By St. Dimitry of Rostov
Revere fasting and temperance if you desire to be made whole in your thoughts and have a clear victory over the passions. Guard against overeating and drunkenness – they are the root and beginning of every sin and behind them comes impurity and fornication, which bring preparation for eternal affliction. Adam, our first father, was not guarded and thus in bitterness he lost paradise and fell under death.
From overeating and drinking the soul becomes weighed down, the reason becomes muddled, the flesh is stirred up and makes constant battles, the demons approach easily, and estrangement from God ensues. From overeating and drinking not only is the soul harmed but the body also becomes sick. They rob a person of not only eternal but even temporal life; they also destroy the soul and body, making them useless to God and people. Fleeting carnal pleasures prepare the way for everlasting grief. The one who guards himself and is temperate in this life is even now in paradise, but the one who is unguarded and sinful is even now in hell and heaviness of soul.
Be then one who overcomes, not one who succumbs. Master pleasures, do not let them master you if you want to be free in the coming life. “To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7). It is also written, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life” (Jn. 6:27).
Be moderate in everything if you desire to find peace of soul; without moderation, you will never find stillness and peace. If some food were incredibly delightful but poisonous, you would not eat it. Therefore scorn having a full stomach so that you will not fall into the bonds of the passions and be held by them. Through enduring hunger and thirst, you will be freed from heaviness of soul and satiated with Divine food. The one who cannot endure even the smallest deprivations will suffer from falls into the passions. The pleasures of the flesh, compared with the sweetness to come, are but burdens and momentary comforts are but bitterness of soul, therefore strive to estrange yourself from bodily pleasures. “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17), as the Apostle says. Do not deem your comfort to be found in food and drink, but in seeking the best Heavenly grace in God. Even if you enjoy every kind of food and drink in abundance, remember that they are neither eternal nor immutable, but Heavenly blessing is.
If you were able to call to mind every kind of food you ate and every type of drink you drank from youth on up, it would be clear: although you have consumed much, it has all disappeared as if it never were; you can not even remember most of it! It is the same then and now, from food and drink comes but a little comfort and much sorrow, only a little sweetness, and great heaviness. They are sorry comforters, carrying behind them sadness and bitterness. No one unreasonably enslaved to overeating and drinking has ever done anything worth remembering or of merit in this world. Instead, they lose not only this life but eternal life as well.
You yourself at some point have experienced and known that fleshly pleasures bring heaviness, they bind the soul and produce confusion in it. More than once you have burdened your soul with overeating, drinking, sleeping, and other such things. From now on keep yourself at least from fleshly desires, so that in doing so you will be kept from evil. Do not seek comfort in such pleasures, but in the Lord; do not be a slave to the imprudent pleasures of appetite, but instead it is necessary to exercise them with prudence. If you subjugated yourself to the flesh then it will never leave you in peace, it will only push you into the depths of sin.
Do not count on receiving heaven either without effort or without living the heavenly life; if you still have not learned to rule over your passions, do not count on inheriting the Kingdom of Heaven for free. It is written, “Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards … will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). You will go to the next life with whatever you have acquired here. Look to it that you do not hear, “In your lifetime you received your good things” (Lk. 16:25). All these pleasures of appetite are not new to you, more than once they have caused bitterness and confusion, and more than once they may have seduced you, but stop now; no longer be your own unmerciful enemy.
“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mat. 4:4). Fleshly pleasures are not natural to mankind's soul, they appeared after the fall of Adam, for a particular time, in the generation of humanity. For we have not yet learned to eat the divine spiritual food, but instead we imprudently turn away from it. The constant satisfying of the flesh brings only ailment, weakness, affliction, and sadness. The more you satisfy the flesh, the more you will weaken. The more you try to please it, the sicker you will become. No one has ever seen a drunk and a glutton in perfect health. Do not be like a fly or an ant, which are attracted to the sweetness of honey and then end up drowning in it; nor be like a swine that, no matter how many times, is driven away from a vegetable garden and immediately it forgets and returns again. Do not be so irrational and do not labor for worldly sweetness; remember, it is only given for a short time. It is better to be free than enslaved. Serve God alone and not your various desires, so that you may attain salvation.
In the eternal age, we will not feed on this earthly food but the Divine grace of the Most Holy Spirit. Concern yourself with receiving that food, because there is no peace or rest in fleshly sweetness, but only constant strife and rebellion, gloom and darkness. Yet the Divine and spiritual food imparts to the soul peace, quietness of life, freedom of spirit, joy, and gladness. As it is written, “They shall be drunk from the plenteousness of Thy house, and Thou shalt give them drink of Thy pleasure, as out of a river” (Ps. 35:9).