Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Fleshly fruit

Again, thinking about my sermon for this Sunday has caused me to look at the fruits of the flesh, the end products of the seeds of sin and thus the way we know that sin has been growing in the heart. It's really worth taking this apart to see really what's growing in and around us.

Let's do some Greek:
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before , as I have also told you in time past , that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

φανερὰ δέ ἐστιν τὰ ἔργα τῆς σαρκός, ἅτινά ἐστιν [μοιχεῖαι,] πορνεία, ἀκαθαρσία, ἀσέλγεια, εἰδωλολατρία, φαρμακεία, ἔχθραι, ἔρις, ζῆλος, θυμοί, ἐριθείαι, διχοστασίαι, αἱρέσεις, φθόνοι, [φόνοι,] μέθαι, κῶμοι, καὶ τὰ ὅμοια τούτοις, ἃ προλέγω ὑμῖν καθὼς προεῖπον ὅτι οἱ τὰ τοιαῦτα πράσσοντες βασιλείανθεοῦ οὐ κληρονομήσουσιν. (Galatians v.19-21)

1) μοιχεῖαι (moicheiai)
Adultery. This is not in some manuscripts of Galatians. Since this is already one of the Ten Commandments, the fact that we see adultery means that there is a complete disregard for God's commandments. In order to commit adultery, there must not only be a contempt for God's law, but also for one's spouse. Somehow there must be a shifting idea of what it means to be faithful or even a complete rejection of fidelity.

2) πορνεία (porneia)
Fornication. It's interesting that under the evolution of language ps slowly become fs. Thus porneia is rather tautologically translated as fornication - pornication - whence pornography and the like. It stands for all manner of deviations from the purpose of sexual intercourse. This does include homosexual sex - it is one of the meanings of the term. There are those who say that, in this instance, St Paul is talking about prostitution or pederasty, but then again, he might be talking about homosexual sex. The fact of the matuter is that there is no translation of porneia that is morally acceptable otherwise there would be some clarification in Holy Scripture and Tradition. Where does porneia come from? To believe that fornication is acceptable arises from putting one's attractions and biological urges ahead of the good of others and the good of oneself. Crudely put, it is thinking with one's genitals. Fornication is also the result of denying the obvious biological facts, and preferring sterility to the creation of new life. There is a disregard for children and for the society in which they are to grow up. There is a lack of desire to commit or an unwillingness to accept what God has set in place. Pornography is the direct opposite of ikonography, for in ikonography we look through Creation to see God Himself: in pornography, we focus on the object without any reference to it being a beautiful creation of God. Fornication requires the dehumanisation of the other, a reduction to animal urges, even a forgetting of one's own dignity as a human being.

3) ἀκαθαρσία (akatharsia)
Uncleanness. You might recognise the root of the word catharsis here. Impurity is, perhaps in this instance, a good translation: if something is unclean or impure, then there is some foreign matter introduced that spoils the intended effect. Accepting impurity in our lives means that our judgement is clouded because we accept in our lives that which should not be there. This arises from the belief that one can augment one's life for the better without God. To accept an impurity means that we have seen something with which we perceive has a greater value than it should possess and thus reducing the value of one's life. The impure eye always has a beam in it blocking true beauty.

4) ἀσέλγεια (aselgeia)
Lasciviousness or Wantonness. The fruit that we see here is Gluttony and we may even perceive addiction as its effect. This arises from a selfishness which grabs all that it can, refusing to recognise one's limitations. It is the search for one's entitlements with scant regard for the needs of others. It develops perhaps from an insecurity arising from distrust in providence and a contentment in things of the earth.

5) εἰδωλολατρία (eidololatria)
Idolatry. What grows idolatry? Every sin has an element of idolatry within it for, in committing a sin, we are preferring something created to the Creator. In idolatry, we make a god of our own - a god who will accept us for who we are, yes, but who demands nothing of us save living the way that we want to live life. Idolatry arises from seeing God as an obstacle to our happiness. and thus as an enemy of our own identity.

6) φαρμακεία (pharmakeia)
Witchcraft, i.e. Sorcery in connection with idolatry. It would seem odd that we get the word "pharmacy" from this same word as witchcraft. However, is pharmacy not a control of our environment using drugs? Our Lord does not despise the physician since she is used in the context of healing the sick. However, what is witchcraft but to bend creation to one's will? This arises from the belief that we are the complete masters of all that we survey. The medieval witch uses potions and spells to command nature, to enchant human beings, to control the spirits of the dead, and even Time itself in discerning the future. Witchcraft sees everything as a means to an end apart from the human will. The Occultist Aleister Crowley invented his own religion based on "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law." It seems that many of us have been practising that for a long time!

7) ἔχθραι (echthrai)
Hatred. What causes hatred? To lose love so completely must take time and effort. The object of one's hatred has to be stripped of every ability to do something good in one's eyes. Every action has to be interpreted negatively or as a direct assault against us. There can be nothing admirable in the person we truly hate so that wishing them dead, or in Hell becomes easy to us.

8) ἔρις (eris)
Variance. Classical scholars will note the name of  the Greek goddess of discord. Here we have quarrelling and dissent. While every family has times of argument, this sort of discord holds the threat of tearing the family apart. It breaks the bonds of familiarity because we have opinions which grow to such importance within us that they become more compelling to us than staying together. The inability to let go of matters which "offend" us stems from our disregard of the fact that other people are different from us, so that the rules that bind us become irrelevant.

9) ζῆλος (zelos)
Emulations. While this is the root of the word "zeal", an innocent enthusiasm easily turns nasty. We can see this when we look at the negative impact of the word "zealot" in our language. These emulations are an envious, contentious rivalry. This is the competition that we see in classical literature of two rivals competing for the hand of a beautiful woman only to end up destroying each other and the woman. We see this in evidence in Medieval history as men compete to become Pope. Emulations are the cause of the Wars of the Roses. At the root is envy, pure and simple: wanting what the other does not. Notice, again, how it is a flagrant disregard for God's commandments of "thou shalt not covet". Envy drives the wilful ignorance of God here.

10) θυμοί
Wrath. We get the idea of one fuming and boiling with anger. This is a loss of control of one's temper and we do have to see what causes us to lose that control. While there is much that we have to be angry about, compounding the problem with more sin is clearly not the way. For the flame of anger to live, there has to be oxygen, heat and fuel. We fuel wrath by not seeing its cause for what it is in the grand scheme of things. We give it heat by focussing all our emotional energy on the cause and allow it. We give it oxygen by justifying it and defending it against all reason.

11) ἐριθείαι (eritheiai)
Strife. Essentially this this best described as electioneering, a desire to put oneself forward for government. This looks like modern democracy - surely that's a virtue. However, the politician that strife engenders is the scheming Francis Urquhart in House of Cards or Shakespeare's version of Richard III. This is the one who will stop at nothing to be in control, though not obviously in control, manipulating people and delighting in seeing them fight among themselves. Where can this come from? Again, this is the fruit of seeing people as pawns in a game and taking no delight in sharing their common humanity. It comes from allowing oneself to be emptied of compassion and fellowship for the prize of being so in control of the situation that one feels secure.

12) διχοστασίαι (dichostasiai)
Seditions. Why do people cause dissension and division? We find the root in wanting one's own way to the extent that one is prepared to shred the establishment to get it. It comes from seeing the authority as being worth toppling in order to force the issue through with scant regard for those who cannot support it. It is a failure to see the bigger picture and having disrespect for the authority that God sets up for our benefit.

13) αἱρέσεις (haireseis)
Heresies. Ah! How the Church has seen these time and again, and the same heresies every time. Again, these have their root in opinions which contradict the Faith that God has given us. Heresies are the cause of schism, and heresies are caused by those who do not accept the consensus of the Church, but trust their own private revelation over and above the Catholic Faith.

14) φθόνοι, (phthonoi)
Envyings. Envy is a truly devastating sin. It has its origins in self-hatred and dissatisfaction with one's lot to the extent that one is prepared to deprive another of something in order to feel better. It is an insecurity in one's condition. Ir prefers one's misery to the transformation needed and will seek to bring others down rather than pull oneself up. It refuses to see God's light as anything other  than punitive and, to make one feel better, would rather accuse than repent.

15) φόνοι (phonoi)
Murders. Again, this is not present in some manuscripts. There are many reasons why we murder, but this is born of hatred in the heart, dehumanisation and disdain of charity. Here we find many of the other fruit of the flesh all condensed and, whether we murder in actuality or not, we think of Our Lord's words that hatred of our brother is quite equivalent to murder.

16) μέθαι, (methai)
Drunkenness. Why do people get drunk? Again many reasons, and each of them terrible in many ways. People now drink in order to get drunk. This can be seen so much in our young folk. Drunkenness distorts reality so that it looks better. It numbs pain and drowns sorrows. It comes from an unwillingness to face sadness or the trivialities of living.

17) κῶμοι, (komoi)
Revellings. In much the same way as drunkenness distorts reality to something palatable. The object is to enjoy one's life so much that it masks the emptiness of one's being, to hide one's loss of hope and faith.

18) καὶ τὰ ὅμοια τούτοις (kai ta homoia toutois)
And such like.

Can there be others? If we look at the seventeen fruits of the flesh above, we see the seeds that have been sown and each of them has its roots in humanities failure to do two simply stated things: love God, love neighbour. Each comes from that first temptation:

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made . And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said , Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

"God's given you free-will, why don't you use it?"
"God won't care."
"God's not so big."
"God's not real."
"Do what you want to do!"
"Why don't you become God instead?"

Here's the thing. We see these fruits being grown in our society and, worse still, in the Church itself. We see churches tearing themselves apart which does seem to point to this fruit being born even in the sanctuary. It is where this fruit is seen for what it is and cut down that there is hope. When churches find themselves embracing the same faith come together, we find that the Evil One can be resisted.

If we want to cut down this fruit, then we need to sow the seed of the fruit of the Spirit.
Ὁ δὲ καρπὸς τοῦ πνεύματός ἐστιν ἀγάπη, χαρά, εἰρήνη, μακροθυμία, χρηστότης, ἀγαθωσύνη, πίστις, πραΰτης, ἐγκράτεια: κατὰ τῶν τοιούτων οὐκ ἔστιν νόμος.
Galatians v.22 
But the fruit of the Spirit is (Unconditional) Love, Joy, Peace (in the Jewish sense this can mean prosperity, health and welfare), Patience (literally the opposite of being quick tempered), Goodness (or Usefulness), Goodness (in the senses of personal integrity and, towards others, beneficence), Faith, Meekness (or forbearance) and Self Control (i.e. continence and temperance): against these things there is no law.
(My Translation) 
It is also important to stop the culture of blame. The central tenet of Christianity is this, that though we are sinners God loves us - no strings - we just have to turn to Him and leave our sins behind nailed to the Cross of Christ. Each of us is responsible for the fruit we bear. We start by repenting and asking God for Faith which will uproot the fruit of the flesh and plant the fruit of the Spirit.

Let's work at being observant of what fruit is growing around us and pray for the grace to do something about it.

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