Lent Reflection day 24
Today Unseen Warfare continues to address the senses by taking each sense one at a time, and suggesting ways to keep ourselves in check. When the book addresses the eyes, it reminds us that the most difficult place the eyes go is to other people, to admire them, or feed pride in ourselves, or wonder at what gossip might be available in what we see. But there are other places that the eyes lead us away from God. There was a youth event at our parish recently, where the kids were doing a fund raiser. They brought the money into my office to count it, and asked me to take it to the bank for them the next day. They piled the bills according to denomination on my desk and left them there.
Later that day a couple came to my office, and I kept noticing them looking over at my desk. At first I thought nothing of it, but then I remembered the money – my back was to my desk and I had forgotten it was there. What a strange sensation! It was almost like they were looking into a private aspect of my life, like part of my clothing was falling off and I was unaware of it. Perhaps I’m not describing it just right, but I repeat that it was a strange sensation once I knew what they were looking at. I wanted to go to my desk and cover the money with sheets of paper, but I thought it would only attract more attention to it. And frankly, I was amazed at how much the sight of someone else’s money provokes such interest, dare I say lust, in others.
There are many other things that attract our eyes, like food and clothing, rich houses and cars and so on. As Unseen Warfare says: Flee and close your eyes to all this, lest you fill your heart with passionate movements and your imagination with shameful images, and provoke in yourself an insurrection and battle against yourself, thus breaking the continuity of your progress in the struggle you must wage with your passions. But love to visit churches and look at the holy icons, sacred books, tombs, cemeteries and other such good and holy things, the sight of which can have a salutary effect on your soul.
Brothers and sisters, I never, until I read this, thought of cemeteries as something that I could look at and gain spiritual benefit. But thinking about it, I see how Unseen Warfare is correct. It can be a great benefit to not only think about death, but also to think about what happens to all that earthly beauty we so highly prize. As the funeral service says, I weep and with tears lament when with understanding I think on death, and see how in the graves there sleeps the beauty which once for us was fashioned in the image of God, but now is shapeless, ignoble, and bare of all the graces. O how strange a thing; what is this mystery which concerns us humans? Why were we given up to decay? And why to death united in wedlock? Truly, as it is written, these things come to pass by ordinance of God, Who to him/her, now gives rest.
Unseen Warfare goes on to address the other senses, and ends with this: All I have just mentioned is the dust that the serpent—the tempter—was condemned to eat; and all this is food on which our carnal passions feed. So if you do not regard these things as unimportant and unworthy of attention, but if on the contrary, you arm yourself courageously against them and do not let them enter your soul and your heart through the senses, I assure you, you will easily exhaust the strength of the devil and of passions, since you will deprive them of the food on which they can thrive in you, and you will, in a short time, become a valiant victor in the unseen warfare.
Indeed. All that we hear and see, taste, touch and smell is nothing but dust, and will ultimately return to dust, as the funeral service reminds us.
As we come to this twenty-fourth day of our great Lenten journey, brothers and sisters, let us guard our senses, and commune in our hearts and souls with the eternal Kingdom of God.