“The heart is deceitful above all things, and incurable; who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
“For everything in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–comes not from the Father but from the world.” (1 John 2:16)
Although we are made in the image and likeness of God (which is quite amazing if you think about it), our desire for spiritual and eternal goods has been greatly diminished by original sin and the threefold corruption it has worked into our hearts. This threefold corruption is specifically mentioned in the New Testament by Saint John as:
1. The Concupiscence of the flesh
2. The Concupiscence of the eyes; and
3. The Pride of Life
(1 John 2:16) (see also CCC 405, “an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence”)
According to Father Garrigou-LaGrange these “three wounds ravage souls and bring death to them by turning them away from God” (p.208). Prior to original sin man enjoyed a threefold harmony:
1. Harmony between God and my soul
2. Harmony between my soul and my body; and
3. Harmony between my body and the goods of the world (p. 208)
Sin seriously damaged this threefold harmony and knocked everything out of whack! Now the body lusts against the spirit for forbidden gratifications and a life of ease and pleasure (concupiscence of the flesh), and our hearts are attracted to and desire an over-abundance of the world’s goods and delights (concupiscence of the eyes), and finally we unjustly see self rather than God as the highest good to be pursued (and this is PRIDE since God, not self, is the Infinite Good and our true end). (See The Spiritual Life by Father Tanquerey beginning at page 101 and Father Garrigou-LaGrange, pages 206-210)
What can we do to overcome the threefold corruption of concupiscence which so mars the threefold harmony which God intended for us? The solution is found in the practice of the three Evangelical Counsels of CHASTITY, POVERTY AND OBEDIENCE. Jesus Christ was “radically consecrated to God” and “separated from the spirit of the world” (p. 210). His perfect chastity restored the harmony lost by the concupiscence of the flesh; His perfect poverty and detachment from the things of this world restored the harmony lost by the concupiscence of the eyes; His perfect obedience to His Heavenly Father unto death restored the harmony lost by the Pride of Life (pages 210-213). Thus it is that a consecrated religious takes vows of Chastity (celibacy), Poverty and Obedience in order to imitate Jesus and restore the original harmony between God, man and the the goods of this world.
All Catholics can and should try to live by the spirit of the Evangelical counsels, practicing chastity according to their state in life, poverty through the practice of detachment and generosity, and obedience by fully honoring all of the teachings of the Catholic Church. By chastity we consecrate our bodies and hearts to God; by poverty we consecrate our goods to God; and by obedience we consecrate our intellect and will to God (p. 212). These three virtues of chastity, poverty and obedience are implicit in our Baptism, and are strengthened and fortified by the complimentary sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion. They should also be a special object of our prayers.
Tom Mulcahy, M.A.
Reference: I have carved this short note entirely out of Father Garrigou-LaGrange’s treatise, The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Volume I, Chapter 13, “Perfection and the Evangelical Counsels,” pages 206-213. Consult same for a more in depth and adequate explanation.
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