Presence of God – Teach me, O Lord, to mortify my flesh, in order that I may live fully the life of the spirit.
We may fail in our duty either because of the hardships and sacrifices we encounter, or because of the allurements of pleasure. Our help in the first case is the virtue of fortitude; in the second, the virtue of temperance. Temperance is the virtue which moderates in us the inordinate desire for sensible pleasure, keeping it within the limits assigned by reason and faith. Sin has produced in us the great discord by which the inferior part tends to rebel against the superior, and craves that which is contrary to the spirit. We shall never be able to defend ourselves against the attractions of pleasure without the help of this virtue, which has been infused by God into our souls for the express purpose of enabling us to regulate our disordered tendency to pleasure. As fortitude, with its accompanying virtues of magnanimity, patience and perseverance, is a sustaining power for our weakness, in like manner, temperance, with the virtues which spring from it—sobriety, chastity, continence, modesty—controls our concupiscence. Nevertheless, although this virtue is a check, it has not only a negative task, to temper, restrain, and moderate the disordered love of pleasure, but it has also a positive one: that of regulating our passions and permitting us to use our senses in perfect harmony with the requirements of the spirit, in such a way that they do not disturb our spiritual life. In this way temperance, together with grace and the other virtues, heals and elevates our nature by re-establishing in us the harmony which was destroyed by sin. However, this cannot be realized without our cooperation which, in regard to temperance, consists above all in the mortification of our passions and senses. St. Paul says: “If you live according to the flesh you shall die; but if by the spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live” (Romans 8:13). The virtue of temperance has been infused into us to “mortify the deeds of the flesh”; this mortification is not an end in itself, but it is an indispensable condition for the life of the spirit.
“I am not astonished, O Lord, at human defection, for You have wounded my heart with Your perfect charity, and have protected it with the guard of purity. Oh! if only blind mortals would taste the delights and sweetness of Your holy love! I think they would immediately hate the pleasures of the senses and would be filled with loathing and disgust for them. Thirsty and anxious, they would hasten to drink from the fountain of Your sweetness. Why do they not run in the odor of Your perfumes?
“I understand, eternal Truth. If they meditated and considered attentively, they would engrave in their memory the immense favors You bestow upon them daily, they would easily allow themselves to be drawn by the ineffable sweetness of Your love, and they would hasten with eagerness and longing to take delight in the fragrance of Your sweetness!” (St. Catherine of Siena).
“I have but one desire, Lord: to seek You! And while I seek You, I will never stop to pluck the flowers that I may find on my way; that is, I will not pause to enjoy the pleasures which may be offered to me in this life, because they would delay me on my journey. I will not apply my heart to riches and worldly goods, neither will I accept the pleasures and delights of my flesh, nor rest in the sweetness and consolations of my spirit, in order not to be kept from seeking You, my God and my love, over the mountains of virtues and labors. Grant, O Lord, that my soul may really be enamored of You, that it esteem You above all else; and then, trusting in Your love and in Your help, I shall have the strength to cast far from me the desires of sense and all natural affections” (cf. John of the Cross Spiritual Canticle 3,5-10).
Note from Dan: This post on the virtue of temperance is provided courtesy of Baronius Press and contains one of two meditations for the day. If you would like to get the full meditation from one of the best daily meditation works ever compiled, you can learn more here: Divine Intimacy. Please honor those who support us by purchasing and promoting their products.
Art for this post on the virtue of temperance: Saint Catherine of Siena, anonymous painter, 19th century?, PD-US author’s life plus 70 years or less, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.