The Drive Against Drunkeness

St. Basil the Great dealing with life in the 4th Century as a Christian pastor shows us that human behavior and problems have remained the same through the centuries.  Humans are humans, no matter what time period in history we are dealing with.  Speaking just a few days before a fasting period was to begin, he says:

“Drunkenness leads to licentiousness, sobriety to fasting. The athlete prepares by training, the one who fasts by practicing self-control. Do not acquire a hangover immediately before these five days, as if you were avenging these days or outsmarting the legislator. Indeed, you toil in vain if your wreck your body but do not comfort it with abstinence. Your storehouse is treacherous. You draw water in a leaky jar. After all, the wine will pass through you and exit along its own path, but the sin remains.

A household slave runs away from the master that beats him. But you remain with the wine that beats your head each day. The use of wine is best measured by the body’s need. But if you exceed this boundary, you will arrive tomorrow afflicted with a headache, yawning, dizzy, reeking of vomited wine. It will seem to you as if everything is whirling around, as if everything is wobbling. While drunkenness induces a slumber akin to death, it produces a wakefulness like dreams. Do you know, then, whom you will welcome as your guest? He who promised us: I and the Father will come and make our home with him. So then, why are you anticipating his arrival with drunkenness and closing the door to the Master? Why are you urging your enemy to occupy your fortifications before his attack? Drunkenness does not provide a welcome for the Lord.

Drunkenness drives away the Holy Spirit. After all, as smoke drives away bees, so a hangover drives away spiritual gifts. Fasting brings about the orderliness of a city, the tranquility of the forum, the peace of households, the security of possessions. Do you want to see its nobility? Compare this evening with tomorrow evening, and you will see that the city has exchanged tumult and storminess for a deep calm. Indeed, I pray that today be like tomorrow in terms of nobility but that today’s frivolity not carry over to tomorrow. The Lord has brought us to this period of time. May he grant that we, like competitors, display the steadiness and vigor of perseverance in these preliminary contests and so arrive at the appointed day of coronation. Let us now recollect the saving passion but in the age to come may we be rewarded for our actions throughout life by the righteous judgement of Christ himself, to whom be glory forever. Amen.” ( On Fasting and Feasts, pp 70-71)

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