2: a sacramental rite that is practiced in the Catholic Church and that consists of private confession, absolution, and a penance directed by the confessor
3: something (as a hardship or penalty) resembling an act of penance (as in compensating for an offense)
- Penance Definition
- The Virtue of Penance
- "To Love and To Suffer" - The Science of the Saints
- But how can God be happy when we suffer?
- Life of Penance and Mortification
- The Mortifications of the Saints
Penance (poenitentia) designates (1) a virtue; (2) a sacrament of the New Law; (3) a canonical punishment inflicted according to the earlier discipline of the Church; (4) a work of satisfaction enjoined upon the recipient of the sacrament. These have as their common centre the truth that he who sins must repent and as far as possible make reparation to Divine justice. Repentance, i.e., heartfelt sorrow with the firm purpose of sinning no more, is thus the prime condition on which depends the value of whatever the sinner may do or suffer by way of expiation.
Penance here is a supernatural moral virtue whereby the sinner is disposed to hatred of his sin as an offence against God and to a firm purpose of amendment and satisfaction. The principal act in the exercise of this virtue is the detestation of sin, not of sin in general nor of that which others commit, but of one's own sin. The motive of this detestation is that sin offends God: to regret evil deeds on account of the mental or physical suffering the social loss, or the action of human justice which they entail, is natural; but such sorrow does not suffice for penance. On the other hand, the resolve to amend, while certainly necessary, is not sufficient of itself, i.e., without hatred for sin already committed; such a resolve, in fact, would be meaningless; it would profess obedience to God's law in the future while disregarding the claims of God's justice in the matter of past transgression. "Be converted, and do penance for all your iniquities. . . . Cast away from you all your transgressions . . . and make to yourselves a new heart, and a new spirit" (Ezekiel 18:30-31; cf. Joel, 2:12; Jeremiah 8:6). In the same spirit St. John the Baptist exhorts his hearers: "Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of penance" (Matthew 3:8). Such too is the teaching of Christ as expressed in the parables of the Prodigal Son and of the Publican; while the Magdalen who "washed out her sins with her tears" of sorrow, has been for all ages the type of the repentant sinner. Theologians, following the doctrine of St. Thomas (Summa, III, Q. lxxxv, a. 1), regard penance as truly a virtue, though they have disputed much regarding its place among the virtues. Some have classed it with the virtue of charity, others with the virtue of religion, others again as a part of justice. Cajetan seems to have considered it as belonging to all three; but most theologians agree with St. Thomas (ibid., a. 2) that penance is a distinct virtue (virtus specialis). The detestation of sin is a praiseworthy act, and in penance this detestation proceeds from a special motive, i.e., because sin offends God (cf. De Lugo, "De paenitentiae virtute"; Palmieri, "De paenitentia", Rome, 1879; theses I-VII.).
The Council of Trent expressly declares (Sess. XIV, c.i) that penance was at all times necessary for the remission of grievous sin. Theologians have questioned whether this necessity obtains in virtue of the positive command of God or independently of such positive precept. The weight of authority is in favour of the latter opinion; moreover, theologians state that in the present order of Divine Providence God Himself cannot forgive sins, if there be no real repentance (St. Thomas, III:86:2; Cajetan, ibid.; Palmieri, op. cit., thesis VII). In the Old Law (Ezekiel 18:24) life is denied to the man who does iniquity; even "his justices which he has done, shall not be remembered"; and Christ restates the doctrine of the Old Testament, saying (Luke 13:5): "except you do penance, you shall all likewise perish." In the New Law, therefore, repentance is as necessary as it was in the Old, repentance that includes reformation of life, grief for sin, and willingness to perform satisfaction. In the Christian Dispensation this act of repentance has been subjected by Christ to the judgment and jurisdiction of His Church, whensoever there is question of sin committed after the reception of Baptism (Council of Trent, sess. XIV, c. i), and the Church acting in the name of Christ not only declares that sins are forgiven, but actually and judicially forgives them, if the sinner already repentant subjects his sins to the "power of the keys", and is willing to make fitting satisfaction for the wrong he has done.
We live in a world that runs from suffering. Since the time of our youth, we have been conditioned to view suffering as an impediment to happiness. This worldview which is so imbued in our culture, tells us, that the less we suffer, the happier we will be. Yet, in the writings of the Saints, we find an entirely different reality; that it is precisely suffering that strengthens us, humbles us, and forges us into saints. But more than this, we discover that suffering is of such inestimable redemptive worth, that nothing equals it in heaven or on earth. "If the angels were capable of envy, they would envy us for two things: one is the receiving of Holy Communion, and the other is suffering." But why is this so? Why has the motto of the Saints down through the centuries always been; "to love and to suffer"?
According to the Saints, when we seek to deny our wills and offer sufferings in love for Our Lord, we draw down from heaven more grace than any other action we can possibly make. In fact, the saints teach us that suffering is of such great merit, that it is greater than external works such as preaching, writing, or even working miracles. The defining moment of redemption for the human race was not when Our Lord healed the sick or preached in the synagogues. It was when the God-Man was nailed to a cross and drained of His blood out of love for mankind. We see then that there is no greater measure of our love than our willingness to follow in the footsteps of Our Redeemer, that is; our willingness to be affixed to a cross and to suffer, just as the apostles (Acts 5:41, 14:21, Rom 8:18, 2 Corinthians 12:10, etc.). By doing so, we someway join in the redemptive work of Christ through our sufferings (Col 1:24), and merit through the grace of God the conversion and sanctification of souls. As Our Lady told the world at Fatima; "Many souls go to hell because there is no one to sacrifice themselves and pray for them." And if this is so, should it then be any coincidence that that which is so cherished by Our Lord, is that which is most feared and misunderstood by the world?
Saint Gemma Galgani, letters, Jesus spoke these words:
"My child, I have need of victims, and strong victims, who by their sufferings, tribulations, and difficulties, make amends for sinners and for their ingratitude."
Ven. Mary of Agreda, Mystical City of God, Book VI, Chp. V, Words of the Queen:
"I remind thee that there is no exercise more profitable and useful to the soul than to suffer....Therefore, my daughter, embrace the cross, and do not admit any consolation outside of it in this mortal life. By contemplating and feeling within thyself the sacred Passion, thou wilt attain the summit of perfection and attain the love of a spouse...I find so few who console with me and try to console my Son in His sorrows..."
Saint Therese of Lisieux, Story of a Soul, p.27:
"I understood that to become a saint one had to suffer much, seek out always the most perfect thing to do, and forget self. I understood, too, that there are many degrees of perfection and each soul was free to respond to the advances of the Our Lord, to do little or much for Him, in a word, to choose among the sacrifices He was asking. Then, as in the days of my childhood, I cried out: 'My God I choose all!' I do not want to be a saint by halves, I'm not afraid to suffer for You, I fear only one thing: to keep my own will; so take it, for I choose all that You will!"
Padre Pio [A saint who received the Stigmata], Secrets of a Soul, p.47:
"Jesus said to me; 'How many times would you have abandoned Me, my son, if I had not crucified you. Beneath the cross, one learns love, and I do not give this to everyone, but only to those souls who are dearest to Me."
Saint Therese answers this question:
"Never does our suffering make Him happy, but it is necessary for us, and so He sends it to us, while, as it were, turning away His face.... I assure you that it costs Him dearly to fill us with bitterness. The good God, who so loves us, has pain enough in being obliged to leave us on earth to fulfill our time of trial, without our constantly telling Him of our discomfort; we must appear not to notice it...Far from complaining to Our Lord of the cross which He sends us, I cannot fathom the infinite love which has led Him to treat us this way...What a favor from Jesus, and how He must love us to send us so great a sorrow! Eternity will not be long enough to bless Him for it." - (Joy In Suffering, pg.8)
We see then that far from being an impediment to happiness, suffering can actually become a mechanism of our happiness. As Fr. John Hardon exclaimed:
"Love wants to suffer for the Beloved... Love wants to expiate the sins that have so deeply penetrated mankind. Love wants to make up for the lack of love among those who sin. Love wants to relieve the debt of suffering that sinners owe to God. Love wants to give God what sinners are depriving Him of by their sins."
In sufferings, the soul must trust that it is in God's care, and that nothing will harm it--for God's goodness will never give a soul more than it can bear, or more than it permits to bear. Our trust in His goodness must be unerring and absolute:
"O what precious moments these are. It is a happiness that the Lord gives me to relish almost always in moments of affliction. At these moments, more than ever, when the whole world troubles and weighs on me, I desire nothing other than to love and to suffer. Yes my father, even in the midst of so much suffering I am happy because it seems as if my heart is beating with Jesus' heart."
Padre Pio, Secrets of a Soul:
"When Jesus wants me to understand that He loves me, He allows me to savor the wounds, the thorns, the agonies of His passion...When He wants to delight me, He fills my heart with that spirit which is all fire; He speaks to me of His delights. But when He wants to be delighted, He speaks to me of His sorrows, He invites me -- with a voice full of both supplication and authority -- to affix my body [to the cross] in order to alleviate His suffering. Who can resist Him? I realize how much my miseries have caused Him to suffer, how much I have offended Him. I desire no other than Jesus alone, I want nothing more than His pains (because this is what Jesus wishes). Let me say--since no one can hear me--I am disposed to remain forever deprived of the sweetness Jesus allows me to feel. I am ready to suffer Jesus hiding His beautiful eyes from me, so long as He does not hide His love from me, because then I would die. But I do not feel I can be deprived of suffering--for this I lack strength. [...] Perhaps I have not yet expressed myself clearly with regards to the secret of this suffering. Jesus, the Man of Sorrows, wants all Christians to imitate Him; He has offered this chalice to me yet again, and I have accepted it. That is why He does not spare me. My humble sufferings are worth nothing, but Jesus delights in them because He loved [suffering] on earth...Now shouldn't this alone be enough to humiliate me, to make me seek to be hidden from the eyes of men, since I was made worthy of suffering with Jesus and as Jesus? Ah, my father! I feel too keenly my ingratitude toward God's majesty."
St. Louis de Montfort wrote: "If we would possess Wisdom we must mortify the body not only by enduring patiently our bodily ailments, the inconveniences of the weather and the difficulties arising from other people's actions, but also by deliberately undertaking some penances and mortification such as fasts, vigils and other austerities practiced by holy penitents."
Mortification in its fundamental essence is Self-sacrifice, Self-denial, and Self-discipline. It is Morte–death– death to the Self. Out of love for Christ and in recognition of our own inadequacy, we must sacrifice ourselves, give ourselves up to Christ. Acts of Mortification are thus behaviors, devotions, and activities that assist us in this offering up of ourselves sacrificially to our Lord and Savior. It is as Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me."
One of the first sacrifices and crosses we take up is to be obedient to His commandments and to His Church. Submitting ourselves, taking up our cross, to His faith, morality, and way of life as taught by the Sacred Scriptures and Sacred Tradition, and as interpreted and taught by the Magisterium of the Church, is an act that is contrary to human nature. Our natures demand self-determination in all things. Christ demands submission to His determination–to His will. Our human nature does not desire the self-denial required to take up the cross.
However, we must always remember that one of the most important and difficult mortifications in our lives, according to St. Montfort, is that we fulfill the duties of our state in life. This is true penance in that most of us have desires to do something other than what we are called to do according to our state in life. For the Secular member a desire may be to live more like a monk spending great amounts of time in prayer or before the Blessed Sacrament. The duties of family and work preclude such intensity. For the contemplative Hermit or Monastic a desire may be to involve themselves in more active ways in the worldly and secular community. The duties of prayer and seclusion in monastic life preclude this. Celibate brothers and sisters may have desires for marriage. The celibate life precludes this. In whatever state of life we are called, our penance is to live that life faithfully and with fidelity despite temptations to do otherwise.
We need to bring our wills into submission to the law of love, to Christ, by performing various acts of penance and mortification -- within the limitations of our state in life. While this includes denying and disciplining ourselves against sinful temptations and desires, and perhaps conducting penitential mortifications to subdue those fleshly desires, or to pay recompense for sin, this is not the only purpose or value of mortification.
Mortification is also a means of self-sacrifice and self-discipline of non-sinful aspects of our human natures so that we may attain, through the grace and mercy of Christ, ever higher degrees of spiritual maturity and holiness. The Apostle Peter reminds us of God's directive: "for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy,'" To do this we must pursue holiness. "Pursue" is an active verb; it cannot be done with status quo religiosity. We must go an extra mile, do more than is required or that is necessary, perform more than minimum requirements, go beyond the mere avoidance of sinfulness, if we are to gain this higher goal which brings us into the holiness God calls of us.
Paul said that “Everything is permissible for me -- but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible for me -- but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Cor 6:12). Through self-discipline we control our desire to have, do, think, or feel something in favor of a greater and more beneficial thing, deed, thought, or emotion. Through sacrifice we give up something that we may have a right to expect, possess, or to do so as to not be mastered by it.
These circumstances may not have to do with sin at all, but with a higher call to holiness as taught by the Beatitudes – to turn the other cheek, to loan without expectation of return – or it can be about the image and witness we give to others for the greater glory of God.
Such circumstances may involve perfectly acceptable behaviors or desires but may more prudently be sacrificed or resisted through self-discipline for the "better part of valor." Paul demonstrated this in the story he tells about eating meat offered to idols. Although eating the meat was acceptable, some people may have been scandalized by it, thinking Paul was sinning himself and advocating the sin for others. Thus Paul's freedom to eat the meat was not going to master him, causing him to childishly "demand [h]is rights" in a display of self-centered "freedom." When in the company of people with such immature or unknowledgeable beliefs, he accepted the responsibility for his freedom and refrained from eating–the glory of God and the mission to evangelize was more important.
Brothers and sisters should constantly reflect upon their own behaviors and beliefs that are not a part of the essentials of the faith, not subject to the absolute and binding teachings of faith and morals declared by the Church, to see if they may be stumbling blocks to weaker brethren. We should never allow our freedom in Christ to "eat meat", which has nothing to do with essentials of the faith, to get in the way of our witness and testimony to unbelievers or to weaker and less mature brothers and sisters.
It is through penance and mortification we are called to live a life of daily self-denial, self-discipline, and continuing conversion, not only to fulfill God's call to holiness in our own lives, but so others might turn daily to the comfort of the Spirit of Christ in their lives, too, fundamentally and essentially, but also that they might begin their pursuit of holiness.
According to our charism of Penance and Mortification, Brothers and Sisters are therefore, at a minimum, to fast according to the laws of the Church with special attention, because of our specific charism to this, to days and periods of penance and mortification set aside by the Church–such as Fridays, Ash Wednesday, and Lent.
Brothers and sisters are also encouraged, if they are able, as an additional spiritual exercise and mortification, to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays of each week.
Other mortifications (self-sacrifices and self-disciplines) should be made as are appropriate to an individual member's circumstances, spiritual health and maturity, and spiritual struggles.
All members of the Catholic Church, should always search for ways to mortify our fleshly desires and rebellious wills, to submit our human natures to Christ, and to offer up our freedom in Christ in sacrifice and self-discipline for the sake of others and for the greater glory of God. In doing so we shall receive spiritual strength for our souls and many graces for our lives. Through mortification, and by the grace of Christ, we shall, therefore, continually grow in submission and profound consecration to our Lord, and in the process find within ourselves the presence of the holiness of God that comes when our minds truly become one with the "mind of Christ."
The Saints show us many examples of mortifications. We can learn much from our older brothers and sisters who have gone before us. But, in determining mortifications for oneself, St. Montfort advises that no exceptional or severe mortifications should be undertaken without the advice of a wise director of souls.
“The holy man being on a certain day alone, the tempter was at hand; for a little black bird, commonly called an ousel, began to fly about his face, and that so near as the holy man, if he would, might have taken it with his hand; but no sooner had he made the sign of the cross than the bird vanished. When presently so great a carnal temptation assailed him, that before the holy man had never felt the like; for the remembrance of a woman which some time he had seen, was so lively represented to his fancy by the wicked spirit, and so vehemently did her image inflame his breast with lustful desires, that almost overcome by pleasure, he was determining to leave the wilderness. But suddenly assisted with divine grace he came to himself, and, seeing near him a thicket full of nettles and briars, he threw off his garments and cast himself naked into the midst of those sharp thorns and nettles, where he rolled himself so long, that, when he rose up, all his body was pitifully rent; thus by the wounds of his flesh he cured those of his soul, by turning pleasure into pain; and by the vehemence of outward torments he extinguished the unlawful flame which burnt within overcoming sin by changing the fire. After which time, as he himself related to his disciples, he was so free from the like temptation, that he never felt any such motion. Many after this began to forsake the world and to hasten to put themselves under his government. Being now altogether free from vice, he worthily deserved to be made a master of virtue.”
“One day, however, when the gospel story of Christ sending his disciples to preach was read in the church, the holy man of God was present and more or less understood the words of the gospel. After mass he humbly asked the priest to explain the gospel to him. He heard that Christ's disciples were supposed to possess neither gold, nor silver, nor money; were to have neither bread nor staff; were to have neither shoes nor two tunics; but were to preach the kingdom of God and penance. When the priest had finished, Francis, rejoicing in the spirit of God, said, 'This is what I want! This is what I'm looking for! This is what I want to do from the bottom of my heart!' Thus the holy father, overflowing with joy, hurried to fulfill those healing words, nor did he suffer any delay in carrying out what he had heard. He took off his shoes, tossed away his staff, was satisfied with a single tunic, and exchanged his leather belt for a cord. He made himself a tunic that looked like the cross so that he could beat off the temptations of the devil. It was rough in order to crucify the vices and sins of the flesh. It was poor and mean so that the world would not covet it. With the greatest diligence and reverence he tried to do everything else that he had heard, for he was not a deaf hearer of the gospel but, laudably committing all that he had heard to memory, he diligently attempted to fulfill them to the letter.”
“The priest of Ars subjected himself to a strict fast. In this way he sought to reduce the requirements of his life to minimum. One meal sufficed him for the whole day. He abstained from alcohol except wine at holy Mass and normally ate only a little black bread and one or two potatoes cooked in water: he would prepare sufficient of these to last him the whole week, keeping them in an earthenware pan, and often they were covered with a coating of mold. Frequently he fasted for a whole day until, overcome, he would collapse from physical weakness. In view of this mode of life he had no need, of course, of a housekeeper – apart from the fact that his house stood almost empty anyway. Since he considered that his self-mortification was all too inadequate, he had a special penitential garment made, which he wore next to his skin, and which, by reason of the constant friction against his body, was soon stained a reddish brown. For the most part he slept on a bare mattress when he was not sleeping on a bundle of wood down in the cellar.”
“In the first place He wished me to be in a continual state of sacrifice. To this end, He said He would increase my sensitiveness and repugnance so that I should not be able to do anything except with difficulty and great effort. This was in order to provide me with matter for self conquest, even in the most trivial and indifferent things. I can attest that I have ever since experienced this. He added that I should no longer taste any sweetness, except in the bitterness of Calvary since He would make me find a martyrdom of all those things in which others find joy, delight and temporal happiness. It has pleased Him that I should experience this in a very marked manner, since everything which could be called pleasure has become a torment to me. Even in the little recreations which are sometimes given, my sufferings exceeded those of a violent fever; nevertheless He willed that I should in no way distinguish myself from others. This caused me to exclaim: 'O my Sovereign Good! how dearly have I to buy this pleasure!'”
“'It was his custom to spend the night in prayer, and to speak to God with his door shut. But often there might be heard the voice of his groans and sighs, which burst from him against his will. His one constant petition to God was for the gift of a true charity; for he was persuaded that he could not be truly a member of Christ unless he consecrated himself wholly to the work of gaining souls, following the example of Him, Who sacrificed Himself without reserve for our redemption.' Theodoric tells us that these fervent prayers were accompanied by practices of penance so severe, that they had to be moderated by his superiors. 'He macerated his body by fasts and prolonged abstinence, so as hardly to take what sufficed for the support of nature. He neither ate flesh-meat with the canons his brethren, nor refused it, but was accustomed to hide it in the food. In compassion for his weakness the venerable Bishop Diego obliged him to resume the use of wine from which he had abstained for ten years; but though he obeyed, he took it only in small quantities and largely diluted with water.'”
“On another occasion, when Dunlang, King of Leinster, spoke words of reproof to her for having given to a poor man the jewelled sword he had with his royal hand given to her father in token of friendship and esteem, she thus replied to the occupant of the throne: 'Do not wonder, O King, that I have bestowed what was in my keeping on the poor, since, were it in my power to do so, I would give them all that is possessed by you, O King, and by my father; for God will give eternal rewards in exchange for such temporal riches.' The King was impressed deeply by this response of the child to his words of sharp and heated reproval. He repented that, in a moment of anger, he had used them to one who had shown him a striking example of the exercise of Christian charity. To signify his approval of an act, the motive of which he now understood, he bestowed another sword of greater value, and a number of rich gifts, upon Dubtach, the father of her who had by her answer turned the King's rebuke into words of praise and admiration for her conduct. The virtue of charity, which St. Brigid thus early in life practised in the highest degree, increased with her years. All through her life we find this queen of virtues accompanying her wherever her footsteps were directed. In her own home, in her journeyings, she never ceased to distribute alms to the poor. Her example was infectious. She taught the princes and nobles to give of the riches they had received to those amongst their subjects upon whom the hand of want and hunger was heavily laid. In season and out of season she preached the doctrine of charity to the poor.”
"And yet was he so dainty and spare of time that he would never bestow fully one hour at any meal. His diet at table was, for all such as thither resorted, plentiful and good, but for himself very mean. For upon such eating days as were not fasted, although he would for his health use a larger diet than at other times, yet was it with such temperance that commonly he was wont to eat and drink by weight and measure. And the most of his sustenance was thin pottage, sodden with flesh, eating of the flesh itself very sparingly. The ordinary fasts appointed by the Church he kept very roundly, and to them he joined many other particular fasts of his own devotion, as appeared well by his own thin and weak body, whereupon though much flesh was not left, yet would he punish the very skin and bones upon his back. He wore most commonly a shirt of hair, and many times he would whip himself in most secret wise. ... When night was come, which commonly brings rest to all creatures, then would he many times despatch away his servants and fall to his prayers a long space. And after he had ended the same, he laid him down upon a poor hard couch of straw and mats, for other bed he used none, provided at Rochester in his closet near the cathedral-church, where he might look into the choir, and hear Divine service. And being laid, he never rested above four hours at one time, but straightway rose and ended the rest of his devout prayers.
“[That] was Antony's first struggle against the devil, or rather this victory was the Saviour's work in Antony, 'Who condemned sin in the flesh that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the spirit.' But neither did Antony, although the evil one had fallen, henceforth relax his care and despise him; nor did the enemy as though conquered tease to lay snares for him. For again he went round as a lion seeking some occasion against him. But Antony having learned from the Scriptures that the devices of the devil are many, zealously continued the discipline, reckoning that though the devil had not been able to deceive his heart by bodily pleasure, he would endeavour to ensnare him by other means. For the demon loves sin. Wherefore more and more he repressed the body and kept it in subjection, lest haply having conquered on one side, he should be dragged down on the other. He therefore planned to accustom himself to a severer mode of life. And many marvelled, but he himself used to bear the labour easily; for the eagerness of soul, through the length of time it had abode in him, had wrought a good habit in him, so that taking but little initiation from others he shewed great zeal in this matter. He kept vigil to such an extent that he often continued the whole night without sleep; and this not once but often, to the marvel of other. He ate once a day, after sunset, sometimes once in two days, and often even in four. His food was bread and salt, his drink, water only. Of flesh and wine it is superfluous even to speak, since no such thing was found with the other earnest men. A rush mat served him to sleep upon, but for the most part he lay upon the bare ground. He would not anoint himself with oil, saying it behoved young men to be earnest in training and not to seek what would enervate the body; but they must accustom it to labour, mindful of the Apostle's words, 'when I am weak, then am I strong.' 'For,' said he, 'the fibre of the soul is then sound when the pleasures of the body are diminished.' And he had come to this truly wonderful conclusion, 'that progress in virtue, and retirement from the world for the sake of it, ought not to be measured by time, but by desire and fixity of purpose. He at least gave no thought to the past, but day by day, as if he were at the beginning of his discipline, applied greater pares for advancement, often repeating to himself the saying of Paul: 'Forgetting the things which are behind and stretching forward to the things which are before.' He was also mindful of the words spoken by the prophet Elias, 'the Lord liveth before whose presence I stand today.' For he observed that in saying 'today' the prophet did not compute the time that had gone by: but daily as though ever commencing he eagerly endeavoured to make himself fit to appear before God, being pure in heart and ever ready to submit to His counsel, and to Him alone. And he used to say to himself that from the life of the great Elias the hermit ought to see his own as in a mirror.”