Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’
When it arrives, it finds the house
unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. - Matthew 12:43-45
"A dog is better than I am, for he has love and he does not judge." - Abba Xanthios
Once there was a brother who resolved to do God's will and therefore determined that he should leave everything in the world and follow Christ in humility. He found work to sustain himself with a community of nuns who cared for the sick. After settling in, the brother was pleased with himself for having left his worldly occupations and finding a secure life amongst consecrated souls, where he could live devoutly in silence and prayer, doing good for others.
Very soon however, the brother was assaulted by all sorts of temptations against chastity and temperance, his patience tried and soon exhausted, he was easily seduced by vivid imaginations. It wasn't long before he started sneaking out of the confines of the convent, going into the city to engage in all sorts of immoral behavior. He maintained this duplicitous life for awhile, falling by degrees into a state of dissipation, far worse than what he lived before attempting to live a more devout life.
Seeking out a father, the brother confessed his hypocrisy and sin and asked why his life had become so corrupt, especially when he resolved to leave everything and serve God alone? Yet while in the world he had lived a relatively peace filled, faithful life?
The father explained. In your former way of life, you indulged your appetites at will, albeit more or less discreetly, convinced you were not like the rest of sinful humanity. You made your confessions when you sinned, prayed when you felt inspired, and so on. You enjoyed a relative peace. You were not aware of your inner attachments because you were already ensnared in your conceit. Remember the Scripture: "When you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials"? You believed you fled temptation and the world's seductions only to find you craved them interiorly. You didn't notice them before because you were already surfeited - you had everything available to you whether you indulged in it or not. Yet the evil one already had a hold on you, perhaps through some small attachment.
When you decided to give up the external trappings which you were convinced held you back, you acted without counsel. Your intentions were good, but you lacked self-knowledge. The Lord allowed you to fall prey to your passions and the seductions of the evil one to expose the false peace of the world and its vanities, to expose the lust that is idolatry which captivates and inebriates souls, he allowed these sorrows in order to expose your attachment to sin. The Lord permitted you to fall so that you would could finally become humble, and after such serious sin, having repented, might remain humble. All the while, His love for you never faltered... "though we be unfaithful, He remains faithful."
Our struggle is not against flesh and blood...
I think the lesson here is that sometimes we have an interior attachment to a particular sin or vice, perhaps like a subtle, invisible tether, which only becomes evident when the camouflage of distraction and exterior support or satisfaction is taken away, leaving the soul to its own resources. As the psalmist says, "from my hidden sins acquit me Lord!" We oftentimes simply do not understand ourselves. It is demonstrated by Christ when he rebuked those disciples who wanted to call down fire from heaven upon those who rejected them: "you don't know of what spirit you are!" And when he rebuked Peter, "get behind me Satan!"
St. Teresa of Avila greatly feared the false peace the world affords its followers; likewise, Catherine of Genoa feared what she called 'the world's slow stain' which is so insidious and affects all of us on a daily basis. Similarly, Garrigou-Lagrange discusses the notion in terms of a false charity:
15. There exists, in fact, a false charity, made up of culpable indulgence, of weakness, such as the meekness of those who never clash with anybody because they are afraid of everyone. There is also a false charity, made up of humanitarian sentimentalism, which seeks to have itself approved by true charity and which, by its contact, often taints the true.One of the chief conflicts of the present day is that which arises between true and false charity. The latter reminds us of the false Christs spoken of in the Gospel; they are more dangerous before they are unmasked than when they make themselves known as the true enemies of the Church. Optimi corruptio pessima, the worst of corruptions is that which attacks what is best in us, the highest of the theological virtues. The apparent good which attracts the sinner is, in fact, so much the more dangerous as it is the counterfeit of a higher good. Such, for example, is the ideal of the pan-Christians, who seek the union of the Churches to the detriment of the faith, which this union presupposes. If, therefore, through stupidity or more or less conscious cowardice, those who should represent true charity approve here and there the dicta of the false, an incalculable evil may result. This evil is at times greater than that done by open persecutors, with whom evidently one can no longer have anything in common. - footnote, Ch 8: The True Nature of Christian Perfection
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"Love is a teacher, but we must know how to acquire it, for it is hard to acquire... it is dearly bought... it is won slowly by long labor. For we must love, not occasionally, or for a moment, but forever. " - Dostoevsky: Fr. Zosima
I may be wrong of course.