Think of the title
of this article: “Lingering Shadows” ...
It is an
apparent impossibility. How can shadows remain after the object of which
they are the mere shadows is gone? When you have stood under a late
your shadow long in the west — have ever you moved and seen your shadow
remain where once you stood and now stand no more? The
only way to make
what is impossible otherwise possible is to take a photograph of the
shadow alone as you stand before it. You can then keep the
photograph of what
had been and is no more, and return to the moment that was, and like
the shadow, is no more. The analogy is clear.
Attachment to Sin
We have left the
person, place, or thing —the occasion of sin — in which we once stood
and have no intention of returning … but for all our efforts a
shadow remains even as we ourselves have gone. The shadow lingers despite
all the years and the fierce and even faithful resolution that never
us there again. We are there no more, but inexplicably the shadow still
falls over our hearts. It mocks us, either filling us with melancholy
us with unremitting guilt. If it has been sinful love, then likely it
will dog you all your days.
The sin is no more. The person is long gone. We soberly recognize that
the occasion can never be recaptured even should the person remain.
So much has
changed! We have grown older even as our illusions have not. The landscape
has changed even as it has remained immutable in our memory.
And even could it be again, it would not be the same again. We know
this. After all, we have fled it, and those once desperate pangs seize
us no longer. Or
This is the predicament
of what is called attachment to sin.
The concept of “attachment to sin”, however, is so ... clinical, remote,
even austere. In dealing with the human heart, it appears heartless.
We have — and
so often with great difficulty and immeasurable pain — left the sin,
have we not? We have fled Egypt. And even now ... even now, after these
we are gaunt and even crippled by the effort. There is no calculus sufficient
to the cost, but we have fled nonetheless, urged on by grace. Despite
prompting of our
hearts to look back at the lissome and distant smoke rising from the
flesh-pots of Egypt that we have left for a freedom that we have not
yet found, we set
our faces like flint against an unrelenting wind that would turn them
back ... that calls us to remembrance. Still we wander in the desert,
Jordan an open
dream before us, the Red Sea a closed memory behind us.
Resolutely we press on. There are yet a host of sins to come that we
must drive out before us, but none prove so strong as the enemy we fled.
No Canaanite or king of Midian has the might of our own personal Pharaoh
— who would call us back to slavery and servitude. We fled him but we
him. His chariots pursued us to no avail, and it was not by our power
that they were splintered and still litter the banks of our dreams.
had chariots of steel, yes — and we left them strewn in the desert behind
us! But Pharaoh had fire! Alike he kindled the fleshpots without, and
craving within! Grimly we watched towers burn in Midian before us, but
with what longing do we still look upon the burning fleshpots of Egypt
This is our plight in our attachment
is perhaps the most desperate, the most unrelenting, and in the end,
the most deadly warfare of all. The victory is conclusive, but
the defeat is indecisive. The enemy has fled, but somehow his shadow
remains. He has been subdued but not vanquished, defeated, but not
to death. He is, in short, forever and irrevocably a threat: unleash
him and he will contend with us to the death. It is true that he is
but it is equally true that by fault or misfortune he may find his way
to us yet. As long as he lives his shadow falls over us, and nothing
will free us from him.
Sin survives the sword. All your violence against the sin within will
avail you nothing. Your flight from sin will not outrun its shadow.
The root lies deeply
within ... and
it lives, and if allowed will spring to life again. The very soil
itself must be subject to the furnace of holy love that leaves
no seed of malice or
sin dormant within,
nor even its husk a scandal without.
You will never be free of the seed of death — which is sin — that lingers
within you, as long as you cultivate remembrance of sin
... the very soil itself in
which alone it
takes root, thrives, and in the end throttles ...
It is not enough that we have left sin — the occasion, the intention,
the act itself ... it is not enough and it will not suffice.
Unless our attachment to sin, our desire for what is sinful, is sundered
to the last sinew, however tightly we bind it, it keeps us, in turn,
captive. It is the
we hold by the ears, afraid to keep hold of it and afraid to let it
Relinquishing sin, especially that deeply personal sin (that deadly
affront to God) that is unique to you in all history, must be a consciously
total act. It is
total war and one
of you will die: the sin, together with your attachment to it, or you
yourself …who will die to God because you refused to die to sin. I say
“unique in all
history” because you are unique in all history. The time period, the
place in time, the time in the place, and all the people who were affected
by your sin
and all the lives that they in turn touched and changed as a result
of your sin — to say nothing of the person with whom you have sinned,
you to sin, or who became the occasion of your sin, and against whom
also you have sinned. The web of sin is so taut — like a violin string
the point of breaking, that who touches it at either end causes it to
reverberate through the whole, leaving no fiber within it unmoved; its
affecting all, its dissonance touching every ear. Aware of our peril
we nevertheless play upon it … until it snaps and recoils upon us with
a springing viper. We are wounded by our sin and it has wreaked
havoc on all around us.
Do not seek consolation
in the thought that many have sinned as you have, and attempt to excuse
yourself by recourse to your human frailty and that
to sin that we haplessly inherited from our First Parents in the Garden
— rather, fear that it has the power to ensnare so many —
most clever to the least, from the wise to the foolish, from the mighty
to the most impoverished! All alike have fallen … but not all alike
will give you the grace to resist sin, but you must accept it, seize
it, hold firmly to it. You must wage the war. He will
give you the armor, but
muststrap it upon yourself; He will give you the weapons but you
must wield them: Faith, Hope and Charity. Chastity, Obedience, Truthfulness,
Understand this: your foes are three and each of them unrelenting: The
World, the Flesh, and the Devil — Satan, that father of lies (“There
is no devil. You
are too enlightened,
too progressive; too intellectual, too learned to acknowledge so ancient
an enemy. ‘I am a myth’”, he persuades you — and this,
too, is a lie!”
But he was a liar and a murderer from the beginning — and he seeks your
immortal soul to bring that imago Dei, that image of God, that
creation by God, to final despair, to endless torment and to utter ruin;
to that frightful reality called the Second Death beyond which
there is no rising
to hope; to the reek of that charnel house that is the fume and fire
of Hell … his everlasting abode.
But understand this more: nothing and no one can withstand God and He
Alone is your strength, He Alone your defender.
“If God is with me, who can be
against me?” And as though such help were
lacking, there is more: the very Mother of God, Mary Most Holy, your
Angel Guardian, the Holy Angels and
of Martyrs who intercede for you in your weakness and peril.
And understand this equally well: You cannot let go of sin, “a little”.
It is the commitment to the total repudiation of sin. As long as a thread
sustain it, sin
will perch upon it.
Remember, that if you have not slain the wolf, you cannot hold him by
It is Lent —the acceptable time. Accept it.
Boston Catholic Journal
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Totally Faithful to the Sacred
Deposit of Faith entrusted to the Holy See in Rome
opera tua ... quia modicum habes virtutem, et servasti verbum
Meum, nec non negasti Nomen Meum”
know your works ... that you have but little power, and
yet you have kept My word, and have not denied My Name.”
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