The Spiritual Combat

Chapter 7:

Spiritual exercise.
And in the first place the exercise of the intellect,
that it be guarded from ignorance and from curiosity.

Mistrust of oneself and confidence in God are most necessary, but if they were alone, not only would we not have the victory over ourselves, but we would fall into many evils. Because of these reasons, in addition to others, we need exercise, which is the third thing proposed above. This exercise must be done principally with the intellect and with the will. As to the intellect, we must guard it from two things that dream of fighting it.

One is ignorance, which darkens and impedes the knowledge of the truth, the intellect's proper object. Hence with the exercise we must make the intellect bright and clear, so that it might see and discern good, which is so necessary to purify the soul from her disordered passions and decorate her with holy virtues. We can obtain this light in two ways.

The first and most important is prayer, asking the Holy Spirit that he might deign to pour it into our hearts. If we truly seek God alone, we will do this always when we seek to do his holy will and when we subject everything, even our judgment, to the decision of our spiritual father.

The other way is a continual exercise of profound and loyal consideration of things to see them as they are, whether good or bad: according to how the Holy Spirit teaches and not according to their external appearance, which is how they represent themselves to the senses and is how the world judges them.

When this consideration is done as necessary, it makes us understand clearly that what the blind and corrupt world loves and desires, and the various ways and means of procuring them, ought to be held as nothing, as vanity and lies. We understand that earthly honors and pleasures are nothing other than vanities and afflictions of the spirit, that what bring true glory are the injuries, infamies, and quiet tribulations the world gives us; that disdain for the world is worth more than being its master; that one ought to appraise the humble knowledge of oneself higher than all the sciences. We realize that forgiving our enemies and doing good to them are magnanimities and among the things that make us resemble God more closely; that glad obedience to the most vile creatures out of love for God is more magnanimous and generous than commanding great princes. We come to know that conquering and mortifying our very appetites, however small, is worth more praise than taking many cities by storm (Proverbs 16.32), than conquering powerful armies with weapons in hand, than performing miracles and raising the dead. (note)

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To achieve a better flow in English, I have changed the ordering of the benefits acquired from the exercise.