Such considerations fill Blessed de Montfort with fear and distrust of self. He supports his statement by the facts of experience when he adds: ‘Alas! as cedars of Lebanon may be seen each day to fall into the mire, and as eagles after having soared up to the sun become birds of the night, so do a thousand of the just fall at my left hand and ten thousand at my right.’
Of whom is Blessed Louis thinking, to whom is he alluding? We do not know of any definite persons. Doubtless Jansenism would have supplied him with some names. In any case, he had in mind those examples, at once so famous and so sad, of falls which history has recorded.
He knew all of those mighty fallen: Origen, Terrullian, Osius of Cordova, Luther, Jansenius and many another.
Behind each individual case was always pride and revolt against a dogma, a truth, an authority, which irked them.
And the rebels of today, condemned by Pius IX, Pius X or Pius XI, are very characteristic types. They are those who will not submit, these dreamers of ingenious systems, as false as they are dangerous. And they have fallen a thousand on the left hand and ten thousand on the right. Happy those who have found salvation and peace in repentance and submission to the Church! Happier, far happier the faithful and the obedient, who need not to pick themselves up and to return!
Each sin is like a capitulation in the face of duty. Now without touching upon great faults, all those petty capitulations which fill and disfigure our supernatural life are merely denials more or less conscious of the right of God to reign over us. If conversions no longer last, if the efforts of our zeal are no longer crowned with success, if personal sanctification is so slow and so difficult, if the just themselves often retreat where they should advance, what are the causes? The first is that corruption, that weakness, that inconstancy of which Blessed de Montfort speaks, the result of original sin and inherent in us. The holy writer has developed this subject at length in the third Truth of his Treatise of the True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin. And the devil and the world take advantage of this original weakness for their own purposes.
This initial cause exists not only in our body of sin but also in our mind which, in the same way, suffered that first fall. Thence come that thoughtlessness, forgetfulness, negligence, abuse even, of Divine grace. How many sins we commit, indeed, how many virtues we neglect, how many good works we omit, how many merits we lose, how much beatific glory in Heaven, because we do not know, because we will not put ourselves out a little, in order to correspond to the grace, the initiative, the inspiration of God!
We are excessively weak and inconstant, and we know it, we feel it by experience. Why then do we act so heedlessly? Why do we neglect the interior watchfulness over our mind and imagination and the exterior watchfulness over our senses? Why do neglect prayer and mortification? Perhaps we put an exaggerated trust in the infinite goodness of God or in our experience and commonsense. Let us beware of such an error of judgment. God is infinitely good, but He is to the last degree just. It is our duty then to serve Him conscientiously.
Does not all this taken together explain our lack of advancement in perfection and certain painful and humiliating falls?
(To be continued.)