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Chapter XVI.

How, after the fashion of the Olympic games, a monk should not attempt spiritual conflicts unless he has won battles over the flesh.

And so when the desires of the belly and of the palate have been by these considerations overcome, and when we have been declared, as in the Olympic contests, neither slaves of the flesh nor infamous through the brand of sin, we shall be adjudged to be worthy of the contest in higher struggles as well, and, leaving behind lessons of this kind, may be believed capable of entering the lists against spiritual wickednesses, against which only victors and those who are allowed to contend in a spiritual conflict are deemed worthy to struggle. For this is so to speak a most solid foundation of all the conflicts, viz.: that in the first instance the impulses of carnal desires should be destroyed. For no one can lawfully strive unless his own flesh has been overcome. And one who does not strive lawfully certainly cannot take a share in the contest, nor win a crown of glory and the grace of victory. But if we have been overcome in this battle, having been proved as it were slaves of carnal lusts, and thus displaying the tokens neither of freedom nor of strength, we shall be straightway repulsed from the conflicts with spiritual hosts, as unworthy and as slaves, with every mark of confusion. For “every one that doeth sin is the servant of sin.”840840    S. John viii. 34. And this will be addressed to us by the blessed Apostle, together with those among whom fornication is named. “Temptation does not overtake you, except such as is human.”841841    1 Cor. x. 13. For if we do not seek for strength of mind842842    Mentis robore non quœsito.—Petschenig. Gazæus omits the negative and reads conquisito. we shall not deserve to make trial of severer contest against wickedness on high, if we have been unable to subdue our weak flesh which resists the spirit. And some not understanding this testimony of the Apostle, have read the subjunctive instead of the indicative mood, i.e., “Let no temptation overcome you, except such as is human.”843843    S. Jerome’s version, which was certainly know to Cassian (cf. Conferences XXIII. viii.) has “Temptatio vos non apprehendat nisi humana.” But it is clear that it is rather said by him with the meaning not of a wish but of a declaration or rebuke.

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