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10 - DISCIPLINE OF THE SENSES: THE SENSE OF TOUCH

THE SENSE OF TOUCH:

The sense of touch played an important role in the original sin.
When Satan disguised as a serpent came to Eve to tempt her, he asked her about Gods commandment regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She answered the serpent, God told us, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. (Gen 3:3)
Eve must have touched the forbidden fruit out of curiosity and it must have felt so good and irresistible, so she plucked it. We are all painfully aware that the sense of touch can lead to pleasant but unholy motions in both body and mind. For example, If, while sitting in a bus, my body comes close to the body of someone from the other sex, even though the bodies are separated by layers of clothing, yet, somehow, unholy feelings start disturbing my body and my mind. Sometimes we fight, but other times we surrender and even seek such situations. Someone with trained senses would avoid such situations at all costs.
I remember a story in the Paradise of the Fathers about a young monk who was visited by his mother. He wanted to take her back to the edge of the village, and while going there, he had to cross a shallow river, and, out of courtesy, he carried his mother across. But, before doing so, he wrapped her in a blanket he was carrying. His mother was surprised and told him, Im you mother! and the monk replied, I am not afraid to touch your flesh mother, but touching you will bring to my memory other flesh that I touched in my foolish days.
St. Jude exhorts us to hate even the garment that has been defiled by the flesh. (Jud 1:23) We are all aware that the site of some garments on display windows or even catalogues can stir up unclean sensations in our bodies. Touching such garments can also stir up the same unholy sensations.
Touching certain parts of our bodies can produce intense sensual stimulation that is unchaste and unholy, and I know that a lot of young people from both sexes struggle very hard with these sensations. In our social interactions we should be very careful with the use of the sense of touch, never using it indiscriminately especially with members of the other sex. Young people often hug and put their arms around people from the other sex in the name of friendship. Some may say, I dont mean anything wrong. Others may say I dont feel anything improper. But, what about the other person? If I stir in him or her improper senses, then I will have to answer for these. I can carry these exercises a step further by avoiding pampering my sense of touch with expensive clothes, using expensive lotions and cremes that make the skin softer. Moderation is the word.
The sense of touch is the vehicle through which we feel unpleasant sensations or pain. A person with a well trained sense of touch will learn how to accept pain, even benefit from pain by remembering that the Lord endured pain for my sake. Theophan the Recluse gives some exercises in this regard. If I feel pain in my hand, I should think of the nails that went into the Lords hands. If my back hurts, I should meditate on the 39 lashes the Lord endured on my behalf. If the pain is in my side, I should remember the spear, and if my head hurts, the crown of thorns should come to my mind.


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