The Spiritual Combat

Fr. Lorenzo Scupoli


WHEN we have lost our peace of mind, we should do our utmost to recover it; neither is there any accident of life which should reasonably have power to deprive us of that peace, or even to trouble it.

Over our own sins we have indeed cause to mourn deeply; but our sorrow, as I have shown more than once, should be calm; and in like manner, without any disquiet, but with a holy feeling of charity, should we compassionate other sinners, and weep, at least inwardly, over their offenses.

As to other sad and trying events, such as sickness, wounds, or loss of dearest friends, pestilence, fire, war, or suchlike evils, though these being painful to nature are for the most part shunned by the men of this world, yet may we, by Divine grace, not only desire, but even love them, as just chastisements upon the wicked, and occasions of virtue to the just. For therefore does our Lord God take pleasure in sending them; and thus borne forward by His will, we shall pass with a calm and quiet spirit through all the bitterness and contradictions of this life. And be assured, that all disquiet on our part is displeasing in His sight; for, of whatever kind it be, it is never free from imperfection, and always springs from some evil root of selflove.

Keep, therefore, a sentinel always on the watch, who, as soon as he shall discern the approach of any thing likely to disquiet or disturb you, may give you a signal to take up your weapons of defense.

And consider, that all these evils, and many others of a like kind, though outwardly they appear to be such, are not indeed real evils, nor can they rob us of any real good, but are all ordered or permitted by God for the righteous ends of which we have spoken, or for others most wise and holy, although beyond our power to discern.

So may the most untoward accident work for us much good, if we do but keep our souls in peace and tranquillity; otherwise all our exercises will produce little or no fruit.

Besides, when the heart is unquiet it is always exposed to manifold assaults of the enemy: and, moreover, in such a state we are incapable of discerning the right path and the sure way of holiness.

Our enemy, who above all things hates this peace because the Spirit of God dwells and works marvelously therein, often seeks in a friendly disguise to rob us of it, by instilling into our hearts sundry desires which have a semblance of good; but their deceitful nature may be detected by this test among others, that they rob us of our peace of mind

Therefore, to avert so great an evil, when the sentinel gives notice of the approach of some new desire, on no account give it entrance into your heart, until, with a free and unbiased will, you have first presented it to God, and confessing your ignorance and blindness, have earnestly prayed to Him for light to discern whether it comes from Him or from the enemy. Have recourse also, if possible, to the judgment of your spiritual father.

And, even if the desire should be from God, do not begin to carry it into execution till you have mortified your own eagerness; for a work preceded by such mortification will be far more acceptable to Him than if performed with all the impetuosity of nature; nay, sometimes it may be that the mortification will please Him better than the work itself.

Thus, casting from you all evil desires, and not venturing to carry even good desires into effect till you have first repressed your natural impulses, you shall keep the fortress of your heart in security and peace.

And in order to preserve it in perfect peace, you must also guard and defend it from certain inward selfreproaches and remorseful feelings, which are sometimes from the devil, though, as they accuse you of some failing, they seem to come from God. By their fruits shall you know whence they proceed.

If they humble you, if they make you diligent in welldoing, if they take not from you your trust in God, then receive them with all thankfulness as coming from Him. But if they discourage you, if they make you fearful, distrustful, slack and feeble in good deeds, then be assured they come from the enemy; give no ear to them, but continue your exercise.

And as anxiety at the approach of adverse events springs up even more frequently in our hearts, you have two things to do in order to ward off this assault.

The first is, carefully to search out and discover to what these events are adverse, whether to the soul, or to selflove and selfwill.

For, if they be adverse to your own will and to selflove, your chief and greatest enemy, they are not to be called adverse, but to be esteemed special favors and helps from the most high God, to be received with a joyful heart and with thanksgiving.

And though they should be adverse to the soul, you ought not on this account to lose your peace of mind, as I will show you in the following chapter.

The second is, to lift up the heart to God, accepting all things blindly from the hand of His Divine providence, ever full of manifold blessings beyond your power to comprehend, and seeking to know nothing further.

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