Live with your heart raised up in God, and do not allow yourself to be crushed by sadness. Be sure that one day you will see the warm sun that will scatter these clouds.
Saint Paul of the Cross
Green arms reaching, bend the corner
Past the table leg and shade
Stems and leaves are both ensnaring
Sunlight’s beams for which they’re made
Grab the sunlight, grab the power
Capture, use, enjoy, retain
Gentle light it knows is lacking
All the more it must obtain
Then the Master throws the curtain
Opens wide the window blinds
Strength unknown burns through the outside
Dryness seizes Plant and finds
Plant confused and Plant endangered
(So it seems to Plant at least)
All its sap is slowing, drying
Feels as if its good has ceased
Sun burns brighter and our Plant does
Come alight from too much heat
But the Plant at last knows truly
Fire is for it just and meet
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.
In nature, when the sun does down and night falls, we no longer see the objects surrounding us, but we do see distant objects not visible during the day, such as the stars, which are thousands of light-years away. And the sun must hide that we may see them, that we may be able to glimpse the depths of the firmament. Analogously, during the night of the spirit we see much farther than during the luminous period preceding it; thee inferior lights must be taken away from us in order that we may begin to see the heights of the spiritual firmament.
Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange OP (1877–1964)
Whether you eat or drink or speak or converse with persons in the world, or whatever else you do, be constantly desiring of God and having your heart affectioned to him, for this is a thing most necessary for interior solitude, which demands that the soul be without any thoughts which are not directed towards God.
Saint John of the Cross