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Author Topic: Introduction to the Devout Life--Chapter VII--The Second Purification  (Read 1439 times)
ncjohn
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« on: January 10, 2006, 09:02:30 AM »

Hi Barb,

I think we had looked at Chapter 5 and 6 already so I'm posting Chapter 7 here. I'll try to get back later in the day to read and comment on it. Of course if someone wants to go back and look further at Chapter V we can do that also.


Chapter VII --The Second Purification, from all Sinful Affections.

ALL the children of Israel went forth from the land of Egypt, but not all went forth heartily, and so, when wandering in the desert, some of them sighed after the leeks and onions,--the fleshpots of Egypt. Even so there are penitents who forsake sin, yet without forsaking their sinful affections; that is to say, they intend to sin no more, but it goes sorely against them to abstain from the pleasures of sin;--they formally renounce and forsake sinful acts, but they turn back many a fond lingering look to what they have left, like Lot's wife as she fled from Sodom. They are like a sick man who abstains from eating melon when the doctor says it would kill him, but who all the while longs for it, talks about it, bargains when he may have it, would at least like just to sniff the perfume, and thinks those who are free to eat of it very fortunate. And so these weak cowardly penitents abstain awhile from sin, but reluctantly;-- they would fain be able to sin without incurring damnation;--they talk with a lingering taste of their sinful deeds, and envy those who are yet indulging in the like. Thus a man who has meditated some revenge gives it up in confession, but soon after he is to be found talking about the quarrel, averring that but for the fear of God he would do this or that; complaining that it is hard to keep the Divine rule of forgiveness; would to God it were lawful to avenge one's self! Who can fail to see that even if this poor man is not actually committing sin, he is altogether bound with the affections thereof, and although he may have come out of Egypt, he yet hungers after it, and longs for the leeks and onions he was wont to feed upon there! It is the same with the woman who, though she has given up her life of sin, yet takes delight in being sought after and admired. Alas! of a truth, all such are in great peril.

Be sure, my daughter, that if you seek to lead a devout life, you must not merely forsake sin; but you must further cleanse your heart from all affections pertaining to sin; for, to say nothing of the danger of a relapse, these wretched affections will perpetually enfeeble your mind, and clog it, so that you will be unable to be diligent, ready and frequent in good works, wherein nevertheless lies the very essence of all true devotion. Souls which, in spite of having forsaken sin, yet retain such likings and longings, remind us of those persons who, without being actually ill, are pale and sickly, languid in all they do, eating without appetite, sleeping without refreshment, laughing without mirth, dragging themselves about rather than walking briskly. Such souls as I have described lose all the grace of their good deeds, which are probably few and feeble, through their spiritual languor.
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"Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God."
This is the effect of true charity, to be on good terms with all men, to consider no one your enemy, and to live at peace with those who hate peace.--Robert Bellarmine
BarbaraTherese
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« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2006, 05:53:24 PM »

Quoting John................
Quote
Hi Barb,

I think we had looked at Chapter 5 and 6 already so I'm posting Chapter 7 here. I'll try to get back later in the day to read and comment on it. Of course if someone wants to go back and look further at Chapter V we can do that also.


Chapter VII --The Second Purification, from all Sinful Affections.


Thanks John for correcting the situation.  On Monday night (Wed.11.1.06 here at 8.50am) I had my brother's celebration for my 60th...........hence I was  not thinking straight yesterday at all yesterday (Tue.10.1.06 and my son's 40th.)- overwhelmed by the celebration.  Not that its any guarantee when I THINK I am in form that my memory shall not prove appalling! Huh

St. Francis in Chapter VII deals with our affections.  I think one can make a sincere and real determination to avoid particular sins or faults, but one's affections and quite involuntary will still prove to lean towards the same difficulties.
I think one of the things that most discourages souls is the above situation.........and it can lead to despairing of overcoming particular sins or faults.  Where affections are concerned I think I need to be patient and prepared to journey with persistence and realize that I have a need to move from point A (my affections lean towards a negative) to point B (my affections have changed over a period and my affections no longer lean towards what once dogged my spiritual heels!).  Journey I think is a very important word in our life and in our quest and there will be many journeys within the overall journey.
I think St. Francis in Chapter V speaks of truly regretting our repentance and of continually 'looking back to Egypt and its comforts'with deliberate regret for leaving it.  I dont think anyway, that a real and honest repentance can include this sort of attitude even though our affections and quite involuntary may continually 'look back'.  For we do engage in a struggle against such affective leaning; whereas St. Francise speaks of those who are not at all interested in the struggle...........rather fully regretful that they should no longer sin as they once did, and wishing that they could.

The other matter is the eternal 'thorn in my side' that which I would most like to be able to overcome but persistently seems like a lost quest in that I seem quite unable to do so..............this can be an occasion to learn humility and hence the negative has a positive aspect.  I am humbled simply because I am unable to meet my own ideal in the instance of a fault, imperfection or sin that I find eternally it would seem unable to overcome.  At times I do think The Lord leaves my thorn in my side, simply to keep me in something of an attitude of humbleness.........hence I cannot lament my problem.  Of course I continue to strive to overcome it,but in the face of failure I am able to rest in peace and joy in the Mercy of The Lord.............and this very same Mercy is that which He Showers on all, hence I should not have that need that can frequently occur of condemning others for whatever.  "I have loved you with an Eternal Love"  Despite our miseries and problems, The Lord is completely faithful and continues to Love us and when we fail His Love is immediately Lovingly Merciful, if I will but open my spiritual eyes and sight this.  In the honest soul, the real regret at failure immediately glances and sights The Loving Mercy of The Lord.  So much has He measured this out to me..........then I owe it to others since He Loves all equally and despite their state.

The spiritual life it seems to me is one of endless struggle..........and if I cannot learn to struggle in Peace, then quickly I loose Peace and nothing is more likely to attack spirituality than loss of Peace.  The cure perhaps for the danger of loosing Peace is to shift emphasis from myself and my miseries, to the wondrous Mercy and Love of God for me and for all...........and having first showered it on me it is what I owe to others reflecting what The Lord has already granted them.

The honest soul I think is really pierced by deep sorrow and sadness when it sights it  has been harsh and cruel with another when The Lord has been so kind, loving and merciful to itself .......... the honest soul sights the injustice of its act and is repentant in the true sense of the word: immediately resolves to try very hard not to be cruel and harsh with others in the future.

If there is a measuring stick in the spiritual life, it is not whether I attain my ideals or nay..........but am I loving others more than I once did. "How can you say you love God whom you cannot see, if you do not love your neighbour whom you can"

Now all this sounds great in theory..........in practise it is a stop, start, forward, backweards, stop, backwards,  forward, start kind of journey......a continual and daily renewal of my desire to change in some way, not for the sake of my own 'sanctification' so much as a desire to become more  loving towards others and in so doing to complete the work Jesus commenced while with us on earth....a quest or journey and perhaps quest is the more accurate in that I find myself at point A and can discern something of Point B to which I strive.
God sights not so much the success or failure of honest and humble effort...........but the honest and humble effort.  Whether He Grants success  to this honest and humble effort is entirely His Prerogative..........and if He does not, then an opportunity to learn and exercise humility and a celebration of His Mercy and Love becomes truly present.

Peace John.............Barb



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ncjohn
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« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2006, 01:19:52 PM »

Hi Barb,

This is at least one occasion that I'm happy I read your comments before writing my own. After finishing reading the chapter, I have to admit that I was somewhat downhearted as I so greatly recognized my very real tendencies there. In here, along with numerous other failings, I again saw my inability to reach a working relationship with the one coworker as a direct result of my constantly "looking back" in my "affections" for that misery rather than being able to truly repent and move on. While certainly not my only failing, that situation is so emblematic of my basic tendencies that I can kind of use it as a symbolic measuring stick of how I look at things.

You are almost surely dead right though in your insight that these thorns in my side are really for the good of helping me keep my humility that I can't do these things on my own. I would most certainly never be able to keep my pride in check if I was to surpass the incredible level of perfection I have already achieved!   Cheesy

The need however to work and pray for true repentance that doesn't look back does become incredibly clear here however. Of course part of that has to be the willingness to avoid the "near occasions of sin". Another way I heard it put was the concept of "warming your hands at the enemy's fire", referring of course to Peter putting himself in danger of sinning in denying Christ by placing himself in the courtyard warming himself where he was almost certain to be confronted with the temptation. I know that many of my failures are the result of putting myself in positions I shouldn't be in by pridefully thinking I can "handle it" or by just not giving any thought at all to it.

Perhaps your best line in the whole post though was the very obvious (but somewhat hidden far too often):
Quote from: BarbaraTherese
If there is a measuring stick in the spiritual life, it is not whether I attain my ideals or nay..........but am I loving others more than I once did.
Coincidentally, on the ride home from our Franciscan formation meeting last night, I came to a conclusion that our great sins are really sins of omission rather than sins of commission. If the gospel is right that the "final exam" is how we did or didn't treat the least of our brothers, then the great sins are failing to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, etc. In short, they are sins of failing to love. As such, I would concur wholeheartedly that how much we are loving is the great yardstick.

As to my ability or inability to successfully fight my actual sin or my affection for it, I once again go back to Merton's prayer and my belief that my desire to please God does in fact please Him. If that isn't the case I'm in deep soup regardless. Of course making that desire to be constantly in His will genuine, and not just some stuff I'm spouting to sound good, is the key as I see it. Then, at least if I fail, it will be an honest failure, and I have to believe that God accepts honest failure.

Peace Barb,
John
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"Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God."
This is the effect of true charity, to be on good terms with all men, to consider no one your enemy, and to live at peace with those who hate peace.--Robert Bellarmine
BarbaraTherese
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« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2006, 05:09:58 AM »

Quoting John.....................

Quote
This is at least one occasion that I'm happy I read your comments before writing my own. After finishing reading the chapter, I have to admit that I was somewhat downhearted as I so greatly recognized my very real tendencies there. In here, along with numerous other failings, I again saw my inability to reach a working relationship with the one coworker as a direct result of my constantly "looking back" in my "affections" for that misery rather than being able to truly repent and move on. While certainly not my only failing, that situation is so emblematic of my basic tendencies that I can kind of use it as a symbolic measuring stick of how I look at things.

There is a classical spiritual work but sadly the title and author escapes me that speaks of "transformation of feelings" (the term sticks in my mind!).............if I recall the work accurately, this transformation is not something that we can bring about by any efforts of our own, in fact (I hope my memory is accurate!), 'transformation of feelings' is something that God effects and quite a way along the spiritual road i.e. fairly 'advanced' (as much as I am loathe to put adjectives and adverbs of quanity and quality into spirituality!).  In the meantime as I struggle with thises and thatses, they are all opportunities to keep me well and truly humble about matters - a feeling of failure and shame that can be offered to God and that intrinsically keeps one somethin akin I hope to humble.
I think there are three major dispositions to guard with some jealousy: Peace, Joy and Humility.........and to continually be at work to keep myself established in these dispositions.   I think they make me a nicer person to be around (leastways I hope so!) and they also are a wonderful buffer for my illness of Bipolar which usually expresses itself in a mania rather than a depression.
The thing about problems etc. etc. is that they usually ask that I concentrate a fair amount of effort on myself and what I am dealing with.............Peace, Joy and Humility enable me to go out wholeheartedly to others.
Quote
You are almost surely dead right though in your insight that these thorns in my side are really for the good of helping me keep my humility that I can't do these things on my own. I would most certainly never be able to keep my pride in check if I was to surpass the incredible level of perfection I have already achieved!   Cheesy

.............I know what you mean about an incredible level of perfection achieved!!! Grin   To me 'list' of essentials in the spiritual life I should have mentioned and the very first thing:  a sense of the funny!

Quote
The need however to work and pray for true repentance that doesn't look back does become incredibly clear here however. Of course part of that has to be the willingness to avoid the "near occasions of sin". Another way I heard it put was the concept of "warming your hands at the enemy's fire", referring of course to Peter putting himself in danger of sinning in denying Christ by placing himself in the courtyard warming himself where he was almost certain to be confronted with the temptation. I know that many of my failures are the result of putting myself in positions I shouldn't be in by pridefully thinking I can "handle it" or by just not giving any thought at all to it.

"Warming my hands at the enemy's fire"!!!..............that's a newie to me John..........but oh boy how very true!  I shall remember that.  Thank you!   One of those very short and concise sentences that is not at all pious in statement, yet says a world of wisdom and with insight into my human nature.  Oh how I love to warm my hand's at the enemies fire!.........and fatal!   Thanks John, I really will remember that in future.

Pe
Quote
rhaps your best line in the whole post though was the very obvious (but somewhat hidden far too often):
Quote from: BarbaraTherese
If there is a measuring stick in the spiritual life, it is not whether I attain my ideals or nay..........but am I loving others more than I once did.
Coincidentally, on the ride home from our Franciscan formation meeting last night, I came to a conclusion that our great sins are really sins of omission rather than sins of commission. If the gospel is right that the "final exam" is how we did or didn't treat the least of our brothers, then the great sins are failing to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, etc. In short, they are sins of failing to love. As such, I would concur wholeheartedly that how much we are loving is the great yardstick.

Thank you too for that insight................and spot on and one to remember in my case too!
Quote
As to my ability or inability to successfully fight my actual sin or my affection for it, I once again go back to Merton's prayer and my belief that my desire to please God does in fact please Him. If that isn't the case I'm in deep soup regardless. Of course making that desire to be constantly in His will genuine, and not just some stuff I'm spouting to sound good, is the key as I see it. Then, at least if I fail, it will be an honest failure, and I have to believe that God accepts honest failure.

Well I recall the priest who told me that the A for Efforters The Lord has a very soft heart for...........after I declared in the face of failure to Father, that I think I at least would get an A for Effort.  Another good insight methinks John.........and thank you again!

Peace to you too John..................Barb

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