Skip to comments.Catholic Caucus: The Spiritual Combat: Ch 12. THE OPPOSITION WITHIN MAN'S TWOFOLD NATURE
Posted on 05/16/2009 4:26:55 AM PDT by GonzoII
MAN HAS a twofold nature, the one superior, the other inferior. The first is generally termed reason, the second is called appetite, sensuality, or passion. Reason is the distinguishing property of man, and he is not considered responsible for the primary impulses of his appetite unless his superior faculty confirms the choice.
The entire spiritual warfare, consequently, consists in this: the rational faculty is placed between the Divine will above it and the sensitive appetite below it, and is attacked from both sides------God moving it by His grace, and the flesh by its appetites strive for victory.
It is apparent, then, that inconceivable difficulties arise when persons who during their youth have contracted vicious habits resolve to change their life, mortify their passions, and break with the world in order to devote themselves to the service of God.
The will is violently attacked by Divine grace and by its own sensual appetites, and wherever it turns, it absorbs these withering attacks with the greatest difficulty.
This onslaught is not experienced by those who are firmly settled in their way of life, whether in virtue by conforming to the will of God, or in vice by indulging their sensual desires.
No one should delude himself that he can acquire virtue and serve God in the proper way, unless he is willing to undergo a violent struggle. He must conquer the difficulty he will experience when he deprives himself of the pleasures, great or small, to which he has been viciously attached.
The result is that very few attain any great degree of perfection. After conquering their greatest vice, after undergoing tremendous exertions, they lose courage and fail to pursue their objective. And this when only small trials are to be overcome, such as subduing the feeble remnants of their own will, and annihilating some weaker passions which revive and then completely regain their hearts.
Many persons of this type, for example, do not take what belongs to others, but they are passionately attached to what is their own. They do not use any illegal methods of aggrandizement, but instead of spurning advancement, they are fond of it and seek it by any means they think lawful. They observe the appointed fasts, but, on other days, they indulge in the most exotic delicacies. They are very careful to observe chastity, and yet they refuse to give up their favorite amusements, even though they constitute great obstacles to a spiritual life and real union with God. Since these things are so highly dangerous, particularly for those who do not recognize their bad results, they must be dealt with very cautiously.
Without such caution. we may be assured that most of our good acts will have as attendants, slothfulness, vanity, human respect, hidden imperfections, conceit, and a desire for the notice and approval of others.
Anyone who neglects this particular aspect of the problem not only makes no progress on the road to salvation, but even loses ground and is in danger of falling back into his former vicious practices. He does not aim at solid virtue and is unconscious of the great favor God has done him by freeing him from the despotism of the devil. He is ignorant of the danger that surrounds him, and is enchanted by a false and deceptive peace.
It is necessary here to point out an illusion which must be feared, as it is not easily discovered. Many who begin a spiritual life have too great a love for themselves [if they can be said to truly love themselves], and they single out certain exercises that are most pleasant. But they avoid anything that is disagreeable to their inclinations, or equipped to mortify their passions, against which their entire force should be thrown in this spiritual struggle.
Every means must be exploited to make them enjoy the hazards they encountered in conquering their inclinations. On this everything depends. The greater the resolution shown in surmounting the first obstacles that occur, the swifter and more brilliantly will victory accompany them. With courage, therefore, let them expect nothing but hardship in this warfare and wait patiently for victory and its rewards. Then they may be confident that they will not be disappointed.
None shall be crowned who has not fought well.
2 Tim 2:5.
Taken from the book of the same title by DOM LORENZO SCUPOLI
The Spiritual Combat is known as one of the greatest classics in ascetic theology, along with The Imitation of Christ. In both cases the authors are shrouded in mystery. Several 17th century editions were published under the name of the Spanish Benedictine, John of Castanzia. Some writers of the Society of Jesus have ascribed the book to the Jesuit, Achilles Gagliardi, but most critics however consider Fr. Lawrence Scupoli as the author of this famous treatise. The first known edition was published in Venice in 1589 and contained but 24 chapters; later editions appeared with more chapters, so it is possible that the Theatines or another religious order may have been part of the composition. Whatever may be the solution of the problem of the author, doubt of the actual one or ones, can take nothing away from the value and efficacy of this "golden book" as St. Frances de Sales called it. It was "the favorite, the dear book" of this great master of the spiritual life who, for 18 years, carried in a pocket a copy which he had received from Fr. Scupoli in Padua himself. The Saint read some pages of it every day, entrusted to its supernatural and human wisdom, the guidance of his soul, and recommended it to all under his direction. The purpose of the work is to lead the soul to the summit of spiritual perfection, by means of a constant, courageous struggle against our evil nature, which tends to keep us away from that goal.
The author was a genius, the kind that can only be inspired by the grace of God and his book is a Catholic treasure and one of the greatest gifts God could have given any age, but most especially this benighted age which has lost its appreciation for the kind of simplicity necessary for sanctity.
Chapter One: PRELIMINARY WORDS ON PERFECTION
-- THE FOUR THINGS NECESSARY FOR THIS COMBAT
Chapter Two: DISTRUST OF SELF
Chapter Three: OF TRUST IN GOD
Chapter Four: HOW TO DISCOVER WHETHER WE
DISTRUST OURSELVES AND PLACE OUR CONFIDENCE IN GOD
Chapter Five: THE MISTAKE OF CONSIDERING COWARDICE A VIRTUE
Chapter Six: FURTHER ADVICE ON HOW TO OBTAIN A DISTRUST OF ONESELF AND CONFIDENCE IN GOD
Chapter Seven: THE RIGHT USE OF OUR FACULTIES. THE UNDERSTANDING MUST FIRST BE FREE OF IGNORANCE AND CURIOSITY
Chapter Eight: AN OBSTACLE TO FORMING A CORRECT JUDGMENT. AN AID TO THE FORMATION OF A CORRECT JUDGMENT
Chapter Nine: ANOTHER METHOD TO PREVENT DECEPTION OF THE UNDERSTANDING
Chapter Ten: THE EXERCISE OF THE WILL. THE END TO WHICH ALL OF OUR ACTIONS, INTERIOR AND EXTERIOR, SHOULD BE DIRECTED
An example of why Dom Lorenzo is so highly esteemed among Orthodox Christians.