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Review of the Spiritual Warfare


12. All sciences and arts have their own purpose, for the sake of which the people of these disciplines readily bear great labors and expenses. Thus, for example, a farmer untiringly tills his land, enduring heat and cold, aiming at making it produce crop. He knows that otherwise he will not receive the desired harvest. So does asceticism have its goal, for the sake of which a person who seeks perfection readily and tirelessly bears various labors. For the sake of this goal he does not feel overburdened because of frequent fasts, rejoices in vigils, constantly reading the Holy Scriptures and is afraid neither of ascetic deeds, nor deprivations. (Blessed John Cassian)

12. The goal of our ascetic life is Godís Kingdom, which is attained only through the purity of heart. It is toward this end that our eyes should look, and it is toward this end that all our concerns should be directed. Should our thoughts start to deviate, it is essential that we immediately return our mental focus to it. (Blessed John Cassian)

12. As we read in the writings of the Apostles, there is a continuous war raging in the members of our body: "For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish" (Gal. 5:17). Through Godís providential arrangement, this war has somehow been infused into our nature ó and it is impossible to regard it other than an attribute of our nature damaged by the fall of the first humans and experienced by everybody without exception. However, it is necessary to believe that this war arises within us through the will of God for our good and not to our detriment. It is left within us to arouse our efforts toward perfection. (Blessed John Cassian)

The word "flesh" in the Apostlesí Epistles must be understood not in the sense of a person as a being, but as carnal will or iniquitous thoughts; similarly, the word spirit should be understood not as some type of being, but as good and evil desires of the soul. This interpretation was determined by the Apostle himself: "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh" (Gal. 5:16). Because both one and the other desires are found in the same person, there is a continuous conflict taking place within us. While the flesh seeks gratification and strives mainly toward the sinful, conversely the Spirit wholly wishes to attach itself to spiritual matters, neglecting even the very essential needs of the flesh.

12. Godís grace that comes to us, awakens our spirit and restores our higher aspirations, leading us away from the earthly. Finding itself under the graceís influence, the will cannot remain indifferent and lukewarm but ignites with zeal toward the heavenly things to which it sacrifices everything earthly. Meanwhile, the inclination toward the former state remains in the body, which is capable of again lowering itself to it. In order that this will not happen, a feeling that is hostile to higher aspirations is left in the body. As soon as the will ó having savored the higher blessings and being unsympathetic to the lower inclinations ó senses its presence, it immediately ignites with zeal and courageously defends the higher good. (Blessed John Cassian)

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