Paradise Regained is the sequel to Paradise Lost by John Milton published in 1671. Composed of only 4 books, it is a much shorter work than Paradise Lost and considered to be of much lesser value.
Even so, it offers valuable insights into the temptation of Christ and helps to give us answers to the enticements still offered by the world today. Pope Benedict XVI writes about Christ’s temptation in the wilderness in his book Jesus of Nazareth. His meditations are surprisingly similar to Milton’s story and the same can be said of writings by Bishop Fulton Sheen.
This is a collection of some of the best lines and arguments from Paradise Regained. It is the story of the man who undid the work of Satan, not with destruction and violence, but with obedience.
Men generally think me much a foe,
To all mankind. Why should I? By them
I lost not what I lost; rather
by them I gained what I gained,
Satan has been wandering the earth since the fall of man. He happens to be near the Jordan when he witnesses the baptism of Jesus and hears the Father’s proclamation that this is the Son of Man. Upon hearing this he decides to watch Jesus and eventually follows him into the desert where he confronts him. This is not The Temptation, but rather introductory banter between Christ and Satan with the promise of something greater to come. Satan begins by trying to convince Jesus that he is a friend and that his bad reputation is undeserved.
It is no surprise that Satan uses this approach with Jesus. After all, who, after being presented with the facts, wants to appear unreasonable? We use this approach every time we sin. Once there is a good argument for committing a sin it doesn’t even feel like a sin anymore. Satan’s argument that he is a friend of man because man gave him his power is a good one. But Jesus sees through it immediately and rebukes him as the father of lies. Satan is never grateful and his destructive purpose is never complete.
This wounds me most (what can it less?) that Man,
Man fallen, shall be restored, I never more.
Satan continues his speech to Jesus advancing the argument that he is not the enemy of man. He answers the possible objection that perhaps he is envious of man by saying he has learned over time that both angels and men have fallen, but fellowship in pain does nothing to ease the torment. Satan’s fall is total and eternal and he has nothing to gain by harming man.
Beware of the man who tells you he’s harmless. If Satan can convince you that he’s harmless or that he doesn’t exist then you will undoubtedly let your guard down. You will not fortify yourself against a threat you can’t perceive.
… I summon all
Rather to be in readiness with hand
Or counsel to assist, lest I, who erst
Thought none my equal, now be overmatched.
After the brief banter between Satan and Jesus, Satan returns to Hell to take counsel with the demons. His first impression of Christ has him worried. He is concerned that the joy of success over his victory in Eden might cause him to underestimate this new man who has been adorned with gifts from Heaven.
Satan is willing to do whatever he has to in order to obtain his goal of destroying man. He will even humble himself before the other demons if it means finding a more effective way to achieve his plan. We have to be equally diligent to fight him. If we become complacent and think we know what form a temptation will take, then we are at a disadvantage. Satan is careful not to underestimate Jesus and we have to be just as careful not to underestimate Satan.
Nature ashamed, or, better to express,
Troubled, that thou shouldst hunger,..
Jesus has spent forty days fasting in the wilderness when Satan confronts him with the three temptations. The first temptation is to satiate His hunger by turning rocks into bread. Satan argues that nature itself is troubled that Christ, who has a right to all created things, is going hungry. The food Satan offers is not unclean and has not been offered to idols. In refusing to eat, Jesus is refusing nature’s honor that is due to Him.
It is interesting to note that Jesus was only tempted after his forty days in the wilderness. Satan comes at a time when most people would probably be feeling a sense of pride at having completed such a rigorous fast. He arrives with an offer at the time when Jesus could have eaten bread anyway; a time he could have said, “I’ve earned it”. People often give up “guilty pleasures” for Lent without the intention of keeping the fast any longer than necessary. How often then does Easter become the day to fall back into the sins that plagued a person before Lent began? Is this really appropriate on Easer? Satan doesn’t care how faithful the fast was kept if he can undo do it as soon as its been completed.
… all thy heart is set on high designs,
High actions. But wherewith to be achieved?
Great acts require great means of enterprise;
How can Jesus do great things if no one even knows who He is? He could turn rocks into bread and feed the hungry multitudes. If He did that who would not follow Him? Satan offers Christ this route to begin His mission. He now acknowledges that hunger is not going to harm Jesus and therefore has no potential of moving Him. Personal comfort does not distress Jesus, but maybe insecurity in His ability to win followers does.
The temptation to satisfy Himself was ineffective, but what of his desire to begin His mission? Satan twists the first temptation by encouraging Jesus to prioritize physical food before spiritual food. The book of Matthew says to, “seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and the will of God, and all those things will be given you besides.” (Mt 6:33) But maybe if Jesus lures them in with bread it will make His job easier. After all, a person who has the power to turn rocks into bread can eliminate hunger from the world and have untold influence over people’s lives. Pope Benedict says that an act like this would give evidence to Jesus’ claim that He is the Son of Man. (JoN, 30) But we see later in the multiplication of the loaves and fishes that signs and wonders don’t turn people into lasting believers. He fed the multitudes and was still crucified. It is the multiplication of himself in the Eucharist that will satisfy souls until the end of time. (JoN, 33)
And what in me seems wanting but that I
May also in this poverty as soon
Accomplish what they did, perhaps and more?
Jesus hears Satan’s argument and replies that virtue, valor, and wisdom makes one a great leader. Great wealth without these three is empty. He then lists famed men in history who have accomplished mighty deeds with no wealth or power. If they can change people’s lives in extraordinary ways then why does Satan think that the Son of God will be unable to surmount this obstacle?
With God, all things are possible. He used a baby floating down the Nile in a basket to free His people from bondage in Egypt. He took a poor shepherd boy and turned him into the King of Israel. He continues to use those who are poor and weak to change the world. Jesus’ message was that the last shall be first and it was necessary for Him to exemplify that lesson in who He was. It isn’t wealth and power that make people want to follow, it is wisdom and authenticity that inspires people.
So spake the Son of God; and here again
Satan had not to answer, but stood struck
With guilt of his own sin – for he himself,
Insatiable of glory, had lost all;
Satan has lost the argument about gaining wealth for empire’s sake so he now suggests that Jesus could have empire for the sake of glory. Glory is sought by even the most powerful men who despise all other pleasures. Jesus answers, “For what is glory but the blaze of fame, The people’s praise, if always praise unmixed?” (PR 48-49) He continues by saying that glory seekers frequently bring death and destruction to their fellow man and eventually to themselves while peaceful and wise men like Job and Socrates live with equal esteem in the hearts of men. Glory belongs to God alone who made all things and is deserving of all praise.
Glory is fleeting. People are so fickle that it is nearly impossible to keep it for long. When the Tiger Woods scandal erupted people couldn’t get enough of the endless news stories leaking out sordid details. In spite of his idol status there was a sense of smugness that his empire had crumbled. Like all of Satan’s temptations, this one is directed at satisfying a need quickly instead of determining the best means of achieving a lasting goal. Jesus shames Satan by reminding him that the quest for glory lead to his demise but Our Lord is faithful enough to know that only God is worthy of Glory.
… What moves thy inquisition?
Know’st thou not that my rising is thy fall,
And my promotion will be thy destruction?
Ending his argument about glory, Jesus asks why Satan is so concerned about His benefit to begin with. When Jesus accomplishes His mission it will mark the end of Satan’s reign. Satan replies that he has already lost everything and his life cannot be made worse. His sin is his own and he no longer wants mankind to suffer. Man needs a worthy leader now.
“My rising is thy fall.” When we fill our hearts with God there is no place for evil. This is why it is recommended during Lent that we give something up and that we also commit to doing a positive thing in its place. If you give up watching television, use that time to pray, read the Bible, or do some of the works of mercy. Don’t use it for something equally frivolous or that fast is without meaning. In order for Satan to fall in our lives, Jesus must become central.
Luggage of war there shown me – argument
Of human weakness rather than of strength.
Satan has taken Jesus to the top of the mountain to see the whole Land and offer the world to Him. He shows Him that the Jews are trapped between the Roman empire and the Parthians and until one of the empires is defeated the Jews will never be free. Satan offers Christ the power to defeat one or both of these empires, but Jesus says that power to destroy is evidence of weakness, not strength.
If Jesus had earthly power and a kingdom he could conquer the enemies of the Jews and set His people free. But as Pope Benedict says, “Earthly kingdoms remain earthly human kingdoms, and anyone who claims to be able to establish the perfect world is the willing dupe of Satan and plays the world right into his hands… The earthly kingdoms that Satan was able to put before the Lord at that time have all passed away.” (JoN, 44) Bishop Fulton Sheen writes in the Eternal Galilean that kingdoms on earth cannot be an end in themselves. By His answer, “Our Lord declared to all future ages that religion is not politics, that patriotism is not the highest virtue, that nationalism is not the highest worship, that the State is not the highest good.” He says that, “earthly kingdoms are but scaffolding to the Kingdom of Heaven.” (EG, 51) Many people struggled with Jesus’ identity. They wanted him to be a military ruler that could lead them to freedom, but if that was the course He chose, Jesus would not be Our Lord, instead he would be a story in a history book.
A kingdom they portend, but what kingdom,
Real or allegoric, I discern not;
Nor when: eternal sure – as without end,
On the mountaintop, Satan has offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and Jesus has claimed that his kingdom is of heaven, not of earth. Satan is now confounded that he has had no success in tempting Christ. He mocks Jesus by allowing that his kingdom is eternal, but just as it will have no end, it will have no beginning either because Jesus is passing up the best opportunities to make it successful.
Things need to happen according to God’s plan and in His time, but so often we become impatient waiting for it to begin. Satan will whisper in your ear and tell you to settle for something else rather than deceive yourself into waiting for a mythical opportunity that will happen in the future. There is always the temptation to give up on God because it seems He has given up on you. But God doesn’t give up on people. Sometimes it just takes time for all the pieces of His plan to come together and the wait can be intolerable. The message from the mountaintop is that God’s plan will bring with it infinite more happiness if we allow it to unfold according to His design.
This article is a follow up to a previous article with my favorites quotes from Paradise Lost. All quotes from Paradise Regained have been taken from the printed version of Paradise Regained from www.1stworldlibrary.org. If you’re interested in reading this book and other classics but would like some guidance, please check out the Questions for the Thinker Series.
This article brought to you by Aquinas and More Catholic Goods. Written by James Rutherford.
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