As I read through Cassian’s writing on the Eight Vices I felt like I was fighting my way through a dungeon (I will somewhat timidly admit here that I kind of love Dungeons and Dragons). The Dungeon Master has set up an epic level dungeon and here we see players battling the evil minions of the dark lord. The first fight is against an illusion of a great horde of money; the players must battle their own greed and upon discovering the gold is fake (gasp!!) a beautiful belly dancer appears in the next room (probably singing a siren song). Turns out she’s a harpy. The players slay the harpy and they begin to fight amongst themselves “NO!” Thor shouts, “I am a better swordsman!” anger overcomes the group until they realize a mage has cast a 25th level spell of discord on them. The players soon decide they need a rest and the dwarf among them decides he can’t go on, he’s not good at this sort of thing and really he should go drink a beer. Upon completing their quest (sans a dwarf) the players are puffed up by the local tradesmen and pride overcomes them and they go fight a dragon and die.
Now, I realize this isn’t a perfect fit, but it sure is what I kept thinking about while I was reading.
Tim asked me once if I could stand before the Throne of God. After a moment of hesitation, I felt confident that I could say yes. The demons of dejection, avarice, pride- they come into our lives and they cloud our vision God’s Glory. They diminish our ability to see the redemptive work of Christ in our lives. We believe we cannot stand before God. Cassian speaks of how anger “blinds the soul’s eyes, preventing it from seeing the Sun of righteousness.” He quotes the scripture regarding avarice ” You fool, this night your soul will be required of you; who then will be the owner of what you have stored up?”. It is clear, then, that these vices are powerful interrupters of our soul’s vision. Maybe it’s like putting on the wrong glasses. You think it will help and whoa! triple vision and instant headache.
We are up against the vices most of the days of our lives! Luckily Cassian is quick to tell us that we cannot battle against them on our own. He encourages us that we cannot conquer these demons by running to solitude. We must commit ourselves to our community to keep on through this battle. When you stand before the presence of God, what is clouding your vision to see His Glory?
How do we cultivate the virtues and cast aside the seduction of the vices? We spend time with Christ. St. John urges us that we must fast and keep vigils. Whatever means of fasting and however “praying without ceasing” looks in your life, we reject anger in God’s perfect love; we are built up in the Spirit, casting out dejection; we are humbled by the knowledge of our relationship to the Creator. Spending time with God, who calls us beloved, is our refuge in the battle against the vices.