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For the Third Sunday in Lent: Augustine of Hippo on the danger of relapse

February 28, 2016

For the Third Sunday in Lent, here is another selection from Faith and Life: readings compiled from ancient writers that I have posted before:

II. THE DANGER OF RELAPSE.

“What, then,” it will be asked, “does the devil now tempt no one of the faithful, because he will be cast out of the hearts of the faithful?” Yes, indeed, he does not cease to tempt. But it is one thing to reign within, another to assail from without; for sometimes an enemy assails a city thoroughly fortified, but he does not take it. And if any darts shot by him reach us, the Apostle instructs us how they may be kept from hurting us; he mentions “the breastplate and shield of faith’.” And if the devil sometimes wounds us, there is One at hand who heals. For as it is said- to those who are fighting, “These things I write unto you, that ye sin not;” so those that are wounded hear what follows, “And if any one sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous; He is the propitiation for our sins.” For what do we pray for when we say, “Forgive us our trespasses,” except that our wounds may be healed? And what else do we beg when we say, “And lead us not into temptation,” but that he who is plotting against us, or contending externally to us, may not break in at any point, may not be able to overcome us by force or by fraud? But whatsoever engines he may direct against us,—when he does not occupy the place of our heart where faith dwells, he has been cast out. But “unless the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.” Do not then presume on your own strength, if you do not wish to call the devil in again, after he has been cast out.

–St. Augustine on St. John’s Gospel

I definitely see here a warning against being overconfident in our own ability to withstand temptation.

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