When I think of gluttony, I get the image of Jabba the Hutt from Star Wars fame. I first saw Star Wars in 1977. Back then people were relatively trim in America. We were not in the middle of an obesity epidemic so when I reflect I tend to remember creatures from the fantasy genre of the entertainment world as examples of gluttony. I, also, think of an excessive intake of food when I think of gluttony, but when St John of the Cross speaks of gluttony in Dark Night of the Soul, he is speaking of spiritual excess. (This is post number 5 of commentary on this great work from one of the mystics of the early church. The first post in this series can be found at https://dschondog.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/how-can-anyone-understand-their-own-way/)
What is spiritual excess? St John of the Cross says there are those who love to do penance rather than obey. He says there are those who love to preach and say long prayers rather than be still and know. Indeed, there are those who claim they hear directly from God and do not need to listen to their spiritual elders. Those with such imperfections judge whether or not they have a good ministry by whether they feel pleased with themselves not whether they have done what God wants. Such individuals can not know what God wants because they judge by feelings of pleasure and God presents them with a cross. John says they can not
“[journey] upon the hard road of the Cross; for the soul that is given to sweetness naturally has its face set against all self-denial, which is devoid of sweetness.”
It is self-denial that purges gluttony, but those who believe that recognition and personal pleasure in ministry is a sign is that one is in tune with God will not go there. Those who suffer from spiritual gluttony engage in spiritual practices for the accolades such behavior affords them and the personal pleasure they derive from their participation in them. After reading Chapter VI of Dark Night of the Soul I was reminded of I Corinthians 13
1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
St John of the Cross says those who suffer spiritual gluttony must be purged of their tendencies, for pleasure as a measure of spirituality is a lie of the devil and those who choose this path can not endure the dark night. Those who can not endure the dark night can not reach the heart of God, where, ironically, the greatest pleasure in the universe awaits the saints’ arrival.