Of the number of different conflicts and victories through which the blessed Apostle ascended to the crown of the highest combat.
But he does not mean that he has only finished the contest of a race when he says “I so run, not as uncertainly” (a phrase which has more particularly to do with the intention of the mind and fervour of his spirit, in which he followed Christ with all zeal, crying out with the Bride, “We will run after thee for the odour of thine ointments;” 853 and again, “My soul cleaveth unto thee:” 854 but he also testifies that he has conquered in another kind of contest, saying, “So fight I, not as one that beateth the air, but I chastise my body and bring it into subjection.” And this properly has to do with the pains of abstinence, and bodily fasting and affliction of the flesh: as he means by this that he is a vigorous bruiser of his own flesh, and points out that not in vain has he planted his blows of continence against it; but that he has gained a battle triumph by mortifying his own body; for when it is chastised with the blows of continence and struck down with the boxing-gloves of fasting, he has secured for his victorious spirit the crown of immortality and the prize of incorruption. You see the orthodox method of the contest, and consider the issue of spiritual combats: how the athlete of Christ having gained a victory over the rebellious flesh, having cast it as it were under his feet, is carried forward as triumphing on high. And therefore “he does not run uncertainly,” because he trusts that he will forthwith enter the holy city, the heavenly Jerusalem. He “so fights,” that is with fasts and humiliation of the flesh, “not as one that beateth the air,” that is, striking into space with blows of continence, through which he struck not the empty air, but those spirits who inhabit it, by the chastisement of his body. For one who says “not as one that beateth the air,” shows that he strikes—not empty and void air, but certain beings in the air. And because he had overcome in this kind of contest, and marched on enriched with the rewards of many crowns, not undeservedly does he begin to enter the lists against still more powerful foes, and having triumphed over his former rivals, he boldly makes proclamation and says, “Now our striving is not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against world-rulers of this darkness, against spiritual wickedness in heavenly places.” 855
Song of Sol. 1.3.240:854
Eph. vi. 12.