Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Quick Spiritual Checkup

THE LONG SUMMER liturgical season, from say, Corpus Christi up to All Saints, often leads me into a kind of spiritual torpor; there is always so much to do, with constant busyness and distraction.  But the dark chill of autumn evenings and the great eschatological character of the liturgical year's end often pulls me back.

Here is the list of capital sins, originated, I think, by Saint Gregory the Great.  Not actually deserving capital punishment, these capital sins are rather the 'head' sins which lead us astray into worse sin. With each sin is some spiritual advice for counteracting these sins.
  • Pride, or vainglory.  All sins can flow from excessive self-esteem, and indeed this is considered to be the most dangerous sin of all.  To counteract this, do not notice the sins and failings of others, but instead concentrate on your own and have sorrow for them.  Praise the good in others.  
  • Envy, or jealousy.   This is sorrow for the deserved good of another, especially when it is the good of a peer or neighbor.  To counteract this, take pity on those who are unfortunate.  Emulate the goodness of your neighbor and have a zeal for righteousness.
  • Anger.  This is a sin that can lead to hatred when it seeks vengeance on those not deserving of it, when it is not regulated by reason, when it seeks inordinate retribution, or when it goes against justice.  To counteract anger, have joy and beauty in your life, and take proper pleasures.  Live honestly and justly with others.
  • Sloth, or boredom, or busywork.  Not just physically laziness, even more sinful is the spiritual laziness of avoiding what needs to be done to obtain ultimate good; this is manifest as boredom in its onset and leads to depression and despair as it becomes a persistent vice. Counteract this with frequent prayer and by loving others.
  • Greed, avarice, or covetousness.  An inordinate desire for riches or possessions, especially when these become ends in themselves, especially when a person has far more than they can actually use.  To counteract greed, love God above all things.  You are not self-sufficient, and never can be, and once you were a helpless infant: realize that God sustains everything as a free gift, even the very air you breathe.
  • Gluttony.  Not just excessive food and drink, but gluttony is even excessively partaking in fancy or sumptuous foods.  Counteract this by embracing the Cross and the suffering it represents.
  • Lust.   This includes all manner of inordinate sexual desire.  Unlike the other capital sins, lust often has more obvious persons and occasions of sin, which ought to avoided. Counteract lust by fasting and penances.

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