Principle Human Passions

Excerpt from The Holy Family Rosary

Being led by Mary through these prayers and sought in unity with the choirs of angels and community of saints, we witness how the four principle human passions become divinely compressed within the merging of the Old and New Testament Church and Temple in the Personal and communal house of Jesus Christ as the Son of Man.  In the same way that the theological virtue of hope is accentuated when compressed and expanded within the virtues of faith and charity (as the Person of Jesus Christ is the Center of All Creation come to do God’s Holy Will), so too throughout this Holy Week of Prayer we will experience how joy and hope remain firmly cooperative in God’s love when separated from the harm of improper sorrow and fear as established by David’s Son and further outlined by the Luminous Mysteries from His teachings as Christ.  These meditations accentuate how Jesus’ virtue directs and guides our path in the mastering of our principle human passions unto union with God through Loving His Son as Our Lord.

In knowing Jesus gave His disciples a moral obligation to direct and supply the world with the necessary spiritual guidance for the benefit and security of our souls, St. Augustine as the Doctor of Grace, St. Thomas Aquinas as the Angelic Doctor, and St. John of the Cross as the Mystical Doctor of the Church, defined and taught that the beginning of this task lies within subduing and overcoming our four principle human passions of joy, hope, sorrow and fear.

These revered Church Doctors confirmed that the path to overcome our human passions is the denial of self by following in the example of Christ as they too, experienced within themselves an unfettered contemplation of God’s Love.  In full agreement with the Will of God, they found there is, was, ever shall be no greater discernible place demonstrated in this concern than is found within the Primordial Holy Family of God, especially revealed perfected in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Our pathway to God lies hidden within our personal mastery of the four principle human passions shared by Christ as the Son of Man.  In the mastery of self, Jesus defines doing the good as overcoming self and spoke often of this in fulfillment of the psalms.  “Then said I: Behold, I come to do thy will, O God:”[1] and saying: “For whosoever shall do the will of my Father, that is in heaven, he is my brother, and sister, and mother.”[2] Or again, “And this is the will of my Father that sent me: that every one who seeth the Son, and believeth in him, may have life everlasting, and I will raise him up in the last day.”[3]

The passion of Jesus Christ includes all of the events of His life leading to His death: especially of His dying to self by the submission of His four principle human passions to God’s Will as the Son of Man.  Hope and fear complete the example of this perfection of man hidden within Mary’s joyful and sorrowful perspective of her Son.  Her desire for us is rooted in her Fear of the Lord that compels her assistance in leading humanity to her Son rooted in the proper fear of God to avoid Him not being known or loved enough by mankind!

We will bring a noticeable example of this truth with an opposing view of how the corruption and selfishness of man use these four passions against his neighbor in the corrupt image of self in imitation of God as if they were god instead, even calling it ‘love.’

By employing fear and loss, a tyrant imposes sorrow if opposed, causing even greater fear to insure undisputed success.  He removes all hope outside of his offered choice, and attempts to replace any and all joy from serving God or themselves by allowing pleasure only in meeting and serving his demands.

The degree of the error is weighed and recognized by its fruit.  If it promotes an outcome of life and justice by a freedom of choice of whom to love, then it is probably safe to believe it is for the common good in the eyes of God.  If it limits freedom of election without moral concern, then it is not of God’s will – albeit since a spiritual maxim is that God cannot deny Himself, so neither must we. Doing anything outside of this truth can be defined as sin.

In the section discussing human passions in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church, the four principle human passions are questionably summarized as principle passions, thus allowing the introduction and inclusion of love and hatred before renaming the rest as desire and fear, joy and sadness, and then ends with anger – although for nearly two and a half millenniums the held teaching was that the four principle human passions are distinct by name as joy, hope, sorrow and fear.  These four were defined by Socrates (c. 469 BC–399 BC), Plato (c. 427–348 BC), Aristotle (384–322 BC), and further refined by St. Augustine (354-430 AD), St. Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274) and St. John of the Cross (1542-1591) by their religious relationship defined through, with and in God.

In my opinion this work was given to definitely remind us that, since we are all called to be perfect in the image of Christ as God alone is good, Jesus Christ is our sole Source of true love and happiness.  Perhaps this summary will be rethought remembering that in the Ascent of Mount Carmel, St. John of the Cross wrote: “These four passions have the greater dominion in the soul, and assail it the more vehemently, when the will is less strongly attached to God and more dependent on the creatures.  For then it rejoices very readily at things that merit not rejoicing, hopes in that which brings no profit, grieves over that in which perchance it ought to rejoice, and fears where there is no reason for fearing.”

He continues, “From these affections, when they are unbridled, arise in the soul all the vices and imperfections which it possesses, and likewise, when they are ordered and composed, all its virtues.  And it must be known that, if one of them should become ordered and controlled by reason, the rest will become so likewise; for these four passions of the soul are so closely and intimately united to one another that the actual direction of one is the virtual direction of the others; and if one be actually recollected the other three will virtually and proportionately be recollected likewise.  For, if the will rejoice in anything it will as a result hope for the same thing to the extent of its rejoicing, and herein are virtually included grief and fear with regard to the same thing; and, in proportion as desire for these is taken away, fear and grief concerning them are likewise gradually lost, and hope for them is removed.  For the will, with these four passions, is denoted by that figure which was seen by Ezechiel, of four beasts with one body, which had four faces; and the wings of the one were joined to those of the other, and each one went straight before his face, and when they went forward they turned not back.[4] And thus in the same manner the wings of each one of these affections are joined to those of each of the others, so that, in whichever direction one of them turns – that is, in its operation – the others of necessity go with it virtually also; and, when one of them descends, as is there said, they must all descend, and, when one is lifted up, they will all be lifted up.  Where thy hope is, thither will go thy joy and fear and grief; and, if thy hope returns, the others will return, and so of the rest.

“Wherefore thou must take note that, wheresoever one of these passions is, thither will go likewise the whole soul and the will and the other faculties, and they will all live as captives to this passion, and the other three passions will be living in it also, to afflict the soul with their captivity, and not to allow it to fly upward to the liberty and rest of sweet contemplation and union.  For this cause Boetius told thee that, if thou shouldst desire to understand truth with clear light, thou must cast from thee joys, hope, fear and grief.  For, as long as these passions reign, they allow not the soul to remain in the tranquility and peace which are necessary for the wisdom which, by natural or supernatural means, it is capable of receiving.”[5]

Thus becomes our good reason to acknowledge the importance and veracity of these mysteries that completes an outline of the four principle human passions within a holy week and renews our appreciation of the original mysteries from our Lady of the Rosary.  These help us to establish a deeper faith in Jesus’ encouragement to “Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and you shall find: knock, and it shall be opened to you.”[6] and proclaiming “Hitherto you have not asked any thing in my name.  Ask, and you shall receive; that your joy may be full. These things I have spoken to you in proverbs.  The hour cometh, when I will no more speak to you in proverbs, but will shew you plainly of the Father.  In that day you shall ask in my name; and I say not to you, that I will ask the Father for you: For the Father himself loveth you, because you have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.”[7] These meditations forge our foundation of love by our faith in Jesus Christ.

St. Thomas Aquinas concludes that virtue cannot be a passion.  He states that “…there is no sensitive appetite in God and the angels, as there is in man.  Consequently good operation in God and the angels is altogether without passion, as it is without a body: whereas the good operation of man is with passion, even as it is produced with the body’s help.”[8] He divides the “sensitive appetites into the concupiscible (as the inclination to seek the good and flee the evil) and irascible (the inclination to resist what either hinders the good or inflicts evil)”[9] and both are important to know since “the definition of moral virtue (Ethic. ii, 6) states that it is ‘a habit of choosing the means appointed by reason as a prudent man would appoint it.’”[10]

From this overview there is no doubt that recognition of man’s order begins and ends with the perfection of virtue in Mary and Christ as our primary examples for mastery over the flesh, the world, and spirit.  The Holy Family’s overcoming of these four principle human passions reveal how the three theological virtues are gained (considering an opposing view of being lost), how they provide the impetus for us to surrender our faculties in His image (contrary to the imitation of Him in an opposing sense), and direct us unto eternal life by the joy and hope found within Jesus that separates us from life’s sorrows and fears in their wonderful example of pious love.  Fulfilling Jesus’ promise that He would be with us always, we share His Presence in Holy Eucharist and are forever sustained by this great mystery of faith.  Amen.

[1] Heb. 10:9.
[2] Mt. 12:50.
[3] Jn. 6:40.
[4] Ezekiel 1:5-9.
[5] Ascent of Mount Carmel, Peers Ed.; Book III, Chapter XVI, #4-6
[6] Lk. 11:9.
[7] Jn. 16:24-27.
[8] Summa Theologica; Prima Secundae Partis; Article 5.
[9] Cf. Summa theologiae; 1.80.2; 81.2; 1-2. 23.1
[10] Summa Theologica; Prima Secundae Partis; Article 1.

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