Abba Isaac came to see Abba Poemen and found him washing his feet. As he enjoyed freedom of speech with him he said, “How is it that others practice austerity and treat their bodies hardly?” Abba Poemen said to him, “We have not been taught to kill our bodies, but to kill our passions.”
—–Abba Poeman of the Desert
Oftentimes we misread and mishandle the greatest commands of the scripture. The message of scripture is not to torture and abuse the very body that God created, but to care for our bodies in such a way that we may glorify God. To control passions and to discern negative passions from ones that build fervor for God is one of the greatest challenges of the Christian journey. As far back as the time of the Desert Fathers there was a defiling of the body, both by the church and immoral practices. It seems the church has always wanted us to deny our physical needs to avoid sin. The simple act of Abba Poeman washing his feet was considered a luxury that a Christian should avoid. Let us understand that our desires are not our enemies, but our lack of self control is very much our destroyer.