Today the shelves are full of books on spirituality and contemplation that all promise a fast track, easy secrets, and quick and painless methods to deep spirituality for the new initiate. They sound good, they seem to speak the truth but many have the same undercurrent as the Gnostic teachings did so long ago. Pay the guru their price, even to the detriment of your faith, and you’ll be satisfied. The hole will be filled and you will finally be happy.
They promise the ability to reach the highest mountain top experiences in five easy steps. No need for self control, no need for effort, no changed lives, no work just the payoff usually seen in the lives of the saints at the ends of their lives of service. Why should we have to work so hard to experience God? Doesn’t He want to be with us? Don’t we deserve it NOW!
You can hear the child can’t you. The child in each of us wanting without paying the price. Wanting the relationship with Christ without picking up the cross. Maybe that is why we’re not surprised when the excitement wears off and the 5 steps lead us to nothing. Are we not in many ways worse off? Doesn’t it take twice as much effort the next time to try it again? Isn’t this what Jesus was constantly trying to prepare us for? Not the fast fuse but the long burn?
Fr. Lawrence Scupoli’s book, The Spiritual Combat, published in the late 1500’s speaks to this very issue. His pastoral experience and many years of the sacrament of reconciliation shine through his writings. He understands what works and what work we all need to do each day in pursuing what should be our one purpose, our one motive…to please Him.
Below are his preliminary words, what he calls the four necessary things for spiritual combat. He doesn’t pull any punches and he lays the gauntlet squarely at our feet. The question will be, “Do we really want to reach the top of that spiritual mountain or is it safer at the tree line?”, “Are we willing to pick up the cross and actually carry it for a time?”, “Are we willing to focus and fight today’s battle no matter tomorrows war?”
If the answer is “yes” then read further…