The Crucifixion - by VITALE DA BOLOGNA - from Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
|The Composition brings together all the Components making up the Crucifixion Episode: the Virgin and the Three (3) Mary's; the Magdalene kneeling-at the Foot-of the Cross; the Soldiers playing Dice in the Foreground; the Good Centurion giving Christ the Sponge, with the Vinegar; the Good Thief (on the Left, his Soul being carried off by an Angel); and the Bad Thief (on the Right, his Soul being Carried-off by a Devil); and finally, the Skeleton-of-Adam. Adam and other Just-Fathers, await the Coming of Christ to Limbus Patrum. (Refer to 'Descent to Hell', for more Detail on this Subject)|
Jesus Christ Died in-Battle, for us
Greater Love than this, no Man hath,
Maiorem hac dilectionem nemo habet
Some People make Perfection, Consist-in an Austere Life;
|Nota Bene: Bible Verses quoted-in this Book are from the English Douay-Rheims Translation, commissioned-by the Catholic Church.|
Temptations are the most-Serious Trials that can 'Afflict' those, who Love Jesus Christ. They can 'Accept' every other Evil with-Resignation, because they know that such Crises will 'Bind' them closer-to God. But Temptation to 'Commit' Sin, might 'Separate' them from Jesus Christ, so their 'Torture' is Intense.
Why God Permits Temptation
Saint Paul reminds us that God will not 'Allow' us to be Tested, beyond our Strength:
God frequently-'Lets' Souls Dearest-to Him, 'Suffer' Temptations, to Give them a further Source-of-Merit and Glory. Stagnant Water, soon becomes Putrid. Similarly, Souls left without any Struggle or Temptation, are in Serious Danger-of being Lost, because of an Exaggerated 'Conception'-of their own Virtue. They 'Think' they have already 'Achieved' Perfection, and so have little-to Fear, and Consequently make only Slight Effort to 'Recommend' themselves to God. But when, on-the-contrary, they are Tempted, and see themselves in Danger-of Falling into Sin, they Turn-to God:
And thus they 'Find' Renewed-Strength, and Closer-Union (1) with God.
We must not 'Seek' Temptation, however. On the Contrary, we should 'Beg' God to-'Deliver' us from it. This is the Reason-for the Petition-of the Our Father:
When we are Tempted, then, we should be neither Ashamed nor Discouraged. We must 'Place' all our Faith in Jesus Christ and 'Beg' Him to 'Help' us. He will never Fail-to 'Give' us the Strength to 'Resist'.
Means of Overcoming Temptation
Spiritual Writers suggest various Means, for 'Overcoming' Temptation, but the most-Important one is to 'Turn' Immediately to-God, and 'Say' with Humility and Confidence: "Deliver me in Thy Justice, and Rescue me. Incline Thy Ear unto me, and Save me" - Psalm 70:2. This Short Prayer, will Help us to 'Resist' all the Powers-of-Hell; for God is Infinitely (∞) more-Powerful, than All-of-them.
How can we Doubt the Help-of the Lord, after all the Promises, made-in Sacred Scripture?
If all Souls would 'Turn' to God, whenever they are Tempted to 'Offend' Him, they would never 'Commit' Sin. They 'Fall', because they Prefer-to 'Lose' God, the Highest Good, rather than Give-up their Fleeting Pleasures. Experience proves-that those who Turn-to God in Temptation, do not 'Fall', and this is especially True-of Temptations against Purity.
In Temptations against Faith and Purity, we must make it a Rule, never to Try-to 'Fight' the Temptation Head-on; rather, we should 'Try' to-get Rid-of it Indirectly, by Making an Act of-Love for-God, or of-Sorrow for-Sin; and Try-to 'Distract' our Minds, with some other Thought. When we First (1st) 'Detect' a Temptation, we should not Stop, to-'Examine' it. We must 'Shake-off' the Evil Suggestions, as-quickly-as we would, Sparks-from a Fire.
Like Children in-Danger, we should Cry-out for-Help, Immediately. Seek the Help-of Jesus and Mary, Instantly, without 'Considering' the Temptation, for a Moment.
Should the Temptation 'Persist', we must not become Troubled or Angry, because-of it; for this might 'Play-into' the Hands-of-the-Enemy. Instead, we should make an Act-of Humble 'Resignation-to' the Will-of-God, Who 'Permits' it; 'Saying': "O Lord, I Deserve to Suffer these Temptations, in Punishment for my Sins, but You must Help to Free me, from them".
As long, then, as the Temptation 'Persists', we should never-Cease ' Praying', and 'Renewing' our Resolution-to 'Endure' Anything, rather than Offend God. And even if the Temptation becomes so-Violent, that we are on the Verge-of Consenting-to it, we must simply re-Double our Prayers - in the Presence-of the Blessed Sacrament, or with a Crucifix in-hand ─ and 'Beg' God with Greater Fervor, to 'Help' us. God 'Hears' everyone who Prays to Him, and we must 'Trust-in' Him, rather-than in our own Strength. Almighty God 'Permits' these Struggles, and then He Himself 'Compensates-for' our Weakness, and 'Grants' us Victory.
It may happen-that, Persons who have 'Lead' a Virtuous Life, for a considerable Period-of-Time, will on occasion, be in Doubt about whether they gave Consent-to a Grievous Sin. Such Persons can be Perfectly Assured-that, they have not Lost Divine Grace. Why? Because it is Morally Impossible for the Will - 'Confirmed' in-Grace for a Considerable Length-of-Time ─ to 'Undergo' so Total a Change, as to 'Consent' to a Mortal Sin, without clearly 'Knowing' it. Mortal Sin is so-Horrible a Monster, that if it were to 'Enter' a Soul, which has long-Held it in Abhorence, that Soul would be fully-Aware-of it. No one can 'Commit' a Sin, without 'Knowing' it.
This Thought is Worth 'Repeating': The Greatest means-of Overcoming Temptation, is Prayer. And we must never-Stop Praying, in the Face-of Temptation. Almighty God frequently Wills Success, not to the First (1st) Prayer, but to the Second (2nd), Third (3rd), or Fourth (4th). We must 'Try' to-Realize, that our Whole Future 'Depends' on Prayer, along with Perfection, Perseverance, and Eternal (∞) Salvation.
Without the Help-of-God, we are Powerless to-'Overcome' Temptation. Saint Paul tell us how to 'Prepare' ourselves, to 'Meet' the Enemy: "And Take-unto you the Helmet-of Salvation, and the Sword-of the Spirit (which is the Word of God). By all Prayer and Supplication, Praying at all times in the Spirit; and in the same, Watching-with all Instance and Supplication for all the Saints" - Ephesians 6:17,18. And Our Lord Warns us: "Watch ye, and Pray that ye Enter not into Temptation. The Spirit indeed is Willing, but the Flesh Weak" - Matthew 26:41.
Undoubtedly, Sermons, Meditations, and Mortifications are Great Aids to the Spiritual Life; but if we do not Turn-to God in-Prayer, when we are Tempted, we will 'Fall' - and this in-spite-of all our Meditations, Communions, Penances, and Good Resolutions. If we really 'Desire' Salvation, then, we must Pray Continually-to Jesus Christ, most especially when we are Tempted.
We are Mistaken, if we 'Judge' our Devotion, by the Consolations which we Feel. True Devotion consists in a Determined-Will, to-do what 'Pleases' God. This is why Almighty God, sometimes 'Uses' Desolations (or Aridity), in-order-to 'Draw' His Dearest Souls, Closer-to Himself. The Greatest Obstacle to Real Union (1) with God, is Attachment-to Self-Will, so when God Wills to-'Draw' Souls to His Perfect Love, He 'Tries' to 'Detach' them, from Created-Goods.
God usually 'Begins' the Process, by 'Filling' the Souls 'Seeking' Perfection, with Great Consolation and Tenderness, so that they Willingly 'Search'-for Ways-of Mortifying themselves, by various Kinds-of Penances. Spiritual Directors, or Counselors, will usually not give Permission-for all the Mortifications, such Souls 'Request', because, under the Impulse-of Sensible Fervor, they could easily Ruin their Health, by Indiscretion. Directors will, instead, 'Encourage' Beginners to-'Practice' Greater Interior Mortifications ─ 'Bearing' Insults Patiently, 'Being' Obedient-to Proper Authority, Mortifying Curiosity. When these Practices become Habits, these Souls can then Proceed-to External-Ones. It is a Serious Mistake to-Teach ─ as-some-do ─ that Exterior Mortifications are Necessary. Undoubtedly, Interior Mortification is most necessary-for Salvation and Perfection, but it does not 'Follow', that External Penance is Useless. Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, 'Taught' that One who Refuses to-Practice External Mortification, will not be Interiorly Mortified.
When Souls, in the Beginning-of their Conversion to-God, become 'Detached'-from Creatures, and 'Attached' to God, their Attachment is still Imperfect. It 'Stems' more from a Feeling-of Consolation, than from a Real Desire to-'Please' God. They Deceive themselves, however, if they 'Believe' that the more they 'Feel' Pleasure, the more they Love Almighty God. If the Food-of-Consolation is 'Withheld', at some Point-in-Time, they are Disturbed. This a Common Defect-of our Miserable Human-Nature; to 'Seek' our own Satisfaction, in Everything we do.
When some Souls 'Lose' Sensible Consolation, they either Forsake their Spiritual Exercises, or at-least 'Shorten' them. They continue-to 'Shorten' them day-by-day, until they 'Stop' them Completely. This 'Happens' to many Souls, 'Chosen' to Love Almighty God. They 'Begin' the Way-of-Perfection, and Make-Progress, as-long-as Consolation 'Lasts'; and when that Feeling 'Disappears', they Relapse-into their Former Ways. But they must be completely-'Convinced', that the Love-of-God does not Consist-in Feelings-of Tenderness and Consolation - only in the 'Conquest'-of Self-Love, and in 'Following' the Will-of-God.
It does not require any Great Virtue, for Souls to 'Sacrifice' Sensual-Delight, when they are in the Midst-of Consolation. Such Souls can Endure anything. But the Endurance sometimes 'Stems' more-from the Consolations themselves, than from the Strength-of a True Love, for God. This is why the Lord 'Withdraws' Himself from-them, and Deprives them of Sensible Devotion - in-order-to 'Give' them a Solid Foundation, in Virtue. He Wants-to 'Free' them from every Attachment-of Self-Love, which was only 'Fed'-by such Consolations.
Once, they may have 'Felt' Joy, in 'Making' Acts-of Confidence, Oblation, and Love. Now, that the Stream-of Consolation is 'Dried-up', they 'Make' them, only-with Coldness and Agonizing Effort. They find in them Nothing-but Darkness and Fear, and All is Lost, in their Opinion. They Pray and Pray-again, and still are 'Overwhelmed' with Sadness, because God 'Seems' to-have 'Abandoned' them.
When Almighty God, in His Mercy, Wills to-Console us, with His Presence, we should Gratefully 'Receive' Him. But, we must be-Careful not to-'Rest' our Delight, in these Feelings-of Spiritual Tenderness. Rather, we should 'Humble' Ourselves, by 'Recalling' the Sins of our Past Life, and Realize-that this Grace is the Fruit-of the Goodness-of God, and perhaps a Preparation-for some Trial, Soon-to 'Come'. We should therefore 'Take' this Opportunity, to-'Offer' ourselves to-Suffer every Pain ─ Internal or External ─ that might Happen-to us; every-Illness, every-Persecution, and every-Spiritual Desolation. And we should 'Tell' Him:
It is One-thing to 'Perform' an Act-of-Virtue, such-as:
but it is quite something else, to be Conscious-of 'Making' these Good Acts. The Consciousness-of 'Doing' Good, 'Gives' us Pleasure, but Merit consists-in actually 'Doing' the Good. God is Satisfied-with the Act, but He has the Right-to Deprive us, of its Satisfaction. By 'Removing' from us, all Self-Satisfaction, the Lord 'Seeks' our Real Advantage, over our Apparent Pleasure. For, it must be 'Repeated':
It may be Useless - and perhaps a Source-of still Greater Agitation - to 'Want' to 'Seek' Assurance, that we are in the Grace-of-God, and that what we are 'Experiencing', is only a Trial, and not Abandonment, on the Part-of God. At such Times, it is God's Will, that we should not have this Assurance. And He does this, so that we may 'Humble' ourselves More, and Increase our Prayers and Acts-of Confidence, in His Mercy. We Desire-to 'See', and God Wills that we should not 'See'.
The Resolution not to 'Consent' to any Sin, is a Sure Sign that we are in God's Grace. But, if we are in Deep Desolation, it is Difficult for us to 'Recognize' this Resolution. Nevertheless, in such a State, we should not try to-Feel, what we 'Will'. It is Enough, to 'Will' it with the Tip-of the Will, and 'Deliver' ourselves Interiorly-into the Arms-of Divine Goodness. Such Acts-of Confidence and Resignation, 'Enrapture' the Heart-of-God, when we 'Make' them in the midst-of Darkness and Desolation. We should simply Trust-in a God, Who Loves us much more, than we Love Ourselves.
"O my God, make me a Saint"
- End of Chapter XIII -
from The Spiritual Combat,