In Every Temptation, We Learn About Our Enemy

Every temptation is a skirmish on the battlefield, and there are many enemies that are attacking us as we seek to make progress toward Heaven.
In my book, Slaying Dragons: What Exorcists See & What We Should Know, I reference Fr. Ripperger as stating:

Fr. Ripperger describes the third stage as the battle phase, where the priest is slowly gaining power over the demon. Here, the demon will attack the priest interiorly, in a way that resembles what the possessed person is experiencing. This attack reveals a lot about the demon, which the exorcist can then use against the demon. Father says that, if the exorcist is very experienced, the demons are more cautious about taking this approach. (pg 82-83)

Exorcists are experts at the workings of the diabolical.  When a demon shows his hand too much to an exorcist, it gives him many clues as to how to remove the demon.  
Casting out a demon is complicated business, animated by the infallible power of Christ.  The instrument, the priest, is not infallible, so it takes a real effort on his part in order to successfully apply the power of the Rite of Exorcism and help liberate the person from the hold of the demons.

In the average day, every Christian experiences an untold number of assaults from the Enemy and his army.  These are mostly subtle and difficult to even notice.  However, they are constant and calculated.  In time, they wear us down and turn us in the direction of sin, if we are not constantly resisting.

Like exorcists, we need to be attentive to what the demon is doing in our temptations. When demons tempt us, we learn about their strategy.  
Their temptations reveal:
  • the buttons they think they can push in our soul to get us to follow their instructions
  • the weakness in our soul of which they are very much aware
  • the techniques and patterns of attack, such as catching us when we are tired
  • their hatred for when we are doing good or directly opposing their work
  • their powerlessness against fasting and heartfelt prayer and meditation
  • their determination and incessant persistence, despite our effort to run from them and to Christ.
When we are wise, we will learn from this experience and plan ahead, expecting the Enemy to show up when he has in the past.  With this knowledge, we can navigate the battlefield without stepping on mines and falling in pits, for we will see the mounds and notice the signs of the shovel, and avoid those areas completely.

But demons are not the only enemy seeking to destroy us...

The Other Enemy

In addition to the demon who comes against us in a temptation, there is another enemy that manifests at that moment.

When we are tempted to steal, or to react with anger, or to dismiss someone as irrelevant, or to lust and break the vows of our state in life, there are two enemies that are acting against us.

First, as seen above, the demon is actively trying to offer us an evil path and make that evil path desirable.  He makes it seem like a good path, one which will bear good fruit and benefit us, albeit selfishly.

Second, another enemy manifests after the demon's proposition has been suggested.  That enemy is one who dwells always within us:  the old man of sin - our very own self.

When the temptation hits our mind and attempts to exert pressure on our will, trying to convince us that this evil is truly what we want to do, the old man of sin within us begins to ponder the suggestion.

The extent to which he ponders it depends on how strong we have made him.
  • Have we weakened him through penance, prayer, fasting, devotions, charity, and reading of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition?  
  • Or have we let him grow fat and happy, slothful and slimy in our souls, such that he stirs to pleasure at the first offer and begins whining and lamenting the burdens that Christ has placed upon us, longing to return to the land of sin which Satan has so well cultivated on the earth?
The answer is easy to discern, if we are attentive at the moment of temptation.  Practice this the next time you are confronted with a choice for evil, or even to simply desire the evil that is being proposed to you.

When you first hear the evil suggestion or confront the evil opportunity:
  • do you recoil internally and shut off all consideration of the deed?
  • do you take a look at the suggestion and judge whether it is venial or mortal before deciding?
  • do you evaluate the suggestion to determine how close you can approach it before it lures you in, that you may enjoy the pleasure it brings from a distance, without committing yourself?
  • do you reject the idea, but, once it has passed, linger on the potential enjoyment it could have brought you?
  • do you reject the option completely, but return to it over and over in your imagination, pondering how enjoyable it would have been had you decided to follow the temptation?
It is in this analysis that you will come to see how well-trained the internal enemy is, that old man of sin that resists the death that he was subjected to in Baptism.

Know then, your enemy.  
  • Are you your soul's worst enemy, or is it the world and the devil?  
  • Have you crucified your flesh with its evil passions and desires, or have you established them as the friends and companions to comfort you on your journey through life?
The pleasures that sin brings, whether it is the self-glory (pride) at condemning someone, the feeling of power and domination in acting in anger and rage, the glory and power from lying and stealing, or the carnal delight of lust and fornication, can become idols.

In these idols, which we pretend we do not have, the old man of sin commands us, under threat of misery and unhappiness, to bow down before them - these, which are none other than the first enemies themselves - demons.

In the end, if there is an internal conspirator - the old man of sin - residing within us, the demons will have constant access to our mind and will.  
Our ability to persevere in holiness will thus be sabotaged.  
Our walk with Christ will be as one blindfolded, wandering aimlessly among thorns and pits.  When His voice seems quiet, it will be because we have wandered away, without recollection of the consequences of our actions.  We can no longer hear Him, not because He fails to call, but because the Devil's circus has mesmerized us for too long, and we have followed after it instead of Christ.

Let us all take account of our souls and do the work necessary to remove the strings that make us Satan's puppet.  Let us, broken free by wisdom, grace, and effort, bind ourselves to Christ that we may always hear His voice, recognize it, and follow after Him.

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