Concupiscence is "a desire of the lower appetite contrary to reason"
- Mid-14c., from Latin concupiscentia "eager desire," from concupiscens, present participle of concupiscere, inceptive of concupere "to be very desirous of," from com-, intensive prefix, + cupere "to long for" (see cupidity). Used in Vulgate to translate Greek epithymia.
"So, then, I discover the principle that when I want to do right, evil is at hand. For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self, but I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members" (Rom 7:21-23).
- Etymologically, "concupiscence" can refer to any intense form of human desire. Christian theology has given it a particular meaning: the movement of the sensitive appetite contrary to the operation of the human reason. The apostle St. Paul identifies it with the rebellion of the "flesh" against the "spirit." Concupiscence stems from the disobedience of the first sin. It unsettles man's moral faculties and, without being in itself an offense, inclines man to commit sins.
- The heart is the seat of moral personality: "Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication. ... " The struggle against carnal covetousness entails purifying the heart and practicing temperance: Remain simple and innocent, and you will be like little children who do not know the evil that destroys man's life.
- The "mastery" over the world that God offered man from the beginning was realized above all within man himself: mastery of self. The first man was unimpaired and ordered in his whole being because he was free from the triple concupiscence that subjugates him to the pleasures of the senses, covetousness for earthly goods, and self-assertion, contrary to the dictates of reason.
- - sensual pleasure = lust, anger, gluttony, sloth
- - covetousness = greed
- - self-assertion = pride
- Baptism confers on its recipient the grace of purification from all sins. But the baptized must continue to struggle against concupiscence of the flesh and disordered desires. With God's grace he will prevail
- by the virtue and gift of chastity, for chastity lets us love with upright and undivided heart;
- by purity of intention which consists in seeking the true end of man: with simplicity of vision, the baptized person seeks to find and to fulfill God's will in everything;
- by purity of vision, external and internal; by discipline of feelings and imagination; by refusing all complicity in impure thoughts that incline us to turn aside from the path of God's commandments: "Appearance arouses yearning in fools";
- by prayer: I thought that continence arose from one's own powers, which I did not recognize in myself. I was foolish enough not to know ... that no one can be continent unless you grant it. For you would surely have granted it if my inner groaning had reached your ears and I with firm faith had cast my cares on you.
Because of concupiscence, we are not playing on a level field in the spiritual life. The road to happiness and holiness is an uphill struggle, while the road to Hell is an easy downhill slide:
- "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few" (Mt 7:13-14).
Concupiscence is a spiritual force that attracts us to love self and deny God.
The sacraments do not remove concupiscence, even though they give us a share of the divine life. We overcome concupiscence by leading a virtuous life, and the virtues are acquired by repetition--sometimes by arduous repetition.