The Spiritual Combat: THE OPPOSITION WITHIN MAN'S TWOFOLD NATUREMAN HAS a twofold nature, the one superior, the other inferior. The first is generally termed reason, the second is called appetite, sensuality, or passion. Reason is the distinguishing property of man, and he is not considered responsible for the primary impulses of his appetite unless his superior faculty confirms the choice.
The entire spiritual warfare, consequently, consists in this: the rational faculty is placed between the Divine will above it and the sensitive appetite below it, and is attacked from both sides------God moving it by His grace, and the flesh by its appetites strive for victory.
It is apparent, then, that inconceivable difficulties arise when persons who during their youth have contracted vicious habits resolve to change their life, mortify their passions, and break with the world in order to devote themselves to the service of God.
The will is violently attacked by Divine grace and by its own sensual appetites, and wherever it turns, it absorbs these withering attacks with the greatest difficulty.
This onslaught is not experienced by those who are firmly settled in their way of life, whether in virtue by conforming to the will of God, or in vice by indulging their sensual desires.
No one should delude himself that he can acquire virtue and serve God in the proper way, unless he is willing to undergo a violent struggle. He must conquer the difficulty he will experience when he deprives himself of the pleasures, great or small, to which he has been viciously attached.
The result is that very few attain any great degree of perfection. After conquering their greatest vice, after undergoing tremendous exertions, they lose courage and fail to pursue their objective. And this when only small trials are to be overcome, such as subduing the feeble remnants of their own will, and annihilating some weaker passions which revive and then completely regain their hearts.
Many persons of this type, for example, do not take what belongs to others, but they are passionately attached to what is their own. They do not use any illegal methods of aggrandizement, but instead of spurning advancement, they are fond of it and seek it by any means they think lawful. They observe the appointed fasts, but, on other days, they indulge in the most exotic delicacies. They are very careful to observe chastity, and yet they refuse to give up their favorite amusements, even though they constitute great obstacles to a spiritual life and real union with God. Since these things are so highly dangerous, particularly for those who do not recognize their bad results, they must be dealt with very cautiously.
Without such caution. we may be assured that most of our good acts will have as attendants, slothfulness, vanity, human respect, hidden imperfections, conceit, and a desire for the notice and approval of others.
Anyone who neglects this particular aspect of the problem not only makes no progress on the road to salvation, but even loses ground and is in danger of falling back into his former vicious practices. He does not aim at solid virtue and is unconscious of the great favor God has done him by freeing him from the despotism of the devil. He is ignorant of the danger that surrounds him, and is enchanted by a false and deceptive peace.
It is necessary here to point out an illusion which must be feared, as it is not easily discovered. Many who begin a spiritual life have too great a love for themselves [if they can be said to truly love themselves], and they single out certain exercises that are most pleasant. But they avoid anything that is disagreeable to their inclinations, or equipped to mortify their passions, against which their entire force should be thrown in this spiritual struggle.
Every means must be exploited to make them enjoy the hazards they encountered in conquering their inclinations. On this everything depends. The greater the resolution shown in surmounting the first obstacles that occur, the swifter and more brilliantly will victory accompany them. With courage, therefore, let them expect nothing but hardship in this warfare and wait patiently for victory and its rewards. Then they may be confident that they will not be disappointed.