Sunday, August 8, 2010

Through the eyes, disordered affections and desires are excited --St. Alphonsus.

Through the eyes “generally speaking all disordered affections and desires are excited,” says St. Alphonsus.

I present this article next to help us all, especially men, to learn this difficult virtue of practicing custody of the eyes, not only to preserve the virtue of purity but also to mortify curiosity that can lead to many other vices.

Visual temptations are very strong and difficult to resist; therefore, it is necessary to beware of them and take precaution not to be ensnared by them. Through the eyes “generally speaking all disordered affections and desires are excited,” says St. Alphonsus. St. Augustine explains that bad “thoughts follow the look; delight comes after the thought; and consent [to sin] follows delight.” And we see that the very first sin that brought death to all began with an unguarded look: Eve “saw that [the fruit] was good to eat, and fair to the eyes, and beautiful to behold, she took of the fruit, and ate.” (Gen 3:6). The devil certainly knew the power of temptations of sight and made use of it here. So we can see that the devil first tempts us to look, then to desire, and afterwards to consent. How important it is then to acquire the habit to restrain our eyes and be on guard when we are faced with any sight that we know would offend God.

Because of the enticing allure of visual temptations it is imperative first to avoid all occasions to sin and then if avoidance is not possible, custody of the eyes must be practiced. Common occasions of sin to be avoided today are: television programs, beaches during the daytime in summer, other public places where immodesty reigns, computer internet sites, certain persons who typically are a cause of sinful temptation, etc.

To practice custody of the eyes the advice invariably offered by the saints is to keep one’s eyes cast down when danger is present, or to stay out of view of the sinful sight, or not to fix one’s eyes on certain people, especially those of the opposite sex if we are vowed in marriage or some form of religious life. [If our eyes are not good and we wear glasses, it is also helpful to remove the glasses when immodesty is present.] When these temptations are present we will find it much easier not to fall into sin if we raise our hearts to Heaven asking our guardian angel and Our Lady especially to protect us and strengthen against the snare of sinful sights and from making sinful glances and gazes.

This advice was not followed by the two Judges in the book of Daniel who looked upon Susanna with lust and “perverted their own mind and turned away their eyes that they might not look to Heaven nor remember just judgments.” (Dan. 13:9).

Jesus tells us that “if your eye is an occasion of sin to you, pluck it out! It is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell-fire, “Where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9: 46). Our eyes were given to us by God “to be directed to what inspires devotion, to sacred images, and to the beauty of creation, which elevate the soul to the contemplation of the divinity,” says St. Alphonsus, not to behold things that cause us to sin and offend God.

St. Dominic Savio would strictly control his eyes on his way to and from school so much so that his friends, who loved to look at exciting things along the way, learned that he never noticed those things. One boy angrily yelled at him: “What are your eyes for if you don’t use them to look at things like these?” St. Dominic replied: “I’ll use them to look at the face of the Blessed Mother if by God’s grace I am worthy of Heaven.” One day he also found his friends looking at indecent pictures. He went in the midst of them, grabbed the pictures and tore them up in their presence, saying: “How stupid can we be? God gives us eyes to look at his beauties, and you use them to stare at this filth made by corrupt men to harm your souls. Have you forgotten all you learned? Our Lord says we can soil our souls with a single evil glance, and you go ahead and gloat over these dirty things!”

The virtue of practicing custody of the eyes is indeed difficult. It requires a diligent and unyielding effort exercised with frequent recourse to Heaven, frequent confession in the Holy Sacrament to cleanse one’s soul and strengthen one’s resolve, and a perseverance that will never slacken until a firm habit has been established in controlling one’s eyes. Some men, and perhaps women too, find it next to impossible to restrain their eyes with the immodesty in the world; but for those who are committed to living a holy life and not offending God, there is always great hope using these supernatural means of recourse to Our Lady and the Sacraments accompanied by a planned resolve every day to conquer this sinful temptation more and more.

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