The strength of the will to move itself and to incline the other faculties to act comes from its docility to God, from its conformity to the divine will, because then, by grace, the divine strength passes into it. This is the great principle dominating this whole question.
All the meaning and the bearing of this principle are seen when we recall that, in the state of original justice, as long as the will was subject to God through love and obedience, it had the strength to command the passions completely and to reject every disorder of the sensible faculties; the passions were then totally subjected to the will vivified by charity. (2)
Since original sin, we are born without sanctifying grace and charity, with our wills turned away from God, the supernatural last end, and weak for the accomplishment of our duties even in the natural order.(3)
Without falling into the exaggeration of the first Protestants and the Jansenists, we must say that we are born with a will inclined to egoism, to inordinate self-love. This is called the wound of malice; (4) it often manifests itself by a gross egoism, against which one should guard, an egoism that mingles in all man's acts.
It follows that the will, which has become weak by reason of its lack of docility to God, no longer has absolute power over the sensible faculties, but only a sort of moral power or persuasion to lead them to subject themselves.(5)
Doubtless after baptism, which regenerated us by giving us sanctifying grace and charity, this wound, like the others, is in the process of healing; but it also reopens by reason of our personal sins.
The principal defect of the will is the lack of rectitude, called self-love or inordinate love of self, which forgets the love due to God and that which we should have for our neighbor. Self-love or egoism is manifestly the source of all sins.(6)
From it are born "the concupiscence of the flesh, the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life." (7) The sensible appetites, which are no longer firmly led, incline man to thoughtlessness, feverish eagerness, fruitless agitation, selfish search for all that pleases, flight from all that is painful, nonchalance, discouragement, in which he sees that his will has lost its strength, and to all sorts of bad examples. (8)
It is clear that self-will, which is defined as that which is not conformed to the will of God, is the source of every sin. Self-will is extremely dangerous because it can corrupt everything; even what is best in one may become evil when self-will enters in, for it takes itself as its end, instead of subordinating itself to God.
If the Lord perceives this will in a fast or a sacrifice, He rejects them because He sees therein a divine work accomplished through pride in order to gain approbation. Now, self-will is born of self-love or egoism; it is strong self-love that has become imperious.
On the subject of self-love or egoism, we may fall into two opposing errors: utilitarianism and quietism. Theoretical or practical utilitarianism does not see an evil in egoism, but a power that should be moderated.
This doctrine, which reduces virtue to a business transaction, suppresses all morality; it reduces praiseworthy good to the useful and the delectable. This good, the object of virtue and duty, ought to be loved for itself and more than ourselves, independently of the advantages or the pleasure that may result therefrom: "Do what you ought, come what may."
Practical utilitarianism leads to pride, which inclines a person to make himself the center of all who live about him; it is the manifest or hidden pride of the desire to dominate.
On the other hand, quietism (9) condemned all interested love, even that of our eternal reward, as if there were a disorder in Christian hope, from the fact that it is less perfect than charity.(10) Under the pretext of absolute disinterestedness, many quietists fell into spiritual sloth, which is indifferent to sanctification and salvation.(11)
The thought of salvation and eternal beatitude is evidently very useful that we may strive to put to death inordinate love of self, which is the principal defect of our will. It is of this love that St. Augustine wrote: "Two loves have built two cities: the love of self even to the despising of God, the city of the earth; the love of God even to the despising of self, the city of God. One glorifies itself in self, and the other in the Lord.
> One seeks its glory from men, the other places its dearest glory in God, the witness of its conscience. The one in the pride of its glory walks with head high; the other says to its God: 'Thou art my glory, and it is Thou who dost lift up my head.'
The former in its victories lets itself be conquered by its passion to dominate; the latter shows us its citizens united in charity, mutual servants, tutelary governors, obedient subjects. The former loves its own strength in its princes; the latter says to God: 'Lord, Thou art my only strength, I shall love Thee.' " (12) One would never weary of quoting St. Augustine.
A great purification and Christian training of the will are necessary to obliterate all inordinate self-love; this result is produced in us by the progress of charity, which "unites man to God so that he lives not for himself, but for God." (13)
Egoism is like a cancer of the will, which ravages it more and more, whereas sanctifying grace should be in it like a strong root which buries itself ever deeper in the soil in order to draw therefrom nourishing secretions and transform them into fruitful sap.
We should think of the value of habitual grace, called the "grace of the virtues and the gifts," because of various proximate principles of meritorious acts springing from it. We would do well to consider that our will should possess a high degree of the virtues of justice, penance, religion, hope, and charity in order that its powers may be vastly increased.
The author of The Imitation thus describes inordinate self-love when he has Christ say: "My son, thou must give all for all, and be nothing of thy own. Know that the love of thyself is more hurtful to thee than anything of the world. . . . If thy love be pure, simple, and well ordered, thou shalt not be in captivity to anything. Covet not that which thou mayest not have.
Seek not to have that which may embarrass thee and deprive thee of thy inward liberty. It is wonderful that thou wilt not, from the very bottom of thy heart, commit thyself wholly to Me, with all things that thou canst desire or have. Why dost thou pine away with vain grief?
Why art thou so worn with superfluous cares? Be resigned to My good pleasure, and thou shalt suffer no loss. If thou seekest this or that, or wouldst be here or there for thy own interests' sake, and the more to indulge thy own will, thou wilt never be at rest or free from solicitude; for in everything there will be found some defect, and in every place there will be someone that will cross thee." (14)
The same book of The Imitation describes well the various movements of wounded nature, which remains weakened even after baptism:
Nature is crafty and draweth away many, ensnareth them and deceiveth them, and always proposeth self as her end. . . (15) Nature is neither willing to be mortified, restrained, overcome, nor subject, neither of its own accord to be brought under obedience. . . . Nature laboreth for its own interest and considereth what gain it may derive from another. . . .
It willingly receiveth honor and respect, . . . is afraid of shame and contempt; seeketh to have things that are curious and beautiful; . . . hath regard to temporal things, rejoiceth at earthly gains, is troubled at losses, and is irritated at every slight injurious word. . . Nature is covetous, and liketh rather to take than to give, and loveth to have things exclusive and private .
Nature glorieth in noble place and descent, smileth on them that are in power, flattereth the rich. . . . It easily complaineth of want and of trouble; it coveteth to know secrets and to hear news; desireth to appear abroad, longeth to be taken notice of, and to do those things which may procure praise and admiration. . . .
Grace teacheth, therefore, to restrain the senses, to avoid vain complacency and ostentation, humbly to hide those things which are worthy of praise and admiration; and from everything, and in every knowledge, to seek the fruit of utility, and the praise and honor of God. . .
This grace is a supernatural light and a certain special gift of God, the proper mark of the elect, and a pledge of eternal salvation, which elevateth a man from earthly things to love such as are heavenly, and from carnal maketh him spiritual.Wherefore, as nature is the more kept down and subdued, with so much the greater abundance is grace infused; and every day by new visitations the interior man is reformed according to the image of God.(16)
St. Catherine of Siena, speaking of the effects of self-love, says: "The soul cannot live without love, but always desires to love something. . . . So, if the sensual affection desires to love sensual things, the eye of the intellect sets before itself for its sole object transitory things, with self-love, displeasure of virtue, and love of vice, whence it draws pride and impatience, and the memory is filled with nothing but what the affection presents to it.
This love so dazzles the eye of the intellect that it can discern and see nothing but such glittering objects." (17)
We read in the same Dialogue: "Thus is injustice committed through miserable self-love, which has poisoned the whole world, and the mystical body of holy Church, and through which the garden of My spouse has run to seed and given birth to putrid flowers." (18)
It is self-love that renders man unjust toward God, to whom he no longer renders the glory that is due Him, and toward souls to which he no longer gives the true goods without which they cannot live.
Finally, self-love, which overthrows in our will the order willed by God, leads to trouble, discouragement, discord, and all dissensions; it brings about the total loss of peace, the tranquility of order, which is truly found only in those who love God more than themselves and above all.
All the passages in Tauler's works where he speaks of the necessity of purifying the depths of our will should be consulted.(19
2. Ibid., q.95, a. 2.
3. Cf. Ia IIae, q.109, a.3 f. The will, which is directly turned away from the supernatural last end, is indirectly turned away from the natural last end, for every sin against the supernatural law is indirectly opposed to the natural law, which obliges us to obey God, whatever He may command.
4. Ibid., q. 85, a. 3: "In so far as the will is deprived of its order to the good, there is the wound of malice."
5. Ibid., q. 17, a.7: "Reason governs the irascible and concupiscible not by a despotic supremacy, which is that of a master over his slave; but by a politic and royal supremacy, whereby the free are governed, who are not wholly subject to command."
6. Ibid., q.77, a.4: "Inordinate love of self is the cause of every sin."
7. Ibid., a.5.
8. These are like diseases of the will, but not diseases properly so called, as certain materialist doctors believe when they talk about abulia. The will is a faculty of the spiritual or immaterial order; it is not the seat of diseases like those which effect our organism, for example, the nervous centers.
But certain diseases of these centers render the exercise of the will much more difficult, just as others suppress the condition required by the imagination for the exercise of reason and bring in their wake mental confusion or "fixed ideas" and madness.
9. Cf. Denzinger, no. 1226: "The soul ought not to think of a reward, of paradise, or of hell, or of death, or of eternity, etc. . . ." Cf. ibid., nos. 1232, 1337 ff.
10. This teaching constituted a poor understanding of the act of Christian hope; by it we do not subordinate God to ourselves, but we desire God for ourselves by subordinating ourselves to Him, for He is the ultimate End of the act of hope. As Cajetan clearly points out (In IIam IIae, q. 17, a.5, no. 6): "I desire God for myself (finaliter), for God's sake, and not for my own sake; whereas when it is a question of things inferior to me, such as a fruit, I desire them for my own and for myself, I subordinate them to myself as to an end.
On the contrary, by the act of hope I already subordinate myself to God (the last End of this act). This subordination becomes more perfect through charity, which makes me efficaciously love God formally for Himself and more than myself, by making me will His glory and the extension of His kingdom."
11. St. Thomas (IIa IIae, q.19, a.6) clearly distinguishes between self-love which is blamable and that which is not. "Self-love," he says, "may stand in a threefold relationship to charity. In one way, it is contrary to charity, when a man places his end in the love of his own good (preferred to God).
In another way, it is included in charity, when a man loves himself for the sake of God and in God (in order to glorify God here on earth and in eternity). In a third way, it is indeed distinct from charity, but is not contrary thereto, as when a man loves himself from the point of view of his own good, yet not so as to place his end in this his own good": for example, if we love ourselves naturally without thereby turning away from God or disobeying His law.
It must be remembered that, according to St. Thomas (la, q.60, a.5), every creature is naturally inclined to love more than himself the Author of his nature (i.e., God), who keeps it in existence, just as in our organism the hand spontaneously exposes itself for the sake of the whole. But this natural inclination to love God more than self is attenuated in man by original sin and by his personal sins.
12. De civitate Dei, Bk. XIV, chap. 28. Pages like those we have quoted make one think that in St. Augustine infused contemplation often directed from on high the reasoning necessary for the written or spoken exposition of divine truth.
13. St. Thomas, IIa IIae, q. 17, a.6 ad 3um. Cf. ibid., q.83, a.9: "Now our end is God toward whom our affections tend in two ways: first, by our willing the glory of God, secondly, by our willing to enjoy His glory. The first belongs to the love whereby we love God in Himself; the second belongs to the love whereby we love ourselves in God. Wherefore the first petition is expressed thus: Hallowed be Thy name; and the second thus: Thy kingdom come, by which we ask to come to the glory of His kingdom." And by an act of hope we can desire eternal life as our supreme good; and by an act of charity, desire it in order to glorify God eternally. Cf. Cajetan, In IIam IIae, q.23,a.1,no.2.
14. The Imitation, Bk. III, chap. 27.
15. St. Thomas speaks in like manner (Ia IIae, q.109, a. 2): "In the state of corrupt nature, man falls short of what he could do by his nature, so that he is unable to accomplish this good fully by his own natural powers. . . . But a man can do some particular good, such as building a house, planting a vineyard, and the like." Ibid., a. 3: "In the state of corrupt nature man falls short of this in the appetite of his rational will, which, unless it is cured by God's grace, follows its private good, on account of the corruption of nature."
Cf. IIIa, q.69, a.3: Even after baptism there remain concupiscence and the other wounds that are in the process of healing, thereby furnishing an occasion of struggle and of merit.
16. The Imitation, Bk. III, chap. 54.
17 The Dialogue, chap. 51. St. Thomas (Ia IIae, q.58, a. 5) had likewise noted, following Aristotle, that every man judges of the end that is fitting for him according to the subjective dispositions of his will and sensible appetites: "Such as a man is, such does the end seem to him." The proud man indeed finds what satisfies his pride, the humble man what preserves him in humility.
18. The Dialogue, chap. 122.
19. See especially the Theological Introduction by Father Hugueny, O.P., in the French translation, I, 71-82.