The Catechism of Trent – THE SIXTH PETITION OF THE LORD’S PRAYER
” AND LEAD US NOT INTO TEMPTATION.”
Hence Christ the Lord has commanded us to offer this Petition so that we may commend ourselves daily to God, and implore His paternal care and assistance, being assured that, if we be deserted by the divine protection, we shall soon fall into the snares of our most crafty enemy.
Nor is it in the Lord’s Prayer alone that He has commanded us to beg of God not to suffer us to be led into temptation. In His address to the holy Apostles also, on the very eve of His death, after He had declared them clean, He admonished them of this duty in these words: Pray that ye enter not into temptation.
This admonition, reiterated by Christ the Lord, imposes on the pastor the weighty obligation of exciting the faithful to a frequent use of this prayer, so that, beset as men constantly are by the great dangers which the devil prepares, they may ever ad dress to God, who alone can repel those dangers, the prayer, Lead us not into temptation.’
What more striking example can there be of human infirmity, than the holy band of the Apostles, who, though they had just before felt very courageous, at the first sight of danger, abandoned the Saviour and fled. A still more conspicuous example is the conduct of the Prince of the Apostles. He who a short time before loudly protested his courage and special loyalty to Christ the Lord, he who had been so confident in himself as to say, Though I should die with thee, I will not deny thee, became so affrighted at the voice of a poor maid�servant that he declared at once with an oath that he knew not the Lord. Doubtless his courage was not equal to his good�will. But if, by the frailty of human nature in which they confided, even the Saints have sinned grievously, what have not others to fear, who are so far below them in holiness?
How few are there who are not compelled to experience at their great cost what anger, what concupiscence can do in us? Who is not annoyed by these stings? who does not feel these goads? who does not burn with these smouldering fires? And, indeed, so various are these assaults, so diversified these attacks, that it is extremely difficult not to receive some grievous wound.
The Apostle entitles the demons princes, on account of the excellence of their nature, since by nature they are superior to man, and to all other visible creatures. He also calls them powers, because they excel not only by their nature, but also by their power. He designates them rulers of the world of darkness, because they rule not the world of light and glory, that is to say, the good and the pious, but the world of gloom and darkness, namely, those who, blinded by the defilement and darkness of a wicked life, are satisfied to have for their leader the devil, the prince of darkness. He also terms the demons the spirits of wickedness, because there is a wickedness of the spirit, as well as of the flesh. What is called the wickedness of the flesh inflames the appetite to lusts and pleasures, which are perceived by the senses; while the wickedness of the spirit are evil purposes and depraved desires, which belong to the superior part of the soul, and which are so much worse than the wickedness of the flesh as mind itself and reason are higher and more excellent (than the senses). The wickedness of Satan the Apostle spoke of as in the high places, because the chief aim of the evil one is to deprive us of our heavenly inheritance.
How great is their audacity is evidenced by the words of Satan, recorded by the Prophet: I will ascend into heaven. He attacked our first parents in Paradise; he assailed the Prophets; he beset the Apostles in order, as the Lord says in the Gospel, that he might sift them as wheat.’ Nor was he abashed even by the presence of Christ the Lord Himself. His insatiable desire and unwearied diligence St. Peter therefore expressed when he said: Your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion goeth about, seeking whom he may devour.
But those who have dedicated themselves to God, leading a heavenly life upon earth, are the chief objects of the assaults of Satan. Against them he harbours bitterest hatred, laying snares for them each moment. Sacred Scripture is full of examples of holy men who, in spite of their firmness and resolution, were perverted by his violence or fraud. Adam, David, Solomon and others, whom it would be tedious to enumerate, experienced the violent and crafty cunning of demons, which neither human prudence nor human strength can overcome.
But should any of the faithful, through weakness or ignorance, feel terrified at the power of the demons, they are to be encouraged, when tossed by the waves of temptation, to take refuge in this harbour of prayer. For however great the power and pertinacity of Satan, he cannot, in his deadly hatred of our race, tempt or torment us as much, or as long as he pleases; but all his power is governed by the control and permission of God. The example of Job is very well known. Satan could have touched nothing belonging to him, if God had not said to the devil: Behold, all that he hath is in thy hand; while on the other hand, had not the Lord added: Only put not forth thy hand upon his person, Job with his children and possessions, would have been at once destroyed by the devil. So restricted is the power of demons, that without the permission of God, they could not even enter into the swine mentioned by the Evangelists.
To tempt is to sound a person in order that by eliciting from him what we desire, we may extract the truth. This mode of tempting does not apply to God; for what is there that God does not know? All things are naked and open to his eyes.
Another kind of tempting implies more than this? inasmuch as it may have either a good or a bad purpose. Temptation has a good purpose, when someone’s worth is tried, in order that when it has been tested and proved he may be rewarded and honoured, his example proposed to others for imitation, and all may be incited thereby to the praises of God. This is the only kind of tempting that can be found in God. Of it there is an example in Deuteronomy: The Lord your God tries you, that it may appear whether you love him or not.
In this manner God is also said to tempt His own, when He visits them with want, disease and other sorts of calamities. This He does to try their patience, and to make them an example of Christian virtue. Thus we read that Abraham was tempted to immolate his son, by which fact he became a singular example of obedience and patience to all succeeding times. Thus also is it written of Tobias: Because thou wast acceptable to God, it was necessary that temptation should prove thee.
Men are tempted for a bad purpose, when they are impelled to sin or destruction. To do this is the work of the devil, for he tempts men with a view to deceive and precipitate them into ruin, and he is therefore called in Scripture, the tempter At one time, stimulating us from within, he employs the agency of the affections and passions of the soul. At another time, assailing us from without, he makes use of external things, as of prosperity, to puff us up with pride, or of adversity, to break our spirits. Sometimes he has for his emissaries and assistants abandoned men, particularly heretics, who, sitting in the chair of pestilence, scatter the deadly seeds of bad doctrines, thus unsettling and precipitating headlong those persons who draw no line of distinction between vice and virtue and are of themselves prone to evil.
Secondly, we are said to be led into temptation by him who, although he himself does not tempt us nor cooperate in tempting us, yet is said to tempt because he does not prevent us from being tempted or from being overcome by temptations when he is able to prevent these things. In this manner God, indeed, suffers the good and the pious to be tempted, but does not leave them unsupported by His grace. Sometimes, however, we fall, being left to ourselves by the just and secret judgment of God, in punishment of our sins.
God is also said to lead us into temptation when we abuse, to our destruction, His blessings, which He has given us as a means of salvation; when, like the prodigal son, we squander our Father’s substance, living riotously and yielding to our evil desires. In such a case we can say what the Apostle has said of the law: The commandment that was ordained to life, the same was found to be unto death to me.
Of this an opportune example is Jerusalem, as we learn from Ezechiel. God had so enriched that city with every sort of embellishment, that He said of it by the mouth of the Prophet: Thou wast perfect through my beauty, which I had put upon thee. Yet Jerusalem, favoured with such an abundance of divine gifts, was so far from showing gratitude to God, from whom she had received and was still receiving so many favours, was so far from making use of those heavenly gifts for the attainment of her own happiness, the end for which she had received them, that having cast away the hope and idea of deriving spiritual profit from them, she, most ungrateful to God her Father, was content to enjoy her present abundance with a luxury and riotousness which Ezechiel describes at considerable length in the same chapter. Wherefore those whom God permits to convert into instruments of vice the abundant opportunities of virtuous deeds which He has afforded them, are equally ungrateful to Him.
But we ought carefully to notice a certain usage of Sacred Scripture, which sometimes denotes the permission of God in words which, if taken literally, would imply a positive act on the part of God. Thus in Exodus we read: I will harden the heart of Pharoah; and in Isaias: Blind the heart of this people; and the Apostle to the Romans writes: God delivered them up to shameful affections, and to a reprobate sense. In these and other similar passages we are to understand, not at all any positive act on the part of God, but His permission only.
We do not ask to be totally exempt from temptation, for human life is one continued temptation. This, however, is useful and advantageous to man. Temptation teaches us to know ourselves, that is, our own weakness, and to humble ourselves under the powerful hand of God; and by fighting manfully, we expect to receive a never�fading crown of glory. For he that striveth for the mastery is not crowned, except he strive lawfully. Blessed is the man, says St. James, that endureth temptation; for when he hath been proved, he shall receive the crown of life, which God hath promised to them that love him. If we are sometimes hard pressed by the temptation of the enemy, it will also cheer us to reflect, that we have a high priest to help us, who can have compassion on our infirmities, having been tempted himself in all things.
We should, therefore, implore the divine assistance, in general, against all temptations, and especially when assailed by any particular temptation. This we find to have been the conduct of David, under almost every species of temptation. Against lying, he prays in these words: Take not thou the word of truth utterly out of my mouth; against covetousness: Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness; and against the vanities of this life and the allurements of concupiscence, he prays thus: Turn away my eyes, that they may not behold vanity.
We pray, therefore, that we yield not to evil desires, and be not wearied in enduring temptation; that we deviate not from the way of the Lord; that in adversity, as in prosperity, we preserve equanimity and fortitude; and that God may never deprive us of His protection. Finally, we pray that God may crush Satan beneath our feet.
When Joseph was assailed by the criminal solicitations of a wicked woman, did not God rescue him from the imminent danger, and exalt him to the highest degree of glory? Did He not preserve Susanna, when beset by the ministers of Satan, and on the point of being made the victim of an iniquitous sentence? Nor is this surprising; for her heart, says the Scripture, trusted in the Lord. How exalted the praise, how great the glory of Job, who triumphed over the world, the flesh and the devil ! There are on record many similar examples to which the pastor should refer, in order to exhort with earnestness his pious hearers to this hope and confidence.
The Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews abounds with the victories of holy men, who by faith conquered kingdoms, stopped the mouths of lions, etc. While we read of such achievements, we should also take into account the victories which are every day won by men eminent for faith, hope and charity, in their interior and exterior conflicts with the demons, �� victories so numerous and so signal, that, were we spectators of them, we should deem no event of more frequent occurrence, none of more glorious issue. It was with reference to such defeats of the enemies that St. John wrote: I write unto you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and you have overcome the wicked one.’
The strength by which we lay prostrate the satellites of Satan comes from God, who maketh our arms as a bow of brass; by whose aid the bow of the mighty is overcome, and the weak are girt with strength; who giveth us the protection of salvation, whose right hand upholdeth us: who teacheth our hands to war, and our fingers to battle. Hence to God alone must thanks be given for victory, since it is only through His guidance and help that we are able to conquer. This the Apostle did; for he said: Thanks to God, who hath given us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ. The voice from heaven, mentioned in the Apocalypse, also proclaims God to be the author of our victories: Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ; because the accuser of our brethren is cast forth; and they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb.” The same book declares that the victory obtained over the world and the flesh belongs to Christ the Lord, when it says: They shall fight with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them. But enough has now been said on the cause and the manner of conquering (temptation).