Church FathersTurn your thoughts to yourself, to your own state, mortal man.

Look for the accusation against you yourself: then for the defence; and then, what about the judgement itself?

For now, you alone are accuser, defender, and judge.

Enter the secret recesses of your mind and heart, where the eyes of the Lord alone can see you.

Accuse yourself there, that you may be defended of the charge.

Try your­self there, that you may carry off the victory.

Condemn yourself there, in your own mind, that you may merit absolution.

Do not treat yourself as a special case when criticising your own conduct.

Instead, take apart and analyse your misdeeds with rigour; be strict in condemning the sins you acknowledge as yours; and in con­demning them as your own, do them to death as well.

Do them to death: that means, not to yield in the slightest, ever after, to sinful urges.

Not being one who commits sin, you will then be one who has killed it off.

And if you are a sound judge of your own sin you will go free of God’s just judgement.

But that you may rejoice in a just judgement delivered on yourself, take note of St Paul’s counsel, teaching what actions of ours we need to mortify so as to arrive at the true life.

For he says this: Mortify your own bodies as they walk the earth; as for fornication and all impurity, evil desires and prurience, avarice and slavery to the idols of materialism, all these call down the wrath of God on the children of disbelief.

That tells us, then, what is objectionable in ourselves, what we should condemn there, what needs mortifying.

Make the judgement on yourself – and you will not be judged.

So condemn – and you will not be condemned.

Mortify yourself – and you will not be finally mortified, with the death of the soul.

Here and now be the strictest judge, a veritable butcher in cutting out defects in the flesh.

Take careful thought and be abject in mortification.

For if you have properly weighed your sins you have made the judgement; then by casting them off, you have killed them.

To defend yourself, then, self-accusation has to come first; to secure your pardon, judgement and self-criticism; so as to conduct your cause victoriously, exami­nation of conscience.

Acknowledge your iniquity, mortify your base desires, mend your ways – and so by judging aright you shall set free your mind and heart, your very soul.

Fulgentius of Ruspe (462/467—527/533): Sermon 10.2-3 (CCL 91A:938-939); from the Monastic Office of Vigils, Friday of the 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Year 2.