No matter how strong your defenses against the worst vices, says St. John Cassian, opening the gate for one lets them all in.
It is impossible that the fiery motions of the body can be extinguished before the incentives of the other chief vices are utterly rooted out. For you will never feel sure that someone can strive against the opposition of a stronger enemy, if you have seen him overcome by weaker ones in a higher conflict.
The nature of all virtues is one and the same, although they appear to be divided into many different kinds and names: just as there is only one substance of gold, although it may seem to be distributed through many different kinds of jewelry according to the skill of the goldsmith. And so anyone who has broken down in one part of the virtues is proved to possess no virtue perfectly.
For how can we believe that anyone has extinguished the burning heats of concupiscence, when he could not relieve the sharp stings of anger which break out from intemperance of heart alone? Or how can we think that anyone has repressed the wanton desires of the flesh and spirit, when he has not been able to conquer the simple fault of pride? Or how can we believe that anyone has trampled under foot a wantonness that is ingrained in the flesh, when he has not been able to disown the love of money?
However much a city may be protected by the height of its walls and the strength of its closed gates, yet it is laid waste by giving up one doorway, however small. For what difference does it make whether a dangerous enemy makes his way into the heart of the city over high walls, and through the wide spaces of the gate, or through secret and narrow passages? –St. John Cassian, Institutes, 5.11
What small, seemingly inconsequential vices have I allowed to slip in through the side door?
Lord, grant me sobriety, temperance, sanctification, and renewal of soul, so that I may praise the glory of your most holy name.
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