The Four Foundations
of Sanctity: Page 5
by SAINT JOHN EUDES
THE THIRD FOUNDATION OF SANCTITY: DETACHMENT FROM THE WORLD
It is not enough for a Christian to be free from vice and to abhor every kind of sin. Beyond that it is necessary to work with diligence and resolution at the task of becoming perfectly detached from the world and from the things of the world.
When I say "the world," I mean
When I say "the world," I mean the corrupt and disordered life led in the world, the damnable spirit that reigns over the world, the perverse sentiments and inclinations which men of the world follow, and the pernicious laws and maxims by which they govern their behavior.
By things of the world, I mean
By the things of the world I mean everything that the world so highly values and loves and strives after, namely, the honors and praises of men, vain pleasures and satisfactions, wealth and temporal comforts, friendships and affections based on flesh and blood, on self-love and selfish interests.
Jesus lived on earth in most perfect detachment
Consider the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, and you will see that He lived on earth in most perfect detachment, stripped of all things. Read His holy Gospel, listen to His words, and you will learn that "everyone of you that doth not renounce all that he possesseth, cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14, 33).
So, if you really desire to be a Christian
So, if you really desire to be a Christian and a disciple of Jesus Christ, and if you wish to continue and express in yourself His holy life of detachment from everything, you must strive to achieve an absolute and universal detachment from the world and from worldly things.
To do this, you should reflect
To do this, you should frequently reflect how the world always has been and always will be opposed to Christ, Whom it has persecuted and crucified, and will persecute and crucify, even to the end of time. Consider that the sentiments and inclinations, the rules and maxims, the life and spirit of the world are so opposed to the sentiments and inclinations, rules and maxims, life and spirit of Jesus that it is impossible for them to subsist together. Christ's sentiments and inclinations lead entirely to the glory of His Father and our sanctification, while those of the world lead only to sin and perdition.
The Spirit of Jesus------The Spirit of the World
The laws and maxims of Jesus are very mild and holy and reasonable. The standards of the world are laws and maxims of Hell, and are diabolical, tyrannical and finally unbearable.
The life of Jesus is a holy life made beautiful by all kinds of virtues; the life of the world is a depraved life, full of disorder and of all sorts of vice.
The Spirit of Jesus is a spirit of light, of truth, of piety, of love, confidence, zeal and reverence for God and for all that belongs to God; the spirit of the world is a spirit of error, of unbelief, of darkness, of suspicion, of dissatisfaction, of impiety, of irreverence and hardness of heart towards God and all the things of God.
The spirit of Jesus is a spirit of humility, of modesty, of self-distrust, of mortification and abnegation, of constancy and of firmness. But the spirit of the world is, by contrast, a spirit of pride, presumption, disordered self-love, fickleness and inconstancy.
The spirit of Jesus is a spirit of mercy, charity, patience, gentleness and of unity with others. But the spirit of the world is a spirit of vengeance, envy, impatience, anger, slander and disunion.
Finally, the spirit of Jesus is the spirit of God, a holy and divine spirit, filled with every grace, virtue, and blessing. It is a spirit of peace and tranquility, which seeks nothing but the interests of God and of His greater glory. The spirit of the world, on the contrary, is the spirit of Satan, for it necessarily follows that, since Satan is the prince of this world, the world is animated and governed by his spirit-----an earthly, carnal and animal Spirit; a spirit motivating all kinds of sin and accursedness; a spirit of unrest and anxiety, of storms and tempests-----spiritus procellarum (Ps. 10, 7), a spirit seeking only its own convenience, satisfaction and interests.
Judge then, if it be possible for the life and spirit of the world to be reconciled with the life and spirit of Christianity, which is none other than the life and spirit of Christ.
If, therefore, you desire to be a true Christian, that is, if you desire to belong perfectly to Jesus Christ, to live His life, to be animated by His spirit and conduct yourself according to His maxims, it is absolutely necessary for you to make up your mind to renounce the world entirely and bid it farewell forever.
In the world as though not of the world
I do not mean that it is necessary for you to leave the world and shut yourself up between four walls, unless God calls you to do so. But I do say that you must try to live in the world as though you were not of the world, that is, you must make a public, generous and unwavering profession of living otherwise than as the world lives, and of rejecting its laws and maxims.
And I tell you not to be ashamed but to enjoy holy pride in being a Christian, in belonging to Jesus Christ, in preferring the saintly maxims and truths that He left you in His holy Gospel, to the pernicious maxims and falsehoods by which the world deceives its disciples.
Have enough courage to make a clean break
I urge you at least to have enough courage and resolution to make a clean break with the standards, sentiments and inclinations of the world, and to despise all its empty speeches and deceptive opinions, just as the world makes a show of impious temerity in despising the laws and maxims of Christianity. It is in this alone that true courage and perfect generosity consist: for what the world calls courage and power of character are nothing but cowardice and pusillanimity. This, then, is what I mean by detachment from the world: renouncing the world, and living in the world as though not of it.
Christ looks upon the world as the object of His hatred and His curse, and as something He plans and desires to burn in the day of His wrath.
If you would firmly establish this detachment from the world in your soul, it is not only necessary for you to strive to break away from the world, but you should even develop a horror for it, like the repugnance in which Christ held it.
Now Christ had such a horror of the world that He not only exhorted you through His beloved Disciple: "Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world." (1 John 2, 15), but He also tells us, through His Apostle St. James, "that the friendship of this world is the enemy of God." (James 4, 4) that is, He considers as His enemies all those who love the world.
He assures you that His Kingdom is not of this world (John 18, 36) any more than He is of this world, and that those whom His Father has given Him are not of this world, just as He is not of it (John 17, 12-16).
Another thing-----more terrifying still: "I pray not for the world,"-----"Now is the judgment of the world."
And another thing-----more terrifying still-----is that He solemnly protested, on the very day when He wrought the greatest miracle of His goodness, namely, the eve of His death, when He was about to pour forth His Precious Blood and give up His life for the salvation of men, "I pray not for the world" (John 17, 9). And in these words He thundered a most frightful anathema, a curse and an excommunication upon the world, declaring it to be unworthy of any share in His prayers or in His mercy.
Finally, He assures us that "now is the judgment of the world" and "now shall the prince of this world be cast out" (John 12, 31). And in fact, the very moment the world fell into the corruption of sin, it was judged by Divine justice and condemned to be burnt and consumed by fire. And although the effect of the sentence was deferred, it will none the less be carried out at the end of time.
Consequently, Christ looks upon the world as the object of His hatred and His curse, and as something He plans and desires to burn in the day of His wrath.
Enter, then, into the feelings of Christ towards the world Enter, then, into the feelings of Christ towards the world, and towards all things that are in the world. From now on, view the world as Jesus Christ does, that is, as the object of His hatred and malediction.
Look upon it as something He forbids you to love, under pain of incurring His enmity.
See it as a thing He has excommunicated and cursed with His own lips, with which you may not, consequently, communicate without participating in the same malediction.
See the world as something He desires to burn and reduce to ashes. Look at all those things which the world most values and loves, like pleasures, honors, riches, worldly friendship and affections, and all other things of this kind, as things which simply pass away, according to this Divine utterance: Mundus transit, et con- cupiscentia ejus (1 John 2, 17).
See all these things as nothing but smoke, deceit and illusion, as vanity and affliction of spirit. Read these truths and reflect upon them often, and each day pray Our Lord to impress them upon your mind.
Plan of Action
To arrive at these dispositions, take a little time each day to adore Jesus in His perfect detachment from the world, begging Him to detach you from it entirely and to impress upon your heart hatred, horror and abomination for the things of the world.
For your own part, see that you do not indulge in the useless visits and conversation that are customary in the world. If you are taken up with these idle occupations, in the name of God leave them at all costs and fly as you would from a plague, from all the places and persons and from any company where the talk is only the world and worldly things. Since such things are discussed with esteem and affection, it is very difficult to avoid carrying away some harmful impression from these conversations.
Besides, you will gain nothing from them but a dangerous loss of time; you will find in them nothing but unhappy dissipation of mind and affliction of spirit, and all you will bring away will be bitterness of heart, coldness in piety, separation from God, and a thousand faults that you may have committed.
As long as you seek out and love the company of men of the world, Jesus Christ whose delight it is to be with the children of men will not take His delight in you and will not give you any taste of the consolations with which He refreshes those who find all their joy in conversing with Him.
Fly then, from the world, I say to you again, fly from it, abhor its life, its spirit and its maxims. Do not make friends with any persons except those whom you can help, or those who can help you and animate you, by word and example, to love Jesus and live in His spirit.
It is no small accomplishment to renounce the world in the manner just described. Yet even this is not enough to give you that perfect detachment which is one of the primary foundations of Christian life. Our Lord cries out to us in a loud voice: "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Matt. 16, 24).
So, then, if you want to be among the followers of Christ and belong to Him, you have to renounce yourself, that is, your own mind, your own ideas, your own will, desires, inclinations and your self-love, because it is your self-love that leads you to hate and avoid anything that might cause pain or mortification to your spirit or your flesh and makes you love and seek out everything that may give them pleasure and contentment.
Two reasons oblige you to practise self-abnegation
First, everything in you is so disordered and depraved, as a result of the corruption of sin, that there is nothing in you that is not contrary to God, and that does not put some obstacle in the way of His plans, or oppose itself to the love and glory you owe Him. Therefore, if you desire to belong to God, you must necessarily renounce yourself and forget and hate and persecute and destroy and annihilate your own self.
Jesus Christ, your head and your model
Secondly, Jesus Christ, your head and your model in Whom there is nothing that is not all holy and Divine, nevertheless lived in so great detachment from Himself and kept His human spirit, His Own will and love of Himself so subordinated that He never did anything according to His Own human light or spirit, but all according to His Father's spirit.
He behaved like a person having no love for Himself of infinite glory and felicity in this world, and of all human pleasures and satisfactions, and sought out and welcomed everything that might cause Him to suffer in His body or in His soul.
Now if you are truly His members, you ought, therefore, to share His sentiments and dispositions, and make a firm resolution to live in future in complete detachment, forgetfulness, and hatred of your own selves.
To do this-----
To do this, make sure that you often adore Jesus in this detachment from Himself and give yourself to Him, begging Him to detach you entirely from yourself, from your own spirit, your own will and your self-love so that He may unite you perfectly to Himself, and govern you in all things according to His spirit, His love and His pure will.
-----Lift up your heart to Him, at the beginning of every action, somewhat like this: "O Jesus, with all my power I renounce myself, my own mind, my own will and my self-love and I give myself all to Thee and to Thy holy spirit and Thy Divine love. Draw me out of myself and direct me in this action according to Thy holy will."
-----Whenever an occasion of disagreement arises because of natural differences of opinion, no matter how sure you may be that you are right, be glad to give up your own opinion and yield to that of someone else, provided the glory of God be not concerned in the matter.
-----When you feel some desire or inclination for one thing or another, lay it at once at the feet of Jesus, assuring Him that you do not wish to have any other will or inclination but His.
-----The moment you perceive yourself to have some sensible weakness or affection for any earthly object, immediately turn your heart and affections to Christ, in this way: "O dear Jesus, I give Thee all my heart and my affections. O Thou only object of my love, make me never love anything except in Thee and for Thee."
-----When someone gives you a word of praise, refer it to Him Who is alone worthy of all honor saying: "O my glory, I desire no other glory but Thine forever. To Thee alone is due all praise, honor and glory, and to me all abjection, shame and humiliation."
-----When something occurs that mortifies your body or spirit, or when you see an occasion to deprive yourself of some satisfaction (such occasions present themselves hourly), accept it with a ready welcome, for the love of Our Lord, and bless Him for giving you an opportunity to mortify you self-love, in honor of His mortifications and privations on earth.
-----Whenever you feel any joy or consolation, refer it to the sublime Source of all consolation, and say to Him: "O Jesus, I desire never to have any contentment but Thine. Ah, my Lord, it is joy enough for me to know that Thou art God, and that Thou art my God! O Jesus, be always Jesus, that is, always full of glory, greatness and joy, and I shall always be satisfied. O my Jesus, never permit me to find my contentment in anything in the world, but in Thee alone. But rather grant that I may say like Queen Esther of old: "Thou knowest, O Lord, that thou handmaid hath never rejoiced, but in Thee" (Esth. 14, 18).
PERFECTION OF CHRISTIAN DETACHMENT
The perfection of Christian detachment does not consist only in being detached from the world and from oneself.
It obliges the soul to be, in a certain sense, detached even from God.
It was expedient for Him to depart from them.
Do you not know that when Our Lord was still on earth, He assured His Apostles that it was expedient for Him to depart from them to go to the Father and send them His Holy Spirit?
Why was this, if not because they were attached to the sensible consolation of the visible presence of His sacred humanity? Now this was an obstacle to the coming of the Holy Spirit, so necessary is it to be detached from all things, no matter how holy and Divine they may be, if you would be animated by the spirit of Jesus, which is the spirit of Christianity.
That is why I say you must be detached, in a certain sense, even from God, that is, from the delights and consolation that ordinarily accompany God's grace and His love.
You must be detached from pious plans You must be detached from the pious plans you have made for God's glory, for the desires you have for greater perfection and love for God, and even from the desire to be delivered from the prison of this body, to see God and to be united with Him perfectly, and to love Him purely, without interruption.
When God allows you to feel the sweetness of His kindness in your devotions, you must be careful not to become attached to this consolation. You must humble yourself at once, considering yourself most unworthy of any consolation, and ready to be stripped of it, to assure Him that you desire to serve and love Him, not for the consolation that He gives, either in this world or in the next, but for love of Himself and merely to please Him.
No attachment to holy tasks . . .
When you have undertaken a holy task or are doing some good work for the glory of God, you must exert every effort to ensure its accomplishment. Nevertheless, you must take care not to become attached to it, so that if, by accident, you are obliged to interrupt this good work, or even leave it altogether, you will not lose your peace and repose of spirit, but remain content in view of the will and permission of God, Who directs all things and is to be equally loved in all.
Do not be carried away by your zeal
Similarly, although you must exert all your energy in trying to conquer your passions, vices and imperfections, and to became master of every kind of virtue, you must nevertheless, work at this without being carried away by your zeal.
So that when you do not perceive in yourself as many virtues, or as much love of God as you would like to see, you may remain at peace and undisturbed, humiliating yourself because of the obstacles you yourself have placed in the path of virtue.
You must try to love your own abjection
You must try to love your own abjection, remaining satisfied with what it pleases God to give you, ever persevering in your desire to make progress, having confidence that Our Lord, in His goodness, will give you the graces you need to serve Him with the perfection He requires of you.
Without anxiety . . .
So, also, however much you ought to be always eager for the happy hour which will entirely take you away from the earth, from sin and from imperfection, and unite you perfectly with God and His pure love, and however much you ought to exert all your power to accomplish God's work in you so that, His work being finished, He may quickly call you back to Him, you must, nevertheless desire this without attachment and without anxiety.
If it be Our Lord's good pleasure for you to remain several more years separated from the most sweet vision of His Divine face, you must remain satisfied with His most adorable will, even if He were to make you bear this bitter privation until the Day of Judgment.
This is what is called detachment from God. In this consists the perfect detachment from the world, and from all things which all Christians should possess. Oh, how sweet it is to be thus free and detached from all things!
Some may think it is very difficult to arrive at such perfection. But it would be easy for you if you gave yourself entirely and unreservedly to the Son of God, and if you placed your reliance and confidence, not in your own powers and resolutions, but in the greatness of His goodness and in the power of His grace and of His love.
More honey than gall
For wherever this Divine love is to be found, all is done with extreme sweetness. True, you must do violence to yourself in certain things, and go through many trials and sufferings, much darkness and mortification; nevertheless, in the ways of holy love, there is more honey than gall, and more sweetness than rigor.
O, my Saviour, what glory Thou hast, what joy Thou takest and what great things dost Thou accomplish in one who walks bravely in these ways, abandoning everything, becoming detached from everything, even in a way from Thee, to give himself more perfectly to Thee! How strongly dost Thou then unite the soul with Thee! With what power dost Thou gain possession of it! How Divinely dost Thou plunge it into the abyss of Thy love! How admirably dost Thou transform it into Thyself, clothing it with Thy qualities, Thy spirit, and Thy love!
What eminent satisfaction, what delightful sweetness it is for a soul to be able to say with truth:
"My God, here I am free and detached from everything! Who will stop me now from loving Thee perfectly? Now I no longer cling to anything. Draw me after Thee, O Jesus. Trahe me post te, curremus in odorem unguentorum tuorum (Cant. 1, 3).
What a consolation it is for a soul to be able to say with the holy Spouse: "My beloved to me, and I to Him" (Cant. 2, 16), and with Jesus, Omnia mea tua sunt, et tua mea sunt, "All my things are Thine, and Thine are mine" (John 17, 10).
Beg Him to break your bonds
Cultivate an earnest desire for this holy detachment. Give yourself entirely and unreservedly to Jesus. Beg Him to break your bonds with the strength of His all powerful arm, to detach you completely from the world, from yourself, and from all things, so that He may work in you, without any obstacle, all that He desires to accomplish for His glory.