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Letters from an Ancient Mind

My dear young friend,

You do live in a difficult time. Can it really be that your friend is at all serious that the only possible reaction to temptation is to yield? I suspect he would not be so willing to proclaim this principle if the temptation were to cowardice. You might bring up that example. He fancies himself an athlete, you say; no athlete can do without courage. Every athlete faces the temptation of giving in to pain and exhaustion. Ask him what he would think of that.

Temptation is a very useful thing, though you may not know it. Did you know it as a prod of humility? Think of it thusly when next you give in to some minor temptation – and remember that you, too, are human. By temptation you are purified, too. When you resist the devil you become stronger in the faith. But most of all, temptation is highly instructive.

You may not think so. But consider: in temptation Satan points out each of your weaknesses in the order most vile. By his attack he lays out for you a map of your own soul and its weaknesses. Take this map and plan your campaign to defeat him.

Daily should you pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Indeed, if you will ask, our Lord will arrange matters such that there is no temptation too strong for your character. But you must ask – and be willing to receive the answer. It may be that he shields you from things you thought you could bear – and thus you know that you are weaker than you believed.

When that occurs, do remember how temptation starts. It flows from a scant trust of God and a wavering mind. It is your faith that is being tested in temptation; do you really trust that God’s ways are far better than your own? If you doubt that in your mind, temptation will grow quickly.

The greatest of fortresses are built block by block. So it is with the great saints. They are built temptation by temptation.

Hoping this eases your mind, I remain

Isaac the alchemist

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