BE YE STEADFAST! – The Spiritual Combat, 15.

The Spiritual Combat

The Spiritual Combat, Chapter 15

Warning!: The battle is not over… even if the war is won.

In chapter 15, our teacher shows us simply that if we win a battle against temptation, we ought not put away our weapons.  This battle may be done, but there is another one coming.  The words of Jesus are important here: “But whoever perseveres to the end, he shall be saved” Matthew 24:14.
Typically, the phrase goes like this: “You may have won the battle, but I will win the war.”  Well, it’s strange for the Christian.  Jesus has already won the war!, but there are still a lot of battles to be fought.

“The strife is o’er, the battle done;
The victory of life is won;
The song of triumph has begun: Alleluia!”

This great hymn of victory, proper to the Christian’s experience of Jesus’ conquering death, shows us the victory is already HIS!  BUT… as long as we are in the body, we must persevere.

BULLET POINTS FROM CHAPTER 15:

  • Be steadfast: even if your enemy seems asleep.
  • Be steadfast: even if your enemy is raging.
  • Be steadfast: the goodness and love of God is infinitely greater than your enemy.
  • Be steadfast: even if the battle comes up every single day of your life.
  • Be steadfast: God is in charge.
  • Be steadfast: God is fighting at your right side.
  • Be steadfast: victory will indeed be yours… even if delayed til the day of your death.
  • Be steadfast: there is no escape from this battle, and those who try to escape will be slain.
  • Be steadfast: hate your enemy with all of Heaven’s fury.

This alone is your concern, to fight manfully, and never, however numerous are your wounds, to lay down your arms or take to flight.

Be Steadfast

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The Spiritual Combat text: here.

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NEXT:

Chapter 16: In what manner the soldier-of-Christ should take the field early in the morning

YOU DON’T HAVE TO GIVE IN! /// THE SPIRITUAL COMBAT, 14

The Spiritual Combat

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
(text below) (click for full book)
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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.

spiritual combat 14 meme

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.

1.

WHY ME!?

Have I ever done this unto another?  If so, then this is simply the reward of work from your own hand.

2.

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.

3.

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.

4.

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.

5.

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:

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)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.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)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.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)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.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)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.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)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.

NEXT:

Chapter 15: Some advice touching the manner of this warfare, and especially against whom, and with what resolution, it must be carried on

NAILING THE OLD NATURE TO THE CROSS! /// THE SPIRITUAL COMBAT, 13

The Spiritual Combat

The Spiritual Combat, Chapter 13: Of the way to resist the impulses of sense, and of the acts to be performed by the will in order to acquire Habits of Virtue
(text below) (click for full book)
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“True holiness and spirituality consists
not in exercises which are pleasing to us
and conformable to our nature, nor is it produced by these,
but by such only as nail that nature,
with all its works, to the cross.”
– The Spiritual Combat, 13.

Nailing the old nature to the Cross, to be united to our Crucified Saviour!  WOW!  This was the method of growing in holiness in the 16th century?  Would that it make a return in our 21st century USA!

“And even when you were dead in transgressions
and the uncircumcision  of your flesh,
he brought you to life along with him,
having forgiven us all our transgressions;
obliterating the bond against us, with its legal claims,
which was opposed to us, he also removed it from our midst,
nailing it to the cross;
despoiling the principalities and the powers,
he made a public spectacle of them,
leading them away in triumph by it”
Colossians 2:13-15.

Jesus nailed our sins to the cross once and for all.  And now we must choose to put on the new man.

“That you should put away the old man
of your former way of life,
corrupted through deceitful desires,
and be renewed in the spirit of your minds,
and put on the new man,
created in God’s way of righteousness
and holiness of truth”
Ephesians 4:22-24.

This ‘task’ of ours, nailing that nature to the Cross, is a daily task.  We must respond to God’s grace each day.  This response isn’t always easy.   Dom Scupoli teaches us that we must not simply ‘deny ourselves and take up our cross’ once, but we must actually destroy the weeds of the old man, which will try to creep into our lives.  His method is aggressive, and smart.  How many times in the movies are we led to believe that the foe is dead or out of the picture, but the hero didn’t finish the job.  The villain is knocked out and the hero goes on the way, only to have to face the villain again, and in a more drastic battle.  In this chapter we learn: Knock out your villain (whatever temptation this might be); revive the villain and try to get him to fight again, and knock him out again; and then bring him up once again and utterly kill him.

Our guide also teaches us to learn how to renounce our seemingly insatiable desire to have a good reputation.  Our pain at being offended, or belittled in whatever way, leads to all sorts of problems for us.  We must learn to accept, even love, the mockery and scorn that might come our way.  We can see in this our union with Jesus, who was mocked and scorned.

Scupoli also mentions that it is important to sometimes choose to abstain from things that are fine for us to choose.  If we learn how to avoid even those things that are fine for us, it helps us to avoid those things that are bad for us.  Self-mastery.

“Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win.
Every athlete exercises discipline in every way.  They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.
Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing.
No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.”
1 Corinthians 9:24-27.

Chapter 13 text:

Whenever your reasonable will is attacked by the will of sense on the one hand, and the Divine will on the other, each seeking to obtain the mastery over it, you must make use of various exercises, in order that the Divine will may always govern you.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)First _ Whenever you are assailed and buffeted by the impulses of sense, oppose a valiant resistance to them, so that the superior will may not consent.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)Secondly _ When the assaults have ceased, excite them anew, in order to repress them with greater force and vigor. Then challenge them again to a third conflict, wherein you may accustom yourself to repulse them with contempt and abhorrence.

These two challenges to battle should be made to every disorderly appetite, except in the case of temptations of the flesh, concerning which we shall speak in their place.

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)Lastly _ Make acts contrary to each evil passion which is to be resisted.

This will be made clear by the following example.

Suppose you are assailed by feelings of impatience. Look carefully into yourself, and you will find that these feelings are constantly directed against the superior will, in order to win its consent.

Now, then, begin the first exercise; and by repeated acts of the will, do all in your power to stifle each feeling as it arises, that your will may not consent to it. And never desist from this till, wearied unto death, your enemy yield himself vanquished.

But see here the malice of the devil. When he perceives that we resist the first movements of any passion, not only does he desist from exciting them, but when excited, he endeavors for the time to allay them, lest, by the exercise of resistance to the passion, we should acquire the habit of the opposite virtue. He would fain also betray us into the snares of pride and vainglory, by subtly insinuating to us that, like valiant soldiers, we have quickly trampled down our enemies.

Proceed, therefore, to the second conflict, recalling and exciting within yourself those thoughts which tempted you to impatience, until they sensibly affect you. Then set yourself to repress every such feeling with a stronger will and more earnest endeavor than before.

And because, however strenuously we have resisted our enemies, from a sense of duty and a desire to please God, we are still in danger, unless we hold them in perfect detestation, of being one day overcome, attack them again even a third time; and repel them, not with repugnance only, but with indignation, until they have become hateful and abominable in your sight.

Lastly _ to adorn and perfect your soul in the habit of all the virtues, exercise yourself in the inward sets directly opposed to all your disorderly passions.

Would you attain, for instance, to the perfection of patience? On receiving any insult which tempts you to impatience, it will not be enough to exercise yourself in the three modes of warfare above described, you must do more _ even willingly accept and love the indignity you have endured; desiring to submit to it again, from the same person, and in the same manner; expecting and disposing yourself to bear still harder things.

These contrary acts are needful to our perfection in all the virtues, because the exercises of which we have been speaking _ manifold and efficacious as they are _ will not suffice to eradicate the roots of sin.

Hence (to pursue the same example) although, when we receive an insult, we do not yield to the impulse of impatience, but, on the contrary, resist it by the three methods above described, yet, unless we accustom ourselves by many and repeated acts of the will to love contempt, and rejoice to be despised, we shall never overcome the sin of impatience, which springs from a regard for our own reputation and a shrinking from contempt.

And if the vicious root be left alive, it is ever springing up afresh; causing virtue to languish, and sometimes to perish utterly, and keeping us in continual danger of relapse upon the first opportunity which may present itself. Without these contrary acts, therefore, we shall never acquire a true habit of virtue.

And bear in mind also, that these acts should be so frequent and so numerous, as utterly to destroy the vicious habit, which, as it had obtained possession of our heart by repeated acts of sin, so by contrary acts must it be dislodged, to make way for the habit of virtue.

Again, a greater number of virtuous acts is requisite to form the habit of virtue than of evil ones to form the habit of vice; because the former are not, like the latter, assisted by our corrupt nature.

I would add to all that has been said, that if the virtue in which you are exercising yourself so require, you must also practice exterior acts conformable to the interior; as, for instance, words of love and meekness, and lowly services rendered to those who have in any way thwarted or slighted you.

And though all these acts, whether interior or exterior, should be, or should seem to you to be, feebly and faintly done, and, as it were, against your will, yet you must not on any account neglect them; for feeble as they may be, they will keep you safe and steadfast in the fight, and smooth before you the path to victory.

And stand always prepared and on your guard to resist the assaults of every passion, not only such as are violent and imperious, but the slightest and the gentlest; for these but open the way to the greater, by which habits of vice are gradually formed within us.

It has often happened, in consequence of the little care taken by some men to eradicate these lesser desires from their hearts, after they have overcome the more violent assaults of the same passion, that, when they have least expected it, their old enemies have fallen upon them again, and they have sustained a more complete and fatal defeat than had ever befallen them before.

Remember, again, to mortify and thwart your own wishes from time to time in lawful but not necessary things; for many benefits follow such discipline; it will prepare and dispose you more and more for self-mastery in other things; you will thus become expert and strong in the struggle with temptation; you will escape many a snare of the devil, and accomplish a work well pleasing to the Lord.

I speak plainly to you; if, in the way I have taught you, you will persevere faithfully in these holy exercises for self-reformation and self-mastery, I promise you that in a short time you will make great progress, and will become spiritual, not in name only, but in truth. But in no other manner do I bid you hope to attain to true holiness and spirituality, nor by any other exercises, however excellent in your estimation, though you should seem to be wholly absorbed in them, and to hold sweet colloquies with our Lord.

For, as I told you in the first chapter, true holiness and spirituality consists not in exercises which are pleasing to us and conformable to our nature, nor is it produced by these, but by such only as nail that nature, with all its works, to the cross, and, renewing the whole man by the practice of the evangelical virtues, unite him to his crucified Savior and Creator.

There can be no question that as habits of vice are formed by many and frequent acts of the superior will yielding itself to the sway of the sensual appetites, so, on the contrary, habits of evangelical virtue are acquired by the performance of frequent and repeated acts of conformity to the Divine Will, Which calls upon us to exercise ourselves now in one virtue, now in another.

For as our will, however fiercely assailed by sin or by the suggestions of our lower nature, can never become sinful or earthly unless it yield or incline itself to the temptation, so you will never attain to holiness and union with God, however powerfully called and mightily assailed by Divine grace and heavenly inspirations, unless by inward, and, if need be, by outward acts, your will be made conformable to His.

NEXT:

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.

TWO CHOICES I HAVE: SUBMIT TO GOD OR SUBMIT TO MY FLESH /// THE SPIRITUAL COMBAT, 12

The Spiritual Combat

The Spiritual Combat, Chapter 12: Of the diverse wills in Man, and the Warfare between them
(text below) (click for full book)
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The ancient teaching on the “Two Ways” traces at least as far back as the Psalms of the Old Testament.  The 1st Psalm reads: “The LORD watches over the way of the just, but the way of the wicked leads to ruin” – Psalm 1:6.

The teaching is picked up in the New Covenant in a work called the DIDACHE, dating from the 1st or 2nd century A.D.  It begins:

There are two ways: one of life and one of death;
and the difference between the two ways is great.

(online here.)

Our author and master, Dom Scupoli, makes use of this same black and white tool.  Our will, the place of our decision making, is hanging in the balance between the Divine will above and the cravings of the flesh below.  We are able, at any point, to submit to either.  He makes no bones about it.  AT FIRST, TO SUBMIT TO THE DIVINE WILL IN ALL THINGS IS VERY HARD!!

“Much hard toil and trouble must, however, be undergone by the unpracticed, especially at the outset, when they resolve to amend their evil lives, and, renouncing the world and the flesh, to give themselves up to the love and service of Jesus Christ.”

Resolve to amend your evil life…
renounce the world and the flesh…
give yourself up to the love and service of Jesus Christ!

Main points from chapter 12:

1) My will is hanging in the balance.  Will I choose to surrender to God or will I surrender to my flesh?
2) For those who have resolved to serve Jesus, it is going to hurt.  The cravings of my flesh will try to win me to their way.
3) I am in danger if, having resolved to serve Jesus, cut out big vices but leave the smaller ones unconquered.  I must enter the battle to become perfect, as He is perfect.

If I do not completely die to myself and the desires of my flesh, I will find that I do not love Jesus; I love myself.

Many who aspire to the spiritual life, unconsciously love themselves far more than they ought to do;
and therefore practice for the most part those exercises which suit their taste, and neglect others.

This chapter, like all the chapters, instructs us that this is an ALL-OR-NOTHING kind of decision.  I am not the one who makes decisions about what is good and what I will do and what is good for me.  I submit to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, choosing everything that He has appointed for me.  I receive my orders from the commander of Heaven’s Army.  I am not this commander.

Chapter 12 text:

Although in this combat we may be said to have within us two wills, the one of the reason which is called rational and superior, the other of the senses, called sensual and inferior, and commonly described by the words appetite, flesh, sense, and passion; yet, as it is the reason which constitutes us men, we cannot be said to will anything which is willed by the senses unless we be also inclined thereto by the superior will. And herein does our spiritual conflict principally consist. The reasonable will being placed, as it were, midway between the Divine will, which is above it – and the inferior will, or will of the senses, which is beneath it, is continually assaulted by both; each seeking in turn to attract and subdue, and bring it into obedience.

Much hard toil and trouble must, however, be undergone by the unpracticed, especially at the outset, when they resolve to amend their evil lives, and, renouncing the world and the flesh, to give themselves up to the love and service of Jesus Christ. For the opposition encountered by the superior will, from the continual warfare between the Divine and sensual will, is sharp and severe, and accompanied by acute suffering.

It is not so with those who are well practiced in the way of virtue or of vice; they pursue without difficulty the path on which they have entered; the virtuous yielding readily to the Divine will, and the vicious yielding without resistance to the will of the senses.

But let no one imagine it possible to persevere in the exercise of true Christian virtues, or to serve God as He ought to be served, unless he will in good earnest do violence to himself, and endure the pain of parting with all pleasant things whatsoever, whether great or small, around which his earthly affections are entwined.

Hence it is that so few attain to perfection; for after having with much toil overcome the greater vices, they will not persevere in doing violence to themselves by struggling against the promptings of self-will, and an infinity of lesser desires. They grow weary of so unremitting a struggle; they suffer these insignificant enemies to prevail against them, and so to acquire an absolute mastery over their hearts.

To this class belong men who, if they do not take what belongs to others, cleave with inordinate affection to that which is lawfully their own. If they do not obtain honors by unlawful means, yet they do not, as they should, shun them; but, on the contrary, cease not to desire, and sometimes even to seek, them in various ways. If they observe fasts of obligation, yet they do not mortify their palate in the matter of superfluous eating, or the indulgence in delicate morsels. If they live continently, yet they do not renounce many indulgences which much impede union with God and the growth of the spiritual life; and which, as they are very dangerous even to the holiest persons, and most dangerous to those who fear them least, should be as much as possible avoided by all.

Hence all their good works are performed in a lukewarm spirit, and accompanied by much self-seeking, by many lurking imperfections, by a certain kind of self-esteem, and by a desire to be praised and valued by the world.

Such persons not only fail to make any progress in the way of salvation, but rather go back; and are therefore in danger of relapsing into their former sins, because they have no love of true holiness, and show little gratitude to their Lord, Who rescued them from the tyranny of the devil. They are moreover too blind and ignorant to see the peril in which they stand; and so falsely persuade themselves of their own security.

And here we discover a delusion, which is the more dangerous because it is little apprehended. Many who aspire to the spiritual life, unconsciously love themselves far more than they ought to do; and therefore practice for the most part those exercises which suit their taste, and neglect others, which touch to the quick those natural inclinations and sensual appetites against which they ought in all reason to direct the full strength of the battle.

Therefore I exhort and counsel you to be in love with pain and difficulty; for they will bring with them that which is the end and object of the whole struggle _ victory over-self. The more deeply you shall be in love with the difficulties encountered by beginners in virtue and in war, the surer and the speedier shall be the victory; and if your love be to the difficulty and the toilsome struggle, rather than to the victory and the virtue to be attained, you shall the more speedily obtain all you desire.

NEXT:

Chapter 13: Of the way to resist the impulses of sense, and of the acts to be performed by the will in order to acquire Habits of Virtue

THREE REALITIES WE NEED TO THINK ABOUT EACH DAY /// THE SPIRITUAL COMBAT, 11.

The Spiritual Combat

The Spiritual Combat, Chapter 11: Of some considerations which may incline the Will to seek to please God in all things
(text below) (click for full book)
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What do we think about?  Typically, the things right in front of us.  We get blinded by the mad rush of tasks and chores that ‘need’ to get done today.  We get blindsided.

Our teacher, Dom Scupoli, knows that if we only think about the things right in front of us, we are bound to get knocked down and strangled.  His suggestion: Think about foundational reality.

What is foundational?

What is foundational is this: God created me out of nothing because He wants to show His love to me. AND, on top of this, He created everything for ME!  Think about that for a bit, instead of that car that is nicer than yours, or that person who got that thing you wanted and you didn’t get it.  You have the whole world at your service, because God created you and created the world for you.  You are not a slave to the world.  All of creation is at your service!

What is foundational is this: God sent His only Son to die on the Cross to deliver you from death.  GOD DIED FOR YOU, SO THAT YOU MIGHT LIVE!  Try thinking about that for a bit, instead of what people are posting on their walls, or what is on t.v. tonight.  I deserve Hell, and Jesus is giving me Heaven!

And on top of that, what is foundational is this: God is worthy to be loved not because of what He has done for me, but simply because He is God, and I am not.  This is praise.

Our teacher points out a one, two, three combination for having an ordinary day become an extraordinary, and supernatural, day.

1) God created me for Himself and He created everything else for me.
2) God sent His Son Jesus to die for me so that I can go to Heaven instead of Hell.
3) God is worthy of praise, apart from all the supernatural gifts He gives to me.

Biblical Worldview, take over my worldview!

Chapter 11 text:

Furthermore, to incline the will more readily to seek God’s honor and glory in all things, always remember that, in many and various ways, He has first loved and honored you.

In creation, by creating you out of nothing after His likeness, and all other creatures for your service.

In Redemption, by sending, not an angel, but His only-begotten Son, to redeem you, not with the corruptible price of silver and gold, but with His Precious Blood, and by His most painful and ignominious death. Remember, that every hour, nay, every moment, He protects you from your enemies, fights for you by His grace, offers you continually, in the Sacrament of the Altar, His well-beloved Son, to be your food and your defense; are not all these tokens of the inestimable regard and love borne to you by the Infinite God? It is not in man to conceive, on the one hand, how great is the value which so great a Lord sets upon us poor creatures in our loneliness and misery; and, on the other, how great the return we are bound to make to His Supreme Majesty, Who has done so many and such great things for us.

For if earthly lords, when honored even by poor and lowly men, feel bound to honor them in return, how should our vile nature demean itself towards the Supreme King of heaven and earth, by Whom we are so dearly loved and so highly prized?

And besides all this, and before all things, keep ever vividly in mind that the Divine Majesty is infinitely worthy to be loved for Himself alone, and to be served purely for His own good pleasure.

 

NEXT:

Chapter 12: Of the diverse will in man, and the warfare between them.

Above All: For God’s Pleasure… (this really challenges us) /// The Spiritual Combat, 10.

The Spiritual Combat

The Spiritual Combat, Chapter 10: Of the Exercise of the Will and the end to which all our actions, whether Interior or Exterior, should tend
(text below) (click for full book)
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GOAL OF LIFE: TO DO WHAT PLEASES GOD! (This book is awesome!)

In our teacher’s words: ‘to regulate the will so that in all things it is conformed to the Divine pleasure’.  How often do we think about what pleases God? And this is to be the intention of all of our choices.

Dom Scupoli goes on to clarify that this is much more than simply saying that I want to live for God, but it must be much more intentional:
– To will His pleasure
– To do His pleasure
– To be moved by His pleasure
For His pleasure alone

Then our teacher cuts again.  (This is the wisdom of Dom Scupoli: he recognizes that it is not enough to present the good, but that we must also identify those things which get in the way, and root them out.)  We must be very careful not to do the will of God for our own pleasure.  He warns that many people begin to do the will of God “for the sake of the satisfaction and benefit to be derived.”  How true!
– I love going to church because I feel so good afterwards.  My empty tank is filled.
– I like to pray because it is consoling to know that God is with me.
– I try to fast every once in a while; who doesn’t want to lose some weight?
– I read the Bible everyday; and it’s so nice to be able to quote Scripture to people.
– and on and on and on…

Going to church, praying, fasting, reading the Bible… all good things.  The purity of the intention is what our teacher is getting at.  The purified list:
– I go to church because I desire His pleasure.
– I pray because it is His pleasure.
– I fast because it is His pleasure.
– I read the Bible everyday because it is His pleasure.

It may appear slavish in written form, but this is a purification of our intention.  This teaching is to protect from us selfishly doing God’s will.

The way to practice this purity of intention is to slow down and talk to God before we act and ask these 3 questions to HIM:
1: Do You will this for me? (to find out what I am to do)
2: Am I going to do this because You will this for me? (to purify my desire)
3: Am I going to do this to please You? (to purify my intention)

We should also use this technique to refuse things that are contrary to God’s will, by the same process.
– Do You will this for me? (presuming the answer is no)
– Am I refusing this because You will me to refuse this? (or because I simply don’t like it)
– Am I refusing this to pleases You? (again, purification of my intention)

An old principle of motivation is found lacking in comparison to this chapter.  Many people choose things because of two possible realities: I do this because I want to go to Heaven, or, I do this because I don’t want to go to Hell.  Dom Scupoli challenges us to raise our intentions above even these things, even if they be noble in themselves and helpful for our training.  More than for a fear of Hell or a desire of Heaven, act to please God!

Chapter 10 text:

Besides this necessary exercise of the understanding, you must so regulate your will that it may not be left to follow its own desires, but may be in all things conformed to the Divine pleasure.

And remember, that it is not enough only to strive after those things which are most pleasing to God; but you must so will them, and so do them, as moved thereto by Him, and with a view to please Him alone.

In this exercise of the will, even more than in that of the understanding, we shall meet with strong opposition from nature, which seeks itself and its own ease and pleasure in all things; but especially in such as are holy and spiritual. It delights itself in these, feeding greedily upon them as upon wholesome food.

As soon, therefore, as they are presented to us we look wistfully upon them, and desire them, not because such is the will of God, nor with the sole view to please Him, but for the sake of the satisfaction and benefit to be derived from willing those things which God wills.

This delusion is the more subtle from the very excellence of the thing desired. Hence, even in the desire after God Himself, we are exposed to the delusions of self-love, which often leads us to look more to our own interests, and to the benefits we expect from God, than to His will, which is, that we should love, and desire and obey Him for His own glory alone.

I will now show you a way to avoid this way, which would impede you in the path of perfection, and to accustom yourself to will and to do all things as moved by the Spirit of God, and with the pure intention of honoring and pleasing Him alone, Who desires to be the one End and Principle of our every word and action. When any thing presents itself to you as if willed by God, do not permit yourself to will it till you have first raised your thoughts to Him to discover whether He wills you to will it, and because He so wills it, and to please Him alone.

Let your will, then, being thus moved and attracted by His, be impelled to will it because He wills it, and solely to please and honor Him.

In like manner, if you would refuse things which are contrary to God’s will, refuse them not till you have first fixed the eye of your mind upon His divine will, Who wills that you should refuse them solely to please Him.

Know, however that the frauds and deceits of wily nature are but little suspected; for, ever secretly seeking self, it often leads us to fancy that our end and motive is to please God when in reality it is far otherwise.

Thus, when we choose or refuse any thing for our own interest and satisfaction, we often imagine that we are choosing or refusing it in the hope of pleasing, or in the fear of displeasing, God.

The true and effectual remedy for this delusion is purity of heart, which consists in this – which is indeed the aim and object of all this spiritual warfare – the putting off the old man, and the putting on the new.

And to this end, seeing you are full of self, take care in the beginning of every action to free yourself as much as possible from all admixture of any thing which seems to be your own. Choose nothing, do nothing, refuse nothing, unless you first feel yourself moved and drawn thereto by the pure and simple will of God.

If you do not always feel thus actuated in the inward workings of the mind, and in outward actions, which are but transient, you must be content to have this motive ever virtually present, always maintaining a pure intention to please your God alone in all things. But in actions of longer duration it is well not only to excite this motive within yourself at the beginning, but also to renew it frequently, and to keep it alive till the end. Otherwise you will be in danger of falling into another snare of our natural self-love, which, as it is always inclined to yield rather to self than to God, often causes us unconsciously, in the course of time to change our objects and our aims.

The servant of God who is not on his guard against this danger, often begins a work with the single thought of pleasing his Lord alone; but soon, gradually and almost imperceptibly, he begins to take such pleasure in his work, that he loses sight of the Divine Will and follows his own. He dwells so much on the satisfaction he feels in what he is doing, and on the honor and benefit to be derived therefrom, that should God Himself place any impediment in the way, either by sickness or accident or through the agency of man, he is immediately troubled and disquieted, and often falls to murmuring against the impediment, whatever it may be, or rather, against God Himself. A clear proof that his intention was not wholly from God, but sprang from an evil root and a corrupted source.

For he who acts only as moved by God, and with a view to please Him alone, desires not one thing above another. He wishes only to have what it pleases God he should have, and at the time and in the way which may be most agreeable to Him; and whether he have it or not, he is equally tranquil and content; because in either case he obtains his wish, and fulfills his intention, which is nothing else but simply to please God.

Therefore recollect yourself seriously, and be careful always to direct every action to this perfect end.

And although the bent of your natural disposition should move you to do good through fear of the pains of hell or hope of the joys of paradise, you may even here set before you, as your ultimate end, the will and pleasure of God, Who is pleased that you should enter into His kingdom and not into hell. It is not in man fully to apprehend the force and virtue of this motive; for the most insignificant action, done with a view to please God alone, and for His sole glory, is (if we may so speak) of infinitely greater value than many others of the greatest dignity and importance done without this motive. Hence a single penny given to a poor man with the sole desire to please His Divine Majesty, is more acceptable to God than the entire renunciation of all earthly goods for any other end, even for the attainment of the bliss of heaven; an end in itself not only good, but supremely to be desired.

This exercise of doing all things with the single aim to please God alone seems hard at first, but will become plain and easy by practice, if, with the warmest affections of the heart, we desire God alone, and long for Him as our only and most perfect good; Who deserves that all creatures should seek Him for Himself, and serve Him and love Him above all things.

The deeper and more continual our meditations are upon His infinite excellence, the more fervent and the more frequent will be these exercises of the will; and we shall thus acquire more easily and more speedily the habit of performing every action from pure love to that gracious Lord, Who alone is worthy of our reverence and love.

Lastly, in order to the attainment of this divine motive, I advise you to seek it of God by importunate prayer, and to meditate frequently upon the innumerable benefits which He, of His pure and disinterested love, has bestowed upon us.

NEXT:

Chapter 11: Of some considerations which may incline the Will to seek to please God in all things

IN THE REAR VIEW (reflections): THE SPIRITUAL COMBAT, 9.

The Spiritual Combat

Chapter 9: Of another danger from which the Understanding must be guarded in order that it may exercise a True Discernment
(text below) (click for full book)

In a world that loves sound bites of information, random facts, Wikipedia answers and “Google it” results, this teaching seems ridiculous!!!  Our teacher cuts again.  Don’t strive to know everything – strive to know ONE THING: CHRIST CRUCIFIED!  Strive to know His life, His death, and His will for your life.
If we can answer this question, we will be on the right road: Why did God make me?
Answer: God made me to KNOW Him, LOVE Him, and SERVE Him.

When we live and learn as though we are our own master, our own teacher, we are easily given over to pride.  And how can we be taught?  If I think that I am the judge of what I should or should not learn, I am stuck with only one real option in life: to trust myself.  This concept is promoted in society, but is contrary to the teaching of Jesus Christ.

Proverbs 3:5-6: “Lean not on your own understanding, but in all your ways rely on the Lord your God.”

I must learn to look to Jesus and His teaching for the rule of my life.  It is then that I will be fulfilling the principles laid down in this helpful teaching: Distrust myself, Trust in God. The one who is my savior must also be my lord.  If I am my own savior, then I have the right to be my own master.  But if Jesus is my Saviour, then He must also become my Lord.  He gives me access to Heaven (Saviour), He shows me the way I must follow to get there (Lord).

Chapter 9 text:

The second thing from which the understanding must be guarded is curiosity; for by filling it with hurtful, vain, and impertinent thoughts we incapacitate and disable it from apprehending that which most nearly affects our true mortification and perfection.

To this end, you must be as one dead to all needless investigation of even lawful earthly things.

Always restrain your intellect as much as possible, and love to keep it low.

Let the news and the changes of the world, whether great or small, be to you as though, they were not; and should they intrude themselves, reject and drive them from you.

Be sober and humble even in the desire to understand heavenly things, wishing to know nothing but Christ crucified, His life, His death, and what He requires of thee. Cast all other things far from you, and so shall you be very pleasing unto God. For He loves and delights in those who desire and seek of Him such things alone as serve to the love of His divine goodness and the fulfillment of His will. All other petitions and inquiries belong to self-love, pride, and the snares of the devil.

By following these instructions you will avoid many dangers; for when the wily serpent sees the will of those who are aiming at the spiritual life to be strong and resolute, he attacks their understanding, that so he may master both the one and the other.

He often, therefore, infuses lofty and curious speculations into their minds, especially if they be of an acute and intellectual order, and easily inflated with pride; and he does this in order that they may busy themselves in the enjoyment and discussion of such subjects, wherein, as they falsely persuade themselves, they enjoy God, and meanwhile neglect to purify their hearts and to apply themselves to self-knowledge and true mortification. So, falling into the snare of pride, they make an idol of their own understanding.

Hence, being already accustomed to have recourse in all circumstances to their own judgment, they come gradually and imperceptibly to believe that they have no need of advice or control from others.

This is a most perilous case, and very hard to cure, the pride of the understanding being more dangerous than that of the will; for when the pride of the will is once perceived by the understanding, it may in course of time be easily remedied by submission to those to whom it owes obedience. But how, or by whom, can he be cured, who obstinately believes his own opinion to be worth more than that of others? How shall he submit to other men’s judgment, which he accounts to be far inferior to his own !

The understanding is the eye of the soul, by which the wound of the proud will should be discovered and cleansed; if that eye, then, itself be weak and blind and swollen with pride, by whom shall it be healed?

And if the light become darkness, and the rule faulty, what will become of the rest?

Therefore resist this dangerous pride betimes, before it penetrate into the marrow of your bones.

Blunt the acuteness of your intellect, willingly submit your own opinion to that of others, become a fool for the love of God, and you shall be wiser than Solomon.

NEXT:

Chapter 10: Of the exercise of the Will, and the end to which all our actions, whether Interior or Exterior, should tend

IN THE REAR VIEW (reflections): THE SPIRITUAL COMBAT, 8.

The Spiritual Combat

Chapter 8: Of the hindrances to a Right Discernment of Things, and of the method to be adopted in order to understand them properly
(text below) (click for full book)

The famous expression “If it feels good, do it.”  This chapter cuts that down, fast.  Our guide teaches us that if we are ruled by our inclinations we will surely be led astray.  This chapter cuts prophetically into the culture of today, which elevates the following of inclinations and shies away from evaluating things in the light of known truths.  The good of sensed or felt pleasure is placed above the good of truth.

The example of a child is helpful in this regard.  A child is a slave of inclination and will cry out to be satisfied.  The role of the parent is not to satisfy the child simply to satisfy the child, but to lead the child to that which is actually good for the child.  This takes a long time, and experience has shown that many parents give up the fight over time, tired of trying over and over to train the child.

And so it is with our inclinations.  They will cry out and cry out, but our guide encourages us to train them according to that which is actually good, rather than that which is seemingly good.

Again, human resources are put in their proper place, and Scupoli gives us the true tools for this endeavor, grace and prayer.    The light of the Holy Spirit will assist us to look into the truth of things presented to us.  The word of the Lord to Samuel, when Samuel was to find David as the anointed one, assists our understanding of this chapeter: “Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the Lord looks into the heart” (1 Sam 16:7).  This prophetic word is regarding the outward appearance of man, but it is also helpful for the evaluation of all things.  We need to see all things in the way that God wants them to be seen, the way that He sees them.  And so, we are to stop evaluating things according to their appearance, their first impression upon us, but we must come to see them as they truly are, with a purified understanding of their true worth.

Chapter 8 text:

The cause of our not rightly discerning all these things and many others is, that we conceive a love or hatred of them at first sight. Our understanding is thus darkened, so that it cannot judge of them correctly.

Lest you fall into this delusion, take all possible care to keep your will pure and free from inordinate affection for any thing whatsoever.

When any object, then, is presented to you, view it with your understanding; and consider it maturely before you are moved by hatred to reject it, if it be a thing contrary to your inclinations, or by love to desire it, if it be pleasing to them.

For thus the understanding, being unclouded by passion, will be free and clear, and able to perceive the truth, and to discern the evil which lurks behind delusive pleasure and the good which is veiled under the appearance of evil.

But if the will be first inclined to love or hate any thing, the understanding will be unable to exercise a right judgment upon it. For the affection which has thus intruded itself so obscures the understanding, that it views the object as other than it is, and by thus representing it to the will, influences that faculty, in contradiction to every law and rule of reason, to love or hate it inordinately. The understanding is gradually darkened more and more, and in this deepening obscurity the object appears more and more hateful or lovely to the will.

Hence, if this most important rule be not observed, these two faculties, the understanding and the will, noble and excellent as they are, will soon sink in a miserable descent from darkness into thicker darkness, and from error into deeper error.

Guard yourself most vigilantly, then, from all inordinate affection for anything whatever, until you have first tested it by the light of the understanding, and chiefly by that of grace and prayer, and by the judgment of your spiritual father.

And this is to be observed most carefully with regard to such outward works as are good and holy, because the danger is greatest here of delusion and indiscretion.

Hence you may here receive serious injury from some circumstance of time, or place, or degree, or regarding obedience; as has been proved by many, who have incurred great danger in the performance of commendable and holy exercises.

NEXT:

Chapter 9: Of another danger from which the Understanding must be guarded…

IN THE REAR VIEW (reflections): THE SPIRITUAL COMBAT, 7.

The Spiritual Combat

Chapter 7: Of Spiritual Exercises, and first of the Exercise of the Understanding, which must be kept guarded against ignorance and curiosity
(text below) (click for full book)

Having spoken of the first two weapons – 1) distrust of self, and 2) trust in God, the 3rd of 4 weapons is considered – Spiritual Exercises.

This term is not well known in common speech, which alone says a lot.  We are very accustomed to physical exercises; in fact, exercise and workouts are advertised very heavily in the United States.  This is a result of over-eating, unhealthy eating, and/or laziness.We are less accustomed to the term mental exercises, even though we use other words such as study or research.
We are even less accustomed to the term spiritual exercises.  Spiritual exercises make use of the mind and the will.  As physical exercises are for the body, spiritual exercises are for the soul.

The first exercise Scupoli comments on is understanding.  We must come to understand those things which are worth understanding in the sight of God, in the way that God understands them.  In other words, if many people would suggest many things that seem worthy of understanding, we must not simply accept that those things are in fact worth understanding, or even knowing.  After we have established those things which are worth knowing and understanding, we must not simply accept the way that many people might understand them.  We must come to understand the truth of those things.

As always, Scupoli gives us a Biblical worldview, a God-revealed way of finding out what is worth our time and how to evaluate something’s true worth.

When I come to realize that there is an inside inside of me, that I have an interior more than organs, a spiritual reality which completes me, I can begin to make decisions about what is more important.  Scupoli points out two ways to come to understand the importance of things in a hierarchical way: 1) Pray to the Holy Spirit, and 2) consider things with the light of the Holy Spirit.

What is fascinating is what happens to us when we come to understand that we have inside of us an interior kingdom.  This kingdom is in need of governance, in need of a king to conquer and reign, in need of everything that a living society needs.  There is, inside of us, an entire world for us to explore and discover.  And, once we have begun to discover, we find all sorts of beauties to behold.  We also find many untamed beasts and illusory charms.  This is precisely why Scupoli has instructed us to pray to the Holy Spirit so that we can come to understand ourselves and the exterior world according to the truth of God’s revelation.

Chapter 7 text:

If in this warfare we are provided with no weapons except self-distrust and trust in God, needful as both these are, we shall not only fail to gain the victory over ourselves, but shall fall into many evils. To these, therefore, we must add the use of Spiritual Exercises, the third weapon named above.

And these relate chiefly to the Understanding and the Will.

As regards the Understanding, we must guard against two things which are apt to obscure it.

One is ignorance, which darkens it and impedes it in acquiring the knowledge of truth, the proper object of the understanding. Therefore it must be made clear and bright by exercise, that so it may be able to see and discern plainly all that is needful to purify the soul from disorderly passions, and to adorn it with saintly virtues.

This light may be obtained in two ways. The first and most important is prayer, imploring the Holy Ghost to pour it into our hearts. This He will not fail to do, if we in truth seek God alone and the fulfillment of His holy will, and if in all things we submit our Judgment to that of our spiritual father.

The other is, to exercise ourselves continually in a true and deep consideration of all things, to discover whether they be good or evil, according to the teaching of the Holy Ghost, and not according to their outward appearance, as they impress the senses or are judged of by the world.

This consideration, if rightly exercised will teach us to regard as falsehood and vanity all which the blind and corrupt world in so many various ways loves, desires, and seeks after. It will show us plainly that the honors and pleasures of earth are but vanity and vexation of spirit; that injury and infamy inflicted on us by the world bring true glory, and tribulations contentment; that to pardon our enemies and to do them good is true magnanimity, and an act which likens us most nearly to God; that to despise the world is better than to rule it; that voluntary obedience for the love of God to the meanest of His creatures is greater and nobler than to command mighty princes; and that the mortification and subjugation of our most trifling appetite is more glorious than the reduction of strong cities, the defeat of mighty armies, the working of miracles, or the raising of the dead.

 

NEXT:

Chapter 8: Of the hindrances to a Right Discernment of Things…

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