How our fifth combat is against the spirit of dejection,
and of the harm which it inflicts upon the soul.
IN our fifth combat we have to resist the pangs of gnawing dejection:
for if this, through separate attacks made at random, and by haphazard
and casual changes, has secured an opportunity of gaining possession of
our mind it keeps us back at all times from all insight in divine contemplation,
and utterly ruins and depresses the mind that has fallen away from its
complete state of purity. It does not allow it to say its prayers
with its usual gladness of heart, nor permit it to rely on the comfort
of reading the sacred writings, nor suffer it to be quiet and gentle with
the brethren; it makes it impatient and rough in all the duties of work
and devotion: and, as all wholesome counsel is lost, and steadfastness
of heart destroyed, it makes the feelings almost mad and drunk, and crushes
and overwhelms them with penal despair.
CHAPTER II. Of the
care with which the malady of dejection must be healed.
WHEREFORE if we are anxious to exert ourselves lawfully in the struggle
of our spiritual combat we ought with no less care to set about healing
this malady also. For "as the moth injures the garment, and the worm the
wood, so dejection the heart of man." With sufficient clearness
and appropriateness has the Divine Spirit expressed the force of this dangerous
and most injurious fault.
Note for Book 9, Chapter 2
1. Prov. 25:20 [LXX].
CHAPTER III. To what the soul
may be compared which is a prey
to the attacks of dejection.
FOR the garment that is moth-eaten has no longer any commercial value
or good use to which it can be put; and in the same way the wood that
is worm-eaten is no longer worth anything for ornamenting even an ordinary
building, but is destined to be burnt in the fire. So therefore the
soul also which is a prey to the attacks of gnawing dejection will be useless
for that priestly garment which, according to the prophecy of the holy
David, the ointment of the Holy Spirit coming down from heaven, first on
Aaron's beard, then on his skirts, is wont to assume: as it is said, "It
is like the ointment upon the head which ran down upon Aaron's beard, which
ran down to the skirts of his clothing." Nor can it have anything
to do with the building or ornamentation of that spiritual temple of which
Paul as a wise master builder laid the foundations, saying, "Ye are the
temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwelleth in you:" and what the
beams of this are like the bride tells us in the Song of Songs: "Our rafters
are of cypress: the beams of our houses are of cedar." And therefore
those sorts of wood are chosen for the temple of God which are fragrant
and not liable to rot, and which are not subject to decay from age nor
to be worm-eaten.
Notes for Book 9, Chapter 3:
1. Totidem is used here by Cassian for itidem, as in III. ix.
2. Ps. 132 :2. 3. 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:16.
4. Cant. 1:16 [LXX].
CHAPTER IV. Whence and
in what way dejection arises.
BUT sometimes it is found to result from the fault of previous anger,
or to spring from the desire of some gain which has not been realized,
when a man has found that he has failed in his hope of securing those things
which he had planned. But sometimes without any apparent reason for
our being driven to fall into this misfortune, we are by the instigation
of our crafty enemy suddenly depressed with so great a gloom that we cannot
receive with ordinary civility the visits of those who are near and dear
to us; and whatever subject of conversation is started by them, we regard
it as ill-timed and out of place; and we can give them no civil answer,
as the gall of bitterness is in possession of every corner of our heart.
CHAPTER V. That disturbances
are caused in us not by the faults of people,
but by our own.
WHENCE it is clearly proved that the pains of disturbances are not always
caused in us by other people's faults, but rather by our own, as we have
stored up in ourselves the causes of offence, and the seeds of faults,
which, as soon as a shower of temptation waters our soul, at once burst
forth into shoots and fruits.
CHAPTER VI. That no one comes
to grief by a sudden fall, but is destroyed
by falling through a long course of carelessness.
FOR no one is ever driven to sin by being provoked through another's
fault, unless he has the fuel of evil stored up in his own heart.
Nor should we imagine that a man has been deceived suddenly when he has
looked on a woman and fallen into the abyss of shameful lust: but rather
that, owing to the opportunity of looking on her, the symptoms of disease
which were hidden and concealed in his inmost soul have been brought to
Note on Book 9, Chapter 6:
1. Incuriam (Petschenig): Injuriam (Gazaeus).
CHAPTER VII. That we ought not to give up intercourse
with our brethren in order to seek
after perfection, but should rather constantly cultivate the virtue of patience.
AND so God, the creator of all things, having regard above everything
to the amendment of His own work, and because the roots and causes of our
falls are found not in others, but in ourselves, commands that we should
not give up intercourse with our brethren, nor avoid those who we think
have been hurt by us, or by whom we have been offended, but bids us pacify
them, knowing that perfection of heart is not secured by separating from
men so much as by the virtue of patience. Which when it is securely
held, as it can keep us at peace even with those who hate peace, so, if
it has not been acquired, it makes us perpetually differ from those who
are perfect and better than we are: for opportunities for disturbance,
on account of which we are eager to get away from those with whom we are
connected, will not be wanting so long as we are living among men; and
therefore we shall not escape altogether, but only change the causes of
dejection on account of which we separated from our former friends.
CHAPTER VIII. That if we have
improved our character it is possible for us
to get on with everybody.
WE must then do our best to endeavour to amend our faults and correct
our manners. And if we succeed in correcting them we shall certainly
be at peace, I will not say with men, but even with beasts and the brute
creation, according to what is said in the book of the blessed Job: "For
the beasts of the field will be at peace with thee;" for we shall not
fear offences coming from without, nor will any occasion of falling trouble
us from outside, if the roots of such are not admitted and implanted within
in our own selves: for "they have great peace who love thy law, O God;
and they have no occasion of falling."
Notes for Book 9, Chapter 8
1. Job 5:23. 2. Ps. 118 :165.
CHAPTER IX. Of another
sort of dejection which produces despair of salvation.
THERE is, too, another still more objectionable sort of dejection, which
produces in the guilty soul no amendment of life or correction of faults,
but the most destructive despair: which did not make Cain repent after
the murder of his brother, or Judas, after the betrayal, hasten to relieve
himself by making amends, but drove him to hang himself in despair.
CHAPTER X. Of the
only thing in which dejection is useful to us.
AND so we must see that dejection is only useful to us in one case,
when we yield to it either in penitence for sin, or through being inflamed
with the desire of perfection, or the contemplation of future blessedness.
And of this the blessed Apostle says: "The sorrow which is according to
God worketh repentance steadfast unto salvation: but the sorrow of the
world worketh death."
Note for Book 9, Chapter 10
1. 2 Cor. 7:10.
CHAPTER XI. How we can
decide what is useful and the sorrow according to God,
and what is devilish and deadly.
BUT that dejection and sorrow which "worketh repentance steadfast unto
salvation" is obedient, civil, humble, kindly, gentle, and patient, as
it springs from the love of God, and unweariedly extends itself from desire
of perfection to every bodily grief and sorrow of spirit; and somehow or
other rejoicing and feeding on hope of its own profit preserves all the
gentleness of courtesy and forbearance, as it has in itself all the fruits
of the Holy Spirit of which the same Apostle gives the list: "But the fruit
of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, goodness, benignity, faith,
mildness, modesty." But the other kind is rough, impatient, hard,
full of rancour and useless grief and penal despair, and breaks down the
man on whom it has fastened, and hinders him from energy and wholesome
sorrow, as it is unreasonable, and not only hampers the efficacy of his
prayers, but actually destroys all those fruits of the Spirit of which
we spoke, which that other sorrow knows how to produce.
Note for Book 9, Chapter 11
1. Gal. 5:22, 23.
CHAPTER XII. That except
that wholesome sorrow, which springs up in three ways, all sorrow and dejection should be resisted as hurtful.
WHEREFORE except that sorrow which is endured either for the sake of
saving penitence, or for the sake of aiming at perfection, or for the desire
of the future, all sorrow and dejection must equally be resisted, as belonging
to this world, and being that which "worketh death," and must be entirely
expelled from our hearts like the spirit of fornication and covetousness
CHAPTER XIII. The means by which
we can root out dejection from our hearts.
WE should then be able to expel this most injurious passion from our
hearts, so that by spiritual meditation we may keep our mind constantly
occupied with hope of the future and contemplation of the promised blessedness.
For in this way we shall be able to get the better of all those sorts of
dejection, whether those which flow from previous anger or those which
come to us from disappointment of gain, or from some loss, or those which
spring from a wrong done to us, or those which arise from an unreasonable
disturbance of mind, or those which bring on us a deadly despair, if, ever
joyful with an insight into things eternal and future, and continuing immovable,
we are not depressed by present accidents, or over-elated by prosperity,
but look on each condition as uncertain and likely soon to pass away.