The Spiritual Combat

Chapter 23:

Other ways to regulate our senses,
according to the various occasions that present themselves

We have seen how one should raise the intellect from the things we sense to the divinity and to the mysteries of the incarnate Word. Here I will add other wasy to draw various meditations from them, because souls' tastes differ, and they thus have many different foods. In addition, this could help not only simple persons, but also those who possess high intelligence and are more advanced along the way of hte spirit, which in anyone is not always disposed and ready for the higher speculations.

You need not worry that you will become confused in this variety of things, so long as you keep yourself grounded on the rule of discretion and the other counsel, which I say you should follow with humility and confidence not only in this, but in every other warning that comes to you from me.

When you see many things that are pleasing to your sight and precious on earth, consider all of them them to be very vile, like dung when compared to heavenly riches, to which you must aspire with every affection, disdaining the entire world. Turning your glance towards the sun, think how much more lucid and beautiful would your soul be, so long as you remain in the grace of your Creator; otherwise, think it darker and more abominable than the shadows of hell. Raising the eyes of your body to the sky that covers you, use the eyes of your soul to penetrate higher, into the skies of heaven. Rest your thoughts there as if in the place prepared for you as your eternal, very happy home, so long as you live innocently on earth. Hearing the song of birds or other songs, raise your mind to those songs of heaven, where a continuous alleluia sounds. Pray to the Lord that he make you worthy to praise him along with those heavenly spirits in perpetuity.

When you realize that you take delight in a creature's beauty, look attentively with the intellect whether the infernal serpent likes hidden there, intent and ready to kill you, or at least to wound you. You will be able to oppose him: "Ah, damnable serpent, how insidiously prepared are you to devour me!" Then turn towards God and say, "Blessed be you, my God, who uncovered the enemy and freed me from his furious jaws!" And from the attractive thing, fly quickly into the wounds of the Crucified, occupying your mind with these and considering how much the Lord suffers in his most holy body in order to free you from sin and to make the pleasures of the flesh odious to you. I remind you that another way to escape this dangerous attraction, and it is that you enter accustom yourself to thinking what that object which pleases you so much will be like after death.

While you are walking, remember that every step brings you closer to death. Thus, seeing the birds fly and the waters flow, think that with greater speed your life flies towards its end. When impetuous winds blow, or when there is lightning or thunder, it should remind you of the terrible day of judgment; placing yourself on your knees, adore God, asking him to concede you grace and time to prepare yourself well for your appearance before the most high Majesty.

You will exercise yourself in this manner, whatever situation that may befall you. For example, when you are oppressed by some pain or melancholy, or you suffer head, cold or something else, raise your mind up to that eternal will, which for your sake is pleased that you feel this discomfort at this time and for such measure. Therefore, elated with the love that God shows you, and for the opportunity to serve him in all those things that please him, you will say in your heart: "Here the Divine will is accomplished, which ab æterno has lovingly disposed that I should sustain this travail at the present time. May the most benign Lord be ever praised." And whenever the thought of a good thing should form in your mind, turn quickly to God, recognize it as coming from him, and render thanks to him.

When you read, the you should see the Lord beneath those words, and you should receive them as if they came from him divine mouth. Contemplating the holy cross, consider that it is the standard of your army; if you distance yourself from it, you will fall into the hands of cruel enemies; if you follow it, you will arrive in heaven loaded with glorious booty.

When you see the dear image of the Virgin Mary, turn your heart to her who reigns in paradise; thank her for having always been ready to do the will of your God, for having given birth, nursed, and nourished the world's Redeemer, and for never depriving us of her favor and her help in our spiritual conflict.

The images of saints should represent for you many champions who, having completed their assault valorously, have opened the road before you. Walking on such a road, you will be crowned with perpetual glory, just as they have been. When you see churches, among other devout considerations you can think how your soul is the temple of God and you must keep it pure and clean, like his room.

Hearing at any time the three signs of the the angelic salutation (Luke 1.28), you can make the following short meditations, which are conformed to those sacred words that are usually said before each of these heavenly prayers.

At the first sign, thank God for that embassy that he sent from heaven to earth, and which was the beginning of our salvation. At the second, rejoice with the Virgin Mary for her greatness, to which she was raised on account of her singular, most profound humility. At the third sign, join the very blessed mother and the angel Gabriel in adoring the newly conceived, divine Son. And do not forget to bow your head a little out of reverence for each sign, and for the last a little more deeply.

These meditations, divided according to the three signs, serve for all occasions. In fact, we have the duty to remember frequently the sorrows that our Lady bore on account of his passion; if we do not, we show ourselves ungrateful.

At night, bring to mind the Virgin's pure anguish for the sweat of blood, for his capture in the garden, and for the hidden sorrows of her blessed Son throughout the night. In the morning, feel compassion for her afflictions for Pilate's presenting Jesus to Herod, for the sentence of death, and for having to carry the cross. At midday, penetrate with your thoughts the sword of sorrow that pierced the heart of the disconsolate Mother, on account of the crucifixion and death of the Lord, and for the most cruel lancing in his most holy side.

You can make these meditations on the sorrows of the Virgin from Thursday evening until Saturday morning, and the other meditations on other days. I defer however to your particular devotion, and to the opportunities posed by exterior things. To conclude in briefly on how your should regulate your sense, I tell you: be ready, so that in every thing, and in every occurrence, you may be moved and attracted not by the love or repugnance of those things, but only by God's will, embracing and abhorring only those things that God desires you to embrace and abhor.

Note that I have not given you the above means of regulating your sense so that you occupy yourself in them, needing to stand almost always recollected in your mind with your Lord, who desires that you attend to conquer your enemies and your impure passions with frequent acts, both resisting your passions and acting according to the contrary virtues. Rather, I have taught them so that you might know how to regulate yourself when there is need. In fact, you must know that taking up many exercises bears little fruit: while the exercises are excellent in themselves, very often there appear mental confusion, love of self, instability, and traps of the demons.

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the three signs of the angelic salutation: Catholic churches used to have the tradition that, three times a day, they rang a bell three times. This was a call to prayer, famously depicted in Millet's painting Angelus. The prayer itself was named Angelus, from its first word in Latin. Some Catholic churches have preserved this tradition.