Evagrius Ponticus, a well known Desert Father, was a keen thinker, polished speaker, and gifted writer. He said "The demons wage a veritable war against our concupiscible [sexual] appetite. They employ for this combat phantasms [illusory mental images] (and we run to see them) which show conversations with our friends, banquets with our relatives, whole choruses of women and all kinds of other things calculated to produce delight. Under the influence of this part of our soul we then grow unhealthy while our passions undergo a full-bodied development."
Reading: Luke 16:13-15
13 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.
The desert dwellers’ impetus to flee civilisation for the uninhabited wastelands rose out of their commitment to focus on what is good, true, and beautiful rather than being constantly distracted by temptations toward overeating, over-shopping, and escapist forms of recreation. Though the rampant consumerism of our time was still more than 1,500 years away when the Desert Father movement began, the great cities of the ancient Middle East were filled to overflowing with rich foods and wines, exotic spices and perfumes, gold and jewels, flamboyant silks, and a thousand other temptations toward gluttony, lust, avarice, and envy.
And that combination, the Desert Fathers knew, quickly leads toward chronic sadness arising from disappointed expectations, or to covetousness and the violent anger that can spring up when strong desires are left unmet.
As Ponticus puts it, "I have this reason for putting aside pleasure – that I might cut off the pretext for growing angry. For I know that anger constantly fights for pleasure and clouds the mind with passion that drives away knowledge."
Thus, the desert dwellers chose to live in utter poverty and simplicity. Their goal was purity of heart, for them this was a permanent state of freedom from the tyranny of the emotions.
I’m going to consciously avoid looking at or listening to any advertising, whether it be on the Internet, in magazines, on the radio, or on TV.
Help me, Lord, to understand my susceptibility to constant advertising and to avoid the fictional comfort to spend money, even money I don’t have.