Higher Math and Spiritual Combat


Higher Math and Spiritual Combat Revisited

A brief comment on this passage:

from Spiritual Combat Revisited by Jonathan Robinson, based on the orginal by Lorenzo Scupoli

In the face of this neglect, or ignorance, of the first principles of the spiritual life, we have to restate what should be at the basis of any spirituality that claims to be Christian. Scupoli says that the spiritual life consists in:
1. "the knowledge of the goodness and the greatness of God, and of our nothingness and inclination to all evil";
2. "the love of him and the hatred of ourselves";
3. "subjection, not to him alone, but, for love of him, to all his creatures";
4. "entire renunciation of all will of our own, and absolute resignation to all his divine pleasure";
5. "willing and doing all this purely for the glory of God and solely to please him, and because he so wills and merits thus to be loved and served."

We see that there are four first priniciples, and none of them is, at first sight, particularly attractive. If we are to accept them as the basis for the realignment of our lives, then we will have to begin by understanding what they mean. In the first place, we are told that the spiritual life consists in knowledge about God and ourselves; then, secondly, that we are to love God and hate ourselves; thirdly, that our love for God must show itself in uniting ourselves to him by trying to do what he wants us to do; and finally, the motive for doing all this is for the glory of God and because God, just because he is who he is, deserves to be so loved and served.

Besides a quibble about the Ignatius Press house style that does not capitalize pronouns related to God ( a preference of mine), this presents one other problem. No matter how I look at it, Scupoli enunciates five first principles, the most problematic and tantilizing of which is remanded to obscurity with nary a comment. Why include it if not to comment on it? What does number 3 above mean? And is it a foundational prinicple? I am disturbed by this elision without comment.

Did Robinson wish to be complete and fair to Scupoli's teaching and then abridge it as appropriate to modern understanding? (For reference, passages further on in the book do not appear to refer back to this point.) I am intrigued by it because it is so suggestive. Are we called for love of God to be subject to all His creatures? If so, in what does this subjection consist? If not, can the statement be modified to more accurately reflect what we ARE called to? For example, are we called to be servants to all our brethren? Cursory reading of the Bible would suggest that this is exactly the role each of us is to serve.

The point here is not to make a mountain out of a molehill, but to examine carefully what the first principles of Christian Life really are. If we are to meditate upon them, as Robinson suggests, then perhaps we should give some thought to assuring that what we are examining are indeed the first principles and are worthy of the time and attention of meditation during prayer.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on May 5, 2003 6:40 PM.

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