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Days 14-17: The Antidote to The 7 Deadly Sins

Posted by Amanda Jane on April 30, 2015

Selected Readings Goal: 1350 | Started: 1 | Finished: 1 | Remaining: 1349

Currently Reading: The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

Day 14-17 Reading: The Parson’s Prologue, The Parson’s Tale, Wherein Chaucer Takes Leave of His Book | Pages: 540-627


Bosch's 7 Deadly Sins

The End Has Come…well, of The Canterbury Tales, anyway. 🙂  I’m a little sad to be done with them, to tell you the truth.  I have a new respect for Geoffrey Chaucer.  I remember reading this when I was much younger and not really paying attention to the beauty of the writing and the wisdom of the counsel.  Besides, reading is always much more enjoyable when it’s done for pleasure and not because you have to.

The last Tale in the collection is The Parson’s Tale.  The Parson says that his story will not be one of frivolity but will seek to teach something.  The host agrees that it is best to end on a somber note, considering the fact that they are near the end of their pilgrimage.

The Parson embarks on a treatise about true repentance and the seven deadly sins, examining what they are comprised of and also how to overcome them if you find yourself in their clutches, as part of the repentance process.

The Parson quotes Saint Ambrose’s definition, who once said that

“…penitence is the mourning of man for the sin that he has done, and the resolve to do no more anything for which he ought to mourn” (543).

The Five Steps To Repentance

The Parson states that to be truly repentant, a man must

“…first regret the sins that he has done, and steadfastedly purpose in his heart to make oral confession, and to do penance, and nevermore to do anything for which he ought to feel regret or to mourn, and to continue to do good works; or else his repentance will avail him nothing” (543).

We can break down the repentance process to five steps which can be applied by any of us, whether religious or not, to make up for, or to give us peace of mind about, something bad that we have done.

1. Regret For The Thing That Was Done

When you are sorry for something that you have done wrong, there is a feeling of deep sorrow and regret in your heart.

2. Confess The Thing That Was Done

When you realize you have done something wrong, you must confess it, to yourself, to the persons affected, and to the proper religious authority, if you are so inclined.

3. Do Penance or Expiate For What Was Done

After the first two steps have been accomplished, the next step is to make up for what you have done by making restitution however possible to the person you have hurt, including yourself.

4. Resolve Never To Do It Again

If you go through all the previous steps, then turn around and do it again, you have not sincerely repented and do not deserve forgiveness until you do.

5. Continue To Do Good Works

Do good deeds and continue on your path to a virtuous life with a tranquil mind.

The Antidotes To The Seven Deadly Sins

Here is a summary of the Parson’s recommendations to overcome them:

SIN: PRIDE (Superbia)

ANTIDOTE: Humility or Meekness

“…the remedy for the sin of pride…is, humility or meekness.  That is a virtue whereby a man may come to have a true knowledge of himself, and whereby he will hold himself to be of no price or value in regard to his deserts, but will be considering ever his frailty” (572, 573).

SIN: ENVY (Inuidia)

ANTIDOTE: Love of God and Love of One’s Neighbor As Oneself

“…just as the Devil is discomfited by humility, so is he wounded to the death by love for our enemy.  Certainly, then, love is the medicine that purges the heart of man of the poison of envy” (577).


ANTIDOTE: Gentleness, Patience, Tolerance

“The remedy for anger is a virtue which men call mansuetude, which is gentleness; and even another virtue which men call patience or tolerance” (588).

He goes on to describe the antidote:

“Gentleness withholds and restrains the stirrings and the urgings of man’s impetuosity in his heart in such manner that it leaps not out in anger or in ire.

“Tolerance suffers sweetly all the annoyances and wrongs that men do to men bodily…

“Patience, which is another remedy against anger, is a virtue that suffers sweetly man’s goodness, and is not wroth for harm done to it” (588).

SIN: SLOTH (Accidia)

ANTIDOTE: Fortitude, Strength

“Against this horrible sin of acedia, and the branches thereof, there is a virtue that is called fortitudo or strength; that is, a force of character whereby a man despises annoying things” (594).

SIN: GREED (Avaricia)

ANTIDOTE: Mercy, Pity

“Mercy, as the philosopher says, is a virtue whereby the feelings of a man are moved by the trouble of him that is in trouble.  Upon which mercy follows pity and performs charitable works of mercy” (601).


ANTIDOTE: Abstinence, Temperance, Shame, Measure, Sobriety

“The companions of abstinence are temperance, which follows the middle course in all things; and shame, which eschews all indecency; and sufficiency, which seeks after no rich foods and drinks and cares nothing for too extravagant dressing of meats.  Measure, also, which restrains within reason the unrestrained appetite for eating; sobriety, also, which restrains the luxurious desire to sit long and softly at meat” (603).

SIN: LUST (Luxuria)

ANTIDOTE: Chastity for the Single and the Married, Continence

“Now comes the remedy for lechery, and that is, generally, chastity and continence, which restrain all the inordinate stirrings that come of fleshly desires” (611).

*     *     *     *     *

Chaucer ends his tale with a pious entreaty to be forgiven for his stories that involve lechery, and with a ‘thank you’ to Christ, His mother and all the saints for the books about morality, saints and homilies, etc. that he has written. He asks for the chance to be forgiven for his sins and for God’s grace (626-7).

I wonder if he was worried that he would get in trouble for satirizing the church. 🙂 Either way, I learned so much from him that I am glad he took the chance to write this book.


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