Under the Power of “The Ring”
Within each of us, as the aftermath from the fire of original sin, lie the smoldering logs of concupiscence, the disordered inclination to pleasure, always threatening to burst into the flame of temptation due partly to the efforts of both the world and Satan to“feed the fires of concupiscence and fan its flames” (Tanquerey). Concupiscence is the reason why man is a “standing civil war” (T.E.Lawrence).
Concupiscence has two forms: Concupiscence of the Flesh and of the Eyes and Pride.
Sensuality (concupiscence of the body) expresses itself in gluttony for food and drink, whether by excess of quantity or quality, comfort-seeking and lust. Concupiscence of the eyes expresses itself in curiosity and greed: in the internet age the stimulants are at a button’s distance, the creation of addiction can be rapid and the destruction of grace immediate. Greed for money, possessions, comforts are as possible for the priest as for anyone else. Pandering to pleasure leads to being neither hot nor cold: fascination with vacations, cars, hobbies, extravagant dinners, clothes will become the real compass of life. A radical war footing is required: we must deal with the world so that we convert it, not so that it converts us!
Pride is self-worship, idolizing the self, doing a Copernican revolution whereby you place yourself and not God and his laws at the center of reality.
This is easier in the Post-Modern age due to a complex web of causes. Since the 1600s the changing of a large part of philosophy from a reality-centered discipline to a reflection on subjectivity whereby man is focused on his own inner world has helped man progress in self-understanding but has also been manipulated to create an “in-grown eyeballs” complex. In psychology the emphasis on self-affirmation has influenced the education of generations of people who now make their decisions starting not with the laws of God but with their own feelings, desires and plans. Mass-media as a tool of the consumer society plays upon man’s passions sometimes subtly and other times blatantly, urging him to seek happiness by giving in to egocentric pleasure-impulses.
Since Catholics live in this world, many have caught these viruses and have come to think of prayer, the sacraments and even God as tools at their service for their happiness – instead of putting God as first and ultimate priority by ordering their lives to knowledge, love and service of him as their Creator and Redeemer.
Attitudes that flow from pride include independence ,i.e. the rejection of the authority of the natural law and of the Church whenever it conflicts with the passions; egotism, putting oneself as the final goal of one’s actions; self-satisfaction as if one were the source of one’s own abilities, conceit since one has forgotten who God is; despising others if they conflict with one’s own egotism or are “not good enough”; vanity, boasting, showing-off, hypocrisy; often it is the source of sins as varied as presumption, discouragement, envy, jealousy.
However concupisence is also opportunity for transformation into a Christ-like person by taking up the sword of spiritual combat Heaven by self-conquest and thus merit Heaven.
Not to do so is to expose oneself to irremediable and dramatic consequences. As Tolkien expressed it:
“A mortal, Frodo, who keeps one of the Great Rings, does not die, but he does not grow or obtain more life, he merely continues, until at last every minute is weariness. And if he often uses the Ring to make himself invisible, he fades: he becomes in the end invisible permanently, and walks in the twilight under the eye of the dark power that rules the Rings. Yes, sooner or later – later, if he is strong or well-meaning to begin with, but neither strength nor good purpose will last – sooner or later the dark power will devour him.’” (J.R.R.TOLKIEN, The Lord of the Rings)