Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Interior Mortification

1. In the spiritual life, as in the physical order, death is the beginning of life. Unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it brings forth much fruit. He who loves his life, loses it; and he who hates his life in this world, keeps it unto life everlasting. (John 12: 24-25)

This passage of the Gospel epitomises the doctrine of Christian mortification-it is necessary to die to ourselves in order to live in God. Anyone who is full of himself and of worldly matters has no room in his heart for God. It is not possible, as St. Alphonsus points out, to fill a vase with earth and then to fill it with water. There is no room left for the water, and if a little of it enters the vase it is no longer pure water, but muddy.

We must empty ourselves of ourselves and of worldly things in order to fill ourselves with God. Jesus told us this quite clearly. If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself. (Mt. 16:24)

If anyone denies himself in order to do God's will in all things, he has achieved real interior mortification. Moreover, he has perfect peace, which consists in being established in the love of God.

This does not mean that all self-love is wrong. In fact, there are two kinds of self-love. We can love our own true good, which is God, and therefore desire to live in harmony with this supreme good in this life in order to enjoy it as our eternal reward. This kind of self love is founded on the love of God, Who is the main reason why we love ourselves. But if we prefer our own pleasure and satisfaction to God, then our selflove is disproportionate and wrong and leads us into sin.

The first thing we must do, therefore, is to mortify our inordinate self-love. In other words, we must deny ourselves in matters where self-love is keeping us apart from God, Whom we should love more than anything else in life.

2. In the process of mortifying self-love, we mortify our other passions also, because it is the origin of them all. It is as well to bear in mind, however, that no matter how much we curb our passions, they never die. We need to be always on our guard for fear that they may reassert themselves too strongly.

It is necessary for us to increase our love for God because, as St. Augustine points out, it is divine charity which conquers our passions. Constant prayer and union with God also help us to achieve interior mortification. Prayer without mortification is an illusion which does not last long, so that it is necessary to combine fervent prayer with self-denial.

We may not be capable of the extraordinary mortification which the Saints practised, because our health or the obligations of our state in life may make these impossible for us. But if we deny ourselves often in small matters, these will be so many steps in the ladder which will help us to reach Christian perfection.

3. Principles:

If you desire to love God and to become holy, mortification will be a source of joy.

Resist your evil inclinations at once so that they cannot grow in strength. Readily accept from God any difficulties which you encounter. Abandon yourself entirely to His will.