The goal of everything is transformation in Christ. If this is not the overriding and all-influencing goal, then something is disordered.
From the smallest atoms to the greatest living creatures, the underlying desire of all, teaches Saint Thomas, is more being. There’s an underlying driving desire, the great desire, to not be limited, to expand, to grasp a higher degree of being. It’s wonderful for the inanimate things to clamour for animate use, or to even clamour more more lively-seeming forms of inanimate things: when hydrogen and oxygen clamour to become water, they seek something more alive, more good, more true.
All of creation is headed towards more. That’s the sense in which humanity is the summit of creation and, as Saint Hildegard and various other medieval writers insisted often, a “microcosm” of the universe. Indeed, each person is a microcosm and a universe unto him- or herself. But… the universe is not God. It’s not all. If it wants more, where to look? If even the very matter in the universe wants to break its limitlessness and become more and more determined, more and more good, more and more completed, where can it look? Only, perhaps to God? Can it become God by participation? When you hit your head on the ceiling, the only way up is to break through. What is the breakthrough? How can the goal of everything be the Everything that is Unlimited in God?
When Doctors of the Church – such as Bernard of Clairvaux, Catherine of Siena, John of Ávila, Teresa of Ávila, John of the Cross, Francis de Sales, Alphonsus Liguori – make abundant statements that we must lose our senses to be focused on Jesus quasi-continually, that we must also lose our deeper spiritual roots and will to be focused on Jesus quasi-continually, they are saying: all must become Christ by participation. When they make some fly-by-the-pants or well-thought-out distinctions between “beginners” who retain conscious control of their senses and spirit (and desire the consolation of both), “intermediates” who retain dominant control of their spirit but have lost the greater part of taste for sense consolations (i.e., they have tasted contemplation), and those “on the unitive way with God”, united to him and having sacrificed even spiritual consolations to simply do Jesus’ will, they’re getting back to the basics of Christianity: we must be transformed that we may “become participants in the divine nature” (2 Pt 1:4).
It’s all about transformation in Christ.
That’s why contemplation is an activating of all the stages of Jesus’ life in the depths of our soul.
That’s why contemplation begins in a dark night in which we lose ourselves and our need for sense and spiritual consolations, only to become more attached to God in himself (attained immediately through faith, hope, and love) and less dependent on his consoling gifts (which are not him).
It will hurt all of our faculties, one by one. It will hurt all facets to us, all the pieces we could examine. Every nook and cranny of our person: Jesus wants it. He will clean it up. First, our sensitive side. Also our will, our memory, our intellect, everything. They’re dried up only to become vast caverns into which God himself can be poured. All this sadness that comes from the fact that we’re ill-equipped to receive God in his fullness – all this sadness must be changed into joy, joy in becoming transformed in Christ.
It’s not by pride that I speak like this, but really because it has been given to me to recognize the divine grace acting in me, pressing me to observe that God lives in me and that I live in Him. This exchange of love has transformed me in the infinite love of God.
– it is not an overstatement. It’s true. That’s the goal of the spiritual life. That’s progress. Not doing this or that. Not gathering this great prayer experience or that great work for Jesus. Progress is becoming God by participation. Progress is transformation, transfiguration even, in Christ.
Transformation in Christ is the goal of everything.