Lent 2011 – Fear not the conflict!

I have come across this spiritual reading by Gregory of Nazianzus (329–January 25, 389 C.E.) who, along with Basil the Great and Gregory of Nyssa, is known as one of the Cappadocian Fathers. It made me think about the spiritual struggle we have to endure every day. Thought it might be quite appropriate for Lent.

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If after baptism the persecutor and tempter of the light assails you (for he assailed even the Word my God through the veil, the hidden Light through that which was manifested), you have the means to conquer him. Fear not the conflict! Defend yourself with the Water; defend yourself with the Spirit, by Which all the fiery darts of the wicked shall be quenched. It is Spirit, but That Spirit which rent the Mountains ( PS 97,5). It is Water, but that which quenches fire. If he assails you by your want (as he dared to assail Christ), and asks that stones should be made bread, do not be ignorant of his devices. Teach him what he has not learnt.

Defend yourself with the Word of life, Who is the Bread sent down from heaven, and giving life to the world ( Jn 6,33).  If he plots against you with vain glory (as he did against Christ when he led Him up to the pinnacle of the temple and said to Him, Cast Thyself down (Mt 4,6) as a proof of Thy Godhead), be not overborne by elation. If you are taken by this he will not stop here. For he is insatiable, he grasps at every thing. He fawns upon you with fair pretences, but he ends in evil; this is the manner of his fighting.

Yes, and the robber is skilled in Scripture. On the one side was that It is written about the Bread, and on the other that it Is written about the Angels. It is written, quoth he, He shall give His Angels charge concerning thee, and they shall bear thee in their hands.(Ps 91, 11-12; Mt 4,6) O vile sophist! how was it that thou didst suppress the words that follow, for I know it well, even if thou passest it by in silence? I will make thee to go upon the asp and basilisk, and I will tread upon serpents and scorpions, being fenced by the Trinity. If he wrestles against thee to a fall through avarice, shewing thee all the Kingdoms at one instant and in the twinkling of an eye, as belonging to himself, and demands thy worship, despise him as a beggar. Say to him relying on the Seal, “I am myself the Image of God; I have not yet been east down from the heavenly Glory, as thou wast through thy pride; I have put on Christ; I have been transformed into Christ by Baptism; worship thou me.” Well do I know that he will depart, defeated and put to shame by this; as he did from Christ the first Light, so he will from those who are illumined by Christ.

Gregory of Nazianzus, Orations, 40,10

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