Spiritual Reading for Saturday – Twentieth Week After Pentecost

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

Spiritual Reading

I. MORTIFICATION OF THE EYES

Almost all our rebellious passions spring from unguarded looks; for, generally speaking, it is by the sight that all inordinate affections and desires are excited. Hence, holy Job said: I made a covenant with my eyes, that I would not so much as think upon a virgin (Job, xxxi, 1). — Why did he say that he would not so much as think upon a virgin? Should he not have said that he made a covenant with his eyes not to look upon a virgin? No; he very properly said that he would not think upon a virgin; because thoughts are so connected with looks, that the former cannot be separated from the latter, and therefore, to escape the molestation of evil imaginations, he resolved never to fix his eyes on a woman.

St. Augustine says: “The thought follows the look: delight comes after the thought; and consent after delight.” From the look proceeds the thought; from the thought the desire. If Eve had not looked at the forbidden apple, she should not have fallen; but because she saw that the tree was good to eat, and fair to the eyes, and delightful to behold, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat (Gen. iii. 6). The devil tempts us to look first, then to desire, and afterwards to consent.

St. Jerome says that Satan requires “only a beginning on our part.” If we begin, he will complete our destruction. A deliberate glance at a person of a different sex often enkindles an infernal spark, which consumes the soul. “Through the eyes,” says St. Bernard, “the deadly arrows of love enter.” The first dart that wounds and frequently robs chaste souls of life finds admission through the eyes. By them David, the beloved of God, fell. By them was Solomon, once the inspired of the Holy Ghost, drawn into the greatest abominations. Oh! how many are lost by indulging their sight!

The eyes must be carefully guarded by all who expect not to be obliged to join in the lamentation of Jeremias: My eye hath wasted my soul (Lam. iii. 51). By the introduction of sinful affections, my eyes have destroyed my soul. Hence St. Gregory says, that “the eyes, because they draw us to sin, must be cast down.” If not restrained, they will become instruments of hell, to force the soul to sin almost against its will. “He that looks at a dangerous object,” continues the Saint, “begins to will what he wills not.” It was this the inspired writer intended to express when he said of Holofernes, that the beauty of Judith made his soul her captive (Judith xvi. 11).

Seneca says that “blindness is a part of innocence.” And Tertullian relates that a certain pagan philosopher, to free himself from impurity, plucked out his eyes. Such an act would be unlawful in us: but he that desires to preserve chastity must avoid the sight of objects that are apt to excite unchaste thoughts. Gaze not about, says the Holy Ghost, upon another’s beauty; … hereby lust is enkindled as a fire (Ecclus. ix. 8, 9) Gaze not upon another’s beauty; for from looks arise evil imaginations, by which an impure fire is kindled. Hence St. Francis de Sales used to say, that “they who wish to exclude an enemy from the city must keep the gates locked.”

Hence, to avoid the sight of dangerous objects, the Saints were accustomed to keep their eyes almost continually fixed on the earth, and to abstain even from looking at innocent objects. After being a novice for a year, St. Bernard could not tell whether his cell was vaulted. In consequence of never raising his eyes from the ground, he never knew that there were but three windows to the church of the monastery, in which he spent his novitiate. He once, without perceiving a lake, walked along its banks for nearly an entire day; and hearing his companions speak about it, he asked when they had seen it. St. Peter of Alcantara kept his eyes constantly cast down, so that he did not know the brothers with whom he conversed. It was by the voice, and not by the countenance, that he recognised them.

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