Church Fathers, Day 272: St. Leo the Great says control your body, and set your soul free

st_leo_the_great_1Control your body, and set your soul free

Your soul needs to take control of your body, says St. Leo the Great. By suppress­ing your bodily desires, you give yourself more time for meditation and prayer.

Everyday experience, dear friends, proves that overindulgence of the flesh blunts the edge of the mind. Too much food dulls the strength of the heart. So the delights of eating work against even bodily health, unless we resist the temptation with reasonable moderation, and unless thinking about future discom­fort keeps us from the pleasure.

For although the flesh desires nothing without the soul, and takes its sensa­tions from the same source that gives it motion, yet the soul’s job is also to deny some things to the body under its control. By its inner judgment, it must restrain the outer parts from what is unreasonable, so that the soul may be more often free from bodily lusts, and have leisure for divine wisdom in the palace of the mind, where—away from all the noise of earthly troubles—it can enjoy holy meditations and eternal delights in silence.

And although it’s hard to keep up this silence in this life, we can still keep trying. That way we can be occupied with spiritual rather than bodily cares more often and longer. And by spending more and more time on higher cares, we may make even our worldly acts gain incorruptible riches.

–St. Leo the Great, Sermon 19, 1


Do I control my appetites, or do I let them control me?


Lord, help me restrain my earthly desires, and let me grow in my love for heavenly things.

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