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Step 23

ON THOUGHTS OF BLASPHEMY.

1. We have seen in the preceding discourse, that blasphemy is an offshoot of the baneful root of pride. Thence it is prudent to expose it; since this abominable descendant of so abominable a father, is not the least of our adversaries, but, perhaps, the most cruel of those against whom we have to combat. But what is still more formidable, is the difficulty of making it known to our spiritual physician by a true and sincere confession. When it has happened, that many have fallen into despair, through this vice depriving them of the hope of salvation, like the worm that destroys by its gnawings the tree which it pierces to the core.

2. During the celebration of the holy Sacrifice of the Divine Liturgy, whilst the most august mystery is being accomplished upon our altars, this execrable monster endeavours to excite thoughts of blasphemy against Jesus Christ, and against His infinite and immaculate oblation. Hence we are sure that it is not our souls that utter interiorly these words of abomination and impiety; but the devil, that irreconcilable enemy of God, and cast out of heaven for his blasphemies against the pure and inviolable Majesty of the Sovereign Lord. For if these terrible and detestable words were our own, how could we adore, as we do, the precious gift we receive from heaven? How could we from the same mouth bless and curse at the same time?

3. This deceitful corrupter of souls has hurried many into extravagance and folly. For there are no thoughts so difficult to discover and confess as thoughts of blasphemy. Hence many have allowed such thoughts to fester in their souls to the very end of life. And this concealment becomes the devil’s weapon for our destruction.

4. Let no one suppose, because these blasphemous thoughts torment him that he is liable to their responsibility. The Lord, who sees the inmost recesses of the soul, knows that we do not willfully harbour such wicked suggestions, prompted by the devil, our inveterate calumniator.

5. As wine makes the drunkard to stagger and fall, so pride causes these horrible thoughts in proud persons. As the drunkard is culpable not in falling, but in being drunk, so the proud are chastised, not for having entertained blasphemous thoughts, but for being inflated with pride.

6. It is chiefly during the holy time of prayer that these impious and dreaded thoughts assail us; but when we continue our devotions without noticing them, they immediately retire. For they fight with those only who are amused with the combat.

7. The spirit of impiety is not satisfied with blaspheming God and divine things; but it clothes with an appearance of spirituality indecent and dishonest words, that thereby we may be induced either to abandon our devotions, or yield to despair.

8. This malicious and exorable tyrant has made many to forsake the duty of prayer, many to withdraw from their attendance at the holy mysteries, many to become either perfectly callous to sentiments of piety, or to hasten their ruin by excessive fasting, which allowed no moment of repose.

9. This is the conduct of blasphemy, not only with regard to persons of the world, but likewise with religious and solitaries. It persuades them that there is no hope of salvation, and represents their state as worse than that of pagans and infidels.

10. He who is assailed by the spirit of blasphemy, and is anxious to be delivered from it, may rest assured, that it is not from his heart the thoughts of this vice sprung, but from the devil only, that impure spirit, who had the insolence to say to Jesus Christ in the wilderness, whilst showing Him all the kingdoms of the world: “All these will I give thee, if falling down, thou wilt adore me.”1 Hence we ought to despise them, and in imitation of our Divine Master, say to the tempter: “Begone, Satan, for it is written, ‘The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and Him only shalt thou serve.’ All thy artifices and suggestions will be turned against thyself, and thy blasphemies will fall upon thine own head, both now and for ever.

11. He who wishes to fight in any other manner with this spirit of blasphemy, will resemble the man that attempts to seize a flash of lightning, and to hold it a prisoner in his hand. For what chance is there of arresting, repressing, or combatting even by argument, that spirit which enters the heart as swiftly as the wind, and vanishes the instant it has ceased to speak? All our other enemies firmly stand their ground, contend with us front to front, and afford us sufficient time to resist and effect their defeat. But this foe, the moment it has made its appearance, retire, and his words are scarcely uttered, when he has taken flight.

12. Let us not judge or condemn our neighbour, and we shall have no occasion to dread the thoughts of blasphemy, since rash judgement is ordinarily the source from which they spring.

13. As he who is in the house of mourning, hears the conversation of those who are passing by, but joins not with them; so a soul recollected and retired within itself, hears the blasphemies which the devils utter within it, but takes no part in these wicked discourses,

14. We may rid ourselves of this enemy by treating him with contempt. He who strives to overcome him with any other weapon, will find himself subdued and conquered. For it is evidently greater folly, to attempt the arrest by mere words of beings purely spiritual, such as demons, than to endeavour to chain the winds.

15. A holy solitary having been tormented by the demon during twenty years, had reduced his body to a skeleton by his long fasts and watchings. But deriving no consolation or advantage from these austerities, he wrote down his temptations and troubles, and went to visit an ancient and neighbouring solitary, to whom he gave the document, and then fell prostrate upon the ground overwhelmed with confusion, at the thought of his weakness. The venerable old man having read the paper, smiled, and lifting up the young religious from the ground, said to him: “My son, put your hand upon my neck.” Having done so, the ancient added: “My brother, I willingly take your sins upon myself, both the past and the future, provided that you will not give yourself any further grief or vexation of mind.” These words so greatly encouraged and fortified the young man, that he had scarcely left the cell of his holy friend, when his temptation vanished. I learnt this fact from the religious himself, who related it with a lively sense of gratitude towards God for so great a favour.


  1. Matt. iv. 9.



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