CH. XXI. OF THE REGULATION OF THE EXTERIOR SENSES, AND HOW TO PASS ON FROM THESE TO THE CONTEMPLATION OF THE DIVINITY.
GREAT Watchfulness and continual exercise is needed for the due ordering and regulation of the exterior senses; for the appetite, which is, as it were, the captain of our corrupt nature, inclines us to an immoderate seeking after pleasure and enjoyment; and being unable by itself to attain them, it uses the senses as its soldiers, and as natural instruments for laying hold of objects whose images it draws to itself and impresses on the mind. Hence arises the pleasure, which, by reason of the relation subsisting between it and the flesh, diffuses itself over all the senses which are capable of it, infecting both soul and body with a common contagion, which corrupts the whole.
You see the evil; now mark the remedy.
Take good heed not to let your senses stray freely where they will; nor to use them when pleasure alone, and not utility, necessity, nor any good end, is the motive. And if inadvertently they have been allowed to wander to far, recall them at once; or so regulate them, that, instead of remaining as before in a miserable captivity to empty pleasures, they may gather a noble spoil from each passing object, and bring it home to the soul, that, collected within herself, she may rise with a steadier flight towards heaven to the contemplation of God. Which may be done in the following manner:
When any object is presented before one of your exterior senses, separate in your mind from the material thing the principle which is in it; and reflect that of itself it possesses nothing of all that which it appears to have, but that all is the work of God, who endows it invisibly by His Spirit with the being, beauty, goodness, or whatever virtue belongs to it. Then rejoice that thy Lord alone is the Cause and Principle of such great and varied perfections, and that they are all eminently contained in Himself, all created excellences being but most minute degrees of His divine and infinite perfections. When engaged in the contemplation of grand and noble objects, reduce the creature mentally to its own nothingness; fixing your mind's eye on the great Creator therein present, who gave it that great and noble being, and delighting yourself in Him alone, say: "O Divine Essence, and above all things to be desired, how greatly do I rejoice that Thou alone are the infinite Principle of every created being!"
In like manner, at the sight of trees, plants, or suchlike objects, you will understand that the life which they have, they have not of themselves but from the Spirit which you do not see, and which alone quickens them. Say, therefore: "Behold here the true Life from which, in which, and by which all things live and grow! O living Joy of this heart!"
So, at the sight of brute animals, raise your thoughts to God, who gave them sensation and motion, saying: "O Thou first Mover of all that moves, Thou are Thyself immovable; how greatly do I rejoice in Thy steadfastness and stability!"
And if attracted by the beauty of the creature, separate that which you see from the Spirit which you see not, and consider that all that exterior beauty is solely derived from the invisible Spirit which is its source; and joyfully say: "Behold, these are streamlets from the uncreated Fountain; behold, these are drops from the infinite Ocean of all good. O, how does my inmost heart rejoice at the thought of that eternal infinite Beauty which is the source and origin of all created beauty!"
And on the discovery in other men of goodness, wisdom, justice, or similar virtues, make the same mental separation, and say to God: "O most rich Treasurehouse of all virtues, how greatly do I rejoice that from Thee and through Thee alone flows all goodness, and that all in comparison with Thy Divine perfections is as nothing! I thank Thee, Lord, for this and every good gift which Thou hast vouchsafed to my neighbor; remember, Lord, my poverty, and my great need of this very virtue."
When you stretch out your hand to do any thing, reflect that God is the first cause of that action, and you but His living instrument; and raising your thoughts to Him, say thus: "How great, O supreme Lord of all, is my interior joy, that without Thee I can do nothing, and that Thou are in truth the first and chief Worker of all things!"
When eating or drinking, consider that it is God who gives its relish to your food. Delighting yourself, therefore, in Him alone, say: "Rejoice, O my soul, that as there is no true contentment but in God, so in Him alone may you in all things content yourself."
When your senses are gratified by some sweet odor, rest not in this enjoyment, but let your thoughts pass on to the Lord, from whom this sweetness is derived; and, inwardly consoled by this thought, say: "Grant, O Lord, that like as I rejoice because all sweetness flows from Thee, so may my soul, pure and free from all earthly pleasure, ascend on high as a sweet savor acceptable unto Thee."
When you listen to the harmony of sweet sounds, let your heart turn to God, saying: "How do I rejoice, my Lord and God, in Thine infinite perfections, which not only make a supercelestial harmony within Thyself, but also unite the angels in heaven and all created beings in one marvelous harmonious concert!"
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