LENTEN ITINERARY | Day 18: “Regular prayer”

“My Lord and my God, grant me everything that draws me closer to you.” – exclaims St. Nicholas of Flüe in the second part of his famous prayer.

In mystical theology this part of the spiritual path would be called the “illuminative way”. This means that after the intense processes of purification – both the active (of which we have already spoken a little) and the passive – we can know God better. In the illuminative way, Sacred Scripture begins to speak to us more clearly, our way of praying changes, we get more light for our way of following the Lord…. In short, the way becomes easier.

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THE SON REVEALS THE FATHER

We continue to meditate in detail on the 17th chapter of John, which is an eminent expression of the profound relationship between the Father and the Son.

Raising His eyes to heaven, Jesus said to His Father:

“I have revealed your name to those whom you took from the world to give me. They were yours and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word” (Jn 17:6). Read More

LENTEN ITINERARY | Day 17: The virtue of fortitude and prudence

In dealing with the so-called “cardinal virtues”, one would normally begin with the virtue of prudence. However, since in the previous days we had discussed the ascetic struggle against the passions, it is appropriate that we first deal with the virtue of fortitude.

The virtue of fortitude

Indeed, we need this virtue in order not to give up in the struggle and to be able to endure all adversities, and sometimes even defeats. This is an important aspect of fortitude: it is the ability to endure something for the sake of a greater good and to be willing to endure suffering for it.

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LENTEN ITINERARY | Day 16: “Retrospection and perspective”

During the last days of our holy journey towards the Feast of the Resurrection, we have taken a look at the vices that besiege our soul and want to subjugate it. By resisting and fighting them, as the masters of the spiritual life vividly teach us, we are actively cooperating in the process of inner purification.

The struggle against vices does not cease throughout our lives, and in this way God forms us in the most diverse aspects. On our part, tenacity and perseverance are required, so that we never give in to our evil inclinations, for that would mean giving up.

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TO HONOUR THE FATHER

God longs for us men to love Him and that this love be also expressed in a special worship and veneration.

We can imagine what it is like when we ourselves are filled with love and want to share this love with others… And if we, who are so imperfect, are urged to transmit this love to others, how much more our Father, who is the very source of love! In fact, the worship and veneration that God the Father asks for, have as their profound aim that our hearts turn to Him and that we discover and correspond to the true sense of our existence.

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LENTEN ITINERARY | Day 15: “The fight against pride”

The most difficult spiritual vice to overcome is undoubtedly pride. It takes a constant struggle and a strong grace from God to flee from pride and to live in that humility which counteracts and decisively weakens it.

John Cassian describes pride in these terms: “It is a cruel beast, which fiercely attacks even the perfect and can wound with deadly poison those who are close to perfection”.

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LENTEN ITINERARY | Day 14: “The struggle against acedia and vainglory”

On our journey towards the great Feast of the Resurrection, we have to go through each day consciously and with God’s grace, as a stage on the way. For this we need perseverance, for on our journey we may encounter a demon which the desert fathers called “acedia” or the “demon of the noonday”. This acedia – which we can describe as a spiritual sluggishness or laziness – is related to the “tristitia” (sadness) we were talking about yesterday. The monks in the desert were attacked by acedia, but we too can be affected by it, so it is good to know at least something about it.

  1. Fighting acedia

Acedia can manifest itself in different ways: physically and spiritually. Sometimes we can see its effect on young people, when they are unmotivated and nowadays often caught up in the multiple offers of the media.

“Laziness is the mother of all vices” – says a famous proverb. Therefore, it is important to engage in profitable work and to do good.

St. Paul’s words “We urged you when we were with you not to let anyone eat who refused to work” (2 Thess 3:10), were a reason for monks to be always occupied with something profitable, so that the “demon of the noonday” would not attack them, wanting to distract their attention from God and making everything seem difficult and adverse. Acedia goes hand in hand with the temptation to believe that nothing makes sense, with a disinclination to pray, to work, etc…

Certainly one must also be careful not to fall, at the opposite extreme, into an obsession with work or an overload of work, which can also have negative repercussions on the spiritual life.

In Egypt, where the first communities of the desert fathers began, this principle has been applied since ancient times: a monk who works is pinched by one demon; one who avoids work is attacked by countless others.

Acedia is counteracted by making a firm decision of the will and invoking God’s help. It may happen that one has to do violence to oneself to realise that slothfulness is really very detrimental to life. If slothfulness is accompanied by sadness, then both vices must be rejected simultaneously with God’s help.

At this point, I would like to make it clear that, in what I have said about the fight against these two vices, I am referring to people who are psychologically healthy, or at least do not have a psychological illness. In the latter case, a much more detailed analysis of the causes would be necessary and, consequently, a more specific and situation-specific way of dealing with these vices would also be proposed.

  1. Fighting vainglory (cenodoxy)

On the one hand, this vice is very common; on the other hand, it is difficult to identify. It is usually not as obvious as other vices, and can hide behind all sorts of things. It is particularly harmful when it manifests itself in religious life. This was the temptation into which certain scribes and Pharisees fell, as the Lord points out repeatedly and clearly in the Gospel (cf. e.g. Mt 23:2-7).

If one wants to fight against something, one must first recognise it; and I might add, want to recognise it. This is where pride can get in the way, which we will have to talk about later.

John Cassian writes in this regard: “There is nothing noble, virtuous and pious that cannot become an occasion and stimulus for vainglory. Like a boulder hidden beneath the waves, it brings sudden and deplorable shipwreck to him who sails under a favourable wind, as soon as he neglects it and ceases to be on the alert.”

How can we trace and identify vainglory, being thus a “multiform and ever-changing beast”?

In the first instance, it is important that we do not close our eyes to the evil of this vice; that is, that we are willing to acknowledge our faults and ask the Lord to grant us self-knowledge.

These simple questions might be helpful for an examination:

Are we one of those people who like to talk about ourselves and mention our good deeds? Do we like to boast that we know this or that famous person (even if only in our imagination)? This also applies to the religious sphere: “I know such and such a cardinal, such and such a bishop, such and such a charismatic figure, etc…”?

Do we react too sensitively when we believe that our honour has been offended? Are we very attentive to what others say about us?

We could list here many more questions that may point to vainglory, but we will bring them back to the table when we specifically address the issue of pride.

We are well aware of the advice given in the Gospel to combat vainglory. We must do things in secrecy (Mt 6:3,6,7), with our eyes fixed on God, as we saw on the third day of our Lenten journey. We should not draw attention to ourselves or want to please people; we should not impose ourselves or seek to be the centre of attention, but, for example, when we are in a conversation, we should perceive and wait for the moment when we are asked to make a contribution.

John Cassian mentions that, while all the other vices weaken with each time we overcome them, the opposite is true of vainglory, which attacks more strongly when we try to fight it.

It is therefore all the more important that we really track it down and, with God’s help, overcome it.

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Meditation on the reading of the day: http://en.elijamission.net/2022/03/15/

Meditation on the Gospel of the day: http://en.elijamission.net/2021/03/02/