There Opens Up a Very Deserted Road


In one of his sermons (for Pentecost), Tauler paints a very vivid picture of the sufferings of the dark night and the purification of our moral and spiritual life:

Then there opens up a very deserted road, which is wholly somber and solitary. On this road God takes back all that He has given. Man is then so completely abandoned to himself that he no longer knows whether he is on the right road… and this becomes so painful to him that this vast world seems to narrow to him. He has no longer any feeling of his God, he no longer knows anything about Him, and everything else displeases him.

Being so stuck on a road that seems unsuitable to his plans to advance in the love of God and see him face to face, the person doubts even of the worth of the road. He must “hope against hope” (cf. Rm 4:18). The whole world seems as nothing, and God seems to have disappeared; but the exercise of the virtues and of theological hope in particular compel him to go forward, to seek to advance the good of the Kingdom of God here below. All seems lost, but at every moment the next step must be made.

This is not merely the darkness of the senses which accompanies the initial onset of contemplative prayer. This isn’t just that. This is Tauler describing the second contemplative darkness, which John of the Cross refers to as the “dark night of the spirit.”

Certainly we may not be there! This difficult portion of the road may be yet very far ahead of us. But we can pray for this purification of our faith and hope. We can pray that our all-too-human reasons for clinging to God may be melted away in this “dark night of the spirit” so that, in God’s good time, we may love him and hope in him with the highest motives possible and thus ultimately enjoy him and please him as much as we can.


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