St. Cyprian of Carthage: On Jealousy and Envy (Part 3)

I do hope you have benefited from this 3 part series as St. Cyprian wraps up his teaching on jealousy and envy. He gives us encouragement to persevere in our spiritual struggles. “Let us be always busied in spiritual actions that so often as the enemy approaches, however often he may try to come near, he may find the breast closed and armed against him.” He guides us toward the ultimate healing of our minds and hearts: “Your thoughts and deeds shall be directed from above, when you consider those things which are divine and righteous, as it is written: Let the heart of a man consider righteous things, that his steps may be directed by the Lord.” Let us listen to his closing words…

St. Cyprian of Carthage

  1. Thus also the Apostle Paul, when he was urging the merits of peace and charity, and when he was strongly asserting and teaching that neither faith nor alms, nor even the passion itself of the confessor and the martyr, would avail him, unless he kept the requirements of charity entire and inviolate, added, and said: Charity, is magnanimous, charity is kind, charity envies not; 1 Corinthians 13:4 teaching, doubtless, and showing that whoever is magnanimous, and kind, and averse from jealousy and rancor, such a one can maintain charity. Moreover, in another place, when he was advising that the man who has already become filled with the Holy Spirit, and a son of God by heavenly birth, should observe nothing but spiritual and divine things, he lays it down, and says: And I indeed, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, not with meat: for you were not able hitherto; moreover, neither now are you able. For you are yet worldly: for whereas there are still among you jealousy, and contention, and strife, are you not carnal, and walk as men? 1 Corinthians 3:1-3
  1. Vices and carnal sins must be trampled down, beloved brethren, and the corrupting plague of the earthly body must be trodden under foot with spiritual vigor, lest, while we are turned back again to the conversation of the old man, we be entangled in deadly snares, even as the apostle, with foresight and wholesomeness, forewarned us of this very thing, and said: Therefore, brethren, let us not live after the flesh; for if you live after the flesh, you shall begin to die; but if you, through the Spirit, mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God they are the sons of God. Romans 8:12-14 If we are the sons of God, if we are already beginning to be His temples, if, having received the Holy Spirit, we are living holily and spiritually, if we have raised our eyes from earth to heaven, if we have lifted our hearts, filled with God and Christ, to things above and divine, let us do nothing but what is worthy of God and Christ, even as the apostle arouses and exhorts us, saying: If you be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God; occupy your minds with things that are above, not with things which are upon the earth. For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. But when Christ, who is your life, shall appear, then shall you also appear with Him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4 Let us, then, who in baptism have both died and been buried in respect of the carnal sins of the old man, who have risen again with Christ in the heavenly regeneration, both think upon and do the things which are Christ’s, even as the same apostle again teaches and counsels, saying: The first man is of the dust of the earth; the second man is from heaven. As we have borne the image of him who is of the earth, let us also bear the image of Him who is from heaven. 1 Corinthians 15:47-49 But we cannot bear the heavenly image, unless in that condition wherein we have already begun to be, we show forth the likeness of Christ.
  2. For this is to change what you had been, and to begin to be what you were not, that the divine birth might shine forth in you, that the godly discipline might respond to God, the Father, that in the honor and praise of living, God may be glorified in man; as He Himself exhorts, and warns, and promises to those who glorify Him a reward in their turn, saying, Them that glorify me I will glorify, and he who despises me shall be despised. 1 Samuel 2:30 For which glorification the Lord, forming and preparing us, and the Son of God instilling the likeness of God the Father, says in His Gospel: You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, and pray for them which persecute you; that you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven, who makes His sun to rise on the good and on the evil, and sends rain upon the just and on the unjust. Matthew 5:43-45 If it is a source of joy and glory to men to have children like to themselves— and it is more agreeable to have begotten an offspring then when the remaining progeny responds to the parent with like lineaments— how much greater is the gladness in God the Father, when any one is so spiritually born that in his acts and praises the divine eminence of race is announced! What a palm of righteousness is it, what a crown to be such a one as that the Lord should not say of you, I have begotten and brought up children, but they have despised me! Isaiah 1:2 Let Christ rather applaud you, and invite you to the reward, saying, Come, you blessed of my Father, receive the kingdom which is prepared for you from the beginning of the world. Matthew 25:34
  3. The mind must be strengthened, beloved brethren, by these meditations. By exercises of this kind it must be confirmed against all the darts of the devil. Let there be the divine reading in the hands, the Lord’s thoughts in the mind; let constant prayer never cease at all; let saving labor persevere. Let us be always busied in spiritual actions that so often as the enemy approaches, however often he may try to come near, he may find the breast closed and armed against him. For a Christian man’s crown is not only that which is received in the time of persecution: peace also has its crowns, wherewith the victors, from a varied and manifold engagement, are crowned, when their adversary is prostrated and subdued. To have overcome lust is the palm of continence. To have resisted against anger, against injury, is the crown of patience. It is a triumph over avarice to despise money. It is the praise of faith, by trust in the future, to suffer the adversity of the world. And he who is not haughty in prosperity, obtains glory for his humility; and he who is disposed to the mercifulness of cherishing the poor, obtains the retribution of a heavenly treasure; and he who knows not to be jealous, and who with one heart and in meekness loves his brethren, is honored with the recompense of love and peace. In this course of virtues we daily run; to these palms and crowns of justice we attain without intermission of time.
  1. To these rewards that you also may come who had been possessed with jealousy and rancor, cast away all that malice wherewith you were before held fast, and be reformed to the way of eternal life in the footsteps of salvation. Tear out from your breast thorns and thistles, that the Lord’s seed may enrich you with a fertile produce, that the divine and spiritual cornfield may abound to a fruitful harvest. Cast out the poison of gall, cast out the virus of discords. Let the mind which the malice of the serpent had infected be purged; let all bitterness which had settled within be softened by the sweetness of Christ. If you take both meat and drink from the sacrament of the cross, let the wood which at Mara availed in a figure for sweetening the taste, avail to you in in reality for soothing your softened breast; and you shall not strive for a medicine for your increasing health. Be cured by that whereby you had been wounded. Love those whom you previously had hated; favor those whom you envied with unjust disparagement. Imitate good men, if you are able to follow them; but it you are not able to follow them, at least rejoice with them, and congratulate those who are better than you. Make yourself a sharer with them in united love; make yourself their associate in the alliance of charity and the bond of brotherhood. Your debts shall be remitted to you when you yourself shall have forgiven. Your sacrifices shall be received when you shall come in peace to God. Your thoughts and deeds shall be directed from above, when you consider those things which are divine and righteous, as it is written: Let the heart of a man consider righteous things, that his steps may be directed by the Lord.
  2. And you have many things to consider. Think of paradise, whither Cain does not enter, who by jealousy slew his brother. Think of the heavenly kingdom, to which the Lord does not admit any but those who are of one heart and mind. Consider that those alone can be called sons of God who are peacemakers, who in heavenly birth and by the divine law are made one, and respond to the likeness of God the Father and of Christ. Consider that we are standing under the eyes of God, that we are pursuing the course of our conversation and our life, with God Himself looking on and judging, that we may then at length be able to attain to the result of beholding Him, if we now delight Him who sees us, by our actions, if we show ourselves worthy of His favor and indulgence; if we, who are always to please Him in His kingdom, previously please Him in the world.
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