Exchange Envy with Love: Inner Task Series by Grace Radford

Envy – Eliminated through Extravagant Love 


Vinum non habent 

If you are able, stand with your back against a wall with your feet about shoulder-distance apart. Close your eyes. Keeping your back to the wall, slide down the wall moving your feet forward only enough to allow you to descend. In a huddled position, recall a moment when you experienced envy. When an episode is clear, think or say the words, “Vinum non habent” three times pausing each time. Observe your response.

Dante and Virgil move to the second terrace of Purgatory where envy is purged. The envious shades huddle together, leaning against one another with their backs against the side of Mt. Purgatory. Initially, it is difficult to distinguish them as their clothes resemble the colour and appearance of the rocks. Because they felt pleasure from seeing other’s humiliations, their eyes are stitched shut with iron wire. They are forced to huddle and proceed together shoulder to shoulder as tears seep through their closed lids. Shoulder to shoulder is the defining posture of philia that teaches them brotherly love. 

On the second terrace disembodied voices cry out examples of love and envy to the penitents. Generosity or extravagant love is the opposite of envy. One example of extravagant love is from the wedding at Cana as Mary informs her son Jesus, that there is no wine for the guests, “vinum non habent”. Reluctantly, he performed his first miracle transforming the water into wine and enabling the celebration to get better.

In his commentary on negative emotions, Maurice Nicoll writes the following on envy:

Now just before I quote some paragraphs from O., I will say that one of the most impure emotions is envy. You will remember that recently we quoted Pindar’s opinion of Envy, phthonos, as “the worst of all the basenesses that disfigure Man”, the desire to depreciate excellence being the meanest part of his nature. Bacon in his Natural History says: “Envy emitteth some malign and poisonous spirit which taketh hold of the spirit of another and is likewise of greater force when the cast of the eye is oblique”, which agrees with the saying in Ecclesiasticus: “The envious man hath a wicked eye” (xiv.8-10). (It is interesting to note that the Latin origin of the word, “invidia”, literally meant “a glance of ill-will”.) Paul speaks of other negative emotions, such as enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, etc., but his final adjuration to the Galatians is: “Let us not be vainglorious, provoking one another, envying one another” (v.26). Likewise in the Old Testament, in Proverbs, the greatest power is attributed to envy: “Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous, but who is able to stand before envy?” (xxvii.4).

Eradicating the secret grip of envy and other negative expressions is an essential piece of the Work of purifying the emotional centre. Realising that our real I does not have a strong enough centre of gravity to be immune from external episodes, we consciously humble and lower our centre of gravity. Then we acknowledge our blindness and the support around us. In this position with fewer distractions, we are more able to recognise the needs of others, and particularly an enemy’s need. An observation, “they have no wine” becomes a call to reveal Christ. An opportunity to be simultaneously transformed and to be an agent of transformation.

Inner Task Series by Grace Radford

8 Tasks in 8 weeks – A Pocket-Size Purgatorial Project

Grace Radford posted this Inner Task Series to the Wisdom School Community on Facebook from May 7 – June 25, 2021