Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Spiritual Combat and The Art of War

Spiritual warfare is a very real and alive thing that affects the lives of every man, woman and child of our world. Satan, the ‘prince of this world’, wants us to suffer with him in agony for eternity. This battle has left many dead and raised heroes the likes of which this world has never seen. We must decide which army we will join and fight with, the army of our Lord or the army of this fallen world we live in, because the battle lines have been drawn and our Lord warned us not to be lukewarm in our decision to fight. We cannot go through life with our feet in both courts.

Dom Lorenzo Scupoli wrote a book called ‘Spiritual Combat’ in which he explains the fight that we are in and how to righteously do battle for our Lord. This book is full of advice on how to control our passions, complete the will of God and to decide here and now that this battle is worth fighting.

Sun Tzu was a military genius; he wrote a book called The Art of War in the year 500 B.C. While his ideas of mercy, heaven, and hell do not agree with the beliefs of Catholics, his military ideals and thoughts of how to win battles are still used extensively today. In the chapter called, ‘Laying Plans’ he describes what a general needs to think about before engaging in battle with an enemy, there are 7 questions.

I began to wonder, if Scupoli and Sun Tzu had a conversation about this war what would it be like? So, after diving into both books I have a clip of the conversation. All of the questions and quotes are taken directly out of each person’s book. Sun Tzu would ask 7 questions.

Sun Tzu begins: “Therefore, in your deliberations, when seeking to determine the military conditions, let them be made the basis of a comparison, in this wise”:

(1) ‘Which of the two sovereigns is imbued with the Moral law?’ – Sun Tzu

“He (God) continually guards us from the fury of our enemies; He fights for us with His grace, and, to nourish and strengthen us, He is always ready to feed us with the Precious Body of His Son in the Sacrament of the Altar. Do not these constitute convincing proofs of God's tremendous love for us? Who can understand the immensity of His love for such wretched creatures? What should be our gratitude towards so generous a benefactor! If the great men of the world think they are obliged to do something in return for the respect paid them, even by those inferior as to position and wealth, what return ought not the very worms of the earth make when honored with such remarkable love and esteem by the sovereign Lord of the Universe? In particular, we must never forget that His majesty is infinitely worthy of our service, a service motivated by a single principle of love, whose only object is His will and desire.”- Lorenzo Scupoli

(2) “Which of the two generals has most ability?”- Sun Tzu

“Consider this, if the fury of your enemies is great, and their numbers overwhelming, the love which God holds for you is infinitely greater. The Angel who protects you and the Saints who intercede for you are more numerous. Do not, therefore, lose heart, although you may think that it is a difficult task to absorb the attacks of so many enemies, that this warfare will continue your entire lifetime, and that inescapable ruin threatens you on all sides. But remember this------neither the power nor the trickery of your enemies can hurt you without the permission of Him for Whose honor you fight. He delights in this kind of battle and, as far as possible, encourages everyone to engage in it. But He is so far from permitting your enemies to accomplish their evil plans that He will fight on your side and sooner or later crown your endeavors with victory, though the battle may end only with your life.”- Lorenzo Scupoli

(3) “With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven and Earth?” - Sun Tzu

“We must have a vibrant, living faith and a firm confidence that God will not refuse the assistance necessary to serve Him faithfully and work out our salvation. A soul rekindled with this holy confidence is like a sacred vessel, into which Divine Mercy pours the treasures of His grace; and the larger the vessel, the greater the abundance of Heavenly blessings it receives through prayer. For how can God, Whose power is limitless, and Whose goodness is alien to all deception, ever refuse His gifts to those whose petitions He has encouraged, and whose perseverance and faith He has promised to reward with the blessings of the Holy Spirit?”- Lorenzo Scupoli

(4) “On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced?”- Sun Tzu

“All He asks of you is that you defend yourself courageously, and that, despite any wounds you may receive, you never lay down your arms or leave the battleground. You must not shirk your duty. This war is unavoidable, and you must either fight or die." - Lorenzo Scupoli

(5) “Which army is stronger?”- Sun Tzu

“Experience proves that acknowledged sinners are reformed with less difficulty than those who wilfully hide themselves under the cloak of a false virtue. It actually consists in knowing the infinite greatness and goodness of God, together with a true sense of our weakness and tendency to evil, in loving God and hating ourselves, in humbling ourselves not only before Him, but for His sake, before all men, in renouncing entirely our own will in order to follow His. It consist, finally, in doing all of this solely for the glory of His Holy Name, for only one purpose-----to please Him, for only one motive-----that He should be loved and served by all His creatures.”- Lorenzo Scupoli

(6) “On which side are officers and men more highly trained?”- Sun Tzu

“We must practice that self-denial so earnestly recommended by our Savior in the Gospel. This it is that renders His yoke so sweet, His burden so light. . .Since, therefore, you seek the highest degree of perfection, you must wage continual warfare against yourself and employ your entire strength in demolishing each vicious inclination, however trivial. Consequently, in preparing for the combat you must summon up all your resolution and courage. No one shall be rewarded with a crown who has not fought courageously. But remember that as no war can be carried on with greater fierceness, the forces, no other than ourselves, being equal on both sides, so the victory when gained is most pleasing to God and most glorious to the conqueror. For whoever has the courage to conquer his passions, to subdue his appetites, and repulse even the least motions of his own will, performs an action more meritorious in the sight of God than if, without this, he should tear his flesh with the sharpest disciplines, fast with greater austerity than the ancient Fathers of the Desert, or convert multitudes of sinners.”- Lorenzo Scupoli

(7) “In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward and punishment?”- Sun Tzu

“God no sooner finds us resolved to attain solid virtue than He sends us trials of the severest kind. Convinced of His immense love for us and His fatherly solicitude for our spiritual advancement, we ought with gratitude to drink to the dregs of the chalice that He is pleased to offer us, confident that its beneficial character will be in proportion to its bitterness.”- Lorenzo Scupoli

And in closing Lorenzo would tell his inquisitor:

“Worldly men cannot stand the thought of death; they refuse to think of it lest they be distracted from the earthly pleasures in which they have placed their affection. The thought of losing transient things is naturally repugnant and painful to one who is oblivious to eternal things. Thus the affections of worldlings are more firmly riveted to this world day by day. And day by day the contemplation of the loss of worldly things strikes increased terror most frequently into the hearts of those who have enjoyed worldliness the longest. In order to be prepared for the awesome step from time into eternity, imagine yourself sometime all alone in the face of the agonies of death, and consider the things that would most likely trouble you at that hour. Then imprint deeply in your heart the remedies I shall propose to be employed when the situation is at hand. For the blow that can be struck but once should be well rehearsed, as a final error means an eternity of regret and misery.”

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