Spiritual Reading for the First Friday in Lent

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

Spiritual Reading


There are two kinds of self-love: the one good, the other hurtful. The former is that which makes us seek eternal life–the end of our creation; the latter inclines us to pursue earthly goods, and to prefer them to our everlasting welfare, and to the holy will of God. “The celestial Jerusalem,” says St. Augustine, “is built up by loving God so as to condemn one’s self; but the earthly city is raised by loving self so as to despise Almighty God.” Hence, Jesus Christ has said: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself. (Matt. xvi. 24). Christian perfection, then, consists in self-abnegation. Whoever denies not himself, cannot be a follower of Jesus Christ. “The augmentation of charity,” says St. Augustine, “is the diminution of cupidity: the perfection of charity is its destruction.” Therefore, the less a Christian desires to indulge passion, the more he will love God; and if he seeks nothing but God, he will then possess perfect charity. But in the present state of corrupt nature it is not possible to be altogether exempt from the molestation of self-love. Jesus alone among men, and Mary alone among women, have been free from its suggestions. All the other Saints had to combat their irregular passions. The principal and only care of a religious man should be to restrain the inordinate inclinations of self-love. “To regulate the motions of the soul is,” as St. Augustine says, “the office of interior mortification.”

Unhappy the soul that suffers itself to be ruled by its own inclinations. “A domestic enemy,” says St. Bernard, “is the worst of foes.” The devil and the world continually seek our destruction, but self-love is a still more dangerous enemy. “Self-love,” says St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi, “like a worm which corrodes the roots of a plant, deprives us not only of fruit, but of life.” In another place she says, “Self-love is the most deceitful of all enemies: like Judas, it betrays us with the kiss of peace. Whoever overcomes it conquers all. He that cannot cut it off by a single stroke should at least endeavour to destroy it by degrees.” We must pray continually, in the language of Solomon: Give me not over to a shameless and foolish mind. (Ecclus. xxiii. 6). O my God, do not abandon me to my foolish passions that seek to destroy in my soul Thy holy fear, and even to deprive me of the use of my reason.

Our whole life must be one continual contest. The life of a man upon earth, says Job, is a warfare. (Job vii. 1). Now he that is placed in the front of battle must be always prepared for an attack: as soon as he ceases to defend himself he is conquered. And here it is necessary to remark that the soul should never cease to combat her passions, however great her victories over them may have been; for human passions, though conquered a thousand times, never die. “Believe me,” says St. Bernard, “that after being cut off they bud forth again; and after being put to flight they return.” Hence by struggling with concupiscence, we can only render its attacks less frequent, less violent, and more easy to be subdued. A certain monk complained to the Abbot Theodore that he had contended for eight years with his passions, and that still they were not extinguished. “Brother,” replied the Abbot, “you complain of this warfare of eight years, and I have spent seventy years in solitude, and during all that time I have not been for a single day free from assaults of passion.” We shall be subject during all our lives to the molestation of our passions. “But,” as St. Gregory says, “it is one thing to look at these monsters, and another to shelter them in our hearts.” It is one thing to hear their roar, and another thing to admit them into our souls, and suffer them to devour us.

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