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ON AVARICE AND VOLUNTARY POVERTY.

1. Many ecclesiastical writers, eminent for their knowledge of theology, after treating of incontinency, which is the tyrant of the body, proceed to speak of avarice, which is a monster with many heads, and the tyrant of souls. As it is not becoming in one like myself, devoid of wisdom and knowledge, to change the order prescribed by the wise and the learned, I purpose, therefore, to follow the arrangement just mentioned; I will first briefly describe this malady of the soul, this love of riches, and then suggest a few remedies proper for its cure.

2. Avarice is a sacrilegious adoration, a profane worship of idols. It is the daughter of infidelity. It takes advantage of the need we have in our infirmities of temporal goods, to cloak over its avidity in their unnecessary accumulation. It foretells the wants and weaknesses of old age; it insinuates that times of draught and scarcity are approaching, yea, it even ventures upon the prediction of famine.

3. Avarice is an insulting scoffer; a willful violator of the precepts of the Gospel. He who possesses the love of God, distributes his riches in alms to the poor. To pretend to cherish the love of God and the love of riches, at the same time, is a miserable deception.

4. He who deplores his sinfulness, renounces not only his wealth, but even his own body. For he never spares it in his pursuit of penitential exercises.

5. Say not that you are amassing riches for the poor, since a poor widow bought with two mites the kingdom of heaven.

6. When charity and avarice meet, avarice taunts charity with the want of prudence and discretion.

7. He who has conquered avarice, has torn up by the roots all inquietude and trouble of mind. But he who is its slave never offers to the Almighty, any prayers worth of His acceptance.

8. Avarice often commences under the false pretext of assisting the poor, but its true object is real hatred of the poor, because it wishes to appear charitable in the eyes of the world, until it has amassed great riches; then it closes the hand with an iron grasp, which nothing can relax.

9. I have seen those, poor in the goods of this world, who, being enriched with the treasures of the soul, in the company of the truly poor in spirit, had forgotten their former poverty.

10. A solitary who loves money, is the enemy of idleness, and has in continual remembrance the words of the apostle: “If any man will not work, neither let him eat.”1 “And you yourselves know, for such things as were needful for me and them that were with me, these hands have furnished.”2

ON VOLUNTARY POVERTY.

11. Voluntary poverty is a renouncement of all earthly cares. It is a perfect freedom from the disquietude of this mortal life. It is a voyage by which, after having unladen our vessel of every thing calculated to delay our advancement towards our salvation, we sail swiftly and pleasantly to heaven. It is an unshaken faith in the precepts of the gospel, which condemns avarice and recommends poverty. It is the banishment of all sadness and vexation of spirit.

12. The solitary who is really poor, is truly master of the world, by casting all his care upon God, and by this his confidence in God, has all men for his servants. He does not ask from men the things which are needful, but he will receive from the hands of God, what he would otherwise receive from the hands of men.

13. He who practices voluntary poverty, possesses tranquility of mind resulting from the lull and rest of the passions. He values the things that are in his possession no more than if they were not in existence. In the depths of his solitude, they appear to him but as smoke. He, however, who is grieved to see himself in want of what he deems needful, is not truly poor in spirit.

14. Voluntary poverty offers to heaven prayers which are purified and free from all worldly distractions; but avarice blends with its supplications, the representation and desire of those temporal goods which both the heart and the mind covet.

15. They who are ruled by obedience in a monastery, are rescued from the vice of avarice. How can they who are not masters even of their own bodies, possess any thing in private? This absolute privation of all personal property, so beneficial in many ways, is detrimental in this only; that it excites those who are thus free from every encumbrance to a continual change of residence. I have known solitaries, who, through a little property, became stable in their first habitation. For my own part, I esteem those who, through the love of God, have changed their dwelling, more happy than they who have remained permanently settled through their attachment to their property.

16. It is easy for one who has tasted the good things of the Lord, to feel a disgust for the enjoyments of the earth. But it is utterly impossible for him who has never been favoured with the first, to experience joy and delight in the latter.

17. He who is involuntarily poor is doubly miserable, by the want of those things which he covets in this world, and then by the loss of eternal possessions.

18. Do not, therefore, O ye solitaries, be more distrustful of Divine Providence than the birds of the air, that are never solicitous about the present moment, nor lay up stores for the future.

19. He who renounces his earthly possessions that he may become rich in virtue, is great before God; but he who renounces his own will, that he may become poor in spirit, is still more holy and pleasing in the sight of heaven. The first will receive a hundred-fold of the treasure either of earth or heaven, but the recompense of the latter is everlasting life.

20. As the sea is never entirely at rest, from the heaving of the waves, so the covetous man is never without anger and sadness.

21. He who has parted with his wealth has withdrawn from the circle of contentions and quarrels. But he who dotes upon his money will fight unto death for a penny.

22. A constant and unshaken faith banishes from the mind all vexation and trouble. But the meditation of death enables us to renounce even our own bodies.

23. There was not in the disposition of holy Job the slightest trace of avarice. Hence when he lost all that he had beneath the sun, he lost not his peace of mind, the tranquility and command of his soul.

24. Covetousness is rightly termed the root of all evils. From it spring hatreds, thefts, envy, divorces, enmities, vexations, resentment of injuries, cruelties, and murders.

25. As a small spark may set on fire a large forest, so may one virtue consume all the vices we have mentioned. This virtue is termed a spiritual disgust for things terrestrial, a holy detachment from all that passes away with time. This virtue is acquired by cultivating a relish for the delights of God, and by reflecting on the dread account we shall have to render to Divine Justice after death.

26. He who has read with attention in a former chapter the speech of intemperance, the parent of endless mischief, cannot be ignorant that, in her execrable genealogical tree, she stated insensibility to be the second born of her children, --insensibility which renders the soul as hard as adamant against the impressions of every good and holy purpose. But I have not been able to treat of it in this order, being obliged to speak of avarice, that dragon with many heads, that sacrilegious worship of gold, which the most eminent of the Fathers have enumerated in the third rank of the eight deadly sins. Thus, after the little I have said of avarice, I will now treat of insensibility, as the third amongst the eight capital vices, although it is the second born imp of intemperance.

He who, through his love of poverty is victorious over avarice, marches lightly on his way to heaven, since he toils not beneath the burden of earthly possessions.


  1. Thess. iii. 10.

  2. Acts xx. 34.



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Archbishop Gregory
Dormition Skete
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