I like music! There are some songs that just stick in your head. Livin’ On A Prayer by Bon Jovi, Summer of 69 by Bryan Adams, Everything is Awesome by those guys in the Lego Movie, The Song That Never Ends by those kids in the commercial riding in the back of their parents car…are just a few examples of songs that come into your head when your washing dishes, doing the laundry. It is fun in the convent! Sometimes you sing one line of a song and all the other Sisters start singing with you! That’s pretty awesome! I know that you have heard the famous song “Lean on me.” It is one of those songs that sticks in your head forever…sorry about that! I like the lyrics of that song: “lean on me, when you’re not strong, and I’ll be your friend…I’ll help you carry on…”
To have a good friend is a special gift…someone that you can share your likes, dislikes, what you hope for, what you are upset about. I have always found it a comfort to say to people, “can you please pray for this situation or this person.” When the Cross is heavy, somehow God gives tremendous strength to carry it, provided we cooperate with His grace. Sometimes that strength comes from sending a friend. By having that friend, God is revealing to us more of His mercy…that He is with us through that person. There is something special about sharing a burden with someone…it helps us grow in trust. There is something special when that friend takes your hand, or puts their hand on your shoulder making sure that you know they are there for you through it all. Treasure the people that come into your life! Thank God for them everyday. How do you know when you have found a good friend? When they challenge you to be a better you! When they challenge you to grow in holiness both by their words and actions. When they look at you and you know that no matter what you have done or said in your life, they love you, because you are you. Then you know you have found a treasure!
God permitted our Lord to be helped by Simon when Jesus carried His Cross. We all need Simon in our life…and we need to be Simon to others as well. By now in our journey of the spiritual life, I think we are beginning to see that we desperately need to rely on the grace of God. I heard one priest say over and over in his homilies: “We need God’s help!” That is a good ejaculatory prayer: “Lord help me” or “Jesus have Mercy, Mary help!” Don’t be afraid to make “help” prayers to the Lord. Remember in the Gospel when the blind man cried out to Jesus. He cried, “Jesus, Son of David have mercy on me!” (Luke 18:38). What did Jesus do? He asked the blind man: “What do you want me to do for you?” (Luke 18:41) After asking Jesus that he may see, Jesus responds, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 18:42). With prayer like that, God always sends help! Going into the dark night does not mean that we are losing our sight, rather it means that Jesus is helping us to come out of the darkness and to be able to see. When we are experiencing a dark night, it is actually the Lord saying to us, “Receive your sight!” Let’s not let the dark night make us afraid, but let us see it as a healing from darkness to light.
In order for us to heal and to be who God is calling us to be, God needs to correct things in a passive manner. This is a point in our spiritual journey when we really need to lean on the Lord when we are not strong. In the active night, we strive to do our part in being purified, but “despite all our efforts, which are only possible through God’s grace, we will fall short unless the Lord Himself acts deeply within us” (The Fulfillment of all Desire Ralph Martin pg. 337). Passive purgations go to the depths of our body, soul and spirit. Our spirit is perfected, and so is our senses. We desperately need to lean on the Lord!
There are two phases of the passive dark night. The night of the senses where God heals the disorders which are still present in the senses which we may not even be conscious of. The night of the spirit is when God reaches into our intellect, memory and will and purifies them in order to come closer to that full and complete union with God. We will begin with the passive dark night of the senses.
Basically the dark night of the senses is a time where there is aridity (dryness) that puts the soul in a painful state with severe tests of perseverance on the journey towards sanctity. Many people stop advancing at this point unfortunately because souls are afraid. In one’s prayer life during this period, God is weaning the soul away from milk, and beginning to give solid food. This means that God is instructing the soul to pray in a new way. The dark night of the senses is caused by infused contemplation where God is communicating his grace directly to it by passing the sense faculties.
St. John of the Cross points out in his writings that a soul who has entered the dark night is usually someone who is detached or detaching from venial sin, has built up a life of virtue, and is also practiced in meditation and affective prayer. This is a person who is striving to control their imagination, who practices penances and is striving to overcome self-love.
The soul enters this dark night because there is a need to purge unconscious attachments, even the delights that come from one’s spiritual life. St. John of the Cross also explains that God is granting infused prayer and the soul is not accustomed to it, so the person experiences a dark night. In other words, if a soul is attached to consolations in prayer, underneath this practice of prayer is a hidden self-love and this needs to be purged! God is bringing light into darkness, and the soul realizes that it cannot rely on the things of this world. The soul knows that only God is their salvation through this time of darkness. God is communicating to the soul but in a different way…he is giving great spiritual grace that the soul is not accustomed to. This is the point where the capital sins resurge! We will begin going through these in the next few posts.
So this is a point where we really need to lean on the Lord because we are not strong…the song is still in my head!!