The Spiritual Combat

Fr. Lorenzo Scupoli


I HAVE shown you how we may raise our minds from sensible objects to the contemplation of the Divinity. Now learn a method of taking occasion from the same to meditate on the Incarnate Word, and the most sacred mysteries of His Life and Passion.

All things in the universe may serve to this end, if first you behold God in them as the sole first cause, who has bestowed on them all the being, beauty, and excellence which they possess. Passing on from this, consider how great, how immeasurable is His goodness; who, being the sole Principle and Lord of all creation, was pleased to descend so low as to become Incarnate, to suffer and to die for man, permitting the very works of His hands to arm themselves against Him, and to crucify Him. Many objects will then bring these holy mysteries before your mind's eye, such as weapons, cords, scourges, pillars, thorns, reeds, nails, hammers, and other instruments of His passion.

Poor hovels will recall to our memory the stable and manger of our Lord. Rain will remind us of the drops of Divine blood which fell from His most sacred body in the garden, and watered the ground. Rocks will represent to us those which were rent asunder at His death. The earth will bring to our memory the earthquake at that hour; the sun, the darkness that then covered it. The sight of water will speak to us of that stream which flowed from His most sacred side.

The same may be said of other similar things.

Let the taste of wine, or other liquid, remind you of your Lord's vinegar and gall.

If sweet perfumes refresh you, think of the ill savior of the dead bodies which were around Him on Calvary.

While dressing, recollect that the Eternal Word clothed Himself with human flesh that He might clothe you with His divinity.

When undressing, remember Christ, who was stripped of His garments to be scourged and crucified for you.

If you hear the shouts and cries of a multitude, think of those hateful words: "Away with Him, away with Him! crucify Him, crucify Him!" which sounded in His Divine cars.

At each stroke of the clock, think of that deep sorrow and heaviness of heart which Jesus was pleased to endure in the garden, as the fear of His approaching death and passion began to fall upon Him; or image to yourself those heavy blows which nailed Him to the cross.

On any occasion of grief or sorrow which presents itself, whether your own or another's, reflect that all these things are as nothing, compared to the inconceivable anguish which pierced and wrung the soul and body of thy Lord.


HAVING now seen by what means we may raise the mind from sensible objects to the contemplation of the Divinity and of the mysteries of the Incarnate Word, I will here add some helps for various subjects of meditation, that as the tastes of souls are many and various, so also may be their nourishment. This may be awful, not only to simple persons, but also to those of higher intellect and more advanced in the spiritual life, who nevertheless may not at all times be equally disposed and ready for higher contemplations.

Nor need you fear to be perplexed by the variety of the methods described, if you will only observe the rule of discretion, and attend to the advice of others; which I wish you to follow with all humility and confidence, not in this instance only, but with regard to all other counsels which you shall receive from me.

At the sight of all the things which please the eyes and are prized on earth, consider that all these are vile as dust compared with heavenly riches, after which, despising the whole earth, do you aspire with undivided affections.

When looking upon the sun, consider that your soul is brighter and more beautiful if it be in your Creator's favor; if not, that it is blacker and more hateful than the darkness of hell.

When your bodily eyes are lifted to the heavens above you, let the eyes of your mind penetrate even to the heaven of heavens; and there fix yourself in thought as in the place prepared for your eternal and blessed abode, if you shall live a holy life on earth.

On hearing the songs of birds, or other melodious sounds, lift up your heart to the songs of Paradise, where resounds a ceaseless Alleluia; and pray the Lord too make you worthy to praise Him together with those celestial spirits, for ever and ever. If you are conscious of taking delight in the beauty of the creature, remember that there the deadly serpent lies hid, ready and eager to wound, if not to slay you, and say to him: "O accursed serpent, you insidiously lie in wait to devour me!" Then turning to God, say: "Blessed be Thou, O my God, who has discovered to me the hidden enemy, and delivered me from his ravenous jaws."

Then fly at once from the allurement to the wounds of your crucified Lord, letting your mind rest on them, considering how acutely He suffered in His most sacred flesh to free you from sin, and make you detest all carnal delights. Another way of escape from this perilous allurement is, to consider what will be, after death, the condition of that object which now so delights you.

When walking, remember that every step brings you nearer to death.

Let the flight of birds and the flowing of water remind you that your life is hastening far more swiftly to its close.

Let storms of wind, lightning and thunder, remind you of the tremendous day of judgment; and kneeling down, worship God, and beseech Him to give you time and grace duly to prepare yourself to appear before His most high Majesty.

In the variety of accidents which may befall you, exercise yourself thus:

When, for instance. you are oppressed by sadness or melancholy, Or suffer heat, cold, or the like, lift up your heart to that Eternal Will, which for your own good wills that at such a time and in such a measure you should endure this discomfort. Then, rejoicing in the love thus shown you by God, and at the opportunity of serving Him in the way He is pleased to appoint, say in your heart, "Behold in me is the Divine Will fulfilled, which from all eternity has lovingly appointed that I should now endure this trial. All praise be to Thee for the same, my most gracious Lord!"

When any good thought arises in your mind, turn instantly to God, and, referring it to Him give thanks to Him for it.

When reading, behold your Lord in the words, and receive them as from His divine lips.

When you look upon the holy Cross, consider that it is the standard of your warfare; that by forsaking it you will fall into the hands of cruel enemies, but that by following it you will enter heaven laden with glorious spoils.

When you see the dear image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, let your heart turn to her who reigns in Paradise, thanking her that she was ever ready to do the will of God, that she brought forth and nourished the Redeemer of the world, and that her favor and assistance never fail us in our spiritual conflict.

The images of the saints represent to you so many champions, who, having courageously run their course, have opened a way for you, wherein, if you will press onward, you also shall with them be crowned with immortal glory.

When you see a church, you may, amid other devout reflections, consider that your soul is the temple of God, and therefore to be kept pure and spotless as His dwellingplace.

When you hear the triple sound of the Angelus, make the following brief meditations in conformity with the words which are said before each recitation of the Ave Maria. At the first stroke of the bell, thank God for that embassy from heaven to earth which was the beginning of our salvation. At the second, rejoice with the blessed Mary at the sublime dignity to which she was exalted by her singular and most profound humility. At the third, adore, together with the most blessed Mother and the Angel Gabriel, the Divine Child just now conceived; and forget not reverently to bow your head at each signal, especially the last.

These meditations will serve for all seasons. The following, which are divided for morning, noon, and evening, belong to the Passion of our Lord, for we are deeply bound frequently to remember the sorrow endured by our Lady on this account, and most ungrateful were we to neglect it.

In the evening then, recall to mind the anguish of that most pure Virgin at the bloody sweat, the capture, and the hidden sorrows of her blessed Son.

In the morning, compassionate her affliction at His presentation before Pilate and Herod. His condemnation, and the bearing of His cross.

At midday, meditate upon that sword of anguish which wounded the heart of that disconsolate Mother at the crucifixion and death of the Lord, and the cruel piercing of His most sacred side.

These meditations on our Lady's sorrows may be made from the evening of Thursday till the Saturday at noon, the others on the remaining days of the week. I leave all this, however, to your particular devotion and the occasions offered by external things; and, to express in few words the method by which you must regulate your senses, take care in all things and under all circumstances, that you be moved and drawn, not by hatred or love of them, but by the will of God alone, loving and hating that only which He wills you to hate or love.

And observe, that I have not given you these methods for regulating the senses that you may dwell upon them; for your mind should almost always be fixed upon the Lord, who wills that by frequent acts you should apply yourself to conquer your enemies and your sinful passions, both by resisting them, and by making acts of the contrary virtues; but I have taught them to you that you may know how to rule yourself on needful occasions.

For you must know, that there is little fruit in a multiplicity of spiritual exercises; which, however excellent in themselves, often lead to mental perplexity, selflove, instability, and the snare of the devil.

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