Have you ever heard the expression: “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen!” The kitchen can get very hot! The stove is hot…the barbeque is hot…fire is hot! Have you ever been camping…or had a bonfire? There is something so cozy about gathering around the fire in the summer time with your hotdogs and marshmallows and the lake out at the back. Yes…bonfires are fun…but there are always lots of mosquitoes! You can even bring a guitar and sing around the bonfire!
Anyone who has been near fire knows that it is hot and it burns! When we are roasting our hotdogs and marshmallows we need to be super careful because it is easy to get to close to the fire! We do not want to get burned, yet the fire offers us many wonderful things: heat, light, yummy marshmallows…
God’s fire is a different type of fire! God’s fire is a fire of love…full of passion. St. John of the Cross says that “the spiritual inflaming engenders the passion of love.” (Dark Night of the Soul Book 2. Chapter 11. 2). The soul is starting to feel that it is being wounded by a strong divine love and it has a certain feeling and foretaste of God.” (Dark Night of the Soul Book 2. Chapter 11. 1). At this stage of the journey in the dark night of the soul, the soul is being purged out meaning that it’s attachments and passions are all being purged and purified in the flames of God’s divine love. Union with God means that we need to be purified! The saints knew this, and they all worked hard to overcome vices, temptations, passions and attachments in order to be in union with God. The soul is starting to possess something of union with God and it is in this union that the soul will learn to love God so intensely, with all its strength. This type of love would not be possible if our appetites, passions and emotions are all over the place and scattered. God allows for this dark night in order to make the soul strong in virtue and in order to break self-will.
So what is God doing? He is basically gathering all the strength, faculties, appetites of the soul both sensory and spiritual to be employed in his love. This means that “the soul must be wounded, touched, and impassioned, all its strength and its appetites are recollected in this burning love.” (Book 2. Chapter 11. Par 4.) The soul will eventually become aware of this fire…this wound…and the soul desires God with a desire so strong that it sighs in darkness and doubt because it realizes that it is not yet filled with this love of union.
St. John of the Cross says, “the soul proclaims this verse: fired ‘with love’s urgent longings.’” (Book 2 Chapter 11: 6). In everything: his thoughts, and deeds the soul loves in many ways; however, the soul does not feel rest…only anxiety in the burning wound. However, St. John of the Cross assures us: “nonetheless, in the midst of these dark and loving afflictions, the soul feels the presence of someone and an interior strength which so fortifies and accompanies it…” (Book 2. CH 11. Par 7). What is this presence? It is the Holy Spirit!
We want God’s purifying fire to make our hearts pure! St. John of the Cross makes it very clear that if we do not purify completely in this life, then we will need to be purified in Purgatory after death. He says, “as the spirits in the other life are purged with a dark material fire, so in this life souls are purged and cleansed with a dark, loving, spiritual fire…Souls are cleansed in the other life by fire, but here on earth they are cleansed and illuminated by love.” (Bk 2. Ch 12. Par 1). This should not make us afraid…we want to be pure and clean before we meet God. Purgatory is a mercy from God where we can finally be free of all our disordered passions and attachments and be in union with God. We must pray for the souls in Purgatory everyday! Souls in Purgatory know that they are going to heaven once their time of purification is ended. We must work hard to cooperate with God’s grace to be purified in this life and learn to sacrifice certain attachments and passions for the good of our soul!
As this fire of divine love purifies the soul, the intellect and the will are becoming united as well all for the sake of a deeper contemplation. St. John of the Cross says, “this enkindling of love and the union of these two faculties, intellect and will, is something immensely rich and delightful for the soul…it is a certain touch of the divinity and already the beginning of perfection of the union of love for which the soul hopes…” (Bk 2. Chapter 12. Par 6)
He offers a further explanation, “when God infuses these spiritual goods the will can very easily love without the intellect understanding, just as the intellect can know without the will loving…” (Bk 2. Chapter 12 par. 7) This means that just as fire gives off light and heat, the light can sometimes act upon the will leaving the intellect in darkness, or the intellect can have understanding while the will is in dryness. St. John of the Cross uses this analogy, “All of this is similar to feeling the warmth of the fire without seeing its light, or seeing its light without feeling the fire’s heat.” (Bk 2. Chapter 12. Par 7)
I think that is good for now! More to come!