Have you ever had trouble with Math? Some people are so fascinated by the world of Mathematics…but some find Mathematics difficult. What is beautiful about Math is that it is so clear and objective. The answer to 2+2 is always 4…it is never 5 or 6 or 700. It is always 4. However, there are things in life that are not as clear to us…there are truths that we may find difficult to understand…
We have been continuing our discussion on the Dark Night of the Spirit and the afflictions of the soul that happen during this Dark Night of the Spirit. We explained that it is possible for the soul to feel abandoned by God…but there are other signs as well. A soul may also feel forsaken by friends. St. John of the Cross quotes Psalm 87:9: “You have withdrawn my friends and acquaintances far from me; they have considered me an abomination.” The affections and consolations of friendships seems now to be like an emptiness.
We need to remember that Jesus also experienced moments of darkness. Remember Jesus’ Passion, “Father, let this cup pass from me, not as I will but as you will…My soul is sorrowful even unto death” (Matthew 26:38). “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Jesus experienced everything we experience but He is without sin. God knows us…He knows our weaknesses…He knows our struggles and He knows our moments of darkness. We should take great comfort in this…God knows.
The soul also experiences “humiliation” which is an awareness of its own poverty and misery. St. John of the Cross reminds us that God is purging “both the sensory and spiritual substance of the soul and its interior and exterior faculties…” (Dark Night of the Soul Bk. 2. Ch 6. Par 4.) In order to be filled with God, our faculties must be emptied of everything else. In our last post we spoke about the reason for the darkness: the pure light is striking in order to expel the impurities within us.
St. John of the Cross explains: “Since these imperfections are deeply rooted in the substance of the soul, it usually suffers besides this poverty and this natural and spiritual emptiness, an oppressive undoing and an inner torment” (Dark Night of the Soul., Bk 2. Ch 6. Par. 6). We must have compassion for souls who enter this state! But the soul must have great hope in what is being accomplished through this dark night.
In addition to these aridities, the soul will also feel no consolation from the direction of their spiritual director. Even though the director tells them that they will receive many graces and blessings through going through this dark night, the soul has difficulty believing the director. He feels that he is misunderstood and abandoned. The soul does not realize that God is humbling, softening, purifying the soul so that it becomes delicate, simple, refined, and that it “can be one with the Spirit of God according to the degree of union of love that God, in His mercy, desires to grant.” (Dark Night of the Soul Bk. 2. Ch. 7. Par. 3).
It is also possible for a soul in this state to not be able to lift up their spirit to God in prayer. St. John of the Cross explains that the reason for this is that God is working in the soul. He says, “It seems incredible that the brighter and purer the supernatural, divine light is, the darker it is for the soul” (Dark Night of the Soul, Bk. 2. Ch. 8. Par 2). In order to prepare the soul for “divine union of love, the soul must be withdrawn from all creature affections and apprehensions.” (Dark Night of the Soul. Bk 2. Ch. 8. Par 2).
So you might be thinking, “this sounds way too hard for me to handle!” I suppose hearing about these aridities and the darkness that occurs can shake us a bit…but just think about the graces and blessings that will result after you go through it! It will be wonderful to be in a divine union of love with God. It will be wonderful! May that give you the strength to keep going!