February/March 2014 - Vol. 72

Why Does God Allow Temptation?
by Maximus the Confessor (580-662 AD)
One can distinguish five reasons why God allows devils to attack us:

First, so that from attack and counter-attack we may become practised in discerning good from evil.

Second, so that our virtue may be maintained in the heat of the struggle and so be confirmed in an impregnable position.

Third, so that as we advance in virtue we may avoid presumption and learn humility.

Fourth, to inspire in us an unreserved hatred for evil through the experience we thus have of it.

Fifth, and above all, that we may attain inner freedom and remain convinced both of our own weakness and of the strength of him who has come to our aid.

- Centuries on Charity, 2, 67 (SC9,p114.)

Right Use not Misuse

It is important to understand the right use of external objects and pictures of them in our imagination.

The reasonable use of them produces for its fruit the virtues of chastity, charity, and right knowledge.

The unreasonable use results in debauchery, hatred, and ignorance.

It is through the measure in which we misuse the powers of the soul, namely its desire, emotion, reason, that the vices install themselves: ignorance and folly in the reasoning faculty, hatred and debauchery in the desires and emotions. The right use, on the contrary, produces right knowledge and prudence, charity, and chastity.

Nothing that God has created is in itself bad. Food is not bad, gluttony is. The procreation of children is not bad, lechery [driven by lust] is. Wealth is not bad, avarice is. Glory is not bad, vainglory is.

So you see nothing is bad in itself, only the misuse of it, which is the soul's negligence in cultivating its true nature.

- Centuries on Charity, 3, 1 (SC9,p123.)

Maximus the Confessor (580-662 AD), also known as Maximus the Theologian and Maximus of Constantinople, was a Christian monk, theologian, and scholar. He was born in the region of Constantinople and was well educated. In his early life, Maximus was a civil servant, and an aide to the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius. He gave up this life in the political sphere to enter into the monastic life. Around 614, he became a monk (later abbot) at the monastery of Chrysopolis. During the Persian invasion of the Empire (614), he fled to Africa. He was exiled twice, tortued in 662 and died shortly after. His title of Confessor means that he suffered for the Christian faith, but was not directly martyred. 

[Translation by Paul Drake. For more readings see Drinking from the Hidden Fountain: A Patristic Breviary, by Thomas Spidlik, Cistercian Publications, 1994.]

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