Lent Reflection day 38
Some of the chapters of Unseen Warfare are so good that I finish reading them and despair of saying anything about them. They say it all. The thirty-eighth chapter is such a part of the book, entitled: Virtue Should be Practiced Constantly and with All Diligence. To quote:
In the work of acquiring virtues, it is necessary to act so as always to be ‘reaching forth unto those things which are before” (Phil. 3:13), if we wish to attain our aim quickly and successfully. For as soon as we stop, if only for a short time, we at once fall back. For when negligence and self-indulgence interrupt our good efforts, the passions, which were subdued by diligent work to acquire virtue, immediately raise their heads and come to life, through our propensity to sensuousness and self-indulgence, and they evoke disorderly inner movements and tendencies, especially where our external surroundings favor it. These inner movements always disorganize and weaken our good habits, and, what is especially harmful, deprive us of the gift of grace without which nothing truly good and spiritual can be achieved.
You must know that progress on the path of spiritual life differs greatly from an ordinary journey on earth. If a traveler stops on his ordinary journey, he loses nothing of the way already covered; but if a traveler on the path of virtue stops in his spiritual progress, he loses much of the virtues previously acquired, as I have already said. In an ordinary journey, the further the traveler proceeds, the more tired he becomes; but on the way of spiritual life the longer a man travels, “reaching forth unto those things which are before,” the greater the strength and power he acquires for his further progress.
The reason for this is that efforts made on the path of virtue gradually weaken the resistance of our lower part, i.e. the flesh which renders the path of virtue so hard and strenuous by its opposition to the spirit; whereas the higher part where virtue dwells, that is, the spirit, gains ever more and more strength and power. Therefore the more we succeed in virtue and good, the smaller grow the grievous difficulties we meet when we enter this path. Moreover a certain secret sweetness, sent by God, flows into our heart and increases from hour to hour. Through this, as we press forward with ever greater strength and will, we ascend easily from virtue to virtue, and finally reach the very summit of spiritual perfection, where the soul begins to practice every kind of good, no longer urged with effort, lacking all taste for it, but with ready inclination and joy. For, having subdued and conquered passions and renounced all that belongs to the creature, it now lives in God, and there, amid welcome spiritual works, ceaselessly savors the sweetness of peace.
How true it is, brothers and sisters, that we must continually strive toward the heavenly kingdom. I often don’t picture the spiritual life as a simply journey, but I picture myself pushing a car up a hill. When I stop to rest, it rolls back down a little, or perhaps a lot, and might even run over me. Even if I’m not getting anywhere, but I’m continuing to push as much as I can, I know that the car won’t roll backwards. Or, not very much.
What a blessing this has been to experience the great insight of Unseen Warfare during this year’s Lenten fast. Here we are at the thirty-eighth day, let us use the time remaining to progress even just a small amount more in our spiritual journey.