Seven Capital Sins – An Introduction

Lent is that great season the Church gives us to recognize and evaluate our fallen condition. It grants us that opportunity to meditate upon and truly begin to appreciate the work of Christ on Good Friday in which our own flesh was crucified with his. Lent prepares us for the great glory of the Resurrection when we arise anew with him and begin to partake of the divine nature. Just as the sun is brighter when we come out of darkness, so too is Easter brighter after walking through the darkness of Lent. 

For our Lenten study this year, we are going to look at the seven deadly or capital sins: Pride, Envy, Wrath, Sloth, Covetousness, Gluttony, and Lust. These are the works of the flesh from which all other sins derive. Although these sins manifest themselves in specific acts, these sins arise from “the soul’s aberrant love” which is bent away from its true divine object towards ourselves. The book we are going to use is The Seven Capital Sins by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. The book is a compilation of short radio addresses given by ++Sheen in 1939. In each meditation, ++Sheen discusses how one of the seven last words of Christ from the cross is in reparation for one of the seven capital sins. Therefore, not only does the book address the sin itself, but also the victory over it. I have attached chapter 1 of the book for your preview. We will have the book available this Tuesday or you can order your own from Amazon. The book is $7. (And since there are only six Tuesdays in Lent, we will double up on the sins one week.)

Finally, although we won’t be reading through the poem itself, I would encourage you to read Dante’s Purgatorio. In his “Inferno,” Hell is a crater formed by Satan’s impact upon being cast out of heaven and consists of nine circles, the bottom of which is Satan encased in ice. Purgatory is the mountain on the opposite side of the earth from Hell which was pushed out as a result of Satan’s impact.  This mountain consists of seven terraces, each corresponding to one of the seven capital sins.  At the top of the mountain is the Garden of Eden in which a soul that has been restored to the image of God may now re-enter. Dante can be somewhat difficult to read, but he does give great insight into the nature of sin and redemption. The description of sin as “the soul’s aberrant love” is taken from the first line of Canto X.

We will continue to meet on Tuesday nights at 6 with a light supper. We will open each week’s discussion with Psalm 51 (Miserere mei, Deus), followed by a reading of ++Sheen’s mediation, and ending with Compline. Please feel free to invite anyone to join us for our discussions.

Thus, if I have distinguished properly, 
ill love must mean to wish one’s neighbor ill; 
and this love’s born in three ways in your clay. 
There’s he who, through abasement of another, 
hopes for supremacy; he only longs 
to see his neighbor’s excellence cast down. 
Then there is one who, when he is outdone, 
fears his own loss of fame, power, honor, favor; 
his sadness loves misfortune for his neighbor. 
And there is he who, over injury 
received, resentful, for revenge grows greedy 
and, angrily, seeks out another’s harm. 
This threefold love is expiated here 
 below; now I would have you understand 
the love that seeks the good distortedly. 

Purgatorio, Canto XVII, lines 112-124

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