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Resisting the Prowling Lion – Day 33

Resisting the Prowling Lion – 40 Days with Screwtape

Day 33 – Friday after 5th Sunday of Lent

To Read:

From The Screwtape Letters:

Screwtape, a senior demon, is offering advice to Wormwood his nephew, an apprentice demon.  The language he uses is ‘upside down’ referring to God as ‘the Enemy’ and the devil as ‘Our Father Below’.


It is always the novice who exaggerates.   The man who has risen in society is over-refined, the young scholar is pedantic.   In this new circle your patient is a novice.   He is there daily meeting Christian life of a quality he never before imagined and seeing it all through an enchanted glass because he is in love.   He is anxious (indeed the Enemy commands him) to imitate this quality.   Can you get him to imitate this defect in his mistress and to exaggerate it until what was venial in her becomes in him the strongest and most beautiful of the vices – Spiritual Pride?

Your affectionate uncle.


To Reflect:

It is often said that converts are the fiercest disciples and the newly qualified are the most expert.

Any newly ordained minister, fresh from the rigours of theological college, will do well to learn this.  How many, and I hold my hand in the air, have made the mistake of quoting a Greek phrase from an interesting pericope in the Fourth Gospel during their first sermon after ordination?  If you are seeking ordination pray that the first congregation to whom you preach will be forgiving and that it is not an All-Age Service!

John Wimber, former keyboard player for The Righteous Brothers and founder of The Vineyard Movement,  recounted how in his early years in ministry he was eager to ‘do the stuff’.  For his expression of the faith this meant the working of the signs and wonders of ‘Power Healing’ and ‘Power Evangelism’.  (BTW don’t make the mistake of knocking these books if you haven’t read them).  John also saw, after the first flush of enthusiasm, the grave dangers of spiritual pride.

When I met him in Johannesburg I saw someone who had looked hubris and pride in the face and said ‘No, thank you’.  Not for him the over-eagerness of the recent convert nor the conviction of the know-all expert, instead in his life, ministry and music (many of his songs are now part of our common hymnody) there was found an insistence on waiting on the Holy Spirit to act – who, after all is the true minister of the grace of God.

Pride in the fact that God has been gracious to us is nonsensical, arrogant, futile, and destructive of the Good News.

A story I have referred to often from the Fioretti of il poverello – there goes the spiritual pride expecting all readers to know that Fioretti means Little Flowers and poverello is one of the names for Francis of Assisi  – is the one about ‘Perfect Joy[i]’.   Though the aim of the story is about finding joy the meat of the story reminds us that everything we have is a gift from God.  If that is so is there anything about which we may be proud?  We have nothing of our own about which to be proud – only gifts from God to pass on to others.  The response to finding a ‘defect’ in others must not be that ‘most beautiful of the vices’ spiritual pride but instead a gentle gratitude that God has given us all we need and more than we ever deserve.  As the Franciscans say in their Rule:

The faults we see in others are to be the subject of prayer rather than of criticism.  We take care to cast out the beam from our own eye before offering to remove the speck from another’s. 

To Do:

Read 1 Corinthians 1.10-17.

Pray for the leaders of your own church that they would be united.

Pray for yourself that you would be more humble than proud.

Read the Story of ‘perfect joy’ in ‘the Little Flowers of St Francis’ (also see below)

A Psalm To Ponder:


Refrain:        As a hazelnut lies in the palm of my hand so I rest secure in the presence of God.

I FEAR the fanatics who toy with the trigger, 

oiling their rifles with consummate care, 

ready to pounce in the dimly lit alley, 

raping the makers of peace and justice.     Refrain:

But to flee like a bird to the mountains 

– no safety in the caves of the earth in our day: 

the very foundations are splitting apart, 

there is nowhere to go but the place where we are.     Refrain:

I turn again in your presence, dear God, 

seeking to renew my trust in your care.

For we tremble and shake, gripped by that fear; 

the world we have known is crumbling around us, 

invisible rain falls on the mountains, 

even the caves of the earth fill with rubble.     Refrain:

Within the future that is coming to meet us, 

still you are present with us, O god.

Though you seem so remote in our days, 

turning your back, dead to the world, 

yet we believe that you hold us in mind, 

purging us of violence and hardness of heart, 

raining coals of fire in our wickedness, 

burning up our fury in your own scorching wind.     Refrain:

Give us new integrity of heart, 

renew in us the deeds that you love, 

justice and mercy, compassion and courage.

Then face to face shall we see you, 

knowing and known, loving and loved.     Refrain:

O God of roaring fire and kindly flame, seeking to harness the wild winds of our winter, burning the decayed and warming the new seeds, steady our hearts, deepen our trust, lead us through the birth of a new age, in Jesus Christ our Pioneer.   AMEN.     (Jim Cotter)

Please Note:  These reflections are also published on my blog: suffolkvicarhomes.com on Twitter as @SuffolkVicar, and on my public Facebook page Rev Andrew Dotchin

If you would like them as a daily email please send a request to vicar@felixparish.com


Quotes from The Screwtape Letters are copyright © 1942 C.S. Lewis Pte

Prayers from Psalms for a Pilgrim People are copyright © 1989, 1991, 1993 Jim Cotter

Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

These Reflections,  ‘Resisting the Prowling Lion’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2023

[i] The Little Flowers of St Francis


One day in winter, as St Francis was going with Brother Leo from Perugia to St Mary of the Angels, and was suffering greatly from the cold, he called to Brother Leo, who was walking on before him, and said to him: “Brother Leo, if it were to please God that the Friars Minor should give, in all lands, a great example of holiness and edification, write down, and note carefully, that this would not be perfect joy.”

A little further on, St Francis called to him a second time: “O Brother Leo, if the Friars Minor were to make the lame to walk, if they should make straight the crooked, chase away demons, give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, speech to the dumb, and, what is even a far greater work, if they should raise the dead after four days, write that this would not be perfect joy.”

Shortly after, he cried out again: “O Brother Leo, if the Friars Minor knew all languages; if they were versed in all science; if they could explain all Scripture; if they had the gift of prophecy, and could reveal, not only all future things, but likewise the secrets of all consciences and all souls, write that this would not be perfect joy.”

After proceeding a few steps farther, he cried out again with a loud voice: “O Brother Leo, thou little lamb of God! if the Friars Minor could speak with the tongues of angels; if they could explain the course of the stars; if they knew the virtues of all plants; if all the treasures of the earth were revealed to them; if they were acquainted with the various qualities of all birds, of all fish, of all animals, of men, of trees, of stones, of roots, and of waters – write that this would not be perfect joy.”

Shortly after, he cried out again: “O Brother Leo, if the Friars Minor had the gift of preaching so as to convert all infidels to the faith of Christ, write that this would not be perfect joy.”

Now when this manner of discourse had lasted for the space of two miles, Brother Leo wondered much within himself; and, questioning the saint, he said: “Father, I pray thee teach me wherein is perfect joy.” St Francis answered: “If, when we shall arrive at St Mary of the Angels, all drenched with rain and trembling with cold, all covered with mud and exhausted from hunger; if, when we knock at the convent-gate, the porter should come angrily and ask us who we are; if, after we have told him, ‘We are two of the brethren’, he should answer angrily, ‘What ye say is not the truth; ye are but two impostors going about to deceive the world, and take away the alms of the poor; begone I say’; if then he refuse to open to us, and leave us outside, exposed to the snow and rain, suffering from cold and hunger till nightfall – then, if we accept such injustice, such cruelty and such contempt with patience, without being ruffled and without murmuring, believing with humility and charity that the porter really knows us, and that it is God who maketh him to speak thus against us, write down, O Brother Leo, that this is perfect joy.

And if we knock again, and the porter come out in anger to drive us away with oaths and blows, as if we were vile impostors, saying, ‘Begone, miserable robbers! to the hospital, for here you shall neither eat nor sleep!’ – and if we accept all this with patience, with joy, and with charity, O Brother Leo, write that this indeed is perfect joy.

And if, urged by cold and hunger, we knock again, calling to the porter and entreating him with many tears to open to us and give us shelter, for the love of God, and if he come out more angry than before, exclaiming, ‘These are but importunate rascals, I will deal with them as they deserve’; and taking a knotted stick, he seize us by the hood, throwing us on the ground, rolling us in the snow, and shall beat and wound us with the knots in the stick – if we bear all these injuries with patience and joy, thinking of the sufferings of our Blessed Lord, which we would share out of love for him, write, O Brother Leo, that here, finally, is perfect joy.

And now, brother, listen to the conclusion. Above all the graces and all the gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ grants to his friends, is the grace of overcoming oneself, and accepting willingly, out of love for Christ, all suffering, injury, discomfort and contempt; for in all other gifts of God we cannot glory, seeing they proceed not from ourselves but from God, according to the words of the Apostle, ‘What hast thou that thou hast not received from God? and if thou hast received it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?’ But in the cross of tribulation and affliction we may glory, because, as the Apostle says again, ‘I will not glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Amen.”

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