Like the sun which shines on all alike, vainglory beams on every occupation. What I mean is this. I fast, and turn vainglorious. I stop fasting so that I will draw no attention to myself, and I become vainglorious over my prudence. I dress well or badly, and I am vainglorious in either case. I talk or hold my peace, and each time I am defeated. No matter how I shed this prickly thing, a spike remains to stand up against me.
The insensitive man is a foolish philosopher, an exegete condemned by his own words, a scholar who contradicts himself, a blind man teaching sight to others. He talks about healing a wound and does not stop making it worse. He complains about what has happened and does not stop eating what is harmful. He prays against it but carries on as before, doing it and angry with himself. And the wretched man is in no way shamed by his own words. “I’m doing wrong,” he cries, and zealously continues to do so. His lips pray against it and his body struggles for it. He talks profoundly about death and acts as if he will never die. He groans over the separation of soul and body, and yet lives in a state of somnolence as if he were eternal. He has plenty to say about self-control and fights for a gourmet life. He reads about the judgment and begins to smile, about vainglory and is vainglorious while he is reading. He recites what he has learnt about keeping vigil, and at once drops off to sleep. Prayer he extols, and runs from it as if from a plague. Blessings he showers on obedience, and is the first to disobey. Detachment he praises, and he shamelessly fights over a rag. When he is angry he gets bitter, and then his bitterness makes him angry, so that having suffered one defeat he fails to notice that he has suffered another. He gorges himself, is sorry, and a little later is at it again. He blesses silence and cannot stop talking about it. He teaches meekness and frequently gets angry while he is teaching it. Having come to his senses, he sighs and shaking his head he embraces his passion once more. He denounces laughter, and while lecturing on mourning he is all smiles. In front of others he criticizes himself for being vainglorious, and in making the admission he is looking for glory. He looks people in the eye with passion and talks about chastity. Out in the world he is full of praise for the solitary life and cannot see how much he is disgracing himself. He glorifies almsgivers and despises the poor. In everything he shows himself up for what he is, and does not come to his senses, though I would not say he was incapable of doing so.
I’m guilty of most of those things. I’m also likely to be guilty of recognizing my guilt and doing little about it, just as the passage describes. What kind of special hypocrite does that make me?
“Do not say that you are interested in money for the sake of the poor, for two mites were sufficient to purchase the kingdom of heaven (cf. Luke 21:2).”
“The pretext of almsgiving is the start of avarice, and the finish is detestation of the poor. The collector is stirred by charity, but, when the money is in, the grip tightens.”
“A man who has embraced poverty offers up prayer that is pure, while a man who loves possessions prays to material images.”
“The man who has tasted the things of heaven easily thinks nothing of what is below, but he who has had no taste of heaven finds pleasure in possessions.”
“The man who thinks nothing of goods has freed himself from quarrels and disputes. But the lover of possessions will fight to the death for a needle. Sturdy faith cuts off cares, and remembrance of death denies the body. There was no trace of avarice in Job, and so he remained tranquil when he lost everything.”
"Do not imagine that you will overwhelm the demon of fornication by entering into an argument with him. Nature is on his side and he has the best of the argument. So the man who decides to struggle against his own flesh and to overcome it by his own efforts is fighting in vain. The truth is that unless the Lord overturns the house of the flesh and builds the house of the soul, the man wishing to overcome it has watched and fasted for nothing. Offer up to the Lord the weakness of your nature. Admit your incapacity and, without your knowing it, you will win for yourself the gift of chastity."
"Our relentless enem, the techer of fornication, whispers that God is lenient and particularly mericfull to this passion, since it is so very natural. Yet if we watch the wiles of the demons we will observe that after we have actually sinned they will affirm that God is a just and inexorable judge. They say that one thing to lead us to sin, another thing to overwhelm us in despair. And if we are sorrowful or inclined to despair, we are slower to sin again, but when the sorrow and the despair have been quenched, the tyranical demon begins to speak to us again of God's mercy."
Having experienced this, I know this to be true.
"We have to be especially sober and watchful when we are lying in bed, for that is the time when our mind has to contend with demons outside the body. And if our body is inclined to be sensual then it will easily betray us. So let the remembrance of death and the concise Jesus Prayergo to sleep with you and get up with you, for nothing helps you as these do when you are asleep."
"All demons try to darken our minds so that they may then sugest to us what they want us to do, and so long as the mind stays awake we will not be robbed of our treasure. But the demon of fornication tries harder than all the others. First, by darkening our minds, which guide us, it urges and inclines us in the presense of other people to do things that only the mad would think of. Then whe our minds are cleared we become ashamed of these unholy deeds, words, and gestures, not only before those who saw us but before ourselves, and we are astounded by this earlier blindness of ours. The result is that frequently as a consequence of realizing what happened, men turn away from this particular evil."
While I haven't performed mad acts in the presense of others, I do know that when I come down from the neurochemical high that pornography and self-abuse induce, I usually feel less than human – a disgusting worm or maggot – and I am indeed "astounded by this earlier blindness". If only that were enough to cure me…
"By what rule or manner can I bind this body of mine? By what precedent can I judge him? Before I can bind him he is let loose, before I can condemn him I am reconciled to him, before I can punish him I bow down to him and feel sorry for him. How can I hate him when my nature disposes me to love him? How can I break away from him when I am bound to him forever? How can I escape from him when he is going to rise with me? How can I make him incorrupt when he has received a corruptible nature? How can I argue with him when all the arguments of nature are on his side?"
"What is this mystery in me? What is the principle of this mixture of body and soul? How can I be my own friend and my own enemy? Speak to me! Speak to me, my yoke-fellow, my nature! I cannot ask anyone else about you. How can I remain uninjured by you? How can I escape the danger of my own nature? I have made a promise to Christ that I will fight you, yet how can I defeat your tyranny? But this I have resolved, namely, that I am going to master you."
"And this is what the flesh might say in reply: 'I will never tell you what you do not already know. I will speak the knowledge we both have. Within me is my begetter, the love fo self. The fire that comes to me from outside is too much pampering and care. The fire within me is past ease and things long done. I conceived and give birth to sins, and theywhen born beget death by despair in their turn. And yet if you have learned the sure and rooted weakness within both you and me, you have manacled my hands. If you starve your longings, you have bound my feet, and they can travel no further. If you have taken up the yoke of obedience, you have cast my yoke aside. If you have taken possession of humility, you have cut off my head.'"
"Talkativeness is the throne of vainglory on which it loves to preen itself and show off. Talkativeness is a sign of ignorance, a doorway to slander, a leader of jesting, a servant of lies, the ruin of compunction, a summoner of despondency, a messenger of sleep, a dissipation of recollection, the end of vigilence, the cooling of zeal, the darkening of prayer."
"Intelligent silence is the mother of prayer, freedom from bondage, custodian of zeal, a guard on our thoughts, a watch on our enemies, a prison of mourning, a friend of tears, a sure recollection of death, a painter of punishment, a concern with judgment, servant of anguish, foe of license, a companion of stillness, the opponent of dogmatism, a growth of knowledge, a hand to shape contemplation, hidden progress, the secret journey upward. For the man who recognizes his sins has taken control of his tongue, while the chatterer has yet to discover himself as he should."
"The lover of silence draws close to God. He talks to Him in secret and God enlightens him. Jesus, by His silence, shamed Pilate; and a man, by his stillness, conquers vainglory. Peter wept bitterly for what he had said. He had forgotten the one who declared: 'I said: I will guard my ways so that I may not sin with my tongue' (Ps. 38:1). He had forgotten too the saying, 'Better to fall from a height to the ground than to slip with the tongue' (Ecclus. 20:18)."