Me and my son love to play Chess. We’ve been passing the time in the current draconian lockdown keeping our brains busy with this ancient game. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the game, its main objective is to overpower your opponent in a fight for control. The main objective is to trap the king known as “checkmate”. You do this and you’ve won the game.
Some people are great at the game, others still developing their ability and technique. The whole premise of the game is to try and maintain power of the center of the board. By keeping all your pieces central to the board, you provide yourself with the best possible victorious outcome.
You’ve got pawns, knights, bishops, rooks and your King and Queen all of whom move around the board each with a differing function. The game itself began in India in the 9th century and is said to have made its way to Europe. When it did finally arrive Europeans being predominantly Catholic naturally gave it the monarchist twist. This left us with the King and Queen set up today.
The spiritual life is very much reflected in this game of Chess. For example, you can be doing really well with all of your pieces for much of the game. If you don’t pay attention, the slightest wrong move can cost you the entire game. We Christians are engaged in a similar battle. Like the Pharisee, we do really well. We play our virtues right by fasting, giving alms and paying our tithes, but then we go and spoil it all by a simple act of pride. Boom! down goes the King and it’s checkmate, the devils won.
Sometimes in Chess the opponent will lure you into a false sense of security. You’re making so much progress and you’re capturing piece after piece. What you’re not seeing, is the plan he has laid out for you. He knows the algorithm and has it all figured out the moves you’re going to make that will eventually lead to your downfall.
The Devil is pretty much the same in his tactics. He is a superior being in intelligence to us, and therefore leaves us be for a while to enjoy our peaceful prayers. Our fasting goes well and we begin to enjoy the ecstasy of not having our boat rocked for a time. Then well all seems like it’s going so well for us, that’s when we make a wrong move, become complacent in our prayer life, and like the Pharisee, fall due to just ONE sin after avoiding so many pitfalls.
After all that work and effort we put into winning the game, it never paid off because we were blind and did not anticipate the devils future moves. The King is the presence of Christ in our hearts and the Queen the Lady who guards it. The Knights, Bishops and Rooks are the Angels and saints that guard the way to that presence. The pawns are worth least in the game and represent our miserable efforts to keep the wolf in its den. However, without relying on the power of The King of Kings and Our Lady not to mention the saints and choirs of angels, the game can never be won.
Your opponents objective is not to simply capture pieces, but to find a way through the strong defense and capture the greatest prize of all. What is that prize? It is the King which represents humility, for it is humility that keeps the Kingdom – in which every other virtue lives – standing. Take away humility, and you may have something like looks like a Kingdom with all the pieces in the right places, but it’s only an image. Without the King (humility) you’re nothing.
That was the Pharisees problem. He had all the pieces on his spiritual board of chess in the right places. His fasting, tithes being paid and all that almsgiving accompanied by the wonderful prayers he performed gave him the appearance of a holy man. But the King of humility and presence of Christ was missing and so after all that work he built, his pride and ego increased, and eventually, the King (humility) was trapped and taken from him.
In this season of Lent, lets remain vigilant and ask for the grace to anticipate the devils strategy. Let’s guard the King (humility) and keep him safe realizing that all it takes is one false move for the devil to get a foothold. To do so it’s not good enough to simply play the game, we must also learn how to play it. Assist yourself in doing so by seeking the counsel of wise players and the books they have written, but most of all ask for faith.