Temptations Cannot Fail to Come in This Life

by admin on December 19, 2010

SON, entering on the service of God, stand in righteousness and fear, and prepare thy soul for temptation (Ecclus. ii. 1). St. Jerome on that text of Ecclesiastes, A time of war, and a time of peace (Eccles. iii. 8), says that the time of war is while we are in this world, and the time of peace will be when we pass out into the next. And hence our heavenly city takes its name of Jerusalem, which signifies Vision of Peace. “Let no one, therefore,” he says, “fancy himself secure in time of war, where fight­ing is the word and apostolic weapons have to be wielded, if we wish to be victorious and rest in peace some day.” St. Augustine on the words of St. Paul: I do not the good that I would, but the evil that I would not, that I do: I see another law in my members, fighting against the law of my mind, and leading me captive to the law of sin that is in my members (Rom. vii. 19, 23), says that the life of the just man here is a conflict and not a triumph; hence we hear the notes of war sounded by the Apostle, marking the contradiction of his flesh and its great inclination to evil; but the note of triumph shall be heard afterwards, when this corruptible and mortal body shall have put on incorruption and immortality. And the note of triumph shall be: O grave, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? (I Cor. xv. 55). Job puts it well in these words: Man’s life is a warfare upon earth, and his days as those of one who works for his daily hire (Job vii. 1). For as it is the part of the day laborer to work and weary himself all day long, and then follows reward and repose, so also with us the day of this life is full of labors and temptations, and reward and rest will be given us according as we shall have labored.

Coming down in particular to examine the cause of this continual war, the Apostle St. James puts it: Whence are wars and strifes in you? Is it not from this, from your lusts that war in your members? (James iv. 1). We have in ourselves the cause and root, which is the rebellion and con­tradiction to all good which dwells in our flesh in conse­quence of sin; the earth of our flesh has been put under a curse, and thus brings forth thorns and thistles that prick and torment us continually. The saints bring in to this purpose the comparison of a ship which sets sail, and there­upon the sea grows angry and rises in a storm and high waves that threaten to engulf the vessel; so is our soul in this vessel of the body, leaky, full of holes, springing a leak here, while on the other side there arise waves and tempests of many disorderly movements and appetites, which threaten to drown and swallow it up. The body that is corrupted weighs down the soul (Wisdom ix. 15).

Our Greatest Enemy Dwells Within

Thus the cause of our continual temptations is the cor­ruption of our nature, that fames peccati, or incentive to sin, and the evil inclination which remains with us in conse­quence of sin. Our greatest enemy dwells in our house, and it is he that makes upon us continual war. Thus there is nothing to amaze a man when he sees himself molested by temptations; for after all he is a child of Adam, conceived and born in sin, and he can never cease to have tempta­tions, and evil inclinations and appetites making war upon him. Thus St. Jerome observes that in the Our Father Christ our Lord does not teach us to pray that we may have no temptations, for that is impossible, but that we may not fall under temptation. And elsewhere Christ said to His disciples: Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation (Matt. xxvi. 41). Entering into temptation, says St. Jerome, is not being tempted, but being overcome by temptation: in tentationem intrare non est tentari, sed vinci. The holy patriarch Joseph was tempted to adultery, but was not overcome by the temptation. The chaste Susanna was tempted in the same way, but by the aid of the Lord did not fall under the temptation.

It is Delusional to think that God has Forgotten us When we are Greatly Tempted

“You are mis­taken, brother,” says St. Jerome, writing to Heliodorus, “you are laboring under a great mistake, if you think that a Christian can ever go without persecution. Then are you most assailed, when you do not know that you are being assailed.” Our adversary the devil, like a roaring lion, goeth about, seeking whom he may devour (I Pet. v. 8); and do you take yourself to be at peace? He sitteth in ambush to kill the innocent, he sets his eyes upon the poor, he lies in wait for them like a lion in his den (Psalm ix, 29-30); and do you fancy yourself secure? That is a delu­sion, for this life is a time of war and conflict. To be frightened at temptations is as if a soldier were to take fright at hearing a musket shot and want to get out of the war for that; or as if a sailor were to jump overboard because the ship rolls and pitches and turns his stomach. St. Gregory says it is a delusion of some folk, when any grave temptation assails them, to think straightway that all is lost and that God has forgotten them and they are in His disgrace. A great delusion this; on the contrary you must understand that to be tempted is not only the ordi­nary lot of men, but is a thing that especially befalls men who are aiming at virtue and perfection. All who would live piously in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution, says the Apostle (II Tim. iii. 12).

Tremble in Fear if You Have No Temptations

Others often do not know what temptation is; they cannot see the rebellion and war which the flesh makes on the spirit; rather they take it for a dainty morsel. St. Augustine remarks this well on those words of St. Paul: The flesh lusteth against the spirit (Gal. v. 17). “It is in the good that the flesh lusteth against the spirit, for in the bad it has nothing to lust against; there only does it lust against the spirit where there is spirit.” So the devil need not lose his time in tempting such people, for without any doing of his they of their own accord fol­low him and surrender themselves to him without difficulty or contradiction. Hunters do not go a-hunting after cattle, but after stags and bucks, who run lightly and take to the hills. It is for those who are running with the lightness of stags to the height of perfection that the devil goes hunt­ing with his nets and temptations; but as for those others who live like cattle, he has them already in his stall and has no need to hunt for them. “He is at no pains to assail those of whom he feels already that he is in undisturbed possession,” says St. Gregory. And therefore we should not only not be dismayed at temptations, but rather take them for a good sign, as St. John Climacus observes. “There is no surer sign,” he says, “that the devils are being beaten by us, than their assailing us most vigorously,” They do it because you have revolted from them and gone out of their jurisdiction; therefore does the devil persecute you, because he envies you: otherwise he would not perse­cute you so much.

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