I just watched the epic movie The Ten Commandments, and this little essay on affection for sin caught my eye with it’s opening comment:
Although all the Israelites left Egypt in effect, not all of them left it in affection, and hence in the wilderness many of them regretted their lack of the onions and fleshpots of Egypt. In like manner, there are penitents who leave sin in effect, but do not leave it in affection. They resolve never to sin again, but it is with a certain reluctance that they give up or abstain from the fatal delights of sin. Their heart renounces and shuns sin but looks back at it just as Lot’s wife looked back at Sodom They abstain from sin like sick men abstaining from melons. They don’t eat them solely because the doctor warns them that they’ll die if they do, but they begrudge giving them up, talk about them, would eat them if they could, want to smell them at least, and envy those who can eat them. In such a way weak, lazy penitents abstain regretfully for a while from sin. They would like very much to commit sins if they could do so without being damned They speak about sin with a certain petulance and with liking for it and think those who commit sins are at peace with themselves. A man who had resolved to take vengeance on another will change his mind in the confessional but a little later you will find him among his friends talking delightedly about his quarrel and saying, “If it wasn’t for the fear of God, I would do this or that,” “In this matter of forgiving people the divine law is a hard thing,” and “I wish to God it would let a man revenge himself.” We all see that although this unfortunate man has been set free from sin he is still entangled by affection for it. Although he is out of Egypt in effect he is still there in appetite and in his longing for the garlic and onions on which he once glutted himself. He is like a woman who detests her illicit love affairs but still likes to be courted and pursued.
Since you wish to live a devout life you must not only cease to sin but you must also purify your heart of all affection for sin. In addition to the danger of falling again, such base affections so lastingly weaken and weigh down your spirits that it will be impossible to do good works promptly, diligently, and frequently, and it is in this that the very essence of devotion consists. In my opinion souls that have recovered from the state of sin but still retain such affections and weaknesses are like girls who are pale in color and although not really sick act as if they are sick. They eat without appetite, sleep without getting any rest, laugh without joy, and drag themselves about rather than walk. In like manner such souls do good but with such spiritual weariness that it robs their good deeds of all grace and the deeds themselves are few in number and small in effect.1
Editorial Note: The older I get, the more I have come to realize that there is no one denomination that has all the answers. In my early days as a Christian I would have not ventured to read this book because the author was a Roman Catholic. Now I realize that some of the writings from early church theologians, regardless of their “denomination” have value. This is one such collection and the second time I’ve used a passage from it in the A–to–Z blog challenge.
1Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis De Sales; translated and edited by John K. Ryan; p. 50–51