THE PREDOMINANT PASSION.
Our passions are not of themselves bad or hurtful. When regulated according to the dictates of reason and prudence, they do us no injury, but are, on the contrary, profitable to the soul; but, when disorderly, they are productive of irreparable mischief to those who obey them; for, when any passion takes possession of the heart, it obscures the truth, and makes the soul incapable of distinguishing between good and evil. Ecclesiasticus implored the Lord to deliver him from a mind under the sway of passion. Give me not over to a shameless and foolish mind (Ecclus. xxiii. 6). Let us, then, be careful not to allow any bad passion to rule over us.
Only this have I found, said Solomon, that God made man right, and he hath entangled himself with an infinity of questions (Eccles. vii. 30). God made man right — that is, in the state of justice; but, by giving ear to the serpent, man exposed himself to temptation, and was conquered. He rebelled against God, and his passions rebelled against himself. These are the passions which, according to St. Paul, cause a continual war between the flesh and the spirit. For the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh (Gal. v. 17). However, with the aid of Divine grace, it is in man’s power to resist these passions, and not allow them to rule over him. It is, as the Lord told Cain, even in the power of man to rule over them, and to bring them into subjection to reason. But the lust thereof shall be under thee, and thou shalt have dominion over it (Gen, iv. 7). Let the assaults of the flesh and of the devil, to make us abandon the way of God, be ever so violent, Jesus Christ has said: Lo! the kingdom of God is within you (Luke xvii. 21). Within us God has established a kingdom, in which the will is the queen that ought to rule over all the senses and passions. And what greater honour or glory can a man have than to be the master of his passions?
The proper regulation of the motions of the mind constitutes the interior mortification so much recommended by spiritual masters, and secures the salvation of the soul. The health of the body depends on the regulation of the humours — if one of them predominate to excess, it causes death. But the health of the soul consists in the proper control of the passions by reason. But, when any passion rules over reason, it first enslaves, and then kills the soul.
Many pay great attention to their external conduct; they endeavour to appear modest and respectful; but, at the same time, they cherish in their hearts sinful affections against justice, charity, humility, or chastity. For them is prepared the chastisement with which the Saviour threatened the Scribes and Pharisees, who were careful to have their cups and dishes clean, but nourished within unjust and unclean thoughts. Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees — hypocrites; because you make clean the outside of the cup and of the dish; but, within you are full of rapine and uncleanness (Matt. xxiii. 25). The Royal Prophet says that all the beauty of a soul that is the true daughter of God consists in an interior good will. All the glory of the king’s daughter is within (Ps. xliv. 14). Of what use is it, says St. Jerome, to abstain from food, and at the same time to allow the mind to swell with pride? or to abstain from wine, and to be intoxicated with anger? Christians who act in this manner do not lay aside their vices; they only cover them with the mantle of devotion. A man, then, must divest himself of all bad passions; otherwise he will not be the king over but the slave of his passions, and in opposition to the command of the Apostle sin shall reign in his heart. Let not sin, therefore, reign in your mortal body, so as to obey the lusts thereof (Rom. vi. 12). Man, then, is, as St. Thomas says, the king of himself when he regulates his body and his carnal affections according to reason. But, according to St. Jerome, “when the soul serves vice she loses the honour of a throne.” She loses the honour of a queen, and becomes, as our Lord says, the slave of sin. Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin (Jo. viii. 34).