Striving for Perfection – Part 3 of 10

Father Geiermann continues his discussion of striving for perfection. A person determined to attain perfection will strive to bring both his flesh and his spirit under the control of right reason in accord with God’s will.

Concerning subjection of the flesh, recall that he defines “the flesh” as “man’s corrupt nature.” He explains: “Before sin came into the world man’s lower nature was under the control of his reason. Now ‘the flesh lusteth against the spirit’ and ‘he that soweth in his flesh, of the flesh also shall reap corruption’ (Gal 6:8). By the subjugation of the flesh we therefore mean the bringing of our animal cravings under the dominion of reason. To effect this subjugation of the flesh we must (1) compel it to do penance for its rebellion; (2) mortify the senses and passions to bring them into subjection; and (3) pray earnestly for light to see ourselves as God sees us, and for grace to triumph in this lifelong conflict.” He defines mortification as “the performance or endurance of anything repugnant to our natural inclinations for the purpose of submitting ourselves to the influence of grace and doing God’s holy will.”

Concerning subjection of the spirit, he cites the proverb: “Where pride is, there also shall be reproach: but where humility is, there also is wisdom” (Prov 11:2). He explains: “Pride is the beginning of all sin, humility the bed-rock on which our spiritual edifice must rest. Pride is an exaggerated idea of our excellence, humility the realization of the truth that we are nothing of ourselves but sin. Pride prompts us to be ‘like unto God’ and to assert our independence; humility prompts us to live in grateful subjection to God, on whom we entirely depend. By the subjugation of the spirit we therefore mean (1) the discarding of the groundless pretensions of pride; and (2) habituating ourselves to conform to truth and justice, especially as proposed to us by the teaching of faith.”

Quotations from Peter Geiermann, The Narrow Way (New York: Benziger, 1914).

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