While searching through my history notes trying to find information on why Orthodox use leavened bread and Roman Catholics use unleavened bread, I came across an article that was required reading in one of my old history classes. It was the letter Petrarch wrote to Dionisio da Borgo San Sepolcro on his “Ascent of Mount Ventoux.” While skimming it, this portion spoke to me.
I thought in silence of the lack of good counsel in us mortals, who neglect what is noblest in ourselves, scatter our energies in all directions, and waste ourselves in a vain show, because we look about us for what is to be found only within. I wondered at the natural nobility of our soul, save when it debases itself of its own free will, and eserts its original estate, turning what God has given it for its honour into dishonour. Holy many times, think you, did I turn back that day, to glance at the summit of the mountain which seemed scarcely a cubit high compared with the range of human contemplation, – when it is not immersed in the foul mire of earth? With every downwar step I asked myself this: If we are ready to endure so much sweat and labour in order that we may bring our bodies a little nearer heaven, how can a sould struggling toward God, up the steeps of human pride and human destiny, fear any cross or prison or sting of fortune? How few, I thought, but are diverted from their path by the fear of difficulties or the live of ease! How happy the lot of those few, if any such there be! It is of them assuredly, that th epoet was thinking, when he wrote:
Happy the man who is skilled to understand
Nature’s hid causes; who beneath his feet
All terrors casts, and death’s relentless doom,
And the loud roar of greedy Acheron.
How earnestly should we strive, not to stand on mountain-tops, but to trample beneath us those appetites which spring from earthly impluses.