful of its neighbour's blessings'.
The person overcome by the passion of envy ends up without faith.
St Nikitas Stithatos says, 'Lack of faith is evil, the worst offspring of wicked avarice and envy.' Envious people waste away from the passion of envy and 'state slanderously that good is bad, calling it the fruit of deceit. They do not accept things of the Spirit or believe in them, and because of their lack of faith, they cannot see or know God' (St Gregory of
Sinai)." Ibid p.129 "Envious people, by the very fact that they are envious, show that they do not have love.
The envious man cannot and does not want to love. The envious man also destroys what he has . ...envy consumes the soul that bears it". Ibid p.129
It is possible to have spiritual envy. "St Nikitas Stithatos says that envious people are consumed with jealousy against those who have received the grace of the Spirit in the form of wisdom and divine knowledge.
The passion of envy also injures those against whom it is directed. It does great harm, especially if its victims do not have the strength and spiritual courage to deal with the situation." Ibid p.129
"the offsprings of envy are: conspiracy, malice, spite, argumentation, slander, fraud, betrayal, murder" St Nikodimos the Hagiorite in the Exomologetarion p.79, Translated by Fr George Dokos,Uncut Mountain Press 2006

Obviously envy can lead to stealing and many other forms of criminal behavior. Unfortunately, once the victim of the envious person has been destroyed, the poison of this evil viper of envy does not cease to hurt the envious, the inner discontent continues and it can even lead to suicide.

And so, how may we be healed from the passion of envy?, how may we help others in the grip of this evil?  
First, we must heed St Basil's warning; "envy is an extremely difficult kind of enmity to handle. Acts of kindness irritate the envious
man even more.Dogs calm down when fed,..but envious men become wilder when treated well. Good deeds make them even more furious.
"The Science of Spiritual Medicine p.130
Second,"St Maximos the Confessor analyses the case of Saul,who persecuted David in spite of being treated kindly by him.
He says that anyone who, out of envy, hates and vilifies a man because he outshines him in the struggle for virtue...is choked by an evil spirit". Ibid p. 130. A person under the power of envy is being tormented by a demon.
King David sings, "The earth is the Lord's and all its fullness,the world and those who dwell therein" Psalm 24:1  The riches of God are unlimited. " The noted sociologist George
Foster, developed a concept of 'limited good'. He explains the belief in many cultures that there 'is only so much good to go around, and if you don't have good then you are stuck with evil.
Your neighbour's increase of good then deprives you of good and brings you evil." From 'Death by Envy' p. 6, by Fr George Aquaro,iUniverse,Inc 2004.
"The careful reader will see that if everything belongs to the Creator, then to believe that one deserves something is in fact self-idolatry. The Decalogue shows the dynamic that idolatry leads to envy, which leads to murder. Only in a slight preference aside from God, is one idolatrous and capable of sin. This slight preference for one's self instead of God reveals that one deserves something more than God, is the seed of envy. The deceit of Adam and Eve was their own belief that they deserved to eat of the tree". Ibid p.35 
The Epistles link envy to pride in several instances, Gal 5:26 "Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying
one another; and James 4:1-4:
'Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for
pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have.You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war".etc.
Prophet Job had the right perspective, "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away: Blessed be the name of the Lord"
Job 1:21 Therefore as we can see, our acknowledgement of God's sovereignty and unlimited riches, and the pursuit of humility as expressed by St Paul in his letter to Timothy, can  help us in our healing from envy. "And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content." 1 Tim. 6:8

"St Cyprian of Carthage in his treatise, 'On jealousy and Envy' warned his reader against laughing off one's own envy, seeing it as a constant source of danger to one's life."Death by Envy p.76

"St Basil the Great in his Homily 11 'Çoncerning Envy' recommended that the faithful not have friendships with envious people, quoting Solomon from Ecclesiastes 4:4,"Again, I saw that for all toil and every skillful work a man is envied by his neighbour. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind." His argument was that the envious only have an effect on those whom they are intimate with." 

"St Basil is a champion for the unlimited good of God and the universal ownership of the Almighty rather than men."Death by Envy p.77.

Metropolitan Hierotheos advices,"We need to show particular love towards those people whom we feel inwardly inclined to envy. In particular we ought to pray about the passion, but also pray for those whom we feel tempted to envy.
We should regard everything that our brother has as gifts of God's grace. He is the Giver of all gifts. Spiritual guidance is needed from a priest skilled in the Orthodox way of healing."

The Science of Spiritual Medicine p.132 
In other words we need the sacrament of repentance (Confession).

If we are the victims of envy we should, "show patience and forbearance. Whoever bears this trial joyfully receives consolation from God and acquires blessed humility. It is worth noting that this sort of patience is usually found in God's more valiant children, those who have spiritual fortitude and courage.
All those who patiently endure their brother's envious disposition will gain a martyr's crown."
We should avoid living with or in the same place as those who envy us, because great harm will result. Abba Poimen adviced someone: Do not live in a place where you see that some are jealous of you, for you will not make progress. In general when we have the grace of God within us and are in a good spiritual state, then the darts of the envious man cannot injure us and we suffer no harm. However when our souls are not strong and we are easily shaken, we must, with love and for the sake of love, break off our friendship with the envious person and stop
associating with him....but that does not mean that we should stop praying for him or caring about his life.
St Basil urges, "Brothers, let us escape this illness that teaches hostility to God, the mother of murder, which confounds nature, ignores friendship and is the most
irrational misfortune. Let us escape this unbearable vice.
It is a lesson learned from the serpent, an invention of the demons, the seed sown by the enemy, a foretaste of damnation, an obstacle to devotion, the road to hell and
the loss of the Kingdom." Ibid p.133-134
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