Gregorius Moralia EN 431
432 (Jb 3,5)
Because the eye in fog is helpless, the confusion of our mind that comes of repentance is called fog. For just as a fog darkens the day with a mass of cloud, so confusion darkens the mind with muddled thoughts. Thus it was said through one man, "There is a confusion that brings glory." For when we bring our sins back to mind in repentance, soon we are disturbed by great sorrow. A crowd of thoughts clamor in the mind, sorrow grinds us down, anxiety lays waste to our strength, the mind is full of trouble and covered by cloud and mist. This same mist of confusion had healthfully covered the mind of those to whom Paul said, "What profit did you have in those things for which you are now blushing?" Let fog cover this day of sin, therefore, that is, let the pain of repentance displace the allure of wickedness with fitting sorrow.
433 (Jb 3,5)
Day is shrouded in bitterness when the mind recovers its senses and the pains of penance follow the pleasures of sin. We shroud the day in bitterness when we see the punishments that follow upon the joy of wicked delight and surround that joy with bitter tears. Because that which is "shrouded" is covered on all sides, he asks that the day be shrouded in bitterness, so that all will see what evil things threaten on all sides for those who do not change their ways and so that all will clean away pleasure's impurity with sadness and lamentation.
434 But if we hear this day (which we have called the "delight of sin")
attacked by so many prayers (so that tears on all sides should atone for whatever delight the soul has fallen into through negligence), with how much sterner penitential discipline is the night of this day to be assailed, the night which stands for our consent to sin? For just as it is a lesser fault when the mind is led astray by delights of the flesh, but still resists those delights in the spirit, so it is full and grave wickedness not only to be lured to sin by thoughts of pleasure but even to enter the service of sin by consenting to it. The mind requires a harsher hand in repentance if it is to be cleansed from pollution, when it sees that it has been defiled by consenting to sin. So it is added,
435 (Jb 3,6)
The spirit stirred up by sorrow is a kind of stormy whirlwind, for when a man realizes the sin he has committed and when he weighs carefully the wickedness of his deed, he clouds over his mind with sorrow and blasts away all the tranquility of heart that he finds in himself with a storm of penance, as if he had to roil the skies of serenity and happiness with clouds and wind. For unless this whirlwind had struck the mind brought face to face with itself, the prophet would not have said, "With a violent wind you shall batter the ships of Tharsis." For Tharsis means "to explore one's joys." But when the violent wind of penance seizes the mind, it thwarts all the mind's exploration of reprehensible joys, so that nothing will please it but weeping, nothing will hold its gaze but that which terrifies it. It puts before the eyes on one side the severity of justice, on the other side sin and its guilt; it sees the punishment it would deserve if pity should be absent, the pity that rescues us from eternal punishment when we weep for our sins here and now. So a violent wind batters the ships of Tharsis if the power of compunction assails our minds at a time when they are given over to the power of this world, as ships are given over to the sea, and we are confounded by a healthful terror. So let it be said, "May a black whirlwind take possession of that night," that is, 'Let the sins we commit not be encouraged by the delights of quiet and security, but let the rampaging bitterness of penance fall upon them--compassionately.'
36 We must recognize that when we leave our sins unatoned,
we are possessed by the night. But when we punish them ourselves with the discipline of penance, we take possession of the night we have made. So it is said in the divine voice to Cain when he contemplates evil, "Your sin will be at the door, but the desire for it will be beneath you and you will be lords over it." Sin is at the door when it comes knocking in our thoughts; but its desire is beneath us and we are lords over it if the wickedness of the heart's imagination is rejected quickly and subjected to the mind's discipline before it can grow and harden. For the mind might to sense its fault quickly and control the tyranny of sin by its own power through penance, it can rightly be said, "May a black whirlwind take possession of that night," as if to say openly, 'Lest the mind be captured and
enslaved to sin, may it not leave its sins free of repentance.' And because we confidently hope that whatever we attack in ourselves with tears will not be thrown up against us by the judge to come, it is well added:
437 (Jb 3,6)
The year of our enlightenment is brought to an end when the eternal judge appears to the church and the pilgrimage of its life is completed. Then it receives the reward for its labors when it has served out this time of war and returned to the homeland. So it is well said through the prophet, "You shall bless the crown of the year with your goodness." For it is as if the "crown of the year" is blessed when the time of labor is ended and virtue receives its reward. The days of this year are the individual virtues, and its months are the many deeds of these virtues.
But see how, when the mind is filled with confidence at the hope that its virtues will be rewarded by the judge to come, there return to the memory as well the evil things we have done. We greatly fear that the strict judge who comes to reward virtues might also examine and weigh carefully things that have been done against his will. We fear that when he brings the year to completion, he may also count in this "night." So let it be said of this night, "May it not be counted among the days of the year, nor numbered in the months." This is as if Job were to beseech the strict judge and say, 'When the time of the holy church is at an end and you reveal yourself at the last judgment, may you reward the gifts you have given in such a way that you do not ask after the evil things we have done.' For if that night is counted in the days of the year, everything we have done is put in doubt by awareness of the wicked deeds we have done. And the days of the virtues already fail to shine if the dark confusion of our night, should be counted in the sight of God and overshadow the days.
438 But if we do not want questions asked about our night,
we must now be ever vigilant and watch with great care, that no fault should remain unpunished in us, that the mind should not dare to defend the wickedness we enact and so, by defending it, add wickedness to wickedness.
439 (Jb 3,7)
There are those who not only fail to weep for what they have done but who even go on praising and defending it. And surely when sin is defended, it is doubled. Against this it was rightly said through a certain man, "Have you sinned? Do not add to it again." We add sin to sin when we defend the things we have done wrong, and we do not leave a night solitary by itself when we add the crime of defending our iniquity to the darkness of the original guilt.
Thus the first man, when he was asked about the night of his error, did not let that night be solitary, but added to it by making excuse when he was really being called to repent by God's question: "The woman whom you gave me as a helper gave me to eat of the tree, and I ate." He is surreptitiously twisting the guilt for his sin back on his creator, as if to say, 'You gave me the occasion of sin when you gave me the woman.' The branches of this sin grow from this root to the present day, so that when we do wrong, we defend what we have done. So let Job say, "Let that night be solitary, and unworthy of praise." This is as if he prayed openly, saying, 'Let the sin we have committed remain alone, lest we ensnare ourselves all the more in the sight of our judge by praising and defending what we have done.' We should not have sinned, but would that we could leave our sin alone, and not add others to it!
440 In this regard we should realize that we are really punishing
our own fault when we are no longer stirred to the love of this world by any desire for prosperity, when we see how fraudulent are the enticements of this world and learn to treat its blessings as if they were persecutors.
441 (Jb 3,8)
This is as if to say, 'The people who truly attack the darkness of this night with their repentance are the ones who already despise and trample upon the light of this world's prosperity.' For if we take the day to be the pleasure of delight, then rightly is it said of this night, 'Let them curse the night, who curse that day.' For those people are truly correcting their past sins through the discipline of penance if they are led astray by no delightful and deceptive ideas of goodness. If there are some faults that still delight, it is false to think that the others are being sincerely deplored. But if, as we said, we take the ancient enemy's suggestion to be the "day" here, then we must assume that those who curse the day curse the night; for we truly punish our past sins when we uncover the traps of the wicked seducer at the first sign of his gentle encouragement.
442 (Jb 3,8)
All those who trample on the things of the world in their minds and long for the things of God with all their hearts are waking Leviathan to rise against themselves, because they enflame his malice by the example of their way of life. Those who are subjected to his will are justly and quietly possessed by him, and their proud king enjoys a kind of security when he rules over their hearts with unquestioned power. But when some spirit grows warm with desire for its creator, when it casts off the idleness of neglect and the chill of numbness and torpor, then it can truly catch fire with holy love. It remembers its inborn liberty and is ashamed to be held as a slave by the enemy. Then the enemy thinks that it is being despised, seeing the soul take up the ways of God, and he grieves that his captive struggles against him. And soon is he stirred to envy, soon is he moved to resist, soon he stirs himself up to send countless temptations against the rebellious spirit, and bestirs himself to every kind of wounding attack, to let fly the darts of temptation and pierce the heart he had long held quietly under his thumb. It is as if Leviathan were sleeping quietly before, when he lay at peace in the wicked heart, but was roused to provoke battle when he lost the authority of his perverse lordship.
So the people who curse this night are the ones who are ready to wake Leviathan. They judge themselves severely and rise to fight against sin, and they are not afraid to waken the ancient adversary and face his temptations. It is written, "My son, entering the Lord's service, stand fast in justice and in awe and prepare your soul to face temptation." Whoever leaps to gird himself to serve the Lord is preparing to do battle against the ancient adversary, to bear the blows of battle as a free man against the tyrant he had once served quietly in captivity. But because the mind girds itself against the enemy, subduing some vices and struggling with others, sometimes some less harmful fault is allowed to remain.
443 And often the mind which overcomes many grave crises,
though it be ever so watchful, will not eradicate one single vice, some little thing. This is in accord with divine providence, lest the soul, shining with virtue on all sides, should be carried away by pride. When we see something reprehensible left in ourselves that we cannot control, we know to attribute the victories we can win not to ourselves, but to our creator.
444 (Jb 3,9)
The stars of this night are darkened by mist when people who shine with virtue reluctantly continue to bear with some dark little fault within. Though they shine with the brightness of life, they still unwillingly carry with them a little remnant of the night. This happens, as I have said, so the mind in its advance to strength and justice might be strengthened by its own weakness. The mind will shine all the more truly for the contrast of having small faults darken and humble it against its will.
So when the Israelites had come to the promised land and were portioning it out, the Canaanites were not slaughtered but made to pay tribute to the tribe of Ephraim, as it is written, "The Canaanite lived in the midst of Ephraim as a tributary." What do the Canaanites, a pagan nation, stand for if not vice? And often by our great virtues we enter the promised land because we are strengthened within by hope in eternity. But among our high and fine deeds we still cling to some little vices, as though allowing the Canaanite to live in our land. He is made a tributary when we turn the vices we cannot subdue humbly to our own use, so that even on the heights of virtue the mind will continue to set a low value on itself by realizing that it is unable to wipe out even its least desires by its own forces. So it is well written: "These are the nations which the Lord has abandoned, to use them for the education of Israel." Some of our lesser vices hang on for this purpose, to keep our attention focused cautiously on the contest and keep us from taking pride in a victory, where we see the enemy still living in our midst and fear we may yet be conquered by him. Israel is educated by the nations that are saved when the pride we take in our virtue is checked by our lesser vices and we learn from the little things that hold out against us that our great victories were not won by our own strength.
445 But what is said here ("Let the stars be darkened by its mist")
can be taken another way. That night (namely, our consent to the sin which has been transmitted to us from the fall of our first parent) strikes the eye of the mind with such darkness that in the exile of this life we are hemmed in by dark blindness, so no matter how hard we struggle to perceive the light of eternity, we are unable to penetrate the darkness. After the fall, we are born as condemned sinners and we come to this life already deserving to die. When we lift the eye of the mind to see the ray of heavenly light, we are clouded over with the darkness of our own weakness. There are many people so fortified with virtue for all the weakness of the flesh that they can shine before the world like stars. There are many in the darkness of this life who present themselves as good examples to us and shine on us like the stars above. But however their good works may shine, however they inflame themselves with the fire of compunction, it is clear that as long as they are burdened by corruptible flesh, they cannot see the light of eternity just as it really is.
So let it be said, "Let the stars be darkened by its mist." That is, let good people feel the darkness of the ancient night in their contemplation, though it is clear that their virtues are pouring rays of light down on the rest of the human race in this misty life. Even if they have reached the heights of the mind, they are still weighed down to the depths by the burden of the first sin. Outwardly they offer their good example like the shining light of the stars, but inwardly they are burdened by the mist of this night and cannot rise to the certitude that comes with unwavering vision.
But often the mind is so inflamed that, though it is still in the flesh, it is snatched up to God with all of the flesh's burden of thought left behind. Yet it still does not see God as he is because the weight of the first damning sin still weighs the mind down with the corruptible flesh. The mind often desires to be swallowed up just as it is, to reach the eternal life, if this were possible, without the experience of bodily death. So Paul could yearn ardently for the interior light, but still fear the pains of the body's outward death, saying, "We who are in this dwelling, we groan with our burdens, because we do not want to be
robbed of what we have, but to be clothed again from without so that what is mortal in us might be swallowed up by life." Holy people therefore long to see the true dawn and if this is granted hope to reach the sanctuary of the interior light while still in the body. But however ardent is the ambition that propels them, the ancient night still weighs them down and the just judge keeps the eyes of the flesh, which the clever enemy had opened to the service of concupiscence, from seeing the inner glory of his light.
446 (Jb 3,9)
However searchingly the mind on its pilgrimage struggles to see the light just as it is, it cannot succeed because the blindness that comes as punishment for sin hides that light from the mind. The coming of the dawn is that new birth of resurrection by which the holy church, roused even in the flesh, rises to contemplate the light of eternity. If the resurrection of our flesh were not a kind of birth, Truth would not have said of it, "In rebirth, when the Son of Man shall sit in the seat of his majesty." He saw this rising and he called it rebirth. But however powerfully the elect shine forth here and now, they cannot yet reach the glory of that new birth by which they will rise to contemplate the light of eternity in the resurrected flesh. So also Paul says that, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, and the heart of man has not risen to see the things God has prepared for those who love him." So let it be said, "Let it watch for the light and not see it, nor the coming of the rising dawn," for our weakness is darkened by the sin of our own making, and unless we first pay the price of sin with our death, we cannot reach the brightness of the interior light.
As was said above, "did not close" means "opened" and "did not take away" means "gave." For this night (namely, sin) opened the portals of the belly because it unlocked the desires of concupiscence for man, who was conceived for sin. For the portals of the belly are the desires of fleshly concupiscence, of which it is said through the prophet, "Enter into your chambers, close your portals." We enter our chambers when we enter the secret places of our mind; but we close the portals when we restrain our illicit desires. When our mind gives in and opens these portals of fleshly concupiscence, they lead the way to countless evils and corruptions. So now we groan under the weight of mortality, even though we have come to this place of our own choice, because the justice of judgment demands that what we have chosen voluntarily we should go on bearing involuntarily.
448Come forth from the womb, why did I not perish straightaway? Why was I taken to sit in the lap? Why nursed at the breast? (Jb 3,11-12)
Far be it from us to believe that blessed Job, endowed with such spiritual knowledge, rewarded with such praise by the judge within, really wished he had died at birth. But just as his rewards prove that he has an inner witness to his true strength, so we must consider the inner weight of his words.
449 We sin in our hearts in four different ways;
we sin in our deeds likewise in four different ways. In the heart we sin at the stages of suggestion, delight, consent, and bold self-defense. The suggestion comes from the adversary, the delight comes from the flesh, consent comes from the spirit, and the bold self-defense springs from our pride. The sin which ought to terrify the mind actually raises it up and fills it with pride, even as it is really casting it down; lifting it higher, it really trips it up.
So the ancient enemy broke down the rectitude of the first man by these four blows. The serpent persuaded, Eve delighted, Adam consented, and when he was questioned he refused to confess his guilt, boldly defending himself. This goes on happening daily in the human race, as we know it happened already in the first parent of our race. The serpent persuaded: for the hidden enemy secretly suggests wickedness to the hearts of men. Eve delighted: for the senses of the flesh at the serpent's bidding soon enslave themselves to delight. Adam, who had been set over the woman, consented: for when the flesh is captured by delight, even the spirit is weakened and turns away from its rectitude. When he was questioned Adam declined to confess his fault: for the spirit is hardened more wickedly to cling to the audacity of its own ruination just because by sin it is separated from the truth.
In the same four ways, sin is accomplished in our deeds. First sin is secret, then overt (before the eyes of men without ambiguity), then habitual, and finally alive and nourished either by the lure of false hope or by the stubbornness of wretched despair.
450 Blessed Job considers these four stages of sin,
whether they occur hiddenly in the heart or openly in our deeds, and he laments the fall of the human race through these four stages of sin when he says, "Why did I not die in the birth canal? Come forth from the womb, why did I not perish straightaway? Why was I taken to sit in the lap? Why nursed at the breast?" The birth canal of our conception was the tongue that suggested wickedness; the sinner dies at birth when he envisions his coming death at the moment the suggestion is heard. But he comes forth from the womb because after the tongue's suggestion has conceived him in sin, soon delight snatches him out and sends him abroad. After he emerges he is taken up on the lap because when he goes out to experience the delights of the flesh, he brings his sin to fulfillment through the consent of the spirit, supported by the senses as if sitting on a lap. But once taken up on the lap, the sinner is even nursed at the breast: for once the spirit has been bound to its consent to sin, empty confidence gives birth to many rationalizations, which nourish the soul now born to sin with a poisonous milk and coddle it with pleasant excuses lest it fear the harsh punishment of death.
So the first man was all the bolder after his sin, saying, "The woman, whom you gave to me as a comrade, gave me to eat of the tree and I ate." For in his fear he had fled as if to hide himself, but once questioned he made it clear how much he was swollen with pride in spite of his fear. When we fear some present punishment for our sin and cease to love the face of God we have lost, our fear comes from pride, not humility. It is pride that makes us cling to our sin as long as we go unpunished.
451 But just as the four stages apply to the sin of the heart,
so too they describe the sins of our deeds. It says, "Why did I not die in the birth canal?" The birth canal of sin is the hidden fault of a man that secretly conceives him for a life of sin and keeps him, already guilty, hidden in shadows.
"Come forth from the womb, why did I not perish straightaway?" The sinner comes through the birth canal from the womb when he does not blush to commit openly the sins which he has hitherto committed in hiding. They had come through the birth canal from out of hiding when the prophet said of them, "And they have proclaimed their sin like Sodom, and they have not hidden it."
"Why was I taken to sit in the lap?" While the sinner is not yet disturbed and routed from his iniquity, his iniquity is fortified by the routines of a bad habit. The sinner is coddled in the lap so that he might grow in sin, while his guilt is strengthened to flourish through habit.
"Why nursed at the breast?" When guilt begins to turn into habit, then it feeds itself on a false hope of divine mercy or on the plain misery of despair. It will not try to correct itself, either because it pretends to itself that it can expect extraordinary compassion from the creator, or because it already fears extraordinarily what it has done.
Blessed Job therefore sees the sins of the human race, how it is plunged headlong into the snare of iniquity, and so he says, "Why did I not die in the birth canal?" That is, 'At the moment I began in secret to sin, why did I refuse to mortify the life of the flesh?' "Come forth from the womb, why did I not perish straightaway?" That is, 'After I began to sin openly, why did I not then at least recognize my ruin?' "Why was I taken to sit in the lap?" That is, 'Even after I had sinned openly, why did that habit take hold of me to make me stronger at sinning, and why did it encourage me in my wicked habits?' "Why nursed at the breast?" That is, 'After I had fallen into the habit of sin, why did I fortify myself for even worse wickedness with the confidence of false hope or the milk of wretched despair?
For when sin becomes habit, the spirit resists but feebly, if it tries at all, because the more habitual sin becomes, the more chains ensnare the mind. So the mind becomes listless when it cannot be freed, and turns to the solace of false consolation. It promises itself that the judge to come will be so great in mercy that he will not utterly destroy even those whom he finds liable to his judgments. In addition to this, worse, many others like him speak up to voice agreement, making his sins worse with their praise. So it happens that his guilt grows constantly, nourished by their applause. The wound fails to be cured because it seems to have earned the reward of praise. So it is well said through Solomon, "My son, if sinners have nursed you, do not give in to them." Sinners nurse us when they suggest with honeyed words sins we might commit or when they praise our misdeeds with their applause. Or was not the one of whom the psalmist spoke being nursed? "For the sinner is praised for the desires of his soul and the one who has done wrong is blessed."
452 We must also realize that the first three stages of sins
are more or less easily corrected according to their place in the order of descent, but the fourth is more difficult to amend. So our Redeemer could raise from the dead the girl at home, the young man outside the gate, and Lazarus in the tomb. The one who was lying dead at home was the one who had sinned secretly. The one who was already outside the gate is the one whose iniquity had been laid bare through shameless public wrongdoing. The one held down by the weight of the tomb is the one burdened by the power of habit in the commission of sin. But our Redeemer had pity on these and called them back to life, for often divine grace shines with the light of its regard not only on those who have sinned secretly, but even on those who have sinned openly, and sometimes even on those weighed down by wicked habit.
But a fourth dead man our Redeemer heard of from a disciple but he did not raise him, because it is very difficult for one who has added the praise of his adulators to the habit of sin to be called back from the death of the mind. So it was well said to him, "Let the dead bury their dead." The dead bury the dead when sinners swamp other sinners with their applause. To sin is nothing else than to die. But to honor the sinner with our praise is to hide a dead man under a heap of our words. Lazarus was buried, but not by other dead. Faithful women had covered him, and told of his death to the one who gave life, so he came straightaway to the light: for when the soul dies in sin it is more quickly returned to life if the thought of others goes on living over it. But sometimes as we said above, no false hope seizes the mind, but a worse despair transfixes it, and when it loses all hope of grace it feeds its soul the more abundantly on the milk of error.
453 So let the holy man consider what worse things mankind has done
since the first sin. Paradise once lost, see in what rough lands of exile he settles. Job says, "Why did I not die in the birth canal?" That is, when the suggestion of the serpent conceived me for a life of sin, I wish then that I had known the death that would pursue me, so I would not have let suggestion lead me to delight and bind me to death more tightly.
"Come forth from the womb, why did I not perish straightaway?" It is as if he should say, 'Would that when I came out to delight in things of the world, I had realized I was depriving myself of the light that shines within. And at least I would have died in the hour I first knew that delight and so escaped the more bitter death that comes to those who consent to sin.'
"Why was I taken to sit in the lap?" In other words: 'Would that I had not consented to sin, had not made my senses slaves to wickedness, to keep my consent from leading me on to bold self-defense.'
"Why nursed at the breast?" As if he said, 'Would that at least I had not deceived myself after my sins were committed, not bound myself more wickedly to sin by coddling myself in it.' By these words of reproach, he accuses himself of having sinned in the sin of the first parent.
But suppose man had never descended to this trouble and exile: let him speak instead of the peace he could have enjoyed then:
Man was placed in paradise to this end, that if he bound himself in chains of love to obey his creator, he would at length cross over to the heavenly home of the angels without undergoing the death of the flesh.
He was created immortal in this way, that if he sinned he could still die; he was created mortal in this way, that if he did not sin, he would not die. By the merits of his free will he could reach that happy region in which he could neither sin nor die. So now after the time of redemption, when the elect pass over after the death of the flesh, there they will be where our first parents, if they had stood fast in the state in which they were created, could already have gone free of bodily death. So man would sleep silently and rest in this sleep, having been led to the rest of the eternal homeland, as if finding a quiet place away from the noise of human frailty.
For after his sin, man kept watch and cried out, enduring reluctantly the contentiousness of the flesh. Man was created to have silence and repose, when he was given free choice of the will against his enemy, but because he gave in to the enemy freely, soon he found what would surround him with noise, soon he found tumult in a struggle with weakness. Although in silence and peace he had been created by his maker, in free subjection to his enemy he endured the roar of battle. The suggestion of the flesh is a kind of noise unsettling the quiet of the mind--a noise man had not heard before his transgression, for then he had no infirmity to bear. After he gave in freely to the enemy, he was bound by chains of guilt in unwilling service to the enemy and suffered the uproar of the mind as flesh struggled with spirit. Was it not an inner uproar that spoke words of a wicked law to the man who said, "I see another law in my members struggling against the law of my mind and taking me captive according to the law of sin, which is in my members." Let then the holy man contemplate the peace of heart he could have known if man had not listened to the words of the serpent and so let him say, "For now would I be sleeping silently and be at rest in my sleep." That is, 'In the quiet places of the mind I would withdraw to contemplate my creator, if the sin of the first consent had not dragged me out into the tumult of the temptations.
He then mentions the comrades with whom he would have enjoyed the pleasures of this peace, saying:
Gregorius Moralia EN 431