On Renunciation

Dorotheos of Gaza: Discourses and Sayings Chapter 1: Renunciation

Today begins the Lenten Book Club: 22 posts on the 22 chapters from Dorotheos of Gaza: Discourses and Sayings. Dorotheos begins his work with speaking about renunciation. It is evident that he is speaking to monastics but it is clearly for us as well. We are called to make a renunciation. What is it? And what are we asked to renounce? Renunciation (according to an online dictionary) is the act of relinquishing, abandoning, repudiating or sacrificing something, as a right, title, person or ambition.

Dorotheos begins by arguing that we were not created to have unhealthy attachments. Our nature was created adorned with every virtue. We were created to be healthy in emotions, immortal and having the power to act freely. But when we disobeyed God’s command and ate of the tree we fell from a state in accord with His nature to a state contrary to nature, i.e. a prey to sin, to ambition, to a love of the pleasures of this life and the other passions.

Instead of looking at things freely we get hooked. Once hooked on what we want, when we want it, we will not freely renounce our desires.

“So it is, my brethren, when a man has not the guts to accuse himself, he has not scruple to accuse God Himself. Then God came to Eve and said to her, “Why did you not keep the command I gave you?’ as if saying, ‘If you would only say, “Forgive me,” to humble your soul and be forgiven.” And again, not a word! No “forgive me.” (page 83) Eve justifies herself and blames others.

Renunciation is about humility. We need to relinquish our rights, titles and ambitions. “Without humility it is impossible to obey the Commandments or at time to go towards anything good.” (page 83)

“Our Fathers, as I said, having crucified the world themselves, were earnest in the fight to crucify themselves to the world. We thought to crucify the world to ourselves when we left and entered the monastery, but now we have no desire to crucify ourselves to the world. We have still the taste for it; we are passionately attached to its glories, to delicate food and clothing…we ought to be set apart form the desire for material things.” (pages 85-86)

“No one fighting for God mixes himself up with the secular business so that he is able to please Him to whom he has engaged himself.” 2 Timothy 2:4

So also, Dorotheos says, we ought to contend, neglecting world affairs, and to be occupied with God alone.

“A maiden who is both devoted and without distraction.” cf. 1 Corinthians 7:35-45

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