Spirituality for Today – June 2011 – Volume 15, Issue 11

Editorial – Temptation

By Rev. Raymond Petrucci

Summertime beckons the young and the young at heart to give liberty to dreams and imaginings. Temptations float imperceptibly upon the sultry breezes of an evening in June. Among the variety of benign and pleasant allurements, there lurk temptations leading one to a darker end. Like some ancient pagan cult, it makes offers of providing an inside track to occult powers and forbidden pleasures. The terrible price to be exacted is obscured in a hedonistic haze.

A perfect illustration of such a temptation and the wretched end to which it leads is conveyed through the literary skills of Oscar Wilde in his work The Picture of Dorian Gray. Accomplished, well-bred, and astonishingly handsome, Dorian Gray was willing to make a deal with the Devil in order to retain his youth and appearance.

A photo of Oscar WildeOscar Wilde

How sad it is! I shall grow old, and horrible, and dreadful. But this picture will remain always young. It will never be lder than this particular day of June... If it were only the other way! If it were I who was to be always young, and the picture that was to grow old! For that – for that – I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give! I would give my soul for that!

– Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

"I would give my soul for that!" is a saying spoken by some when standing before an object that would fulfill their highest desire – a fulfillment that exacts the price of one's soul. The Devil is quite pleased to provide the temporary in return for the eternal. For the price of his soul, Dorian was granted his wish. He remained young while the picture grew old. The picture, however, began to depict the disfigurement of his conscience and of his soul. He lived a totally debauched life. As the years passed, the picture had become so hideous, that Dorian placed it in the attic and covered it with a cloth. Finally, his sins caught up to him. In desperation, he flew to the attic and uncovered the now grotesque representation of the condition of his soul. In an effort to rid himself of his accuser, he plunged a knife into the heart of the portrait. Instead, he crumpled to the floor dead and disfigured – exactly as the picture revealed his life to be.

While not designed always toward evil actions, temptation does derive from the Latin term tentare meaning to test or to try. Temptation connotes an inducement toward a direction in word or action that, as Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, "hath no relish of salvation in it." Temptation, however, need not be restricted to being the natural companion of a dissolute and wanton life. Scripture speaks of God's people being tested like gold in the furnace. Regarding temptation and the faithful, the Catholic Encyclopedia notes, "Indeed, those whom God calls to special heights of sanctity are just those who may expect to have to wrestle with temptations more numerous and fearsome than fall to the lot of the average mortal." To be tested is to understand and to understand is to be strengthened.

Until the arrival of the next temptation, one would be wise to heed the power of this "visitor" and would be twice wise to engage the full power of both heart and will in combating it. Let temptation find a strong and moral conscience fit for battle. One must not put his or her conscience "in the attic" and cover it over, but in front of the many choices and judgments required in facing life's vicissitudes.