Friday, March 14, 2008

St. John Fisher on Spiritual Combat (Psalm 6)

St. John Fisher on Psalm 6, from his Exposition of the Seven Penitential Psalms (1508) [pp. 20-21, Ignatius Press, 1998]: this provides a great reflection on the power of the sacrament of confession:

Psalm 6

1. Unto the end, in verses, a psalm for David, for the octave.
2. O Lord, rebuke me not in thy indignation, nor chastise me in thy wrath.
3. Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak: heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.
4. And my soul is troubled exceedingly: but thou, O Lord, how long?
5. Turn to me, O Lord, and deliver my soul: O save me for thy mercy's sake.
6. For there is no one in death, that is mindful of thee: and who shall confess to thee in hell?
7. I have laboured in my groanings, every night I will wash my bed: I will water my couch with my tears.
8. My eye is troubled through indignation: I have grown old amongst all my enemies.
9. Depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity: for the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping.
10. The Lord hath heard my supplication: the Lord hath received my prayer.
11. Let all my enemies be ashamed, and be very much troubled: let them be turned back, and be ashamed very speedily.

"The third part of the psalm now follows, where the prophet, trusting to have been forgiven indeed, rejoices in himself with a bold and hardy spirit. The virtue and strenght of the grace of God is marvellous, for when it pierces and enters the soul of any creature, it causes him to be bold and to hope well, so much so that he dares now to make fresh battle against his enemies. Take heed and behold the sudden change in this prophet caused by the goodness of God: whereas he was only lately vexed and troubled with fear and dread, now, comforted by the grace of almighty God, he has the audacity to despise his enemies and to command them to go away from him saying: discedite a me omnes qui operamini iniquitatem, I command you, all you doers of wickedness, to go from me. Truly the doers of wickedness are those who are busy causing sins to be done, such as the damned spirits by whose enticement sin first entered into man's soul. Of this disposition are the wicked and malicious devils who never do anything but craftily deceive men's souls with their frauds and bring them into the snares of sin. Therefore, the prophet says to them, discedite a me omnes qui operamini iniquitatem, go from me all you doers of wickedness. He shows the reason why they ought to go from him, that he no longer belongs to them. While he was the servant of sin, he was under the power of Satan and his ministers, but now, since he has turned himself to almighty God by true penance and has utterly cast away and forsaken his sins, he is completely delivered from the power of the devils.

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