Returning to St Philoxenos of Mabbug and the passions, it is worth noting that the Eastern Orthodox theologian Fr Alexander Golitzin, in a paper entitled "The Image and Glory of God in Jacob of Serug's Homily 'On that Chariot that Ezekiel the Prophet Saw'" (<!-- w --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.marquette.edu/maqom/serug">www.marquette.edu/maqom/serug</a><!-- w -->) sharply criticizes Roberta Chestnut Bondi's "Three Monophysite Christologies". It is also worth noting that in a footnote Fr Golitzin writes: "I had the occasion to talk to Dr Chestnut Bondi a few years ago and was happy to learn that she no longer endorses
the opinions in her book that I shall be criticizing."
Regarding the term "Passion" and its equation with "lust", the glossary to the English edition of the Philokalia explains: "in Greek, the word signifies literally that which happens to a person or a thing, an experience undergone passively; hence an appetite or an impulse such as anger, desire or jealousy, that violently dominates the soul. Many Greek Fathers regard the passions as something intrinsically evil, a 'disease' of the soul: thus St John Klimakos affirms that God is not the creator of the passions and that they are 'unnatural', alien to man's true self...Other Greek Fathers, however, look on the passions as impulses originally placed in man by God, and so fundamentally good, although at present distorted by sin. On this second view, then, the passions are to be educated, not eradicated; to be transfigured, not supressed; to be used positively, not negatively."
St Philoxenos of Mabbug obviously adhered to the first school of thought. However, it seems to me that the division into two schools is a false dichotomy. If God placed within us necessary impulses - sexual desire for procreation, hunger and thirst to remind us to take required nourishment, anger to goad us into action against what is wrong - then He most certainly did not give us these things as passions which "violently dominate the soul." Divinely given impulses become passions because of our fallen state. If we look around us we see a world populated by people in the grip of ferocious passions. The question is: How do we tackle the passions so that they can be "educated... transfigured... used positively";
how do we quench the fire of the passions that dominate us so that they can become once again impulses that serve?
St Philoxenos of Mabbug, St John Klimakos and a host of other Church Fathers have taught us how to face up to the passions by recognizing that we are enslaved by them, that we must resist them by self-control engendered by fasting, prayer, vigil, and self-observation. It is true that every Church Father patiently repeats that, without Christ we can do nothing, but also that, without our own efforts, there is nothing for Christ to help.
There is such a thing as ancestral sin which weighs upon us. The simple example is the suffering inflicted on the offspring of those who have contracted syphilis. However, physical and mental suffering thus caused does not mean that the victim is any the more or less prone to sin than the rest of us. We tend towards sin because of our fallen state. But it would be wrong to point an accusatory finger at Adam and Eve. It is no use saying, "if it wasn't for Adam and Eve I'd be in paradise," because that presupposes that you, I, any of us are free from sin and suffering only because of someone else's misdemeanours. From that it is a short step to saying: "Why is God punishing me for what Adam and Eve did?"
thus pushing the blame onto God Himself. Both attitudes display the desire to depict ourselves as being good, sinless, and that everything that is wrong is the fault of someone else.
The primal sin was disobedience. This sin was compounded by a refusal to confess and accept blame. Adam blamed Eve, Eve blamed the serpent. Neither of them took the opportunity which God gave them to confess and say, "I sinned!" Neither begged for the mercy which would surely have been shown to them. Likewise, we too must blame ourselves. It is no good saying, "It wasn't me God, it was the fault of those passions you implanted in me!"
The writings of St Philoxenos of Mabbug are alive with the fire of the Holy Spirit which enabled the saint to teach us how to strive against the slavery of our lower, fallen selves. The Spirit, through the saint, enables us to stretch out a hand that implores for rescue as we say, "I have sinned Lord,