The ARM of St. Michael
The modern age has brought many dazzling ‘lights’ of technology. The digital screen of the television, computer and phone are able to connect us to images, experiences, persons, histories, far removed from our time and location. A certain striking fullness appears in the presence of these powers and who would question the wondrous riches they seem to bestow?
Underneath the four arguments for the elimination of television is a unifying one. The media screen advances a “reality” of simulation, a reality that is but a simulation. Compared to flesh and blood of ‘live living’ and true two-way human interaction, televisions and computer screens present what is unreal, a flat copy of ‘the original’.
What does this have to do with recovery from lust? Pornography, in jpegs, videos and light screens, are not what they portend to be. But somewhere along the line, at significantly deep level, in the midst of unbraking high-tech society, human beings are at risk at some point to exchange the real for a flat illusion. When the ‘company’ of digital media effects sensual arousal our being begins to assign simulation a power of its own, preferred over the living reality of God. Every screen image has a time stamp, but Life lives in the dateless, clockless ether of the eternal now.
We are on a journey of vices being transformed into virtues. Did you ever notice that vice has no elaborate justifying philosophy? Did you ever notice that Satan never waxes on “the wonder, beauty and majesty of sin”? Virtue on the other hand is filled with meaning, dimension and profundity. Recovery from addiction is a recovery back to higher self. What we really want is meaning, purpose, value, ascension, truth.
Sin is an intoxication that ‘descends us’ to zero. Good is ‘vertical’, carries us to heights which show vast landscapes of blessing, order and health. Sin is a blind swamp of passing controllable boredom, which riffs on endless variations to assure us that our addiction is "always new". The devil’s endless hall of mirrors. Reality is vivid, vibrant, alive, irreproducible. Simulation is always stuck, ossified, dead, frozen in time.
The desire for intoxication depends on the reproducible impact of simulation. Somewhere deep inside came a mistake, an error in judgment to assign preference to the “power” of idol. [The Latin root of idol literally means simulation.] In the course of creating the habit of dependency on the unreal (obsession), we never saw the wounds already there, those appearing by sin itself, those that paved the way to addiction to image. Fr Ripperger names them:
The wound of ignorance: poor discernment, absence of wisdom and prudence The wound of malice: propensity to do evil because of habit of sin The wound of weakness: difficulty doing what is virtuous, arduous, challenging The wound of concupiscence: failure to moderate pleasure in life
The great difficulty of lust is how it insinuated itself into the fabric of sexual faculty, which when healthy conducts the life force itself, the most powerful thing in the universe. How does one resist the most powerful thing in the universe?! We are trying to unwrap our coiled fingers around this desperate dependency, on the part of the thing that is false, but still hangs around it as if in proportion to the inability or unwillingness to see the lie.
Psychology assigns ‘phantasm’ to be a unit of image in the mind. We could stand back from the monitor and ask: Can I mate with this thing? Why can I not see the counterfeit before my eyes? Why do I overlook unreality’s illegitimacy? Seduce comes from the Latin seducere: to lead away. The screen leads us into the unreal. As can our own minds, the Devil's principal target
In a surprising way, even our addiction represents a phantasm that is a counterfeit. Why else would Christ say “if you had faith of a mustard seed you could say to this tree be uprooted and planted in the ocean”? Recovery is rooting out the false habit, the idol, to form instead in our minds the phantasm of sobriety.
Sin is not the cross. Crucifixion is not dying in our sins! The cross is the practice of virtue, giving ourselves to the work of the Spirit who sends us opportunity to labor in faith as chaste lovers of neighbor and God. This is our cross and we take it up so that our hands are occupied, busied. If we set it down we soon turn to sin. When we carry the cross, we can’t sin!
Sing of His mercy forever! The cross can seem a baffling source of resentment (..but its only withdrawal from our drug we feel, resistance to the light… so go to confession!). God is making us holy through the crosses we carry. It is a source that creates perseverance, patience, endurance and in overwhelming blessing when we fall, to feel the Father dismiss our frailty completely, Who utterly knows our helplessness. He makes us new again, all over again, indefinitely, as we stand agog at His power; the showing forth of His mercy His mercy His mercy, His tender love.
God never tires, never fails. He never stops pursuing. He never stops granting pardon. He never stops delighting in blessing us with the unthinkable. He never stops waiting for us. He is generous generous all generous! Beyond Beyond Beyond!! Praise Him in the heights!!! Praise Him now! Praise Him no end!
Let Him in the moment the phantasm of evil appears. Expose what is unclean going on inside to God right away. Reject, renounce and bind the phantasm of lust in the Name of Jesus.
The imagination is the seat of phantasms, which are necessary for the operation of the mind, but they can be clean or unclean. Most blind are we to the phantasm of our self image, in fixations, in selfish pleasures. Here too we invoke the blood of Jesus to cover our memories, our imaginations, our intellects, our wills, asking for the grace of forgetfulness of evils.
We beg you Jesus to come, be our guide, be our King, be our Master. Come Jesus to consume our every thought, to flow in our bodies and think in our minds. Come Jesus to conquer me in my rebellion, conquer my idols, conquer me in my stupidity, conquer me, mere creature.
Jesus replenish us wisdom and prudence, when sin decimates our stock of right-choosing sense.
Jesus grant us hatred of sin, hatred of lust, hatred of the selfish
Jesus grant us the strength to live an imperative to do good
Jesus help us to die to the idol and the flesh and become spiritual beings in suffering. Amen.