The Spiritual Combat, Chapter 14: What must be done when the superior-will seems to be wholly stifled and overcome by the interim-will and by other enemies
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YOU DON’T HAVE TO GIVE IN!!!
You don’t have to give in. I don’t have to give in. Give in to what? Give in to anything. I don’t have to give in to any temptation. Ever. You and I have the power to choose. We always have that power. This is the absolute and enduring quality of the will that God has given to us. Our will is always free. We have to remember this. We forget this all too easily.
“I had to do it.” Wrong. False.
“I had to have a piece of chocolate.” False.
“I had to watch another episode.” False.
“I had to buy it.” False.
“I had to lie.” False.
“I had to yell at him.” False.
“I had to look at her with lust.” False.
Our teacher: “For God [endowed] our will with such freedom and such strength, that were all the senses, all evil spirits, nay, the whole world itself, to arm and conspire to assault and oppress it with all their might, it could still, in spite of them, will or not will all that it wills or wills not.”
I have it in me to never sin. Never sin. And this is not from me (as so many people mistakenly believe that they themselves have given themselves this innate interior power of creating their own destiny, which is very and plainly false), but is placed in me by the One who made me. “So do thou take refuge in the knowledge of yourself, the knowledge that you are nothing, and can do nothing, and with faith in God, Who can do all things, strike a blow at this hostile passion.”
We want to believe that we are our own master. We want to believe that we can do anything that we choose to do. While I might not be able to do anything that I choose to do (I will probably never be in the NBA even if I decide it will my whole heart), I must hold that I need not sin. I need not give in to any temptation. We must become convinced of this.
In this chapter, Dom Scupoli is reflecting on the cravings of the flesh that come to us and we feel overwhelmed by them and think that we must give in to them. He does not bend. He does not allow our justifications. We wish he would. But we are also glad that he doesn’t. We know that it is in us to resist sin.
When we are afflicted or troubled or tempted, we tend to cry out in different ways. Dom Scupoli gives us some meditations that strike those pity parties down. If you don’t want to stop the pity party, don’t read any further.
Have I ever done this unto another? If so, then this is simply the reward of work from your own hand.
I DON’T DESERVE THIS!
Have I ever done this unto another? No? Well, what of all the other things I have done in my life. If I am receiving payback now, why am I upset? This is again fruit of my own labor.
THIS IS TOO MUCH TO ASK OF ME!
Why is the burden so heavy? I know I have done wrong, but isn’t this overkill? We should never have this thought. The slightest offense against God has eternal weight. And the gate to life is narrow.
I DON’T HAVE TO DO THIS!
I can get around this, can I not? Jesus Christ entered into the Father’s Kingdom via thorns and crosses. And you are a member of His Body.
THERE’S NO POINT!
What is the payoff? The harder things are to bear, the more unreasonable, the disorder of the troubles being so chaotic, so much more pleasing will your act of love be to God. It will be pure and beautiful, because He sees everything for what it really is. He sees your desire and your love in the midst of suffering.
Here it is good to remember one of the main themes of Dom Scupoli’s masterpiece:
I AM VICTORIOUS UNTIL I GIVE UP.
I AM VICTORIOUS UNTIL I GIVE UP.
Chapter 14 text:
If at times the superior will should seem to you powerless to resist the inferior and its other enemies because you do not feel within you an effectual will opposed to them, yet stand firm, and do not quit the field; for you must always account yourself victorious until you can clearly perceive that you have yielded.
For inasmuch as our superior will has no need of the inferior for the production of its acts, without its own consent it can never be compelled to yield, however sorely assaulted.
For God endued our will with such freedom and such strength, that were all the senses, all evil spirits, nay, the whole world itself, to arm and conspire to assault and oppress it with all their might, it could still, in spite of them, will or not will all that it wills or wills not; and that how often so-ever, when-so-ever, how-so-ever, and to what end so-ever it should please.
And if at any time your foes should so violently assail and press upon you as almost to stifle your will, so that it seems to have no breath to produce any opposing act of volition, yet do not lose courage, nor throw down your arms, but make use of your tongue in your defense, saying, “I yield not, I consent not;” like a man whose adversary is upon him and holds him down, and who, being unable to reach him with the point of his sword, strikes at him with the hilt; and as he tries to make a spring backwards to wound his enemy with the point, so do thou take refuge in the knowledge of yourself, the knowledge that you are nothing, and can do nothing, and with faith in God, Who can do all things, strike a blow at this hostile passion, saying: “Help me, Lord! help me, O my God! help me, Jesus, Mary! that I may not yield to this enemy.“
You may also, when your enemy gives you time, call in your reason to assist the weakness of your will, by meditating upon various points, the consideration of which may give it strength and restore its breath to resist the enemy. For example: You are, perhaps, under some persecution or other trial, so sorely tempted to impatience, that your will, as it seems to you, cannot, or at least will not, endure it. Encourage it, then, by discussing with the reason such points as the following:
Consider, first, whether you have given any occasion for the evil under which you are suffering and so have deserved it; for if you have done so, every rule of justice requires of you to bear patiently the wound which with your own hand you have inflicted on yourself.
Second – If blameless in this particular instance think of your other sins, for which God has not yet chastised you, and for which you have not, as you should have done, duly punished yourself. Seeing, then, that God’s mercy changes your deserved punishment, which should be eternal, into some light affliction which is but temporal, you should receive it, not willingly only, but thankfully.
Third – Should your offenses against the Divine Majesty seem to you to be light, and the penance you have endured for them heavy (a persuasion, however, which you should never allow yourself to entertain), you must remember that it is only through the straight gate of tribulation that you can enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Fourth – That even were it possible to enter there by any other way, the law of love forbids you so much as to think of it, seeing that the Son of God, with all His friends and all His members, entered into that kingdom by a path strewed with thorns and crosses.
Fifth – That which you have chiefly to consider, on this and all other occasions, is the will of God, Who, for the love He bears you, views with unspeakable complacency every act of virtue and mortification which, as His faithful and valiant soldier, you perform in requital of His love to you. And of this be assured, that the more unreasonable in itself the trial seems, and the more ignominious, by reason of the unworthiness of those from whom it comes, and so the more vexatious and the harder to be borne, so much the more pleasing will you be to the Lord, if in things so disordered in themselves, and therefore so bitter and repugnant to you, you can approve and love His Divine Will and Providence, in which all events, however adverse, are disposed after a most perfect rule and order.
Chapter 15: Some advice touching the manner of this warfare, and especially against whom, and with what resolution, it must be carried on