- By Fr. Peter
- 2 May, 2012
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When Abram first arrives in Canaan, we are told that the Canaanites are in the land [Gn. 12: 6]. Later, we read, “At that time the Canaanites and the Perizzites dwelt in the land [Gn. 13: 7].” Why now were the Perizzites added? We know that the ‘peoples of the land’ that required eventual displacing, and were eventually to number seven, are taken by the Fathers to represent the vices dwelling in the unconverted soul. When we begin the spiritual life, we will probably do best to focus on one vice, as Cassian suggests, “that everyone spies out the vice by which he is particularly besieged and struggles chiefly against it, fixing all the attention of his mind on fighting it and keeping watch on it [Conl. 8.XIV.1].” Thus, at first Abram was aware only of the Canaanites. Later, however, as we read in Cassian in the same Conference, “When he finds himself freed from it, he should once again and with similar intensity shine light on the hidden places of his heart, locate for himself whatever is still more horrible that he notices remaining, and move against it in particular with all the arms of the Spirit [Conl. 8.XIV.2].” Thus, Abram, after overcoming some kind of gluttony, as indicated by the famine that forced him and Sarai into Egypt, returned to his heart to discover there the Perizzites; not because they were not resident before, but because in his wisdom, he focused his energies on the first fight. This second vice is perhaps that of avarice, since it is resolved by Abram separating from Lot after their herdsmen quarreled over resources.
Abram is not spiritually indicated to have battled against lust, the vice normally listed between gluttony and avarice. This is because we are not all afflicted by the vices with the same intensity. We note that while in Egypt, Abram was able to convince Pharaoh himself that Sarai was his sister, so chaste was his relationship with his wife who was “beautiful to behold [Gn. 12: 11].”
We should note finally that the Canaanites are not said to have been vanquished from the land, but are still resident with the Perizzites. This is said to caution the spiritual warrior who mistakenly believes that a victory over a difficult vice means that he will no longer have to do battle with it in the future.