Avarice as The Root of The Passions

“One who wishes to cut off the passions should cut out their root; for while avarice remains, there is no benefit in trimming the branches: whenever they are cut off they will immediately sprout again.” Evagrius, On the Eight Thoughts, On Avarice, Chapter 2
Let us recall that for the Greek fathers, the passions are something that act upon us. Far from the English sense of the words, when the fathers write about the passions, they means those things that we yield control of our lives over too. In this sense we can see that something like greed is a passion. Something that acts upon us and subjects us to it rather than vice versa.

Here we see that avarice is treated as the root of the other passions. This may not be intuitive and unless we have large sums of money, we may not think ourselves avaricious. Are we avaricious with our time? With our compassion? Are we cheap towards our fellow human being with the gifts God has given us? Where we hoard our own time as though this was given to us for our use alone, we show ourselves subject to avarice. In a generation of, “do it, you deserve it,” or “You worked hard, you deserve that (insert overpriced object or unnecessary luxury)” we have grown ever more avaricious. If time is money, as the adage goes, we might be surprised at just exactly how little it is we do give to others. We swim in plenty and yet give very little of ourselves (beyond just our financial means). We can see that avarice truly serves as a root for the other passions in this way. May God grant that we richly supply those around us with those things which God has gifted to us for the service of our neighbour.

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