St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622)
Catholic belief, prayers and spiritual teaching
St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622)
|TREATISE ON THE LOVE OF GOD|
By St Francis de Sales
Book I. Containing A Preparation For The Whole Treatise.
Ch 3. How the will governs the sensual appetite.
The will then, Theotimus, bears rule over the memory, understanding and fancy, not by force but by authority, so that she is not infallibly obeyed any more than the father of a family is always obeyed by his children and servants.
It is the same as regards the sensitive appetite, which, as S. Augustine says, is called in us sinners concupiscence, and is subject to the will and understanding as the wife to her husband, because as it was said to the woman: "Be under thy husband, and he shall have dominion over thee",(1) so was it said to Cain, "that the lust of sin should be under him and he should have dominion over it".(2) And this being under means nothing else than being submitted and subjected to him.
"O man," says S. Bernard, "it is in thy power if thou wilt to bring thy enemy to be thy servant so that all things may go well with thee; thy appetite is under thee and thou shalt domineer over it. Thy enemy can move in thee the feeling of temptation, but it is in thy power if thou wilt to give or refuse consent. In case thou permit thy appetite to carry thee away to sin, then thou shalt be under it, and it shall domineer over thee, for whosoever sinneth is made the servant of sin, but before thou sinnest, so long as sin gets not entry into thy consent, but only into thy sense, that is to say, so long as it stays in the appetite, not going so far as thy will, thy appetite is subject unto thee and thou lord over it."
Before the Emperor is created he is subject to the
electors' dominion, in whose hands it is to reject
him or to elect him to the imperial dignity; but
being once elected and elevated by their means,
henceforth they are under him and he rules over them.
Before the will consents to the appetite, she rules
over it, but having once given consent she becomes
Now this concupiscence or sensual appetite has twelve movements, by which as by so many mutinous captains it raises sedition in man. And because ordinarily they trouble the soul and disquiet the body; insomuch as they trouble the soul, they are called perturbations, insomuch as they disquiet the body they are named passions, as S. Augustine declares. They all place before themselves good or evil, the former to obtain, the latter to avoid.
If good be considered in itself according to its natural goodness it excites love, the first and principal passion; if good be regarded as absent it provokes us to desire; if being desired we think we are able to obtain it we enter into hope; if we think we cannot obtain it we feel despair; but when we possess it as present, it moves us to joy.
On the contrary, as soon as we discover evil we hate it, if it be absent we fly it, if we cannot avoid it we fear it; if we think we can avoid it we grow bold and courageous, but if we feel it as present we grieve; and then anger and wrath suddenly rush forth to reject and repel the evil or at least to take vengeance for it. If we cannot succeed we remain in grief. But if we repulse or avenge it we feel satisfaction and satiation which is a pleasure of triumph, for as the possession of good gladdens the heart, so the victory over evil exalts the spirits.
And over all this multitude of sensual passions
the will bears empire, rejecting their suggestions,
repulsing their attacks, hindering their effects, or
at the very least sternly refusing them consent,
without which they can never harm us, and by refusing
which they remain vanquished, yea in the long run
broken down, weakened, worn out, beaten down, and if
not altogether dead, at least deadened or mortified.
Aulus Gellius having gone on sea with a famous Stoic, a great tempest arose, at which the Stoic being frightened began to grow pale, to blench and to tremble so sensibly that all in the boat perceived it, and watched him curiously, although they were in the same hazard with him.
In the meantime the sea grew calm, the danger passed, and safety restoring to each the liberty to talk and even to rally one another, a certain voluptuous Asiatic reproached him with his fear, which had made him aghast and pale at the danger, whereas the other on the contrary had remained firm and without fear. To this the Stoic replied by relating what Aristippus, a Socratic philosopher, had answered a man, who for the same reason had attacked him with the like reproach; saying to him: "As for thee, thou hadst no reason to be troubled for the soul of a wicked rascal : but I should have done myself wrong not to have feared to lose the life of an Aristippus".
And the value of the story is, that Aulus Gellius, an eye-witness, relates it. But as to the Stoic's reply contained therein, it did more commend his wit than his cause, since bringing forward this comrade in his fear, he left it proved by two irreproachable witnesses, that Stoics were touched with fear, and with the fear which shows its effects in the eyes, face and behaviour, and is consequently a passion.
A great folly, to wish to be wise with an impossible wisdom Truly the Church has condemned the folly of that wisdom which certain presumptuous Anchorites would formally have introduced, against which the whole Scripture but especially the great Apostle, cries out: "We have a law in our body which resisteth the law of our mind".(3) "Amongst us Christians," says the great S. Augustine, "according to holy Scripture and sound doctrine, the citizens of the sacred city of Gods living according to God, in the pilgrimage of this world fear, desire, grieve, rejoice."
Yea even the sovereign King of this city has feared, desired, has grieved and rejoiced, even to tears, wanness, trembling, sweating of blood; though in him as these were not the motions of passions like ours, the great S. Jerome, and after him the School durst not use the name, passions, for reverence of the person in whom they were, but the respectful name, pro-passions.
This was to testify that sensible movements in Our
Saviour held the place of passions, though they were
not such indeed, seeing that he suffered or endured
nothing from them except what seemed good to him and
as he pleased, which we sinners cannot do, who suffer
and endure these motions with disorder, against our
wills, to the great prejudice of the good estate and
polity of our soul.