Light of the World - by William Holman Hunt . . . .
They took up Stones therefore to Cast at Him. But Jesus hid
Himself, and went out of the Temple - John 8:59
A Tepid Soul is not One that Lives-in Enmity with God, nor One that sometimes Commits Venial Sins through mere Frailty, and not with Full Deliberation. On account-of the Corruption of Human Nature by Original Sin, no Man can be Exempt-from such Venial Faults. This Corruption of Human Nature renders it Impossible-for us, without a Most Special Grace, which has been given only to the Mother of God, to Avoid all Venial Sins during our Whole Lives. Hence Saint John has said: "If we say that we have no Sin, we Deceive ourselves, and the Truth is not in us" - 1John 1:8. God permits Defects of this kind, even in the Saints, to keep them Humble, and to make them feel that, as they Commit such Faults, in-spite-of all their Good Purposes and Promises, so also, were they not Supported-by His Divine Hand, they would Fall into Mortal Sins. Hence, when we find that we have Committed these Light Faults, we must Humble ourselves, and Acknowledging our own Weakness, we must be careful to Recommend ourselves to God, and Implore of Him to Preserve us by His Almighty Hand, from more Grievous Transgressions, and to Deliver us from those we have Committed.
What then are we to Understand by a Tepid Soul? A Tepid Soul is One that Frequently Falls into Deliberate Venial Sins, such as Deliberate Lies, Deliberate Acts of Impatience, Deliberate Imprecations, and the like. These Faults may be Easily-avoided by those who are Resolved-to Suffer Death, rather than Commit a Deliberate Venial Offence against God. Saint Teresa used to say that One (1) Venial Sin does more Harm, than all the Devils in Hell. Hence she would say to her Nuns: My Children, from Deliberate Sin, however Venial it may be, may the Lord Deliver you. Some Complain of being left in Aridity and Dryness, and without any Spiritual Sweetness. But, how can we expect that God will be Liberal in His Favors to us, when we are Ungenerous to Him? We know that such a Lie, such an Imprecation, such an Injury to our Neighbor, and such Detraction, though not Mortal Sins, are Displeasing to God; and still we do not Abstain-from them. Why then should we expect that God will give us His Divine Consolations?
But, some of you will say: Venial Sins, however Great they may be, do not Deprive the Soul of the Grace of God; even though I Commit them, I will be Saved; and for me, it is Enough to obtain Eternal (∞) Life. You say that, For you it is Enough to be Saved. Remember that Saint Augustine says that, Where you have said, "It is Enough", there you have Perished. To Understand-correctly, the Meaning of these Words of Saint Augustine, and to see the Danger to which the State of Tepidity exposes those who 'Commit' Habitual and Deliberate Venial Sins, without feeling Remorse for them, and without Endeavoring-to avoid them, it is Necessary to Know that the Habit of 'Light' Faults, leads the Soul Insensibly-to Mortal Sins. For example,
"The Soul", says Saint Gregory, "never Lies where it Falls"; no, it Continues-to Sink Still Deeper. Mortal Diseases do not generally proceed-from Serious Indisposition, but from many Slight and Continued Infirmities; so likewise, the Fall of many Souls into Mortal Sin, follows-from Habitual Venial Sins; for these Render the Soul so-Weak, that when a Strong Temptation assails Her, She has not Strength to Resist it, and She Falls.
Many are Unwilling to be Separated-from God by Mortal Sins; they Wish to follow Him, but at a Distance, and Regardless-of Venial Sins. But to them, shall probably happen what Befell Saint Peter. When Jesus Christ was Seized in the Garden, Saint Peter was Unwilling-to Abandon the Lord, but "Peter followed Him afar off" - Matthew 26:58. After entering the House of Caiphas, he was charged-with being a Disciple-of Jesus Christ. He was Instantly seized-with Fear, and Three (3) Times Denied his Master. The Holy Ghost says: "He that Contemneth Small Things, shall Fall by Little and Little" - Ecclesiasticus 19:1. They who Regard-as Negligible, small Falls, will probably One (1) Day Fall into an Abyss; for being in the Habit of Committing Light Offenses against God, they will feel but Little Repugnance, to offer to Him some Grievous Insult.
The Lord says: "Catch us the Little Foxes that Destroy the Vines" - Canticles 2:15. He does not tell us to Catch the 'Lions' or the 'Bears', but the 'Little Foxes'. 'Lions' and 'Bears' strike Terror, and therefore, all are Careful to Keep at a Distance through Fear of being Devoured by them; but the 'Little Foxes', though they do not Excite Dismay, Destroy the Vine, by Drying-up its Roots. Mortal Sin Terrifies the Timorous Soul; but if She accustom Herself to the Commission-of many Venial Sins, with Full Deliberation, and without Endeavoring-to Correct them, they, like the 'Little Foxes', shall Destroy the Roots; that is:
and thus, in a State of Tepidity, and Impelled-to Sin by some Passion, the Soul will easily Abandon God and Lose the Divine Grace.
Moreover, Deliberate and Habitual Venial Sins, not only Deprive us of Strength to Resist Temptations, but also of the Special Helps, without which we Fall into Grievous Sins. Be Attentive, Brethren, for this is a Point-of Great Importance. It is certain, that of-Ourselves, we have not Sufficient Strength to Resist the Temptations of the Devil, of the Flesh, and of the World. It is God, that 'Prevents' our Enemies from Assailing us with Temptations, by which we would be Conquered. Hence, Jesus Christ has Taught us the following Prayer: And Lead us not into Temptation. He Teaches us to Pray that God may Deliver us from the Temptations to which we would Yield, and thus Lose His Grace. Now, Venial Sins, when they are Deliberate and Habitual, Deprive us of the Special Helps-of God which are Necessary-for Preservation-in His Grace. I say Necessary, because the Council-of-Trent Anathematizes those who assert, that we can Persevere-in Grace without a Special Help-from God. "Si quis dixerit, justificatum vel sine speciali auxilio Dei in accepta justitia perseverare posse, vel cum eo non posse; anathema sit". Thus with the Ordinary Assistance-of God, we cannot avoid Falling-into some Mortal Sin; a Special Aid is Necessary. But this Special Aid, God will Justly withhold-from Tepid Souls, who are, regardless-of Committing with Full Deliberation, many Venial Sins. Thus these Unhappy Souls, shall not Persevere-in Grace.
They who are Ungenerous to God, well-deserve that God should not be Liberal to them. "He who Soweth Sparingly, shall also Reap Sparingly" - 2Corinthians 9:6. To such Souls, the Lord will give the Graces common-to all, but will probably-withhold His Special Assistance; and without this, as we have seen, they cannot Persevere, without Falling-into Mortal Sin. God Himself Revealed-to Blessed Henry Suso, that, for Tepid Souls, who are Content-with Leading a Life exempt-from Mortal Sin, and continue to Commit many Deliberate Venial Sins, it is very Difficult to Preserve themselves in the State of Grace. The Venerable Lewis da Ponte used to say: I Commit many Defects, but I never make Peace with them. Wo to him, who is at-Peace with his Faults! Saint Bernard teaches, that as-long-as a Person who is Guilty of Defects, Detests his Faults, there is Reason-to Hope that he will One (1) Day Correct them and Amend his Life; but when he Commits Faults without Endeavoring-to Amend, he will continually go from Bad to Worse, till he Loses the Grace of God. Saint Augustine says that, like a certain Disease of the Skin, which makes the Body an Object-of Disgust, Habitual Faults, when committed without any Effort-of Amendment, Render the Soul so Disgusting to God, that He Deprives Her of His Embraces. "Sunt velut scabies, et nostrum decus ita exterminant ut a sponsi amplexibus separent". Hence, the Soul, finding no-more Nourishment and Consolation in Her Devout Exercises, in Her Prayers, Communions, or Visits-to the Blessed Sacrament, will soon Neglect them, and thus Neglecting the Means-of Eternal (∞) Salvation, She shall be in Great Danger of being Lost.
This Danger will be still Greater, for those who Commit-many Venial Sins through 'Attachment' to any Passion, such as Pride, Ambition, Aversion to a Neighbor, or an Inordinate Affection for any Person. Saint Francis of Assisi says that in Endeavoring-to draw-to Sin, a Soul that is Afraid of being in Enmity with God, the Devil does not seek, in the Beginning, to Bind Her with the Chain-of a Slave, by Tempting Her to commit Mortal Sin; because She would have a Horror of yielding-to Mortal Sin, and would Guard Herself against it. He First (1st) endeavors-to Bind Her by a Single (1) 'Hair'; then by a Slender 'Thread'; next by a 'Chord'; afterwards by a 'Rope'; and in the End, by a 'Chain' of Hell, that is, by Mortal Sin; and thus he makes Her his Slave. For example: A Person cherishes an Affection-for a Female through a Motive-of Courtesy or of Gratitude, or from an Esteem for her Good Qualities. This Affection is followed by Mutual Presents; to these succeed Words-of Tenderness; and after the First (1st) Violent Assault of the Devil, the Miserable Man shall find that he has Fallen into Mortal Sin. He meets with the Fate-of-Gamesters, who, after frequently Losing Large Sums-of Money, yield-to an Impulse-of Passion, Risk their all, and in the End, Lose their Entire Property.
Miserable the Soul that allows Herself to be the Slave of any Passion. "Behold how Small a Fire, kindleth a Great Wood" - James 3:5. A Small Spark, if it be not Extinguished, will Set Fire to an Entire Wood; that is, an 'Unmortified' Passion shall bring the Soul to Ruin. Passion Blinds us; and the Blind often Fall-into an Abyss, when they least expect it. According to Saint Ambrose, the Devil is Constantly Endeavoring to find out the Passion which Rules our Heart, and the Pleasures which have the Greatest Attraction for us. When he discovers them, he presents Occasions-of Indulging them; he then Excites Concupiscence, and prepares a 'Chain' to make us the Slaves of Hell. "Tune maxime insidiatur adverarius quando videt in nobis passiones aliquas generari; tune fomites movet, laqueos parat".
Saint Chrysostom asserts, that he himself knew many Persons who were Gifted with Great Virtues, and who, because they Disregarded Light Faults, fell into an Abyss of Crime. When the Devil cannot Gain much from us, he is, in the Beginning, Content-with the 'Little'; by Many 'Trifling Victories', he will make a 'Great Conquest'. No one, says Saint Bernard, suddenly Falls from the State of Grace, into the Abyss of Wickedness. They who Rush-into the most Grievous Irregularities, begin by Committing Light Faults. "Nemo repente fit turpissimus; a minimis incipiunt qui in maxima proruunt". It is Necessary also to Understand that, when a Soul, that has been Favored by God with Special Lights and Graces, consents-to Mortal Sin, Her Fall shall not be a Simple Fall, from which She will Easily Rise again, but it will be a Precipitous One, from which She will find it very Difficult, to-return-to God.
Addressing a Person in the State of Tepidity, Our Lord said: "I Would thou wert Cold, or Hot. But because thou art Lukewarm, and neither Cold, nor Hot, I will begin to Vomit thee out of My Mouth" - Revelation 3:15,16. "I Would thou wert Cold" - that is, it would be Better for thee to be Deprived of My Grace, because there should then be Greater Hopes of thy Amendment; but because thou Livest-in Tepidity, without any Desire-of Improvement, "I will begin to Vomit thee out of My Mouth". By these Words He Means, that He will begin-to Abandon the Soul; for, what is Vomited, is Taken-back only with Great Horror.
A Certain Author, says that Tepidity is a 'Hectic Fever' which does not Excite Alarm, because it is not Perceived; but it is, at the same time, so Malignant that it is Rarely Cured. The comparison is very Just; for Tepidity makes the Soul Insensible-to Remorses of Conscience; and as She is accustomed-to feel no Remorse for Venial Faults, She will by Degrees, become Insensible-to the Stings of Remorse, which Arise-from Mortal Sins.
Let us come to the Remedy. The Amendment of a Tepid Soul is Difficult; but there are Remedies for those who wish to Adopt them.
By their own Strength, they can do Nothing; but they can do all things with the Assistance-of God, Who has Promised to Hear the Prayers of all. "Ask, and it shall be Given you: Seek, and you shall Find" - Luke 11:9. We must Pray and continue to Pray without Interruption. If we Cease-to Pray, we shall be Defeated; but if we Persevere in Prayer we shall Conquer.
- End of Liguori Sermon -