December 27, 2006

Christmas Sins

For a Christmas present, my father gave me the New York Public Library/Oxford University Press series on the Seven Deadly Sins. All of them.

So the question arises: in what order do I read them? One of the brothers suggested that they should be read in order of publication, but that doesn't seem right to me. They're ought to be a an order of internal logic, you know?

Now the classic list of the sins, pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, anger, and sloth, it seems to come from Pope St. Gregory the Great. But I don't know what order he put them in, and, luckily, the library at school is closed this week, so I don't have to deal with the temptation to go read his Moralia in Job to try to find out.

The list that has always made the most sense to me, although it's a little different, comes from John Cassian. He puts the sins in a definite, logical progression: gluttony, fornication, envy, anger, sadness, acedia, vainglory, and pride.

Cassian lists the sins in ascending order of insidiousness and complexity of cure. The first three, gluttony, fornication, and envy, are afflictions of the body and our relation to the world around us. The middle two, anger and sadness, are afflictions of our emotions and internal life. The last three, acedia, vainglory and pride are diseases of the spirit and are the most dangerous because they can hobble our spiritual and religious life.

You can read John Cassian's treatise on the eight principle vices in a new and fresh translation.

So, if I adapted Cassian's list to the books I have, I suppose I would read them in this order: gluttony, lust, greed, envy, anger, sloth, and pride. So I suppose I'll look pretty funny reading them on the subway.

4 comments:

Barb, sfo said...

Sister made us memorize them in this order, back in grade school:
Pride, greed, anger, sloth, lust, gluttony, envy.

Charles of New Haven said...

Thanks Barb! It's one of those little cultural things that Brother Convert-to-Catholicism just never had!

forget me not said...

You mean sadness is a sin?? I didn't know that!

Charles of New Haven said...

"Sadness" for Cassian, is "tristitia," which could also be translated as "melancholy." Perhaps that gives more of a sense of something one indulges in. ;(