Saturday, 1 March 2014

1st Sunday of Lent - Year A

Genesis 2:7-9.3:1-7; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11

Evagrios the Solitary was one of the early desert Fathers in Egypt about 450 AD. He had this to say: Of the demons opposing us ... there are three groups who fight in the front line: those entrusted with the appetites of gluttony, those who suggest avaricious thoughts, and those who incite us to seek the esteem of men.

Isn’t it interesting that of all the vices which can afflict a human being Evagrios would choose these three? Gluttony, greed and the need to be esteemed. Did he just pick them out of a hat? I don't think so.

The desert Fathers were solitary men who fasted, prayed, did penance, meditated on Scripture, kept vigil, engaged in combat with the demons and gave glory to God by his power in them – all to the end that they might achieve purity of heart and see the face of God.

They studied God and they studied themselves. They examined the origins of every sin and discovered as they ‘joined the dots’ that each sin is connected to another, a kind of ‘parent’ sin, and that all eventually lead back to gluttony, greed and the desire for esteem in the eyes of others.

Therefore we must take them seriously.

Evagrios goes on to say: All the other demons follow behind and in their turn attack those already wounded by the first three groups ... and ... no one can fall into the power of any demon, unless he has been wounded by those of the front line.

Gluttony leads to a raft of other sins, including particularly unchastity of one kind or another. Greed and the desire for esteem lead to division, discord and violence in thought, word and deed.

Evagrios concludes that this is why the devil suggested these three thoughts to the Saviour during his forty days in the desert. First he exhorted Him to turn stones into bread (gluttony); then, if Christ would fall down and worship him ... he promised Him the whole world (greed), and thirdly he said that, if our Lord would listen to him. He would be glorified (the esteem of men) and suffer nothing in falling from the pinnacle of the temple.

Satan knew where to begin and he began with these three temptations. These were the three doors to every other sin, and if he could not open these doors in Jesus he knew it was futile to tempt him in other ways.

The temptations of the Lord in the desert therefore hold valuable lessons for those of us who seek to please God by struggling with the sins which beset us. This struggle can often be bewildering and overwhelming.

If we return to their three sources as Evagrios the Solitary proposes them for us we might find a worthy place to begin our spiritual struggle this Lent, questioning ourselves about the level of gluttony, the degree of avarice, and the extent of the desire to be popular with others which might have taken hold of our lives.

If these three doors are open to the demons we can expect them to enter in and cause havoc in our lives. By rejecting the devil at the threshold Jesus drives him away.

Let us pray this Lent that the Master will give us his power to do the same.

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