Theologians believe that Lucifer was the leader of all angels in heaven. He was exceedingly beautiful and endowed with special abilities. As we see in the passage from Isaiah 14, Lucifer looked upon his own beauty and wisdom – attributes created in him by the Lord – and he decided that he would raise his throne above God. He foolishly declared, “I will make myself like the Most High.”
“How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, you who have weakened the nations! But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit. Those who see you will gaze at you. They will ponder over you, saying, ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world like a wilderness and overthrew its cities, who did not allow his prisoners to go home?” Isaiah 14:12-18
So we see that the greatest danger of one endowed with so many gifts is pride. Last time we saw how the Illuminative Way was characterized with a profusion of gifts of the Holy Spirit, infused virtues, a greater sense of inner peace, affective prayer and more. It is an experience of light.
In return for the newly found freedom, the illuminated person faces possibilities of sin and betrayal of God which he or she never experienced. The illuminative way is not a cloudless summer day. It is a spring morning after a bad storm. Even though everything is washed clean and sky is filled with clouds and sunlight, there are many fallen trees and an occasional live wire blocking the road. Fr. Benedict Groeschel, Spiritual Passages
One of the greatest dangers is to believe that we already arrived to the heights of sanctity. We think of ourselves as “holier than thou”. We like to be sought out as spiritual guides and to think of ourselves better than we are.
St. John of the Cross talks about the seven capital sins but from a spiritual point of view. He introduces them at this point. There is spiritual pride, spiritual avarice, spiritual gluttony and the rest. We can try to hide our imperfections and our sins under the disguise of holiness.
St. Ignatius Loyola, in his second set of discernment of spirits, also mentions that with such persons, the enemy disguises himself as an “angel of light”. Since we cannot be deceived with gross temptations regarding sensuality and other sins, the temptations are much more refined.
I know how spiritual pride can become a temptation that needs to be fought through humility. As I direct people in spiritual direction, I can better help others walk the path I have traveled. Some people have expressed appreciation regarding something I said. Paradoxically, despite being able to help so many people, I realize how incapable I am to guide myself in the same way. I too need others to show me the way and to help me see my blind spots. I can very easily become complacent and placid about where I have arrived. I can start thinking I am better than others. This complacency can lead to greater dangers as spiritual pride takes root in the soul.
Hence, it is more important than ever to highlight the positive in others and to cultivate a spirit of appreciation with the people around us. We must never forget the Egypt from which the Lord rescued us. We must never cease to give hope to those who are still struggling to abandon Egypt.
Questions for pondering:
1. Do you love God’s consolations more than God himself?
2. How often do you try to build up others?
3. How deep in your heart do you praise the Lord for all the blessings he has given you?