Monday, May 31, 2010

The Spirit of Anger

O My Soul:

Here is a excerpt from St. John Cassian, The Institutes.

"Book VIII. Of the Spirit of Anger.

Chapter I.

How our fourth conflict is against the sin of anger, and how manyevils this passion produces. In our fourth combat the deadly poison of anger has to be utterly rooted out from the inmost comers of our soul. For as long as this remains in our hearts, and blinds with its hurtful darkness the eyeof the soul, we can neither acquire right judgment and discretion,nor gain the insight which springs from an honest gaze, or ripeness of counsel, nor can we be partakers of life, or retentive of righteousness, or even have the capacity for spiritual and truelight: "for," says one, mine eye is disturbed by reason of anger."1 Nor can we become partakers of wisdom, even though we are considered wise by universal consent, for "anger rests in the bosom of fools."2 Nor can we even attain immortal life, although we are accounted prudent in the opinion of everybody, for "anger destroys even the prudent."3 Nor shall we be able with clear judgment of heart to secure the controlling power of righteousness, even though we arereckoned perfect and holy in the estimation of all men, for "thewrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God."4 Nor can we by any possibility acquire that esteem and honour which is so frequently seen even in worldlings, even though we are thought noble and honourable through the privileges of birth, because "an angry man is dishonoured."5 Nor again can we secure any ripeness of counsel, even though we appear to be weighty, and endowed with the utmostknowledge; because "an angry man acts without counsel."6 Nor can webe free from dangerous disturbances, nor be without sin, even though no sort of disturbances be brought upon us by others; because "apassionate man engenders quarrels, but an angry man digs up sins."7

Chapter II.

Of those who say that anger is not injurious, if we are angry withthose who do wrong, since God Himself is said to be angry. We have heard some people trying to excuse this most pernicious disease of the soul, in such a way as to endeavour to extenuate it by a rather shocking way of interpreting Scripture: as they say that it is not injurious if we are angry with the brethren who do wrong, since, say they, God Himself is said to rage and to be angry with those who either will not know Him, or, knowing Him, spurn Him, ashere "And the anger of the Lord was kindled against His people;"8 orwhere the prophet prays and says, "O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy displeasure;"9 not understanding that, while they want to open to men an excuse for a most pestilent sin, they are ascribing to the Divine Infinity and Fountain of allpurity a taint of human passion.

Chapter III.

Of those things which are spoken of God anthropomorphically. For if when these things are said of God they are to be understood literally in a material gross signification, then also He sleeps, asit is said, "Arise, wherefore sleepest thou, O Lord?"10 though it is elsewhere said of Him: "Behold he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep."11 And He stands and sits, since He says, "Heaven is my seat, and earth the footstool for my feet:"12 though He "measure out the heaven with his hand, and holdeth the earth in his fist."13 And He is "drunken with wine" as it is said, "The Lord awoke like a sleeper, a mighty man, drunken with wine;"14 He "who only hath immortality and dwelleth in the light which no man canapproach unto:"15 not to say anything of the "ignorance"and "forgetfulness," of which we often find mention in Holy Scripture: nor lastly of the outline of His limbs, which are spokenof as arranged and ordered like a man's; e.g., the hair, head,nostrils, eyes, face, hands, arms, fingers, belly, and feet: if weare willing to take all of which according to the bare literal sense,we must think of God as in fashion with the outline of limbs, and abodily form; which indeed is shocking even to speak of, and must befar from our thoughts.

Chapter IV.

In what sense we should understand the passions and human arts which are ascribed to the unchanging and incorporeal God.And so as without horrible profanity these things cannot beunderstood literally of Him who is declared by the authority of HolyScripture to be invisible, ineffable, incomprehensible, inestimable,simple, and uncompounded, so neither can the passion of anger andwrath be attributed to that unchangeable nature without fearfulblasphemy. For we ought to see that the limbs signify the divinepowers and boundless operations of God, which can only be representedto us by the familiar expression of limbs: by the mouth we should understand that His utterances are meant, which are of His mercycontinually poured into the secret senses of the soul, or which Hespoke among our fathers and the prophets: by the eyes we canunderstand the boundless character of His sight with which He seesand looks through all things, and so nothing is hidden from Him ofwhat is done or can be done by us, or even thought. By theexpression "hands," we understand His providence and work, by whichHe is the creator and author of all things; the arms are the emblemsof His might and government, with which He upholds, rules andcontrols all things. And not to speak of other things, what else doesthe hoary hair of His head signify but the eternity and perpetuity of Deity, through which He is without any beginning, and before alltimes, and excels all creatures? So then also when we read of the anger or fury of the Lord, we should take it not... according to an unworthy meaning of human passion,16 but in a sense worthy of God, who is free from all passion; so that by this weshould understand that He is the judge and avenger of all the unjustthings which are done in this world; and by reason of these terms andtheir meaning we should dread Him as the terrible rewarder of ourdeeds, and fear to do anything against His will. For human nature iswont to fear those whom it knows to be indignant, and is afraid ofoffending: as in the case of some most just judges, avenging wrath isusually feared by those who are tormented by some accusation of theirconscience; not indeed that this passion exists in the minds of thosewho are going to judge with perfect equity, but that, while they sofear, the disposition of the judge towards them is that which is theprecursor of a just and impartial execution of the law. And this,with whatever kindness and gentleness it may be conducted, is deemedby those who are justly to be punished to be the most savage wrathand vehement anger. It would be tedious and outside the scope of thepresent work were we to explain all the things which are spokenmetaphorically of God in Holy Scripture, with human figures. Let itbe enough for our present purpose, which is aimed against the sin ofwrath, to have said this that no one may through ignorance draw downupon himself a cause of this evil and of eternal death, out of thoseScriptures in which he should seek for saintliness and immortality asthe remedies to bring life and salvation."

end of excerpt.

Hope in Christ &
God bless you.


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