Contemplation Taking All…

You must adhere to this practice of looking at God within you, and it will absorb all others.
Saint Jane Frances de Chantal


2 thoughts on “Contemplation Taking All…

  1. I have an intimate friend who feels thirty plus years of receiving daily communion, a lifetime of chastity, a weak prayer life–Rosary prayed while listening to CD driving or exercising, no form of meditation, constantly writing or reading before the Eucharist; all her efforts have placed her in the dark night of the spirit, forcing her to feel only indifference towards others–no more, no love. I am convinced it is crazy, even more I pray her heart is opened, her hard heart replaced with one of flesh, so she will truly experience love. I hope this is not taken wrongly, yet she is Lebanese, raised in the Maronite Church. I am Spanish/German. I see cultural differences between us. Is this part of our severe difference? If you have time or thoughts please comment. Not so much directly on particulars, rather in general. I appreciated the post on active and contemplative life–the contemplative life expanding the active. Does the dark night of the spirit darken us from love?

    • There are many things that you’ve mentioned. I’m no expert, and I certainly don’t intend to pass any judgment on actual events. But some things strike me in your account. Some things may be worth clarifying.

      The first thing that strikes me is the thought that one might “feel only indifference.” If love is looked at at the level of the *feelings*, I think it’s not crazy to think that love-feelings might disappear. Jesus, for example, felt that God had abandoned him (though God had, in reality, not). A complete annihilation, if it existed, for the sake of love might also entail not even knowing or feeling that we love. That is a great trial and sacrifice indeed: to love and not know it. Saint John of the Cross and Blessed Charles de Foucauld spoke of such a loss of knowledge of one’s own love as an immense emptying of self. Charity isn’t found in the feelings.

      On the other hand, any Christian contemplation is useless if it doesn’t actually build love within us. Christian perfection is found in love (not in feelings of loving, but in the actual act of loving or “loving till it hurts” as Mother Teresa always said). Since contemplation is a (normal) means to develop love in us, a contemplation that did not perfect us in love and the other virtues would be suspicious.

      But it also is good to keep in mind Saint John of the Cross’ image. We light a wet piece of wood on fire [us]. It smokes and puffs and looks even worse than before. Only because of the bad smoke do we notice the moisture [sluggishness of the flesh] and the impurities [other bad tendencies]. But that’s exactly when they’re being burned away. And in the end, the whole log becomes fire [becomes one with Jesus]. So just because we notice something “new” bad in ourselves wouldn’t necessarily mean we’re going backwards. We could also just be growing in self-knowledge. Judgment of what’s actually happening would require a better, fuller look at the situation. =)

      As regards quality of prayer life (“weak”), I would not judge. But I certainly don’t consider reading and writing in the presence of the Eucharist to be poor prayer. It was a favourite method of prayer of, for example, Blessed Charles de Foucauld and Saint Thérèse. It can be a form of meditation. It appears to be silent, mentally discursive time alone with God, right? It’s probably better not to question too much, if the general outline of such prayer seems fine, I think. We’re all different.

      Also, if I may say so: You mentioned that “all her efforts have placed her in the dark night of the spirit.” All the efforts of *any* human being cannot place us in a genuine, real “dark night.” While we have to do things ourselves to become holy, it is ultimately God who is both the primary actor and the mode of action in contemplation or a dark night. (Saint John of the Cross discusses active work on our part primarily in his ‘Ascent of Mount Carmel’, and he discusses our passivity in the face of God’s work, and our need to just let God do his thing and be docile, primarily in the ‘Dark Night’ itself.) It may be useful to remember this? There are two sides to the coin, and our part is by far the smaller one. =)

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