None shall be crowned who has not fought well.
------- 2 Tim. 2: 5
Taken from the
of the same title by DOM LORENZO SCUPOLI
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CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE: THE PROPER USE OF OUR SENSES. HOW THEY MAY HELP US TO CONTEMPLATE DIVINE THINGS
ONE MUST GIVE great care and constant application to the correct regulation of his senses. The sensitive appetite, the source of all actions of our weakened nature, has an unquenchable thirst for pleasure. Since it cannot satisfy itself, it uses the senses to attract their proper objects and then transmits these images to the mind. Sensual pleasures, consequently, by reason of the union which subsists between body and soul, spread themselves through all the senses capable of pleasure and then seize, like a contagious disease, upon the spiritual faculties. In this way they effect the corruption of the entire man.
You can use the following remedies against this enormous evil. Watch your senses carefully. Use them only for some good purpose, some advantageous motive or real necessity, never for the sake of mere pleasure. If they do go astray, perhaps unnoticed, if they transgress the bounds which reason prescribes, check them immediately. They must be so regulated that, instead of embracing objects for the sake of false pleasure, they become accustomed to draw from the same objects great helps for the sanctification and perfection of the soul. The soul, then, through recollection is able to rise from the knowledge of earthly things to the contemplation of the Divine goodness. This can be done in the following way.
When an agreeable object is presented to the senses, do not become absorbed in its material elements, but let the understanding judge it. If there is anything in it that does please the senses, remember that this is not from the thing itself, but from God, Whose invisible hand created and endowed it with all its goodness and beauty. Rejoice in the thought that this sovereign and independent Being is the sole Author of all the charming qualities that His creatures possess. He Himself possesses them all in a manner infinitely superior to the most excellent created beings.
In contemplating a beautiful work of creation consider that, in itself, it is nothing. Let your thoughts soar to the great Hand that produced it; place all your delight in Him saying: "O my God! Sole Object of my desires! Universal Source of all good things! How delightful it is to consider that the perfections of creatures are but a faint image of Thy glory!"
When you behold the verdant trees or plants and the beauty of flowers, remember that they possess life only through the will of that Divine Wisdom that, unseen by all, gives life to all things. Say to Him: "O Living God! O Sovereign Life! Thou delight of my soul! From Thee, in Thee and through Thee all things on earth live and flourish!"
The sight of animals should lift your mind and heart to the Author of sensibility and motion. Say with respect and love: "Great God, Unmoved Mover of all things, how I rejoice when I consider the eternity of Thy existence, incapable of the slightest change!"
When the beauty of mankind impresses you, you should immediately distinguish what is apparent to the eye from what is seen only by the mind. You must remember that all corporeal beauty flows from an invisible principle, the uncreated beauty of God. You must discern in this an almost imperceptible drop issuing from an endless source, an immense ocean from which numberless perfections continually flow. How my soul is ravished when I consider that Eternal Beauty, the Source of every beautiful thing!
You must also distinguish, when you meet a person who is intelligent, just, affable, or gifted in any other way, just how much is his own and how much he has received from Heaven. Then will you exclaim: "O God of all virtue! I cannot express my joy when I consider that all good comes from Thee, and all the perfections of created beings are nothing when compared with Thee! Thank Thee for this and all good things bestowed on my neighbor or on myself. Have pity on my poverty and be mindful of the great need I have of such virtues!"
When you have performed a good act, recall that God is the author of the act, and you are but His instrument. Lift up your eyes to Him and cry out: "O Sovereign Lord of the universe! It is with the greatest pleasure that I recognize that, without Thee, the First and Principal Cause of all things, I can do nothing."
When you taste anything pleasant, consider that God alone is capable of giving it that taste which is so agreeable to you. Find all your delight in Him and say: "Rejoice, O my soul! Without God there is no true or substantial happiness!"
Do not be satisfied with the pleasure that comes from a pleasant scent. Mount in spirit to Heaven, and rejoice in God from Whom it came. Beg of Him that, being the Author of all sweetness, He will move your soul, freed from all sensual pleasure, to raise itself to Him as a fragrant perfume.
When you hear beautiful music, turn to God and exclaim: "O
Divine perfections fill my heart with delight; their melodious harmony
is infinitely pleasing not only to Thyself, but to Angels, men and all